DIY Crème Fraîche – and Kohlrabi Salad

 

Or, why I like The Joy Of Cooking so much.

 

creme fraiche and kohlrabi

I know, it looks like strange bedfellows, but keep reading . . .

 

If you’ve never had crème fraîche, I recommend trying it.  It’s kind of like sour cream, but a little less sour and much more subtly flavored.  And expensive, at least here.  It’s a cultured food, so we figured that if some of the cultures are still active, we might be able to get more crème fraîche by adding some of what we had to some plain cream.  Good quality organic heavy cream is about 1/4 the price per ounce of crème fraîche, at least in Flagstaff, AZ.

And in fact, if you look up crème fraîche in the KNOW YOUR INGREDIENTS section at the back of The Joy of Cooking (I love that part of the book), they suggest as a substitute: adding one tablespoon of buttermilk to one cup of heavy cream, warming it to 110° F on the stove, and then pouring in into a jar, letting it set loosely covered “until the cream has thickened and has a pleasant mildly sour flavor,” anywhere from 6 hours to 3 days.

We tried the same thing, using one tablespoon of store-bought crème fraîche to one cup of cream.  And, almost three days later, tada!  It’s funny because it looks like nothing is happening for quite a while, the cream still very liquid, and then finally a few more solid clumps appear, and the then bam! it’s done.  Once it gets as thick and mildly sour as you would like, store it in the fridge to keep it from becoming overly acidic.

These directions say to leave it in a warm place while the cultures are working.  Our house is short on warm places in the winter, so the first time I tried it, I left the little jar near the stove, figuring that whenever I heated something up it would get a little warmth.  That was the time it took almost the whole three days, but definitely worked.  The next time, I actually forgot to heat it at the beginning, I just added 1 tablespoon of the first batch to one cup of fresh cream and stirred it around.  I thought it might benefit from a warmer place, so I put it in the middle of the burners on the stove as I was cooking dinner, checking from time to time to make sure the jar was getting warm, but not hot, and to rotate it around a bit.  That time the whole jar had become thick crème fraîche by the next morning!

 

kohlrabi salad

 

Ok, so once you have some crème fraîche, kohlrabi is probably not the first thing you are inspired to put it on.  Dolloped in soup or on waffles might sound more luscious, and both are wonderful.  But, if you’ve never had kohlrabi, I definitely recommend it.  It’s one of those winter vegetables that looks knobbly and scary on the outside, but on the inside has a lovely subtle flavor, in this case a little cabbage, a little nutty, and quite good.

I tried one recipe for kohlrabi salad earlier this winter, but I thought the amount of lemon juice in the dressing overwhelmed the soft flavors.  If you look up almost any specific vegetable in Joy, it will tell you not only whether it is good raw or cooked, and how to cook it, and whether to peel it first, but it also gives a list of flavors that compliment that veggie particularly well.  That features was a huge help when we joined our local CSA – even though I had never heard of most of the greens we got, they were almost all listed, and I could figure out at least whether they were for cooking or salad, and what they were likely to taste like.

Under kohlrabi it says, among other things, that it goes well with cream, parsley, and dill.  As do carrots, and so . . .

 

Recipe Sketch: Kohlrabi and Carrot Salad with Crème Fraîche

This makes enough for 2 or 3 servings, feel free to make more!

 

Peel, taking off the woody outside layer (chew on a bit if you are not sure), 2 small kohlrabi

Scrub one medium carrot (I pretty much never peel carrots)

Grate the kohlrabi and carrot on the largest teeth of your grater (a trick I only recently figured out is to leave the carrot top as a handle, start grating from the skinny end, and stop when you get almost to the top).

Put these in a bowl, add 2 – 3 tablespoons of crème fraîche, and mix with your fingers, it should be slightly creamy all over.

Sprinkle on about a tablespoon each of chopped fresh dill and fresh parsley.  (Remember how I keep herbs in a jar in the fridge?  Dill keeps practically indefinitely that way.)

