Another Slow Cooker Dip Trio – in two parts

This past weekend, we had our housewarming party – finally. Mostly because we finally had enough furniture for people to sit on. And also because it’s hard to warm a house in the middle of the winter. This way, we could use the barbecue.

Dip Trio 1

The Pie wanted to make use of our three-pot mini slow cookers and prepare some dips for our guests, so here are two of the ones we came up with. The final one involved a bit of extra prep so it’s a post on its own. The two posted today were made significantly smaller so they’d fit in our tiny pots.

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This first one, a garlic white bean dip, doesn’t really require a slow cooker, unless you want it to be served warm (which we did). I also took out some of the prep steps to make the whole thing a one-shot process. Start by glugging 1/4 cup olive oil into a small saucepan, and add in the equivalent of 6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced. Cook that on low for about 5 minutes, until garlic smells start to fill your whole kitchen.

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Grate up about 3/4 cup parmesan cheese and the zest from 1 lemon.

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Then, grab your food processor and chuck in 2 cans of cannelini beans, drained and rinsed. I used one can white beans and one can of white navy beans. Tip in as well 1/3 cup water, 1 cup ricotta cheese, your garlic and oil stuff, the parmesan and lemon zest, 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, and a generous helping of salt and ground black pepper.

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Give that a good whaz until it’s all smooth. Add a bit more olive oil if you think it looks dry (and if you’re going to keep it in the slow cooker all day, add a bit more as it has a tendency to dry out).

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Plop that in the slow cooker and leave it on low for about 2 hours to warm through. Enjoy!

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This next one is pretty good, but we actually found it a little bland and might spice it up some more next time. It’s a corn and cheese dip with bacon and pale ale and I think it has plenty of potential for enhancement. Start by tipping 3 1/2 cups frozen corn into your slow cooker. Top that with 2 minced cloves of garlic and 1 1/2 cups grated cheese (we used an extra-old cheddar).

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Dice up a red bell pepper and a de-seeded jalapeno.

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Chuck those in the pot with 3/4 cup sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Grab a pale ale as well and tip in about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of it. I think next time I’d use something with a bit more flavour, as neither the Pie nor myself are IPA fans (not that I’m drinking these days anyway).

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Give that a good stirring to mix things up. Then grab a package of plain cream cheese and break it up into chunks, which you can then spread over the top of the thing. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.

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While that’s on the go, cook up about 4 slices of bacon until it’s crispy enough to crumble and let it cool (so you can crumble it). Harvest some fresh chives from your garden (it’s the only thing growing right now). Cut those up in a wee bowl and set the bacon and chives aside until the dip is ready.

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When the dip is hot, stir well to incorporate the cream cheese and then garnish with the chives and bacon. Eat!

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Saponification!

More Saponification 3

I like to learn one big major skill in DIY every holiday season and turn it into my showcase gift for friends and family. This year, the Pie and I learned how to make soap, from scratch. There are four main methods of soap preparation:

Melt and pour: basically you get a kit containing a block of solid soap, goat’s milk, glycerin, whatever, and some nice moulds and you melt the soap in the microwave, mix it with pretty flowers, and pour it into the moulds. You may recall a disastrous outcome we had once with one of these kits. They are, however, super trendy right now and many DIY bloggers have instructions on making pretty layered soaps and things.

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Hand-milling: more or less a fancier version of melt-and-pour, in that you grate up a bunch of super nice soaps, melt them down, add things to them, and then chuck them in a mould.

Cold process: This is the from-scratchiest way to make soap, wherein you combine specific oils with a lye solution and cause the chemical reaction that leads to saponification. SCIENCE! Of course this is the version we did. Do not do this process with small children, as it is quite dangerous. To start, I began with the very clear and simple instructions I found on Garden Therapy.

Hot process: Essentially the same as cold process, except you speed things up by “cooking” the soap, usually in a slow cooker. We did a bit of this with one of the batches that didn’t turn out right the first time.

Safety Equipment

Lye is an extremely strong chemical, and you’re using it in a pretty violent reaction in this DIY, so safety should be your number one priority.  Lye can burn or blind you and inhaling its fumes is a really bad idea as well. You must, therefore, have good quality safety goggles (the kind that touch your face all around) and some strong rubber gloves with long sleeves.

