Home Brews- Bath Tub Gin

Two easy home brewed gin recipes-

So I was looking for recipes that called for juniper berries and found several for “bath tub” gin. Fairly simple- mash up some juniper berries pour some vodka over them and let them sit overnight. Then add whatever botanicals you want the next day, let them infuse a few hours more then filter and serve. I looked up which herbs went into my personal favorite gin- Bombay Sapphire- and decide to try an experimental batch with those and a second batch that would be lighter, sweeter and more floral.

For Batch #1 I went with a combo of juniper berries, almonds, orris root, lemon peel, green cardamom and cassia cinnamon. And since I don’t have angelica root I used a combination of some celery seed, bay leaves and gum mastic (which smells like angelica- trust me). And for a little extra zip I added a piece of galangal root.

For Batch #2 i wanted something more floral and perfumey so started with juniper berries and added linden flowers, German chamomile, rosebuds, frankincense (which has like an intense woodsy, floral scent with citrus notes and has a resinous piney flavor), orange peel and orris root. Orris root comes from the Dalmatian iris plant. the root is then slowly dried and aged for 2-5 years to develop a strong floral scent similar to iris – the raw root doesn’t have much scent or flavor. It imparts a perfumey scent and a violet-like taste to the gin.

I placed the mashed up berries in two different mason jars, along with the orris root, mastic and frankincense and in batch #2’s jar I added the chamomile and linden flowers. I poured a high proof vodka over the herbs and resins, sealed up jars and placed them in a sunny window to let them stew for 24 hours. I think that was a bit to long as the scent- and flavor- were a little overwhelming. I also probably shouldn’t have put the orris root in so early as even the few pieces I added came out very strongly in the brew. Otherwise they smelled and tasted about right. I then added the remaining herbs and spices, resealed the jars and let them marinate overnight. The next day I strained and filtered both batches. They were a bit darker  (batch #2 came out about the color of a brown ale) and a little more bitter than the commercial blends I’ve tasted but still fairly close.

Batch #1- while a bit piney- was actually pretty good once diluted (and chilled) with lots of ice. Batch #2 was really bitter but a little honey and some ice to cool and water it down turned it into a refreshing, bittersweet liqueur.

Liquor Recipes- Amber Gin

*This home brewed gin tastes (and smells) very much like Bombay Sapphire and can be used in cocktails like true distilled gin or served on the rocks. If served with ice or tonic water this translucent liquor will turn cloudy like ouzo.

*The juniper berries should be fairly fresh and plump- similar to a raisin- not hard and crunchy. They should have a piney, cedar wood like scent and a sweet, fruity and spicy flavor. They should not be bitter or taste like turpentine. You can use almond meal in place of whole or slivered almonds.

*If you can’t get angelica root a combination of ¼ tsp celery seed, 2 bay leaves and a slice of galangal comes pretty close to it.

  • 1 1/2 cups vodka (80 or 100 proof)
  • 1 tbsp juniper berries, raw almonds
  • 1 tsp granulated dried lemon peel
  • 1 tsp each whole coriander seed and angelica root
  • ½ tsp orris root, whole or minced
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 1 3” stick cassia cinnamon
  1. Pour the vodka into a mason jar (preferably wide mouth).
  2. In a mortar and pestle mash up the juniper berries and almonds. Add to the jar along with the lemon peel.
  3. Shake the jar vigorously and place it in a cool dark place. Then let it sit for 8-12 hours.
  4. In a mortar and pestle coarsely crush the coriander, angelica, orris, cardamom and cinnamon. Add these spices to the jar.
  5. Tightly seal up the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Then place the jar back in a cool, dark location and let stew for 24 hours or so. Shake the jar every few hours.
  6. After 24 hours the liquor should have developed a lovely rich, amber coloration. Open the jar and smell the brew- you should note the sweet piney juniper scent first against a spicy, floral background. Taste the liqueur to see if it has the desired level of sweetness. It should have a little bite from the alcohol and orris root but it should not burn like moonshine or be unpalatably bitter.
  7. Decant and strain the liquor -preferably twice- through coffee filters or cotton plugs or both. The strained liquid should be a rich, translucent amber- it should not be cloudy. Place liquor in a bottle or jar (preferably dark glass) and keep tightly sealed. You can drink it straight away but I think it actually improves for weeks after straining. If kept in a tightly stoppered bottle at normal room temperature it should keep for months.

