RECIPE: Garden Mint Chocolate Truffles

IMG_5837_minttrufflesComing out of hiding for one chocolatey post! If you’re in the Seattle area this winter, please come visit me at the Historic Shell Holiday Shop in Issaquah where you can find gifts from all sorts of local artists and makers- including cards, prints, and other great stuff by me (Alison) and by Rachel. Happy Holidays!

At his heart, Safety Husband is as crafty as anyone, so when he surprised me with truffle making lessons* for Valentine’s Day I wasn’t that surprised. Turns out truffles are the perfect combination of messy (for me), science (for him), and chocolate (for the both of us.)

Let’s break it down…

Kitchen Tools

In addition to the usual mixing bowls, platters, and spatulas, there are a few things that make chocolate a lot easier. I’ve listed the tools below, along with work-arounds if you’re missing them.

  • Microwave: You’ll need to melt your chocolate, without getting it too hot. We used a short zaps in the microwave to do so. If you don’t have one, you can use a well-monitored double boiler. Another option is to fill a large bowl up with hot water from the tap, and set a bowl on top of it: given enough time, the steam should bring the chocolate up to a nice liquid temperature.
  • Infared Thermometer: Just point this sucker at a surface and you get a quick sanitary temperature. Other kitchen thermometers will work in a pinch, just make sure to stir well before testing the temperature and leave the thermometer in until you get a true reading.
  • Chocolate Chipper: This guy is a huge help in breaking up the slab of chocolate into smaller pieces, but it’s not absolutely necessary. You could use a strong knife, ice pick, or many other kitchen tools to do the same thing (just not as easily.)
  • Kitchen Scale: There’s not really a work around on this one. You’ll need a scale that will tare (to ignore the weight of your bowl). We use both a digital scale and a simpler (non-digital) taring scale for various things when cooking.
  • Small Scoop: You will scoop small balls of chocolate and roll them with your hand. If you don’t care as much about the shape of the truffle, a spoon will work too.

Good Chocolate makes Good Chocolate

In the class, the teacher stressed that it’s best to use quality chocolate and fresh cream- and to try a bunch of different types to see what you like best. We’ve been using a Gourmet Bittersweet purchased from the Chocolate Man in Seattle, and used cocoa from them as well. I’m excited to try a million different kinds of chocolate- but I have learned the lesson that having truffles readily available stretches self control to its limits.

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Garden Mint Chocolate Truffles
 
Use fresh mint and a touch of mint extract to build a well rounded and very minty truffle. (Not a fan of mint? Leave it out and you'll have amazing basic truffles.)
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 36 pieces
Ingredients
  • ½ cup Cream?
  • 8 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate
  • 1 oz. Fresh Chopped Mint
  • 1-4 drops of peppermint extract (to taste)
  • 1 cup Cocoa Powder
Instructions
  1. Measure out 8oz. of chunks of chocolate in a large microwavable bowl.
  2. Microwave in small zaps– 10-20 seconds at a time– stirring in between until most of the chocolate has begun to melt. The warmer portions should melt the remaining chunks while you stir. (It takes us approx. 60 seconds to melt the chocolate.) The chocolate should never get above 165˚; it should be more like 100˚
  3. Pour cream and mint into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil, then remove it from heat. Allow cream to cool to approximately 105˚.
  4. Taste cream and add a 1-4 drops of peppermint extract to taste.
  5. Pour the cream and mint mixture over a strainer into your melted chocolate. Immediately begin to mix the cream and chocolate with quick strong strokes. Make sure to get all the cream and chocolate off the sides of the bowl into the main mixture.
  6. When the chocolate mixture is completely mixed, cover your bowl and set in a cool dry place to harden overnight.
  7. When the chocolate and cream mixture (ganache) has cooled, it's time to roll the truffles.
  8. Fill a small bowl with cocoa.
  9. Scoop a ball of ganache, and drop it into your hand. Quickly roll the ball into a sphere, then drop it in the cocoa.
  10. Roll the ball through the cocoa powder to coat the sides, then gently place it on a platter.
  11. Repeat until you have turned all the ganache into truffles.
  12. Cover and refrigerate the truffles for up to 10 days.

Day 1: Making the Ganache

IMG_5771_minttrufflesMeasure out 8oz. of chunks of chocolate in a large microwavable bowl.
Microwave in small zaps– 10-20 seconds at a time– stirring in between until most of the chocolate has begun to melt.

IMG_5779_minttrufflesThe warmer portions should melt the remaining chunks while you stir. (It takes us approx. 60 seconds to melt the chocolate.) The chocolate should never get above 165˚; it should be more like 100˚

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Pour cream and mint into a small sauce pan and bring to a boil, then remove it from heat. Allow cream to cool to approximately 105˚.
Taste cream and add a 1-4 drops of peppermint extract to taste.

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Pour the cream and mint mixture over a strainer into your melted chocolate.

IMG_5786_minttrufflesImmediately begin to mix the cream and chocolate with quick strong strokes. Make sure to get all the cream and chocolate off the sides of the bowl into the main mixture.

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When the chocolate mixture is completely mixed, cover your bowl and set in a cool dry place to harden overnight.

