Thursday, February 27, 2014

Limoncello and Apple Cider

Azure Standard had a lot of organic citrus available this delivery period. Being a drop point and being able to order lots of yummy food delivered to our door once a month is lovely. Even if it often ends up being the same price as finding a good sale at the grocery, this way I don't have to shop sales or load the girls up to take them shopping. Anyway, 10 lbs of lemons, 20 lbs of blood oranges, and 6 lbs of limes are going to be made into curds, marmalades, and LIMONCELLO. Q's wanted to make limoncello for years so he opened a gift on his birthday (a week before the drop) that included a large bottle of vodka, a microplane zester, and Willow's toy lemon with a note promising real ones in the near future.

The recipe we're using is the basic one from Limoncello Quest, a guy who really seems to like his limoncello. Might as well experiment based on wisdom learned through someone else's passion. It calls for 17 lemons. This makes a lot of zest (as you can see above). If you ever have cause to zest any citrus, you must invest in a microplane zester. I don't see how you could get all zest and no pith any other way that isn't extremely frustrating. It took me about 45 minutes to zest all 17 lemons, with occasional interruptions as Wil found ways to "help". 

The project also produced a quart of juice and enough left over for a little lemonade for Willow and me. I don't know what we'll do with the juice, probably freeze it for now for use when we're canning tomatoes this summer (or making summer lemonade!)

I had no idea that just adding the zest to the vodka would immediately turn it this neon yellow color. Now we just have to be patient - 45 to 60 days before we add the simple syrup and filter it then let it age at least another 45 days. Argh! At this rate, I'm going to need to plan some 4th of July limoncello cocktails.

 In other news, Q finished building our cider press on January 26. We still used to Kitchen Aid shredder attachment to grind the apples. A grinder is next season's project. It's pretty awesome owning a press though. I want to try making pear cider next season too, if we can get some inexpensive pears.

Willow loved it when we took the bucket off and were left with the pressed together disc of apple. She called it "apple pie" and patted it. I can't imagine how confused she would have been if we tried to teach her the correct name - the "cheese". She also thinks that fresh cider is fantastic. Two gallons of cider started fermenting a month ago and now we have this...
It's all ready to rack! Since it fermented a such a cool temperature in the root cellar I hope it's a really yummy batch. (Cool and slow cider fermentation helps prevent off flavors.) We always kill the yeast (we use champagne yeast for a less "beery" flavor than cider yeast) and then add some sugar. This makes it perfect for my girly palate and very dangerous. It usually ends up 6-8% (once it was more like 11%, oops!) and if it is sweet you can down way too much way too fast.
Hopefully it will be in bottles in the next week or so and then we'll have cider ready by the end of May. Perfect way to celebrate Clarity's first birthday, right? ;) 

Alas, making good alcohol takes sooo long.

UPDATE, 7/5/2014: The cider turned out a little "wine-y", not quite sure why. Good but not as good as some we've made before. The limoncello is divine. We filtered and added the simple syrup on 5/25 (took a while extra to get around to it). We thought it was really good even the first night. We tend to drink a shot each night now as a night cap. It has gotten smoother and goes down way too easy. There are another 10lbs. of lemons in the fridge now awaiting processing because the idea of running out haunts us. :)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

One Size Fits Most Hat Pattern

I designed this hat as a last minute Christmas gift in 2012 and it has become a family favorite. My brother, sister-in-law, husband, and mother each have one. I also wear one sometimes, when Willow (the toddler) hasn't stolen it (it's one of her favorites too) and I've sold a few. In a bulky yarn, it's a quick, easy knit and one size really does fit most people, toddler through adults. It's a slouch style on toddlers and more of a traditional stocking cap on adults. The diamond pattern is a simple variation on left and right twists, the only difference being that in each twist one stitch is knit and the other is purl (instead of both being knit st as in traditional LT and RT)

If you make this pattern, please send me a picture or link to your own blog, ravelry, or facebook post so I can see how it turned out! This pattern is for personal use only and not for resale.

If you aren't a knitter and wish to custom order a hat in the color of your choice, please contact me here or at

Also, if you follow the pattern, please leave me any feedback or corrections that will help improve the pattern for future users! Thank you!

