Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Beaded Bag

 So here is the finished beaded bag I was alluding to last week.  I started this a couple years ago when I had a terrible case of start-itis.  If memory serves me, my local Hobby Lobby was discontinuing some or all of their Delica beads and had a big clearance sale.  Delica beads are Japanese and quite expensive because they are so well and precisely made.  They are the DMC of beads as far as color uniformity goes and are put to good use in peyote stitch projects because they are so uniform in size and shape.  I bought quite a few packets of various blue shades and mixed them together and strung them up in a hank with my bead spinner.  I didn't know how many I had so I thought of a simple drawstring bag beaded with single beads on one side of the fabric only.  That way I'd get the most mileage out of that seemingly small hank of beads.  I used size 8 DMC pearl cotton thread in a pale blue shade and knit a few rows of stockinette on my 0000 needles and made a few yarn over buttonholes for a drawstring to go through.
 I maybe got through an inch of beaded knitting before abandoning it in my bead knitting tin where bead knitting goes to die.  Once fair season came around, I began thinking of what I could enter this year and found this and decided to finish it.  Bead knitting really is not a complicated process but it is slow going because you are knitting with thread on practically piano wire.  Before you start, you thread all your beads onto the thread and have to keep sliding the beads down the thread.  Keep in mind, you might have 3 yards of strung beads on your ball of thread when you first start.  You might knit 6 inches worth of beads into place with 12 yards of thread and still have to keep sliding the remaining 2 5/6 yards of beads down the line as you go.  In any case, you will always have yards of unwound thread to deal with so I've found it is best to keep your thread in a bowl to contain this mass.  Here is my work in progress at rest in my bead knitting bowl.
 This is towards the end of the project and towards the end of the second ball of thread.  The bowl is also handy because as you work, the thread won't roll all over the floor.  In the end, I used just over 2 balls of thread and all but 30 or so of the beads. 
This bag may not look simple but it is.  It is just a plain strip of fabric knit as long as I possibly could with amount of beads I had.  The ends are knit in stockinette but the beaded part is all garter stitch with beads saddled between the stitches on only one side of the fabric.  The sides were whip stitched with the tails of the knitting and I made 2 twisted cords for the drawstring.  I think my favorite thing about bead knitting is the weight of the work because beads are made of glass.  As delicate as this object appears, it is heavy because of the beads.  I am very proud to say that this bag won the Grand Champion in the needlework class of the Washington County Fair and won me a gift certificate to a yarn shop!

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Baked Cucumbers and Pork Pies

Yes you heard me correctly.  Baked cucumbers.  This is one of my favorite summer recipes and I just have to share it.  The wonderful and immortal Julia Child published this recipe in her Mastering The Art Of French Cooking and it is a rare and undiscovered gem of a dish.  It's a great way to use up an abundance of summer garden cucumbers and also tasty in winter with hydroponic supermarket cukes.  This is also one of the few recipes I will happily use the oven for in the summer heat.
 Start with 6-8 good sized cucumbers.  Peel them, cut the ends off and cut them in half.  Scoop the seeds out.  Slice each half lengthwise into 3 strips.  Cut each strip into 2 inch planks.  Meanwhile, combine 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, 1/8 tsp sugar and 1 1/2 tsp. salt in a large bowl.  Throw your cuke planks into the bowl and toss to coat.  Set aside for at least 30 minutes or for several hours.  At this point, you have the best natural air freshener sitting on your counter.  The whole room will smell like cucumbers!
 Here are my 8 cucumbers from the garden of my parents-in-law tossed in my bowl.  Next, wring them out in batches using 2 or 3 paper towels for each batch.  You will be amazed how much water comes out as well as how much has collected in the bowl.
 Here is the same bowl and the same amount of cukes after wringing out.  If you simply baked chopped cucumbers, they would turn to mush because of the water content.
 Next, spray a 12 inch wide x 1.5 inch deep baking dish with oil or rub with butter.  Toss your treated cukes with 3 Tbsp melted butter, 1/2 tsp dill or basil, 3-4 Tbsp minced onion, and 1/8 tsp black pepper.  Here are my cukes tossed with the above.  I absolutely LOVE dill and have never tried this recipe with basil.  I am always very generous with my dill.
 Bake at 375 for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes.  As you can see, they very barely brown and are still quite crunchy after baking.  They almost have that "squeak on your teeth" quality to them.  I usually end up adding another 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of salt to these after they come out of the oven.  Like I said, you can burn up a bunch of cucumbers with this recipe and 2-4 people can easily finish this off.  I also don't mind using the oven in summer for this because they are so tasty.  I am going to try using my crock pot on high for this and see if I have decent results.  Num num!
These are my second attempt at the pork pies I baked last weekend.  I first ate a real live pork pie back in Thirsk, England years ago on a trip there with my mother.  Mr. Granger of Are You Being Served? fame was always eating them.  They are North England's answer to the pasty.  Miners would often eat them because they were filling and portable.  I enjoy all the cooking shows on TPT on Saturday mornings and unexpectantly saw an episode of Around the Farm Table.  Here she was, in Wisconsin, making pork pies!  She very cleverly baked them in a jumbo muffin pan and I couldn't wait to try it out myself.  I baked them as described in the written recipe but unfortunately, I couldn't hack them out of my muffin tin and they were quite bland.  This second time around, I added 1.5  tsp salt to both the meat mixture and the pastry mixture and I baked them free-form.  I smushed the meat mixture into a 3/4 c measuring cup to form 4 meat 'cakes'.  Then I used a large circle cookie cutter to cut the top and a small bowl to cut the body.  I set the meat cake on the body round, placed the top round on top, and then folded up and crimped the body to the top.  I baked them for 45 minutes but I forgot to brush them with the egg mixture.  Otherwise they would have browned better.  These were so much more like the ones I ate in England.  Traditionally the meat shrinks inside the pastry casing and they would pour a gelatin mixture into the dough slits after baking.  The gelatin mixture would gel and prevent the shrunken meat from knocking around inside the pastry.  I did not do that extra step and thought these were just fine as they were.  My father in law loves pork and he concurred that these were just fine as they were.  These are not an every day entree because the pastry crust contains lard.  They are a nice treat every now and again though.
Speaking of not every day food...here is a picture of a deep fried grilled cheese sandwich!  Dave and I went to the Washington County Fair on Friday.  This was our favorite terrible food of the day.  It is amazing what you can find deep fried at fairs.  This was delicious though!  I am also proud to say that I took home the top 3 prizes in knitting this year:  Grand Champion for my bead knitted drawstring bag, Reserve Grand Champion for my red striped jacket, and Top Place Knitted Exhibit for my 3 piece baby set.  As well as the 2 top rosette ribbons, I also won the 2 $25 gift certificates to local yarn shops!  FREE YARN!  Next is the State Fair!