 

Day 2: Forming the Truffles

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When the chocolate and cream mixture (ganache) has cooled, it’s time to roll the truffles. Fill a small bowl with cocoa.

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It’s handy to have cool, dry hands when you’re working with the ganache; but no matter what you do, you will be covered in chocolate. Might I recommend an apron?

Scoop a ball of ganache, and drop it into your clean, dry hand. Quickly roll the ball into a sphere, then drop it in the cocoa.

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Roll the ball through the cocoa powder to lightly coat all sides, then gently place it on a platter.

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Repeat until you have turned all the ganache into truffles, or you get too full to finish and just start eating it with a spoon.

 

Storing and Gifting

Cover any remaining truffles and store in your refrigerator. They are usually best eaten in the first week.
If you’d like to share the love, you can get really creative with your presentation, or keep it simple by wrapping them in a small covering of parchment paper.

Ours didn’t last long enough. We really like chocolate.

*If you’re in the Seattle area, I highly recommend the “Introduction to Truffles” class at Chocolate Man. It was a great experience, and made us feel really confident about experimenting with different methods. You can tell Bill really loves chocolate, and science, and teaching. Chocolate Man also has a great selection of pre-made chocolate creations, chocolate supplies, and even tools to rent (CHOCOLATE. FOUNTAIN.)

SEPTEMBER DIY Challenge Roundup and Our Little Break

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We had two amazing submissions for our Cat Themed DIY Craft Challenge this month. We think they are purrrrrrfect. (Okay, now the month is over, we can move on from cat puns.)

 

Judith Laguerre shared a beautiful photo and photo collage made with decorative scrap paper.

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The central element of the collage is a touching photo of my sister’s cat, Muphasa. The photo developed from a photo session that came about organically. Muphasa loved to play with his favorite plush toy. I can’t recall his name. I simply love the regal pose displayed in the photo. You can see that he is in control of the photo shoot. It is my intention for the paper to enhance the photograph. Although he is no longer with us, he will never be forgotten or replaced.

I am fascinated with all aspects of art and photography. It is part method of storytelling and part therapeutic. I can be found out and about exploring this beautiful landscape with my camera and camera phone. Mediums vary, but it is important to remember to have fun exploring them! – Judith

 

This portrait was sent to us by the very talented artist, Britt Greenland.

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This kitty, Lucy Anne, had such a fun engaging expression. My usual medium is oil paint, but I wanted to try something different, so Lucy Anne is painted entirely with oil sticks. This created a much more textured look than I usually get with my brushes and paint. I really wanted the eyes to have a smoother texture, so I did use a brush to smooth those areas.

I love animals, and I love painting, so it’s only natural that I do a lot of pet portraits. I’m always happy to have a new animal on my easel. Currently a hedgehog is staring back at from there. – Britt

You can see other amazing pieces (or commission your own) by Britt at her website, www.brittgreenlandartist.com.

True to the spirit of Adventures in Making, Britt shared a few tips about working with oil sticks, too. (Thanks, Britt!!)

Oil stick pros:
• Easy clean up
• No odors
• No medium required
• Colors are mixable with gloved finger/brush once applied
• Dry to touch in 24 hours
• Self-healing “skin” keeps them from drying out

Cons:
• Not precise color application with the sticks alone
• Self-healing “skin” must be pulled off the stick each session

Tips:
• Let base color dry for a day before applying highlights.
• Wipe stick with a dry cloth frequently to keep color clean.
• Try on various surfaces for a different look and feel.
• Start simple: just an eye or a flower.

 

Here are a few catty posts from the past!

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RECIPE: Crunchy Tuna Cat Treats

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DIY: Add a Kitten Pocket 

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DIY: Pom-pom Cat Toy

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DIY: ‘Cat Nap’ Eye Pillows

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DIY: Black Cat Stamped Scarf

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DIY: 10 Cat Craft Projects


 

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You might have noticed that we have been a little sporadic lately. Rachel and I have both been juggling  amazing projects that we can’t wait to share with you… BUT it’s time for us to take a little break from the blog to focus on those big things.

We’re not gone for good, just until we can get some time back in our schedules. We have a couple of posts coming up, and hope that you’ll continue to share your projects with us!

See you soon!

Alison + Rachel

 

MAY DIY Challenge Roundup

This blog is powered by whimsy, so this month’s theme was perfectly in line. Fairy tales aren’t always bright tales of princesses and happy endings, but they are a wonderful way to let our imaginations run wild.

Here’s a roundup of submissions we got this month. They are magical!!

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Michelle sent her amazing take on a fairy garden.

Thank you so much for an awesome craft challenge this month. I love anything to do with fairies and would like to submit our Desert Fairy Garden. We used an old wooden tissue box for the main house, built a porch with a swing so the fairies can enjoy the desert sunsets and when nature calls there’s even an outhouse with a long drop.

Check out the blog, A Crafty Mix, to see how they built the garden out of basic materials, and a lot of imagination and talent!


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Morena shared this cheery bird bath inspired by Alice in Wonderland.

 I always loved the tea party scene with Alice and the Mad Hatter, so I created a bird bath with teapots and saucers.  

You can see her DIY instructions on the blog – Morena’s Corner.


