Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Camembert Video Tutorial

by Gavin, from The Greening of Gavin

Have you ever cut into this cheese and wondered how it was made? Well let me tell you that this one is well worth taking up cheesemaking as a hobby just to find out.  Camembert, if made correctly can be a very rewarding cheese to make.  It should go well with my quince paste.

Wikipeadia states;
"Camembert was reputedly first made in 1791 by Marie Harel, a farmer from Normandy, following advice from a priest who came from Brie.

However, the origin of the cheese known today as Camembert is more likely to rest with the beginnings of the industrialization of the cheesemaking process at the end of the 19th century. In 1890, an engineer, M. Ridel invented the wooden box which was used to carry the cheese and helped to send it for longer distances, in particular to America where it became very popular. These boxes are still used today.

Before fungi were understood, the colour of Camembert rind was a matter of chance, most commonly blue-grey, with brown spots. From the early 20th century onwards, the rind has been more commonly pure white, but it was not until the mid-1970s that pure white became standard.

The cheese was famously issued to French troops during World War I, becoming firmly fixed in French popular culture as a result. It has many other roles in French culture, literature and history. It is now internationally known, and many local varieties are made around the world."

From experience, Camembert can be a tricky cheese to make if you haven't done so before, so please watch this tutorial that I posted on my personal blog today, for the first part of the process (milk to culturing container).  Over the coming weeks I will make another video updating the progress of this batch as the mould grows over the cheese.

The recipe can be found in any good cheese making book.  I highly recommend "Home Cheese Making", by Ricki Carroll.  It contains the recipe that I used to make this video and all you need to know about getting started in this wonderful hobby (I am not affiliated with the New England Cheesemaking Supply Co, I just like the book)!


Sunday, 5 June 2011

Little things

Aurora at Island Dreaming

This has been a fraught week, for me and for just about everyone I know – as if something has wafted in on a breeze, determined to mess with even the best laid plans. No matter how much you try to simplify your life, unforeseen stresses will still come calling. There are a myriad of options for dealing with everyday stresses, the supreme one being distraction; doing something out of the ordinary to take your mind off of the situation in front of you.

Immersion in meaningful work might help - sometimes sitting down with a craft project, violently kneading bread dough or maniacally cleaning the kitchen on a whim is just the ticket to make you feel more centred. Then again, sometimes it is a recipe for more frustration, stress and exhaustion. In the midst of the dramas, I didn't have the energy to think of any distractions that would bring me respite, which meant that I resorted to the premier distractions of our age – mindless TV and mindless Internet browsing - both of which distracted me with very little effort on my part but left me feeling as stressed and even more lacklustre than before.

Life has calmed down again, but in preparation for the next bad day that comes my way, I have written a list of little things to take my mind off of things. All of them are things that bring me joy but are certainly not routine for me; some of them are productive, some are completely vacuous, all of them require very little effort, money or energy expenditure on my part:

1)      Go for a solitary 20 minute walk down to the sea and paddle awhile, before meandering back via the ice cream stand.
2)      Take a solo trip to the allotment with a flask of tea, to sit and stare and perhaps pull the occasional weed should the mood strike.
3)      Paint my nails a cheeringly antisocial colour (or several), take time to wear my hair a new way, wear makeup or get overly dressed up for an otherwise routine day.
4)      Ignore all but the most essential routine housework and throw myself into the more interesting tasks that I never quite find the time for – painting the front door or learning to make soap, for example.
5)      Buy a magazine or a book, something I rarely do these days; and devote time to reading it, even if that means the laundry stacks up.
6)      Take a small but solid step towards one of my long term goals; a step that can’t possibly be justified amidst all the day to day dramas – but which ultimately moves me in the right direction.
7)      Try a new recipe, probably for something sweet and desert like – and eat a lot of it, of course.
8)      Take my son to a big wide open space; and watch him run around contentedly like a crazy thing until blissfully worn out and ready for bed. A little hands-off parenting when mental energy escapes me.

I will add to this list no doubt as I remember the little things that bring me peace. What little things bring you joy when life goes a little crazy?

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Top Travel Worry

By Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

Hey everyone!

I hope you are all well and having a good weekend. I have just finished a major deadline at work and as I sit back now planning out my work year, I have realised that I will need to, once again, travel for work at the end of the year. This put me in mind of an older post that I wrote in my personal blog and I thought I'd share here. Note that this post was written during an intense period of work travel....

During my travels, it occurred to me that I had a particular worry that many other travellers don't have and thought I'd share:

Number 1 Worry: that my home crafted stuff will somehow have traces of bomb-making ingredients...

[Regular readers of my personal blog] would know that almost all of my crafting uses 2nd-hand materials. In fact, I can't remember the last time I used brand new materials to make something. Normally, this is not a problem for me. In fact, I really enjoy making stuff out of old stuff.

Unfortunately, when you're travelling and working a lot, crazy thoughts start spinning in your head arising from the fact that:

a. my materials have passed through many many hands before coming to me; and
b. it seems I come across too many articles citing how "easy" it is to make a bomb out of household materials.

So a few days ago, I get stopped at the airport for the random search of all my stuff. I was fine with this until the man said something along the lines of: "...traces of explosive materials...".

And that's when my confident smile slipped and quickly turned to "uncomfortable".

They scanned my handbag...
Made from an old book bought at a second-hand shop. Fabric and thread are also sourced second-hand.

They scanned my shoes....

