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

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 🙂

cider, SCA Life

First Cider

I started my first cider this weekend. It was an easy recipe so I am confident it will come out okay. I bought a high-end apple juice and used a packet of what says it is cider yeast. A little pectin enzyme to clear things up and wine tannin and acid to balance things.

In the meantime, I had some very good ciders. The Blind Pig, a local brewery, has a cider that is a short term goal. They used the soft apple cider from the local orchard to make their cider. I want to do the same in the near future.

I had a blueberry cider that was just dreamy. I have read about peach ciders as well.

I foresee a small orchard in my backyard once I get good at this.

I also talked to several potential new members of my shire recently as well.

Slowly, the list is getting worked on.

Persona, SCA Life

It’s what’s in CIDER you that counts

Last weekend with the Middle Kingdom’s 50th celebration. As usual, Verena ran the Drunken Duck and I, per usual, helped her run it. I am not sure what real relationship as it pertains to the bar is. It is HER bar. I run it when she is gone. Others brew way more than I do and that is what leads to this post.

A while ago, a good friend said of me that I was not a brewer. And to a large extent they were right. I don’t brew. I make cordials. Cordials are fun and easy and by and large not really period. Oh there were some cordials but for the most part it is guesswork on whether any particular one every existed. Oswyn of Baðon wouldn’t have a clue what a cordial was. Oswyn Swann might but since he is now a paper merchant, they aren’t his thing either.

And truthfully, cordials haven’t thrilled me in a while. I have made at least 50 different kinds of cordials in the last 5 years. I have made over 20 gallons of the stuff in that time. I make a pretty good cordial. I have taught about cordials. And I have watched my cordials mostly sit on the shelf in our tavern. By and large, people don’t want them. This weekend, it was mostly mead, ciders, and beers that people wanted. Maelcolm kicked 4 kegs to my knowledge. Dai about 3. Jhondo 2 and some. Bottles of meads were consumed. When people wanted a cordial, it was easier to steer them to Liaden’s very tasty but single flavored berry cordials than try to explain a blueberry lemongrass gin to them. So partly my own fault really.

I really don’t drink much at home. Especially given the amount of cordials I make. I still love my Grand Manier, St Germain, and a few beers and ciders.

So it hit me, why am I making cordials? Just because that is all that I have made? I made a wine to turn into vinegar (yeah I know. I am weird). Then it occurred to me, I could make my own cider. And then turn some of that into vinegar too. And it is something that Oswyn of Baðon might have made. Let me explain.

From one of the classes I teach, the Anglo Saxons knew of four alcoholic drinks, medu, ealu, win, and beor. Mead, Ale, wine, and we don’t know.

But Oswyn, that is obviously beer, you say. Nope. Pregnant women were advised to avoid beor but not ale. That suggests a drink higher in alcohol than ale. While hops were used occasionally in early period, this isn’t the time to distinguish beer from ale yet. There is this word in Old English, beordrunken . It means very drunk. There are several words about getting drunk from mead. None of them mean “very drunk”. So this also suggested beor is stronger than it seems. And in French, cider is bere. So beor might have been a cider, a super cider, or an freeze distilled applejack. And cider in particular is missing from our 4 drink list.

I want to make a cider. I want to make a signature cider for the Drunken Duck. And then I want to turn it into vinegar, because I am weird like that.

Yes another hobby but one that fits into the greater picture. I have been told I lack focus. That is only because you are standing too close to see the whole picture. Trust me, it is all related.

Cider fits in with my persona, fits in with one of the things I do on a regular basis, and helps to give back to those who gave to me. It is all there folks. Wish me well.

SCA Life

A matter of Perspective

I have not been an apprentice very long but one of the first thing my Laurel said to me is “people think you lack focus.” My response was “then people aren’t paying attention.”
I wanted to lay out what I work on, why I work on it, and how they are interconnected.

Let’s start with my history studies. I decided on an Anglo-Saxon persona when I was listening to the History of England podcast and the British History podcast. The earlier podcast at started talking about Alfred the Great. And I was struck by, “why have I never heard of this guy before?” My wife and I loved our visit to Bath. So it was a natural to make my persona from there. At one of my first events, I asked my mentor why there are so many “make and take” classes but relatively few pure history classes? I don’t remember the answer but I then decided I wanted to deep dive into what the late Anglo Saxon world was like.