Mix together, taste, and add a pinch of salt if desired.  If you are not serving it right away, you may find that the veggies have absorbed some the liquid and the salad is a little dry, if so you can add a little more crème fraîche or regular cream before serving.

 

I love all harmonious delicate flavors in this salad.  And, as you might guess, some crème fraîche mixed with the cream for carrot and raisin salad is pretty great as well.

If you can’t find any crème fraîche to start from where you live, you may be able to get the cultures from a source like New England Cheesemaking Supply.

I did a little research on using the same process to make perpetual yogurt, which I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never tried, but it’s now next on my list of kitchen projects.  From what I’ve read so far it seems only slightly more complicated, heating the milk, I presume to kill of any unwanted bacteria, then adding the yogurt or culture once it’s cooled back to warm.

What about you – have you made your own crème fraîche or yogurt, or other cultured food?  Any tips or thoughts?

 

Simple Homemade Cheese – Goat Cheese and Paneer too!

 

My friend Tom comes up with some good ideas sometimes (shh – don’t tell him!) especially when it comes to food.  The other day he appeared at my house with some goat cheese he made.  I have been making fresh paneer cheese for Indian food for a while, mainly because we live a fairly small town and (to my knowledge) you can’t buy it here.  So, I already had a method for fresh cheese that’s pretty foolproof and I know works with a variety of different ingredients, and thanks to Tom’s idea, I tried it with goat milk too, and it worked great!  I got a soft fresh goat cheese.

I first learned this method from reading the paneer cheese directions in Laxmi’s Vegetarian Kitchen by Laxmi Hiremath, my favorite Indian cookbook.  Since then I have figured out a few tricks and variations.  One thing I love about this way of making cheese is that you don’t need anything you don’t already have in your kitchen or can’t easily get.  And there’s only one thing you need to know that may not be obvious if you’ve never made cheese before – read on.

 

fresh cheese 1

 

Recipe Sketch: Simple Homemade Cheese

Start with milk.  You can use whole or low-fat, cow or goat etc.  If you can get small-batch pasteurized, or non-homogenized milk, it will make a big difference in the texture of the curds and the cheese, for the better.  We used to get local dairy milk in glass bottles in Madison, which worked great.  Organic Valley has a non-homogenized “grass milk” I can get here, which also works great.  Don’t worry if you can’t find anything other than ultra-pasteurized milk though, you can still make cheese!  The only goat milk I could get was homogenized and ultra-pasteurized, and it still worked, as you can see.

Put the milk in pot with room to spare.  You can use whatever portion of milk you happen to have left in the fridge.  Most of what’s in milk is water, so be prepared for to more to become whey than cheese.  I used 1 quart of goat milk and got just over 5 oz of soft cheese, a ball about the size of my fist.

Heat the milk until it starts to boil, stirring occasionally.  Stay around the kitchen for this part, even though it will take a little while for the cold milk to heat, because as soon as it starts to boil it will want to boil over!  I like to put away the dishes or something while I’m waiting.

Also while you’re waiting, get out something acidic to curdle the cheese.  You can use fresh lemon or lime juice, or yogurt, cultured buttermilk, or even vinegar.  Each one will give a little different flavor to the cheese.  One of my favorites is a little lime with a little buttermilk.  Use whatever you have and experiment to see what you like best.

When the milk starts to boil, turn it down to a simmer and add a little bit of your acidic substance of choice.  Stir and wait for about 30 seconds, then if nothing is happening, add a little more acid, stir and wait again.  At some point a separation will occur, instead of milk you’ll have solid curds and translucent whey (yup – little miss muffet).  This is the key to knowing if the separation is complete, the whey will be yellowish and almost clear, you will be able to see distinct white curds floating in it.  The curds may be tiny flakes or huge globs, depending on the milk, but all the white milk solids will be in them, and they’ll be floating in the translucent whey.  I could have sworn I had a picture (from my not-well-lit kitchen) of what it looks like when the curds are huge, but I can’t find it anywhere.  I’ll take one next time it happens.  For this goat milk the curds are tiny.

