(Bourbon) Drambuie Experiment #1 — UPDATED

drambuieUPDATE: True Drambuie starts with a honey flavor, ends with a clean licorice flavor and is underpinned throughout with mild whisky.  What I made had a slight new flavor, and the bourbon knocked out the licorice finish.  While very nice on ice, not what I was aiming for.  Expect to post Experiment #2 by 10/29.

Drambuie is an 80 proof Scottish liqueur made from Chivas Regal Scotch, honey and a secret blend of herbs, that costs about $35 for 750 ml.  It’s very tasty, and since I have honey, I decided to try to replicate it or at least make something similar that is equally tasty.

Most “Drambuie” recipes call for a lot of rosemary, and some also have fennel seed as an ingredient.  When I taste Drambuie I taste only non-peaty scotch, honey and fennel, so I went light on the rosemary.  As for the alcohol, I used Evan Williams 1783 bourbon, which is 43% alcohol, or 86 proof.  Fine Scotch costs so much because it’s imported, and I think bourbon is superior.  1783 is not top-shelf bourbon, but it’s very palatable and reasonably priced.  Since the honey is free, this would result in a liqueur costing 25 percent of the cost of Drambuie.  On the other hand, the Bourbon Drambuie will be 32% alcohol instead of 40%.  Below is the recipe I used:

  • 750 ml Evan Williams 1783 bourbon
  • 1 1/3 cups honey
  • 1 rounded tablespoon fennel seed, coarsely chopped in a blender
  • 1 teaspoon (chopped and pressed down) fresh rosemary

Put the honey and herbs in the bowl first, and then slowly add a little bourbon at a time and whisk.  When the honey’s loose enough for easy mixing, add the rest of the bourbon.  Put the mixture into a quart-sized jar for aging.  As luck would have it, it won’t all fit :).  Strain the remainder and put in a glass with some ice-cubes and enjoy.  Add the strainer leavings to the quart jar and seal.

I’m gong to leave it sit for a month or two to ensure the fennel and rosemary flavors make their way into the liqueur.

The fresh remnants were lovely and I have high hopes for the final result.  My husband thought it was very good, but that the bourbon was a little strong.  I agreed, and thought that was a very fine thing.

New Orange Cat Drama

PROLOGUE:  A relative could no longer care for her many cats, and I agreed to take four as the only other alternative was to put them down (since they are nine years old, the local rescue operations would not take them).  Only three could be caught as some were somewhat feral.  The three brothers I received are all very large, neutered orange tabbies.  I had five cats already, and to minimize drama (and potentially harmful fights) built a cat habitat out of an old guard shack and pen so the new cats could get used to their surroundings and the resident cats from a safe enclosure.  They arrived July 10th.  I went out each day to spend time with them, and one became very friendly.  The other two would cringe, but then bump their heads at my petting hand.  In a week I could have had their trust, but it was not to be.  On the 3rd night they broke out of an insufficiently reinforced window screen and have been living under the guard shack ever since.  I left the window screen broken, put a box under it to help them get in and out, and continued to feed them in the guard shack.  Then I could only count two at a time, and a deer camera set up by the food only showed two cats at once.  Then one…

POST:

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Orange Cat is a rescue.  He’s been living out back under a guard shack for the past few months, and has become very affectionate with me.  He had two brothers who were always stand-offish, and they seem to have vanished.  I just put a deer camera up to see if they’re still showing up for food, but in any case, I wanted to pull this friendly cat closer to avoid his vanishing, too!  We have five other cats and it’s high time he joined the clowder (yes that really is the name for a gang of cats).  He let me pick him up and carry him into the house, even though he trembled a little at the door.  (None of these cats has ever offered to bite or scratch.)  Then I set up food, water and a litter box in the computer room and shut the door.

Little Black Cat came in and they hissed and hummed at each other.  Then she left in a huff.

I was concerned about my main cat squeeze ,Waldo, as he licked his pants bald through stress over a past animal addition.  These pictures are of Waldo from about a month ago.