Before joining the SCA, I started learned to do stained glass. I then branched out into fused glass. As much as I love it, it is a modern art form that I am doing. Did Classical and Medieval people do fused glass? Yes. But I don’t have the means to do it the way they did it. I make plates, tokens, and medallions but they are very modern. So I looked for another art form I could do that was period.

At the first RUM I attended, I took some classes on cordials. It was just after our fire. Cordials didn’t take a lot of space or work. I leapt in. I made scores of cordials. Some of them got to be pretty good. But again, as easy as cordials are, most are not period. So the search continued.

I had all of these small bits of cordials around. What can I do with all of this alcohol? Vinegar! Few people were doing it and it was very important to all eras of civilization. You cooked with it. You preserved food with it. You drank it. You cleaned with it. To date, I have made vinegar out of meads, wines, cordials, beers, ales, and ciders. I have tried to make vinegar out of anything with alcohol in it.

It turns out there is not much depth to vinegar. It was important. There are whole industries that revolve around it. But the actual making of it isn’t too complex. But my vinegar obsession is directly related to my cordial making. And the next phase of my journey with this is directly related again. I want to make my own wine and turn that into vinegar. I will eventually grow my own grapes and turn that into wine then to vinegar. These things are related.

All along the path, I am looking at how does this fit with my persona? Is Oswyn of Baðon a historian? A vintner? A glazier? He was educated at Bath Abbey. He knows his history. I don’t think he was a glazier. But maybe a vintner and a vinegarie.

I was asked about a year ago if I would like to sell my glassware as part of the Starlight Syndicate. I was flattered. Several of my closest friends are part of that. But it was clear that I couldn’t do it. Glass, at least, what I do, is too expensive. I would have to sell for ~$100 or more and have $1000s in inventory. I couldn’t afford that. But it did get me thinking, what could I sell?

I can’t sell my cordials. And I can’t sell my vinegars. Both would take a lot of licensing and inspections. Then it hit me, paper. We make handpainted awards, so why not handmade paper? And it occurred to me that Oswyn Swann might be a stationer. So we are going down that road now.

All of this looks like a mess. To some extent, it is solving the maze of my personae. Sometimes you follow a promising path in a maze but it turns out it is a dead end. If you step back a bit, you will see it is all interrelated. It all goes towards, “what can I give back? What can I contribute?” I give away a lot of what I work on. Some have claimed or implied I only do it for some sort of fame or glory. Do I enjoy the whatever fame comes with it? Of course I do. Who doesn’t like acknowledgement for what they do? But I don’t do it for the fame or glory. I do it because when I needed it most, the SCA was there. The people in the SCA were there. What can I do to make it a better place? That is why I do what I do. That is what they have in common.

Paper, SCA Life, Uncategorized

Then you need a partner and a plan

So in It starts with research, I showed the model I did of a 16th century European papermill. I put up that display at Dragonshire 12th Night / Festival of Maidens and I was honored to get Mistress Gianneta as my patron for this endeavor.

Let’s back up a bit. Why am I doing this? About 8 months ago, maybe close to a year but I don’t think so, Dr Best asked if I was interested in joining the Starlit Syndicate. I was flattered. Many of my close friends are part of it; Lucretia, Gunnar, Heather, and yes even Dr Best. He pointed out that the shop has generated several laurels which is indeed true. The issue? What should I sell? I guessed that he thought about my glass work. I declined. One I wasn’t going to Pennsic that year. Two I don’t have any inventory to sell. I did some number crunching and I just don’t think I can sell my glass. It costs between $50 to $75 for me to make a glass bowl. I would have to sell them for at least $100 and I just don’t think people will pay for that. Plus I would have to have many $100s to possibly $1000s of inventory to sell even a small number of bowls. I just can’t afford to do that.

So I looked at what could I sell? I can’t sell my cordials. And I can’t sell my vinegars. Both would require licensing and inspections and then to sell across state lines would require more regulations. That is not worth the hassle. I already decided glass was out. Plus, the glass I do is really not medieval. So if I wanted to sell something, it would have to be something new. I didn’t want to be full time merchant but it would work well for my Oswyn Swann persona. So I want to do something to give and something to sell. See Words on Paper for more.

The plan then. I got a papermaking kit for Yule. Most parts are there. I need to rig up a cheap press. Ideally, it should be a screw press. I also need a drying method. The papermill display used a drying loft. But that is not very portable and takes up more space than I have. But I do need to dry many sheets at one time. I could build a drying box. It is still not portable. But there is an older technique that would work well. I can get flat surfaces and either heat them or let the sun do the work. And I need to look into a glazing hammer. But I have everything I need to do a proof of concept.

