Fixing the mixer

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that a project I’ve been meaning to get to is fixing my Mom’s old Kitchenaid mixer.

My Mother was going to throw it away because it was making a grinding sound and shaking when she used it.  I’d like to try to keep it out of the dump so I said that I would try to fix it.  It’s a forty year old machine, it probably weighs about twenty five pounds, and I doubt that newer models are as sturdy as this one. New models can cost about $500, so it could be worthwhile to try to fix it.

After doing some research, I found out that a common problem is that the gear lubricant can dry out, causing the gears to grind, eventually the motor will wear out if the old lubricant is not replaced. I bought some new lubricant, hoping that it wasn’t too late to save it.

The first thing to do is to knock out the pin that holds in the rotary. The little top pin, not the one on the stem below the spring. I almost knocked out that bottom pin, which would have been a big mistake as it’s very difficult to get back in.

Then you take off the rotary.

Then you remove all of those screws. I had to get some screw de-locker oil as those things didn’t want to budge after forty years. 

That brown gunk is dried out gear lubricant. 

I didn’t get a photo of the cleaned off gears as my hands were covered in that old gear goo.  The new lubricant cost $15.  The old screw de-lockenizer oil cost $2.50.

Then you put it all back together and check to see if that fixed it by mixing up a batch of chocolate chip cookies!

Whirrr!   Whirrrrr!   Good as new! 

Let’s bake some cookies!

Autumn Hill Orchard

We’re all out of the apples we bought recently, so it’s off to visit another orchard. You’d think that after living in New Hampshire for fifteen years, we would have visited all of the area orchards, but every year we find at least one that is new to us.  This year it’s Autumn Hill Orchard, about fifteen miles away in the town of Harvard, Massachusetts.

Autumn Hill is located on a steep hillside, with a great view of the White Mountains of New Hampshire off to the west.  That’s Mount Monadnock on the horizon below.  I’ll go off on a tangent about my iPhone camera – I’ve found that one of the limitations of this camera is that it isn’t so great for photos with a long distance perspective.  The view is really much more dramatic than it would appear in the photo below, but the iPhone seems to somehow flatten out distances or perhaps it just can’t provide as much detail to a photo at this distance.  It’s really great for portraits and middle distance, but not for long distance.  I really should use my other digital camera more often.


Here you can at least see the curve of the hill the orchard is on.  The soils of New England are so rocky that it’s amazing the early colonists could grow anything.  I think they found out quickly that the rocky hillsides are best used for orchards instead of vegetables.


Years ago, Ms. J visited Ireland and Scotland and had some apples of a variety that we just can not find anywhere in New England anymore.  There’s an orchard in far northern New Hampshire that used to grow it, but a few years ago a hard frost killed all of the trees of this variety.  Autumn Hill Orchards specializes in some of these hard to find varieties so we thought we’d try to find it here.

While we were walking around the orchard, I saw an elderly man walking with a little girl. He looked a bit confused.  We had a map of the orchard listing all of the varieties in the orchard so I asked him if he needed any help finding something.  It turned out that he had emigrated from England many years ago and he was looking for the same apple variety that we were.

Up and down the hill we walked, the owner of the orchard had placed signs in each row identifying the trees.  It would seem that the signs and the map would make if easy to find, but it still took us some time.  C and the girl, who was the man’s granddaughter, ran ahead of us and shouted that they had found it.  Cox Orange Pippin, here it is below.


Of course Ms. J was very happy to now have a source of this variety that’s fairly close to us. Our fellow Cox Orange Pippin searcher was also excited as well, we both quickly filled up our bags.


Here’s their version of the Empire apple.  It’s so dark that I thought it was a plum at first.



Once we had a bag filled with apples we went back to the barn to weigh them.

C was thrilled to use this antique scale to weight the apples.  There’s still time for more apples, I’m sure we’ll be back!






Fall Apples

It’s apple season here in New Hampshire,  and since Mr. C can eat two or three apples a day we always make a few trips to area orchards every Fall.  

