17 for 2017 – May Update

May turned out to see lots of action with respect to 17 for 2017, including another two sets of goals achieved. So, this is progress to date:

17 RCKs 5

A gift vaark

Seventeen… Love Rocks or other little random yarny/sewn gifts. I could claim that this goal has been completed, having put dozens and dozens of hearts in the community garden in Chorlton last Saturday, but I’m only counting this as one ‘act’. I also made a little vaark which was sent as a surprise to one of the administrators for the 60 Million Trebles project. Thus, the total so far is six.

Sixteen… batches of homemade biscuits. Three lots in May means I’m just a single batch away from my goal.

Fifteen… cheeses.  I made two lots of Bel Paese-style cheese – it’s really simple, is ready after just six weeks and it’s great for cooking. Th total now is nine

Fourteen… pairs of knickers. None this  month, so the total is still six.

13-mends-12a.jpg

Mended with a swirl or two of Sugru

Thirteen… mends. Leggings, pyjamas and two different sets of headphones this month means that I’ve reached my target for the year.

Twelve… letters to friends. None written this month, so the total is still six.

Eleven… new items in my Etsy shop. I’ve added just one item this month, the “Start a Revolution, Plant a Garden” embroidery that appeared in the craftivism display. This takes the total to eight.

10 plants rehomed 9

Lemongrass, grown from seed, off to a new home

Ten... plants given to good homes. Although I only gave the first plants away last month, I’ve already reached my target, with summer purple sprouting broccoli, lemongrass and chillies accounting for most of the plants that have gone off to new homes in May.

Nine… games of Scrabble. None yet.

Eight… meals using only our own produce. None yet, although there have been several meals that came close.

Seven… visits to see “social media” friends. My visit to Manchester took my total to six.

Six… Pairs of socks knitted, using at least three different patterns. None this month, so still only one made

Five… book chapters written. None yet.

IMGP2855

The squares for blanket six of four

Four… blankets for charity; knitted or crocheted. I’d completed this target by the end of February; however, I finished another this month and I’ve nearly finished one more.

Three… sessions in the loft, sorting out some of the accumulated ‘stuff’ up there. None yet.

Two… patterns published and on sale. No new pattern this month, so just the one published in January.

 One… gardening apron. I made this last month.
I’m feeling rather pleased with my achievements this month – how about your projects this year? If you have a 17 for 2017 blog post or an update on your progress, do leave a link in the comments.

17 for 2017 – April Update

This month has involved a holiday and a lot of work, distracting me from ticking things off the list; however, here is the April update for 17 for 2017. This is where I am so far:

Seventeen… Love Rocks or other little random yarny/sewn gifts. I crocheted a little collection of flowers and hearts for the craftivism display at The Make It Shop, to be given away at the end of May. Although there were seven of them, I’m just counting this as one ‘make’ on my list. Most unusually, I completely forgot to photograph them, but I will do so once they are in the display. This takes me to a total of four for this target.

Sixteen… batches of homemade biscuits. Just one batch in April takes the annual total to 12. We took this batch on holiday with us!

15 Cheeses 7

April’s cheese in the mould

Fifteen… cheeses.  I experimented with making a new sort of cheese this month, using a thermophilic bacterial starter. It is smelling very good, so I hope that April’s solitary cheese will be a success. The total has now increased to seven.

Fourteen… pairs of knickers. None this  month, so the total is still six. I have decided I need to tweak the pattern a little as I have lost a bit of weight!

13 Mends 9

Bucket reinforced using Sugru

Thirteen… mends. Two mends this month – both involved using Sugru to rescue damaged plastic items, namely a bucket and a coat hanger. This takes me to nine different mends so far this year.

Twelve… letters to friends. None written this month, so the total is still six.

Eleven… new items in my Etsy shop. I haven’t added anything this month, The current total is still seven, but I’ve got some new ideas.

IMGP2350

Here they were, ready to go to their new home

Ten... plants given to good homes. Finally kicking off this aim, I gave away two tomato plants this month to the friend who looks after our hens when we are on holiday.

Nine… games of Scrabble. None yet… we took the Scrabble set on holiday, but somehow it never got used.

