Ring Roller Dies for forming a curved V shape

For the Path Light project I needed to make curved corner pieces for the roof. The roof panels are roughly triangular and the corners have a roughly 1/4×1/4 angle of “12 oz” copper to cover the corner. The twist is that the roof panels are not straight but instead somewhat concave giving the roof a flare at the bottom. The corner pieces cannot be bent to shape by hand, hammering to flare them takes forever, and using a chisel as a punch to stretch the edges is both slow and prone to cutting through. So a variation on a ring roller is needed. I have a Harbor Freight Ring Roller . It is not exactly a precision instrument but will suffice for this work and save a lot of time vs. building the mechanicals to hold and turn the dies from scratch.

Ring Roller mounted to some wood blocking so it can be secured in a bench vise.

I had run across a youtube video by “Stuff Made Here” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuY2-OrT9ig where he used 3D printed dies to bend some steel parts. Forming the copper strips would require far less stress, so I decided to give it a go. The first goal was to prove that the pieces could be formed as I desired, second would be to improve durability if needed . That could be solved by changing plastics or turning the wheels out of metal on the lathe. The first step was to pull the C-Clips that hold on the factory rollers and get some measurements .

Factory roller pulled and v-rollers fitted

Next the v-roller were designed in Sketchup and 3D printed. They were done in PLA at 50% infill with 3D honeycomb for the infill pattern. No support material was used even with the 45degree overhang (yes there are imperfections at the seam between layers because of this). It did take a few tries to get rollers sized such that they gave the relatively shallow curve that is needed and not split the V in the copper strips when inserted. If I had “properly” 3D modeled everything I could have probable avoided printing a few rejects.

V rollers – Note these had already been used to bend over 30 strips. Minimal wear, mostly from the edges of the strips which had serrations form the snips.

The V-rollers as printed did need a bit of clean up on the inner diameter and the keyway. The adjustable reamer did well for the bore. Yes, I know that you machinist purists will say this is will throw the bore off but I do not have spiral chucking reamers. If my printer had been better dialed in I might not have had as much clean up, but this is close enough. If you don’t have an adjustable reamer sandpaper and a dowel works too. You don’t want too tight a fit as the rollers do interfere with each other and all 3 have to be put on or removed all at once. You can see some faint faceting of the circumference in the wheels and the copper, due to the way Sketchup does circles, but once the part is finished they are completely invisible.

Roller in action bending the v-pieces for the corners of the roof of the lights.

For short run parts such as these the 3D printed parts provide a relatively quick and low cost / effort option to forming the parts. A nice thing was that I could design, kick off the printer and then go back to designing and building the rest of the light components while the part was printing. Also without the right tooling (broaches, which I do not have ) making keyways in aluminum or steel on the lathe is a bit of a pain.

I hope this gives you some food for thought on making 3d printed plastic metal forming tools.

Path Lights Concept

We are on our 4th (or more) generation of path lights for along the front walk and driveway. We live in the country and there is no street lighting. So we need path / landscape lights to provide illumination for safety (of course nothing is level here) and it just looks nice. However the commercial lighting products are pretty cheap and flimsy unless you are willing to spend hundreds of dollars per light. We have the wiring in place and a large 12 v transformer from the initial incandescent path light installation. We had converted to LEDs a while back but want things a bit brighter. Besides the current lights are again falling apart and the glass is breaking either on its own or due to “incidents”.  Solar / battery lights are nowhere near bright enough and the rechargeable battery replacement is an ongoing expense. 

So now it is time for new lights (again). Being recently retired, I have the time to pursue this, after getting more pressing projects out of the way. I started researching looking for designs that i could use as a starting point and to show Teal as I needed her approval. The lights will be mounted on top of 18-24″ posts with some sort of spike anchor base. We started closing in on some promising ideas and then it was time to start making prototypes out of construction paper. This would allow us to see the final size in the garden setting and help inform what the construction process would entail. I had decided to use copper and brass for the shell of the light and a cear “hammered” finish stained glass for the panes. LED light would be used.   The metal would then be powder coated.  The initial  batch for the front walk will be 8  lights.   If this works  out well then 10 or 12 more will be needed for the driveway.