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Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants, and make sure to wear shoes while you do this. If you have a chemical ventilator, I recommend you use it as well. This one cost me about thirty bucks at Home Depot and it’s great.

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Keep a large amount of white vinegar handy. The acid in the vinegar will neutralize the strong base of the lye should you happen to spill it on yourself.

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Work in an area as well that has access to fresh air either through a window or a fume hood (the first time we did this I went outside). I do not want to feel responsible for you people if you die while doing one of my DIYs. So please behave yourselves and BE CAREFUL!

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Non-Chemical Equipment

You need a lot of stuff for soap-making that doesn’t necessarily tie into ingredients and/or safety equipment.

You’ll need at least 3 heatproof bowls (glass or metal, doesn’t really matter), and at least 3 silicone spatulas.  I should also note that once you use these tools to make soap you probably shouldn’t use them in connection with food anymore, so plan accordingly. I used old spatulas I was going to throw out and/or picked up at the Dollar Store, and bowls I grabbed from Value Village for a few dollars each.

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You’ll need a double boiler or access to a microwave. I prefer using a double boiler because it’s easier to measure temperatures that way.

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You also need a highly accurate scale and thermometer. For that reason, a digital scale and digital instant read thermometer are probably best.

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If your scale is super tiny, like mine is, you’ll also need some wee dishes for measuring your oils. If you have a big one, you can measure your oils all together in one big bowl.

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You need something to put your soap in when it’s ready. You can use all sorts of fancy actual soap moulds for this, but the amounts I used in the recipes below produce enough soap to fill a 1L (~1qt) milk carton, which has a nice non-stick interior. Just make sure you wash and dry the carton carefully first.

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Also handy will be a set of old towels or blankets for wrapping the soap cartons.

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Not shown, but that is more or less necessary, is an immersion blender (again, you can’t use it again for food, but you can buy a new one off Amazon for twenty bucks). I dedicated my old one to the cause and bought a shiny new one for myself.

You may also need a wide mouth canning funnel, for pouring your soap mixture into your cartons. You might not need it, depending on how steady your hand is, but I found it very useful.

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Soap-Making Ingredients

Now we’re getting down to business. Soap at its most basic is composed of oil/fat and lye. That’s it. How you put those together is up to you. So you’ll need assorted oils (vegetable, castor, olive, coconut, etc.) to get you started. I recommend doing a little bit of research into the different properties of each oil and what they do before you make your selections. I found this article to be particularly helpful.

To “flavour” your soaps you will also need an assortment of essential oils and some dried and ground herbs. The essential oils will add your desired scent while the dried herbs will add texture, and ground herbs will contribute to colour. Here is a handy list of ingredients that will change the appearance of your soap.

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Very importantly, you’ll need some distilled water. Use distilled over filtered or tap water simply because the varying mineral compositions in undistilled water will make your results unpredictable.

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Equally important is lye. That’s what makes the magic happen. For solid soap, you want to get yourself sodium hydroxide (potassium hydroxide is used for liquid soaps). Get the lye that comes in free-flowing crystals or pellets – they’re easier to measure and less likely to get everywhere.

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For those Canadians who don’t have access to specialty soap suppliers, you can purchase lye at Home Hardware.

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And the final magic ingredient you will need is a LYE CALCULATOR. I found the SoapCalc to be helpful and easy to use (and it’s free). There’s also a handy link in the top menu that explains all the calculations. Basically, you begin by figuring out how much soap you want to produce – for our purposes, 700g soap fits in a 1L milk carton. From there you calculate what percentages of oils you want to go into your soap, and then the software will do the calculations to tell you the exact measurements of oil, lye, and water that you will need. And then it tells you the quality of soap you will produce with those numbers. And it does it in metric AND imperial. Then you can print it out and keep it handy. I love things that do math for me.

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The Cold Process Process:

Once you get the hang of this (i.e., like me, you do it five or six times in a row), it’s super easy – you just have to pay attention so you don’t hurt yourself and make sure your measurements are accurate. One of the most important things you need to do first is measure out your raw ingredients as accurately as possible.

