cider, SCA Life, Vinegar

Ciderize – progress report on a lot of stuff

I started batch number of two of my cheap cider and added it to the blueberries last night. 2 gallons of cider over 3 pounds of frozen blueberries. I will let that sit for a while and see what we get.

I had friends try my cheap cider this weekend. The two who sampled it said it was good. The one prefers dry and liked it very much. It is dry despite my efforts to backsweeten it. The other also said it was good but prefers a sweeter cider. I will consider it a win.

I divided up the malt vinegar I had for those who wanted it. The Xocovez is different than I remember. Time is an ingredient you shouldn’t forget with brewing or vinegars. Gertie suggested I make more and then do my cask aging on it. I think I will 🙂

Started a new batch of malt with Blue Moon. 14 for a 12-pack was too much to pass up for new vinegar.

I figured out some character issues in my roleplaying 🙂

That is it for progress report for now.

cider, SCA Life, Vinegar

Blueberry cider

I finished the first round ciders. I set aside 16 oz bottle of each to be a sampling kit for my cider class. I then took ~ 1/2 gallon of one to make into vinegar. This is part of the “step back process”. The rest are for general consumption of my gaming group to improve what I am doing.

What do I mean by “step back”? I mean “can I take this process and make it a step closer to period practice?” Doing the Orleans Process on my apple ciders is a step back. Making my own alcohols verses store bought is a step back. There aren’t a lot of step backs in vinegar making. Once you are growing your own fruits and making your own alcohols, that is about it. I guess you could try to reverse breed back to a medieval strain of fruit. I suspect that is very hard and unless you can go back to Europe and figure out how to reset the soil chemistry 1000 years, you have made a close as you can get.

I started a new cider to make a blueberry cider. I think I have frozen cherries and raspberries I need to use too. Just like when I started cordials, I am in the “let’s play with this” phase. Make a ton of variants to see what I like and what works.

I still need to make “Froderick’s World Hopper” Perry. That is a goal. French pears and Indian spices. Looking at cardamon and vanilla I think.

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.

SCA Life, Vinegar

Bring me a Shrub (-ery)

One of the things I have discussed with my brewing mentor and the proprietress of The Drunken Duck is the need for non-alcoholic drinks. Elspeth often supplies with her very fine and delicious syrups. But there is often the need for outside water or some other mixer. Verena will sometimes make a root beer or something well.

I figured this is where my vinegar habit can help.

There is an old traditional drink called a shrub. Sekhangeben is a shrub. Lemonade is a shrub. So it is a very old drink.

I just did the calculations. Basically, when serving a shrub, it is about 1 Tbsp of shrub syrup per 6 to 8 ounces of water. Doing all of the calculations, basically a quart to a quart and a quarter per 5 gallon keg of water. I can do that! I can do that several times per year! I have an entire small refrigerator that I can fill with shrub syrups! Running it out of the keg means not needing outside water and the CO2 for the keg can provide some of the efforvence (msp).

If you go back in this blog, you will see I made about a new cordial per two weeks or so at one point. I make vinegar very often. It takes about 6 weeks to make a quart but I often run 4 to 6 at one time.

If I can get a keg or use one of Verena’s, I can make a keg-able shrub in time for Baroness Wars (or Duchess Wars). Let’s do it 🙂