The Art of Darkness

Things That You Think Are Harder Than They Actually Are

February 18th, 2009 by Cobwebs

I’m frequently surprised at the reaction I get from people when I tell them that I make my own soap (including, memorably, the acquaintance who was presented with a bar and stammered, “I thought soap was made from…soap”); they act as though I’ve admitted to translating from the Toltec in my spare time. In reality, making soap is no more difficult than baking a cake: You measure things, you stir them together in the right order, and you pour them into a pan.

There are a number of “home arts” which seem so mysterious and arcane that most people are afraid to try them. Here is a short list of things that I do on a regular basis, that I swear to you are not difficult if you can follow simple directions, and which are immensely satisfying.

Craft: Pickling and Preserving
Why You Should Bother: Because there’s more to life than what’s available at your local megamart. Imagine having a Victorian tea party with rose-petal jam, or giving jars of a Medieval fruit pickle as a unique party favor.
Getting Started: There are ridiculous numbers of tutorials available. Here are a couple of sites to get you started: WikiHOW: Jams Preserves and Condiments and Pick Your Own. I also highly recommend the book The Joy of Pickling.

Craft: Making Cheese
Why You Should Bother: You can make fantastic-tasting cheese cheaper than you can buy it, you can experiment with interesting herb and spice flavorings, and you know exactly what ingredients go into it. Although many cheeses require a coagulant such as rennet, there are many you can make with nothing more than milk and lemon juice. Start with easy fresh cheeses like queso fresco or mozzarella before working your way up to more complex recipes.
Getting Started: Gourmet Sleuth has a number of recipes, and the book Home Cheese Making covers a range of styles and does a good job of explaining the techniques and equipment required.

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