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Our challenged inspired Tara to have a little fun with illuminated letters. She used copic pens to draw the beautiful black details and added mica pigmented paints with a brush and a pointed pen to make it all sparkle.


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The students of Eastern Hills Elementary put together these lovely castles from boxes, tubes and other materials.

Kelly Benbrook (who happens to be Alison’s Mom) sent in a few shots of the fairy tale neighborhood on the library shelves.


We have a few things to finish up before we take a little summer break. What are you up to?

 

 

SHOW+TELL: Turning an Old Sweatshirt into an iPad Sleeve

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This is another typical Alison project; one part problem (needed an iPad Sleeve), one part recycling (awesome old hoodie sweatshirt.) I’ve been donating and repurposing things left and right lately, and this old hoodie was no different. It was made for me by a college classmate, and I’m not sure the last time I even put it on

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I decided to embrace the ragged look, since the pattern was already worn and “vintage” and I knew it would be tricky to work with multiple layers of sweatshirt and zippers. (Also, I am NOT a tidy tailor. I’m just going to accept that about myself.)

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To get the size right, I traced the iPad on a scrap piece of card stock to make a template.

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I cut the tablet shape out of the card stock, used it to “frame” the part of the design I wanted to feature, and traced it with chalk.

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I left an allowance of about half an inch on all sides, folded the sweatshirt there, and cut the a rectangle out of the folded sweatshirt.

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I decided to line the pouch with another layer of sweatshirt, and used this as an opportunity to include the zipper that was already stitched on. I cut two more of my template pieces from either side of the zipper…
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then stitched them together at the bottom. I refed the zipper pull into the zipper pieces– backwards because the raw edge of the zipper would face out when the pouch was finished.

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I then stitched my original pattern pieces across the zipper on either side, leaving me with an almost-pouch with open sides. At the last minute I decided to slip a piece of chipboard through the side to reinforce the front of the pouch (and hopefully save the tablet from rogue poking accidents). After sewing up the open sides (pinked edges out) and reinforcing the ends of the zippers with a few hand-stitches, I was done.

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I’m really glad I went with a rough-and-tumble look, because it hides a few of the difficulties I had with pre-worn stretchy material.

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Now I don’t have to worry as much about carrying my iPad around with me, and I have one less piece of wearable nostalgia to hoard. Now to move on to the next pile….

RECIPE: Homebrew Simple & Delicious Hard Cider

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Safety Husband has been making hard apple cider for me for a couple of years now. He’s super crafty in his own way, and loves to dissect projects down to their base elements, starting with the most basic method and backtracking till he has done every step he can. He put together a very simple recipe for making your own apple cider out of non-preservative apple juice, similar to his first foray into the sweet sparkling beverage.

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Important Points

Hard Apple Cider is Alcoholic

In most places it’s legal for an adult (21+) to brew their own beer and cider, but make sure to check with your state/county/hoa laws before you get started, and before you try to take your homebrew from your home. Drink Responsibly, and all that other wisdom.*

Brew Times and Temperatures Will Vary

Depending on how everything comes together for you, and what season it is when you’re fermenting, it may take a little longer to go from apple juice to cider. Make sure to keep your bottles in a place that you will check on a regular basis to makes sure everything is still looking right. (More on that below.)

Sanitize Everything

Make sure to keep a rag and bucket of sanitizer around during all the steps. You will wipe down and/or soak every piece of equipment and packaging that touches your ingredients. Your goal is to give the yeast a clean house to go nuts in, they don’t need any dirty roommates (bacteria, etc.)

Overflows and Busted Bottles Happen (from time to time)

Since fermentation creates pressure and lots of action, there can be the occasional accident that ends in a spill. Safety Husband recommends placing your bottles of brew (both during fermentation and after bottling) in a waterproof bin that can catch any run-off or popped bottles. If you want added protection, put a cover loosely over the top of the bin, or hang a curtain across it. (Make sure that you’re still allowing air to escape from your bottles during fermentation, though.)

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Basic Supplies

If you are able to find a local homebrew shop, I highly recommend trying them first for ingredients and supplies. Good homebrew shops (like my local favorite Mt Si Homebrew Supply) always stock the freshest ingredients and provide helpful advice. The Homebrewers Association keeps a list of shops sorted by country and state/province. It’s a great place to find the names of local shops. One caveat – you may need to search for the shop on a search engine or Facebook to find their full info and website.
AHA – Find a Homebrew Supply Shop

Ingredients

  • Apple Juice – any pasteurized juice will work. Be sure that it does not contain sulfites or sorbates, because these will prevent fermentation. Ascorbic acid (sometimes listed as vitamin c) is the only common preservative that will not hurt yeast.
  • Yeast – any yeast intended for wine, cider, or beer will ferment apple juice into hard cider. Different yeasts will bring out slightly different flavors, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Red Star Cotes des Blancs is a great one to try first because it has a good flavor, is easy to find, and cheap. Dry yeasts are easier to ship and can be stored longer.

