Archive for December, 2010

updating challenges

I am struck by the irony of trying to post updates on my medieval and renaissance craft experiments via my blackberry, which won’t allow me to see what I’m typing, so please forgive the many errors in the previous post. Will correct them tomorrow, from my regular computer.


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For a few years now, I have been fascinated by ceintures flechees, the wide finger woven belts worn by voyageurs in Canada. I have never tried to document this technique back to medieval or Renaissance Europe, but fingerloop braiding and many other weaving techniques were in use, so this one seem plausible. I need to do more reserch, but in the meàntime I have started a small braid, (to use up some scraps of wool from another (mundane) project). I got the project set up tonight and did the first few weaves. It’s a very simple pattern andI hope to complete it tomorrow

The other project was a ragout de pattes et de boulettes. It is a pigs trotter and pork meatball stew, flavoured with onion, garlic, cinnamon, mustard, cloves nutmeg, salt and pepper. It is thickened with flour. All the ingrediewnts are plausible. The version I made was underspiced to my taste, so I ended up doubling all the spices.

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Mead and Cider

I got busy and sort of forgot about the mead. Besides, it wasn’t clearing. While cleaning up a bookshelf the other day, I came across a borrowed book on honey drinks and started reading the mead section. The last time through, it hadn’t made sense, but this time I realized that my original instructions may have been inadequate. Today I bought some Campden tablets (to kill off bacteria and fungus and stuff) and bentonite (a clay product that helps preciptate out the solids). I have just racked the mead, added a Campden tablet and have some bentonite soaking to be added tomorrow. I’m not sure about the flavour – I may be trying to fix vinegar – but we’ll see.

To make myself feel better about this probable failure, I bought a kit for making cider. It should make 40 bottles, and is really easy. Basically, I need to mix the apple concentrate with sugar and some water, add more water and eventually some yeast. I let it sit a month, then bottle.

I need to start more mead, but think I’ll wait until the cider is done and I have a better sense of whether the other mead might end up working.

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The ham is started!

A few days ago, I impulse bought a 9 kg leg of pork, with visions of doing a salted air-dried ham. Today I found the instructions (from “Charcuterie” by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn), so have now got it into a pan to start the salting process. So far, it is heavily salted, covered with some plastic wrap, and weighted with tins. It will stay like this for the next 20 days. Around January 16, I will rinse it off, coat it with lard and cracked pepper, wrap it in cheesecloth and hang to dry until spring. It needs to be in a cool dry place (15 C) for at least 4 to 5 months. for a 7 kg ham. Mine is 9 kg, so it will need to go longer. Hopefully my storeroom won’t go hotter than 15C until some time in April. At that point, I will bring it indoors to finish drying in the downstairs bathroom that is used only for storing dog food and mead. Hopefully the kids will remember to keep that door closed at all times (it’s already the rule as our dog likes to help himself to the dog food). When done, the ham should weigh about 6 kg and will be fairly dry and firm to the touch. Here is how it looks now:

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Yesterday, I discovered that I own Larry Schmidt’s book on naalbinding mittens, plus another book on naalbinding. I had been planning to order the Schmidt book, so it was a happy surprise to discover it is already in my house. He talks about starting mittens from the cuff instead of the fingers. The other book shows an interesting way to do the sole and turn the heel. I’m looking forward to experimenting with these new methods, as well as with trying some of the stitches. Schmidt describes the stitches using the same codes as Odd Nordlund, but his way of describing the quadrants of the stitch seemed much clearer – this may reflect the fact that it is not a translation. It would be an interesting experiment to try “making up” a bunch of stitches, perhaps in a sampler, and figuring out how to write out the stitches using this system.

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Serrano Ham

On a whim tonight, I bought a leg of pork. It is absolutely enormous. I had so much success with the dried sausages, I have decided to try doing a dried ham. Wish me luck.

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The lead-up to Christmas seems more hectic than usual this year. Instead of working on A&S50 Challenge projects, I have been devoting myself to regular sewing, getting ready for Christmas, and work. My son had a couple of hockey tournaments out of town, then he got sick, while my daughter was tied up with ballet performances, so I haven’t been to a game in ages. That seems to be the only place where I have time for naalbinding. Today, I finally got out for a game, and finished several rows. It felt really good to be productive again.

In other news, a blacksmith friend made me a lovely new carving knife, so now I have yet another knife requiring a handle. In compensation, he made me a spindle for the lovely brass reproduction Norse spindle whorl I bought from him last summer. It was a pretty nice gesture from a guy who claims wood is evil.

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