I wanted something of an Craftsman or “English cottage” sort of look with a peaked roof and 4 or 6 sides. So the first things to tackle were over all size and the roof design.

The first prototype looked like this.

First paper and copper foil prototype

It was a start and could be made in copper but the look was not quite right. I wanted a curved / flared roofline, reminiscent of a thatched roof. The copper foil / flashing I had on hand was also flimsier than I wanted. So purchased a roll of 12oz copper flashing to see if that would be thick enough. Then it was time to play with the roof design to see if I could get the look that I wanted and that Teal would agree with. More time was spent with paper, straight edge, compass and french curves. Now I had 3 paper roof prototypes.

Paper Roof Prototypes

We ended up choosing the middle shape. It has the flare I wanted but I was still debating which one. . Teal did not like the slightly upturned corners of the one on the left. So she had the deciding vote. As it turns out fabricating the curved roof in the middle was hard enough.

More materials were ordered. My old stained glass supplier was out of business and I had to try a new one. THis is where I got a few varieties of brass came and the class itself . More metal was ordered from SpeedyMetals for the bottom panel. I ended up using sheet brass for the bottom.

Now was time to start the fabrication and build the tooling. The Press Brake was already done but more was needed.

The prototype light looks like this.

Path light prototype

I’ll cover the construction details in future posts.

Low Cost Press Brake

  • For some upcoming projects I need to neatly bend sheet metals. In the past I had done this for small “one off” items by blaming in a vise or between some pieces of angle iron or using a “tinners pliers” / metal seamer. However now I needed make dozens of bend that are crisp and repeatable. Options ranged from a full size press brake, sheet metal brake (the type you lever up to fold) or kits to build one to go in my 20 ton arbor hydraulic press. All seemed to be a bit overkill and the tool budget had been going wild lately so I needed to make something with “parts on hand” rather than purchase another tool. Besides I am pretty much out of space for another large tool that would normally get infrequent use.

After reading and watching several youtube videos on brake construction, I had a basic design in mind. The goals being ot keep it simple and use materials on hand:

  • ~12″ width / capacity
  • “Air bending” with movable die jaws. WIth Air bending there is not a lower die but the metal is pressed down into the gap between some bars / jaws . It can provide nice crisp bends
  • Hand operated or able to fit in my bench top arbor press for additional force. This avoided having to build an outer frame and the hydraulic press was too slow
  • Fixed blade / upper jaw rather than removable fingers

Digging around in my metal stock / scraps I found some:

  • 1.5×1.5×1/8″ steel tubing which would become the top rail.
  • 1/4 x 1.5″ steel flat stock for the jaws and blade
  • 1/2×5″ steel flat stock for the base
  • 1/2″x 6″ bolts that would be the columns
  • Springs and miscellaneous hardware

The first step was to shape the edge of the blade on the mill. I used a 3/4″ “corncob” or roughing end mill. The head of the Bridgeport mill was inclined to ~37 degrees. You want the blade edge to be less than 90 degrees to allow for some degree of overbending to allow for spring back . This could be done with a hand held grinder and file instead

Next the top bar was cut and the blade was welded to it. I did my best to center the blade and keep it vertical but there was undoubtedly some error. So to drill the holes for the columns the blade was clamped in the vise. I wanted a close sliding fit to minimize error in the bends and did not have stock for bushings on hand. The holes were then reamed for a decent fit on the bolts with an expandable hand reamer.

Reaming the post holes

Next the holes for the column were drilled in the base plate. The digital readout of the mill helps in setting the exact spacing

Each hole was hand tapped with a tap follower held in the drill chuck to ensure that the threads were perfectly aligned and the posts would be vertical .

Hand tapping 1/2×13 with follower.

