Vinegar

Preparing for the Tournament of Art

When I was planning out which events I was going to go to, I wasn’t not at first going to go to 12th Night/ToA. I try to limit myself to one event per month but I am really failing this year.

I wasn’t sure what I would have available to show in the ToA. Ciders aren’t ready. Paper is not cooperating. My glass work isn’t period. That left vinegar. And I have shown vinegar many times but I have one ace left up my sleeve.

I have made a faux balsamic vinegar. The plan was to doing something really special at a Pennsic with it. I only have a limited amount of it. Whereas real balsamic takes years (at least a dozen) to make, my faux balsamic takes 12 to 20 months.

What is this stuff? It is my Pinot Noir red wine vinegar, aged and reduced in an charred oak cask. Roughly 1 liter reduces down to ~4 ounces. I have about 8 ounces of it. So, not a lot but hopefully enough.

That is my plan. I will bring my vinegar poster display, a variety of vinegars to taste and the faux balsamic with a warning to taste it sparingly.

Part of the ToA is good conversation and I can certainly have that. Part of it is feedback and direction. I am eager to see what comes out of this. Wish me luck!

cider

Ciders coming along

Over the past few weeks, I have made about 5 gallons of cider. I will be doing a 101 history and tasting class on this and probably start it at Chieftains in February.

So far I have:

  • Cider made from Old Orchard Apple Juice Concentrate
  • Cider made from Louisburg Honeycrisp Cider (so sole source of apples)
  • Cider made from my local orchard’s sweet cider
  • Cider made from local orchard plus apricot juice
  • Cider made from local orchard plus peach juice
  • Cider made from Old Orchard plus pineapple juice

All of the ciders are ~6 to 7% ABV.

I have tried to backsweeten them but a few apparently still had live yeast in spite of a healthy dose of camden tablets. So I will have to cold crash, rack, and try to backsweeten again.

I have tasted all of them. You can make a surprisingly good cider from Old Orchard Concentrate. That makes it really cheap too. I calculate it at ~%0.67 per pint or ~$0.50 per 12 oz bottle. Using sweet cider from my local orchard comes in at ~$0.66 per 12 oz or ~$0.88 per pint. One of my local bars sells that same thing, a cider made from the very same local orchard’s sweet cider at $5.00 per pint.

My friend CJ recently went to his local orchard and bought apples to make a great cider. I am not sure how much he paid for his apples though. Pricing apples at my local orchard would come in at ~$1.50 per pint for “standard” apples.

So a local friend of mine apparently has apple trees. Still trying to figure out what they are. Maybe Early Crisps based on when they are ripe. So free is a great price for apple cider 🙂 That is next year’s project.

Persona

Anglo Saxon Religion – random notes

This weekend I got to actually sit down and do some research. I have been wanting to do a class on Anglo Saxon religion for a while. One, we really don’t know much about Anglo Saxon paganism. Two, their view of what it meant to be Christian would be a giant shock to modern Christians.

Here are some notes – for thoughts and reference.

