Thursday, 30 April 2015

Jerky made using shop 'sauces'

I recently tried a couple of 'jerky' recipes (at my wife's request) and had a fair amount of the sauces left. I decided to try using them to make real jerky, well I say real jerky, I was using a dehydrator so it wouldn't be smoked.

These are the two sauces in question. As well as seeing how they performed I was also interested to see what jerky would be like without using sauces such as teryaki, soy or Worcester sauce which neither of these preparations contain, and whilst I was experimenting with them I also did some jerky with the afore mentioned teryaki, ginger and garlic jerky too.

As you can see the sauces are wet and gloopy, and as with other jerky mixes and ingredients The spent the night in a plastic bag in the fridge overnight. I cut out descriptive stickers to put on the side of the dehydrator trays so that I knew what was what when it was done.

I must say that the colour was good when done, but the jerky process seemed to heighten the heat of two sauces that where quite hot to start with  but it was nice to try jerky without the usual sauces in for a change. My favourite of the two was the Tropical sun one, with the open brand one being just a little too hot (probably due to it having 3% Scotch bonnet in it!). I will use the sauces again but I don't think anything beats soy or teryaki based marinades.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Lacto fermentation

Lacto fermentation doesn't have a snappy ring does it? It would take a hot PR company to make it so too. Now one of the proudest moments for me in recent years has been the fight a small but organised group of residents took the fight to a waste company to prevent an incinerator being built near our town. Now the reason I mention this is that we all became familiar with waste disposal methods, one of which was anaerobic digestion and the reason that I mention this is that the fermentation process is anaerobic too.

Once I'd got past that thought I set about getting started. In the past I've made some bushcraft confectionery using a Fergus Drennan recipe from a cardboard insert that Bushcraft and Survival Skills magazine (issue 36) had in. I'd always wanted to try lacto fermentation (think Sauerkraut) which also featured on the card. 

Fergus used seaweed in his recipe but an abundant supply of Few Flowered Leek near me meant that I was spurred into action to try it. I'd recently had cortisone injections in my hands so I used this as an excuse to send my two sons out to pick them. 


I was planning to make one jar full but the boys applied themselves and came back with a good supply so I thought I'd see if I had enough for a second jar. It is easy to see from the right hand side picture above triangularish leaf profile.


Onto the milk separation. The recipe used lemon juice and I was interested to see how quickly it separated the curds and whey because I recall helping on a school trip on a Tudor day and vinegar was used to make a cottage cheese whey and it worked quickly (milk protein was also used as a glue for making shields I believe). lemon juice also started off quickly too and was left overnight. I used just under a pint and a quarter for this.

To separate the curds from the whey I used a frame mounted muslin bag which I usually employ to strain fruit when making jam or leather. It looks a bit milky but this is just a small layer of fine whey that gets through which quickly goes to the bottom.

As you can see, the whey is a lot clearer even straight after straining and it made just under a pint from a pint and a half or so. With a fair bit of whey left I added a shot of fine sea salt, lined a pastry cutter with cling film and placed it in the fridge on kitchen roll with a cling film wrapped can on top to shape it and remove the moisture (I had to change the kitchen roll several times).

Whilst letting the whey finish settling I roughly chopped up the three cornered leek and added sea salt and slightly more than the stated amount of whey, and then had fun shoving it all in the jar!

I did have a fair bit left over so I added another Fergus recipe card ingredient, namely grated cucumber to a second jar. This meant the only omitted ingredient was onion as it seemed overkill with obvious properties of the primary ingredient. The only issue I had in the bottling was submerging the three cornered leek leaves whilst leaving a gap. I pushed them down as best I could and wedged a piece of scrunched up cling film in to help submerge the leaves. they are left at an ambient temperature with a regular check for gas build up.


And yep, I still had some spare! I rinsed the whey off the leaves and made a small impromptu pot of pickled leek and cucumber by just adding malt vinegar. To do two small coffee jars full I'd suggest using one and a half pints of milk because it was a bit tight filling the jars with the whey from one and a quarter pints.

For future lacto fermentattion attempts I will leave the leaves either unchopped or only in half (depending what I was doing) because even this very rough chop has seen issues with bits of leaf floating past any plastic bag barrier I insert and the process needs to have oxygen excluded to work. I will also use the jam jar style (pictured above) because I managed to insert a small round plastic disc, cut from a strawberry punnet, into each of the coffee jars and then reinserted the folded bag, but it was a bit of a faff. This shape of jam jar would facilitate a round plastic disc being slipped in easily.

The day after the preparation and bottling I tried the now fairly solid cheese curd with some jack-by-the-hedge leaves on some slightly posh oat crackers and home made slow rise bread. The lemony, salty combination was fantastic with the hastily foraged leaves, and this has led me to purchase some essence of rennet to further experiment with basic cheese making...A happy discovery in the lacto fermentation process.

I decided to make the switch to the jam jars as I was having continual trouble securing the leaves below line, even with a plastic disc weighed down with a cleaned pebble placed on top! I have popped the disc and pebble in the new jars to and will investigate using clear plastic yogurt lids going forward as they are perfectly round and should fit nicely to the sloping glass sides. As per the procedure I got a gentle 'Phsst' from the mix after five days when I undid the lid to check for gas.

So to the taste. As mentioned earlier I've never tried anything lacto fermented so I really didn't know what to expect...I like it! The only thing I can liken it to is pickles and specifically cornichons yet it has a taste of it's own.


