Monday, 24 November 2014

Arlene's Blocks

Finally, long awaited, Arlene's blocks for both the Garden & Flowers DYOB and Garden & Flowers Traditional are finished.

For Arlene's DYOB block - because Arlene is an Aussie, I chose a selection of flowers from Jenny Bradford's Little Book of Wildflowers in Silk Ribbon. All the flowers in the book are Australian Wildflowers.

First things first - putting lace on the edge of the fan. After going through my basket of beloved antique laces, I finally settled on a beautiful handmade torchon lace. There was only just enough of this one to fit, but it suited so well. It had obviously originally been made for going on a curve - probably along a neckline or cuff, as once it was pinned into place with the edge even with the fabric edge, the lace still had a nice little ruffle to it.
I used a basic blanket stitch in rose coloured No 8 pearl along the edge of the lace, then did small ribbon roses in a variegated pink silk ribbon on the lace itself.

The first seam was done with sprigs of Red Boronia on each side of the seam.

The second seam was done with native Flax on one side, and Buttercup on the other. It wasn't until after I started the flax that I realized the blue ribbon I had chosen for it perfectly matched the blue in the fabric on that patch.

The third seam was done with native Gorse (yellow) and Hovea (mauve) intertwining.

At the top, above the fan, I added a flower called Leatherwood.

To finish off, I did a matching row of blanket stitch along the inner seam, and filled over the flower print in the corner with silk ribbon to match.

For Arlene's Traditional block. I did the last two seams and the remaining patch.

The first seam I did was the long one that bisected the block. I did a random scattering of small ribbon roses in a variegated dark pink silk ribbon along the seam. On the second seam I did a stylised vine with flowers. The petals of the flowers were alternating Kiko stitch and lazy daisy, with a pale purple glass pearl in the centre of each flower.

On the patch I did a large dragonfly. He ended up a bit fat, but it was the first time I had done this style of dragonfly, and overall, I was quite pleased with the way he turned out.

I hope Arlene is happy with the final results for her blocks.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Elizabeth's Block

Last night I was able to finish Liz R's block for the Garden & Flowers DYB RR.
Liz's block was a joy to work on. I simply adored the colours. Most of my stitching was kept in the colours of the block - various greens and purples, and a rusty red-ish touch pulled from a small section of the flowers in the silkie - with gold silk highlights to lift it.

The lace on the bottom left is the second of the two oldest antique laces I have, being cut from a bodice overlay (the other oldest lace was used on Flora's block). This was sewn into place with purple crown stitch on the seam, and gold silk and beads on the lace itself. The flower centres on the edge are done with metallic gold seed beads and gold glass pearls, the flower centres in the body of the lace are done with very light gold tinged Swarovski crystals topped with a metallic gold seed bead. The one on the far left is very close to the seam, but has been sewn on separately from all other stitching, so it can be removed for sewing the block up. It was just as easy to sew it in place where it belonged, as to sew it one inch over into the seam allowance for 'holding'.
Next were the rest of the seams, done in a variety of silk ribbon, Caron Wildflower hand-dyed pearl threads, DMC pearl threads, glass rice pearls, seed beads of various sizes, and some of the wonderful glass flower beads I recently bought from Kathy S.

The last seam done was the one on the top right as that was the most time consuming. It is a continuous drizzle stitch vine, with purple beads scattered through out for buds (or berries - depending on your preference).

Then the web was added, along with Mr. spider at the top of the block, and the dragonfly in the bottom right corner.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Barbara's Block

On Monday last I finished Barbara W's block for the Garden & Flowers DYB RR.
I actually found this block quite difficult to do. For me, crazy quilting is all about the seams and seam treatments, with motifs and other embellishments an added extra to fill in blank spaces. So having to treat a block as a single whole canvas for a picture was very hard. Seam work breaks a block up into pieces, which isn't really desirable if you are treating the block as a single unit to 'paint a picture' on. And when doing a scene, things really need to have a reasonable degree of proportion. It doesn't have to be an OCD level of exactness in proportion, but you can't really have a dragonfly bigger than your flower cart - not unless you are doing a scene of a flower seller who has been zapped back 300 million years to the Carboniferous period. I don't think that was what Barbara had in mind!