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You’ll notice in this, our first batch, that we used olive oil as one of our ingredients. Olive oil, we learned later, is hard to make into soap because it doesn’t always form a trace (you’ll see in a little bit what we mean), so we actually had a lot of trouble with this first batch. But that’s good for you guys, because I can show you how we fixed it. And we had no problems with any subsequent batch. Anyway, keep measuring out your ingredients. Accuracy is key.

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When all your ingredients are ready and laid out (this includes the water for your lye solution and all your flavourings), then you can put all the oils together (except for the scented ones) and start gently heating them in your double boiler with one of your heatproof bowls.

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A note on temperature: Always, always, ALWAYS make sure that your oils and your lye solution are the same temperature when you mix them together. This is very important. Every recipe differs, as will the humidity levels and relative temperatures of your environment, but generally you are aiming for an ideal temperature of between 110° and 120°C for both your oils and your lye solution. They don’t have to be exactly the same, but in that range would be best.

So, once your oils reach about 120°-125°C (I like to get them hot and let them cool a bit while I do the next step), you can work on your lye solution.

Take another one of your heatproof bowls and fill it partially with water and ice to create an ice bath. Set that aside for a moment. Measure out your room-temperature distilled water into your third heatproof bowl and have your lye crystals measured and at hand. Do this in a well-ventilated area. As I mentioned above, the first time we did this I sat on our balcony in the fresh air. In subsequent times I just put everything on top of the stove and did it with the window cracked and the stove fan going at full blast. But this looks way more dramatic.

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When you’re ready, grab one of your spatulas and your lye crystals and ever-so-slowly pour the lye into the distilled water. SLOWLY. Stir gently the whole time.

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At first it will look like nothing is happening. I feel like my neighbours were suspicious at this point.

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But then the lye will start to dissolve and the water will turn cloudy and begin to steam. DO NOT INHALE THIS STEAM. IT IS NOT GOOD STEAM.

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Make sure to get every last crystal into the solution.

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Continue to stir the solution until it starts to clear, then take its temperature. The lye/water reaction means the liquid will get really hot, really fast. You want to cool the lye solution down to the same 110-120 range as the oils, and that’s what the ice bath is for. Feel free to use it (because we were doing this particular batch outside in November, it didn’t take long for it to cool).

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When the lye solution and the oils are the same approximate temperature, you can add them together. Slowly. Stirring the whole time. And ALWAYS add the lye to the oils, not the other way around.

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Now you keep stirring. Only crazy people do this by hand because it can take up to four hours for this stuff to start working. Use your immersion blender in thirty-second bursts to emulsify the mixture. There is some spatter involved, so make sure you’re still wearing all your safety equipment. I find it useful to do the blending with the bowl sitting in my empty sink. What you’re looking for – and this may take a while – is what is called “trace”. This is when the mixture thickens and starts to resemble pudding, and when you drip a bit of the mixture on top of itself (like it falls off the blender back into the bowl), you can see the trace of the drip on the surface). At this point, you have to act quickly (hence the blurry shot).

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Now you add in your solids and your essential oils and blend it up again.

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Pour your new almost-soap into your milk carton and tape down the top. Wrap it in a towel and put it somewhere warm (like on top of your fridge or near a heating vent) for 48 hours. The carton will feel warm and then actually hot over the next little while as the saponification occurs.

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Neutralize your dirty dishes with vinegar before you wash them. And keep your gloves on while you do it, just to be safe.

Now, sometimes, you don’t get a trace, no matter how hard you try. Sometimes this means you weren’t mixing hard enough (so that’s why you use an immersion blender). Sometimes the temperature isn’t right – the ingredients don’t have the same temperature, or they’ve cooled too much. If you are having trouble achieving trace, try putting the bowl back on the double boiler and heating it up a little more again. And if that doesn’t work, then just shove it into the carton anyway, and hope for the best. You’ll know in 48 hours if it worked or not. In this case, the olive oil combo we used, combined with our inexperience and inexpert technique, meant that when I ripped open the carton 48 hours later I had a chunk of soap and then a bunch of oozy liquid. Always wear your gloves when you open a mould, just in case something like this happens. There’s no way of knowing how much of that liquid is reactive lye.