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Waldo came into the computer room and there was hissing and growling.  Orange Cat has taken me for his own, and is perched on the back of my chair.  Waldo, slitty-eyed skulked about.  The picture below makes it look like Waldo is much smaller, but while he is a little smaller than Orange Cat, Waldo is a fine manly cat, with much nicer ears and softer fur, as I have told him.

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I recalled that cats hate being tapped on the head, so every time Orange Cat growled or hissed at Waldo, I told him firmly that he was “bad” and tapped him a few times on his forehead.  (Not painful taps, just annoying.)  First he took to squinting and hunkering while hissing as he knew the head tap was coming, and then he just gave up on the nastiness and sprawled on the back of my chair, staring off into space in disgust.  Waldo is now comfortable, but then he started pulling on the bottom of the door to get out, calling an end to new-cat bonding.

EPILOGUE:  The deer camera showed that I do still have the two brothers outside.  Then I had to hunt for Orange Cat inside to make sure he didn’t get out, and he had not!  (They all look the same to me.)  There are still three giant orange tabbies in residence.  It seems the brothers have found better accommodations than the dirt under the guard shack (but if it’s in the barn I failed to find it).  Orange Cat was very happy with carpet, chairs and balls to play with, and totally comfortable with the other cats and dogs.  He’s a very confident old fellow.  I hope once I get Orange Cat as part of the greater clowder-pack (dogs), the others will work their way in.

Orange Cat
Orange Cat

 

Orange Cat's Two Brothers
Orange Cat’s Two Brothers

 

A Brother in Color
A Brother in Color

Excellent Phone Notification Management App

Like Darth Vader confronting Obi-wan, with this app, You will be the Master.  Tired of texts waking you up?  Tired of sales calls interrupting what you’re doing?  There’s no need to be limited to unique ring tones or blocking.  This app opens up a whole world of phone-control, and totally eliminates the feeling of being a slave to your phone:

Sound Profile +volume schedule

This app is for Android phones with Lollipop or Marshmallow operating systems.  I did have to pay $3.25 for the pro-key to get all of the features I wanted, but the convenience provided is well worth every penny.  The app does more than I use it for (as do most things electronic).  The reason I’m writing this review is because it does wonderful things for me that no other app I could find would do — I started off with what I wanted and searched and searched until I found this One App.

I wanted an app that would permit only phone calls to go through when I’m sleeping.  That’s all I wanted, but I got more:  the ability to block all calls from hidden numbers or phone numbers that not in my phone book (or both).  Don’t want to completely block them?  You can make the notifications really quiet so they can be ignored and checked later when more convenient.

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Each Sound Profile in the main menu, shown above, can be scheduled for times that suit you.  Then notifications (calls, notifications, multimedia, system and alarms) under each Sound Profile can be specified, including the option for unique notification types/sounds/volumes for hidden numbers or for numbers not in your phone book.  Exceptions can be added for any of these.

Personally, in Normal mode:

  • All hidden numbers are completely blocked.
  • For numbers not in my phone book, texts will come through with no notification, and calls come through very quietly.  This way I’m not bothered, but when I pick up my phone for some other reason I will see what came in.  (If the calls are blocked you will never know the calls were made).
  • Calls from my phone book are as loud as possible, since I often leave my phone in my purse.

For Night mode these are the same except phone calls are soft, and I get no notifications except alarms, and phone calls .

Bliss!

Here is a more complete description of what this app can do:

AppCrawlr Review

Miso Mayonnaise

It’s always aggravated me that my home-made mayonnaise is heavy, and not very good.  Not nearly as good as Hellman’s and a lot more work.  While reading The Food Lab I finally made it to the mayonnaise section, and two new things caught my eye:  1.  The inclusion of water, and 2. Cautions about using 100 percent olive oil as it make the mayonnaise heavy.  Both of these changes should help lighten up my homemade mayonnaise.

dscn1072But, if I’m going to go through the work it takes to make mayonnaise, I want it to taste better and be healthier, so I bought a mixture of cold-pressed canola and olive oil.

