gingerbread village

Having spotted a charming image of flat gingerbread houses carved in low relief and filled with powdered sugar, we just had to try it for ourselves.

A whole wintry afternoon was spent in great joyful making. We altered our gingerbread recipe with 1/2 light rye and 1/2 whole spelt, maple syrup and birch sugar. Not a problem. Before we baked the cookies, we used any implement we could find – metal straws, toothpicks, ornate silverware, fine knives – to carve and draw into the house-shapes.

We thoroughly enjoyed researching old buildings and borrowing their architectural details. When we lived in Europe we were particularly fond of shops at the street level and apartments above, along Dutch canals, along Parisian streets. My youngest made her own patisserie, complete with striped gabled awnings, and baked goods in the windows!

We set a cup of birch sugar zinging in the blender for a few minutes til it was thoroughly powdered. When rubbed into the grooves in the baked, cooled cookies it had a better result than bought icing sugar (and a little less sweetness for our holiday diet, too).

This way of decorating feels like printmaking, like rubbing ink into an etched plate. Such fun.

‘Tis a lovely thing to do with family and friends on a chilly winter’s day.

ricotta cheese 

While it is true that one can extract a bit of ricotta cheese by cooking acidified whey leftover from yogurt or other dairying, I like to produce this simple cheese from a gallon of goat’s milk (from the goats we are tending now! That’s a story for another day.) Quite a lot of cheese is produced using this method, and it is the easiest and the quickest cheese I know. Let me show you how it’s done.

You’ll need a pot that easily holds a gallon of milk,
an acid like lemon, vinegar, or citric acid,
sea salt,
a thermometer,
a whisk,
some cheesecloth or butter muslin,
a colander,
a fine mesh strainer,
a slotted spoon,
and a bit of string just in case.

Make sure all of your tools are very clean. Cheesemaking books say to sterilise them – I use straight vinegar, well rinsed away, after hot, soapy water, and I scald my cheesecloth.

First, acidify the milk with lemon, vinegar, or citric acid – I use 1.5 teaspoons of the latter in our goat’s milk. In cow’s milk, use less.

Add a teaspoon of sea salt. Using a whisk and making up-and-down motions is a good habit to get into when cheesemaking.

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Raise the temperature very slowly, over a good ½ hour, to between 184 – 190F, stirring now and then to prevent burning on the bottom.

When you see the milk separate into curds and whey (chartreuse liquid), you’re done – take off the heat and cover the pot, let it sit for ten minutes.

Scoop out the whey into a clean cloth – I use butter muslin – over a strainer, first using a slotted spoon, and at the end, a fine mesh strainer.

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Gather the corners of the cloth and tie them securely, and then string this up to suspend the ricotta to drain for a quarter of an hour. Sometimes I put two tall milk bottles on either side of the bowl with a long wooden spoon holding the tie. The longer you drain it, the dryer. After that you could put a plate on top, and a weight of some kind over it, and you’d have paneer!

You’ll have a lot of whey left. If I cannot use it up in a couple of days, I freeze it or use it in my fermented chicken feed. However, you can add it to soup, to sourdough starter, in place of water in any baking recipe, in milk shakes. It’s really high protein.

Keep the ricotta in the fridge for up to a week – ours never lasts a day. Glorious in lasagne, desserts, on homemade crackers with some herbs.

cabled mittens

The last of winter is edging away along the coast, though mitten weather may persist for quite a few weeks here, and far longer across this enormous land. Are you in wintry weather where you are? For those of you who have been wishing for a pair of cosy mittens, I so am pleased show you appleturnover’s latest movie, “Cabled Mittens.”

Like “Cabled Handwarmers” this tutorial is divided into a set of nine short pieces, all of which you can watch right next door at appleturnover’s old school, anytime you like. I’d love to hear what you think. If you just have a minute, you might enjoy the preview of all four movies in the Knitting Series.

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I’ve just finished knitting up a long pair of cabley mittens in a steel grey yarn, and they’re just right, they’ll serve me very well for a few years. Every winter I wish I’d started knitting things for us the months before, so I think anytime is great to start learning to knit mittens. Study with the new movie! There are a choice of colours in the appleturnovershop!, and downloadable patterns too.

chromatic pitch pipe

One of my most beloved possessions is a chromatic pitch pipe. It belonged to my Finnish grandfather, a luthier, a fine woodworker, and a beautiful singer.

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Its purpose is to set a pitch to tune an instrument or to sing a melody; I use it when I play my guitar (my grandfather made that guitar, another beloved thing). The design is constructed on the chromatic circle, one of those mathematical, musical patterns I appreciate very much. It is in fact a basic harmonica, descended from the 18th century pitch pipe, which could be used in place of a tuning fork.

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The other side. Isn’t it charming? I love its simplicity and clean typographic design. You can still find these new. Do you know, I’d quite forgotten, I met a piano tuner the other day and learned a couple of things – I’ll show you soon.

knitting the gusset

Curiously, of all the nine movies in the “Cabled Handwarmers” set, “Knitting the Gusset” is by far the most watched. I’m guessing that this follows from many knitters searching for a good explanation – and this is where learning from a video online is just so full of potential. All those household studies we might have grown up with in another era, now as a short movie. The thumb gusset is a basic problem, simply solved, best watched over someone’s shoulder rather than explained or diagrammed. Would you like to see how I like to knit it?

That’s how it’s done. Work along with the movies in the old schoolhouse (see the column to your left), to make the knitting projects in the appleturnovershop. The patterns are easily downloaded and printed, if you’ve got your own yarn and needles.

appleturnover handwarmer pattern

how to cable-knit

Well, I wonder if you’ve ever worn a cabled sweater and marvelled at the twisting pattern, and if you might like to see how they’re made? Or, better yet, you’d like to try it yourself!

This movie is a tutorial for both the Cabled Handwarmers and Cabled Mittens projects. It’s also got a very favourite song in it, which we realised is also in a movie we love, Beginners. Fitting, then, as I adore cable-knitting. Learning how to cable-knit is one of those pleasingly simple techniques, like plaiting hair or weaving homespun yarn, which gives a surprisingly satisfying result that looks more complex than the process truly is. It captures the eye like a good melody captures the ear. I hope you enjoy the little movie. Watch them all in the old schoolhouse (to your left) and mail-order your materials from the shop.

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