Adventures in Home Dairying: Churn Down for WHAT!


Aleit went on an adventure in Europe, and came across some butter churns. Because we live in the future, she posted about it on Facebook, and I cried out my desperate need for a butter churn.

So now I have one:

EulaliawithChurn
Photo by Tullia
In case it’s not coming through in text, I want to say I am INCOHERENTLY EXCITED about the fact that I have a butter churn, a handmade one with beautiful wood hoops no less. OMG THIS BUTTER CHURN! Much churn. Very butter. So excite. Wow.

Once I got my new friend home, I soaked it in water until it swelled enough to seal itself. Then the fun of making butter began.

I’ve made butter before and I have some tips:

  • Use great ingredients. The best butter comes from the best cream. I like Organic Valley personally as I can reliably get it and their cows are pastured. Cows that live on pastures are probably happier, in as much as cows can be said to be happy, and they produce much higher quality dairy. Cows that eat a lot of grass also make prettier, more deeply colored cream. Local and fresh from the farm would be ideal, but that is harder to manage.
  • You need heavy cream. Look at the label of whatever you buy — a lot of whipping cream has mono- and diglycerides added. These aren’t bad, but they are added to help cream turn into whipped cream, not butter, so they can work at cross-purposes to your end goal.
  • Culture the cream before churning. This makes the finished butter taste amazing, it’s more historical, and it makes the butter churning go faster. It’s also dead easy: buy cultured buttermilk and add some to the cream, then let it sit. I usually add a half pint of buttermilk to a quart of cream because those sizes are both easy to obtain and I’m lazy. The half pint of buttermilk could probably culture up to a gallon of cream. I put both in a pitcher or large jar or a jug and drape a cloth over the top or losely seal with waxed linen, then let it sit out on the counter overnight. I have done this at events, too.
    • By the way, quick rant about culturing dairy here: historically, this just happened. Leave the cream out overnight, have nicely soured cream the next day. Leave milk out overnight, have clabber the next day. Dairy is naturally full of lots of bacteria, some great and some definitely not. The tradeoff of pasteurization is you can’t just set your milk or cream out to clabber it like they did in the old days, but you also are much less likely to die from a horrifying pathogen from drinking raw milk. Tradeoffs! If you’re playing around with homemade fresh cheese, the kind that you add lemon juice or vinegar to to curdle it, do an experiment: add a half pint or even a pint of buttermilk to a gallon of whole milk, let it sit overnight, and the next day you can make it curdle by just bringing it to a boil. Pretty neat!
  • Don’t overfill your churn. I usually gleefully ignore this. But the churn should be less than halfway full for minimal splatter.
  • Add lots of salt because salt is delicious 🙂

With my churn soaked and my cream soured, it was quick work (less than 15 minutes) to make butter:


Everything ready


My “helper” “cleaning” the cream up


A little bit of leakage. A towel helps. (Are you feeling dirty yet? Butter churning was made for innuendo.)


Butter! That was fast!


Transfer to a bowl and bring the butter together in one blob (I’m using my butter paddles), then (not pictured) drain off the buttermilk, set it aside, and wash the butter by kneading it in ice cold water. 

Buttermilk is great in a lot of recipes, especially baking. My dog loves if. I’ve fed it to my chickens. Medieval people probably just drank it. I once tried watering some down, like oxymel or any of the other vinegar water variants from period. I was not a fan. 


I like to sprinkle on flakes of salt but you can also just salt your butter. Premodern butter probably had up to 10% salt as a preservative — this was washed out prior to using the butter — but you can add as much or as little as you like. 

Butter doesn’t really store well. I mean, it does, but the best tasting butter is fresh. 

If you’re in An Tir, I plan to bring my churn to September Crown and churn butter while I hang out in the Publike House so you can see it in action. 

Advertisements

More glass painting, and a new Pinterest board

I’ve continued my glass painting experiments:

IMG_3166

I have to say, I’m quite pleased with this. The glass itself came from Crate & Barrel, who have a pretty good selection of glassware that looks passably historical:

Since the last time I posted about glass painting, I’ve switched paint brands. I got a set of Martha Stewart multi-surface craft paints. They are much cheaper than Pebeo and I personally like the colors better (especially this gold!). I am sure they are not as high quality as Pebeo paints, and time will tell how well they hold up. But they work very similarly in that you paint them on the glass, let them dry fully, and cure them in the oven.

