Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Mystery Box

We all know that I knit socks.

This year I am participating in something called the "Box O Sox 2017 KAL"

What is a KAL you might ask yourself. Don't you hate it when someone smugly uses an acronym that you don't understand? If you are like me, you sit there and try to work it out in your head cuz you just don't want to ask.


There, that wasn't so bad. Now if we were talking about a SPAKAL then all bets are off right? (Spin A Long, Knit A Long). Oh we knitters and our incomprehensible speech. Thank goodness you don't sit in on knit night with the KnitSibs. You might need a knitting dictionary as we throw around terms and phrases like:

"I am loving this brioche knitting!"

"Is that an SSK or a K2Tog?"

"The charted pattern took me a bit to figure out but once I got the color dominance down I was on my way."

Where was I?

Socks. Yes, thank you. The Box O Sox 2017 KAL I think.

What IS the Box O Sox 2017 KAL you ask yourself. Well, it means that as I go along in the year 2017 and I knit socks, after those socks are finished, washed, blocked, photographed and put up on Ravelry I put them away in a box and I don't wear them.

I know. It is hard to believe. Let me say that again.

I do not wear them. I do not put them into podiatric rotation.

There is a specific reason for this. It is sort of like a gift to myself. I knit 12 pair of socks, one for each month, put them in the box and then on New Years day 2018 I open the box up and there are 12 pair of socks that have never been worn. Welcome to 2018!

Since I think I am going to do this every year I actually went to Hobby Lobby and got a special box and decorated it. Who doesn't want a box that has Sock Monkey paper and Llama/Alpaca washi tape.

And we won't even talk about my current obsession with washi tape. We won't talk about it at all. Not a bit. Not even about the 3mm washi tape that I buy. Nope.

I see the box every day when I go into my closet. And I think about the socks. And I can hardly wait for New Years Day. Of course, it has been a really warm summer so I haven't worn any wool socks for 3 months. But I still dream about them.
New Years Day is going to be so good.

It had better be because NYD 2017 saw me laid out on the couch trying to cough up a lung with the pneumonia.

2018 you had better be nicer.

Friday, August 25, 2017


Yes, folks.

The sourdough starter is alive. Let's talk about it shall we.

When last we spoke, I had finally been "starter shamed" into getting my carefully prepared, and at one time tenderly nurtured, home developed sourdough starter out of the basement refrigerator where it had been languishing, unloved and starving for............18 months. I had only a glimmer of hope that it might be resurrected. Yes, after I had done "starter surgery" and fed it, there were bubbles and hope raised it's feeble head. But, bubbles do not a sourdough loaf make.

And can I just say that basement refrigerators, while extremely useful in so many ways, are the place where things go to die. Just saying. I finally cleaned out several jars of pickling experiment that I had carted over from OCK, 4 years ago, and hadn't eaten (I am the only one here at Chez Knit who eats pickles). They had languished in the basement frig as sort of a pickling science experiment and they weren't getting any better. So I tossed them.

Where was I? Oh yes, the starter.

Well, last Saturday, after several days of feeding, I thought I might give the starter a try. I had found a recipe that seemed easy (my first mistake with sourdough!) and so I embarked. What better thing to do on a Saturday.

It was not a success. And when I say it was not a success I mean you could use it as some sort of weapon to bash someone's head in OR perhaps as a hockey puck, even perhaps a weight during your workout. Whatever your choice I would not have suggested that you eat it. HHBL was like, "NO, don't throw that away!!" But I love him too much to do that to him.

And I am a perfectionist. We were not going to eat that. But, I was also not going to be defeated by a jar full of little living organisms swimming in water and flour. I have opposable thumbs thankyouverymuch. So, I fed them several more days and looked at more videos on YouTube and looked at Pinterest (I have a love/hate relationship with Pinterest that I will explore some other time) and waited. And I realized something. The thing that I really didn't take into account when making that first boulder loaf is that sourdough takes a LOOOOOONG time. Not long in the making of the dough, that I can now accomplish in about an hour. Nope, the proofing takes 12+ hours and THAT my friends is where I had totally screwed up on the first loaf. I am a long standing baker of bread with packaged yeast. I fear it not. But, yeast bread made with those little packages, or in my case measured out from a jar, rises fast and sure. With sourdough you just have to make the dough, trust that it "feels" right and then let all those organisms get busy in the frig overnight, at least 12 hours or more.

So Wednesday evening, after dinner and before the Indians game, I got to work making my next batch. I did my measuring (measure with a scale people!!) and mixing, and autolyse phase, and adding salt, and slap and knead, and stretch and fold. Then I floured a surgical towel (another story for another time but just let it me known that I have enough of these to outfit an entire surgical suite) and put it and the loaf in a colander and stuck it in the basement frig for 14 hours. I pulled it out on Thursday, followed the baking instructions and hoped for the best......
Folks, I have made sourdough bread. And can I just say that it is amazing. I was so excited about it that I made another batch yesterday afternoon and put it in the frig and then really quickly got it baked before leaving to drop Coco off at the dealership (Takata airbag recall) and then scooting to the office.......

The sky is the limit from here my friends.

And we are SO having BLTs this week.