  • It is a big mistake to see words like Woden and Thunor and assume the Norse myths are the way the Anglo-Saxon’s saw these deities. It is like the similarity between Roman and Greek deities. The Romans may have taken the Greek myths and drew parallels between their gods and Greek gods (and pretty much any other culture they came in contact with) but Jupiter and Zeus fundamentally behave very differently. So to, is Woden (the Anglo Saxon deity) different from Odin (the Norse deity) and Wodan (the Germanic deity)
  • Most of what we do know about Anglo Saxon paganism is from Anglo Saxon poems, place names, and surviving words.
  • All of our English day names are derived from A-S paganism.
  • I have always been fascinated to learn what other cultures called the planets. In the West, they are all named for Roman Gods, except for the Earth in English. Nerthis was an Anglo-Saxon earth goddess and therefore the name of this planet.
  • There is some evidence that Anglo-Saxon paganism was heavily tied to places. This is one of the tactics early Christian converters used. Where A-S pagans would worship at sacred trees, outdoor crosses were erected. Saints performed miracles at certain locations or were buried in certain locations to co-opt sacred nature sites into Christian lore.
  • On a popular level, a blend of pagan and Christian religion survived all the way up to the Conquest. The various healing charms often contain both pagan and Christian imagery.
  • The image of Christ as Lord worked particularly well on the Anglo Saxons. The word Lord comes from hfalord – bread giver. Pagan Anglo Saxons were used to a lord/servant relationship where ones work was due to the Lord and the Lord then gave back to you housing, food, etc. Substituting Christ as Lord was an easy sell.
  • Baptism and conversion worked well in war for the Anglo-Saxons. By converting after defeat, you were a Christian brother and therefore it could help enforce the peace (Christians shouldn’t attack each other). It was not unusual for the victor to give gifts to the newly converted loser.
  • Especially with the Viking invasions, and Cnut and Swein’s conquests, new churches were often founded by the laity, not the established Christian hierarchy. There was a lot of variation therefore in how the common people interacted with Christianity. And the local church officials were not necessarily beholden to the hierarchy.
  • Part of the struggle between Church and State had to do with who was going to appoint bishops, abbots, etc. When the State could do so, those officials were less inclined to alter doctrine to be more “official.”
  • The Anglo-Saxons had a love-hate relationship with their pagan past, especially elves. Many noteable people have names that suggests a positive view of elves. Aelfred – elf council. Aelfric (famous churchman; common name too) – Elf Ruler. Aelfwyn – Elf Friend. But then many diseases are referred to as elf shot.
cider, SCA Life, Vinegar

From A to V – cider and vinegar

Sometimes when someone asks me about vinegar, I mention how there isn’t much depth to it. It is a basic ingredient. It is like flour. Yes it is from time immemorial. You could get that special volcanic rock from Germany to grind the grain. But past that, it is grain ground down into a powder.

Vinegar is much the same way. It is a bacteria eating alcohol. It is hard to make it more complicated. Like varieties of flour, you can make it from a lot of different alcohols but at the end of the day. it is what it is.

Compare to one of my other hobbies, paper making. Paper making is also simple. But it has depth. This culture used this fiber, beat it this way, and cast it using these materials. A different culture used a different fiber, beat it a different way, and cast using different materials.

To add depth, I need to backtrack how the base materials are made. I don’t mean research, I mean agriculture. I have one example where I made the wine from canned wine grape juice. I was thinking of planting grapevines but grapes are picky. I then moved to ciders and apples. Apples come in faster and I can specify the variety grafted to rootstock.

But then I discovered that a friend of mine has apple trees and pear trees.

Still trying to identify the types. I have asked the Illinois Extension but no answer so far. I will keep hunting though.

I can take the apples, press them into sweet cider, make a hard cider, then make a vinegar. That is about as much depth as I can do with vinegar.

Actually, I can take it one more step. I have made a faux balsamic vinegar with Pinot Noir. I can do the same process with the apple cider vinegar.

So that is the plan. That is as complex as I can make vinegar. Starting with fruit, make the alcohol, make the vinegar, and reduce it to something like balsamic. Give me a year.

SCA Life

Same Rules Different Game

I made a FB post recently

Had another experience to post about.

At work, there is a small group of us who play pickleball. About a year ago, I got persuaded to join in. I played a bit of racquetball in college but sports aren’t really my thing. I have made it clear to everyone that I play for the physical activity of it. I want to run around. I would prefer not to embarass my teammates or myself but I am not necessarily interested in winning.

There are about 3 of us who are about my skill level and about three of who are much better than that. One of my co-workers is pretty competitive. He saves his John Macinrow tantrams for himself at least.

We rotate around today and he gives me some unsolitcited advice on how to play better. I somewhat sarcastically acknowledge it.

I then go on to play worse for a while. Not on purpose but he is my head now. In waiting to hear more advice, I am tempted to tell him “you can either be on my team or in my head, pick one.” I also wanted to give my own unsolicited advice, “get out of your own head as well.”