I used a stencil for the quatrefoils, and I think I’m getting better with my stencil technique too:

IMG_3164

Notice that my paint is bubbly. I don’t know if that’s the paint or user error.

Otherwise, the big breakthrough since the last time I posted about glass painting is switching to using more dots than lines. With my skill level and the gloppy consistency of the paint, this has been a much better way to yield something that looks decent.

IMG_3165.jpg

This particular design is inspired by some of the patterns on this Italian hanging lamp.

I have started a board on Pinterest for examples of period painted glass — check it out. Unfortunately, most of the really beautiful figural paintings are utterly beyond me (at least for now!), but there are a few examples on there with simpler geometric designs that I’m inspired to try out.

This glass is going to be a volunteer thank you at An Tir’s Twelfth Night. Volunteer and you could be the one to take it home 🙂

A Simple Stenciled Stool

IMG_3143 Every Laurel needs a place to rest occasionally 🙂

My lady and I are not particularly tall, and often found that our feet didn’t reach the ground in typical period-style or even modern folding wood chairs, so on a tip from Svava we started packing little wooden foot stools with our camp gear. They are really, really useful — I sit on mine when I cook in my small and low to the ground fire pit, as that little boost up is just enough to make it easy to get up and down. When it became obvious recently that I needed to replace mine, I decided I wanted to do something a little different and added a painted laurel wreath to it. I posted this picture on Facebook and a fair number of people seemed enthusiastic, so here’s a quick how-to if you’d like to repeat this project.

Materials:

You will note that the paints and painting supplies are pretty expensive for a one-off project. You could offset that cost by doing this as a group project or by stenciling laurel wreaths on literally everything you own 🙂

Optional: You can sand the stool before you start, but I skipped that step since this isn’t really that kind of project. Do make sure it’s roughly clean.

Dab stencil glue on the back of the stencil, let dry, and stick in place on stool. Use a stencil brush or dauber to paint the design, then peel off the stencil. Let dry several hours. Using a brush or a rag, coat the entire stool with the cream wax, wiping off the excess. Let dry several more hours (or overnight — you can do all these steps across multiple days), then apply another coat of cream wax. The manufacturer says the cream wax is for indoor use only, so I doubt this will last a long time.

To be even more historical, paint the entire stool with one color before stenciling on the wreath. Medieval people painted over wood, because wood was cheap.

Now this Laurel can rest on a laurel:

IMG_3147

I’m quite happy with how this turned out and will probably do some more stenciling projects. You could also do something similar with block printing to be more historical.

Obviously, you can also do this with designs other than laurel wreaths. Here are some designs that look passably historical:

I’ve found quite a few specialty stencil sellers on Etsy, too, so you can probably find some fairly specialized ones.

Happy crafting!

 

Easy metal project: basic penannular brooches

I’ve started playing with making some simple dress accessories, like pins, using wire, and I’m finding I’m really enjoying it. My first project was a number of small brass penannular brooches:

  
These are VERY easy to make, and a great starter project for learning basic (cold) metalworking techniques. The end product is quite handy, and would make nice pieces for largesse. I used brass wire from the craft store for these; you can also use copper wire, and I hope to work my way up to using silver or even gold (filled) wire. The wire gauge you use will depend on the size pin you hope to end up with; I used 14 ga for these. 

You will need some special tools to be successful:

  

  • A steel block / anvil or other hard surface
  • Round nose pliers
  • Wire cutters
  • Metal file
  • Chasing hammer
  • A dowel or other small cylinder (not pictured)
  • Optional (not pictured): a plastic mallet

Step by step:

  
Wrap wire around dowel. 

  
You can wrap it as a coil to make many rings at once. 

  
Cut the rings apart. 

  
Rings!

  
Use a mallet or the chasing hammer to gently hammer the ring flat. This should also strengthen it. Set the ring aside. 

  
Gently flatten a short length of wire. 

  
Use the ring as a guide to cut the wire. I found cutting at an angle made sharpening the pin much easier. 