Friday, August 18, 2017

I May Have Killed It...Or Not

I go through these phases. I think, "Oh I need to learn to do that!" Then I do it. Then I move on. Sometimes things "stick" and sometimes they don't. Knitting seems to have stuck. Scrap booking did not. Does anyone need any scrap booking materials. I have them.

A while ago I decided that I needed a home developed sourdough starter. I KNOW that I told you about it but for the life of me I cannot find the blog post that covered that. If I could just get my bahookie in gear and finish my spread sheet with all of my blogs over the past nine years I might have had better success than the whole floundering around and looking at years and trying to figure out which catchy title actually had the sourdough blogpost in it.

Where was I?

OH yes, sourdough. 

I went to all the trouble of growing my own sourdough starter (it isn't that hard) and using it for a while but then....then.... I have no idea why I decided that it would be a good idea to store the starter down in the basement refrigerator. I know for sure that I would never have thought to throw it out. It had use and as we ALL know I suffer occasionally from a severe case of BIMNISD (again, there is a blog post on this. There perhaps might be more than one. I cannot find them. Moving on.)

For whatever reason, at some point I stored my starter in the basement frig. My upstairs frig is very small and space is at a premium so that is most likely the reason why the starter ended up downstairs. But the result of the reason is that the starter went down into the basement and then just sort of stayed down there like a college student who has come home without a job, languishing in the basement. You know it is down there. You know you should do something about it but you figure, "I will take care of that tomorrow." And tomorrow never comes.

Every time I had to put something into the basement frig or get something out of the basement frig, I would see that container. It would sigh and suggest I use it. It would squeal with delight when I opened the door and then groan with depression when I passed over it.

Do I anthropomorphize things too much? Maybe.

This is probably the time to give you just a bit of sourdough starter knowledge. As the starter sits for any period of time and isn't regularly used a black looking liquid will form on the top. That is called "hooch" and it is exactly what you think. It is alcohol which is really the waste product of the yeast in the starter. It is also telling you that the starter is hungry and hasn't been fed. You can just pour the liquid off and then feed the starter.

Yeah, my starter had a black liquid on it for at least a year. So very appealing and, lets be honest, just a bit scary. After a certain point in time I just preferred to act like that container wasn't even there. I see nothing and move on. We all have that lingering science experiment somewhere in the depths of our refrigerators. Don't tell me that you don't! OK, maybe Heather K doesn't. I have seen her refrigerator and it is spotless and organized. But don't the rest of you tell me that there isn't something lurking. I will KNOW that you are lying.

What happened next is really all the fault of YouTube. I started watching videos produced by Simple Life Homestead (blog). Here is their YouTube channel. Why do I care? Well because Michelle of SLH was Cartoon Girl's BFF all through school. Two more different people there cannot be on the planet and yet. Bonded for life. I have been obsessively watching their videos and got to the series on Sourdough starter and I remembered.....

Yesterday was not a day at the office and I was in the midst of one of my "make all the things" jags so I gingerly brought the container upstairs to the light of day. And I opened the container. And it was so disgusting that....I didn't even take a picture of it. That is how funky it was in there. 

But I would not be deterred. Who cared if there was actually some fuzzy mold growing on the sides of the container? Not me. Mold is good for you. Just think Penicillin! Who cared if there was a whole boatload of hooch just floating sullenly on the top of the starter. That hooch is not the boss of me! I laugh in the face of unknown mold.

First thing to do was to drain off the hooch. That was just a pleasant job. Not quite Sam Tarly serving soup and cleaning poop gross (sorry all you non-Game of Thrones people) but it was still yuck! Then it was a matter of what to do with the sort of funchy growth on the sides of the container and the top of the starter. The starter itself was fairly solid, which I expected since it had been sitting for a long time. It wasn't dried out but was sort of the consistency of whipped cream cheese. It was also giving off a very "alcoholy" smell, also to be expected. I decided that the better part of valor was to just scrape off the top of the starter and then extract from the middle, avoiding the sides.
This is what it looked like once I had removed all that I thought was viable. Take a look at all the yummy stuff on the sides. All the rest of this was scraped out and discarded. Thank goodness!!

Then, because I am a nerd, I measured out what I had been able to safely extract and it came to about 1 cup worth of starter. I didn't want to use all of that in one jar so I actually then split it into two separate starters. Then, because I am REALLY nerdy sometimes, I weighed out each of the starters to see what was what. I came up with about 66 grams per starter. Then, because it is always better to weigh out your ingredients rather than just using a measuring cup (nerd alert again), I actually weighed out 66 grams of flour and 66 grams of warm water (times 2) and add it to each of the starters, stirred it around and covered them up. They did not smell all that promising. 

The initial process was completed around 11a. I kept an eye on them all through the day but not much happened. I fed them each again at 8p, covered them with a towel and went to bed. And this morning........

Bubbles, it has nice bubbles. That is good. And it smelled less alcoholic and a bit more sourdough startery. We might have lift off people. I discarded half of each of the starters, fed each of them with another 66g of flour and 66g of warm water before I left for work and I put them in a place that is warm and draft free. If they are in the least happy I may, just may, try and bake with one of them tomorrow. If not tomorrow then it will more likely be on Tuesday. 

This must be how Dr. Frankenstein felt........ before the monster tried to kill him that is.

I will keep you posted on the progress but I am optimistically excited about this.

But now I have two starters and I really only need one.