So I started, as always, with doing the seams. I chose simple stitches, done in thread that matched the patches, to avoid breaking the block up. Then I added matching beads, to give it some sparkle and texture.

Next I did a variety of flowers in the cart - Shasta daisies, Forsythia, Cyclamens, Agapanthus, Alyssum, rosebuds, and Forget-me-nots. I added a basket-of-flowers charm on the path next to the cart, a butterfly charm above it, and finished it with a little green caterpillar inching its way along the top of the wheel.

Then I embroidered a flowering cherry branch at the top of the block, imagining the cart to be parked under the shade of a tree. I concluded the piece with a lone dandelion growing up beside the pavement, having gone to seed and the seeds starting to be carried off on the spring breeze.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Ain't Life Grand!

Oh lookie, lookie, lookie what just came in the post! A wonderful pressie from Beverlee in Aussie! A fabulous selection of her gorgeous lace, all in various purples - my favourite colour! I can't believe how small you have managed to get them Beverlee! They will definitely be a big hit with CQers - especially for use on the smaller blocks, as it can be so hard to find laces that small. And they are definitely going on my "Ultimate CQ"! *Big smile* Thank you so much Beverlee!

For the most part I just roll with the punches these days - you know, "no biggie", "these things happen", "the pendulum always swings back up", that sort of thing, although I do still battle the occasional bout of depression - mostly in winter. So after ending up in the ED of the hospital a few days ago - acute inflammation of the lining of the stomach - wasn't that fun (not!), and the sudden plunge back into winter just as summer was supposed to be arriving, days like today are always welcome. The sun is shining today, it's a bit warmer, the wind, although gusting fiercely, doesn't feel like it's blowing a iceberg into the house, and it has been a day of "nice things happening".
I pay all my utilities and regular bill by a weekly AP. That way I don't end up getting them all on the same week, getting overwhelmed, or getting into debt and in trouble. I divide the monthly payment (for bills that are variable, like power, I choose an average winter bill to base it on), and I divide that by 4, then pay that much each week by AP. Because there are actually 4&1/2 weeks in a month, this means I always end up in credit.
Last week, I rather unexpectedly had to get extra data on my internet (it's all these auto-playing videos and streaming adverts in the pages - they just suck up the data allowance!), so when my phone/internet bill arrived yesterday (they are both on one bill), I thought "that's not too bad, I can cover that next week, no problem", but then I got the "thank you for your payment" text from the phone company this morning - my last weekly payment hadn't been taken into account for the billing, so I turns out I don't have to pay anything next week. Then about an hour later I get a call from the storage place "Hi, you are too far in credit now, can you put your payments on hold for 3 months please?" It's only a couple of dollars extra each month, but over the course of the past two years it has built up. Ooo... I can see beetle wings in my near future! And then about 40 minutes later the post arrives with Beverlee's surprise goodies! I'm a very happy girl today! Well, back to playing with the laces!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Summer is here... Umm... Where?

Well, it's practically summer in little ol' NZ, and here I am wrapped up in a hat, scarf, woolly jumper, and fluffy socks, clutching a hot drink. It is drizzling outside, the wind is bitterly cold, and there is a sprinkling of snow on the hills, and more in the high country. I can see I am going to have to get in extra firewood this year, and make sure I do a good stock up on basics (flour, sugar, etc) before winter, 'cause it's gonna be a nasty one this year, and I ain't going out in it!
Still, we've had two mild winters, where the garden produced all winter, and the weather was good enough to walk into town to do shopping, although the temp still managed to drop to between 2C and 0C (35.6F and 32F) in the house. But the bad winters are even worse! And this coming one is going to be a doozy!
On the up side, I don't get a lot of crafts done in the mild winters, but in the hard winters (assuming I have gotten enough firewood in), when it can be a whole 3-4 months before I can get out to go up shopping, and there is nothing alive in the garden, all there is to do is crafts! Hopefully this year I will get the tops done on the several Eye Spy quilts I have had the fabrics stashed away for, for the past two years.

