Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Tribute to THL Ciaran Cluana Ferta

It is with great sadness that I post this message today. I just found out that a dear friend and fellow Herald passed from this life into the next this past weekend. Ciaran was what one would call a "Gentle Giant." He was a large man with a larger heart. Ciaran and his lady, Guiliana were two of the first An Tirians that I met and remained two of our dearest and most loyal friends. I'm glad that I was able to see them both when we visited An Tir December 2006. Ciaran, or Brian as he was known mundanely, had a wonderful voice, not only for heralding, but also for singing. He also had a wonderfully interesting life and I was honored that he shared so much of his life with me. It just breaks my heart that we no longer live in An Tir and that I can't be there to help Guiliana in working through this sad time. The world is just a little more silent today. I so miss Ciaran.

Friday, May 16, 2008

And yet even more on cheese!

Yes; that's why I've been so busy. Cheesemaking (oh and working on Crown List and refining the menu for Meridian 30 Year Celebration.) So I've done an experiment with cheese, that unfortunately won't be ready to test for another good 3 months or so. I'm using the Home Cheesemaking by Ricki Carroll for my source. I first made the "Stirred Curd Cheddar" (OK, I actually first made the Montery Jack and then I made the Stirred Curd Cheddar, but it is the first of the Cheddars that I made.) It turned out ok and I got the hang of the temperatures and how to keep them where then need to be, etc. I then decided I was able enough to do the Traditional Cheddar. That was time expensive. I was astounded at how much waiting time there is. Bring it up to temperature and then wait an hour. Cut the curd. Wait an hour. Stir the curd and raise the temp. Wait an hour. Drain it. Wait an twenty minutes. Cut the curd. Wait two hours, but flip your curd slices every 15 minutes. Wow! Then the day and a half of pressing. So yesterday I decided that I was going to take another shot at the stirred curd. Having made them just 2 days apart I was better able to gauge the processes in comparison to each other. Amazingly, despite the time involved I think I like the way the Traditional Cheddar turned out. But then we still have to age them to truly tell. I picked up some Lipase powder to try some more harder cheeses. I want to get some Parma going and then I'm going to try my hand at a softer cheese.

OK, off to project night where I get to play with my new Pergamenata papers!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

More Cheese

I recieved my cheese press in the mail yesterday and I was a good girl and didn't abandon all the things that I already had planned for yesterday and delve into the long process of hard cheese making. :) I did take it apart and play with it. But I had committed myself to making Cato's "outdoor banner," cutting out the girls' Viking aprons for Crown List next weekend and finishing up the event tokens for said Crown List. Today I let myself make cheese while sewing. I decided on a stirred curd cheddar, although Sunday I may attempt the Farmhouse cheddar in preparation for a "real" Cheddar. I want to run to Shady Lady tomorrow and pick up some cheese coloring as I want there to be some sort of visible difference in some of my cheeses.

This wasn't as difficult as I had feared it would be, but I'm still having difficulty keeping the temperature consistant even with a hot water bath. I did better today than I did last week wit the Montery Jack, which may not be really Montery Jack when it is all done. It will be cheese of some unknown variety. Today's may not be a real cheddar either because it did get a little cooler than 100°F after each 30 minute cycle. It's currently pressing for 2 hours at around 40 pounds. After this I'll have to go in and flip it, redress it and press it for the next 24 hours for 50 pounds.

Meanwhile, I did manage to get the girls' Viking aprons sewn and I just need to hem a pair of pants for Keon and whip up a simple hat to go with his new cote. I also have a cup of whey leftover from making ricotta from the leftover whey from making the cheddar that I want to make a loaf of bread with. The ricotta is cooling in the fridge and I'm hoping to make a lasagna with it this weekend. The hardest part of this whole cheese making process is the waiting 2-6 (or 12) months for the cheese to age. It sits there tempting me, but I know if I try to eat it now it won't be at all as tasty as if I wait til later this summer. Of course my goal is to make enough cheese for Meridian 30 Year Celebration in August. It's got to be done now, though. Of course I'm also planning on making fresh mozzerella at the event, so I don't have to make as much as I think I might. I'm thinking a total of 8lbs of cheese for nibbling. Maybe 10. I'll see what I get done over the next few weeks. I'm on the lookout for a dorm sized fridge to keep my cheese in because I don't have a cellar to store it in and despite the fact that we keep our house around 72°F it still isn't cool enough for proper aging.

OK, off to finish that "to do list" for today!

Monday, April 21, 2008


I'm in the midst of major cheese making and it is just dandy fun! I have a cheese press coming today or tomorrow which should allow me to press my cheese much easier and without having to wash and sanitize bricks from the yard. I'm hoping to have some nice cheese for Meridies' Thirtieth Year Celebration this August. There will definitely be fresh mozzerella, but I want a few hard cheeses as well. My next purchase will be a dorm size refrigerator, which is recommended by Ricki Carroll, author of Home Cheese Making.