Eight… meals using only our own produce. None yet, although plants are flourishing in the limery now, so the future looks bright.

Seven… visits to see “social media” friends. One lovely visit to see Karen of the blog Sweet Baby Veg – more about this in a later post. My total is now five.

Six… Pairs of socks knitted, using at least three different patterns. I planned to knit a pair of socks whilst on holiday, but I could not find the right needles before I went, and so I didn’t manage even to start a pair. Of course the needles turned up as soon as I got home, so maybe I’ll do better this month. The total is still just one pair.

Five… book chapters written. None yet – I’m still not feeling inspired!

4 Blankets 5

A bonus blanket in progress (the fifth of four!)

Four… blankets for charity; knitted or crocheted. I’d completed this target by the end of February; however, I have another one underway at the moment – it’s the project I took on holiday in the absence of sock needles!

Three… sessions in the loft, sorting out some of the accumulated ‘stuff’ up there. None, but now the weather is warming up, the prospect of this happening is increasing.

Two… patterns published and on sale. No new pattern this month, so just the one published in January.

IMGP2221

It’s a bit grubbier than this now!

One… gardening apron. Yay – this one is done, and it’s getting lots of use.

Progress has been a bit slow this month, but I’m still moving forward – how about your projects this year? If you have a 17 for 2017 blog post or an update on your progress, do leave a link in the comments.

17 for 2017 – March Update

I can’t believe another month has whizzed by, but it has, so here is the March update for 17 for 2017. This is where I am so far:

Seventeen… Love Rocks or other little random yarny/sewn gifts. I have managed two contributions this month: hopefully my yarn bombing for Sixty Million Trebles reached a few people, plus I made Petunia vaark who has gone off to live with a new friend in Lancashire. This takes my total to three – I think vaarks may feature quite prominently in growing this target!

Ginger biscuits

Sixteen… batches of homemade biscuits. Four batches in March means that the annual total is already 11. The best thing to report, however, is that we have not bought any packets of biscuits at all, so there has been no palm oil consumption.

Fifteen… cheeses.  One regular hard cheese plus two alpine cheeses this month mean that the total has increased to six. The regular cheese has been waxed to allow it to mature without further intervention, but the alpine cheeses are being washed regularly with locally produced honey ale to control the natural mould growth – these are supposed to be ready to eat after six weeks.

Fourteen… pairs of knickers. Only one pair made this  month, bringing the total to six. However, I have now got some more organic cotton jersey fabric, so there’s cutting out to do.

Oh, darn!

Thirteen… mends. One pair of slippers and one pair of socks have been darned this month. I’m trying to keep on top of mends as they crop up, and this approach seems to be working well so far and I’ve now mended seven garments this year.

Twelve… letters to friends. None written this month, so the total is still six.

Eleven… new items in my Etsy shop. I haven’t added anything this month, but I have sold a couple of items, which wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t listed them in the first place! The current total is still seven.

Ten... plants given to good homes. None yet – but it looks like I’m going to have plenty surplus as the year progresses.

Nine… games of Scrabble. None yet.

Eight… meals using only our own produce. None yet, although we’ve eaten lots of kale, broccoli, mizuna and eggs from our garden!

Seven… visits to see “social media” friends. We met up with a whole bunch of Twitter friends a couple of weeks ago, taking my annual total to four. I’m currently in the process of organising a visit in April, one in May and looking at a get-together at the end of July. If all three of these work out, then that will take me to my target number.

Stripy socks

Six… Pairs of socks knitted, using at least three different patterns. I made my first pair of the year this month using my old-faithful pattern… I just couldn’t work up the enthusiasm to try a new pattern.

Five… book chapters written. None yet – I’m just not feeling inspired!

Four… blankets for charity; knitted or crocheted. I’d completed this target by the end of last month. I haven’t made any more in March, but various friends have given or are about to give me yarn and squares, so there are going to be more blankets in coming months.

Three… sessions in the loft, sorting out some of the accumulated ‘stuff’ up there. None, although a plan is afoot to increase storage space in the kitchen and then we can have a good sort-out of all the preserves and preserving equipment that’s up there and currently quite disorganised. I have also given away a couple of items, but I’m not being very focussed so far.