Here are a couple of very old apple trees, they might be some of the oldest at the farm.

There’s always a lot of apples that drop to the ground before they can be picked. 

The farm’s chickens like to look for the worms in the fallen apples, or maybe they’re just eating the apples and not the bugs.

 These were just out of reach! I tried holding C up for him to grab them, but he’s getting a little too big for that now. I could only hold him up for a few seconds before I had to give up.

Recently, a local radio show interviewed a botanist who specializes in trees. The station asked listeners to post photos of their favorite tree to the station’s website. I meant to send in a photo of the tree below, but didn’t get to it in time.  It’s a huge old Maple in the apple orchard nearby. In a week or so the leaves on this tree will turn bright golden yellow and red before falling.  The drought we’ve been having will most likely mean that this year the colors won’t be as dramatic.  I’ll have to find a photo from a previous year and post it.

Apples and Mums at the farm stand.

The pumpkin patch. 

The farm cat.  The farmer tells me he’s a very good mouser.

Some of the apples we picked.  I think we have thirty or so apples, enough to last C a week or so!

Mr. C’s Cooking School

We’re lucky in that Mr. C is not picky about food at all, he eats everything, and he likes to cook too.  So something we’ve been trying to do is to come up with a new recipe a week to try, with Mr. C helping out with the cooking if possible.

The first recipe I thought we’d try is for fruit roll-ups.  Not very adventurous, just two ingredients, but I’ve never made it before so I wasn’t at all sure what would happen. All you have to do is put three cups of berries in a blender with two tablespoons of honey, blend it up until smooth. Then spread it out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in the oven for two to three hours at 300 degree F.  When you take it out of the oven you’re supposed to have a delicious treat that can be cut into thin chewy strips.

We only had two cups of berries, so we had to cut back on the recipe a bit. Into the blender they go. C is always happy to help if a blender is involved in the recipe, but will often forget to make sure the top is completely on. So after cleaning up the berries that went flying out the top of the blender, they were spread onto the cookie sheet.

One hour after being in the oven it’s still a watery goo spread thinly on the cookie sheet.

Two hours later, the blueberry goo is somewhat less watery, and now the kitchen smells really, really bad. Like a burnt blueberry muffin.

Three hours later, the blueberry goo is a bit less watery, and now the kitchen smells even worse, and it’s starting to get smoky.

Four hours later, the blueberry goo is even thinner, but it’s not at all sticking together at all.  And now the kitchen smells awful, and it is now filled with a blue haze.  I open the back door to air it out and scrape the rubbery sludge from the pan.

Here is the result:


Mr.C’s verdict:  “Tastes like a tire”

My verdict: ” I’m glad I only wasted two cups of berries on this.”

Mr. C’s involvement: 50%

My involvement: 50%

Did C have fun making it:  Any recipe involving a blender is fun.

Will we make it again:  Maybe in the Winter, when it’s not 90 degrees out, which only added to the heat in the kitchen.  I should probably add more honey or sugar to make it stickier.

Source:  “Cooking Class” by Deanna Cook, which is a fun cooking book for kids.  It’s not the fault of the book though,  I don’t think there’s a problem with the recipe, it was probably just something we did.  Into the trash can with you, vile blue tire goo.




Last of the Apples

We’ve been having a fairly mild  Fall so far, so just before Thanksgiving, we thought we’d take one last trip to the apple orchard to pick as many of the last apples of the season that we could find, especially since apples are Mr. C’s favorite food. 

  There were still plenty of apples, but in just a few more days it would be too cold to pick any more.  In the photo below, you can see where they grafted a different variety of apple, the lighter red ones at the bottom left, on the main trunk of a Macintosh tree.  I think the secondary variety is Jonagold.  The silvery leaves of the tree are pretty, but that also means that the leaves have started to wilt from the frosty nights.  Once we get a hard frost it will be too late to pick any apples.

It started out bright and sunny….


….but by 3:30pm it was already starting to get dark.  That’s Fall in New England.  