Even more exciting, I am hoping to get a start on my "Ultimate CQ". This is a single-sheet sized CQ (being done on a flannel single sheet) that will be entirely hand pieced, whole cloth style, all in fancy fabrics, which I have been collecting up for the past 5 years. Most of the antique laces I scored last December have been earmarked for this project. Was so thrilled to have been able to get those! The gorgeous jewel tone hand dyed laces I got from Nicki at Raviolee Dreams  a while back will also be going into it. 
Getting suitable threads and embellishments has been a lot harder. Silk and other fancy thread are rarer than hens' teeth here (and more expensive!). I could make a hens' teeth necklace before I could afford - or even find - the fancy threads for it here! And most of the embellishments available are either waaaay out of my price range, or are 'plastic craptastic' imitations of the good stuff. But the deities of handwork have smiled on me, and I was directed to a FB page by one of the CQ ladies, for people selling off their excess 'stash'. Yay!
Two of the lovely ladies in particular have gone out of their way to be helpful and accommodating. Kathy S., from whom I have gotten a range of gorgeous crystal beads, glass flower and leaf beads, tiny clay flower beads, charms, and other shiny things - stuff I just can't get here; and Vickie T., from whom I have been able to purchase a range of fancy threads - especially silk ones. And both were selling at phenomenally great prices - enough so that it was worth buying from them in the US in spite of our currently sucky exchange rate and the cost of international postage. Thank you so much, ladies!

Just some of wonderful "pretties" from Kathy S. The threads from Vickie are still on the way.

Also of special mention is Kathy P. I have been trying for some time to get some Shiva Paintstiks, yet another thing we can't get here. They are perfect for using on fabric with my stamps and stencils, store beautifully without drying out, and come in a wonderful range of iridescent colours and metallics. I tried eBay, but none of the sellers would post International, and Amazon only posts books and dvds International, not any of the other stuff they sell. So Kathy very kindly offered to get them from Amazon for me and post them to me here in NZ, and I send the money to her thru PayPal for the cost of the Paintstiks and postage (I do love PayPal - it makes it so much easier to do this kind of thing!). The guy at her local P.O. made the whole process a living hell, and after over an hour of murderous frustration, she ended up having to get her husband to take it to another P.O. further away, on his way to work, to post it! Thank you so much for your wonderful efforts and kindness, Kathy!

I was expecting something the size of oil pastels, so I was surprised - and thrilled - at how big they actually turned out to be!

Several years ago, I sent Mum a list of goldwork supplies I was after (which she bought for me and brought over on one of her trips), to be able to do some of the spectacular stumpwork goldwork beetles from Jane Nicolas' book. I will be doing these on this project, as well as the surface embroidery ones from the book. So the only things left that I really want for this project are shisha mirrors, and beetle wings. Yup, you read right - beetle wings. They were something that were used in Victorian embroidery, and I found an Etsy shop that sells them! So when I have the money, I will get some - not many, but enough to be able to put them in a motif and say " I have done beetle wing embroidery". Yay!

Beetle wings for embroidery

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

"Ok, that's weird" you say. Yes, it is. But it has a purpose. Now people can follow my blog via Bloglovin, and I can monitor stats thru it.

So what's Bloglovin? It is a very cool free site that enables you to follow all your favourite blogs in one place. You can see all the new posts, get notified when they update, etc. So if you have a couple of blogs you like to follow - and especially if you have a lot of blogs you like to follow - have a look at Bloglovin.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Returning CQ Blocks

Well... here we are... waiting for the polls to open (it's election day here in NZ)... waiting... waiting... that's what I get for waking up at 5.30 in the morning. So I figured now was a good time to document my returning blocks. The blocks for all three RRs I was in have returned (we aren't talking about the UTS RR... EV-ER).
The first one - A "seams only" RR - came back  a couple of months ago. The second one - Garden & Flowers Traditional - arrived home last week, and the third one - Garden & Flowers DYOB - came home yesterday.

The stitchers for the Stitching Only 2013 RR were Maire C., Susie J., Molly P., Rose Anne B., and me, with Tahlia H. as angel.

You just GOTTA see Rose Anne's most adorable little ants! Aren't they just the cutest little things ever! (Can you tell I really love them?)