IMGP2158

fabric for #1

Two… patterns published and on sale. No new pattern, so just the one published in January – sadly sales of that have been disappointing.

One… gardening apron. Not yet, but the fabric, chambray for the outside and poplin for the lining (not denim in the end – I had a change of heart) has arrived and this is something I’d really like completed soon because I want to use it!

Petunia

So, it’s progressing well – how about your projects this year? If you have a 17 for 2017 blog post or an update on your progress, do leave a link in the comments.

A taste of the mountains

Can you guess what I have been up to today?

IMGP1898

what’s in the pots?

Well, since it isn’t knitting or crochet, it must be… cheese-making. I recklessly decided to make two cheeses today – a hard cheese which I have made many times before and a new variety. I was so busy concentrating on the new cheese that I made a mistake with the order of additions for the hard cheese… I coagulated the milk before adding the microbial culture. I think it’s going to have an odd texture as a result but, who knows, it might be a triumph!

Anyway, the new variety is an alpine-style cheese; something akin to Raclette. Interestingly, it does not use a cheese culture to start, but instead it is inoculated with yoghurt. The result was some very stretchy curds, but then the key characteristic of Raclette is that it’s very stretchy when melted, so maybe this bodes well. It is pressed only overnight, unlike the hard cheeses, which are pressed for up to 48 hours, and the pressure applied is lower, both of which mean it will retain more moisture. Currently both cheeses are pressing and since I only have one cheese press, I am using my alternative (bought specially for the purpose):

IMGP1902

one cheese press and one clamp

The hard cheese is in the clamp since there is no gauge, but I have a good feel for the amount of pressure that needs to be applied. The alpine cheese is in the press, with the pressure set according to the recipe.

The hard cheese will be waxed for maturing, but the alpine cheese is going to have a washed rind. You can wash the rind in brine or vinegar or alcohol. To keep my theme of local ingredients, I have decided to use a local beer… now I just need to choose which one:

IMGP1905

I wonder which will go best with the cheese?

Cream of the crop

We’ve now been getting our milk direct from Penlan y Mor for a couple of months and we are starting to get into a routine. We send a text to check it’s ok to call in, and if it is (there’s not been a problem yet) we drive down with our 10 litre churn and get it filled from the huge refrigerated tank. Once home, we decant it into glass jars for storage in the fridge or plastic cartons for the freezer.

imgp1136

Ready for storage

However, since the milk is so creamy, it seems silly to buy cream separately, so I’ve now started leaving the milk to settle for a couple of hours before bottling, so that I can skim some of the cream off the top:

imgp1132

Skimming

I store this in a fancy glass jar… no particular reason, I just like it. And then we can have cream on our waffles for Sunday brunch – yum.

imgp1134

a little jar of cream

Now, I just need to get into a routine with cheese-making, which was the reason for getting milk from the farm in the first place…

Cheesy

I’ve spent the whole of today making cheese…

It does take a long time, but I do love the process. I have enough milk in the freezer to make another batch, which I’m going to tweak a little by using a bit less rennet to see how that affects the texture. In the mean time, we have fresh ricotta to enjoy and loads of whey to use in baking and to feed to the hens.

Whey to go!

Yesterday I had two resources: raw milk and time, so I got back to experimenting with making hard cheese. Time is an important factor, as there is lots of intermittent activity on day one… heat up the milk gently, add micro-organisms, leave for an hour, add rennet, leave for an hour, stir, leave, heat whilst stirring… and on it goes. Even during the periods between activity, you have to keep an eye on the temperature, so cheese making requires a dedicated day to get things started. I really love the process – working with living organisms and enzymes means that apparently magical transformations take place rather like bread-making, but with less immediate results. Here is the process in pictures…

Now I have to increase the pressure to the full level and then leave it for another 24 hours. The ricotta that I made from the whey is ready for use and I will turn some of it into a lemon cheesecake later, I think. In addition there’s 3.5 litres of whey in the freezer ready to use in cooking or as chicken feed. The only waste from this process is a very small amount of salty whey.

Only time will tell how successful I have been, but it was certainly a lovely way to spend a dull winter’s day.

