• Category Archives pioneer arts
  • The old-timey things we do, like brewing, cooking in the wood-fired oven, or Anne’s spinning/knitting projects.

  • A Thanksgiving Miracle

    So, flash back to several days ago: Anne was cooking things in the oven, and they were just going …wrong: bread was burning, cakes were coming out uneven, the oven was just acting funny. A quick check with the thermometer and she confirmed that the oven’s thermostat was malfunctioning, and a look inside the oven showed one side wasn’t even firing. Our oven was on the fritz.

    Our oven was on the fritz, that is, three days or so before we hosted Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s just the thermostat, but the last time the repairman came out (to fix the thermostat if I remember correctly), he said we needed a new oven — if we even got a repairman out before the holiday we would probably not be able to get parts,  much less a new oven, in time. A turkey, a ham, many side dishes and pies and cakes, and 17 guests coming — what to do?

    Well, first we panicked, but then Anne did a bit of research and we decided to cook the turkey in the wood-fired outdoor oven — the wonky indoor one, with some supervision, would work well enough for the (pre-cooked) ham as well as those side dishes that couldn’t be repurposed to range-top cooking, and guests would bring plenty of their own food. The only real hit would be the extra work of starting and running the fire.

    This mostly fell to me, and was a two day process. We got up early Wednesday and I got a fire going, and fed it periodically during the day while doing other prep chores. This fire was just a pre-heat to get some temperature into the core thermal ballast; all we cooked on Wednesday was the pizza we had for dinner. A little measurement told us the whole turkey, with a pan big enough to cook it, wouldn’t fit in the oven, so Anne split the bird in half as part of the prep, while I got the fire going again Thursday morning. At around 900 degrees we put the bird in to brown, then we put it back in again when the temperature was down around 500. It cooked in just under two hours, and it came out fabulous. Everything else was awesome too, and the whole day was a fun success.

     


  • From An Old Family Recipe

    I caught a cold in Canada, which seemed to be get better before it really settled in — D’oh! — so I’ve been indoors the past two days, just feeling out of sorts and sniffly. I spent most of yesterday studying up on graphing in R, but since we’re out of laundry soap I thought I’d go the other direction today and make a batch. (Anne left the ingredients in the kitchen, I took it as a hint.) Here is the recipe:


    DIY Laundry Soap Recipe

    • 2/3 of a bar Lye or Fels Naptha Soap
    • 1 cup Borax
    • 1 cup Washing Soda
    • Medium-sized pot or saucepan, and a 2-gallon (or bigger) bucket

    Grate the soap, then put it in the saucepan with 6 cups of water and heat it until it melts. Add the washing soda and the borax, keep heating until they dissolve, then remove from heat.

    Add 4 cups of hot water to the bucket, then add the soap mix and stir. Add another gallon plus 6 cups of water, stir again, and let it sit and gel for 24 hours.


    And… voilà! In basically the time it took to write this, I made a year’s supply of laundry soap for like two bucks.

    Note that this is double the concentration of the original recipe, so while it’s OK for HE washers (it contains no “sudsing agents”), you should only use the amount your washer recommends.

    So anyway, Musikfest starts tonight. We should be able to hear it happening from the porch, but we may also head down to check out the festivities if I’m feeling festive.


  • Dog Day

    Posted on by Don

    We’re in the middle of the first real heat wave of the season — we went from “you could probably get away without a light jacket, if you’re in full sunshine” last week, to our third day of cloudless upper nineties — so of course we’re spending the day brewing! Of course, we’re also doing it outside, so the house at least is not like an oven, but it still is a hot sweaty operation on a warm day.

    We are making a clone of Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, one of our favorites and, strangely enough, one we brewed almost exactly one year ago today.

    Other than that, there’s not much else on the agenda. I’m about halfway through George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo, which I started yesterday after Anne finished it (in two days). Really weird and intense, a compelling creepy page-turner and that’s all I’ll say about it now, except to say that you should also read it.

     


  • Captain Beefheart

    We were at the Allentown Farmer’s Market the other day, and Anne bought half of a beef heart.

    There was a heart for sale at the butcher shop a few weeks ago, and she was so intrigued she asked the butcher what you’d do with one (he recommended pickling it). She was going to buy it right then and there, but the look of horror on my face stopped her in her tracks. Fast forward a few weeks, and this time I guess I wasn’t paying close attention…

    beef heart
    Cleaning the heart before cooking.

    When we got home she washed the heart off and slow-cooked it for a few hours, letting it simmer with a bunch of spices — the house smelled awesome — and when it cooled she cut the heart into chunks, put it in a pickling brine, and put it in the fridge.

    Pickled Beef Heart
    Pickled Beef Heart

    It was ready to eat after a day or two, but we needed to work up our courage — we ended up trying it when we got home after an evening out. It was shockingly good, with a very strong steak taste behind the pickling, and a similarly steaklike texture (but no marbling). I think the both of us were surprised, and it’s now one of my favorite cuts of meat. Who knew?

    The ancient ones, that’s who…

    Sliced Pickled Beef Heart
    Sliced Pickled Beef Heart

  • Another Rest Day, Another Brew Day

    Posted on by Don
    Home-brew beer boils on outdoor burner.
    The second boil for our Berliner Weisse, on our new outdoor burner.

    Yesterday was another long ride, so today was another rest day, and today we did our second boil for the new batch of Berliner Weisse we’re brewing.

    (Our method: We do the mash as usual, e.g. strike and sparge, and after a very short boil we cool the wort and pitchLactobacillusfor a preliminary fermentation.Lactobacilluseats sugar and produces lactic acid; it’s the bug that turns milk into yogurt, and it gives a clean tart taste to sour beers. After a few days its job is done, and we perform a second, 60-minute boil, the “real boil” which in addition to killing the Lacto is where we toss in the hops. After that comes the regular yeast-based fermentation to convert the remaining sugar to alcohol.)

    We were a little surprised and disconcerted when we opened the pot with the wort: it had a nasty off-odor, very much like cooked corn, and it didn’t look as clean as the last batch. Fortunately, I’d read that this particular odor — an indicator of dimethyl sulfide — is common in certain types of beers if they’d been cooked but not thoroughly boiled, and is easily driven off with a longer boil. Like the one were about to do…

    We’d done the strike-and-sparge on Monday, along with making a batch of a Bell’s Two Hearted Ale clone, using an outdoor propane burner borrowed from Keystone Homebrew. That worked out so well that we bought our own on Tuesday when we returned the loaner, and today was our new toy’s maiden voyage. Everything worked out great, the off-odor was driven off pretty quickly, and after cooling the wort we pitched the yeast. Both beers are now in carboys in the kitchen.

    Homebrew beer ferments in jugs.
    Our latest brews fermenting away in the kitchen.