There were also the jaws to make and the holes for them to be drilled and tapped. However for these I have so called “gun taps” that can be power tapped. This is much easier and faster.

Power tapping for the jaws
Press brake

The brake was now assembled and the initial tests show it can make nice crisp bends. Depth stops were added after this photo to allow for better repeatability of the bends.

Bending the copper corner pieces for the path light roofs

Lonzino Batch 4

Lonzino at the start of drying in the drying chamber. Note the fan at the left and humidity sensor on the front dowel

Now that the weather is turning cooler, it is time to make a new batch of Lonzino – Dry Cured Pork Loin. Batches 1 & 2 were Fantastic! Batch 3 was a bust, as I rushed the curing stage, and additionally it was partially frozen for much of the time due to a cold snap. So it smelled bad and most of it was brown not pink when pulled from drying.

With this batch it is back to the basics, for a thorough equalization cure. Nice long cure (3 weeks). Flip and massage every 2-3 days . The garage fridge was kept above freezing the whole time (in large part due to our record breaking warm streak here in Southeast Wisconsin). At this point, the meat is fragrant and firm but definitely not frozen. The whole pork loin was split into 3 pieces, each with a different spice blend. The loin has to be cut to be able to hang within my high tech Rubbermaid curing chamber and I like to try different spice variations. The whole pork loin was divided roughly into thirds for the various flavors.


Whole pork loin 2900g
3% salt by weight – 87 g
.25 cure #1 by weight – 7.25 g

Juniper and garlic piece (934g)
1% fresh coarse ground black pepper
0.1% freshly crushed juniper berries
0.25% granulated garlic

Cajun spice piece (909g)
Heavy sprinkle (~1%) Penzey’s Cajun spice blend

Hot/warm pepper piece (1124g)
Heavy sprinkle (1.5%) Penzey’s 33rd and Galena spice blend

Place each piece in zip lock freezer  bag (air removed) or vacuum pack and place in the crisper drawer of the fridge for 3 weeks.   I did put the cajun and hot pieces in the same bag but the juniper garlic was segregated.

After 3 weeks, wrap each piece in a single layer of Collagen Sheet. Then either truss with butcher’s twine or #16 netting .  Note that trying to pull the netting over the pieces will be frustrating.   It is far easier if you place the netting over your hand / wrist. Then grasp the meat from one end  with your fingers,. Now slide the netting down over your fingers onto the meat.  Much easier – done in about 15 seconds.  Tie off the ends and make a loop for hanging.   Record the weight for each piece.

It is recommended to encourage a white penicillium mold growth for flavor and to discourage unwanted organisms. I take a loaf pan filled with about 1/2″ of warm water that has been sprinkled with a bit of Bactoferm 600 (~0.5g).   The package will last for many batches. Fold over the open corner a few times, clip and throw in the freezer for next time.

Now prick the collagen liberally with a sterilized instrument (just lightly) and hang to dry. I use my low budget drying chamber which I detailed previously. Currently it is in the garage rather than the basement with a cold pack in it, as I am still waiting for the temperature outside to drop to seasonal levels.   Basement floor is still at 63-65 (too warm).

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Spatchcock Turkey v3

This variation has with more aggressive dry brining and more lemon. It is also gluten free. 18 lb turkey (Kroger or Jennie-o). Note that a Butterball will likely end up too salty.

Dry rub blend:

  •  3 TB fine sea salt
  • 1.5 TB Mexican oregano rubbed
  • 1TB dried thyme
  • 1.5 TB dry rosemary rubbed
  • 1 TB Pepper finely ground
  • Fine zest of one lemon

When rubbing the spices grind them in the mortar and pestle and then pass them through a strainer. Teal hates the “sticks” as she calls the woody pieces . Mix the spices and salt well.

Spatchock the thawed bird, cutting down one side of the backbone and splitting the keel bone. Loosen the skin of the turkey (including legs) and then rub the spice blend on the meat under the skin, on both sides of the bird. Rest for 6 to 18+ hours in the fridge. Place the bird uncovered in the fridge for 4-6 hours of this to start drying out the skin.