The stitchers for the G&F Traditional were Arlene W., Candace B., Velia A., Shelly R., and me, with Gerry H. as our angel. It is such a wonderful block, and I was totally thrilled when I saw it!

The stitchers for the G&F DYOB were Arlene W., Elizabeth R., Barbara W., Shelly K., Flora G., and me, with Renee Y. as our angel.

Arlene did the purple block

 Liz did the green block

Barb did the orange/brown block

Shelly did the red/burgundy block

Flora did the blue block. Have a good look at the smaller lace - it looks like spiderwebs and bees. How cool is that?

That leaves the pink block for me to do.

All the blocks are just wonderful! I love the unique style that each stitcher has, and that I have come to recognise. I plan on making these into a wall hanging, and they will be the very first CQ work to be hung on my walls.

Thank you to all the ladies in all the RRs.

Well, gotta go vote now.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Candji's Block

Finally, at long last, I am back on track with my embroidery, and have finished my work on Candji's block for the G&F Traditional RR.

With the area left to do, it seemed to naturally divide into a centre block, and a block down the right side. I chose to do the section down the right side.

As always with CQ, I started with the seams. My first seam was the long one that separated the area I was going to do from the area left for Arlene to stitch. I did this in a purple feather stitch, adding detached chain, and dark purple seed beads, to give it the look of a climbing vine.

The second seam was the one on the bottom patch, which I did in green stepped blanket stitch, adding detached chain leaves, detached chain petals in peach, and metallic gold seed beads.

The third seam was the one along the third-from-bottom patch. This I did in dark red herringbone stitch, adding gold metallic daisy spacers, and garnet seed beads in the centres.

The last seam, along the bottom of the top patch, was done in apricot Cretan stitch, with pearlized apricot seed beads and metallic gold hearts added.

I used a lot of metallic accents to pick up on the high sheen and metallics in the fabrics that were used in the block.

I then worked the motifs from the bottom up. The first was the patch of violets.

On the second patch I did a silver metallic spiderweb, with a pearl spider. The legs of the spider were done in a single strand of DMC Pearl Effects thread.

On the third patch I embroidered two stalks of hollyhocks.

On the last patch I did lovely Japanese Cherry blossom. I thought a descending tree branch was very fitting for the top patch.

I hope Candji is happy with the work. Now It will head off to Arlene for finishing.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Roses Are Red Violets Are... Ummm... Rose Coloured.

Well, it has been pretty much a full month since I last posted. Mostly because it has been hurringly cold! That means most days are spent wrapped up in several afghans, with a warm hat, fuzzy scarf, and fingerless gloves, hugging a hot water bottle. Very hard to do anything craft-y like that! So, yes, I am WAY behind in all my embroidery stuff. And I haven't really done a lot else either - just a lot of reading and knitting a big warm afghan with large needles.
I did manage to knit a cute Minion hat last week on 4mm needles - I was bored and in the mood for a goofy hat.

Towards the beginning of the month I made my first ravioli - it was fantastic. Filled it with my homemade ricotta cheese. I do like the homemade pasta!
When I made the pasta dough (on the last post), I only made half a recipe, but got 7 meals out of it. 3 cups of flour and 3 eggs - 7 meals. Coupled with freshly made home-made ricotta cheese (2 litres of milk), my ultra-fast home made pasta sauces (a tomato one - buy 1 tin budget tomatoes, and 1 tin budget tomato puree; and a creamed greens one), and fresh veggies from the garden for sides, salads and the sauces, I managed to do a week's worth of dinners, surprisingly fast and easy, for a grand total of $7.00. Now that's economical!

I also broke into the first of my hard cheeses - the beer cheese. Oh wow! it was wonderful! Especially with my freshly baked peasant bread, and a glass of my homemade cider.

