The banjo is done

So I didn’t end up using birch, I went for beech instead. One thing about me it that when I start something it takes up all my time. At least if I like it enough. This project was one of those, all I did was working on the banjo, or reading about banjo constructions. It took quite a lot of studying before I felt comfortable enough to start the actual construction. Angels that needed to be right, scale length and so on. Things I didn’t know a shit about before but now it has broaden my view and anatomy of the banjo.

Well here it is, everything went fine, not a single mistake unless you count the stringing. That was the hardest part. Im so damn proud of it. Made out of beech with some ebony fretboard. Some birch and apple tree inlay. Also some shells I found on New Zealand and some mother of pearl. Little wonder tone ring and.. well take a look. First instrument I ever built.

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First drawings

First drawings

Glueing the fretboard

Glueing the fretboard

Trying bent wood

Trying bent wood

Drilling jig

Drilling jig

Me and the parts

Me and the parts

Inlay

Inlay

Back and dowel

Back and dowel

Building a …. banjo

I truly love the banjo, everything about it, the simplicity of the design to the somewhat hollow sound it gives. Unfortunately it is quite an unusual instrument here in Sweden, there are some people around who play it but they are easily counted. I’m trying my best right now to give it a go, got a cheap banjo a couple of years ago. Started learning but never got it right. Now I’m on the second round, getting the basics right, from the beginning. What I also will be doing is constructing a new banjo, instead of buying one. I have never built an instrument before so this frightens me a bit, but what the hell, I guess I should just start. Instrument construction cant be that much harder than other wood works, just that some science needs to be present with very specific measurements and so on. And now I can also construct the custom banjo from the beginning. My hopes are that when I’m done with it I will be good enough to play it, just practising on my old shitty one.

I know birch is quite an unusual material for instruments. But we just took one down, so why not?

Birch, with the picturesque deer in the distance

Birch, with the picturesque deer in the distance

Amazake

Always wanted tro try amazake, technically it is the first step in brewing sake before the alcohol get into the picture. Since I lately have started to make my own miso I had a lot of koji (a mouldy rice) to use for amazake. The koji is also used for some varieties of soy sauce, and miso of course. What you do is mix regular sticky rice with water and koji, and keep it around 65° C for a few hours, 8-12 hours, I used a thermos. Then it’s ready. This was an experiment.

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I dont know if I liked it, it definitely tasted like the smell of koji, very sweet. I guess it is an acquired taste, it might grow on me. Any other people out there whe has tried it? Also just as a note, since I never tried it elsewhere I’m not 100% sure I got the taste right. I might make it again for friends to see if they like it or not.

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Fermentation festival in Uddebo

Last weekend there was an fermentation festival held in Uddebo. A small town that has been seeing a revival when young people believing in a second green wave started moving there. The textile industry moves out, everything got cheap and new people move in. The festival was a hit, people came from all over the country, some even from abroad. Workshops in nut-cheeses, kombucha, miso and my own in how to make natto.

Miso workshop

Miso workshop

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The house everyone together renovated

The house everyone renovated together

The hosts

The hosts

 

I probably held the most unusual workshop, natto is something that generally gets people of. Soybeans in a kind of slime. I got familiar with it in Japan when I accidentally bought some and had to finish it since I don’t want to throw food away. In Japan it is considered healthy, helpful for the cardiovascular system and for bone health. I’m not going to get down in how to make it now, maybe later, it is an interesting ferment. Just going to say how fantastic this festival was, I hope for another round next year. Missed out on the nut-cheese workshop and really want to know more about that.

Natto

Natto

My natto setup and tryout

My natto setup and tryout at the festival

Aquafaba tryout

I suppose everyone has heard about aquafaba? That waste bean liquid that some genius discovered could be whiped for baking meringues with, instead of using egg whites. It is insane that it work, but simultaneously quite crazy that no one discovered it until just recently, you can see that foam building on top of the beans while cooking and that is quite a hint of the possibilities. There has been an explosion of people making all kind of different foods with it, cakes, butter, brownies, chocolate mousse etc. There is no end to it. I’m deeply fascinated by this phenomenon, and decided to try out some myself. Since most are based on chickpeas I decided to try the liquid from 4 different kinds of legumes. Chickpeas, soy beans, black lentils, and lima beans.