  

Use the chasing hammer to flatten the less sharp end.  

  
Make a little loop in the now flat end with the pliers. 

  
Put the pin on the ring. 

  
Use the file to sharpen pin. 

  
Use the chasing hammer to carefully flatten the cut ends of the ring. 

  
Yay! A brooch!

To use:

   
   
Easy peasy!

Make a faux enameled glass in the Venetian style

Here’s another relatively straightforward DIY project for you: a drinking glass based on Renaissance Venetian examples. 

The inspiration

Side note: I remember reading (where? when?) that these were made in Venice as an export or even something like a tourist souvenir. So even if you don’t have an Italian persona I do think it’s possible that you might have known of or even owned enameled glass. 

This project uses a modern craft supply, Pebeo Vitrea 160 paint. It can be painted on to glass and, after drying, can be baked to be made permanent. It’s easier to obtain and work with than actual historical enamel so it’s a good introduction for those just dabbling. I bought my paint at Blick Art Supplies for $6.99 per color. 

Until recently, one would have had to make do with just a regular modern glass tumbler for this project. But rather unexpectedly, the Pier 1 company apparently decided that everything old is new again and sells a particular style of tumbler that is, I’m assured, remarkably similar to 15th century Ventian glassware. Isn’t that nice of them? 

Here’s what you’ll need to paint yourself a glass:

 
Because the paint is somewhat pricey and a little goes a long way, this project is well suited to making many cups with one motif. Here I am using my household’s badge, and plan to make more glasses just like this one. 

Draw or trace your design, and cut it out:

 

Use tape to secure the image to the inside of the cup: 

  
Now it’s easy to trace your design! The thicker Vitrea paint for outlining comes in 20 mL tubes. Blick did not have white, so I settled for black. 

  
I found it was a pain to work with, and I practiced on my tracing paper to get a steady flow. 

  
Even with practice and wiping off then completely redoing the design (before baking you can remove the paints with a damp paper towel), the finished product was not as neat as I would have liked, but I decided it was passable for a first attempt. 

  
After removing the paper from inside the glass, you can start painting. For a translucent effect, you can dilute these paints with a thinner of the same brand. Since the original period reference looked fairly opaque, I skipped this step. Mix your paint well before starting and do one color at a time. (Again, this really lends itself to heraldry.) Use fairly small brushes and don’t mix media with your brushes. I just bought a cheap craft set of small rounds. 

  
I found it helpful to use more rather than less paint to get it to go on smoothly, and to work quickly so the entire area that I was working on stayed wet. 

  
Once the white was finished I washed my brush and did the blue. 

  

  I then used the blue and white paints to make some very simple decorations around the rest of the glass. Obviously the original is much more intricate, so maybe that’s what I can aim for in the next version. 

  
Let dry for at least 24 hours, then bake in a 325F oven for 40 minutes. 

The finished cup:

  
Happy crafting!

Simple DIY faux parchment lanterns 

Medieval lanterns seem to have fallen into three broad categories: 

  • All metal with holes cut to let out light
  • Wood and parchment
  • Ceramic

Someday, I plan to make myself some of the second type. But on a tight time and money budget, I hit upon a way to make something using screamingly modern craft supplies that, at least at a glance, gives a similar impression to a lantern with parchment in lieu of glass.   

  

These are very simple to put together and I don’t think the project ran me more thana few dollars per lamp. You don’t need any special skills or tools. While I think a true historical lantern is a much more worthy project, I suspect this simple DIY version is more in reach for many people; if you were going to bring a battery light, try this instead. 

Gather materials: 

 

The lanterns themselves and the scrapbooking vellum came from Craft Warehouse; I’m pretty certain they actually carry everything else shown here, but I was working out of my stash. 

Picture tutorial:

 

Measure  

 
Cut out 4 pieces of vellum for each lantern (you can easily get enough for two lanterns out of one piece of vellum). 

  

Check fit

  

Paint glue on glass. I tested several different adhesives and ModPodge was easiest to work with and lest the fewest wrinkles. 

 

Carefully place your vellum piece and smooth it out. 

Repeat for each glass side.  

 
Done! Let it dry and add a tealight and you’re good to go.