 

fresh cheese 2

 

Once you have curds and whey, turn off the heat and let them rest for a few minutes while you get ready to drain the cheese.  Put two layers of cheesecloth (yup – that’s why it’s called that) in a colander.  If you want to save the whey, put a bowl under the colander.  You can use the whey instead of milk to make pancakes, etc., as a soup stock, or to make other kinds of cheese.

Pour the curds and whey into the colander.  If you want to make a firmer, sliceable cheese, add any flavorings you want at this point, while you can still stir them into the cheese.  For soft cheese you can do it later.  In any case, then gather up the edges of the cheesecloth and tie it together, so that the cheese continues to drain.  I have a long, plastic coated twist tie that I use, one end is twisted into a loop that goes over my faucet, and I twist the other end around the cheesecloth and let it hang it the sink, still inside the colander.  You can also tie the cheesecloth to a wooden spoon or other tool laid across the top of your colander.  You just want the cheese in its cloth to be suspended so it continues to drain.

fresh cheese 3

 

That’s about it!  Leave your cheese to drain for an hour or more, depending on how firm you like it to be.  If I’m making paneer I want it to be sliceable, so I’ll leave it longer than for soft goat cheese.  You can always open the cheesecloth and check to see if it has reached the consistency you want.  If you’d like it to be firmer, just tie it back up and leave it to drain a little longer.  You can also press the cheese after draining, between two plates with something heavy on top, and leave it in the fridge like that for a few more hours to make it even firmer.  So like I said, lots of options.

Ta-da! Cheese!  You can now scoop it out of the cheesecloth and into a bowl or container to save it.   For soft cheese, you can stir in a little salt or any herbs you would like to add to the flavor.

 

fresh cheese 4

 

So there you go, I hope that’s enough to get you started on your own cheese-making adventures!

 

Stamping on Fabric – With Hand Carved Stamps and Household Objects

 

Ok, so now you have a hand carved stamp.  Or, maybe you don’t yet.  How about stamping with something you already have around your house?  And, what gets me excited about either of these options: being able to use them on fabric and clothing.

 

 

Before we discuss fabric ink and stamping, let me talk briefly about how I set up these buttons as stamps.  I got this idea from a really creative slideshow (on Martha Stewart of all places) which illustrates using all kinds of things you might find around your house to make some interesting designs.  My favorite was the buttons.  Some things already have an easy point to grab them by without getting your fingers covered in ink (like long pieces of wood, which you can see printed in the top photo), but buttons, not so much.  I cut some pieces from a leftover dowel and a small wood block, just using a clamp and a handsaw, they don’t have to be perfect in any way.  I did some quick online research and a couple of sources suggested using some kind of foam to back your stamps, to give them a little more give for even printing.  This seemed like a good idea since buttons are pretty much hard to begin with.  I used tiny pieces of dish packing type foam (we get it as packing material with some supplies) glued to the back of each button and its piece of wood with ATG, which once again I borrowed from the photo studio.  You can use any type of glue as long as it will hold the object and be water-resistant enough to be rinsed after you stamp.  And, you could use just about anything squishy for the foam, just cut the pieces smaller than your object, otherwise the edges of the foam may print.

 

 

Ok, time to stamp!  For ink, I used Speedball Water-Based Textile Screen Printing Ink.  I have gotten it from Blick, local art stores, and chain stores.  On the jar, it just says FABRIC Screen Printing Ink, but if you look on the side it also says water based and non-toxic.  I really like that you can thin this ink as much as you want with water, and you don’t have to worry about it if you get it on your hands, which is pretty much inevitable.  Plus it is permanent on fabric with heat setting.  It comes in lots of colors.  I like to mix my own using the three primary colors; the “process” cyan, magenta, and yellow will give truer mixing results than the regular red blue and yellow.  You’ll also need white and black.  A tip I learned from Lena Corwin’s book Printing by Hand (I highly recommend this book if you are interested in more about printing!) is that mixing in a little of both white and black will give you a more subtle color (less screaming bright) and I love subtle colors.