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So this is the way I carried it out. Soak all them for 12 hours. Cook according to instructions until ready, and then use the liquid. 5 tbsp. of each and measure the volume, time for whiping and taste. I used a hand whisk but went very steadily speed wise. I didn’t bake anything, just made the foam. So here are the results.

 

Lima beans. 10 min for whiping. Volume 250 ml or 1 cup. Strong bean flavour. Did break back into liquid after 30 min. Bad choice.

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Black lentils. 4 min, 500 ml or 2 cups. Very strong foam that hold for long before breaking down into liquid again, a bit strong lentil flavor, the foam was a bit darker.

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Soy beans. 3 min, 400 ml, 1,6 cus, Most subtle flavour. Easy to whip but the form did break down quicker than the lentils.

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Chickpeas. The original. 3 min, 400 ml, 1,6 cups, strong foam but not as strong as the lentils. Subtle flavour.

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Conclusion.

The strongets foam was from the black lentils, the foam also yielded the most volume after whiping. It did have a stronger flavour though.

I would say it is a tie between soy and chickpeas, where chickpeas was stronger in the foam but the soy’s taste was harder to distinguish. I guess it comes down to what your using them for.

Birch nectar

So it is finally time, you can see the buds of the birch tree, this means one thing. Time for some nectar. I love this drink, its not water, its not juice, is tastes like a lighter version of coconut water, just with a slight quite undefinable but still broad taste. And you can find it in the backyard if your as lucky as me. My parent’s home is actually named after the amount of birches around. The birch hill.

Last years drilling

Last years drilling

To get this lovely liquid, you need a garden hose, a drill the same diameter (or slightly smaller). A plastic container of some sort and some patience. Start by drilling a hole, about 1 meter up on the trunk, about 3 cm deep. Squeeze the hose into it, the other end goes into the container. Now just wait, how much and quick it goes depends on the size of the hose and the tree. Last year I got about 5 liters per day.

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The hose should alway go downwards, never up. Sometimes you need to cover the containe, so insects don’t find their way in there. Last year mine got covered with ants that decided to take a swim in the nectar. Bad for them, bad for me.

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If you like you could alway boil it down to syrup, the taste is amazing, but remember, you need to concentrate it 100 times, so 10 will just become 1 dl of finished syrup. Suppose the maple is a better in sugar concentration.

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Fermenting workshop in Gothenburg

Last weekend I helped my friend Martin while he held a fermentation workshop in Gothenburg. It was in an area I had never visited before, several old factories located close to a small river. All very neat and “modern”. When I say “modern” I mean I those areas has shifted from something ugly for the working class into really hip communities and design centers. Whatever one might think of this, I really appreciate being there even if the feelings comes down to a sort of legislated nostalgia. A term from Douglas Coupland’s Generation X, describing how you can feel nostalgia towards something never experienced.

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Even though we normally dig into pretty much anything when it comes to fermenting, like tempeh (damn it takes some time to shell all those soybeans you need) and kombucha, this time it was all about lactic acid, like sauerkraut and kimchi. It’s great to see how excited everyone gets when it comes to fermenting stuff. For many it’s like a completely new approach to preserving / cooking. Its pretty basic, fresh veggies, cut into pieces or shredded, salty water, and something to keep the veggies submerged in the water, like a brick or similar. The only thing is you need patience. Depending on room temperature and type of fruit / veggie it takes between 4-21 days until ready. A satisfying and fun way to preserve the harvest and autumn flavors for later. I’m not going to provide a recipe here, there are tons of them out there, just search the internet. But I encourage everyone to try. This is fun for real. And try crazy combinations like pumpkin and pumpkin spice ferment.

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