Supplies

  • Star San – Use this to sanitize everything that will be in the cider, or could touch it. Soap and detergents just remove dirt. You need to sanitize equipment immediately before using it to ensure that extra bacteria, mold, or wild yeast won’t be there to foul up your brew. Follow the directions on the bottle to mix it on brew day. The concentrate could burn you, so follow the directions closely. Once mixed properly, its too weak to hurt your skin and the residue is completely safe. You can keep the same batch in a bucket for a few weeks and use it again later as long as it is not cloudy. If its cloudy, mix a new batch. Star San gets rid of disagreeable bacteria in a minute. It doesn’t need to be rinsed off, and will not leave any flavors in your cider. If your hands are in it enough, it may dry them out a bit but otherwise it won’t hurt you.
  • Drilled stopper – You need a stopper to fit the top of your bottle so that nothing can get in while the cider is fermenting. It needs to have a hole in it so that CO2 may escape. This small universal stopper fits many 1/2 and 1 gallon apple juice bottles.
  •  Airlock – As yeast ferment sugars, they release CO2. The cider will have a constant stream of tiny CO2 bubbles that need to escape. An airlock allows that pressure to release without allowing nasty bacteria, fruitflies, pet hair, or ordinary dust into your cider. The 3 Piece Plastic Airlocks are the easiest to use and clean.
  • Bottles – One the cider is done fermenting, you need clean bottles to carbonate and store it in. They need to be able to handle pressure during carbonation, so make sure they’re designed for carbonated beverages. We used glass flip-top bottles; just be sure they’re rated for high pressure. Some people have had luck reusing clean plastic soda bottles, and many people reuse and cap glass beer bottles. Make sure whatever bottle you choose is rated for the pressure of carbonation. Anything else (like a glass beer growler) will explode.

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Brew Day

Step 1:  Clean and Sanitize

Before you do anything else, sanitize all of your tools. Put your rags, scissors, stopper, airlock, and even the yeast packet into the sanitizer for at least 1 minute. You can leave it soaking until you’re ready to use it.

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You also want to wipe down the top of your juice bottles (and any other possibly contaminated surfaces) with a sanitizer saturated dishcloth.

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Step 2: Mixing

You will be fermenting in the bottles that your juice came in. During the fermentation process there will be a lot of action in your cider, so the first step in brewing is to pour a little off the top of the jug to leave an inch or two of space.  Some yeasts, especially beer yeasts may also accumulate on the top, which is normal.  (This is called krausen.)

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Next, open your sanitized yeast packet with clean, sanitized scissors.

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A typical packet of yeast is enough to brew 5 gallons. If you’re brewing less than that, toss it all in. Once the pack is open, you can’t save it. If you have more than one jug, try to add the same amount to each. It doesn’t need to be exact. What’s important is that its fresh and clean. Don’t worry about stirring – there’s no need it. [Note: if you read dry yeast packet instructions, it may say to rehydrate in water first. That may be important for a wine that may be higher alcohol, but for cider, it’s not necessary.]

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Step 3: Capping and Storing

After adding the yeast, it’s time to cap the bottle off with a sanitized airlock. Push the airlock into the stopper, then fill it to the line with sanitizer or cheap vodka. (This will allow CO2 to escape the bottle, but keep any foreign substances from getting in.)

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Now, push the stopper gently into the top of the jug. It only needs to be tight enough to keep dust out. If its still wet with Star San, it may want to slip out. Be sure to check it later and tighten (by pressing it down at the stopper) if needed.

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Last, put it into a safe place (indoors!) and let it rest for at least a few weeks to ferment.

Waiting Days

Fermentation follows multiple stages:

  1. Multiplication – For the first 12-48 hours, it will look like nothing is happening. The yeast is building up its forces and getting ready to crush that sugar.
  2. Fermentation – Once the numbers are up, the yeast binge on all the sugar they can find. There will be a stream of tiny CO2 bubbles constantly for a few days to few weeks, and the pressure bubbles out of the airlock. The cider will turn cloudy because its so crowded with yeast. There may be so much yeast that they float and pile up in a beige layer (krausen) on top of the cider. This is all normal, and the party lasts at least a few days to a few weeks.
  3. Clarification – Once yeast have eaten all the sugar, they crash hard. When they sleep, they fall. Most krausen will sink. The cider will turn from cloudy to mostly clear over the next week or two. All the yeast will have fallen asleep in a pile at the bottom of the jug that could be up to an inch deep.

Depending on the type of yeast, amount of sugar, and temperature, this may all happen in as little as a week, or drag on for 1-2 months. Cotes des Blancs usually finishes in about 3 weeks. Once its clear, it’s time for bottling day. Bottling day is when you want it. It’s perfectly ok to leave a fermented cider in the jug for up to 3 months.

If Something Goes Wrong

  • 2 inches of beige foam – It may be alarming, but this isn’t a problem. Its yeast and this sometimes happens. If it’s coming out the top – clean, sanitize, and replace your airlock daily or twice a day if needed. It should stop producing mountains of foam in a few days. After a few weeks it will all fall to the bottom.
  • Sulphurous odors – This can happen too for a few days, and isn’t usually a problem. If the yeast are strained for nutrients, they may produce sulfur dioxide. Next time, add some yeast nutrient and hopefully it won’t happen. Usually the cider will taste and smell just fine a few weeks later.

