Dyeing Fiber with Natural Materials

As a knitter, I have a great appreciation for luxury yarns, especially ones that are in some way unique. As a spinner, I have the ability to create such yarns myself and supply other knitters as well as myself with something special.

Dye-pot of Polypore and Roving

Last week I collected several pounds of Dyer’s Polypore on Mt. Tamalpais. I was able to dye close to one pound of Merino-Tencel blend and almost one pound of Faux Cashmere, a superfine nylon fiber which is as soft as the most expensive luxury fiber available but is about 1/7th of the price.

Four Dyelots from Polypore and Jack O' Lantern

Above From Right to Left: Unmordanted polypore hot dye on merino-tencel; unmordanted jack o’ lantern hot dye on merino-tencel; unmordanted polypore hot dyebath on faux cashmere; unmordanted polypore exhaust dye on faux cashmere.

Later in the week I also dyed with some pomegranate skins and fresh Tumeric from the Berkeley Bowl, my local natural food store. This produced a vibrant yellow reminiscent of sunflowers.

Dyeing with Household Items

Above from Top to Bottom: unmordanted pomegranate skin hot dye on norwegian wool; alum mordanted raw tumeric hot dye on norwegian wool; alum mordanted raw tumeric hot dye on merino-tencel; alum mordanted raw tumeric hot dye on faux cashmere

I’ll be spinning these up in the next week and posting them on etsy as the skeins are completed. The question is should I blend different dyelots of the same fiber type and make several consistent skeins or should I spin them up separately and make a unique skein for each dyelot?

Warm Up for Winter: Lets practice feeding an army

We'll call that an intermission

…and now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

The Northern California Rennaissance Faire was fantastic. I have been spending all my weekends there since the end of August before the gates even opened to the enthusiastic throngs of patrons. In that time I was building the village of Willingtown, buffing up on my Elizabethan language skills and mostly shepherding children in and out of the Funny Farm petting zoo. Now, a week after our final days there, our apartment still hasn’t recovered, but I’m starting to get back into my normal routine, and that means recipes!

With holidays approaching and family visits already being planned, it’s important to load up on recipes that can feed a big group without breaking the bank or a sweat. This chili is an old standby that I learned to make from my mother when I was in elementary school. She never wrote down a recipe, but I learned to make it by feel and have since then taken down the recipe. It takes time when you start with dry beans, but the actual work involved in making it is minimal and the results are woth the wait. Just beware, the batch size is rather hefty. We often brought it to potlucks because it is vegan yet tastes as hearty as any classic meaty chili so its sure to please anyone. It’s also delicious, filling and incredibly cheap to make bucket-loads of!

Black Bean Chili

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups dry black beans soaked overnight
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups vegi broth
  • 2 cans fire roasted tomatos
  • 1 can corn with liquid
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 onions
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 3 dried ancho chilis, chopped into 1cm squares
  • 2 dried chipotle morita peppers, ground (sub chipotle meco for more heat)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
Directions:
Rinse your soaked beans until the water runs clear. Then bring beans, water and broth to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours or until beans are soft all the way through. Add more water if necessary to keep beans covered during this time. The liquid will reduce as it simmers. Coarsely chop onion and garlic and set in a shallow pan with the oil to slowly sweat over low heat, stirring occasionally to make sure they don’t burn. Once soft, add them to the beans and liquid. It doesn’t matter if the beans aren’t soft yet when you do this; the flavor will seep into the beans as they cook. Once the beans are soft, add the rest of the ingredients and allow the chili to simmer for an hour at least. The longer it can go, the better since the flavors need time to come out of the chilis pods and permeate the beans and corn. This is a relatively mild chili, though it may still have too much kick for some people. Leave out the seeds of the peppers for a milder batch or substitute the Chipotle Morita with Chipotle Meco for a spicier dish. For the adventurous, consider adding cayenne pepper or fresh jalapenos as a garnish.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream and cornbread for 8 people.

Hearty Black Bean Chili and Cheddar Cornbread

The Cheddar Cornbread is a recipe I developed myself  from the ones published by Alton Brown and Epicurious. It is the most tender and moist cornbread I have ever had! I have the bad habit of not following recipes, which drives Colin nuts, but produces amazing results. I look at around a dozen different recipes for the same thing and then narrow it to the two of three best looking ones. Then I play with the proportions(and the ingredients I have available) until I find exactly the product I want. It’s an artistic take on what is science side of cooking.

Cheddar Cornbread

Ingredients:

  • 1 cups corn meal
  • 1/2 cup corn flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon gluten
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 3/4 cup full fat yogurt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 can of corn, lightly drained
  • 4 ounces extra sharp cheddar
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 tablespoon butter for greasing the pan
Directions:
Preheat oven to 425°F.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix with a fork. Make a well in the center of the bowl and crack both eggs into it. Add, cream, yogurt, and corn to the well and wisk liquids with your fork, slowly incorporating the flour mixture. Chop green onions and cube cheese into 1/2 in. pieces. Set 1/4 cup of cheese bits aside to top bread with.  Add remaining cheese and green onion into the batter and incorporate fully. It should have the same texture as thick pancake batter so that it scoops easily, but still flows. Grease an 8×12 or 9×9 baking pan and pour batter into the pan. Sprinkle reserved cheese pieces on top evenly. Bake for 18-20 minutes until bread has risen and top is golden brown. Serve warm with Black Bean Chili or as a stand alone snack.

 

 

Sweet Pickled Pearl Onions

A few weeks ago I learned to pickle quail eggs from Kitty Sharkey of Havenscourt Homestead. They turned out so well that I thought I might just try to put together something of my own.

I developed a delicious recipe for sweet pickled pearl onions which go well in salad or as a zesty side to sandwiches, burgers and barbecue. Best of all, they are super easy to make and I’ll tell you how!

Peel and trim 2-3 cups of red pearl onions. White pearl onions will work too but won’t be quite as sweet. Though I haven’t tried it, you could also coarsely chop 2 large onions. In a bowl, cover the peeled onions with boiling water and let them sit  for 5 minutes. Drain them and fill the onions into a jar or two.

In a non-reactive saucepan combine the following ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes.

  • 1 c. white vinegar
  • 1/2 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher or pickling salt
  • 1 cracked bay leaf
  • 2-3 large cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp. cracked pepper corns
  • 1/2 tsp. ground clove
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seed
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Pour the brine over your filled jar(s) of onions without filtering out any of the spices and allow them to soak up flavor for at least 5 days before serving. They will keep in the refrigerator for at least 1 month.

If you would like to keep these for longer follow proper canning process as recommended by a reputable agency(USDA, FDA, National Center for Home Food Preservation, etc.) once you’ve filled the jars. If they are canned, they ought to keep for months and months.

Now, I’m going to go enjoy some of those onions!

*This entry also cross-posted to wildwoodyarn.blogspot.com