Op-shopped shoes recovered in second-hand fabric.

They scanned my luggage...

My home crafted luggage using second hand curtains, an op shopped lawn bowls bag, and op shopped thread.

Hell, even the clothes inside my luggage were second-hand!! And as I smiled my uncomfortable smile I kept worrying that "uncomfortable" was coming across as "shifty".

It was with great relief when they finally let me go and I could rejoin my workmates.

I was not alone in my worries though! As I approached my workmates at the airport lounge, I was greeted with: "Oh thank god there were no bomb traces in your stuff!!"

...yep they all know that I made my own stuff using second hand...

At least now I know that some of my home crafted stuff is safe to travel with.

I might stick with the same travel luggage and wardrobe for next few times - I don't think I can handle the worry of my other stuff coming up with traces of something that might end up deporting me... :P

I hope you are all well.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Accidentally growing radicchio lettuce

by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

Somehow last year I grew radicchio. I must have accidentally picked a bag of Radicchio di Treviso (or trevisano) seeds or decided that I'd give radicchio a try while I was at the garden center, and then forgotten about it. Fact is that last spring, as I was starting my garden, I found this bag of radicchio seeds in my gardening basket. I sowed it, and waited to see what would happen.


It grew pretty fast: thick, hairy green oblong leaves, very bitter in taste (or "toxic", as my children say).

It kept growing during the summer, impervious to the neglect my garden suffered while my family and I were on the road (here), and to disease and bugs (even the snails that happily feed on my lettuce did not seem to have a taste for its "toxic" leaves).

Note: there are milder varieties of radicchio, such as the rounder radicchio di Chioggia


Towards the end of August, my radicchio di Treviso started turning red, as the night temperatures began to drop, and thereafter it thrived in the cooler weather: the leaves became thinner and more palatable, and the taste milder.

harvest 3

And it continued to do well during the winter, which was long but not terribly cold, with only two hard frosts and a couple of snowstorms.

finding food 2

After the snow melted, I just removed the spoiled outer leaves, and the healthy heads kept on growing and producing radicchio red lettuce leaves.



So, we had fresh radicchio throughout the winter. Thinly sliced in salads (balsamic vinegar does wonders to mellow out its pungent taste), or sliced length-wise and grilled or roasted.


As the temperatures rose again in April, our radicchio started turning greener and becoming more bitter in flavor, and I pulled it up: during a one-year cycle, it had produced impressively deep, strong roots, considering it was lettuce.

It was great to have fresh radicchio from the garden during the winter, and I'd recommend it to anyone who has enough garden space, especially those who live in less favorable climates.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Roosters and Hens and Gumbo

By Danelle at My Total Perspective Vortex

We keep a flock of about 20 laying hens and have 3 roosters. I was watching the chickens today while enjoying the sunshine and collecting eggs and I considered something. Quite a few of my city peers who keep backyard chickens have problems we rarely see with our flock and it occurred to me that the underlying problem is that they are not allowed to have roosters! They have baby meat birds and adult hens, which is fine to a point and certainly appropriate for a backyard flock, but some of the more common problems with raccoons in the coop and chickens running around confused when they should head for cover might easily be solved if they had a rooster. Chickens have to either be trained carefully or have an active leader.

I think that most people don't understand the flock dynamics and importance of the rooster.

Our roosters do more than just fertilize eggs. They guide the hens in, they ward off predators (and small children), they sound the alarm in storms or threat. They break up hen fights. I have even seen them guard the baby chicks when they are first integrated into the bigger flock. When I set out scraps for them to eat, the roosters come running and THEN call to the hens if the food is to their liking. We free range, run of the farm, our chickens so they are not penned from predators during the day. We have lost some to neighbor dogs and hawks, but the majority of predators are kept at bay by the roosters and our dogs.

Chickens are not stupid, they just rely on a rooster ruled and protected society. Watching and observing this dynamic over the last 3 years has been interesting, we still have one of our original roosters and 4 hens from that brood too. He, Chicken Nugget, has really mellowed out but is still very much the head guy. He has intervened and fought back Mr. Stripey when MS gets agitated with the human children. Our third rooster is a banty cross and is more like a hen in temperament.

Roosters can be overly aggressive too and then, at our house at least, they are shortly turned into gumbo. Rooster gumbo is a fine dish, and my three year old daughter likes to brag that the mean yellow rooster is now in her belly. :)

Here is my recipe for rooster gumbo:

Andouille sausage (1 lb), cut into bite size pieces

1 onion, chopped smaller than bite size
3 stalks of celery, chopped bite size
1 red bell pepper, chopped bite size
1 clove or garlic crushed and minced (or 1 tsp of garlic powder)
1 Tbs of seasoning salt (like Swamp Fire or Slap Yo Mama)
1 Tbs of dried parsley
2 quarts (1/2 gallon) of rooster (or chicken or duck) broth
meat from the rooster produced in the broth making

Fry bacon slices and sausage
Add celery, crushed garlic, bell pepper, and onions
When everything is fried up and spattering, add the broth
Bring to a boil and then simmer.
Make roux with melted butter and flour, add to soup to thicken. 

Optional: okra.

I used Jasmine rice to serve it over, but traditionally long grain is used.

It's pretty much interchangeable with my duck gumbo recipe. Often, instead of rice, I will cut up potatoes and add that. Top the soup with cheese before serving with crusty bread.

What are your thoughts on or experiences with roosters?