In the roasting pan, place 4 carrots chopped, 2 medium onions chopped 18fresh sage leaves chopped, 2 lemons cut into eighths, 1 sweet potato cubed, 5-7 cloves chopped garlic, 1 can of beer (gluten free so that Elyse can have some).

Place the spatchcocked bird in the roasting pan breast side up on the lowest rack of the oven so the convected air hits the legs and thighs first.

Convection roast at 375 for  1 hour adding an aluminum foil L shaped deflector tucked under the wings to keep most of the heat blast away from the breasts. Then 275-300 for 1 hour looking for final internal temp of 157F. Then pull and rest for 30 min prior to carving.

This was a winner and is the family favorite so far with multiple questions about what was new. Changes were not huge: put the spice blend UNDER the skin rather than on top for the dry brining stage, add lemons in the pan, leave out the stuffing (to allow for those with Celiac disease). The lemons added a nice flavor and the juices made for great gravy . I used rice flour as the thickener (~ half as much as regular AP wheat flour). Of course, discard the pseudo gravy gunk in the bag in the bird (it just inflates the weight).

To take a look at the earlier versions (and photos), go to: Spatchcock Turkey

Exterior Light Refinish

Our exterior lights were looking pretty shabby. The original antique / brushed brass was tarnished and dull. 26 years of UV damage had destroyed the original clear coat. There were house paint splatters on them as well.

This is one of the smaller lights, by my shop patio.

image of light before
refurbished light

This was also the first major powder coating project after the test pieces. I figured that getting a home improvement project done before tackling the workshop powder coating projects would help win some brownie points and help justify the equipment investment.

The lights are made of thin brass stock. The knurled balls on the corners and for the removable top (for light bulb change) were about 50% frozen on due to rust. They are screwed onto about 1.5″ pieces of threaded rod which were crimped into the corners of the lights. So in the cases where they were stuck the threaded rod came out as well. This allowed fo disassembly of the class panels and removing of the top. From then on it was a matter of starting at the finials and working my way in. Each rounded section had its own nuts and / or coupling.

Some parts, notably the threaded rod pieces needed an electrolysis treatment to remove the rust or corrosion. The parts were then bead blasted to remove all of the old finish and corrosion. Bead blasting for each lamp took about an hour. The small parts were mounted to a piece of masonite so they could be held while blasting. A wire was zig-zagged on the back side to connect all of the parts for grounding while powder coating.

small hardware on board after powder coating
Back side of the small hardware board showing the grounding wire and retaining screws or nuts

This board was simply placed on the bottom of the oven for baking or on the lowest rack. The other parts were hung via stainless wire from oven racks for powder coating and backing. Please remember to wear a dust mask / respirator while powder coating and blasting. The dust is a really nasty lung irritant. I neglected this at first (like you see in many of the youtube videos), and my lungs hurt for 3 days. Now I use my Miller Eclipse P100 respirator religiously when doing the blasting and powder coating.

The many other flat and domed pieces were hung prior to coating and there are a few important tips:

