Team Project: Beeswax Art

Beeswax Painting

I still had a huge amount of old beeswax sitting around, leftover from way back when we made teacup candles.  Just blue, though.  Three shades of blue.

Beeswax Painting

I also had a 24″ x 24″ piece of hardboard that I bought back when I had a different sort of idea for the tree branch coat racks.

Beeswax Painting

Beeswax Painting

We can’t waste these things, right?  Well, here’s what the Pie and I came up with together, and I don’t think I would have been able to do this solo. This was our initial plan. A beeswax painting of an ocean scene, a fishing boat attached to a fishing net.

Beeswax Painting

Some hemp string will stand in for rope, and this onion bag will be our net.

Beeswax Painting

But first we had to prep our “canvas”. I took the board outside and sprayed it with Gesso.

Beeswax Painting

Then we needed to prep our supplies. We took the three colours of wax, ripped up the sheets, and jammed them into 3 large canning jars.

Beeswax Painting

Then we plopped them in our canner.

Beeswax Painting

Of course, being full of wax sheets, they floated and tipped over and some of them got some water inside them (which will actually be important later on). So we had to wedge them in place with other jars filled with water and a round wire rack on top.

Beeswax Painting

We brought the water to a simmer and slowly the wax began to melt. As it opened up more space in the jars, we tore up more wax and dropped it in.

Beeswax Painting

Beeswax Painting

And while we were working on that, we also laid out our work area with lots of newspaper.  And I mean several overlapping layers.

Beeswax Painting

Finally we were ready to pour some wax. We wrapped dish towels around the jars to protect our hands.

Beeswax Painting

The initial pour was a little nerve-wracking because we didn’t know what we were doing.

Beeswax Painting

The second one was a bit better, and we started trying to move the wax around a bit before it hardened.

Beeswax Painting

Eventually we ended up with a solid layer covering all the white stuff.

Beeswax Painting

We didn’t end up liking the texture we’d put into the wax with our hands, but we did discover two interesting side effects. We discovered that when we poured the wax at the same time we got these cool marble patterns.

Beeswax Painting

And remember that water that got into the wax? Well it showed up again when we were at the bottom of the jars, and resulted in these neat bubbles.

Beeswax Painting

We decided to do a second layer of wax, now that we kind of had an idea about how this was supposed to go. While we waited for it to melt, I laid out where I thought our fishing net and line would go. It was easy to warm up the wax with a hairdryer and then simply press the net into place.

Beeswax Painting

The original plan was to make the fishing boat out of origami and then just press it into the warm wax, but we changed our minds and decided on an aluminum boat — because many of them are made out of aluminum in reality. Fortunately we had a few tin cans in the recycling and a nice pair of tin snips.

Beeswax Painting

We elevated one side of the canvas so that the wax would flow in the same direction. Gren helped.

Beeswax Painting

Then we poured, using lighter wax up where the sky would be and darker wax in the deeper part of the ocean. We poured some over the net as well to make it look partially submerged.

Beeswax Painting

A close-up of the marbling and bubbles in the boat’s “wake.” Those bubbles are full of water, not air, so we needed to pop them and dry out the water.

Beeswax Painting

While the wax was still warm, we cut it away from the stuff that spilled over the edges of the canvas using a sharp knife and a hairdryer to keep the wax pliable.

Beeswax Painting

Then I heated up a section of the wax and pressed in our little aluminum boat.

Beeswax Painting

The finished piece.

Beeswax Painting

We will be spraying it with a sealant to protect it from scratches (there is already a corgi foot print at the top of it) and then we will mail it home in time for Christmas!

Beeswax Painting

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Sweet and Sour Pineapple Relish

My grandmother came over for coffee yesterday (which for you is about ten days ago) and brought with her about two dozen canning jars she didn’t use anymore.  As well, she brought me an early Christmas present: Catherine Atkinson and Maggie Mayhew’s Complete Book of Preserves & Pickles.  Today the book is already covered in stains, just like every good cookbook should be.  I am in love.

Each recipe is simple with regard to ingredients and the instructions are straightforward.  I’ll prove it to you by showing you a fantastically easy relish I made in less than an hour.  I am relishing my first attempt at this particular preserve.

I tripled the recipe in the book and came out with 7 250mL jars of relish.