Liqueur Recipes- Gin Blossom Liqueur

*This gin-based liqueur can be used in cocktails like true distilled gin or served on the rocks. If served with ice or tonic water this translucent liquor will turn cloudy like ouzo.

*The juniper berries should be fairly fresh and plump- similar to a raisin- not hard and crunchy. They should have a piney, cedar wood like scent and a sweet, fruity and spicy flavor. They should not be bitter or taste like turpentine.

*If you can’t get Mushaad grade frankincense any high quality omani or Yemeni franckincense will do. Mushaad frankincense has an intense perfume-like scent –similar to violets with hints of balsam and citrus. The flavor is floral, piney and somewhat bitter.

  • 1 1/2 cups vodka (80 or 100 proof)
  • 1 tbsp each juniper berries, linden flowers and German chamomile
  • ½ tsp Mushaad grade frankincense
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp granulated dried sweet orange peel
  • 1 tsp each whole coriander seed, orris root, whole or minced, and rose buds or petals
  • ½ tsp lavender buds
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 2 3” sticks Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1-3 tbsp honey (or to taste), preferably clover or linden
  1. Pour the vodka into a mason jar (preferably wide mouth).
  2. In a mortar and pestle mash up the juniper berries and frankincense. Add to the jar along with the linden, chamomile, bay leaves and orange peel.
  3. Shake the jar vigorously and place it in a cool dark place. Then let it sit for 8-12 hours.
  4. In a mortar and pestle coarsely crush the coriander, rose, orris, lavender, cardamom and cinnamon. Add these to the jar.
  5. Tightly seal up the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Then place the jar back in a cool, dark location and let stew for 24 hours or so. Shake the jar every few hours.
  6. After 24 hours the liquor should have developed a dark brown coloration- about like coco cola. Open the jar and smell the brew- you should note the sweet piney juniper scent first against a perfumey, floral background. Add the honey- a tbsp at first. Let the honey dissolve and then taste the liqueur and see if it is sweet enough. It should be bittersweet but not so bitter that you couldn’t drink it on the rocks. After adding any additional honey (if needed) reseal the jar and let sit another 8 hours or so.
  7. Decant and strain the liquor -preferably twice- through coffee filters or cotton plugs or both. The strained liquid should be a dark translucent amber- about like a brown glass bottle- and not cloudy. Place liquor in a bottle or jar (preferably dark glass) and keep tightly sealed. You can drink it straight away but I think it actually improves for weeks after straining. If kept in a tightly stoppered bottle at normal room temperature it should keep for months.

Home Brews- Spiced Orange Liqueur

So for my first experiment with making flavored liqueurs I decided to make something similar to the spice blend I dust over my coffee in the morning which uses granulated orange peel, star anise, Ceylon cinnamon, mace and green cardamom.  I got some high proof vodka, placed some of these spices in a jar and then poured the vodka over them, twisted on the lid and let it marinate in a sunny window for a couple of days.

Upon first sampling the scent was intense as was the anise flavor- and the bite from the vodka. so to sweeten things up I added some mashed dried fruit and to balance out the spiciness I added more orange peel. The brew was left to infuse for another day. The smell was heavenly and the flavor much better- though there was still some burn to it so I added some clover honey and let it sit overnight. The final result was like a cross between a really good, mellow orange brandy and anisette.

Liqueur Recipes- Spiced Orange Liqueur

*This liqueur tastes (and smells) like a combination of orange brandy and anisette and can be served like either. If served with ice or cool water this translucent liqueur will turn cloudy like ouzo. Navel oranges are ideal for this recipe although mandarins will also work.