  • Only load 1 or 2 parts at a time prior to spraying the powder. Having a rack full of parts limits your ability to maneuver the gun and get even coverage. Load 1 or 2, spray, load a couple more, etc. Besides the overspray will help finish build on the previous parts.
  • Add a ground clip to each part rather than relying on the hanging wire and rack for grounding. With the lamp parts the center hole is an ideal point to add a clip lead ground. It wont show later, it is easy to coat after clip removal and you can get some leverage from the insides of the domes when removing the clip. I bought a new batch of alligator clip leads for just this purpose.
  • Hang the bigger parts with 2 wires. They WILL swing as you load them into the oven and this will lead to bare spots where the powder is knocked off.
  • Don’t be greedy and overload the rack with lots of parts. They will swing and bang together leading to bare spots and other defects. 4-6 at a time seems to be the limit. 8-10 is just asking for trouble. The bake time on these thin parts with the powder I was using – Eastwood Architectural Bronze is only 23-35 min (20 min after the part hits 400F). So you can still do over 2 batches per hour and have a nice break in between.
  • It is better to transfer full racks of parts in and out of the oven rather than singles and trying to hook them on and off individually (or maybe I am just a superb klutz with limited motor skills).
  • If possible hang the parts with >3″ and preferably 4+” gap from the rack (another variant of “don’t get greedy”). You need the space and don’t want to be spraying downwards through the rack if at all possible.
  • The corollary to this is don’t push your air compressor too hard with long bead blasting sessions. My DeVilbiss “6 HP” 60 gal unit gets really hot after 30 min of continuous run time (which happens while bead blasting even at 50 PSI reduced pressure to not cause the beads to disintegrate). At that point, the air is hot going into and out of the tank. Then the moisture (and oil) make it past the moisture separators and start showing up as discoloration on the parts while blasting. That is the signal to stop and let things cool down. The blast cabinet requires 9-12 CFM @ 50PSI for glass beads continuously while blasting (far more than a spray gun). I don’t have a chiller / condenser for the air lines (another $700+ investment) which would eliminate the condensation issue but not the overheating compressor .
Oven before I switched to a special rack for the panel dividers which are laying on the non-stick foil

Lamp parts hanging after initial fusion of the powder coat
First 2 domes attached Note the spacer bracket between the pipe sections
Base attached to wall bracket
Cushioned pliers to attach nut and threaded rod. Blue tape or electrical tape work well to avoid scratching the parts.
Glass in, ready for the top

I used a variety of textured clear “stained glass” to replaced the old beveled glass panels. I like the look of the textured glass better than the clear. Plus I did damage a few of the beveled glass pieces slightly during disassembly. The glass cuts are simple straight line snaps. However the seedy glass often deviates a bit from straight if the cut is near the bubbles. So a glass grinder or coarse grit diamond stone is a big help. I had not done any stained glass work for a few years. The internet supplier I had used previously used, was out of business and Milwaukee Art Glass is currently only open by appointment (as I found out on arrival). Some of the glass came from Hobby Lobby (which I detest, but is the only other local alternative I could find). Aside from the philosophical and general quality aversions, the small sheets they sell, would only yield 3 panels (and I need 6) per light (and there were 5 lights) with a lot of waste. However, some may be usable as I do the upcoming path light project.

“Large” light completed

Overall, this was a very satisfying project while building a variety of new skills. Replacing these lights with new ones would have cost much more than the powder coating equipment investment. There were 5 lights in all. Next up will be new scratch built path lights for the front sidewalk.

Aside from new tools, material cost for the 5 lights was:

  • Glass bead blast media ~$20 for about 10 lbs consumed
  • 1 lb of Architectural bronze powder coat powder $12.95
  • Glass ~$50 – mixed sources
  • New LED lamps from Menards (FEIT 100w equivalent) $25

Powder Coating Startup

I have been interested in doing powder coating for a number of years but this does entailaddtioinal equipment and space (and spousal buy-in). I have been frustrated with conventional finishes (paint, black oxide, etc.) for my metal working projects. Paint takes a long time to dry, requires multiple coats, decent temps to spray and is not friendly for spraying indoors (and we live in Wisconsin – so this is important for half of the year).

Basic setup L-R, rack for powder coating, oven, powder coat gun in drawer, blast cabinet, dust deputy cyclone

With my recent retirement (yeah!), I was nearing hte completion of redoing my daughter’s kitchen. At this point I was looking to the next few projects (redoing house exterior lights, redoing bridgeport and SBL controls, new exterior path lighting, David’s motorcycle, etc). These would mean either lots of spray painting and future redos or we could get this done with powder coating. For example, I cleaned up and then had professionally powder coated the crash bars/ engine guards for my bike (Honda VTX-1800) which cost $120. Talking with the shop guys at HyTech Powder Coating in Waukesha they said the typical minimum is $80-120 or small projects. While they did a great job, I restarted thinking about a DIY approach and being able to do powder coating as needed.

