Sweet as vinegar

In addition to the peach-honey butter, apple butter, pickles, salsa, chips, and apple sauce that I threw together this year for Christmas gifts, I also decided to make my mom some cranberry-orange vinegar, since she eats a lot of salad. I thought it might make a nice, quasi-festive (read: cranberries) vinegar that she could use in a dressing.

Here is how I did that:

A half cup of cranberries and an orange. Whatever shall I do with these?
A half cup of cranberries and an orange. Whatever shall I do with these?

Certain men failed to read the “6 Cups” of white wine vinegar, so I had only two cups, thus my only having a half cup and one orange.  I used frozen cranberries because, well, they’re not easy to get fresh ’round here.

IMG_2605
Sliced oranges and cranberries in a bowl.

I cut up the orange and the cranberries (as much as I could cut up tiny fruits) and put them in bowl. I crushed them slightly with another bowl and poured in the vinegar.

The dust helps it ferment faster.
The dust helps it ferment faster.

I place the covered bowl of fruit and vinegar on a bookshelf where it would stay cool. It sat there for ten days.

Crushed fruit in vinegar...still.
Crushed fruit in vinegar…still.

This is what it looked like when I opened it again to finish up. Mmmmm.

That's not cheese!
That’s not cheese!

I used a sieve and cheesecloth (just to be safe!) to drain the vinegar and separate the chunky bits. It was nice and red and, again, festive.

The last part was just putting it in a nice jar. I didn’t bother processing it, so mom will have to use it fast. (Read that, mom? Make some delicious salad dressing when it gets to you!)

I tasted a tiny bit before sending it, and I will say that it is a very subtle taste. I think if you are not a fan of vinegar, you would want to let the fruit soak a bit longer. This made me a little antsy to try raspberry vinegar next.

I have tomorrow and Wednesday off (hooray!), so I will have to write a few more posts for the remaining projects. I ship everything tomorrow, but I took plenty of pictures. For instance – tortilla chips! CDs! Etc! And I’ll post pictures as I start/work on/finish the board game I am making for gift opening on Christmas.

Keep it crafty!

 

 

 

Koch’s snowflake

My canning is done. All that is left is making cookies, chips to go with the salsa, and decorating. I performed an exhaustive search for ideas and felt no inspiration. I am not entirely sure if this is because of the hour, my generally foul mood, or that there is not much out there.

I finished the peach butter jars a while ago, along with their adorable fabric covers and fancy ribbon stuff. They’re not bad, really, and I should probably just do the same for the other gifts, but it seems so…blah. And, apparently, the most common decoration for canning jars is fabric, cutesy ribbon, and tags.

Well…challenge accepted.

These are Christmas gifts, and I suppose the theme is something along the lines of staying warm in the winter (salsa, soup, etc). I might do the fabric trick on some of the items, but in my slightly buzzed, under-the-weather, and half-asleep state, I thought it would be way cooler to do something more wintery. And something involving paint.

But that’s simply not enough! It needs to be quintessentially Sam.

Thus I decided I should probably do something math related, something with fractals. Enter Koch’s snowflake:

Von koch's snowflake
Von koch’s snowflake

This is a fractal that is made up of increasingly tiny triangles, though strictly speaking the snowflake is made up of three of Koch’s curves, but that’s really not an issue. The point is…how cool!

This then led me on a tangent (ah ha! Math joke!) looking for math crafts, and I couldn’t find a one that interested me. That was mostly because they were aimed for children more than adults. And as charming as an abacus made of pony beads of adding lily pads are, they are not quite what I am looking for.

So fractals it is, and, again, challenge accepted.

I need to sleep.

Homemade apple butter – the extended edition

I am writing with the intention of sharing how Eric and I made apple butter last week for our DIY Christmas this year, but before I start, I just have to talk about yesterday.

As some of you might know – hopefully all – on the 14th, The Hobbit will be released in theaters. That is great news. But what was even better news to me was that this past weekend (8th and 9th), theaters around the country/world were showing all three extended versions of Lord of the Rings. And I mean in a row. 800 minute run time (with breaks). And because last week the Universe seemed to be smiling upon me, I had yesterday off for the first time since I’ve started this new job.