Oil in hand, and eggs on the counter, and feeling a little impatient (never a good time to cook) I put the egg yolks and mustard into my Magi-Mix food processor and turned it on.  The blade barely touched half the egg mixture, but what can you do?  I proceeded to slowly drizzle in the oil — so far so good, it looked rather creamy — and then added a little water.  Just a very little.  NO.  I didn’t follow The Food Lab recipe, and they weren’t clear on the ideal oil-water ratio.  The mayonnaise broke, which means there were little clots of egg bound with water floating about in oil.  Disgusting.  So I looked up how to fix broken mayonnaise and the fix most discussed was an added egg yolk.

Egg yolks contain lecithin, an emulsifier that will allow oil and water (in the yolk, in the vinegar or lemon juice, etc.) to from a homogeneous, creamy and stable mixture.  Other emulsifiers include nuts and mustard, which is why mustard is included in most mayonnaise recipes.  Anyway, adding more egg yolk made sense, so, even though I was low on eggs I doubled down and added a yolk as directed.  The eggy islands floating in fat were bigger when I was done and kind of connected, but this was not even a little bit creamy.  Chicken food, I thought.

Then I had an idea.

Some time ago I’d bought on-sale, organic salad dressing labeled as miso-ginger.  Though I tasted no ginger, it was yummy, but there would be no more at Giant Eagle.  It was the kind of thing they tried, it didn’t work out, and were dumping it cheap six months ago when I impulse-bought it.  Joe said, “You’re usually smart about that kind of thing, I’m sure you can figure it out.”  I immediately thought of City on the Edge of Forever, where Kirk left Spock to figure out time travel while he want off la-de-da on a lark with Joan Collins.  Consequently, I had a sack of miso, that I really had no idea what to do with.

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Is miso an emulsifier?  Did I look it up?  No, I grabbed a soup spoon and chucked some miso in there and blended.  The result was an amazingly creamy and tasty concoction, with no signs of breakage over the week it lasted.  Although it tasted only similar to the on-sale salad dressing, mixed with a little Parmesan cheese and red-wine vinegar, it was even better.  And by itself it was much tastier and creamier than Hellman’s  😀

Having just run out of this lovely accident, this morning was the morning to try to make some more.

I decided on a more mature approach, and pulled out the Magi-Mix cookbook and turned to the Mayonnaise recipe.  The regular type below is from them, and the bold type is from me.  I’m posting this because the result was fantastic.

  • “Use the mini-bowl.”  Hmmm.  Did this thing even come with one of those?  Found it, and it was indeed much more size-appropriate.
  • Put in 2 egg yolks, 1.5 tablespoons mustard and 1 tablespoon oil.  Blend for 20 seconds.
  • Drizzle in 3/4 cup of oil (canola-olive oil blend).
  • Add 2 teaspoons salt (since miso is salty this should have been omitted).
  • While blending dump in 1 heaping tablespoon of miso.  Slowly add 1 tablespoon of water.
  • Drizzle in 3/4 cup of oil (canola-olive oil blend).
  • While blending, slowly add 1 tablespoon white vinegar and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
  • While blending dump in 1 heaping tablespoon of miso.  Slowly add 1 tablespoon of water.

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This will make a little over one pint of miso-mayonnaise.  Reducing the oil by an ounce or two will make the right amount to fit in a pint jar, and will hopefully not result in disaster, but you never know.  Mayonnaise can be touchy.  (The specks you see are mustard, since I used mustard made from crushed-seed rather than finely ground mustard seeds.)

Limoncello: Christmas 2016 Beverage

UPDATE AND CAUTION!  We drank the first quart right after it was made, and it was delicious.  Perhaps I wasn’t quite as careful as I should have been about excluding white matter under the peel, since there was slightly bitter after-taste, but in any case, it was delightful.  I put the other two quarts away for the Holidays; Thanksgiving came and I opened one.  Major disappointment.  Most of the lemony goodness was gone!  I finished the Limoncello on 9/25, so this was after aging only one month.

