Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Almond Milk

I've been making my own almond milk lately after drinking the Blue Diamond variety for over a year. It is easy in process, but does take some time. There are many instructionals on the web for making almond milk - some say just blend raw almonds with water and strain, others say soak the almonds for at least 24 hours first. Some say soak and then peel and others say soak and blend whole.

I've been doing the soak and peel method which makes a white, creamy delicious milk but is quite time consuming. Today while peeling I wondered to myself "self? what if I didn't peel. Would I really taste the difference?" So I decided to find out.

The basics of almond milk making (no, you don't have to find the almond's udders, that would just be silly), is to soak a cup of raw almonds in filtered water for 24 to 48 hours. I had decided to make a double batch to  have plenty for the rest of the week so I had enough soaked to do the following experiment. After soaking you drain the soak water off and add four cups filtered water then blend then strain. You can add a pinch of salt and some sweetener, but it isn't necessary. I add a pinch of sea salt and a touch of agave sweetener to mine.

So I started with my soaked almonds. I had just finished peeling half of them, which took me a little over a half hour, when I got my idea of an experiment. grab camera.

I started with the peeled almonds

blend until frothy. I had a bit of an overflow problem.

I started the straining with this ridiculous cheesecloth. Who decided cheesecloth was worth anything?

I finished with a dish towel my mom gave me for Christmas. Much better. Squeeze and twist. 

The almond meal

The milk from the unpeeled almonds was decidedly darker. 

As was the meal.

The jar on the right was from the unpeeled. Just slightly darker, but if you didn't have the milk on the left to compare it with you probably wouldn't notice.

Just slightly darker. After tasting I found there wasn't a significant difference. I certainly didn't taste the bitterness I expected from the peels, just nice delicious almond milk.

The meal.

My conclusion is to do away with the tedious peeling. It doesn't make enough of a difference to warrant the time. Unless the peeling is a zen exercise, and then it could be a worthwhile activity.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

More Soap Stuff

My sister brought me some wonderful handmade soap from Tanzania. It had so many properties that I want in my own soap, creamy, creamy lather, and a conditioning feel, but it didn't come with any ingredients list so I'm not sure what it has in it. I imagine it is probably heavy on the Shea butter, coconut and probably palm. Not sure if it would have olive oil, but  it would probably have some.

It made me realize I'm not really sure what properties each oil brings to the soap beyond what I've read, so I've set about to experiment with oils to see what I can find out on my own.

I conducted this first test by making small individual 1 lb batches using my four main oils. 
This isn't really very scientific because I made the lye discount different for each oil in an attempt to make them as usable as possible after I'm done. I'm mainly trying to find out how soap from each oil feels, bubbles, etc. 

I've been told Shea has a creamy lather and is very conditioning, olive is bubbly but slimy feeling and not very cleansing - gentle, is how it's described. Palm, hard and bubbly, and coconut very bubbly and creamy but too cleansing (harsh).

For each batch I used 300 gm of oil and the coinciding amount of lye. Each batch had a 30% lye solution strength.

I heated each oil to liquid, and the olive oil was warmed. Both the oils and lye were in the 110 to 115 degree range - within 10 degrees of each other.

Here are the four batches after one day:

Below is a pH test with Phenolphthalein on some of the flakes that came off when I unmolded. Pink indicates high pH. 

Because the batches were so small I don't think they went through any kind of gel stage which would have pushed the saponification up a notch. They will still fully saponify over time, but without gel it takes a bit longer and they come out more opaque. Again, this isn't as scientific as some would make it.  I'm not controlling every aspect.

Center is the shea butter, bottom is palm, top is olive, and the right side is coconut. It's clear that coconut saponifies quickly as there is no pink even after waiting an hour and more. The others will take longer. It looks like olive takes the longest to saponify; it turned bright pink immediately. I'll test again after a couple of days. 

Obviously you wouldn't want to use these soaps right away.

Below is a glimpse into my evolving work space. First is a close up of some of my soaps ready for sale.

Here is a shelf of curing soaps.

A new shelf to hold my herbs, clays and other additives.

The "room"

My first attempt at a calendula salve. I got the recipe from Stacy at A Delightful Home. It smells amazing.

Friday, March 15, 2013

First Flight

Mckenzie took the first step toward getting a pilot's license today with a one hour introductory flight from Cavorite Aviation.  Here's the proof.

Tim's Place

I just love the story of this guy. The Story Corps recording makes me bawl like a baby.


Story Corps - Tim's Place

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Friend Found, A Friend Lost

Today I learned that my dear, dear friend Clay passed away. I am utterly grief stricken. Even though he passed away almost two years ago I just found out about it today and it's almost too much to bear. Clay was one of those people that come into your life if you're really, really lucky. We met while organizing the Vacation Bible School at St. Matthias Lutheran Church, and when I first shook his hand I fully believed I'd just met Santa Claus. He had a long, white beard that could be tucked into his pants, and his eyes crinkled in that amazingly kind way that Santa would surely have had. I was at once smitten.

We had a friendship that remained constant even when we didn't see each other. I fully expected him to show up on my doorstep someday unannounced because that was what he did. He didn't like to talk on the phone, didn't use a computer, and rarely wrote, but to show up and walk into the house without knocking after a year or two would have been totally normal.

Clay was a mover, a biker, a walker, a thinker, a reader, a philosopher. He traveled the world, visiting Israel, Turkey, and Italy several times while I knew him.  He read extensively - mostly books on philosophy and world religions. He was fascinated with theology. He loved movies. His favorite, funnily enough, was Dirty Dancing. I think he was a romantic at heart. He met his wife when he was 16 and she was 13 and he fell instantly in love and stayed in love with her until she died. I never met her; she died shortly before I met him, but he talked often of his love for her and their five amazing kids.

When Clay was 76 he did a 6009 mile solo bike trip around the U.S. starting in Traveler's Rest South Carolina. He made it into Utah and met the greater part of my family. He returned and could proudly name every single one of my siblings, their spouses, and all of their kids. He also started calling me Jody after that. For those of you that got the chance to meet Clay while he traversed the country, you met an amazing individual. There won't be another quite like him, ever.

He promised he'd come back to haunt me if he died before me. Oh, I wish he would. I'm heartbroken.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Four Thieves Cut

Here are four of the cut bars. The colors are top: olive oil infused with calendula, second: olive oil infused with rose hips, middle: olive oil infused with annatto seeds, and bottom: olive oil infused with burdock leaves.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Four Thieves

I just de-molded my latest "artisan" soap. It's called Four Thieves because it just might prevent the spread of the Bubonic Plague.  It is all naturally colored with herbs and scented with rosemary, eucalyptus, lemon, cinnamon, and clove. It smells good enough to eat.

I think it turned out swell; I'll cut it into bars tomorrow. Have a look at the full five pound bar.