While reading through this book I found something I didn't know (ok, I'm finding LOTS of things I didn't know about cheese, but this one I found particularly interesting.) Some cheeses, such as Gouda and Colby, are "washed-cured" cheeses in that during the curding process the whey is drained off and water replaces it to continue with the curding. This "washes" the lactose from the curd and lowers the acidity level. It's done to give the cheese a smooth texture and mild flavor. This led me to wonder if washed-curd cheeses are easier for people who are lactose intolerant to digest than other whey-curd cheeses. I will have to ask Lady Greet if she has had any experience.

I do have some lovely Gouda that I purchased in my fridge which is supposedly ripened for 25 or more years. It's quite delightful! I'm not sure I'm patient enough to wait 25 years for a wheel of cheese. It's going to be hard enough waiting the 3-12 months that many of the cheeses I want to make.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Of feasts and cheese and sealing wax

I've delved into cheesemaking and absolutely loving it! There is something extremely fascinating about watching sweet fresh milk turn into thick gelatinous curds and then eventually into a solid mouth-watering cheese. My trials with mozzerella have been very successful and met with great response both at project night and fighter practice (and despite what people think fighters won't eat just anything put in front of them!) So I'm feel quite confident in serving it at the feast. Oh the feast. "What feast," you say? Why the feast for the event once known as Daggers and Hemlock Two, which is now being known as "Meridies 30 year celebration." Things are a bit vague at the moment, but it looks like I'll be cooking for somewhere between 150 and 200 people. I've decided to go with my idea of a late period Italian feast with more courses served from the credenza than from the kitchen. Great idea considering this event is in August/September (Labor day weekend) in Florida and from a small kitchen. Keeping the amount of dishes that need to be kept hot down to a minimum will be an absolute necessity.

Now back to cheese (which is always much more fun to talk about than the negotiations of feast - the trials of a feast, yes; the negotiations, not so much). I'm beginning my first hard cheese today. We will see how it goes. I don't have any concerns in my ability to follow a recipe and make cheese. It's cooking 101. My concern is finding a cat free place in the house :) I've got to do a bit more research into what other people have done to assure that drying cheese (prior to wax coating) isn't covered with cat fur. Cato is thinking a fan box. I was thinking a green house, but concerned about keeping it cool enough. I have plenty of room in my bedroom for several various ideas.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

So, he says

"I want more new spiffy garb. I need pretty stuff."

Like the stuff I make him isn't pretty. So I says, "Like what?" and He says, "Like I don't know." So I says, "OK, go look at (all my numerous) costuming books and tell me what you like." So he says, "I don't like those because I can't tell what they would look like on." So I says, "Fine! Go here and tell me what you like." So he says, "ooooo, I likes this:"

Ah, the G63. OK, looks like I get to draft a new pattern this week. I'm presuming he wants it to go with his lovely new chausses and braies.

I've got some lovely bright blue linen that will be lovely. The only thing I object to this is that he will insist that it be made "just like this one" but he will never button the collar because A) he has such a huge thick beard and B) he doesn't like things up around his neck.

At least he will wear hats.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Middle Eastern coming along!

Well, I have 2 of my pieces of Middle Eastern garb cut out and sewn. I made the Pirihan out of some lightweight white cotton gauze from this pattern. Although I think it is bigger than it should be. it is comfortable, though, and I know, now, where I can decrease it in various areas to make it fit better. I also managed to get the Salwar cut out and sewn last night. I used this pattern to make it and in actuality, despite what I told Greet, the 47" measurement was just perfect. However, I'm thinking that gores are set just a bit too low for me as they seem to hang at my knees and they really do feel too wide, even sitting cross-legged on the ground (not that I'm going to be doing that much as my poor old body just doesn't sit well on the ground for much longer than about 10 minutes). So the next ones I'll make a big narrower with smaller gores at the inseam. 'Twill do fine for sitting in a chair, dancing and my other activities.

I'll try to get some pictures posted of them later today when I get some batteries for the camera. And speaking of not sitting on the ground well, I've been looking at a few portable stools to take to events rather than the Silly Tailgate Chairs we have been hauling around. I'm particularly fond of the Lund Viking Stool

As it is A) Viking B) something to sit my butt on and C) small enough that it can be carried without having to break it down. However, I'm also partial to a bit more leg room so that I'm not as close to the ground and have been looking at this stool:

This is easily made from 1 6"x10"x8' length of lumber and folds flat. The problem I see with this (for me at least) is keeping up with all the dang pegs. I can easily see them being used by A Certain Unnamed Child as building blocks for some Rube Goldberg machine. There are pros and cons to both. The pros for the first are that it is small, portable, Viking and can be easily made with much less wood and the legs can even be made from Miscellaneous Turned Legs found at most hardware stores. The cons is that it isn't portable and it is a bit lower to the ground than what I really want. The pros for the second are that it would be very inexpensive to make, it could be accented, carved or spiffied up at some point later on and that it is taller than the Viking stool, meaning I wouldn't have to get up and walk around as much to save my aching hips. The con is that it isn't my period and the aforementioned pegs into toy problem.

I'll have to give some thought to this. It would be nice if I could have them by May Crown (hint hint to the person who complains I don't update my blog enough.)