Ok, we tricked you. Those aren’t wrong, but they frequently happen and can be alarming. Relax and wait a bit.
There are a few things to look for that can tell you that your fermentation has gone a little wonky…

  • Black, green, and white floaties – This could be mold. It will often appear fuzzy or change color as more grows. Give it a few weeks and if it spreads or is still there after 3-4 weeks, then the cider is probably going to taste terrible. By comparison – good yeast won’t change color and will fall down on its own. There’s no reason to drink bad cider so dump it.
  • Cider smells like a barnyard – If it’s been less than a month, let it sit another month or two. If it still does, then be extra careful to sanitize everything and be sure to use fresh yeast next time. This is probably due to wild yeasts. Dump the offending beverage.
  • Cider tastes like vinegar – It probably is. Be extra careful with sanitation and make sure you’re using fresh yeast next time.

appleciderimg_0244Bottling Day

Bottling cider takes a little longer than getting it ready to ferment (but both take less time than writing this post!) However, you can do it when you have time.

Step 1: Making a simple syrup for carbonation (optional)

This is completely optional. If you want a still cider, skip straight to step 2.
If you want sparkling cider, the first thing you need to do is sanitize some sugar. The yeast are just sleeping, not dead. If you add sugar, they’ll wake up and start partying again until the sugar is gone. If this is done under a closed lid, pressure builds up, and now you have a carbonated cider! But watch out – too much sugar = too mush pressure. Too much pressure could mean a bottle bomb.
So how much sugar? 1.5 tablespoons per gallon, or 3/4c for 5 gallons. I used an online calculator to figure out how much sugar to add. I entered my batch size (2 gallons), desired carbonation (2.25 volumes – that’s typical for a cider), and room temperature (70F). This recommended 1.4oz of table sugar. I measured that out on my scale, and got 1.4oz with 3 tablespoons of sugar.
Mix the sugar with an equal part water, then bring it to a boil for 1 minute. Cover it with foil or a lid, then leave it to cool.

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Step 2: Sanitize the Bottles

All of the bottles need to be sanitized in Star San for at least 1 minute. They don’t need to be full, but every surface needs to be wet. Its easy to fill them part way up, swirl it around (swirled, not shaken), then gently poured out. The more Star San is agitated, the foamier it gets. Its easiest to sanitize all bottles at once, then start filling them.

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Step 3 (optional): Add sugar for carbonation

If you are carbonating, split the sugar syrup evenly between the jugs. The yeast may probably wake up, start eating again, and making their presence known with bubbles.

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Gently stir the sugar in, but try not to disturb the sleeping yeast at bottom. If you do, no problem, there will just be a bit more left in the bottles later.

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Step 4: Fill Bottles

Pour or siphon the cider into the bottles, leaving 1-2 inches empty at the top.  If a bottle is too full, it may not carbonate fully.

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Wow, that’s a lot of yeast. It’s hard to get every last drop out of the jug without getting a bunch of yeast into the bottle.

There will be a layer of yeast at the bottom, try not to pour that into your bottles (or your friends will complain.) I typically use a siphon to fill  bottles, which makes it easier to separate the yeast sediment. More on that below.

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Once all of the bottles are filled, store them at room temperature for 2 weeks. Its best to keep them in a plastic box in case they leak or explode while carbonating. After 2 weeks, chill a bottle, open it up, and enjoy the results! If its not fully carbonated, wait another week or two before chilling and opening the other bottles and hopefully they will carbonate. If not, chill and enjoy it straight up or in a cocktail. Cider can be stored for 1-2 years and often improves over time.

Other Tools, Variations, & Scaling Up

A: Faster Bottling

Pouring cider into bottles is hard, and stirs up the yeast sediment. You don’t have to worry about the yeast – it will settle back out in the bottle after a week. However, its easier and faster to use an autosiphon and bottling wand. An autosiphon makes it easy to start transferring the cider out without pouring. A bottling wand has a pushbutton valve at the bottom. You put it in the bottle, push down, and cider starts filling the bottle. When it’s full to the top, lift the bottling wand up just a bit and it stops. Cap the bottle, and you’re on to the next one!
All of these should be available at your local homebrew shop, or online retailers.

B: Other Ingredients to Try

  • Sugar – if you want a cider with more alcohol and a drier finish, just add sugar. Unbleached organic is our favorite, but you can use any type. However, be careful with dark molasses – too much and it will get bitter. Yeast will turn almost all of it into alcohol, but some of the flavor remains. 1-2 pounds in five gallons of apple juice makes a great applewine.
  • Other fruit juices – you can use any fruit juice instead of or in addition to apple. Just be sure that it doesn’t contain any preservatives other than ascorbic acid (sometimes marked as vitamin c). Sulfites and sorbates will prevent yeast from fermenting and you’ll end up with vinegar or a bucket of mold instead of a delicious cider. Pasteurized, bottled juices are the easiest and safest to start with. Unpasteurized juice could foul the whole batch or even make you sick if it contains certain foodborne bacteria.
  • Stevia or Xylitol – if you want a cider to taste sweeter, try mixing in a bit of stevia or xylitol before bottling. Yeast cannot ferment it, so the flavor will remain in the cider.

