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Expedient Queen Rearing on Plastic Foundation

I was out in the beeyard looking to find the queen and get her in the nicot to produce some additional queens for splits.  As luck would have it a rainstorm was getting ready to roll in yet again and I couldn’t find her – but I did find a frame with a bunch of eggs and new larvae.

Printed queen cage

Queen cages by 3D Printer

So I ended up setting up the frame for the hopkins method of reporduction – that is orienting it horizontally in the hope of getting some of those cells drawn out and placed it wedged in at the top of one of my hives.  Now I didn’t go to through the effort to go queenless and then queenright or crowd – as I indicated this was last minute.

Now because it was a piece of plastic foundation I knew I wouldn’t be able to cut out the drawn out cells – so I ended up designing and 3d printing cages designed to protect the cells and trap the virgins as they hatched out.

The worked well enough to be an ok backup if you find yourself in a similar spot.

You can find the STL file on Thingverse.

 

 

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Whole wheat pretzel buns

From time to time you’ll see the fast food chains advertise a special promotion featuring pretzel buns.  They are great with hamburgers but where they shine in particular in my opinion with bbq chicken breast.

Pretzel buns formed ready to boil

Pretzel buns formed ready to boil

Now, you’ll seldom if ever see pretzel buns in the grocery – they just don’t keep very well.  The good news though is that they are really easy to make at home – and you can’t get fresher than that!

If you’ve make bagels at home – and you should – making pretzel  buns is pretty much the same process.

The key for that great and characteristic crust is to boil the raised buns in a basic water solution before baking – an easy way to go is with baking soda – but I use wood ash (lye) because the wood fired pizza oven I have keeps me in loads of wood ash, and I need it around anyway for making massa for homemade tortillas.

So, easy, simple, quick – and since they are best consumed within a day or so after baking are ideally suited to making in your own kitchen.  Of course, I’m making these with home ground whole wheat flour, but if you don’t yet have your own mill commercial flour will do.

Click on the post title to expand for the recipe.

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Whole Wheat Hot Dog Buns

Out of the pan and just sliced.

Nothing quite says summer like burgers, sausages or hotdogs on the grill or roasted over a fire.  But damn, if the food isn’t becoming pricey!  It seems like only a couple of years ago hot dogs were 99 cents for a dozen nice ones.  Now even the cheap ones are twice that when they come on sale.

If you want to skip right to the fantastic whole wheat hot dog recipe just click on the post title now.

Hot dog buns risen and ready to go in the oven

Anyway, to be perfectly honest commercial hot dogs are only an occasional feature in our home, with homemade sausages being a more common feature – but for roasting over an open fire nothing quite beats hot dogs – so they occasionally find a place in our grocery order.

It’s not only the dog themselves that have climbed in price – the buns too are getting silly expensive – like $2.99 for eight!

Bun pan and the results

We routinely bake our own buns – generally whole wheat with the flour we grind on our homebuilt mill – which produces higher quality product at a fraction of the price.  So when I saw a New England style hot dog pan on the King Arthur website for $30 bucks US I picked it up.  I mean that’s less than 15 uses to more than pay it off.

The thing is built incredibly solidly.  The silicon coating may eventually fail but the underlying steel is heavy enough to last for a few generations if taken care of – now that’s the type of investment I like!  It also cuts prep time even more – simply form the dough into the pan and let it do it’s second rise in the pan then slide into the oven and that’s it – perfectly sized buns for hot dogs (or sausages!)

Now the instructions on the KA website call for putting a cookie sheet over the top of the pan – I’ve never bothered,  the buns are a bit taller but I prefer the less dense feel.

All in all this is a great kitchen tool – if you are short cash just form buns individually, but if you can afford the investment I think you’ll be very pleased with it.

Click on the post title to expand the recipe.

 

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Sourdough Light Rye Bread

Sourdough rye bread starter

Sourdough rye starter after working overnight.

This has got to be one of my favorite loaves – great for sandwiches and just begging to be toasted and topped with some buckwheat honey.

One of the great things about having a grain mill is that it provides you with a big range of flour options for baking – wheat, corn, rye, barley, oat, triticale, spelt, and more can be purchased cheap from farm stores in 50# bags and stored for the long haul either in the bag themselves or in 45 gallon drums to be ground as you need.  That makes producing “artisanal” loaves such as this light rye a breeze and a cheap one at that.

Oven ready sourdough rye

Sourdough rye bread ready for the oven

With a bit of tang from the sourdough and the full extraction rye flour cut with some white this loaf is an easy sell for most folks.

Even better, while it takes a bit more forethought the actual time required to work the loaf is minimal – especially if you have a stand mixer.

Click on the post title for the full recipe.

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Apple Kuchen

Apple Kuchen

Base and apple chunks ready for topping

It’s an old saying that pretty much everyone loves motherhood and apple pie, and I’d include myself in that list – particularly since there have been two back to back crop failures for the blueberry crop around our camp up north – otherwise as a good northern canadian lad I’d be endorsing motherhood and blueberry pie but definitely not turning down apple pie.

More realistically, in our home apple pie usually takes a back seat to apple crisp – which is so easy to throw together and is truly a great desert.  But, Apple Kuchen also figures prominently among our favorite deserts because it’s a great desert in its own right and is almost as quick to prepare as apple crisp.