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But this is fixable! Just mush it all up (newly saponified soap is very soft).

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And put it back on your double boiler to melt it down.

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You won’t get the same smooth texture you had before. In fact, it’s kind of weird.

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And then you can shove it into a new milk carton, seal it up, and wait another 48 hours.

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Now it looks a little bit weird and rough, but it’s real soap! You can always trim off the rough bits.

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So after 48 hours, you can cut your soap into manageable pieces. It’s very soft, so it’s not a difficult task. Make sure to wear gloves as you do it, in case there are pockets of lye hidden in the soap, and also because freshly made soap is really drying.

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Set your soap upright on a rack or in a box (you want as much airflow around it as possible) and put it in a cool dark place to cure for at least 3 weeks. After that time, you can buff it to a shine with a soft cloth and wrap it for gifting!

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I made six different batches of soap in my experiments. Here are the percentages and shots of the finished product, for your edification.

Olive Oil

  • Coconut Oil 34%
  • Olive Oil 34%
  • Avocado Oil 23%
  • Castor Oil 9%

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I cut off some rough bits from this soap after we re-melted it, and saved them to use as inclusions in another recipe.

Lavender / Rosemary Mint (two separate batches with the same oil base)

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  • Coconut Oil 34%
  • Crisco 30%
  • Castor Oil 14%
  • Sweet Almond Oil 11%
  • Avocado Oil 11%

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Ground Lavender flowers and essential oil added at trace. Dried Ground Rosemary and Mint added at trace with Peppermint essential oil.

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You can see in the pieces on the left that I originally forgot to add in the ground herbs before I poured it into the mould, so I emptied it out, stirred them in, and poured it back in, leaving trace amounts of plain soap on the bottom. You can do this on purpose too, to layer your soaps.

 

Chocolate Orange

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  • Crisco 40%
  • Coconut Oil 30%
  • Canola Oil 20%
  • Cocoa Butter 10%

Sweet orange essential oil added at  trace. Turmeric added at trace for orange colour. Cocoa added and swirled in.

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Coffee Cocoa

  • Crisco 40%
  • Coconut Oil 30%
  • Cocoa Butter 10%
  • Sunflower Oil 10%
  • Castor Oil 10%
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It’s hard to see in this photo, but it is more of a brown than the chocolate orange, which has a ruddy undertone. They do look very similar, however!

 

Lye solution made with chilled coffee (to learn how to make lye solutions using other things than water, read this article). Lemongrass Oil added at trace, together with 2 tsp cocoa and 2 tsp oatmeal.

Guinness Oat

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Those lighter patches are the inclusions of plain olive oil soap.

 

  • Crisco 40%
  • Coconut Oil 30%
  • Shea Butter 15%
  • Castor Oil 8%
  • Sunflower Oil 7%

Lye solution made with chilled, flat Guinness Stout. Sage oil added at trace, together with 2tsp finely ground oatmeal. Inclusions from Olive Oil soap added.

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Guinness Lamb Stew with Wild Rice

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I know you all think I’m weird because I don’t like soup.  But spooning hot liquid into my mouth (and spilling it down my face, because that’s how I roll) is not my idea of a good time.  I do, however, have a fondness for stew.  Especially stew with beer in it, because beer is a great tenderizer of things.  And because I like beer.

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I’ve had this stewing lamb in my freezer for a while and I decided it was probably time I do something about it.

Guinness Lamb Stew 1

So I took it out, put it on a plate, and patted it dry with a paper towel.

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Then, in a bowl, I took a small scoop of flour, added salt and pepper, and gave it a stir.

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Into that I hucked the lamb cubes, and gave them a stir as well.

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I heated up my trusty cast iron skillet with a few tablespoons olive oil inside.  Then, shaking the excess flour off the lamb, I plopped it in the skillet to brown.

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While that was going on I cut up some vegetables: carrots, an onion, and a package of mushrooms.

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I didn’t have any potatoes, that classic stew thickener, so I decided to use rice.  This wild rice blend from Trader Joe’s is excellent.