To set up for printing, you’ll need ink, a little water for mixing, and more for washing things off (a big cup full with an old toothbrush for scrubbing is perfect) and a wet rag to wipe your hands and tools on after you rinse.  It’s easier to print on thin fabrics if you put down an old towel underneath to give the surface a little more give, which can allow more details of the stamp to print.  Putting all this on a big table you can wipe off is ideal, and it’s nice to have something under the messy ink part to catch drips.  I used a box since I figured it would still be good for shipping with ink on it.  I used one spoon to get out each color, one to mix my color with, and a small foam brush to hold the ink for stamping.  I let the spoons dry when I’m done, and wash the foam brushes to save for the next time.

 

 

When mixing ink colors, start with as little ink as you can, you’ll add more as you decide what to add to get the color you’re looking for (a color wheel can help here), plus you’ll be adding water, and stamping doesn’t take very much ink in any case.  Keep in mind that the ink will dry slightly darker in color than it looks wet.

Having scrap fabric to test on is essential!  The closer the fabric is in type, weight and color to your intended project, the better you’ll be able to see how the stamps are coming out.  For this project, I just used a small section on the edge of my fabric for testing, changing the color or the dilution of the ink a little bit at a time and waiting a couple of minutes to see how the results looked as they dried.

I like the ink to be absorbed into the fabric so that it doesn’t leave a hard or crunchy surface, but looks more like a dye.  To get this effect, I add water until the ink slowly drips from the foam brush when I lift it up.  The consistency you want may vary with your fabric, again, testing is key!

 

 

Here is my best fabric stamping tip: squeeze the ink out of the foam brush until it’s not dripping, and only releases ink when you press on it, like a stamp pad.  Then, gently press your stamp or object against the sponge to get a coat of paint.  You can see which parts are going to print by where the ink is on the stamp or object.

 

 

Keep the foam brush in one hand, and bring your stamp back to it for a fresh coat each time you print it.  The sponge will hold enough ink for a bunch of stamps before it needs more from the cup.

I found that a light coating of ink, and a soft rolling motion against the fabric with each stamping helped the full possible detail of the buttons to print.

 

 

That’s about it!  I place my stamps pretty much randomly, alternating whichever ones I am working with until I get a design density that I like.  It helps to step back and take a look, especially if you are printing something big that you can’t work on all at once.

For troubleshooting, take a look at the very top photo (click to enlarge it).  If you have too much ink on the stamp or the ink is too watery, it will spread out all around your stamp and the detail of the design will be lost.  Clean the stamp off, squeeze more ink out of your sponge, press it gently on just the surface of the stamp and try again.  If it’s still too flowy, add more ink to your color to reduce the water content.  If you don’t have enough ink on the stamp, you’ll get a pale ghost of an image.  If the ink is thick, like it comes out of the jar, it will dry harder and raised on the surface of your fabric, which you may want, depending on your design. If your fabric is wrinkled, iron it before you start.  Soft wrinkles won’t get in the way too much, but if you stamp over a crease, you can see it when the crease opens up.

One last troubleshooting thing: some objects print better than others.  Some of the buttons I tried had details too fine to print, but this will depend a lot on what fabric and how much ink you use, so test it out!

 

 

Here’s my finished button printed fabric.  I think it may become a skirt.

 

 

Stamping is also awesome for reviving finished clothes or linens that are a little too plain.  I used some of my aunt Barb’s hand made stamps to decorate this previously just beige thrift store skirt.

 

 

While your stamped fabric is drying, it’s worthwhile to clean off your tools, since this ink can eventually clog your stamps if left to dry.  Using the old toothbrush and a little water from your clean-up cup works great.