Ms. J says to Mr. C – ‘Aren’t there so many wonderful things in the world?

‘Yes Mommy, and you are the #1 wonderful thing!’


‘Yes, and apples are number two!

‘Apples are number two?’

Ok, wait a minute, Daddy is number two, and apples are number three!’


That’s it for apples this year, Winter is coming!  

Hickory Nuts


On our recent trip to an apple orchard here in New Hampshire we saw a few shagbark hickory trees mixed in with the apple trees. Shagbark hickories are normally found nowhere near New Hampshire. They are usually found much further south of here, sometime they can be found in New York, I could be wrong but as far as I know they are rarely found in New England.   So the trees stood out among the apples, and since it was a windy day the big heavy nuts were making a loud thunk sound as they fell from the trees.

Ms. J recently read a memoir about life on an Iowa farm during the 1930’s, ‘Little Heathens’ by Mildred Kalish. The Kalish family children would spend many long dark winter nights cracking open hickory nuts, which apparently taste like pecans.  They can be used in a variety of deserts and can be ground into a flour and used in pie crusts, or they can be eaten raw.  So we asked the owner of the orchard if we could gather up some of the nuts.   After getting the OK to go ahead and gather up as many as we’d like, Mr. C enthusiastically went to work.  The owner did say that we “had a lot of work to look forward to before you get to any of those nuts”, and we soon found out why hickory nuts are not a commercial nut crop.  We’re do it yourself types here, so we were up for the challenge.

From the photo above, you can see how big the husk of the nut is.  It’s thick, very hard, and will pop off the nut fairly easily.  The husk seems to be just about as hard as the hickory wood itself.  Mr. C tried to break some of the husks using a nut cracker and they refused to be broken or even damaged.  Within that husk is the much smaller and even harder nut.  Unopened, the nut is about the size of a hazelnut, and seems to be as hard as the hickory wood itself.  Hickory is often used in tool handles like hammers and shovels since it is so hard.

After all the nuts are out of the husks, they are then dunked in a deep bowl of water.  If any float, they have most likely been eaten by a worm and are discarded.  We only found a very small number of bad nuts, I think there were just seven floaters from the group in the strainer below.


A standard nut cracker will not work vey well on a hickory nut, so the best thing to use is a hammer. We used a small piece of polished granite to rest the nut on, while we hit the nuts with a small hammer, that just happened to have a hickory handle.


Since I am Mr. Safety the fear of seeing Mr. C hit his little fingers with a hammer made me want to make some kind of holder so he would not crush his fingers before turned seven.   So I drilled a small hole in a scrap piece of wood to hold the nut.  Even with the holder, I still could not watch Mr. C hit those nuts with the hammer, for fear of him hitting his fingers, so I had to leave the room while Ms. J supervised!


And here’s what an open nut looks like once it has been hit four or five times with a hammer.   No fingers were damaged in opening any nuts.

Now we have to get the nut out of the shell.  I looked and looked for a nut pick and could not find one, so we used a tiny screwdriver instead, the kind that are usually used on tiny computer parts.


Very rarely, you can get a nut half out of the shell in one complete piece.  Those are apparently called ‘perfectos’. Ms. J read about a restaurant in Boston that serves slices of pumpkin pie with a single perfecto hickory nut on top for $12.   In the pile of nuts from the strainer in the photo above, we managed to get two perfecto nuts.  “Perfecto!”  Mr. C shouted.


Most of the nuts came out in bits and pieces.  There are still a lot to crack, but here’s a few of the nuts from the cracked ones below. After all that work, how do they taste?   Just about the same as a pecan, so this was very worthwhile.  Now we have to make something with them!


The last spoonful

During our recent trip to San Francisco, Ms. J picked up a jar of Cream-Nut brand peanut butter.  When we travel we like to have some food available for Mr. C  for a quick snack or sandwich, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I had never seen this brand of peanut butter before, and had never had one that had such a strong peanut taste.  There’s only two ingredients; peanuts and sea salt.  We liked it so much that we brought the jar home with us in our luggage.