C: Scaling Up

Brewing beer, wine, or cider at home is easy up to 5 gallons per batch. Whenever you buy yeast, you’re buying enough for five gallons. All you need is a bigger vessel, more juice, more bottles, and more friends to help drink it. When you buy a bigger fermenter, be sure to get something bigger than your batch size. I use the 8 gallon bucket from my local homebrew shop even though I’m only brewing 5 gallons (see picture C). Some yeasts intended for beer are “top fermenting,” meaning they like to pile up on top. If there isn’t room, it will foam up into the airlock and then out onto the floor, walls, or ceiling.

FAQs

How much alcohol is in my cider?
The short answer is – it varies. To find out, you need to know how much sugar was there before fermentation, and how much is left afterwards. You can measure this with a hydrometer. The hydrometer will have a chart, or you can use an online calculator to calculate how much alcohol was produced. This will vary batch to batch depending on ingredients, which yeast was used, and the temperature it was fermented at.

What are the laws surrounding homebrew in my state?
That’s a great question for the advocates at the American Homebrewers Association. They have a state by state list for the USA available online. If you’re outside the USA, look for advice from similar organizations working to promote homebrew in your area.

Will that yeast in the bottom hurt anything?
No. This is a delicacy known as Vegemite or Marmite that’s best enjoyed on toast with breakfast. You could buy it, or you could enjoy yeast on toast after your morning cider. Its up to you. Ew

How many times did this article mention “sanitize”?
About 100 times. Nothing else matters if the equipment is dirty.

Safety Husband is also pretty sanitary. Well, I hope you enjoy this post as much as I like drinking home-brewed cider. Please make sure to be safe with your cider experiments (including the drinking of said cider) and let us know how your batch turns out!

*We love sharing recipes and ideas with you, but trust you to take responsibility to do all projects safely and legally. Safe fun is the best fun.

TODAY: Be Inspired, Not Intimidated.


I’ve been kind of at odds with my work lately, and I’ve been drowning myself in busy work to keep from having to address the elephant in the room- What do I do next? I’ve spent the weeks since the store closed doing anything but the things I need to further my art, and the longer I waited the harder it became to pick up a pencil again. Somehow in that time I became more and more discouraged by the truly awesome work I saw all around me, and I’ve decided it’s time to do something about it.

The internet is an amazing thing for an artist. Snap your fingers (or ask Google) and you have access to a million inspirations and a trillion resources. (Also a gazillion distractions, but that’s beside the point.) We don’t even have to go to a library or a museum to be exposed to new work or new concepts; it’s just there, in our Facebook feed.

With such luxury, it seems like our possibilities for inspiration are endless, and yet all these amazing things can be just as intimidating as they are stimulating. How can you ever draw that well? Why can’t you come up with the perfect idea? Why should you spend hours on something that they can do without even a sketch?

Thus begins the cycle of stagnation: 1: Get discouraged, 2: Can’t work, 3: Don’t get better at what you do (and don’t get to enjoy the process), 4: Spend more time on the internet looking at “inspiration”…. Rinse and repeat.

So, lets turn this whole thing on its head, and figure out how to see inspiration as just that.

1: Acknowledge talent, and move on.

Even is your first defensive instinct is (like mine) to pick apart the work of other artists, try to instead see what is causing you to react. It’s likely envy, and that’s just silly. There isn’t a finite amount of talent to go around.
If someone is awesome, let them be awesome. Admire what they do, and that they do it well. Move on.

2: Realize that what you like in your work does not have to be what you love in someone else’s.

I love looking at realistic art. I love looking at landscapes that seem to miraculously appear from patches of paint. I like mosaics built from found trash that take on a whole new life in their new format. I have no intention of doing any of those things. I am never happy trying to be realistic. I like lines, not plains; and when it comes down to it, I really just want to make functional art.
You’re no less an artist because you do something differently- obviously art is all about being different. You can be an artist in the kitchen, an organizing savant, an expert at standing on one foot while you knit– and all the while you can love the things you don’t do. Maybe you can love them more because you DON’T do them.

3: Spend a little time looking at things outside of your comfort zone.

I have a long list of blogs in my feed reader and I almost always read the web comics and interior design blogs first. Now, as a dedicated blog contributor I should probably be looking at things that are a little closer to home- but I get inspired by things that are outside of my experience.
You can find inspiration anywhere. In a history book that talks about the mysterious ins and outs of the past. In a mystery novel that lets you see out the eyes of someone else. In a garden reference that talks about permaculture and the growth of magnificent living things. Even in a cute kitten video. (That one’s a little bit of a stretch, but if it feels good it can’t be all bad!)

4: Get away from it all.

If you are seeing too much, close your eyes for a while. Unplug from the constant stream of visual information and take a deep breath. It’s okay. The internet is forever, and you can always go back and see things later. When you’re ready.

5: See your work for what it really is.

I don’t know everything, but I suspect that we mainly make because we are trying to express ourselves. We are trying to show everyone else how we see the world, trying to highlight and solve a problem, trying to learn. So, if someone else is doing that differently, it’s alright.
I am who I am, and you are who you are, and I like it that way.

May DIY Challenge Results!