What I am most excited about though, is the violet blossom jelly I made today.
I can see why it is very rarely done anymore - very time consuming, down on the ground, picking 4 cups of violet flowers!
My garden is overrun with violets, and I regularly pull bucketfuls of the plants out trying to keep the garden clear and stop them overrunning and killing everything else in the garden. Unfortunately, the violets I have are the white ones - no scent at all. Bummer. My neighbour down the back though has a small patch of beautifully scented rose-coloured violets. They are just heavenly! She let me raid her violet patch yesterday for the flowers. I completely stripped the patch of flowers, and just managed to get enough.
After half an hour getting all the ants off the blossoms, I then steeped them in boiling water, left them to cool, and left them to steep overnight. Boy do ants LOVE violets! I put a plate over the bowl to keep 'things' out (you know, all the 'stuff' that invariable fall into whatever you are trying to cook if you don't cover it), and when I came back to check on the flowers an hour after pouring the hot water on, the whole bench was just covered in ants! They were all trying to get into the bowl to get to the violet water. Needless to say, I had to move the bowl to where the ants couldn't get to it.
So this morning I made up the jelly. Ooooo! Heavely! Very delicate flavour, and DEFINATELY worth the effort!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Playing with Pasta and Cheese

The days are still dawning bright and clear, but the crisp is gone, and the afternoon breezes are downright balmy. I was expecting a long winter and late, cool spring, but I think spring may actually have sprung. Further evidence of this are the aphid and the whitefly infestations that have appeared on the brassicas, typical of spring, but not generally of warm winter periods. Looks like brassica season is coming to an end.

This week's cheese is Wensleydale. Wensleydale is a hard cheese, somewhat sweetish, generally served with fruit and dessert wines. It often has dried cranberries in it. Dried cranberries are hurringly expensive, but since you don't use that much, I decided to go ahead and put them in. Pak n Save has a small bulk foods section stocking things from a range called 'Alison's Pantry' - stuff Alison Holst promotes for her baking and recipes. In that range are the most heavenly orange flavoured cranberries (natural orange flavouring, not artificial). They smell so divine, and taste just as wonderful! I absolutely love them, but rarely buy them because of the price. However since I only needed a handful of cranberries for the cheese, I splashed out and got these instead of regular dried cranberries, and it worked out to nice small sum of just under $2.50. They smelled so wonderful as I mixed them into the curd, and you just know the subtle orange flavour is going to permeate the cheese as it ages. This one is going to be fantastic.

Just out of the press, to be turned, redressed and put back overnight at 20kg pressing weight.

A couple of months ago, a book on pasta making that I have wanted since forever on Fishpond (NZ's version of Amazon) dropped in price by 60% for a short time, so I jumped at the chance to get it. It was finally shipped just on a week ago, and should be arriving any day.
So while I was waiting the 1 & 1/2hrs for the curds to drain, I decided to give pasta making a bit of a go as well. I can't believe how fast and easy it is to do handmade pasta! Of course it was just basic, a bit of a play to see how it went, in preparation for getting into it for real, but still. Including the 1/2hr resting time for the dough, I had it made, cooked and eaten by the time the curds had drained and were ready for pressing. Wow!
I now know what real 'al dente' is. With the dried pasta, I find that generally means 'not quite cooked', but with fresh pasta it is quite different. And I can also see why it was such a staple food for so long. Being as much egg as flour, it is very high in protein, and when smothered in (home-made) vegetable laden sauces, it packs quite a nutritional whollop. It is also LOADS more filling than the dried pastas. I only made half a dough recipe, only cut 1/4 of that into noodles and cooked them, and still could only eat half the meal. Definitely fresh pasta is going to become a staple for me, coupling nicely with my home-made cheeses, and home made sausages. Yum!

Here is my first pasta dough

My first noodles.

Freshly made pasta, with creamed greens (kale, flower sprout, komatsuna, perpetual beet, red silverbeet, yellow silverbeet - all freshly picked from my garden), topped with my grated home-made Ricotta Salata, and a steamed Romanesco broccoli from the garden.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Cheeseday Rolls Around

The day dawned crisp and clear. The kind of crisp and clear that makes you want to get out into the garden, even though it isn't really Spring yet. It was definitely cold enough to see your breath, but not quite frost cold, although my toes were a little sceptical about that. The lawn guy who used to bring the clippings that I mulched my garden paths with finally gave up trying to get into my pants, and with that also gave up bringing the lawn clippings. So the garden paths are now quite overgrown, and the long grass was drenched in heavy dew, soaking through my shoes, numbing my poor little toes. But with no breeze and a clear blue sky, the watery sun put out enough warmth to be able to stay out for a while and get a few thing done.
Spring is going to be very hectic, trying to get the garden in shape. The winter has been cold and nasty enough to not be able to get out into the garden, but not cold enough to halt - or even really slow - the growth of the grass and weeds. Sigh. So much to do. Eventually though, the many other things that needed doing today going around and around in my head got the better of me, shouting and yelling and clambering over each other, each vying for my attention, until finally I put the trowel and bucket away, and moved on with the rest of my day.

