Tuesday, June 30, 2009

You're sic! SIC!

Sic hoc adfixum in obice legere potes, et liberaliter educatus et nimis propinquus ades.
I love it. It's going to be my new voicemail greeting. Rachael, I blame you for this... :p

I'm almost finished with the Fountain Pen shawl. Just six more rows before binding off, but it's driving me nuts because everything seems shifted to the right by one stitch and I can't figure out where the mistake is. I have the right number of stitches (minus 32 since I skipped one repeat of the second chart); I'm not at all interested in ripping back 18 rows to the lifeline. Double grrr! I will finish this, though, because I want to move on to the next project on my list: the Forest Path Stole. As usual, I'm jumping in at the deep end by trying to learn entrelac in combination with a more complex lace pattern. I've got the yarn and a pair of jury rigged circular needles... so hopefully I can finish the last six rows of the Fountain Pen shawl without throwing the whole thing out the window in a fit of pique.
Speaking of fountain pens, I sold my Lamy Vista and got a Lamy Safari to replace it. It's red. It has an extra-fine nib. It's a delight to write with. The nib is a little more rigid than I'm used to, but I sort of expected it after consulting with ChristyBelle and reading up on them on Biffy Beans.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I wonder what it would have been like to be in the dining room at the Palmer House in 1905 while, by sheer coincidence, Mark Twain was sitting across the room with his pen in one hand and a fish fork in the other.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Crumb bum...

Today was one of those crappy days where nothing seemed to go right. About the only thing that turned out was the new batch of cheese. First, I pulled out the kitchen thermometer to check the temp on the milk, and discovered that it was broken, which meant that I'd either get glass in the milk--and the cheese, obviously. I would also have needed it for the gooseberry curd if that had turned out, but it didn't.
A few days ago, I went out into the garden and picked the gooseberries which are, thus far, the about the only thing the stupid deer have left alone this year. Since mom's trying to grow things without using pesticide or other chemicals, that means the deer, the beetles, the worms, and other creepy-crawly things are having a nice time at the salad bar. The gooseberries have big, sharp thorns, however, making them less likely to be eaten by deer... but those thorns don't do much to deter bugs. I washed the berries, cooked them until they were mushy, and then started hunting for the food mill. Which I couldn't find. That left the food processor, which ended up creating a mix of seedy gooseberry pulp and shredded berry skins. I realized after I put the pulp through the strainer that--gak...--there were these horrible little white worms in the pot with the sugar, pulp, and butter. Thank goodness I had yet to add the eggs, otherwise I probably would have screamed. It was disgusting... O.o I abhor waste, but the worms gave me a reason to throw out the beginnings of what I'd hoped would be a lovely gooseberry jammy thing to have on scones or fresh bread. Ick.
So, after throwing out the gooseberry/worm mess, I decided to try making lemon curd. Well, about half the bottle of juice went into the gooseberry glop and, subsequently, into the trash, which left me with about 2/3 of a cup of lemon juice. Mom handed me three limes in the hope that I'd be able to make up the rest of the juice that way. Nope.
I get crabby when I'm tired. I get crabby and I drop things, which meant that after spending the whole day working on--and ruining--gooseberry curd, cheese, cleaning, and trying to figure out how stitches that slipped off the needles and the bloody lifeline were going to get back to where they were supposed to be, I dropped the bowl with the lime juice in it. And lost about half of said juice all over the marble slab. This caused me to deliver several loud expletives before I went looking for more citrus something. The citrus something ended up being frozen pineapple juice. I was not pleased, even though it wasn't wormy--I'm still upset about those stupid little worms...
By the time the lemon-lime-pineapple curd was ready to go into jars, I was further annoyed by the appearance of little tiny globules of egg white at the bottom of the saucepan. And this is after I was really careful and tempered the eggs!
And, on top of all of this, while I was putting away towels in the upstairs bathroom, a bottle of shampoo fell on my head and made me howl like a banshee. I swear.. I'm trying to keep my sense of humor. Really.

Lemon-Lime-Pineapple Curd:
2/3 c lemon juice
1/4 c lime juice
1/2 c pineapple juice (or a total of about 1 1/2 cups of straight citrus juice)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 c sugar
1 thermometer
1 saucepan
a clean jar big enough to hold the curd

Mix juice, butter, and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat; remove from heat and let cool to about body temperature. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and yolk; gradually add about half the citrus juice and whisk to temper the eggs. Add egg/citrus mix back to original pot and keep whisking while you warm the mixture back to 170 degrees to kill any potential bacteria. Cook over low-medium heat until thickened, then pour through a seive to make sure there aren't any lumps or other intrusive detritis. Pour into jar and let stand until it's cool enough to refrigerate.

Have I said how much I hate tempering eggs? Bleh.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Menage a Fromage

After all that waiting and fiddling around, the cheese is ready. It rested in the fridge overnight and I had some with my toast and coffee this morning... it tastes like a slightly tangy cream cheese with a faintly herby flavor imparted by (surprise) the thyme and marjoram. Next batch is going to have half as much salt. According to the suggestion on the New England Cheesemaking Supplies website, we calculated that 12 grams of kosher salt would be 2% of the cheese's weight. Toooo salty. Not unpleasantly salty, but I'm definitely using less next time. I'm also trying to figure out how to get a slightly drier texture, which might be difficult since we don't have a cheese cave and there's no place in the house where the cats and dog don't go. I'd be pretty upset if I left a cheese to cure and one of the animals either made off with it or left bits of hair on it!
Still in the process of tracking down a local source for unpasteurized goat's milk, which is tricky since West Virginia prohibits the sale of raw milk. The grocery stores around here tend to sell ultra-pasteurized or canned goat's milk if they sell it at all, and neither of those are suitable for what I want to do. The rennet should show up in the mail either today or tomorrow, but since we don't have any goat's milk to make cheese with--in fact, we're completely out of milk of any kind O.O--it's going to have to wait in the freezer until we do find some. Preferably from goats who are TB- and brucellosis-free.
Mom, I blame you for this! Like I need another hobby. Knitting, spinning, and making soap are all bad enough.
Anyway... here's a picture.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Project Fromage

I think I got it right this time.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


I'm usually the one who gets siezed by the impulse to pick up new hobbies, but this time it's Mom. Mom and cheese. Yesterday morning she gave a lengthy discourse on how easy it might be to make cheese using milk and vinegar, so in the evening we trotted out to the grocery store to get dog food and pick up some milk. No one said anything about needing a gallon of milk, so I just grabbed a quart from the cooler and threw it in the cart. Oops.
Turns out it wasn't that hard make half what the recipe which, according to the website she read earlier in the day, was for a gallon of milk and 1/4 cup of white vinegar. No salt, no herbs, no rennet, nothing. When the milk finally deigned to form miniscule curds, I sent Rachael a text message and she, in turn, directed me to the website for the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.
Mom got a little discouraged when it looked like the curds weren't really doing what they were supposed to do, so it was a big shock when she unwrapped the blob of cheese this morning. Last night before I went to bed, I poured the curds into the collander and let the whey drain through a clean dish towel, and after they'd drained enough to form a cohesive mass, I hung the towel up to drain some more; the result was something similar to queso blanco. Since she wasn't really sure at which point to add the salt, she rolled it in kosher salt and hoped some of the flavor would seep into the cheese. I wonder if brining it somehow might be a good idea next time. Mom's got pictures up on her blog.
So, thanks to Rachael's suggestion, we ordered some packets of starter to make chevre if we can find some goat's milk that isn't ultra-pasteurized.