1 skein of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky Superwash (110 yards/100g) or similar weight yarn
size 11 needles (one set double pointed and one set 16" rounds, or just the double pointed)
cable needle*
yarn needle

*Note for experienced knitters: I don't use a cable needle for this pattern since only 2 st change places, preferring to just slip both stitches off the left needle, put them back on the left needle in the correct order (careful to put the knit st to the front) and then working the stitches in pattern. (K the k and p the p)

12 st x 16 rows for 4"x4" on size 11 needles in stockinette stitch

AR (angle right) = slip next stitch (always a purl stitch) on to the cable needle and hold it to the back of the work, k1, then p1 from cable needle
AL (angle left)= slip next stitch (always a knit stitch) on to the cable needle and hold it to the front of the work, p1, then k st from cable needle

It has lots of stretch but, if for some reason you are making it for a head larger than 24" around, add another repeat of the diamond pattern by casting on an additional 8 stitches. 

If you need it longer than written (probably only necessary for a large man or someone who wants it very long over the ears), continue even in the diamond pattern to desired length, ending with Diamond Pattern Row 6. 

Cast on 72 st and join in the round.
K2p2 rib for 10 rows
Next row, set up for diamond pattern:  p2, *k1, p3* to last 2 st, k1, p1
Work Diamond Pattern (see below) for 14 rows, ending after Row 6
Next row (Row 26): *p2, k2tog, p1, ssk, p1* to end (54 st left)
Row 27: *p2, k1, p1, k1, p1* to end
Row 28: *p1, k2tog, p1, ssk* to end (36 st left)
Row 29: *p1, k1* to end
Row 30: k2tog for 18 times (18 st left)
Row 31: k2tog for 9 times (9 st left)
Cut yarn, leaving long tail and use yarn needle to thread tail through remaining stitches two times, pull tight,
Weave in ends

Diamond Pattern
Row 1: *p1, AR, p3, AL* to end
Row 2, 4, 6, 8: Knit all knit stitches and purl all purl stitches
Row 3: *p1, AL, p3, AR* to end
Row 5: *p2, AL, p1, AR, p1* to end
Row 7: *p2, AR, p1, AL, p1* to end

Easy Pantry Potato Soup

Q's in self-imposed isolation in the bedroom to keep myself, the girls, and the rest of society from further exposure to what I'm calling "the plague" (positive test for type A flu, likely H1N1 based on what has been the overwhelmingly common strain this season). I have no desire to take the girls out in the snow (it's snowed pretty much constantly all day after having several inches yesterday as well). This means that there is no spontaneous food purchasing this weekend. About 5:30p, I realized that we would expect dinner in about an hour. Thank heaven for well-stocked pantries, freezers, and simple cooking. My inability to do the whole "plan and shop for a specific meal" thing means that most of the time I don't use recipes but throw myself into it on a wing and a prayer. This one turned out particularly well so I'm sharing.

Ingredients (enough for about 3 people when served as the entree)
1 lb bacon
1 medium yellow onion
7 medium red potatoes
2 c chicken stock
salt, pepper, dried parsley
shredded cheddar cheese

Using a large pan, cook the bacon until crispy and remove to drain, leaving the fat in the pan. While the bacon is cooking, cook the whole potatoes in the microwave until tender and dice the onion.

Add the onions to the bacon fat. Continue to cook the onions in the fat as you cut the tender potatoes into medium sized chunks.

Add the potatoes to the onions and continue to cook for a few minutes then add the stock and simmer until the potatoes are soft.

If the soup in your pan is too shallow you'll have to transfer it into a deeper bowl to use the immersion blender until the mixture is fairly smooth. (I like my big, wide pan for cooking so there's plenty of bacon cooking surface area but then I have to pour it into a narrower, deeper bowl for blending. I suppose this isn't necessary if you start by using a kettle.)

Stir in salt and pepper to taste (about 2t and 1/2t for us) and about 2t of dried parsley.

Crumble the bacon and stir in those pieces.

Serve hot so the cheese shreds melt as you stir them into each serving.