yule gifts, 2011

January 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Pumpkin, sage, and brown butter breads. I made about 10 of these and gave them to the friends for the holidays. Time was short this year, as I’ve been traveling up a storm since the beginning of autumn. Even so, I knew I wanted to do another friend community gift. Coordinating groceries, baking, and drop-off times in the last week of December was tricky but I finally got it together just before New Year’s.

The first time I made the recipe it produced far fewer loaves than I anticipated, so I was forced to eat those myself and make a triple batch the next day:

Tripling the recipe made so much batter it only just barely fit in my biggest mixing bowl. A standing mixer would help in cases like this but damned if I’m going to buy one. If money is to be spent on a machine there’s a long list of guitar pedals that are way further ahead in line.

These breads were particularly tasty, probably owing much to the large quantity of butter steeped with sage leaves. Giving holiday gifts is a good excuse to drive around the neighborhood and reinforce the mental map of the fine community we have here in Philly. Our lives may all diverge domestically as time glides forward, but the love and good intentions remain.

summer brews

September 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Red Stone Fruit (Satsuma plum & cherry) Cordial. I wanted to harness some of the August ripeness, all sun-soaked and with fruit sugars at a delirious high,  as it crests and collapses into autumn. My darlings from up north, Christopher and Courtney, were due to visit and so I started this brew a couple weeks ahead for our celebrations. Easy, as I still had materials on hand from the cordial I made for my birthday soirée at the end of July. That one was strawberry-basil and it went fast on that rollicking, sweaty dance party of a night:

When I first starting making cordials years ago in the Compound era, we followed recipes (Orange Coriander Brandy was a winner) and made giant vats that infused over a minimum of two months in my prehistoric earthen basement. These were bottled & corked for holiday gifts. I have a few books on the topic but those first recipes came from Food For Friends , a lovely little guide to what my life will be in retirement age. Making lavender cakes for the neighbors and space operas on vintage synths in my basement studio (not shown in book).

For this summer’s brews, though, it was shorter term and I just winged it. Plain spirits (vodka is a simple base) went in a glass container (food safe plastic is ok too) with about a third of the container filled with sliced and slightly mashed fruit. The basil I tore – you want to get the flavor to release as much as possible.

About 24 hours later the strawberries blew my mind – they were ghost white and the brew was bright pink! Plums stayed in for about 2 weeks but I learned short-term infusing can still work. The flavor was lighter so I mixed them into cocktails with mineral water and fruit purée or juice just to be safe.

This method of preservation also works for tinctures & tonics with medicinal herbs. A true cordial also usually has a sweetener added, so I’d say these were somewhere in between. A tangible sip of the spirit of summer, tonic for the soul.

almond milk

April 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

Homemade almond milk. Just almonds, water, a few dates, and a little vanilla. This is one of those cases in which homemade is substantially better than store-bought. I learned this years ago when my friend Margie started whipping up batches of this stuff. It tastes way fresher, is free of weird stabilizers, and is ridiculously easy to make.

Put one cup of almonds in a bowl of water before bed. Wake up and rinse them off. Throw ’em in the blender with about 4 cups of water and a few pitted dates. Maybe some vanilla. Strain through cheesecloth. That’s it. The almond meal that’s leftover is great to add to all kinds of dishes. Recipes abound on the internet.

My current favorite thing to do with this milk is make a smoothie with just it and a frozen banana. Wow. Try it! Milkshake without dairy coma.

I moved to a new house back in February, and my workshop is in boxes until renovations are complete. This means all art-of-life pursuits are concentrated in the kitchen. Sometimes this sparks a mild identity crisis involving too much domesticity (give me whiskey and tour vans, quick!), but I’m trying to keep in mind that it’s all part of a bigger beautiful-life picture. Drinking my own almond milk from a glass bottle makes me feel off the grid in some way. Knowing how to make things is part of how I like to live.

infused honey

April 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

A trio of infused honeys for a bridal shower gift. Lemon ginger, rosemary, and sage. The couple getting hitched are both excellent cooks with exquisite taste, so I thought they’d appreciate having these to add nuance. I made a lavender honey from my garden years ago, and it was killer on roasted on figs with pink sea salt.

The infusing method is slow but simple. You start with a mild honey and warm it gently in a water bath, trying to keep it below 120 degrees (any hotter and the medicinal qualities of the honey can diminish). Add chopped fresh herbs or zest, let it steep, strain. I wanted a stronger flavor so I also added fresh herbs so they can continue to cold-process on the shelf.

There’s also something about hand making gifts for these life-milestone events that I find extra meaningful. Something involving an older sense of community spirit, the kin and kindred stocking the cupboards of a new couple or family to show support of their venture. One of my favorite gifts from my own shower, approx 100 years ago, was from an artist friend – a set of mismatched & lovely china tea cups and saucers she’d compiled from yard sales, all wrapped beautifully in a fabric in a wooden crate. In a bohemian world it was a queenly gift, and it showed me that she’d considered and comprehended my aesthetic. That thoughtfulness saturated the gift, and I still think of it today when I reach for one of the cups.

yule gifts

January 4, 2011 § 2 Comments

Art of Life, holiday edition! Spiced clementine cranberry marmalade/little loaves of rosemary & black pepper cornbread/wooden ornament. I made about 15 sets of these and distributed them to friends.

I wanted to be a reasonable person again. And by that I mean someone who can not only handle life but do interesting things with it. Gracefully. Surprise friends with something nice, for genuine reasons.

First I decided to make some kind of jam. Pretty sure I chose this recipe because “clementine” and “marmalade” are two of my favorite words. “Clementine Marmalade”…mellifluous and kind of etymologically adorable. Anyway, I actually had to make this batch twice. The first was ruined at the very end by forces beyond my control. Did I mention marmalade in this quantity takes about 6 hours to make?  C’est la vie! I am stubborn once I have a vision. Made it again the next day.

The cornbread was an add-on, but again once I had it in mind it needed to happen. This is a basic recipe that I tweaked with rosemary and ground peppercorns.

The ornament is from the Dept. of Not Knowing When to Stop.  I had these shapes and thought they would be perfect. I then woodburned, stained, and gold-leafed them. Yep. Please let’s never talk about how my press kits for my old business were hand-embossed, a process that took days. That was my early 20’s, though. I’d like to think I only throw that level of perfectionism into things that benefit actual art or people who matter now.

This project represents a more significant milestone for me, however:

My notebook, home of all nascent ideas & general brainstorming. The date of this entry is 12/12/10. From sketch to friends’ hands, approx. 10 days. One of the biggest goals I’ve had this year was to become someone who finishes projects, and one who can get from concept to manifestation in a satisfying amount of time. The best gift I could possible give myself.

pickles

October 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

Cats n’ Crafts, second only in my heart to Rock n’ Roll. Seriously, when  lil’ puss here jumped into the photo I thought: How perfect! Immediately followed by…is this my life? Am I taking photos of a cat for a blog about my crafts?

Ok, walk it off…

I love pickles. This is my second batch. They are yellowy from the turmeric I added this time. The first batch I took to a 4th of July party, and people seemed to like them. The ever-lovely Lauren Eileen Walker took this shot and named it “pickle proud”. I won’t deny it:

Kombucha

September 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

This kind is blackberry chamomile.

I’m an ex-matriarch. At one point I had a rotating batch of kombucha at all times. I threw giant parties and wore long 70’s hostess gowns and made decorative ice rings with flowers from my garden frozen within. The ice rings went in a crystal punch bowl, with blueberry vodka and elderflower syrup, among other things. WTF. Let’s start with the Kombucha. Baby steps.

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