Not all milk is the same

Being asked to teach someone else to make cheese led to me doing a bit more research about ingredients. I was surprised to discover that my previous batch of cheese had inadvertently been made with homogenised milk… it was no wonder the curds didn’t form properly. So, I decided to source some minimally processed milk for my session with Kate.

We used to have raw milk delivered to the door, in bottles, but the farmer retired and no one locally seems to sell it any more, so I sought some by mail order. I was delighted to discover a farm that sells milk from their Jersey herd and who do next day delivery. It’s not cheap, but it is very high fat and just what I was looking for. I ordered 12 litres and we used three for the cheese and one for some yoghurt*, so I now have 8l remaining in the freezer and I’m going to use this to make some hard cheese in the next few days.

IMGP7061

Lovely curds ready to go into the moulds

The unpasturised, unhomogenised Jersey milk was a delight to work with – it made beautiful curds that were easy to handle and there were lots of them. Of course because I was teaching someone else, it made me think much more about what I was doing, and I realise how gently everything needs to be treated, and how much like magic it is that simply cutting the curds into pieces allows the whey to be released. Unless you are making hard cheese, there is no pressing or squishing and a reasonably firm cheese forms in the moulds with only the lightest handling and a few turns.

IMGP7062

Fresh curds in the moulds

We made a very simple soft cheese that had a texture a bit like a cross between feta and Caerphilly! I am planning to get some Geotrichum candidum culture to allow me to make a mould-ripened version of this sort of cheese. This would give it a white surface a bit like brie and would allow it to mature for longer and thus develop more flavour. Interestingly, we tried making ricotta from the whey, but there were relatively few solids left. I’m not too bothered about this, as the whey is great for all sorts of other uses.

So, I will be buying creamy raw milk again for cheese making. Kate is on the case to see if we can get some locally (she has a promising lead), but if not I will keep ordering it from the supplier I used for this batch. I find working with living cultures very interesting – they are so sensitive to the environment and the raw materials they are working on. So, now I need to master a good hard cheese….

 

-oOo-

* Not a success – far too creamy.

Making chicken food

In the UK it is illegal to feed kitchen waste to your hens. It is ok, however, to make feed specifically for chickens. Our hens really like a mix of oats and whey… a sort of cold porridge… so last weekend I decided to make this for them.

Whey can easily be separated out from milk using a bacterial culture. Thickening the mix by the addition of rennet makes straining the curds off much easier. And if you allow the curds to drain overnight, you maximise the amount of whey that you can extract.

IMGP6919

Even more solids appear if you heat the whey up to nearly boiling

It’s also possible to remove extra solids from the whey by heating it to just below boiling point, allowing it to cool again and then filtering through muslin once again. I started with 3 litres of whole milk and ended up with about 1.5 litres of whey. Of course I had lots of waste curds, but that was ok because I turned them into soft cheese. In addition, the solids that come out of the whey as a result of heating are otherwise known as ricotta.

You see, it’s not illegal for humans to eat the waste left from making chicken feed…. how convenient!

Cracking Wensleydale, Grommit!

Today was the day… the grand cheese tasting.

I think we'll call him Horace!

I think we’ll call him Horace!

I made my first hard cheese on a snowy day back in January and since then it has been maturing. It’s been quite difficult to hold my nerve and watch it develop a coating of mould. I would probably have been more comfortable if it had been wax-coated, but I want to keep the process as natural as possible, so I simply wrapped it in muslin, attached with butter. It is possible to buy wax, but it is petro-chemical in origin. To begin with the cheese had to be turned daily, but then only weekly, whilst also keeping an eye on the humidity.

Removing the muslin

Removing the muslin

Watching something go mouldy goes against the grain as it feels like the food must be spoiling, but the instructions were clear that this is what should happen. Today, however, we peeled off the muslin to reveal 700g of creamy white cheese. The texture and taste are closest to Wensleydale, and it made a very acceptable cheese sandwich for lunch… Wallace and Grommit would be proud! If you are local and quick, call round for a taste!

Peeled cheese

Peeled cheese

Now I have convinced myself that it is possible, I will have a go at making some more. I’m pleased to say that I have been put in contact with someone local who will supply me with unpasturised organic milk, so fingers crossed for future experiments.

Final texture

Final texture

 

%d bloggers like this: