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Pre-Christmas jitters - Which is not unduly obvious, as I am about to explain
Pre-Christmas jitters
I've been trying to get out of the funk I've been in for the last couple of months (I've needed a lot of time to myself), and wake up and go to sleep at more reasonable hours. I haven't gone online to chat with... well, anyone, for the whole last week. At the moment I've resolved to set my alarm for 7-8 a.m. and get up regardless of what time I went to bed the previous night. I'm terrible with such resolutions - I didn't keep most of them I made last year - but my work wants me to be around at the same time as everyone else, and also it's prevented me from having a spontaneous social life on weekday nights. Last night plonq and atara had me over for a delicious spicy Thai chicken dinner, and it was much appreciated.

The next couple of evenings consist of getting ready for a pot luck dinner on Saturday (beer bread, chicken curry and possibly cake), and getting started on my Christmas cards which I should have finished by now.

I promised Plonq this some time ago and had forgotten. This is a non-alcoholic ginger beer recipe that I got from my mother's northwest African friends, although I've never managed to achieve the same taste and I suspect I'm missing something.

Buy a huge handful of ginger root, as fresh as possible. If you get young ginger (the skin is more translucent with purple tinges) the flavour will be a little more sweet and mellow, and the drink slightly cloudy. Remove the skin and chop into little itty bitty pieces. Throw into a food processor with enough water to chop into a fine, liquidy paste.

Take a large pot or tureen and pour in 2L of water. Put the liquidy ginger paste in a straining cloth of some sort and squeeze out as much of the juice as possible into the pot. I tend to squeeze it into a ball-like shape within the cloth, dip it in the water, and squeeze it again several times over until my wrist hurts. I like my drink stong and want to get as much of the ginger out as possible. One thing I haven't tried yet is boiling the ginger paste and then straining it.

Add lime juice or go half-and-half with lemon juice. Fresh is nice but using Reallime/Reallemon concentrate is fine. Optionally you can add pineapple juice, but you have to be frugal with this because the taste can quickly overwhelm the others and make the drink more acidic. Add more water (if necessary) and sugar. Basically you have to wing the amount of ginger, water, sugar and juice in this recipe to the strengths that you like. Last of all, add a half-a-drop to two drops of vanilla to taste. Again, be very careful with this, it's best if it's a subtle flavouring and (like pineapple juice) it can quickly dominate.

Keep chilled. Depending how well the ginger was strained, two layers of precipitate will form, which you can keep or dispose of. The lower layer with settle within the first hour or two and will be larger particles, if you don't mind a slight graininess (this depends on how you strained it). The upper layer is very wispy and will take many more hours to settle. It is usually a light yellow-green in colour, and is very sensitive to dispersal the instant you move the container. If you want to get rid of this, you have to pour the liquid off from above into another container very, very slowly and carefully. Without it, the drink is mostly clear and sometimes a light pink colour.

Lately, I've been struggling with figuring out how to transform AVI files into something you can burn onto a DVD and watch on TV. It seems to be a multiple-step process in which you first have to rip the audio and video into two separate files, then turn those files into two new kinds of files that DVD burning software can interpret, after which the burning software transforms them yet again before burning, and you have to add a menu along the way. Waaaugh.

There's dozens of software settings for the video and I don't understand most of them. I followed some online tutorials and crossed my fingers, using an AVI of the 1 hr-30 min Dr. Who adventure, The Pyramids of Mars. The result? A not-so-great picture with the sound getting two or three seconds out of sync by the end.

The sound sync problem is a not uncommon thing to encounter, from what I've seen online, but I have yet to figure out why it happens and how to prevent it. The not-so-great picture... originally I was tempted to blame the software transformations, until I watched the original AVI on my computer at 200% and saw that the original was pretty much like that to begin with. (525 Meg, 352:240 resolution, 29.97 frames per second, 750 kb/sec.) I'm sure better video quality must be possible. TheWerewolf sent me the four opening episodes of the new Battlestar Galactica on DVD and it looks much, much better.

I guess what this means is that when I start to record my videotapes onto the computer prior to burning, I should probably go straight to mpeg-2 format and avoid AVI. And I have to figure out the best combination of software to use for everything still. I prefer free for now - I don't want to buy until I know what the heck I'm doing - TEMPGenc was recommended to me, but I think it's only free for making VCDs; if you want DVD capability it becomes shareware.

So once I resolve the sound-sync issue, the next experiment will be to try adding subtitle files to a foreign video. In this case, the first episode of part 2 of Lars von Trier's The Kingdom. What with the Dr. Who experiment, I'm worried about the picture quality. I've located two AVIs of the first Kingdom episode. I think one is in PAL (? 25 fps). The resolution is higher (640:480) but the file size is smaller (498 Meg, 945 kb/sec). The other one is NTSC (? 29.97 fps) with a smaller resolution (448:336) and a larger file size (611 Meg, 1196 kb/sec).

Most of this will have to wait until I get home after Christmas, after which the 30-day TEMPGenc license will run out. :)

Current Mood: confused confused

4 comments or Leave a comment
plonq From: plonq Date: December 9th, 2004 02:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is a non-alcoholic ginger beer recipe that I got from my mother's northwest African friends, although I've never managed to achieve the same taste and I suspect I'm missing something.

Given the recipe's origins, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the mystery ingredient that you're missing is cinnamon stick or whole clove, or something like that. I'm thinking I might try tossing in a bit of clove when I make this.
dronon From: dronon Date: December 9th, 2004 02:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh - I should add that the amount of juice to put in is about the equivalent of 9 limes/lemons; more depending on how much ginger you started with and how much water you put in. Another possibility is to use honey as a sweetener; although I've avoided this in my own making of the recipe 'cause I've never been a big fan of raw honey.
From: cjthomas Date: December 10th, 2004 03:44 pm (UTC) (Link)

Sediments and filtering.

Have you tried siphoning the ginger beer? That's how some of the sediments are removed from the non-ginger kind. Great for avoiding disturbing settled sediments.

I assume you've already tried running it through a coffee filter or the like.
From: cjthomas Date: December 11th, 2004 03:46 am (UTC) (Link)


Speaking of Chrismtas, email me to tell me what you want to get this year };>. Guessing tends to have un-pretty results when I do it.
4 comments or Leave a comment