The jar was just about full when we brought it home as we only made a sandwich or two with it while we were there.  We go through about a jar of peanut butter a week here at home, so this should have been emptied long ago.  However we’ve been conserving it, since we can’t find a local source.  I even contacted the Cream-Nut company to ask if there were any markets in our area that carried it, and unfortunately no.

Before Mr. C, we might have gone through a jar of peanut butter every four months or so.  But now, with a PB&J at least two or three times a week, we are becoming connoisseurs of the PB&J.  I have been known to grab a cracker only as a way to get some of this peanut butter.



Both Ms. J and I love this stuff, but neither of us want to be the one to empty out the jar.  We’re saving it to let the other person finish it off.

After more than a month of crackers and sandwiches, there’s not much left.





Definitely not enough for a sandwich in there.

How much is left anyway?


That’s really not much at all.

That’s a quarter of a teaspoon, maybe.

It really wouldn’t make any sense for me to put that back into the jar.

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese



Part three of the new food resolution is our attempt to make homemade mozzarella cheese. We eat a lot of cheese, and mozzarella is a common ingredient in a lot of my recipes. So while not a new food, we had never tried to make it ourselves.

It is surprisingly easy to make your own cheese at home. The easiest kind to make is a fresh cheese like ricotta.  For ricotta, you need just whole milk, cream, and some lemon juice. Mozzarella is a bit more complicated and takes some specialized ingredients; rennet, and citric acid, some recipes for it will also call for calcium chloride as well.  It’s also a good idea to have a very good thermometer as well, such as a specialized candy thermometer.

Like so many of these new food adventures, when I say “we”, I really mean Ms. J.  I didn’t really do a whole lot in the making of the cheese, but I did track down the rennet, citric acid, and calcium chloride.

It turns out that finding a supplier of rennet is just about impossible here in New Hampshire.  No local store had it.  No gourmet food store, food making supply store, or even beer making supply store had it.  I tried our local organic food supermarket where I spoke with several people who had no idea what rennet was until I explained that it was an ingredient used in making cheese.  ‘Oh, ok, you should talk to Brian, he’s the cheese expert, I’ll go get him.’   Brian soon appears and explains that the best way to get rennet is to contact a local farmer to see if he has a sheep stomach available soon that he could give you. You then can make your own rennet at home from that sheep stomach.  How exactly you make the rennet I have no idea since I became a bit nauseous listening to Brian the cheese expert explain how to make rennet at home using some kind of giant sheep stomach grater, so I stopped listening to him after a few seconds.  We might be do it yourself food makers, but we’re not quite as hard core as Brian is.

I finally was able to find it on the internet.  Of course I should have just tried that to begin with, but even there it was not very easy to find.  I finally found it on a home sausage making ingredient website, which is where I found not just the rennet, but also the citric acid, and a lot of other very specialized stuff.  And yes, at some point we plan on making sausages too, so I went ahead and bought some of their sausage making ingredients as well.

I found all the ingredients before Christmas, so guess what Ms. J received as a gift ?  Nothing says ‘Merry Christmas’ like a bottle of rennet, thermophilic starter culture, citric acid, mesophilic starter culture, and calcium chloride!!

Anyway, I had little to do with the making of the cheese, I was occupied with shoveling snow, and then trying to fix the broken toilet supply line that conveniently broke during last week’s blizzard.  I do know that Mr. C had a great time helping to make the cheese since I at least heard Ms. J and Mr. C making the cheese as I tried in vain to fix the leaking pipe in the bathroom.  I had reached the limit of my do it yourself skills and had to call in the plumber on that one.    Once the cheese was made we had to decide how to use it.  In a lasagna, or some other dish ?  We couldn’t wait that long to eat it, so we just had it with slices of tomato and olive oil.  It was very good, with a much fresher taste than store bought cheese.  This new food gets a five star rating.