So Eric and I went to see all three Lord of the Rings in theaters, and it was amazing. There was a small group of people there (I hope Saturday was busier. I can’t imagine how more people would not want the opportunity to see these films on the big screen again). Between films, one of the theater managers would come out toward the end of our break and have trivia questions for us, with prizes. Via Eric’s insistence, since I kept muttering answers under my breath while other people were participating, I actually stood up for one question and won him some candy. I mostly stood up because I was shocked no one had shot up immediately. The question was “What is the translation of the inscription on the one ring?” I wasn’t going to bother standing because everyone knows that. But no one stood!

If you’re not familiar and are curious, the inscription is “One ring to rule them all; one ring the find them. One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness, bind them.” It’s actually part of a longer poem about the rings of power that I will save some face by not posting in its entirety, even though I recited it on the way home last night. I told Eric that in the nerd world, he’s my trophy husband.

The showing started at 11am, and we left the theater just after midnight. Worth it. Totally worth it.

Now onto the crafting/cooking. Last week, in our hurried pace to get through making the last of the Christmas gifts, we made a rather large batch of apple butter. Here is how we did it:

1. We washed, peeled, and diced(ish) the apples. The instructions said to core, and since we don’t have any fancy device to de-core, I just chopped around it. It worked out fine.

2. We added the apples, along with a cup or so of water, to a pot and let it simmer for about a half hour. We wanted the apples soft enough to go in the blender.

It took longer than I expected, but we could tell they were done when they gave under a spoon.
It took longer than I expected, but we could tell they were done when they gave under a spoon.

3. When they were soft, we threw them in the blender and pureed them. I now have an old-school grinder that would have done the trick, but we were going for fast, not necessarily authentic, though I would love to use that device sometime.

4. When the apples were blended, we essentially had applesauce. In fact, when we make applesauce this week, we will get to this step and part of step 5, then be finished. But moving on!

Applesauce, soon to be apple butter.
Applesauce, soon to be apple butter.

5. We added the cinnamon and ground clove that give apple butter that slightly spicy taste, and we threw it back into the pot to cook. We cooked it until it was sticky and did not slide easily off the spoon.

This is not even close to ready
This is not even close to ready

6. It took almost another half hour before the butter was the right consistency. Luckily we had practice with the peach butter, although that did seem to go a little bit quicker.

7. When it was ready, we poured it into our sterilized jars, leaving a 1/4 inch head space, screwed on the lids, and processed them in our boiling processor for 10 minutes. We made 12 small jelly jars.

Here they are standing in row. Bomp, bomp, bomp.
Here they are standing in row. Bomp, bomp, bomp.

All that’s left for these is some decorative flair. I will put the labels on and cover them prettily.

All that’s left for Christmas goodies are some blank-in-jar things (cookies, pancakes, soup, etc), the applesauce, and I think I will bake some cookies for those without the penchant for cooking/baking even pre-made mixes.

And Eric’s gift. I am caving and buying him some things, and while I’m not terribly pleased with giving in, I am more interested in making sure he has useful and enjoyable things that he wouldn’t buy himself. Which, if I’m being honest, is not a lot of things because he generally just buys what he wants. He’s gotten better around Christmas, though, after three years of me bugging him about it. 🙂

Well, then, I am off to continue my adventures. Keep it crafty!

 

 

 

Another birthday

Yesterday Eric and I drove to Lake Odessa to visit with Mark’s family and celebrate October birthdays (Eric and Mark, in fact). Since Eric already got his gift, I didn’t bring it with us, but he got some very thoughtful gifts from the folks there.

Mark is my mother-in-law’s boyfriend, and he is a wonderful man. He is very generous, thoughtful, and he is super geeky, so we get along great. He bought the furniture that is in our guest room, and he is basically just a great person. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do for him, but after they came over for dinner one night, and he seemed very appreciative of my homemade pasta, I decided to make him “Italian Dinner in a Basket.”