Whole grain apple kuchen

Partly devoured pan of whole barley base apple kuchen

For those who haven’t had it before it is an cake base topped with apples and a sugar and cinnamon topping.  Since home ground whole grain flours are the principal ones that get used in our kitchen the base is usually whole barley or whole wheat – both of which work great and give more substance and flavour compared to white flours.

So next time you are looking for a great desert give Apple Kuchen a try.

Click on the post title to expand and see the recipe.

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A Best Buy French Fry Cutter

Cutting french fries the easy way

Be honest, even if you are a health nut you probably want to grab pub grub from time to time.  It’s a great treat – and it almost always features french fries.

Now in pretty much every aspect of life I’d rather invest in the tools and know how to do it myself than head out and have someone else do it for me.  That goes for food too.  Now you can cut your own potatoes into fries for either frying or baking but it becomes a lot easier with a french fry cutter.

Low cost but high hassles – invest more and get one that will perform and last

I started out using a cheap $20 one that quickly failed.  For relatively little more – slightly over $60 on sale – I got a light commercial unit that makes fry prep a snap, and it’s worth every penny!

I see the same model on sale through Amazon comes with an additional fry cutter size – for $85, and it would be a good deal at that price too.  I don’t doubt it will last a couple of lifetimes if given a measure of care paying for itself several times over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quick Apple Fritters – whole grain (or not)

Homemade Apple Fritters frying

What was it Homer Simpson used to say…. MMMMMMMMMMMMMM Donuts.  For me that is more likely to be MMMMMMMMMMM Apple Fritters,  so it’s probably not surprising that I’ve played with dozens of recipes over the years  – most yeast versions.  But this quick one is the one I keep coming back to – it’s fantastic AND as a quick donut it’s a snap to produce.  While I usually make them using fresh whole ground flour they work just as nicely with white flour.

The other nice thing is this recipe is that it scales wonderfully – from 1x to about 5x which is about the maximum I can manage to make with my deep fryer before it makes sense to do up another batch of batter – but given that takes all of five minutes it’s really no hardship.  So get out your apples, heat up the oil and get ready to enjoy.

Click on the post title to expand for the whole recipe.

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Homeground flour – to sift or not to sift

Sifted home ground flour on right, coarse bran on the left

Grinding your own flour is a great way to get fresh healthy flour for your baking at dirt cheap prices.  Now the question is to sift or not to sift.

That is, do you remove some of the coarser fractions – generally the bran – or do you keep it 100% extraction.

Now, generally I just keep it whole – but if doing finer baking or doing baking for those less accustomed to full extraction it is easy to come up with a product that is closer to white simply by sifting the ground flour through a kitchen strainer. The fine flour components pass through and the coarser bran is retained.

Effectively it goes from 100% extraction to about 80% extraction.  It is fast, easy and gives a great product that is more generally accepted.

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Stanley Adventure Crock – Lid Latch Fix

Replacement Adventure Crock Latch

There’s a reason our grandparents had skills – they needed to be able to do things for themselves because they couldn’t afford to pay someone to do or make it for them.  Now we live right now in a pretty easy money environment, but because fewer folks can do it can mean more advantages for those who cultivate can do skill sets.

Take my recent trip to Cabella’s to pick up some outdoor gear.  I popped into their “Bargain Cave” and there were a couple of Stanley Adventure Crocks at the back.  Now these are three quart/ litre insulated crocks and look perfect for bringing something hot to a potluck or outing.  List price $75 plus 13% tax.  (In the states it looks like they go for $45).  But these ones, well they were marked down to a third of the price because the latches to hold the lids in place were broken.  Without the latches these were pretty much useless.

Final layers of the adventure crock latch being printed in PETG

Now clearly given the apparent prevalence of broken latches Stanley needs to address the design.  But I knew I could take advantage of the deeply discounted price and make my own replacement latches very quickly at home.

Now the replacement job would have been a bit of a pain to machine in metal – I have all the tools but still… But the project was perfectly suited to designing a beefier replacement in Sketchup and 3D printing it in PETG.  The replacement latch works great – and I have even used failure testing as an excuse to watch TV while working the latch repeatedly.  No problems!

3D printing is a great capability to add to your home, and if you don’t already have machine tools it is a great entry point into homescale manufacturing.  If you do have a machine shop I’m sure you’ll find that there are lots of tasks that a 3D printer can accomplish more easily than you could with conventional fabrication techniques.

For those of you with a an adventure crock with a broken latch here is the link to the STL file on thingverse   http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2235374

 

 

 

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Blueberry Corn Cake

With a sister in law and friends who are celiac I tend to keep my eyes open for recipes that are both gluten free and great and easy (the latter meaning in part no crazy exotic gums and pastes and binders);  That combination is fairly rare – certainly more rare than when one is not constrained to exclude gluten.

Blueberry Corn Cake – A great desert

There are winners though, and this is one of the nicest ones around – so much so that it graces our meals even when the table is filled with wheat eaters.  Frankly the latter simply allows me to do the grinding of the cornmeal on the homemade grain mill from the couple of big sacks of feed corn we always have on hand.  The mill does a great job and fresh meal can’t be beat, but since the mill often processes gluten containing grains I keep a bag of commercial meal for those occasions.

This corn cake makes a desert – moist (even if some lasts a couple of days), rich, flavorful and just the right amount of sweet to cap off a nice meal or accompany tea or coffee.