I have a lot of wild cabbage growing near me, well I'm not 100% sure what it's name is but Kevan Palmer identified it at this evening. Silly boy, I should have concentrated. Anyway, I was going to try and make Sauerkraut but the cabbage plants aren't big enough at the moment so it will wait...Like the impromptu pickled few flowered leeks that I did...All good things and all that. Oh, and the three cornered leeks were decent too.

I've also found myself looking over this Facebook page too.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Ragsto Kelly kettle bag

A while ago I stripped a load of leather off my old three piece suite and harvested lots of usable stuff, and whilst I have several projects in mind, including another crack at these Joe O'Leary inspired moccasins I had more than I could use.

A Scouting magazine supplement  article featuring Ragsto

I mentioned at the end of the stripped leather blog page that I'd be sending a large quantity of leather to Ragsto, and getting a Kelly kettle bag made at the same time. I have to confess that I forgot it was all boxed up and have only just dispatched around four and half kilos of leather via the  folk at Parcelforce. I'd said that I'd do a blog about the bag when it arrived and requested some pictures of the before and after so there aren't any of my own on here.

My original kettle bag is really showing it's age so it needed replacing, and I've also got a piece of my sofa back! The Ragsto site has a bushcraft section.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Three Leaves, Three Ways

Three leaves, three ways...with different dishes, different results.


Having seen Kevan Palmer’s quiches from his rather fine blogging efforts from last year  I decided that I’d have a crack to hopefully sneak some foraged ingredients into tea, under the family’s radar(!). The three leaves used are: few leafed leek (with a chivey, leek taste), jack-by-the-hedge (a chivey taste), and ramsons (a garlicky taste).

few leaved leeks and ramsons growing together

 By the way, I love the way that leaves can vary in size and shape, none more so that the jack-by-the-hedge. As you can see in the picture below it can be as small as a 10p, or the size of a jam lid, rounded or arrow head shaped. But I digress.

I decided to do a ham hock*** and few leaved leek, ramson and jack-by-the-hedge creation with the ratio of leaves being in the ordered stated about 5:3:2 (I guessed the leek taste would be at home in a ‘normal’ quiche). 

Whilst in the groove I decided to make a ransom flat bread. I'm not really a fan of it's taste when used in pesto but thought a flat bread might work. I judged the flour by eye (plain and self-raising to roughly a 3:1 ratio) and rolled  a good handful of coarsely chopped ramson leaves, a little jack-by-the-hedge and a small addition of coarse sea salt crystals. It was cooked in a medium oven for about ten minutes and grilled for two minutes or so to add a little colour to its cheeks.
This amount of ramsons  gave it a mild taste and it could easily be ramped up for a stronger tasting bread. The coarse salt adds a nice ping too.

To make the trio I decided to experiment making a vichyssoise (essentially a posh leek and potato soup) using just few leaved leek. I added about ten roughly chopped large leaves (about one ounce) to potato and stock, and then blitzed. 

So onto the family taste tests. It was wins with the  on the first two, but a tad disappointed with the last one. I cooked the leaves for a short while just to try and make sure the leaky taste stayed, but it wasn't to be. It still tasted OK as a summer greens type of soup, but wasn't quite the real deal...maybe extra leaves with ramsons next time...I have seen a soup recipe using similar three cornered leeks on the rather brilliant Eatweeds website but whilst garlic is listed in the ingredients, I can't see that the leeks are. 

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Shotgun cartridge container

I don't shoot and indeed have never done so and have had to source some empty shotgun cartridges for this easy project...As well as a source of spent shotgun cartridges you just need a heat source, a pair of pliers or similar and a pair of scissors.

There are several different types of cartridge shape and arguably the best known use for a shotgun cartridge container is a match holder for which the cartridge is a good size to use but it's not it's only use...

For the match container I've picked out two similar cartridges  (but it's worth remembering that all cartridges have the same diameter) in good nick and marked the casing on one a little higher than the match being held against it. Once marked, cut out to the line. With this particular example I cut it to the upper edge of the line but more on this later. 

Once trimmed you can place it upside down on your hand or a flat surface and check that the cut edge is smooth and level. It won't necessarily affect it but it doesn't look good. Once you are happy, gently heat the brass head of the other cartridge with a small flame, I'm using a hob but this can equally be done with a small fire.

Take care not to melt the plastic casing and after a short while try the brass head with a pair of pliers or in this case a mole wrench and when it's ready it will gently slide cleanly off.. Once the brass head is cool enough to handle (and be careful what you put it down on to cool) you can then offer it up to the trimmed end of the first cartridge case and it should fit snugly on, this is the container's lid. 

The reason for allowing a little extra when cutting the plastic casing down is evident in the left hand side picture (above).The priming pin in the brass end extends a little way into the cartridge and will potentially snag on the matches making it hard to put the lid on. Remember if you use safety matches you'll need to include the side of a matchbox in the tube! 

Easy peasy isn't it? Using the same technique as above, trim a cartridge down near the bottom leaving a plastic container about just a little deeper than the brass end. Remove a second brass head and use as a lid like before and you have a handsome little container for lip balm and indeed any sort of ointment I guess.


And finally a container made from a cartridge that has a larger brass end. This cartridge makes a container about the same maximum size as a cartridge with a smaller end. This size end feels very secure. Just a note on the bigger (and to a certain extent the smaller) brass ends, you may find a little plastic residue left in the end depending how it's heated and pulled. You can see in the picture of the two ends that the left hand side one has some plastic left in whereas the right hand side one is cleaner. 

And if you'll excuse the pun, a shot to finish of various different colours and sizes, note the red one in the centre has a large and small brass end. I reckon anything goes as long as it's not foodstuffs (not sure if food and gunpowder residues may work) but matches, tinder, fishing kit, lip balm...