The plan is to pull some sheets. There is a small amount of skill needed. Once that goes well, upgrade equipment. Then I will start with already beaten fiber with sizing. Then move back to already beaten fiber without sizing and adding it as I need to. I might on occasion create my own fiber but that requires even more equipment and time. Things would have to go very well for me to afford that.

Watermarking will be a thing and branding as well. I have brands already decided 🙂

SCA Life

I swear . . .

I think about oaths a lot.  I take oaths very seriously.  I am often surprised how not seriously some people take oaths.  Here are some thoughts.

In the SCA, we are attempting to recreating the Middle Ages as the should have been, or could have been.  So we give oaths and we value chivalry.  Or at least give lip service to that.  I am sure there are many people who actually also treat their oaths seriously but there are visible few who don’t.

In our modern society, there really is only one oath that has consequence.  If you are called to testify in a judical proceeding, you will be asked to take an oath to tell the truth.  If it is then discovered that you lied, you can then be tried for perjury.   Just about all other oaths have no real consequence.  The oaths of marriage are easily dissolved.  The oath of office for public service or the military are often overlooked.  Again, as long as the people vote for you again or your superiors don’t care, the oath is hollow.

And there is a reason our modern society went this way.  If there was honor in the real Middle Ages, it quickly was used for nefarious purpose.  Old Anglo-Saxon laws allowed those of high station to swear an oath as proof they didn’t do something.  I am sure originally it was felt that honor would rule the day but it probably didn’t take long for someone to simply swear they didn’t do something and suffer no consequence.  As society evolved, it was clear that most oaths didn’t mean anything.

Back to the SCA then.  I talked to a few friends about this.  Advice I got ranged from “some people just don’t think they are in the wrong and therefore believe they are true to their oath.” to “for some, taking oaths is just part of the game.”  And of course, there are many who believe the oaths they take.

Back when Sir Seto was on vigil, I made a replica of Oathbinder in stained glass for him.  I gave Oathbinder a motto (maybe it already had one).  I felt all good swords should have a motto.  I put on the stained glass, “No one may speak falsely within my reach.”  I intended a double meaning.  One, that the magic of the sword would not allow you to speak falsely.  Two, the fact that a naked blade was presented to you, you would be unwilling to speak falsely under threat of beheading.  It may be foolish to hope for a magical blade that made it impossible to say that which is not true.  Oaths would be binding then.  You literally could not say words that you didn’t believe.

In some way, the modern business culture of mission statements and values is like oaths.  We are encouraged at my company at least to reflect on that mission statement and corporate values daily.  How will I engage in teamwork today?  That kind of thing.  We should do the same with our oaths.  We should mediate on those words.  For me, since I am only a member of the populace, I would think “to serve where I might according to my knowledge and ability.”  How will I do that today?  For those of you who do reflect on your oaths, I applaud you.  We need more who will “champion the good”, “protect the innocent”, “work for the common good”, and “promote the diverse arts.”

For those of you who don’t really reflect on your oaths, maybe you should.  Your word should have meaning.  When you take an action, you should reflect back, did I act in accordance to my oath?  If not, what will you do about it?  I really wish there was a good mechanism for enforcing or giving consequence for violating one’s oath.

Just some thoughts about oaths.

SCA Life, tablet weaving

My love-hate relationship with tablet weaving

Before we got into the SCA, my wife and I went to Ren Faires more and we (mostly she) made our own clothes.  To help with that process, I decided to learn tablet weaving.   I figured, people have been doing this for 10,000 years, surely I can figure it out.

Needing help with those clothes is what brought us to the SCA.

I don’t mind weaving but there are certain things I don’t like.  I don’t like warping my looms.  That takes a lot of time and I often do it wrong.  Even for patterns I have done before!  Simple patterns are good for me.  I can get lost in the 4F/4B and etc.  But patterns which require turning certain cards and not others quickly frustrate me.  And of course, those are the interesting patterns!

I have finished my last round of glass and I said I would work on my garb.  I need to make new garb and accessories and those things need trim.

I am trying to decide what trim to make and trying to find patterns that I like and actually like doing.  My universe is small.  I have even considered buying some trim from others who (hopefully) enjoy doing the more complex patterns.  But the other part of me wants to do it myself.  So simple patterns here we come!

Wish me luck!

Here are some of the trim I have made in the past.