Sunday, January 15, 2012

Week in Review: Cookbooks, Bread, and the Beginning of Homemade Vinegar

I love cookbooks.  They can be old, new, ragged, or pristine.  It doesn't matter to me.  The relaxation and inspiration I get from sitting down in the evening or on the weekend with a good cookbook is beyond measure.  Often, I love the stories and words from the author as much I love looking at the actual recipes.  I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but I have so many cookbooks that they take up an entire bookshelf and lead my husband to think that I should enroll in some sort of twelve step program.  I can't help myself.  I still go in search of new books at consignment shops where they are cheap and usually in fairly good condition.  I don't always find cookbooks that interest me on every trip, but sometimes I rack up and find several in one visit. 

This is a portion of the books.  There is a small overflow in the guest room as well.

This is what recently happened to me at a local thrift shop.  I was browsing the books when I noticed a box of cookbooks that had been priced but not put on the shelf yet.  I started digging and found the mother load.  Four cookbooks, several that I have wanted to own for a while but have never purchased (I especially love anything by Deborah Madison).  I scooped them up and was very careful not to leave them alone lest someone see them and end up with them instead.  Vegetables by James Peterson, The Savory Way by Deborah Madison, and Vegetable Love by Barbara Kafka all go through varied ways of preparing vegetables, some with bits of meat and some without.  I am especially excited about using these books once the weather warms up and vegetables become abundant once again.  The Bean Book by Roy Guste takes you through almost any bean or pea imaginable while giving several methods of preparing each.  I am already planning several bean dishes out of this book.  As you can see, it really doesn't take much to excite me.

Speaking of excitement...on that same trip, as I was heading to the check-out with my finds, I noticed a bread machine box that had never been opened.  I asked if I could untape it and peak inside, and what do you know?  The machine was still intact with its original wrapping.  I figured that for the low price of ten dollars, I could definitely buy the bread machine to try it out.  I had been thinking of purchasing one anyway because we love to have homemade bread but don't often have the time to make it.  I know some people think a bread machine is cheating, but I would rather have fresh homemade bread from a bread machine than store-bought bread any day.

So in addition to the new cookbooks and bread machine, I have also spent this week researching how to make my own vinegar.  As some of you may remember, I have homemade muscadine wine leftover from around Christmas and I was trying to come up with a use for it.  I made my usual batch of wine jelly, but I still have over half a gallon left.  The thought popped into my head to turn it into vinegar.  After finding this article online with details about homemade vinegar, I looked up a local company selling home brewing supplies, and purchased a vinegar mother.  
Vinegar mother poured from an 8 ounce jar.  You can see the darker mass floatin the liquid.

The vinegar mother is a starter made of bacteria (good bacteria that you want to grow) which helps turn the wine or cider into vinegar.  When I received the jar of vinegar mother in the mail (you could also get a mother from a friend who makes vinegar), I poured it into a bowl to examine it.  The liquid in the jar looked and smelled like red wine vinegar but had a gelatinous mass (the mother) floating inside.  

Two cups red wine
I poured the contents of the jar (it was 8 oz total) into a one gallon glass jar and added 2 cups of my red wine and 1 cup of water.  I covered the jar with cheesecloth and have it in the warmest dark area of my kitchen.  Now I just have to wait and watch.  I will add red wine to the mixture in a week and a half and will then have to be patient for several months as it does its thing.  I am taking a little leap of faith by putting this on the blog at this point because I have no idea how it will turn out or if it will even work.  I figure that part of the fun is seeing what happens even if it fails.  I will keep you posted on the vinegar project as it progresses.  

If you look carefully, you can see the mother floating in the front left corner of the jar.  We'll have to wait and see if she does her job.

Now I am off to have a piece of my "cheater" bread machine bread (honey oatmeal), finish cooking a pot of new crop pinto beans I picked up at the farmers market, and read a cookbook.  I love the weekend!

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