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I took the browned lamb cubes out and put them on a plate to rest a few minutes.

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Then I added a bit more oil to the pan and chucked in the vegetables, giving the onions a wee bit of a head start in the cooking.

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Once they’ve softened you can add the rest.

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Now you can chuck the meat back in.  Then I plopped in some parsley, Newfoundland savoury, rosemary, and thyme.  If I’d had sage I would have used that, just to make up the lyrics to that “Scarborough Fair” song.

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I also added a few more tablespoons flour.

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At this point I ran out of space in my pan so I transferred the contents of the skillet to a larger saucepan.  I used a bit of beef broth to deglaze the pan a bit and poured that into the pot, along with the rest of the beef broth (about 3 cups).

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Then came two cans of Guinness stout (minus a sip or two, for quality control of course).

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Then the rice.

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Then I brought it to a simmer, lowered the heat, and let that gently bubble away, stirring every so often, for about an hour.

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Excellent. Even more so the next day.

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Guinness Beef Stew

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Oh yeah.  The fact that my fingers are going numb with cold right now tells me it’s comfort food season.  And what’s more comforting than a nice beef stew?

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The other day at Costco I went a bit nuts and purchased one of their large packages of excellent stewing beef.  “I’ll make boeuf Bourgignon,” I said, forgetting two important things: 1) I am horribly allergic to red wine; and 2) I do not own a Dutch oven.

So scratch that.  Let’s cook with beer instead.  I took a bit of inspiration from the Guinness Storehouse website, and a little from Jamie Oliver, but other than that I just kind of winged it.

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First I started off by roasting some of my vegetables.  That’s 1 head garlic, with the top chopped off, 1 package white mushrooms chopped in half, and 1 package pearl onions, peeled.

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Drizzle those with olive oil and roast at 400°F for about half an hour, and give the onions and mushrooms a good stir about halfway through.

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Then I peeled and roughly chopped 3 parsnips and 4 carrots, and a small bunch of celery.  And some potatoes, which aren’t in this shot.  How many potatoes?  I don’t remember. I didn’t take a picture of them.

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That all goes straight into the pot.

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You can tip in the roasted onions and mushrooms, too.

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Save the garlic on a plate for a little bit.

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Now you can work on your meat, and this is going to take a while.  This is whatever size the package of stewing beef is that comes from Costco, which is extremely large, but the beef is truly excellent and I highly recommend it.  I cut my chunks in half just to make them more manageable with a spoon.  Then  you pat them dry with a paper towel and put them on a plate.  You could use a clean tea towel to dry your meat if you were feeling environmentally conscious, but let’s face it: ew.

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In a bowl, mix together some flour (I used buckwheat just in case a gluten-free person came over for dinner sometime in the future – but then the Pie pointed out that Guinness has gluten in it so I’m an idiot), salt, pepper, and cayenne seasoning.

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Spill some of that onto a plate and spread it out.  Roll your meat chunks in the flour.

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Brown the meat, working in small batches, in that skillet you already used on medium heat.  Add some more olive oil if it starts to dry out and smoke.  Chuck the browned beef into the pot with the vegetables.  This is probably the most tedious step, and takes a while.

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Once you have browned all the meat, pour about 3 1/2 cups beef broth into the vegetable/meat pot.  I found this concentrated stuff at the grocery store. All you have to do is add boiling water. Sure takes up less space in my cupboard!

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Tie a bundle of thyme and rosemary together and chuck that in as well.  I find if you tie the bundle string to the handle of the pot it makes getting it out later a lot easier.  Bring the contents to a simmer.

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In the skillet that you have been using, plop a little butter and more olive oil and let that melt.

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Add in the garlic you roasted earlier and mash it with a wooden spoon.

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Then pour in 2 cans Guinness stout beer and bring that to a simmer.

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Scrape the bottom lots with your wooden spoon.

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Pour that whole lot into your bubbling stew and let that simmer with the lid off, stirring occasionally, to reduce for a while (at least an hour).  You may find you have to add in a bit of corn starch after a while for thickening if you used a gluten-free flour.

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We served ours with some beer bread made out of Mill Street’s Oktoberfest.