Next time, I’ll post about heat setting the ink, lots of options for this important step that makes the finished product washable!  Plus, a little bit about “green” crafting and less waste from what we make.

In the meantime, have you tried something similar?  I’d love to know what you did and how it came out!

 

DIY Envelopes

 

Really, why didn’t I think of this ages ago?  But actually, my lovely aunt Barbara introduced me to this idea at our craft retreat, which she in turn got from one of her teachers.  I have made a few handmade cards, and looked for envelopes to fit them, but it never occurred to me to just make one!  And, you can use all kind of cool recycled paper.  The kind that is too pretty/interesting to just put in the bin.  I going to use this map and guide from The Art Institute of Chicago, mostly because it has the word “varoom!” on it in big letters.

 

 

I’ve had this red envelope for quite a while, I love the shape and the old-style closure.  You can use any envelope you like as a pattern, just peel it apart carefully so that you have clean edges to trace.  You can also buy plastic templates in various sizes, or print out paper ones from lots of online sources, search for “envelope template.”  I like using an envelope you already have to start, since it’s right here ready to go.

In any case, check out the placement of your envelope on the new paper to make sure any motifs you really like will be where you want them.  Either use a paper cutting blade (hence my very old cutting mat is my backdrop today) or trace around your envelope and cut it out with scissors.  Use a bone folder, or similar hard but not too sharp object, to score along the folding lines.

 

 

Fold in the sides and stick your envelope together using glue stick, paper glue or ATG (borrowed from the matting and framing part of our studio).

For a simple envelope, you are done!  Just glue the top when you are ready to mail. Ridiculously easy.

 

 

I wanted to recreate the loop and tie closure from my pattern envelope, so marked the position of the circles from the original when I cut it out.  I traced a penny on heavier paper, and used two thicknesses glued together for each circle.  I used metal brads and a bit of top stitching thread, tying the thread in a knot around the brad, and slipping the knot under the paper circle before sticking it through the envelope.  Gluing an extra circle on the back for reinforcement seemed like a good idea as well.

 

 

I also think it would look great to glue or sew on a big snap to close the envelope, or a use buttons and loops, or make a reusable envelope out of something hefty and sew it together, or make your own folders . . . sometimes I think the measure of a good idea is when it gives you ten other ideas at once!

At our retreat I made a big map-velope which has two layers to make it sturdy, plus some small ones, to hold business cards, etc.  And of course you can decorate them!

 

 

I hope this gives you a bunch of new ideas, too!

(If you want to keep up with all my new ideas you can now Follow my blog with Bloglovin  Actually, you could before, but now I am officially claiming it.)

A New Month, A New Challenge – Spark Your Summer

The thing I love about setting a particular goal or participating in a challenge is that it can push me to take something I am vaguely thinking about doing and make it something I am actually doing and concretely thinking about.

I loved participating in Me Made May’12 this last month.  I was surprised by how much pride and self-sufficiency I felt wearing at least one me-made garment every day, even though I didn’t make anything new for the challenge!  It also got me thinking about what I really wear and how I want my style to evolve.  Although I’m not sure I would want to spend as much time thinking about my wardrobe all the time as I did in May, it really pushed me to better define my style (see this post), to figure out what I really need to make (pants!), and to meet some other sewers/thinkers/bloggers, all of which has been wonderful.  In another unexpected spillover, after MMM ended I found myself coming up with new combinations of my not-self-made clothes to better fit my style – bonus!

 

 

So when my new friend Alessa, along with Ali and Sarah, announced a new challenge for June, I was pretty much in at the word go.  Plus, this one is a little less involved, you just sew one special garment in June, something you’d like to wear all summer.  It’s good timing for me, since I have fabric I batik dyed last summer that’s supposed to become a dress in time for a special event which starts June 20!  I’ll be making my self-drafted sundress, with a few modifications from the first one.  And, I’ll be home late tonight!!  One thing I have really missed during MMM is my studio – sewing starts tomorrow!