Open and drain 6 14oz cans of crushed pineapple.  You can use rings, which drain faster, but then you have to cut them up.  Reserve about 1 1/2 cups of the juice.

Set the pineapple in a sieve over a bowl and leave that for a while to get all the drippings.

Chop up 12-16 green onions (scallions), and mince 6 jalapeno peppers.  The recipe calls for red chillies but I didn’t have any.

Pare the rind from 3 lemons and juice them while you’re at it.

Put the lemon rind and juice in a large saucepan (I prefer a maslin pan for the evaporation) together with 9 tablespoons white wine vinegar and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar.

Heat on low, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to a boil.  Cook like this on medium, stirring, for about ten minutes or until the syrup has thickened slightly.

Add in the chopped onions and peppers, together with your reserved pineapple juice as well as any that has dripped out while you were waiting.  Cook this for about five minutes, until things get quite syrupy.

Increase the heat and add the pineapple.  Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Can according to your canner’s instructions.  We’ve got some tips on canning here, as well.

This relish keeps for about three months, and, once opened, should be kept in the refrigerator.  Great with chicken, pork, and white fish.

 

Barbecue in a Bottle

This recipe has been adapted with thanks from PickYourOwn.org, who set out all the steps for this delicious tangy tomato goo, including the entire canning process.  For other tips on canning, check out some previous posts here.  I doubled the batch laid out below (of course) and ended up with about 8L of sauce.

In a very large pot, start simmering 5 14oz (796mL) cans diced tomatoes.  This is roughly equivalent to 16 cups or 4 quarts (I did the math).  In one of my batches I substituted one can of crushed tomatoes for diced.  It didn’t seem to make much difference, save I had less seeds in that one.

Once those are going strong, chop and chuck in 4 stalks celery, 2 onions, 3 red peppers, 2 jalapeno peppers, and 2 cloves crushed garlic (or garlic-in-a-jar).

In addition to that, add in 2 teaspoons ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon dry mustard, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 tablespoon sea salt, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

THEN add in 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco, 1 cup brown sugar and 1 1/2 cups 5% (white) vinegar.

Remember you can adjust any of these flavourings to suit your own tastes.  I added extra cayenne and brown sugar, as well as a few dobbles of sweet chilli sauce and a can of tomato paste.

Simmer everything for about 30 minutes or until it’s all softened.

Now here you have two options.  If you have tremendous patience, you can run the cooked sauce through a food mill, which will remove the seeds and give you a lovely velvety smooth sauce.

If you’re me, you can use an immersion blender

Tomato sauce will end up everywhere, and you will still have seeds in your slightly chunkier sauce, but you will end up with more sauce for preserving.

All you have to do at this point is cook down your processed sauce until it’s the consistency that you like.  Just keep an eye on it and stir frequently to avoid burning.  Remember that the sauce at this point is thick enough to interfere with proper convection so stirring is essential.

Pour into sterilized jars and can according to your canner’s instructions.  And that’s it!

Bread and Butter Pickles

One summer when I was young, our kitchen was filled with cucumbers.  We made them into dill pickles and bread and butter pickles and there wasn’t a single counter that wasn’t packed with shiny, hot jars of the stuff.  The whole house smelled of vinegar.  It was great.

We made two batches of bread and butter pickles on this particular day and it took a long time, what with the sterilization and the soaking and the canning, so make sure you have a free day and plenty of space when you’re going to do this.

One batch of bread and butter pickles yields about six 1-pint jars and uses 3L (about 4lb) of pickling cucumbers.

Wash your cucumbers.  Scrub them and all their knobby bits well.

Cut the tops and bottoms of the cucumbers off (the bloom and stem ends).Using a mandolin or a food processor, slice the cucumbers into 1/4″ thick rounds.

Please do not cut off any of your fingers.  Mandolins are vicious.

This will take a while, especially if you are doing two batches.

Now you have a helluva lotta cucumber slices.  Put some on your eyes and take a rest for a while.

Just kidding.  There’s work to be done.

Now you have to slice some onions.  Use about three medium onions per batch of pickles.  Peel the onion and slice it in half lengthwise, then use a mandolin or food processor to slice them the same thickness as your cucumbers.