 

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This recipe will make three quarts of limoncello, a lemon cordial from Italy.  I’ve never had Limoncello before, and loved the result.

  • Peel three pounds of large lemons (I used a sack from Sam’s).  Remove as little of the white layer under the hard, yellow peel as possible, as this will add a bitter after-taste.
  • Empty 1.5 liter bottle of 100 proof Smirnoff vodka into another container, put the peels in the bottle, add the vodka back in and seal the bottle.  This will leave some vodka to use elsewhere.
  • Let sit for a month.  Periodically flip the bottle around to mix up the peels.
  • Strain out the peels and discard.  Pour vodka-lemon mixture into three quart jars — will fill each jar about half way.
  • Bring 4 cups of water just to boil, turn off heat, add 4 cups of sugar, mix until sugar is dissolved, cover and wait until cool — a few hours.
  • Fill the three quart jars the rest of the way with the sugar solution, which will fill the jars.
  • Add 1/8 teaspoon sea salt and 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice to each jar.
  • Mix and the Limoncello is complete.

Serve on ice.

The Limoncello recipes I have read don’t include the lemon juice or salt, but I tasted it before and after and these are excellent additions.

After the peel is removed from the lemons, that leaves a lot of lemon juice in the lemons, so juice them!  Freeze 2 tablespoons (strained) for use in the Limoncello a month later.  The rest can also be frozen, but fresh lemonade is easy and delicious:

  • 1.5 cups lemon juice
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 8 cups water

Mix until the sugar dissolved.  A little salt is great in lemonade, too.  As is left-over 100 proof vodka 🙂

Easy, Unsightly and Healthy Chicken Coop Management

There are those that recommend scraping up chicken droppings daily. Yes, daily.  Others weekly (and I’m certain this results in a stinky coop five days a week).  There are those that use the deep litter method where the litter is never changed, but involve mixing in so much other matter (wood chips, hay, leaves, etc) and water on a regular basis that the bottom of the coop becomes a  compost heap — that’s a lot of hauling and mixing.  I don’t do any of those things, and the coop typically looks dreadful, but it doesn’t smell, I only clean it once a year, and the chickens are healthy except for a some leg mites on some of the older chickens.  Stopping all leg mites would require a continuous chemical onslaught, and I prefer to cull the birds with a weakness for leg-mites.

Be aware, my rebellious ways will only work with a flock that does not have endemic disease, and that is free range.  My chickens are only in the coop during the night (except during the coldest days of winter when they choose to spend most of their time in the coop) and my coop has wall-to-wall perches that are clean of droppings.  This happens naturally as chickens don’t foul their roosts.  I do not feed them in the coop so they spend minimal time on the floor.  All droppings will off-gas ammonia and other noxious gases so any coop must have good ventilation.  Whatever management technique you choose to use must result in a coop that does not smell rank.  Fowl droppings aren’t of the smelliest kind, like human, for instance, but they will smell nasty if left in wet heaps under perches.

What I do is to simply put a layer of hay, maybe an inch thick when lightly pressed down (but it’s hard to say since it clumps), down after I clean the coop.  When the coop starts to smell ripe, I throw down a similar amount of hay — this happens every few months.  The chickens will kick and scratch the new hay about looking for bugs, and they might find some — they don’t do this much, but regardless, this keeps the hay and droppings mixed. I water the inside a few times a year on the rare occasions the hose is strung out that far.  That is all.  Last year I didn’t spread the hay down and within two days the coop stank; I threw in some hay and the next day the smell was gone.  Obviously it’s the action of micro-organisms, and evidently the dropping-to-hay ratio can be quite high to keep the micro-organisms active.  I expect the action would be quicker if I used more hay and regular watering, but moisture is the enemy of healthy chickens respiratory tracts and would be more work.  I don’t need it to compost quickly; I need it to not smell and harm my birds.

