March 29, 2013

Curing bacon


Occasionally we get big chunks of pork belly with our meat CSA, and as I outlined in the pancetta post, this is one cut of meat which is not that good fresh but unbeatable when cured. I've done two pancettas to date, but I thought it might be fun to cure a piece as bacon.

Bacon and pancetta are of course both cured pork belly, but they differ in the typical spice mix and curing procedure. While pancetta is savory, bacon is often sweet though not necessarily so. After being exposed to a chemical cure in the fridge for about a week, pancetta goes in the curing chamber to dry for around three weeks, whereas bacon gets a one day dry in the fridge and is then smoked.

March 26, 2013

Home made lotion


We are pushing further ahead on our mission to make cosmetics and personal products at home. The latest project is making moisturizer, which is frankly quite an interesting product when you get down to the details. Typical lotion is around 70% water, 25% oil, plus some other important ingredients. This mixture would separate and go bad quickly if not for the magic of modern chemistry.

March 20, 2013

Making Felt Hats


A few years ago I made myself a gnome style gray felt hat with a big red flower on it. It is my go to hat for cool to cold weather and I wear it frequently. The kids like to wear my hat too, and for some time have been asking to have tall felt hats of their own.

March 19, 2013

Homebrew Hard Cider Aftershave


I've been shaving full time since August with one of my home made straight razors, in conjunction with home made shave soap, brush, and strop. For aftershave, I have been splashing on some drug store witch hazel, which is decent (though I have little experience with aftershave and thus not much basis for comparison).

But I must confess to harboring a strong desire to make up some home made aftershave, to continue the recent trend in taking charge of the products and hardware used for personal care. In time, I would like to plant a witch hazel bush and harvest bark from it to make witch hazel aftershave, but that is a longer term project. So as an experiment, I made up some aftershave using homebrew hard cider and goop squished out of my aloe vera  houseplant. I like it quite well!

March 12, 2013

Homemade chapstick


My chapstick of choice is regular Burt's Bees. We've been running low these last couple months, and the last two stores I looked in did not have it in stock. I'm sure I can find it someplace, or just order it online, but the experience of having to find the time to go into a shop only to be frustrated in my desire to engage in consumer activity is annoying. Wouldn't it be great if I could just make my own chapstick in my kitchen whenever I needed it? How hard could it be?

Being possessed of an approach to life favoring the purchase of ingredients or raw materials over finished products, plus my newfound desire to free myself from consumer enslavement to the tyrannical chapstick corporations prodded me to do some research on home made chapstick. Turns out it is possibly the easiest personal care product to make at home. Plus you can proactively adjust the formulation to suit, instead of serially buying unsatisfying commercial products to try to find one that mostly fits your desires.

March 7, 2013

Food Experiment - The Mayan's Favorite Drink


Violet saw a book at the library about Mayan heiroglyphs and picked it out for us to read at home. She is very interested in early humans and ancient peoples, so this book really hit the spot for her. On one page, there is a side panel about "The Mayans' Favorite Drink", made from cacoa beans. Violet was keen to try it out, though you might not guess it from her expression the in above picture! I think she had just finished eating a raw cacao bean, which is an interesting experience if you have not tried it before.

The process for turning cacao beans into something edible involves fermenting them immediately after they are harvested. This makes them edible, and apparently they don't really taste like chocolate at all until after the fermentation. I could not easily locate unfermented cacao beans, so I got the next level intermediate product: dry, unroasted cacoa beans. These are sold as a "Superfood" these days, so they were easy to order from Amazon.

March 1, 2013

Greist mechanical buttonholer on a handcranked Singer 99


I've been making all buttonholes by hand since I moved to exclusive use of my treadle machine a little over a year ago. I like handmade buttonholes (although some of mine can get pretty ugly!), but even doing them poorly takes me a lot of time.

Last year I bought a mechanical buttonholer for something like $30 on ebay, figuring I could make an adapter to put it on my D-9. It is a Greist, and is all metal construction with die cast templates. After getting the buttonholer, it looked like it was going to be more challenging than I had hoped to make the pieces to put it on the W&W, so its been sitting on the shelf while I spend a lot of time doing buttonholes by hand.

But just the other week I brought in a hand crank Singer 99 for my kids, and it has a standard low shank foot. So last weekend I tried putting the buttonholer on to do the holes for a button fly on the second muslin for the pants I've been trying to make for the last couple months. It is fantastic! Quick to set up, easy to use, fast and efficient, and makes a nice buttonhole. It is also entertaining to watch, and has a nice sound to it as you crank: click-click-click-click...