 

 

Again, it seems to me that there’s no reason you have to sew to set yourself a helpful challenge for this month.  What about a cooking one?  An art one?  What are your broader goals and how can you set a specific goal to help you get there?  What would you like to do more of?  Why not set aside a specific amount of time for that every week?  Whatever you decide to do, I’d be willing to bet you’ll get some unexpected lovely side effects.

Announcing My First Tutorial!

I’m super excited to announce that my first tutorial is finished and available in my Etsy shop!  And, it’s also available as a kit with wool and practically everything else you need to get started.
I’m really happy with how it came out.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time and energy on it, but 28 pages, lots of flowers, and over 115 color photos later (LOTS of photo editing), it’s everything you need to know to make your very own felt flowers, all from my brain, hands, and laptop!
Looks interesting, right?  Why not try it out!

Homemade Granola Bars

 

In part two of my homemade travel breakfast project, I made some more traditional granola bars – oats, nuts and dried fruit stuck together with molasses and honey.

I learned several things in the two versions of these I’ve made so far.  One is that honey is a much better glue than molasses.  The second is that smaller pieces of nuts, oats, etc. stick together better and are less likely to fall apart later.  Both of these are pretty much logically obvious now that I think about them, but as usual I opted for a more trial and error approach at the beginning.  I like to mix things together and see what happens.

Anyway, here is version 2:

DIY Granola Bars

Mix together in a bowl: 1 cup oats, coarsely ground; one cup walnuts, coarsely ground; 1/2 cup raisins, a pinch of salt.

Heat in a large skillet until warm and liquid: 2 Tablespoons molasses & 2 teaspoons honey.  Turn off the heat.

Pour the oat mixture into the skillet and stir until everything is coated.  Pour out onto a piece of parchment paper and shape into a round or square about 1/2 inch thick with your hands, spatula, rolling pin, etc.  Cut into bars, sticking any bits that fall off back to the outsides, and leave to cool and firm up.  Once they are holding together, you can transfer them to a rack and leave for a while to release any moisture trapped between them and the parchment, before packing them away in a tin or baggies.

 

 

These are holding up pretty well so far, they crumble a bit but you can stick them back together.

Adding more honey and less molasses would make a firmer bar, also good if molasses is not your favorite thing.  Bryan claims my current version is for molasses lovers only.  They taste good to me, but then I could eat it with a spoon!

You could also get a more robust bar by using more oats in proportion to nuts, as they seem to stick together better.  Again, this could become a platform for whatever nuts, fruits and spices you like and want to add!  I think these could be fun to make with kids as well, I may try it out the next time I see the nieces.

If you missed part 1, DIY Fruit and Nut Bars, click here or just scroll down to the previous post.

Enjoy!

 

Quick and Easy Ski Straps

We are hanging out and skiing with some wonderful friends this week in Oregon, so it seemed like a good time to add this project!

We got these ski straps for Christmas, but for some reason the foam part only extended partway between the skis, so they could still rub on the other side (imagine the cardboard here is the skis).  The top strap is how they started.

 

 

This is how I get into trouble, of course this could be better, and so I have to make it better.  The bottom strap is after I altered them.

 

 

It would be super easy to make your own for cross country or downhill skis, all you would need is something thick and squishy for between the skis, like felt, fleece, foam or batting covered with fabric.  Plus wide velcro.  Make the squishy part a little wider than the skis, plus enough to overlap and sew to the velcro, and enough velcro to reach around skis and stick to itself (fuzzy side out, hook side in).  Sew it together with a sturdy X pattern, and you’re done!

These would make a great little present for skiers you know.  Here’s hoping for some more snow in Flagstaff this winter, we love to xc ski right near our house when there’s enough.

Note: to sew an “X” for extra strength: sew in a rectangle first.  When you get back to where you started, sew diagonally across to the other corner, then along one side a second time.  Sew diagonally to the other corner, and back along the opposite side.  Overlap a few stitches where you started.