I have settled on a selection of cheeses to make to fill my needs, and have worked out a schedule for making them, doing one cheese a week, that should keep me in a good supply of all the types. My main cooking cheese will be Cheddar, and I will make it in a variety of flavours - Beer, herb, plain - depending on what I already have aging when it comes time to make the new one. The two other hard cheese I will do are a Wensleydale - which I will vary between Cranberry and plain - as an eating cheese, and Parmesan, for my pastas and pestos. Parmesan is the longest aging of the cheeses, requiring 10 months, where all the others only need between 4 weeks and 3 months.
The soft/mould cheeses I have settled on are Gorgonzola for the blue cheese and Neufchatel for the white cheese, being for eating with bread and in salads, and for cooking in pasta sauces and with grilled veggies (grilled mushrooms with Neufchatel... yum!). Feta is a staple for me, and now that I will be making it I will be able to use it a lot more. I use it - marinated - in salads a lot, as well as in a lot of my cooking. Mozzarella is the last of the cheeses on my list, which of course is a must for my homemade pizzas, as well as for salads.
Halloumi I only eat occasionally, and is fast enough to make that I can make it the day (or day before) I need it, and the same goes for Ricotta, which I normally only use in ravioli, cannelloni, and lasagne. So those two aren't on my cheese schedule, I will just make them as needed.
This week's cheese is Mozzarella, which I have just finished making. Meanwhile, the Gorgonzola is now wrapped and happily growing it's blue mould, the Neufchatel is happily growing it's white mould, and the Beer cheese (a type of Cheddar) is happily not growing mould at all, now that it has been waxed.
I have been eating the Ricotta Salata that I made last month, and while it is a nice enough cheese, it is not one I will bother making again, as everything it is used for, the other cheeses I have settled on will be much better for. But it has served its purpose as a quick aging cheese so that I could have a homemade cheese to use while getting my cheese schedule underway and waiting for the others to come ready.

Freshly baked Peasant bread, freshly made Mozzarella, and a Romanesco broccoli fresh picked from my garden.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Rainy Sunday

Yay! I was finally able to bottle my cider on Friday. The brewing took inordinately longer than it was supposed to, because winter finally decided to make a showing and the temperatures plummeted. I only managed to finally get it done by huddling my poor brew up to the fireplace. Even then, with wood reserves low, I was lucky to get it up to 18C (64.4F). In the end I wrapped it up in a towel for insulation and managed to get it up to 20C (68F). So now it is bottled, and sitting in a dark corner for aging.
My Gorgonzola isn't terribly happy about the cold either (the kitchen fluctuating between 4C (39.2F) at night and up to 12C (53.6F) - if we are lucky - in the day), and is protesting by flatly refusing to grow blue mould. Italians can be so fussy! My Beer Cheese however, being a true Brit with true grit, doesn't seem to mind the cold at all. It is happy, healthy, and cheerfully sprouting mould - unfortunately it's not the one that is supposed to be growing the mould! Never mind. Since it has developed a good rind, I have wiped it down with salt water to remove the mould, and waxed it this morning. Now it goes up to age for 6 weeks.
Meanwhile I have a Neufchatel draining in the kitchen. Neufchatel generally doesn't mind the colder weather, so I should have a nice cheese for my bread in about two weeks. With the wind and rain still persisting, and an endless grey sky indicating it will be like that that for a while yet, I think I will bake bread and make some Mozzarella today as well, before settling in to an afternoon of embroidery.