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You can simplify all this by doing it all in a slow cooker, but I find I prefer the sharper flavours of the roasted vegetables and the constant stirring — you’d still have to brown the meat before slow-cooking it anyway.  But boy it is time-consuming.

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Worth it, though.

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Practical Alcoholism: Cutting Glass Bottles

Cutting Glass

This was actually a project that Cait came up with as a guest post eons ago.  Obviously, she took too long to do it, I got impatient, and now I’m going to go ahead and do it myself.  Because that’s what I do.  I do it myself.  It’s kind of the point of this here blog.

The City of St. John’s has just this past year instituted a city-wide curbside recycling program.  Yes, we are about twenty years behind the times on this one, but we’re making progress.  What the city does not recycle, however, is glass.  I’m not entirely sure I understand why, but that’s the way it is.  We previously employed a private recycling plant that would take absolutely everything, including glass, but they of course disappeared once recycling became free.  As a result we’ve now started tailoring our grocery shopping to buying items that come in cans and plastic containers, rather than glass.  But some of that stuff sticks around.  I re-use glass jars as much as I can, especially when it comes to the contents of my spice cabinet.  Even so, we still have a lot of glass that goes in the garbage.  And let me tell you, for a girl who has spent the last 25 years of her life recycling, it feels some weird, b’y, to chuck glass in the trash.

Light Box Tests

So how can we re-use it some more?  You can only deal with so many spare bottles and jars lying around.  Their function is practical but limited.  So let’s create some other sorts of vessels from these things by learning to cut glass.

I purchased Ephrem’s Deluxe Bottle Cutting Kit from Artistry In Glass, based in London, Ontario, for you Canadian shoppers.

Cutting Glass

This kit has been around, pretty much unaltered, since the seventies.  In fact I don’t think they’ve ever bothered to change the photographs in the little projects book that comes with it.  But why mess with something that works so well, right?

Cutting Glass

You need some glass for this project.  Anything that is round, really, with smooth sides will work for you.  Bottles, jars.  You name it.  The reason I bought the “deluxe” kit as opposed to the regular kit is because it comes with an adapter so you can work on the curved parts of bottle necks and stuff, instead of just the straight sides. But I haven’t gotten to that skill level yet.

In any case, you’ll need to clean and dry your glass thoroughly first.  This means soaking off the labels and rinsing the containers out well.  If you can’t get some of the glue off the glass, try peanut butter.  It works really well, I promise.

Cutting Glass

So now I’m all set.  With my little kit at the ready, I wanted to make sure I did this right.

I watched the video about how to do it the way the cutting kit company tells you to in the instructions, with a candle and an ice cube.

And then I watched another video about a slightly easier and more efficient way to do it with boiling and cold water.  I will show you both.

This is the result of my first attempt to cut beer bottles.  As you can see, it’s not perfect, but it’s not bad, either.  I needed more practice.  You are not going to succeed at this on your first try either, so make sure you have lots of practice glass around before you start getting into the stuff you actually want to use.

Cutting Glass

Beer bottles are the best to practice on, because generally beer is cheaper than the more expensive wines that come in the nice bottles.  Plus you can get several tries in if you buy a six-pack.  The other bonus of practicing on beer bottles is beer glass is thinner and more prone to shattering (unlike jars of preserves, beer is cold-canned, and the bottles are not designed for temperature shock).  So because the bottles break easier, you have to be more careful in your practice.

Light Box Tests

Scoring the Glass:

So this is how you do it.

The kit has all sorts of knobs and screws that you need to adjust first so the cutter is perpendicular to the cutting surface.  This is important. Follow the directions and diagrams in the kit carefully.

Cutting Glass

Now, exerting firm, even pressure (you don’t have to press very hard either) and without stopping, roll the bottle or jar under your hands.  You will hear the cutter making horrible gravelly noises as you do this.  It is scoring the glass.  Keep going all the way around, until you hear a distinct click.  This is you hitting your original score mark.  Now you can stop.  Don’t score over the same spot twice.

Cutting Glass

If you don’t hit your original score mark, then you’ve messed up that particular cut.  I do this often.  I guess the pressure from my hands is uneven or something so the cutter and the bottle don’t stay where they are supposed to.  This is where the practice comes in. Also make sure all your screws are tightened all the way so stuff doesn’t shift.