  1. Pour the vodka into a mason jar (preferably wide mouth).
  2. Break apart the star anise and cinnamon and add to the jar along with the orange peel.
  3. In a mortar and pestle coarsely crush the allspice, cloves, cardamom and mace and add these to the jar along with the nutmeg.
  4. Tightly seal up the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Then place the jar in a warm, sunny window and let stew for at least 24 hours. 36 to 48 hours is even better. Shake the jar every few hours.
  5. Add the orange juice, raisins, dates, orange zest and 1 tbsp of honey to the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Then return jar to the window sill. Let stew for another 24 to 48 hours, shaking every so often.
  6. Open the jar and smell the brew- you should note the anise first and the orange scent second against a spicy, floral background. Taste the liqueur to see if it has the desired level of sweetness. It should have a little bite from the alcohol (like a quality brandy) but it should not burn like moonshine. This liqueur should have a smooth mouth feel so if the alcohol is to strong add a little more honey. It should be semi-sweet, citrusy, spicy and balanced not bitter or like drinking straight orange juice.
  7. Decant and strain the liqueur -preferably twice- through coffee filters or cotton plugs or both. The strained liquid should be a rich, translucent earthy orange- it should not be cloudy. Place liqueur in a bottle or jar and keep tightly sealed. You can drink it straight away but I think it actually improves for weeks after straining. If kept in a tightly stoppered bottle at normal room temperature it should keep for months.

Fresh out of the kiln 5/03/18

My first batch of pottery made with brown stoneware clay have finally been glazed and fired-

For this batch I applied an underglaze of Amaco’s Satin-Matte White and top coated that with their Satin-Matte Clear Glaze. Upon firing the white and clear glazes melded beautifully creating a creamy, grayish-white hue. The underlying khaki color of the brown stoneware clay really gives a wonderful depth to the finish. My favorites from this batch are these vaguely sea sponge-like luminaries which all miraculously survived.

Unfortunately only one of the bivalve-shaped napkin holders survived, and it shrank so much I think it works better as a sponge holder. The pieces I specifically intended to be sponge holders turned out nicely though.

All of the soap dishes survived- and I especially like how the clam shell-shaped ones turned out with the creamy white glaze.

A couple of serving bowls. The lip of these bowls undulates which gives them built in spoon rests.

Some oyster shell shaped spoon rests- the glaze looks perfect on these.

A cluster of miniature flower bud vases.

Some larger vases-

While these may seem purely decorative and very delicate these ceramics are both functional and quite sturdy.

Back in the game

So after a couple months hiatus I managed to have a very productive weekend of sculpting-

Luminaries, vases and napkin holders made from a light brown stoneware clay

In this batch I have made a variety of kitchen implements and vessels with a new stoneware clay that should come out a dark beige color. *If* they survive I’m thinking I’ll coat them with a distressed layer of warm white glaze and over top that with a clear layer which should give the appearance of antique ironstone pottery.

Two spoon rests and a soap dish.

This pieces in this collection, like most of my work, has a very organic look to it. The spoon rests and napkin holders look vaguely like seashells.

The napkin holders remind me of ancient brachiopod fossils.

My favorites from this batch are the luminaries which resemble primitive sea sponges-

A trio of very organic looking luminaries.

I really hope the luminaries survive as they were very time consuming to make. Each little hole in them is a potential starting point for cracks. With any luck these pieces will survive the slow drying process over the next couple weeks and then it will be time to glaze them.

 

Experimental Forms

I had a few scraps of stoneware clay so I decided to try sculpting out some physical forms of the vague shapes that had been floating around in my mind-

Macaroni vase A potential macaroni vase[/caption]

I had seen a macaroni vase in a recent issue of Better Homes and Gardens and decided I would try to make one using a flat slab of clay instead of a a wheel-since I do not have a throwing wheel. I rolled out some leftover clay, cut an hourglass shape out and rolled it up. Then turned up the openings and molded the lips a little.

Two incense holders and a strange cornucopia shaped dish Two incense holders and a strange cornucopia shaped dish[/caption]

I really hope the vaguely cornucopia shaped dish survives- it brings to mind some of the fossils I’ve found of primitive sea life.

IMG_5303 A slightly different view-

Ceramic Napkin Holders

Fresh out of the kiln- a batch of very organic-looking napkin holders made from porcelain and stoneware clay:

Stoneware Napkin Holder by MJ Seal with Chartreuse Finish 01 The bright acid-green coloration of the Chartreuse Finish is not exaggerated.

Stoneware Napkin Holder by MJ Seal with Celadon Green Finish 01 The shapes of these napkin holders reminds me of coralline algae. I love how the Celadon Green glaze on this piece turned out.

Napkin Holders by MJ Seal The green and blue coloration of these pieces mesh well with their leafy, coral-like forms.