2 of my cider, and my freshly waxed Beer cheese.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Cheesy Chusday

The Chorizo turned out fantastic! I'm thrilled I am able to do sausages now, as I had given up totally on pre-made sausage, with their preponderance of large pieces of gristle. The final straw was several years back when I thought I would try some 'gourmet' sausages that had come on the market from a local artisan place (having given up on standard store-bought almost a decade before). Wow - the gristle pieces were even bigger than standard sausages. Then came the real crunch - literally! I cracked a tooth on a very large piece of bone in the sausage. Gourmet? For Klingons maybe, but I certainly wouldn't class them as even edible, much less gourmet.

Meanwhile, here we are over half way thru winter, and winter has finally actually set in. Brrrr! I am hoping for a sunny day soon, so I can bottle my cider. At the moment it is WAY too cold in the kitchen to do much of anything. Even putting the jug on is a quick dash before rushing back into the lounge and the warm fire. Oh, what I wouldn't give for a wood stove! Fortunately, the entire long 'outside' wall of the kitchen is mostly window, and faces the sunny side all day, so even in winter, when it is sunny it warms up real fast.

The last two sunny days we had I made the cheeses I had been waiting to make. On the first sunny day I did the Gorgonzola, which is a blue cheese. It is the oldest (i.e. first) blue cheese, reputed to date back to ancient Rome. Blue cheeses are quite fiddly to make, this one needing 10 hours set aside for it.
I only like blue cheeses when they are relatively 'fresh'. Unfortunately, even the 'fresh' ones in the shops are not at all fresh. Not that I can actually afford to buy them anyway. The last small (and I do mean small!) piece I bought for a pasta dish was 50g (1.76 oz) and cost almost $9.00! So making my own now is a real boon. Blue cheese dressing, blue cheese pasta sauce, ... mmmm...
Two days later we got another sunny day and I was able to do the Beer Cheese. This is a hard cheese that will be waxed for aging. For this one I soaked the curds in a Cooper's Best Extra Stout, a wonderful, rich, aromatic brew. Cooper's is a great Aussie artisan style beer - my favourite brand for using in breads, cheeses, meat dishes, and stews.

On the left is the Beer Cheese wheel, air drying in preparation for waxing. On the right are the Gorgonzola wheels, salted and ready for maturing to develop the mould, after which they will be wrapped and aged for a scant 4 weeks to produce a wonderful fresh blue cheese.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Chorizo - Further Fabulous Food Forays.

My food forays are becoming more advanced, and I have to say, I couldn't be happier! Finally, I have made the leap to sausages, and today made my first Chorizos.

I had actually planned on doing sausages quite a looooong time ago, and even forked out for a hand operated meat grinder and a sausage stuffer around four years ago, but then found I was unable to get the sausage casings, so the grinder and the stuffer were stashed away, and slowly over the years got buried under a pile of other stuff.
Then Mad Millie came out with sausage casings. Yay! I really do like Mad Millie! So last week I ordered the casings, which came Friday afternoon, and then spent a couple of hours digging out the grinder and the stuffer, washing them, and trying to figure out how to assemble them (Chinese made, no instructions, not even a diagram).
Saturday I was busy with other things, and didn't have a chance to get up town, so on Sunday I popped up (and by that, I mean walked several miles) to our local big chain butcher, which advertises that they have everything, and you only have to ask. Well, they don't have pork fat. Apparently they don't actually do their own sausages on site (like their advert suggests). Well, surely one of the small butchers will have some. Four hours of walking around later, nope. Most of the small butchers don't have it (they don't actually do their own sausages apparently), and the odd one or two that do, won't sell it. I began to think my sausage endeavours were going to be back-burnered again. Desperate, and on the off-chance I might get lucky, I stopped in at Pac 'n Save. They are a big chain supermarket, but they do still do their own butchery (many don't, they just buy the stuff in). Yes they do have pork fat (because they do their own sausages), but they don't sell it, and, being afternoon by this time, they didn't have any left anyway. But a lovely butcher there said that since I didn't want a huge amount, if I came in early the next morning, when the whole pigs arrived, he would sell me some. So up I walked again this morning, and sure enough, the wonderful butcher had half a kilo for me, at a very moderate price. Big smile on my face.
Here are my lovely chorizo sausages, freshly stuffed, and even properly linked (thank you stu8944 for your great video on how to link sausages).