Yesterday I cleaned the coop, as I always do on a bright, sunny day.  The bottom of coop is lined with heavy plastic that I haul out slowly, removing most of the manure in shovel fulls as I go.  There were four five-gallon buckets of manure, that did not smell.  I saw only one bug, lucky thing.  This manure does a good job of fixing hot spots in the yard and over the years we are down to one about two-by-three feet (we live on a “reclaimed” strip mine), but most of this year’s manure was thrown into the garden.  Then I hosed off the plastic and left it spread in the sunshine to dry, and hosed out the coop and the nesting boxes.  I use large storage containers for the nesting boxes so they can be pulled out in the sun, dumped clean, disassembled and thoroughly hosed.  The ceramic fake eggs are put in a bucket of bleach-water to soak.  Then I left everything alone for a few hours to dry, followed by reassembly.

The pictures below show the south-facing side of the coop.  The screen windows are covered with rigid plastic in the winter with channels to allow moist air to escape.  They are facing south to allow for solar heating in the winter, but the generous eave keeps sunlight out of the coop in the summer.  The sunlight showing from the west is via an open man-door in the western wall.  The solar lights help maintain enough light for egg production through the winter; they worked great last year.  Griz, shown in the 2nd picture, and all the other dogs, enjoyed all this work with manure, and one of them found and ate a rotten egg — I know this because it came out the other end last around mid-night in the kitchen.

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Below, is a view of the inside of the main coop, insulated with reflective insulation on the roof to help with light in the winter, and feed sacks on the walls.  With the metal shell on the outside, and feed-sacks on the inside of the 2 x 4’s it’s actually the dead air-space between the two that insulates.

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The floor boards of the coop can be removed, but they’re heavy so I simply pulled them out a bit so when the coop was hosed the remnant manure went out the end of the coop to the bottom.

The coop is two stories, with the top being the main coop and the bottom being overflow and shade.  I left all of the manure in the bottom from the past year, and yesterday added more hay and perches.  As I was positioning the cinder blocks to hold the perch-ends I had to stick my head in there.  I knew it didn’t smell bad (that’s why I decided not to scrape it clean), but was surprised to be reminded of a horse barn.  Seriously (I like the smell of horse barn’s).  The upstairs coop can hold 20 birds and while that’s tighter than ideal, it helps to keep them warm — that’s good since no electricity runs to the coop.  The coop is insulated and designed for passive ventilation to reduce the poop-fumes and moisture from bird respiration.  Because the chickens can leave whenever they want during the day, they are happy birds and I’ve had no problem with the chickens pecking each other.  On the other hand, I currently have 40 chickens and even though many are not yet adult size there is no way that many will fit in the main coop.  By winter I’ll have that number down to 20.

Below is a view of the coop from the east, showing the chicken yard and coop’s lower level.  The lower level provides shade in the heat of summer, and overflow roosting.  The cinder-blocks are cocked to bind the perches and hold them tight.  The 55 gallon drums cut in half are giant planters designed to grow morning glories up the wiring to provide more shade.  That plan failed miserably — chickens evidently will eat morning glories, and even weeds.  We use wood chips in the yard.

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Hays Family History Notes

Family History Notes, compiled by Edward Dixon Hays for his children Dallas Burford Hays (my grandfather) and Cathryn Mary (Hays) Baker.  Covers the late 1600s through 1926, with less detail in the older information.  Edward Dixon Hays was a congressman from Missouri who settled in D.C. after he was finished with public office.

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Old Family Bible and Family Records (including Burford & Hays)

In 1881 my Burford ancestors’ home, in Burfordville, Missouri (no, I didn’t make that up) caught on fire and burned to the ground.  A fragment of the family bible with some of the family records was saved.  Some of the records go back to 1810.  Afterwards, the bible remnants were rebound, and family records continued to be documented through to 1936.

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