Powder coating involves:

  • Mechanically cleaning the part to enable good finish adhesion. This typically means abrasive blasting and chemical wipe.
  • Electrostatically spraying a paint powder on the part
  • Baking the coated part to fuse and cure the powder into the final finish

This is basically similar to conventional spray painting. However there are some similarities and differences. :

  • Prep in either case is key. However Powder Coating does seem to place greater emphasis on mechanical bonding and hence the need for abrasive blasting.
  • Spraying the finish requires a special gun but this is in the same price range as a decent HVLP spray gun. Masking of areas not to be painted requires either silicone plugs or special tapes due to the high temperatures used in the curing. I picked up the Eastwood dual voltage powder coat gun.
  • Oven for curing . This can be as small as a toaster oven or a room sized monster used for powder coating car chassis. For the work I will be doing, a home oven is big enough. DO NOT think you can use your regular home food / baking oven for both purposes. Plus you will need additional ventilation for the fumes. Fortunately, used stoves / ovens (esp. wall ovens ) are dirt cheap. You do want a convection oven. Check your local Habitat for Humanity Restore or Craigs List. I got mine at Habitat Restore in Waukesha, WI . A 30″ GE Profile convection oven for $25 (~1% of the original price) . This wall oven did require a basic cabinet in which to reside (which would also get drawers and drawers eventually).
  • Rack to hold the pieces while spraying. I picked up a stand from Eastwood but it was designed for elves or dwarves and had to raise the top by 3 feet to bring it to a workable height.
  • Blast cabinet. This was the most costly item both in initial purchase price and parts for modifications. I bought the Harbor Freight 40 lb blast cabinet (with the 20% off coupon). However doing the necessary mods basically doubled the price in added parts. Check youtube for the many videos on souping it up. Must haves: caulk ALL the joints form the inside with Vulkem – it leaks powder like a sieve, metering return line off of the dump chute to feed the blast gun, lowering the grate inside, adding a separate pressure regulator for the gun, additional baffling for air intake and extraction, dust deputy cyclone ahead of the shop vac, new lighting, wheeled caster base, additional outlets for shop vac and powder coat gun, EZ open wing nuts for the window for replacement / maintenance. Yes this sounds like a lot but think of it as a “partial kit” and go from there. Besides my 4yo grandson – Sawyer had a lot of fun helping. Good thing it was all metric as I taught him to grab the 8, 10mm wrenches vs trying with imperial fractional sizes.

Reuben Crisps

Reuben crisps are perfect party appetizer. They have been very popular with our family and friends.   The phyllo dough crust gives a great crunch. It is  a bit fussier to wrap than if using crescent dough or bread dough but you will be rewarded with a prettier and tastier treat.  If you have smoked your own Corned Beef or Pastrami, as I do,  all the better.


8 oz Thinly sliced and crumbled pastrami or corned beef
12 oz Shredded swiss cheese
12-16 oz Franks Polish style Sauerkraut
3 oz cream cheese
3 Tbsp Thousand Island dressing (Ken’s light)

Mix well with  your hands

Making the crisps

Thaw the phyllo dough,  lay out horizontally and then cut vertically into thirds, cover with a damp towel.

Take one strip of the dough oriented vertically in front of you. Place approx. 1 Tbsp of the filling mixture on the dough and fold in a triangle pattern (like folding the flag) . Brush with melted butter and place on the cookie sheet


Place a few slices of Cowboy Candy on the filling prior to wrapping.

Fermented Hot Sauce

Every few years I make some fermented hot sauce.   We call it “Cold Snap” hot sauce as we harvest the ripe peppers at the time of the first frost.   I greatly prefer to use ripe peppers rather than green for the flavor as well as the color.  A few green ones do get included but if you add too many the bright orange/ red color will become brown.