Reverse Painting on Glass

Here’s a quick step by step of one of my latest decorative projects-

Beach Window Painting step 1 An old (possibly 100 year old) window salvaged from a neighbors renovation project.

Step 1- Start with a clean piece of glass. Any glass will work for reverse painting as long as it is THOROUGHLY clean- if there is any grime or grease on it the paint will eventually peel off (if it sticks at all). I used an antique window and spent almost an hour scrubbing all the peeling paint and crud off of it. As a final “rinse” I wiped each pane with rubbing alcohol. If your using old windows you may want to wear gloves and a mask to prevent exposure to lead paint (which I am sure was what this window was plastered with). You may want to wear gloves while you are painting to avoid getting fingerprints on the glass- since the oils on your skin will interfere with the paints adhesion to the glass.

Beach Window Painting step 2 A cartoon has been placed face up on the side of the glass that will be painted on.

Step 2- Do a little planning. Since you will painting front to back (in reverse) on the underside of the glass you may want to do a quick mock-up. I drew up a cartoon on tracing paper, cut that up and placed a section in each pane on the back side of the glass. Then I traced the cartoon onto the front side with a marker. Note that each pane of glass has a different hue (the top center piece is almost rose tinted) and probably came from a different source.

Beach Window Painting step 3 The outlines have been painted in on the underside of the glass.

Step 3- Paint in your foreground. In reverse painting you are working from front to back as opposed to the usual back to front. In my work there isn’t necessarily a foreground as much as heavy, cartoonish outlines- so I started with that. I then scrubbed off the marker I used to trace the cartoon onto the front side of the glass to avoid confusion later on.

Beach Window Painting step 4 The highlights have been painted in.

Beach Window Painting step 5 The “mid-ground” is complete.

Step 4- Paint in the mid-ground. With this piece the mid-ground ended up being the highlights, sand and vegetation. Notice how the tint of the glass influences the color of the paint underneath especially in the top center pane. If you use even lightly tinted stained glass it can have a dramatic effect on your painting.

Beach Window Painting step 6 With the sea and sky painted in this piece is essentially complete.

Step 5- Apply the finishing touches. Finish with the background- in this case the flat, bright, cerulean blue of the sky. It is possible to do blending in reverse painting-like I did with the turquoise and dark blue of the sea. I used acrylics so I just had to work very quickly. If you use oils (or Open acrylics) it’s easier to blend but the paint takes a lot longer to dry. Once painting is complete I would let it cure for at least a week (with acrylics) before sealing it up with varnish or top coats. If you are using oils you will need to let it cure for a long time. For this piece I am going to coat the back with a white enamel to block light from coming through and make it completely opaque. Then it will be varnished and waxed to protect the painting.

Woodland Scene IV

Rays of sunlight pierce the cooling shade of a group of maples growing on a moss covered stone outcrop in this painting from memory-

full view of woodland scene four an original painting on board by mj seal
“Woodland Scene IV”- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 14″ x 11″. C. 2017

Memory of trees

Channeling memories of sun-dappled forest floors on summer afternoons in this very spontaneous painting-

full view of woodland scene one an original painting on board by mj seal
“Woodland Scene I”- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 10″ x 8″. C. 2017

I started out with a mat board coated in black gesso that rapidly grew into this very impressionistic landscape. I find working on dark backgrounds can really help with building up depth- plus you don’t have this bright background glaring at you with it’s whiteness. Note the heavy brushstrokes built up from working wet in wet-especially in the highlights.

A very productive weekend

It’s been a very productive weekend and now I have a large batch of spoon rests, soap dishes, platters and bowls on the drying shelf-

fresh-batch-of-porcelain-spoon-rests-and-platters-by-mj-seal
Some very organic, free form porcelain wares.

All of these pieces were made from “reconstituted” porcelain clay that were part of previous sculptures that split during the drying process. I will be drying them very gradually and I’m  keeping my fingers crossed that they will survive.

potential-leafy-platters-made-from-porcelain-by-mj-seal
Two potential leafy platters.
white-oak-leaf-spoon-rests-by-mj-seal
A pair of White Oak leaf spoon rests.
potential-seashell-bowl-by-mj-seal
A seashell bowl