This month’s DIY Challenge theme has reached full bloom, and we’re very excited to share a roundup of submissions we received from our readers. With a theme like ‘flowers’ you know you’re gonna have some fun. Without further ado, here are the May DIY Challenge Award Winners along with the gallery of everyone’s lovely submissions…

DIY Challenge Award: Brightest Idea

The award for “Brightest Idea” goes to Lori Miller of Eldridge, Iowa. Lori is a fine art fiber artist and loves transforming cast-off sewing materials into something new. You can see more of Lori’s work on her website.

May DIY Challenge Results #adventuresinmaking #flowers

As I am always seeking ways to turn the cast-offs into some type of treasure, I came up with a variation of the zipper pin. The idea is not my own originally but I modified it to make a more fresh, funky flower design. Combinations of colors was fun as well as the different type of zippers. – Lori Miller

DIY Challenge Award: Most Inspired

We were “Most Inspired” by Gail Griffin’s handmade foam lilies. Gail is from Millersville, Maryland where she teaches crafty classes and creates various projects for her blog, Plum Perfect and Me. Check out Gail’s step-by-step tutorial and have fun making your own foam flowers!

May DIY Challenge Results #adventuresinmaking #flowers

DIY Challenge Award: Most Treasured

This beautiful handmade journal deserves the “Most Treasured” award because it is almost too gorgeous to write in! Made by Nikki, the creator of Venus Envy Paper. Nikki used K & Company scrapbook paper to create this book and used the coptic binding technique. As a lifelong journal writer, she loves that her handmade journals have the ability to lie completely flat, for easy writing. Be sure to check out Nikki’s Etsy shop where she sells handmade wax seals, custom journals, paper flowers and more!

May DIY Challenge Results #adventuresinmaking #flowers

I specialize in making custom art journals, paper flowers and wax seals. I live in a smallish (read growing way too fast) town in Northern California. I am a proud sci/fi nerd and have adopted six homeless cats. Or I should say, they decided I was going to be their human servant for the rest of their natural multiple lives. I am most passionate about creating journals that will last not for the moment, but for generations. – Nikki

Flowers Gallery

May DIY Challenge Results #adventuresinmaking #flowers

Credits (left to right):

1. Homegrown Lollipop Flowers by Stephanie Rose from Vancouver BC, Canada
2. Field of Flowers Tote by Donna Heron
3. Mixed Media Collages by Becky Brooks from Issaquah, Washington
4. DIY Flowers On A Stick by Despina from Greece
5. Painted Sunflowers by Madison Lee from Southern California

Thank you for participating in the May DIY Challenge! We will be taking a break for the month of June but we’ll be back with our next DIY Challenge theme in July!

FEATURED MAKER: Carrie Schmitt

Please welcome our newest Featured Maker: Carrie Schmitt! Carrie is an artist and author living in the Pacific Northwest. She began painting in 2009 as a way to cope with health issues. Now she has her own creative business where she makes art, teaches e-courses, practices yoga and more. We are so excited to learn more about her life and work today and we hope you enjoy getting to know Carrie as much as we have!

FEATURED MAKER: Carrie Schmitt #artist #interview

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? What is your background?

I am an artist and author who began painting in 2009 after developing a life-threatening allergy to heat. No longer able to spend time in my beloved garden outdoors, I began painting flowers instead of planting them. In 2010, my family and I moved from the humid Midwest to the Pacific Northwest for its temperate climate. Today my art is licensed for home décor and stationery with several companies, including Hallmark, teNeues Publishing, Dianoche Designs and Woodmansterne. I paint daily from my mountain studio just outside Seattle.

What do you make and sell?

I sell original artwork, giclee prints, notecards, and hand-painted yoga mats. I share art techniques and ways to nurture your creative spirit in my book, Painted Blossoms: Creating Expressive Flower Art with Mixed Media, is now available for preorder on Amazon. I also teach an online yoga inspired art e-course called Journey to the Self that blends my passions for yoga and art-making. You can learn more about that here.

I also have 3 video art tutorials that will be released from FW Media this summer that shares three special art projects related to Finding Inspiration, Finding Your Style, and Surrendering to the Flow of Creativity. And, I will be presenting a FREE live online presentation about my art journey with Artists Network on July 21. You can sign up to listen and even ask live questions here.

FEATURED MAKER: Carrie Schmitt #artist #interview

What made you decide to take the leap and start your own creative business?

I started painting as a therapeutic practice to deal with my limitations from my heat allergy—not being able to go outside and do any physical activity was a huge emotional challenge for me. This led to the awakening of my truest passion—creativity! I decided I wanted to make a living doing what makes me feel most alive so I began paying attention to how other fulltime artists were able to make this work in their lives.

How did you get started and when did you launch your business?

When I began painting, I was lucky enough to take Kelly Rae Robert’s online art business course, Flying Lessons: Tips and Tricks to Help Your Creative Biz Soar. This proved to be invaluable as I began to put my art out in the world. I learned how to use social media and connect with an amazing community of artists who have provided support and inspiration over the years. Understanding how to navigate the business side has allowed my art to flourish much more quickly than it would have without this knowledge. Most of my licensing deals have resulted from companies finding me on social media.

FEATURED MAKER: Carrie Schmitt #artist #interview

Do you have any philosophies or ideals you try to represent with your work?