For a recipe, I would suggest checking out the book ‘Artisan Cheese Making at Home’ by Mary Karlin.   Or you can check out the best food blog I know:  Jovina Cooks Italian .   She writes in such detail that it helped to inspire us to try this to begin with, she really does make it look easy, as long as you can find that rennet.



Growing mushrooms

While not exactly a new food, I’ll consider this to be part two of the ‘new food series’ since it’s at least a new do it yourself project that is food related.  Ok, it’s not actually me, it’s Ms. J who is in charge of this.

As a Christmas gift, she received a mushroom log from the Lost Creek Mushroom Log company of Perkins Oklahoma.  The fact that there was a company that sent out logs that have been injected with shiitake mushroom spores came as news to me, it seemed like a fun thing to do especially since Mr. C likes to see how plants grow.


Once you receive the log, you immerse it in a container of spring water.  You’re not supposed to use tap water since some of the added chemicals in tap water, like chlorine, can kill your mushroom spores.  Let the log sit in a somewhat shady area, and then a week or so later, you have mushrooms growing on your log.



The fun thing is that the mushroom spores don’t grow all at once, you can harvest the first set of mushrooms that grow and then water the log again and more will grow.  Mr. C loves to check it out every day to see how it’s doing and lets us know when it looks like a new mushroom is coming in.

I’m not sure what we’re going to do with the mushrooms yet.  Maybe mushroom soup.


2015 Resolutions


There are many, many, resolutions for 2015, I’ll combine two into one post.

We have a lot of unread books in the house, so one resolution is to read more, especially books that I would not normally consider reading. Seems like it would be a good idea to mix things up and read something unusual this year, some books and authors I have not heard of. A good source of books I would not normally read would be Ms. J’s pile of unread books. While we have a lot in common, we don’t normally read a lot of the same things. Looking through her selection of unread books, I picked out ‘Bright Day’ by J. B. Priestley, which was first published in 1946. I picked it out based mostly on the fact that I had not heard of the author, and it looked like a nice edition, a hardcover from 1966. ‘Bright Day’ is a novel about a screenwriter who travels to Cornwall to finish work on a screenplay. While there he meets two people from his past, the memory of their prior relationship causes him to recall a number of details from his youth.

One of the other resolutions is food related. Not only do we have a lot of books, we also have a lot of cookbooks, many of which we do not seem to actually ever use. So the other resolution is to use those cookbooks more often and come up with more interesting meals. That could mean one new thing a week, or one new thing a month, I haven’t figured that out yet. I’ll try for one new thing a week and see what happens.

The main character of ‘Bright Day’, Greg Dawson, starts off his visit to Cornwall by ordering a ‘Pink Gin’ at the hotel bar. Here is where there is a connection between the two resolutions; I will allow for new cocktails as being part of the resolution, especially as a toast to start off the new year. I looked up what a ‘Pink Gin’ is and it turns out to be Plymouth Gin with a dash or two of Angostura bitters. (I always wonder if a writer is implying something when he has a character order a certain drink, or eat a certain food. Dawson was in Cornwall since he was having trouble finishing his screenplay in his usual worksite of Hollywood. I’m guessing he was having trouble finishing his work since he was drinking too much. Just a guess, I haven’t finished the book yet.) When ordering a Pink Gin at a bar, the bitters are shaken into the glass and then if the bartender is well versed in his craft he will ask ‘In or out’. This means that the bitters can be shaken into the glass and then swirled around the glass to coat it, what remains can be left in the glass, or they can be discarded.

While I did have Plymouth gin, I did not have Angostura bitters. I did have Orange bitters though, and it turns out that Plymouth gin and Orange bitters, with the addition of tonic water is an actual drink; a ‘Gin Orange Tonic’. The addition of the bitters adds a strong taste of orange to the well known gin and tonic. I tried it both ‘in and out’ and it really does make for a stronger orange flavor if the bitters are left in.

So far these resolutions are starting off well.

2015 starts off with my new favorite drink, thanks to J.B. Priestley, Fee Brothers Orange Bitters, and Plymouth Gin.