The whole point however is more about playing the game. While he and I are playing by the same ruleset, we are not playing the same game. He wants to make good shots and would really prefer to win. I want exercise. I am willing to improve at the speed of my experience but no faster.

This applies to many things, especially the SCA. We are all playing broadly by the same rules (the mega ones; obviously our specific subsets have other rules). But we are all not playing the same game. Before you are tempted to help correct someone’s game, find out what they are actually playing and whether they even want your help.

One commentor thought I should expand on it so here it goes. And I noticed that Sir Gebhart posted similar about heavy fighting.

People have different motivations for what they do. They have different goals. They have different access to resources. This should be obvious.

However, unsolicited feedback is a giant assumption that the other person wants to achieve the same goals as you. You are forcing your vision of “the game” on them. We have seen these comments before:

That outfit isn’t period; You should do this.

If you want to be a knight, you should do that.

The assumption is, you aren’t doing it the way I would do it so you are doing it wrong. Basically, you must share my goal of being the best.

But not everyone is playing that game. Perhaps, they enjoy something different. If you want to give legitimate feedback, then you have to work to understand what you are seeing.

The first thing is you need to understand the other person’s goal. What are they trying to achieve? What is their motivation?

Next once you have that, what kind of feedback are they looking for? Pretty often with my crafts, I am pretty aware of my limitations. I may not have access to certain equipment or certain techniques. Feedback that involve those things isn’t helpful.

Lastly, that feedback needs to be given in such a way that the other person will accept it and do something with it. This doesn’t mean sugar coating it and it doesn’t mean the “compliment sandwich.” But it also doesn’t mean snide one-liners either. The feedback also needs to be something the person can do. Telling someone who is just starting that they need to improve with an advanced technique isn’t going to help.

What does all of this mean? It means that you have to get to know the person you are giving feedback to. It is not as simple as a few sentences. It is a conversation. If you don’t have time to learn all of these things, then maybe you need to keep your feedback to yourself.

It is quite different when someone approaches you and asks for feedback and that is almost always a conversation.

Paper, Persona, SCA Life, Vinegar

Post about Posters

At Duchess Wars, Hrefna held a class on SCA:iri and other ways to present information. She mentioned tri-fold posters are popular in the science community to give quick updates on research. And one of the things she stressed was develop your own “brand” or “theme” so people can readily identify your posters. I do have more current drafts; below are the images from before the more recent revisions.

I like the idea. Here are three mock-ups on posters I will put together for upcoming craftperson’s displays.

I have chosen to use my device colors to help brand them. On the more recent versions, I have included my name and contact information.

Here is a persona study poster. I talk about Bath, and the three Oswyns and where they are in development.

I think this is my favorite one. It is about vinegar and why I call it anti-brewing.

Then lastly one about paper. It is medieval recycling; especially compared to modern paper.

Paper, SCA Life

Second Pages

I pulled my second set of sheets this past weekend. Basically I am on hour 3 of the 10000 needed for mastery. But it is getting there. It is kind of relaxing.

We will take it as read that I have the vat charged. Here I am getting ready to put my mould and deckle together. In most moulds, the screen is attached to the mould. I actually like this one better because it is easier to clean off and couch the sheets.

Then you dip the mould into the vat. In general, you start away from you and pull it towards you.

It is hard to show the detail. First notice, the screen is completely covered. And I am doing very little shaking. Compared to the first sheets I pulled, these are much more smooth. The fiber was beaten much more finely. That is the big difference. And I am getting less clumping.

Draining the sheets. It takes a lot of water to make paper and then you need to give rid of a lot of water. This is another reason I like the removeable screen; easier to drain. Notice, the paper fibers aren’t moving anywhere. It is not very strong because it is so wet but they are holding together well enough to resist gravity.

Now couching (rhymes with smooching) the sheet onto a felt. It is not necessarily actually felt. Felt is just jargon for whatever wick-able substance you try the paper on. Several of these are built up into a post.

Here is the post on the press.

I transfer the sheets onto boards to dry and as proof of concept, it works! As you can see, when the sheets are dry enough, they start to peel off the boards by themselves.