I like to use the Onion Goggles here to avoid bloodshed.  Or tearshed.  Or both.  If I’m weeping uncontrollably I may slice off an appendage on the mandolin.

Put all your cucumber and onion slices in an enormous bowl and sprinkle them with kosher or coarse pickling salt.  Cover with ice water (or water with ice cubes in it) and leave to soak for three hours.

Now you can take a break.  Or make something else while you wait.

You know what, why don’t you cut up two sweet red peppers, sliced thin on the mandolin again, and add them to the pile?  They make for a nice colour contrast in the jar.

Drain the vegetables after their three-hour soak, rinse them thoroughly in cold water, and then drain them again really well.

At this point you should probably start preparing your jars and lids.

Put your lids and rings in a pot of water and set that to boil. 

Plop your jars in your canner and set that to boil as well.  This will take a while.Now you can prepare your pickling brine.

The key spices here are celery seed, turmeric, and yellow mustard seeds.

In a small bowl, put 2 tablespoons mustard seed, 2 1/2 teaspoons celery seed, and 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric (the turmeric is what turns everything yellow).  Set it aside for now.

In an enormous pot (we used the large maslin pan from Lee Valley), put 5 cups granulated sugar (I know, it seems like an awful lot).

Add to this 4 cups pickling vinegar.  My grandmother insists that all pickling (unless otherwise stated) must use pickling vinegar.  It’s about twice as strong as regular distilled white vinegar.

Add in your pickling spices and give it a stir.

Bring it to a boil and dissolve the sugar.

Now plop in your vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until they are tender and yellow and the liquid is once more boiling, about fifteen minutes. 

Once your jars have been boiling for ten minutes, you can haul them out of the canner.  Turn off the heat for now to allow the water to cool slightly.

Drain the jars carefully using a jar gripper and put them near your pickle pot.

Using a canning funnel, carefully ladle pickle mixture into your six jars to within a half or quarter inch of the top of the jar. It’s pretty much a guarantee that you, your counter tops, and everything around you will become extremely sticky at this point.Make sure there is plenty of liquid in the jar as well, but be careful to leave some space at the top.

Use a wooden skewer (don’t use metal) to poke around and remove the air bubbles from amongst the pickles.

Remove your lids and rings from the heat and carefully place the lids on the jars. 

Twist the rings on to fingertip tightness and return the jars to your canner. 

Dunk them under and bring the water to a boil for fifteen minutes.

Remove the jars from the canner and allow to cool.  As they cool they will seal with a lovely POP sound.

You can eat these pickles right away, but store opened jars in the refrigerator.  Serve as a side to your dishes, put in sandwiches, or just eat straight from the jar.  Your choice.Our two batches left us with some extra pickles, which we put in a jar in the fridge. 

The rest we saved for you!You know you want one …

Using a Canner

You may or may not find this particular post interesting, but if you like to make your own jam then you should hear about this ancient invention my mother and I have just discovered called a canner.

When I was a kid we used to make jams and pickles all the time, and we would get the jars to seal by baking them in the oven and relying on the laws of physics as the jars cooled to do the rest.

But with this canning gizmo you can ensure that all your jars pop, every time.  And actually, Vicious Sweet Tooth pre-empted me on this one and was featured in Freshly Pressed.  I am totally trying her vanilla and nectarine preserves.

So you boil your lids as usual.But instead of sterilizing your jars and heating them in the oven you can do both steps at once in the canner.  It’s basically an enormous pot full of water, and the jars sit in a handy little cage you can lift out by the handles.So you boil those, and while they’re doing their thing you work on your jam.

Bring your goo to a boil.  In this case we’re making grape jam.  Once it’s boiling you add your sugar and pectin and make it go all foamy and thick.Once you remove it from the heat you scrape off all the foam.  You can eat it.  It’s yummy.So when it’s ready for canning, you pull your jars out of the water and drain them.Fill the jars with your jam up to 1/2″ from the top of the jar.Clean off the tops of the jars.  They have to be super clean.  Be careful not to burn yourself.Put on the lids and tighten them so they’re “fingertip tight” — this means that they are on but not tightened as far as they can go.Then you pop them back in the canner and bring the water to a boil once again.  Leave ’em about five minutes.Then you bring them out, and as soon as they cool a little bit, hey presto — POP.