Sunday, 22 June 2014


The Artisan Cheese making Kit that I ordered from Mad Mille came on Friday - I ordered it on Thursday, so kudos to MM for their superfast shipping! The Artisan kit has all sorts of equipment in it, like a cheese press, a thermometer, as well as a big draining spoon, curd knife, moulds, etc. Expensive, but worth having if you are going to be making cheese on a regular basis. If you are only going to make cheese occasionally, then you can get by with McGyver-ing things, but if you are going to do it on a regular basis, it is worth laying out hard-saved cash for proper, quality equipment.
So this weekend's cheese making escapade resulted in two cheeses. The first, a Ricotta Salata - a ricotta cheese that is lightly pressed to make it drier and firmer, then aged for at least a month. This produces a semi hard cheese, that can be grated, and is great with pasta. Here it is, salt rubbed, and ready for aging.

The second cheese I did was Halloumi. I do love Halloumi! I will be grilling some of it up tonight, to serve with a warm quinoa salad. The quinoa has been cooked in whey instead of stock. Using the whey in place of stock is an excellent use of the leftover whey from cheese making. It is loaded with minerals, and high in protein, so is such a terrible waste to just throw it out. Here is the halloumi, cooling on the cheese mats.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Cheese Glorious Cheese

One of the few things I still walk the several miles to the supermarket for is cheese. And it is also one of the most expensive things I buy. For a dairying nation, it is appalling that our cheese is more expensive than pretty much anywhere else in the world. Even more appalling, NEW ZEALAND cheese (and butter) is more expensive here in NZ than anywhere else in the world! Our own cheese - we pay more for it on the supermarket shelves than the people we export it to!
Basic cheeses like cottage cheese and ricotta, which only require lemon juice, I have made often over the years, but getting the necessary supplies to do the fancier/more complex cheeses was always difficult if not impossible. Now that Mad Millie has come on the market here, I can finally get all the things I need to make my own cheese. Yay!
Making cheese is actually quite easy, and a lot of fun, not to mention satisfying. It is just time consuming. But it is worth it. It tastes sooo much better than store-bought, is a lot healthier, and is substantially cheaper. For $6.50 of milk, I can make about $25-$30 worth of feta (which I then marinate in olive oil and herbs, which would then go for around $50-$60 in the shops), or $30-$35 worth of mozzarella, or around $40-$50 worth of halloumi. I am going to try making parmesan soon, because I should be able to do around $30-$35 worth with the $6.50 of milk. There is really no way I could afford to eat these types of cheeses if I didn't make them myself. I can barely afford to buy basic unmarinated feta in the shop, certainly not any of the others. When I have a little extra cash (not that often), I do buy a little bit of feta, and put it up to marinate, but for the others, I usually have to wait until Mum comes over from Aussie for a visit every two years or so, and she splashes out to get us some really nice cheeses. Next time she comes, I will be able to serve up my own cheeses instead.
Yesterday's cheese was mozzarella. Although the recipe specifies unhomogenized milk, this batch I did with regular, homogenized milk, and had no problems with it. The first batch I did a few weeks back I did do with unhomogenized, but it wasn't any better, or easier to work, than using the homogenized - if anything, the homogenised milk batch turned out better. This is good for me, since the nearest place I can get the unhomogeized milk is the supermarket - yup, that one that is several miles walk away.

And the prize for making mozzarella is... PIZZA! Making your own cheese gives a whole new meaning to "pizza made from scratch".
Here are the toppings all prepped, just waiting for the dough for the crust to rise. (The recipe for the dough can be found on my "No Fail Pizza Dough" post).

 We have my home made pizza sauce (also on the "No Fail Pizza Dough" post) in the jar, chopped sorrel fresh from the garden, and on the platter we have starting at the top left: my home fermented capsicums, fresh mushrooms (popped up on the lawn overnight), the fresh mozzarella, salami (ok, that's store bought, I'm not quite up to making my own salamis yet), the stuffed baby eggplant I put up a couple of months ago (the eggplants were from my own garden), dried tomatoes in olive oil that I did last year (tomatoes from my garden too), and my home cured olives.
Da dada da dada dah... PIZZA.