Monday, July 4, 2011

Back to the Handmade Life

Such joy to have gone to the Pearl Farmer's Market on Saturday!  It's obvious that this year is a hard one for everyone.  From the hard freezes we had during the winter, to the ongoing drought and excessively high temperatures this summer, it's not fun. The meat vendors were telling us that they're having to feed hay already - something that doesn't usually happen much in South Texas.  The vegetable selection was down to the tougher veggies that can tolerate the heat and even then, they're smaller than usual.  But everything is still good. Visiting with the farmers, ranchers and artisans feeds the soul as always.  There are new vendors in since the last time we visited. I'm delighted to see the younger vendors who have chosen to make their life's work supplying fresh, handmade, local foods.

Bread Dough Rising
After a long hiatus, we're back to making our own bread and some of our cheeses again. Yes, it's time-consuming, but not as time-consuming as all that and the results are so tasty! During the long, July 4th weekend, we've gone back to our slow-rise, wet-dough bread. I love the book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  I can mix bread dough once and have fresh bread four times in almost no time. One of these days I'm going to need to try the other recipes in the book!  I can't seem to get past the first one.

Fresh Bread, Mozzarella Cheese and Peach Cobbler 
Making Mozzarella cheese is surprisingly easy. At least it is once you find the right milk. Ultra-pasteurization is the enemy of cheese making. It gives the milk a very long shelf life but nothing else. It was a disappointment to us when our local grocery store's organic milk went ultra-pasteurized. Fortunately, good ol Borden milk can be made into cheese... at least for now.  Since Mozzarella is a soft, non-ripened cheese, it can be made in under an hour. First is warming the milk and adding the citric acid and rennet to force it to separate. Then comes cooking the curd until it holds together well.

Stirring the Curds
Finishing the cheese - forcing the remaining whey out of the cheese and stretching it like taffy is fun and takes tough hands!  The cheese has to be just over hotter than hands like to deal with.  Because I cut my hand in a stupid accident, George took over stretching the cheese for me today.

Stretching the Cheese
The end result is tastier than anything you'll find ready-made... unless you get your cheese from the young folks at the market!

The entire take of Fredericksburg peaches went into a cobbler for today's celebration.  We can't have fireworks this year because of the drought and the danger of wildfires.  As in, even the cities have canceled fireworks displays.  But we can still eat and I saw no reason for the family to be deprived of our traditional Fourth of July supper just because it won't be followed by fireworks.  So this year, we're having Cassie's friends over as well as my parents.  We'll all swim in the pool and eat.  Good stuff!

Weaving is Handmade!
Colorwork Pillows on the Loom
I'm still working on the colorwork pillows I started in June. I've decided I do like Cotton Clouds Aurora Earth unmercerized cotton.  It's not that the pillows are hard at all.  I just haven't had the time to weave that I'd like.  I'm on the last part of the second pillow, though.  I still have to weave off the rest of the warp in stripes to make the diagonal-cut welt, but that probably won't take all that long.  It's good weaving and I'm enjoying it quite a bit.  It's beautiful to watch the color interplay develop.
Weaving a Life - or at least my pillows!
So it's good to be back to making things for ourselves again. I still need to find the balance to fit everything into my days, but I suppose I'll be working on that all my life.  That's not an end, that's really a process!

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!