Once you’ve got your cut, you can start shocking the glass.  We want to do this slowly and evenly.

Water Shocking Method:

I put a towel in the bottom of my sink, just to provide a bit of a cushion should some glass happen to drop. It will also catch the hundreds of tiny flakes of glass that fall off your bottles, so make sure to wash it thoroughly afterwards.

Cutting Glass

I have one jug of water in the fridge, the other boiling away on the stove.

Starting with boiling water, slowly pour a small stream over your score mark.  Turn the bottle so you get all sides of it.  Keep going until you can feel the bottle warm in your hands.

Cutting Glass

Now, pour on the cold water in the same way.  You’ll start to hear some cracking — that’s the glass breaking along its score line.

Cutting Glass

Keep going, alternating boiling and cold water.  There will be more cracking.  Don’t try to force the two parts of your bottle apart.  If they’re going to come apart they will do so on their own.  Just keep alternating your water and it will eventually happen.

You can see here how I etched lines in parallel rings on this jar.

Cutting Glass

And then this is how it fell apart.

Cutting Glass

They didn’t fall apart completely evenly, but as I was only seeing if cutting multiple lines at once was even possible (as the book and the ‘net both tell you to do them one at a time), I wasn’t paying that much attention to my scoring.

Cutting Glass

Fire and Ice Method:

Cutting Glass

For argument’s sake, I also did the candle method as espoused by the kit itself.

Cutting Glass

Carefully hold the bottle just above a candle flame, so the flame nearly touches your score mark.  Rotate the bottle slowly to evenly heat all the way around.

Cutting Glass

When the bottle is heated, take an ice cube to the score lines and rub it all the way around.

Cutting Glass

You will find that you have to do more repetitions for this method, but it’s slightly more accurate.  Because the bottle is more gently treated your cuts will open straighter more times than not.

Cutting Glass

Of course, if you’re cutting rings, like I was here, the fire and ice method is very slow, as you have to do each ring individually.  The water shock method is much better for cutting rings, but I would use the fire and ice method for the lips of drinking glasses and the like, where a completely straight edge is important.

Cutting Glass

Finishing:

When you have finally achieved an edge on glass that you like, you will need to grind down the edges, because this is broken glass — it’s super sharp.

The kit comes with this silicon carbide powder, which you can pour on a sheet of glass that you don’t need to use for anything else, add a drop of water, and rub away until all the sharp edges on the glass are gone.

Cutting Glass

It’s a little messy though.  I prefer emery cloth, which is basically fine sandpaper, just the silicon carbide powder is glued to a sheet of paper.  You can still add a few drops of water to it (this keeps the glass dust down), and grind away!

Cutting Glass

Make sure to get the inside edges as well as the outside edge.

Cutting Glass

You can always dip a small piece of paper in water and sand down the inside by hand.

Cutting Glass

So my first successful efforts of today produced this lovely wee glass.

Cutting Glass

Which I filled with juice.  And which I plan to later etch and give to someone.

Cutting Glass

And these rings, which I will be making into another gift for someone else.  They’re not perfect, but they’re not bad.

Cutting Glass

Stay tuned for some gift ideas and things you can do with your upcycled cut-glass projects!

Cutting Glass

O Canada: Nova Scotia HodgePodge with Beer Bread

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

In light of the Multilinguist’s excursions in Vega, we are making October Canadian Cuisine feature month (the Pie is thrilled because none of it involves tofu).

What better way to start us off than to take advantage of what the autumn harvest in Newfoundland has to offer us?  This creamy vegetable stew is easy and comforting (vegetarian, too, though certainly not vegan).  The recipe for the stew comes from All Recipes (with my modifications), and the idea itself comes from Delilah, one of the Pie’s classmates.  The beer bread comes from my mother’s own cookbook on Nova Scotian eatery.

For the Beer Bread:

HodgePodge with Beer Bread
Didn't have any Nova Scotia beer on hand, sorry.

