“Houston, We have root beer!

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“The clock is running!

My fellow Americans, the first batch of root beer has been brewed.  (Brewn?)  Know what?  It tastes like root beer!  And it’s goooood.  Nice dark, sweet flavor.  Sassafras tang sort of lingers a bit on the back of your tongue.

But it’s not so sweet that it’s cloying.  Has just the smallest hint of a bite to it.  I like it.  If it weren’t so doggone late right now, I would go taste test another bottle.  It’s all in the interests of science, right.

Since it is too late for root beer, and, of course, the blackberries were starting to be in the refrigerator too long, Kathryn and I decided to put them (the blackberries) out of their misery and have a half pint of them with a small bowl of blackberry ice cream . . . did I post here about blackberries frozen in homemade ice cream being like eating very delicious marbles?  Well, they’re good, but I’m going to whang the bee-hoopers out of ‘em next time.

Oh, mercy; there’s only tomorrow and Friday of Mid-Term tests before Christmas Break.  Then I can think and plan about and for WindWalkerCamp full time for two weeks!

Give me strength.

Thanks for reading.  Stay thirsty, my friends.


What the hands learn, the mind cannot forget.


Homemade Cranberry-Vanilla Ice Cream

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It’s really rather tasty.  As in “Really tasty.”  The cranberries are just barely “untart,” and they’re crunchy . . . like pecans.  But without being chewy.

The way you make this WindWalkerCamp specialty is to start off looking for frozen cherries in the grocery freezer case, picking up the bag with the red circles on it that says “unsweetened” and completely overlooking the twice-as-high lettering that says in retrospect – very clearly – “cranberries.”

This is what my family used to call “lanyap.”   Sometimes we called it “lenyoppy”.  That’s what we kids called it, anyway.  I didn’t know how to spell it till I got to UT.  Shame, really, such a wonderful word.  No self-respecting buzz-cut kid I grew up with would ever spell it with all the extra letters.  I suppose it’s better that I know how to spell it right.  But it just doesn’t ring in my ear the way my uncles or my mom said it with that “g” and the extra “p” and “e” in there like that.  “Lanyap” is pure Texan.  We figured “lenyoppy” was Spanish. “Lagniappe” is just big-city.   Like Fort Worth.   Probably foreign.

Here’s the recipe – because you are going to want to make this –
2 cups  heavy cream
1 cup  whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt (I can never understand why)
1 cup of frozen cranberries – sliced into quarters  (run those puppies through the food processor)

The recipe says to chill it for a couple of hours, then put in a quarter of the liquids then a quarter of the cranberries, then another quarter and another quarter . . .  uh-uh.  No.  That’s too much like cooking.  What you do is mix everything together in a bowl.  Then whang the poo-dookie out of the cranberries and dump them into the milk and cream and sugar and vanilla.  And that ubiquitous pinch of salt.  Stir it a minute or so with a rubber spatula, and scrape it into the churn. I know what you’re thinking, but the more you scrape into the churn, the more ice cream you get back.

Now this is important: Lick The Spatula.  A real pro doesn’t try to get the whole thing into his mouth at once . . . that can be painful.  Just take your time, and do a thorough job.   When the spatula is clean enough to sneak back in the drawer  go on to the bag–of-ice-and-the-salt step.

When you’ve sealed the churn (salt water is good for taffy, bad for ice cream), and clamped the churn into the bucket by the motor or crank, and flipped the flip-lock in place to keep everything together, pour some of the ice into the bucket.  Pick up the chunks of ice from the floor and counter, rinse them under the faucet, and put them into the bucket too.  Pour about a quarter-cup of rock salt on them.  Your wife will think you are “much man” if you clean the ice chunks off the floor.

I’m having difficulty finding rock salt; I’m having to buy “Ice Cream Salt.”  The store can charge more for “Ice Cream Salt.”   That’s probably so you won’t inadvertently sprinkle this particular element on the iced-over back porch stairs.  It might turn into ice cream, and then where would we all be?

After five minutes or so, when the ice is starting to melt down a little, add some more ice and some more salt.  At this point you really ought to go get a towel out of the bathroom linen cabinet to put under the bucket.  The wood shrinks when it dries out.  Now, if that’s not a reason to make ice cream often I don’t know what is.  “But, Honey, the bucket’ll dry out and leak all over the counter.”  (I’m gonna have to hone that one a little. But she’ll think I’m cute for trying it.  Because she’ll want some ice cream  too.)

Anyway, crank the mixture for twenty minutes or so, then clear the ice and salt off the lid of the churn and see how your ice cream is coming along.  This is a very small amount of ice cream . . . after all, there are only the two of us, and it goes a long way (and I’ll probably tote it around a long time).  If you double or treble the measures, it’ll probably take longer to freeze up.  I’ll have to check.  If I remember, I’ll report back to you.

I remember when I was a kid that dildapping crank was a beast to turn after while because there were four or six quarts of ice cream freezing solid in that churn.  To the best of my memory it was always peach.  And friends, that is OK, ‘cause I surely do admire a bowl of homemade peach ice cream. (I can hear Aunt Betty and Uncle Bill and Aunt Myrt and Uncle Tommy laughing and telling stories on the big screened-in back porch around the card table.)

But homemade cranberry ice cream is truly tasty.

This summer out on our forty-five acres we’ll be churning other flavors as well.  As in wild blackberries right out of the woods.  And honey from our bees hived in the clearing.  And sassafras bark from all over the place, but mostly down by Gerald Creek.

I haven’t got around to making greenbriar jelly — after all the blood I have nourished that plant, I am seriously looking forward to eating it right down to the ground.  I have been told it’s flavorful.  If so, well, we’ll have to try a quart or two of ice cream.  I’d love to see my grandparents’ faces on that one.

And WindWalkerCamp will be the only place to get “a bowl of the fresh.”

Thank you for reading.  Lick the dasher, my friends.


What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.

Root Beer Brewing and Texas Weather

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The instructions say, and I quote, “ . . . let the bottles sit a room temperature for a day or two to let the yeast eat some of the sugar and carbonate the root beer or soda, then we chill the bottles to 45oF or lower to stop the yeast.”

It’s not 45 degrees outside right now.  The challenge is that a five-gallon batch makes fifty-three bottles of root beer.  Therefore, half a batch makes 27 bottles of root beer.  Kathryn and I only have a single refrigerator here at the house.  I am not going to put a second refrigerator in the shop just to chill root beer.  (. . . Now that’s not a bad idea when I come to think about it.)

At summer camp we’ll have to come up with a way to keep it cool in the Missouri Ozark summer.  Set the bottles in the creek when it’s flowing.  Talk to the neighbors across the road about stashing them in the Buffalo River.  Set a hose drip on a burlap sack.  This sounds like an engineering challenge to me.

Theoretically I can proportionally divide the recipe, but that can get squirrelly in a hurry.  I just checked the five-day weather forecast . . . holy cow!  It doesn’t even get that cool at night.  WindWalkerCamp is a rustic camp . . . that means “tents.”  That is a good thing.

I guess I’ll have to go to Plan “B” or Plan “C” or just “Fake it; smile; tell ‘em it’s in the Lesson Plan.”

Fortunately Plan B is “mix up a batch of homemade ice cream” (after all, somebody has to test the recipe), and Plan C is “start collecting lumber to build the trebuchet.”  This one is a project I’ve been working toward for half a dozen years.

So those are in the works.  Also this week is testing an “E”-series model rocket to see how it flies on a “D.”

Thanks for reading.  Stay thirsty, my friends.


What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.