I forgot to get pictures, but here’s the process:

1. I opened a beer and played some Hugo on my iTunes.

2. I made some sauce from scratch. At the suggestion of my mom, who is brilliant, I cooked the tomatoes for about an hour instead of just blending them right away. I blanched them first, peeled them, chopped them, then let them simmer in oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, and spices. This was the best sauce I have made yet.

3. I have semolina flour finally! So I did half semolina, half all purpose, and I made some fettuccine with my pasta maker.

4. I canned the sauce and let the noodles dry over night. Then I bagged the noodles.

5. We bought a middle-of-the-road wine (Mark used to work at a winery, actually) and included that in the basket.

6. I wrote an instruction card, and we covered the whole lot in a nice dish towel.

We also made him a card. I bought a pack of photo cards (you put your own photo in there) on my last day at Michaels, and we painted the front to make it look less…white.

It was quite a hit! And, fittingly, my sister-in-law gave him a decorative cork holder. In vino veritas, my friends!

So now it’s onto my mom’s birthday gift and then Christmas. I am getting excited about it all. I am also getting psyched for NaNoWriMo, and it will be interesting to see how I fit writing and crafting and cooking and full time retail in together.

Coming up next: I will turn an over sized t-shirt into a fitted tee! Theoretically.

Stairs hurt

So…I lied about being patient and reading and learning before canning. This weekend, Eric and I went and bought the final supplies for our canning adventures.

And then we made peach-honey butter.

Here are some things we learned:

1. We were given two pressure cookers, which is awesome, but unnecessary for things like jams and pickles. They will be necessary for things like green beans.

2. It is a good idea to have two people working at once. Eric was in charge of jars, and I was in charge of cooking.

3. Canning is really just making a really big batch of something, and then doing the right things to preserve that something. For some stuff, the recipes aren’t that different.

4. Always sterilize more jars than you think you will need! We had to quickly clean and cook two more jars when I realized I had more peach butter than we expected.

We got four jars and a little extra that we have already eaten. That means 4 gifts made! We are taking one with us to Ohio this weekend when we visit some friends.

It was super fun!

And now I’ve got the bug. Eric wants to pickle. I want to make everything and save it. I believe we’ve created yet another monster.

I don’t usually do memes, but when I do…

I am being overwhelmed with craft ideas. And when that happens, I usually end up sitting on the couch doing nothing. Much like I am doing now. Except I have an excuse today.

While carrying the multiple boxes of jars downstairs, gravity decided to bring up an old argument. Luckily I wasn’t carrying jars by then – just one of the very light cookers – but I was, alas, on the stairs. So I am nursing a twisted ankle, sore leg, and bruised back.

What can I can for that?

Let canning season begin…

Since moving here, I have been increasing my desire to make things from scratch. I am quickly becoming addicted to the idea of saying “I made that,” and I am always looking for ways to make a meal just a few, if any, preprocessed ingredients. It was with this goal in mind that I asked my mother-in-law for canning supplies for Christmas. I figured that, even though they would be late, I could start canning things next year.

Well, Christmas came early this year.

We had Eric’s mom and her boyfriend over for dinner tonight; I made homemade pasta again (I have another post coming up on that) and my homemade sauce. The sauce came out great! I used a bit more cornstarch this go around, and it was nice and thick.

Anyway…she brought me all of this:

This isn’t even all of it

There is another box of jars, as well as a jar holder, a funnel, and two magazines with canning recipes. The pressure cooker on the far right belonged to Eric’s grandmother!

I have never canned. I should have mentioned that at the beginning. I haven’t the slightest idea what I am doing. But I am really excited about this! There is an old strainer (hand crank!), two pressure cookers, and an ungodly number of jars.

This will help a lot on my quest for an all homemade Christmas. I see a lot of tomato sauce, jam, and pickles in my loved ones’ futures. I will be taking requests!

Much like my cross stitch, this will be an ongoing (probably uphill) battle, and I will keep you posted.