My work is a celebration of color, lightheartedness and joy. I’ve never understood the violence and negativity that is so easily accepted in our world—on tv shows, movies, news and more. I suppose this is my own subtle and peaceful response to this mixed up world. I hope people look at my art and somehow feel uplifted and smile.

Tell us about your process. How do you go about creating your art from start to finish?

My process is intuitive and aligned with the belief that every mark made on the canvas was meant to be, aka there are no mistakes! I start my randomly applying paint and making various marks on the canvas. I continue to build layers of paint on top of each other to create depth, interest, and texture. Eventually, imagery (usually in the form of flowers) begin to reveal themselves to me. It’s almost as if the painting just appears as long as I am open to it. Sometimes this takes a long time and sometimes it happens quickly. You can learn more about my different techniques in my book, Painted Blossoms. I’m also going to be teaching my process and various art projects at the Art Makers Retreat in Denver in September.

FEATURED MAKER: Carrie Schmitt #artist #interview

Where do you look for inspiration?

Inspiration is everywhere, which makes every moment of every day a treasure hunt. When something takes my breath away or tugs at me on a soulful level, I pay attention. These objects that appeal to our senses are like mirrors for our soul. So by paying attention, I am able to find out more about my own style and express my unique creativity with the world.

What does your workspace/studio look like?

I’m a firm believer that everyone needs a room of her own. My studio is in my home and looks like an indoor garden bursting with color and light. This space houses my joy and inspiration that is a reflection of my soul. Plants are a very important part of my space as well, as they are living companions that keep me company while I create.

FEATURED MAKER: Carrie Schmitt #artist #interview

Tell us about a challenge you’ve overcome in your business? Or something you tried but didn’t work the way you planned?

One of the greatest challenges for me has been having the time and money to pursue my passion. Patience and persistence has paid off even though I have had some serious and frequent moments of self doubt. Your faith just has to be stronger than those moments. It does take time to build a business so I try not to be too hard on myself. It seems as though things just work out as long as I work hard and put my energy toward this dream.

What does a day in the life of Carrie Schmitt look like?

I start my day getting my kids to school and then doing yoga or swimming. Physical activity, especially yoga, has become key to enhancing my creativity in the most magical and fulfilling ways. Yoga is about clearing energy channels and this has allowed this previously stuck loose energy to manifest in my art. Practicing yoga has been a powerful journey! I wasn’t expecting it to affect my art in the ways that it has but am incredibly grateful that it has become an intrinsic part of my process.

After yoga and/or swimming, I like to do administrative work – answering emails, posting on social media, writing articles for magazines, or whatever else comes my way. Then, it is time to paint! I turn on some music, light a scented candle, and begin throwing paint on the canvas. Time seems to stand still and before I know it, it is time to pick up my kids from school. The rest of the day is devoted to taking care of them, and I never have enough time to get all my art biz stuff done. Sometimes I work late at night or wake up early and often work weekends. I love the flexibility of my schedule because I am able to be present for my kids. It can be a huge challenge to find time for myself, but I just try my best every day.

Visit Carrie’s website and follow her on Facebook!

Thank you so much Carrie for sharing your story with us! Do you want to be our next Featured Maker? Visit our Contribute Page for more info!

DIY: Art Journal Techniques with Katie Smith

Hey everyone, This is Katie from Punk Projects and today I am taking over the Adventures in Making blog! Last year Rachel guest posted on my blog sharing a peek at her art journals so today I wanted to share a peek into mine! More specifically, a couple of fun techniques I like to use.

I love drawing and painting people in my art journals, but some days I’m feeling a bit lazy or I want to do something different, so I grab a magazine and pull pages from it to use. I like to cut around some of the people/models in the pages and use them in my journal, but being an artist I like to alter them a bit.

Today I want to show you 2 ways to alter cut outs from magazines.

1. Gesso’d and Doodled.

If you want the look of a hand drawn person but perfer to trace this is a good technique for you! Start by finding some people or objects in your magazines and cutting them out.

Next glue your person down onto your journal and paint over it with a light coat of gesso. Most gesso’s dry slightly transparent so you will be able to see your cut out underneath and easily trace it.

Once your gesso is dry, take a black marker and trace your cut out. If you can’t quite see through the gesso in places, use your imagination! It won’t be perfect, but that’s okay! The result is a fun, doodled look and can even be colored in as well!

2. Packing Tape Transparency

I like using this technique when I have a fun background I don’t want to completely cover up. You will be able to see a bit through the magazine transparency.

Start by covering your cut out in clear Scotch/packing tape. Depending on the size of your cut out, you may need to use multiple pieces of tape, which is fine. Just make sure the edges of the tape pieces slightly overlap each other.

Next soak your cut out in a bowl of warm water for a couple of minutes. This will wet the paper and make it easy to peel up.

After 2-4 minutes pull it out and flip it over so the backside is facing up. Use your fingers and rub the paper off. Be gentle, but persistent and you’ll remove all the paper and end up with the image on the tape transfer!

 

Do you like to use magazine cut outs in your art journals? Do you have any other favorite techniques?

Thanks for letting me share! If you get a chance, come stop by my blog for more crafty inspiration! I’m hosting a free 8 week craft challenge this Summer and I’d love to have you join!