Ok. They look like crap. I will grant you that. These are much smoother than the first sheets. There are tears and folds due to poor technique by me. Those will get better with time. And I need to glaze them yet. That should help with smoothness as well. I think they are too thin for the purpose as well. But for early stages learning something? I will take it.

Might pull some more before Artisan’s Day but if I don’t, I feel I can demonstrate the process well enough to talk about it.

Paper, SCA Life

First Pages

*photos wouldn’t load and I forgot which ones now..*

In preparation of Artisan’s Day, I knew I had to stop procrastinating and actually try to make some paper.

I made my first 6 sheets this week. And it was indeed lessons that needed to be learned.

First off, making paper is actually pretty easy. It is often taught to grade school children. Now they are given recycled modern paper but all of the important steps are the same. For the record the steps are:

  1. Process fibers into pulp
  2. mix pulp with water
  3. use a screen of some kind to lift out the pulp
  4. remove excess water

Pretty easy, right? As one video I watched on Chinese hand-made paper said, “there is a subtly”. Yes there is.

For my first 6 papers, I bought a papermaking kit last December and used the pressed cotton fiber that came with it. Rip up that fiber, add water, and mix with a paint mixer. So I did that.

Added that pulp to more water. I needed a better mould so I bought better moulds.

I pulled the sheets, couched them, made a post, and then pressed them in the press for ~24 hours.

I then took the sheets out of the press and brushed them onto boards to dry further.

Things don’t dry quickly in my basement.

Some lessons. How you process your fiber is critical. While I am sure these first 6 sheets are fine for art uses, they are not very smooth or regular. I have purchased some fiber that another place has beaten. In our period, fibers were beaten by hand or by trip hammers. By hand is possible for me but time consuming. So already beaten fiber is a good first step. We will see if this helps.

I may need to move to pour moulds. A pour mould is a like the mould and deckle in the photo above but it has a much deeper mould. The idea is that you pour the fiber for each sheet into this large mould. All of the fiber from that pour makes 1 sheet of paper. You have a lot more control per sheet this way. It is slower but makes a nice paper.

Drying. I don’t want to make a more “modern” drier. So I will have to figure out how to use heat or the sun to make this happen.

The inevitability of this is our technology is advanced much further than the medieval. It is actually harder to go back to what was before. If this was a 15 century paper mill, I would have a water wheel on a stream that drove my trip hammers. I would have a ready source of linen to be beaten. I would have a loft with built in fireplaces to hang the paper to dry. I could go back further. If this was a 10th century, Islamic paper mill, I would have slaves to beat the fibers into pulp by hand. I would have fires built behind a plaster wall to keep the wall warm to dry the paper. This just isn’t how the modern world works. I could buy an electric beater. That is about $5000. I can build a cheap drying box which is a box fan, and corrogated plastic sheets for probably less than $100. I could build my pour moulds with plastic window screening and cheap MFB frames.

To build a water wheel, trip hammers, a drying loft, and a source of linen is extremely expensive in the modern world.

I will take this back as far as I can. But first, I need to be able to make the product I am after. Then I can engineer or decide on the steps to make it more authentic. So mastery first then authenticity.

cider, SCA Life

This is going to take CONCENTRATION

In researching what it takes to make cider, I priced equipment and apples. A good commercial cider is ~ $10 per 6 pack. That is ~$90 for 5 gallons.

The apples I priced out the grocery store (~$2.00 per pound). That won’t work. That is nearly $200 per 5 gallons to make cider. Nope.

The local orchard (assuming I have equipment) anywhere from $60 to $160 per 5 gallons for the apples. Better, sometimes much better. But need the equipment to juice apples.

Store bought juice anywhere from $25 to $60 per 5 gallons. With frozen concentrate being the $25 option. It is a good and inexpensive place to start. I believe Conal (Jim Hart) made his Lemonade cider from frozen concentrate.

Planting my own trees and getting the equipment, I can get the price down to $20 per 5 gallons, once the equipment and trees are in, producing fruit, and that stuff paid for. Long term goals.