In a bowl, mix 3 cups self-raising flour with 3 tablespoons granulated sugar.  If you don’t have self-raising flour, mix 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt into every cup of all-purpose flour.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Add in 1 12oz bottle of beer and mix well.  Use a commercially produced beer for a lighter loaf, or a home made beer for a denser loaf.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

This is supposed to turn out more like a batter, and you can see here that one bottle of beer has just produced a really dry dough.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

I poured in almost a whole ‘nother beer before I got the consistency I was looking for, but this will depend on your flour, your beer, the temperature/pressure/humidity of your environment, whether or not you got out of bed on the right side or the left side, whether a butterfly really did flap its wings in Brazil … you get the idea.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Pour into a greased loaf pan and chuck it into a cold oven.  Turn the oven on to 350°F and bake for 40 to 45 minutes.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

The loaf will sound solid when you tap it and be a pale golden when it’s done.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Serve hot.  Also good the next day if you have any left over.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

For the HodgePodge:

Peel and dice 1 medium-sized turnip.  Chuck that in a large saucepan.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Dice 3-4 carrots and chuck those in as well.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Trim the ends off a couple handfuls of fresh wax beans (those are the yellow ones) and cut them into 1-2″ pieces.  Do the same with several handfuls fresh green beans.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Add enough water to the saucepan to cover the vegetables.  Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Cube up 5-6 small potatoes and add that to the pot.  Let that simmer another 30 minutes.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Add in 6 tablespoons butter and 1-2 cups heavy cream (we used a blended table cream here) and stir that in for a few minutes.  Soy milk would also work well here.  I have used soy milk in chowders and it provides a rich, nutty flavour that complements the vegetables nicely.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Add 2-3 tablespoons flour to 1 cup water and stir that around.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Pour the flour water into the saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, and cook for a few more minutes to thicken the broth.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Season generously with salt and pepper and serve hot with beer bread.

HodgePodge with Beer Bread

Frankly, both the Pie and I found the hodgepodge a little on the bland side.  It tasted kind of like invalid soup.  But it was good.  And totally freeze-able.  Next time, though, I think I’d add an onion, some garlic, and some spices.  The beer bread was excellent and we plan to have what’s leftover with some chili tomorrow night.

Sweet Texas Pork Ribs

Obviously it’s been a sweet week with Rusty and Mags in town.  We’ve even had some awesome weather, and what better way to celebrate summer than ribs on the back porch?  It’s become kind of a yearly tradition with us and The People Downstairs, so we took advantage of a sunny day last Friday and had ourselves some ribs.  The sauce here makes enough for four racks of ribs and comes from an old LCBO magazine.

We got these ribs from Costco, and it’s a hit and miss process.  These ones were a very strange cut, and probably tougher than we would normally prefer.  But ribs is ribs. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

First you need to remove the membrane across the bone.  This will help to tenderize your meat and will ease the absorption of juices.  It also facilitates the removal of excess fat, and boy, did these ribs ever need some trimming!  Use a paper towel to help you grip the membrane on the bone side.  Then, with steady pressure, slowly pull it off.  It’s simple.After you’ve removed the membrane, place the ribs bone-side-up in a baking dish.Now you concoct the sauce.  In a bowl, mix together the following:

1/2 cup soy sauce

3 garlic cloves (or 4 teaspoons minced garlic)

2 bay leaves

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon chili sauce

2/3 cup beer (the darker the better)

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon green Tabasco sauce

2/3 cup barbecue sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Pour that stuff all over your ribs.

Use a pastry brush to coat the ribs evenly.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for an hour.  Remove the aluminum foil and bake for a further 30 minutes to thicken the sauce.

Remove the ribs from the oven. 

Place the ribs on your serving plate and cut to serving size (you might want to keep it in a low oven to keep the ribs warm). You can also toss them on the barbecue for a few minutes to caramelize the juices on them.   Drain the  sauce from the pan into a gravy separator to get rid of the fat.  Discard the bay leaves.  Then cook the sauce in a saucepan for a further ten minutes until it is reduced and thickened.  You can add corn starch to push this along if you need to.

Drizzle the hot thick sauce over your ribs and serve. 

We had ours with creamy garlic mashed potatoes and a fresh green salad.