This year we had: Mucho Nacho Jalapeno, Super Cayenne, Super Chili, Sweet Banana. Unfortunately my habaneros split in the recent rains and were mostly moldy inside, so there were only 4 to distribute among the jars.

Each quart jar has about 15-16 oz mixed chopped peppers (most seeds removed), 1/2 bulb chopped garlic.  2 jars were left as is.  The other 4 jars  also had 1/4 can – 3oz- of Minutemaid Limeade concentrate. Of these 4 jars,  2 jars had a pinch of Lactobacillus Helveticus and the 2 remaining jars had a pinch of  Lactobacillus Plantarum powder. I use these for  my kettle sour beers.  The 6 quart jars started out as 3 gallons of mixed peppers before chopping, destemming and removing the seeds from the larger ones.

The jars are topped off with a glass weight and 4% brine.   Lids and fermentation locks. The jars are placed in a plastic bin (to catch the inevitable overflow) and left in a dark place at room temperature for 3 weeks.  The time is not critical but there is the risk of mold forming.

chooped peppers in fermentation jars
Peppers at the start of fermentation

The Lactobacillus Helveticus kicked off the fastest by a day or 2. In the end it was also my favorite due to a slightly fruitier flavor.

Most of the jars had a layer of pellicle and / or  Kahm yeast to some degree. This was scooped off and the inside of the rim cleaned with a spatula before adding to the blender. Approximately 4 oz of liquid was removed in the process.

Ferment with pellicle and some kahm yeast – normal

After scooping out the pellicle and kahm yeast.

Each jar is blended separately. When starting the blender, beware – the pepper pulp still has a lot of CO2 in it that will be released as you start the blender. Hold your hand over the lid as you start it!   Each pair of jars of the same type were then blended and boiled for 15 min.  This is IMPORTANT. There is still dissolved CO2 in the pulp. If you go straight from the blender to the jars and heat process the bottles will blow their tops!  Blend until reasonably smooth 30-60 seconds. If you go too long, the seeds get ground up too, which is not desirable as they can add a bitter flavor .

Blending the peppers – note the bubbles

All of the batches ended up very sour with pH in the range of 2.85 to 2.94.  This a safe pH (<3.4) for shelf stable canning. I calibrated the meter right before use and checked it twice.

pH checking hot sauce





Run the pulp through a food mill or strainer to remove the seeds and skins. Pour the now cooked hot sauce into the jars.  We use a measuring cup and funnel rather than a ladle.  You can see my ever so patient wife, Teal, filling the bottles (she does not use hot sauce).

Teal filling the bottles

Process in boiling water for 15 minutes.  Once they are cool add the labels and shrink bands on top for a finishing touch. We prefer to shrink with a heat gun or you can invert them into boiling water to shrink.


Finished Hot Sauces

All 3 sets tasted great but I am partial to the Helveticus batch.


Facebook group: Fermented Hot Sauce Society 

Book: Fiery Ferments

5oz Woozy bottles with red bands

Hot sauce bottle labels

Dr. Meter pH meter  I bought this initially for beer making and is more accurate than relying on the acid range (0-6) pH paper that I had used in the past.

Mirro Foley Food Mill 

Lallemand Sourpitch Lactobacillus Helveticus

Lallemand Sourpitch Lactobacillus Plantarum


So did anything go wrong along the way?


Moldy Ferment – discard

We were short one of the glass weights as it was in a jar of fermented pickles we made earlier in the summer. We ere going to get it back and then forgot. We should have just placed  a baggie of water in that jar. That jar was ruined by mold.   Above, you can see the fuzzy result with white and green mold.   This is a good reason to split up your ferment / experiment into multiple jars. That way if one goes bad there are still others to use. Basically for us we get one shot at this each year. The farmers markets and grocery stores just don’t have sufficient quantities of RIPE pepper, just lots of green ones.

We initially skipped boiling the hot sauce before hot water processing. 4 lids blew off and we had a good mess to clean off of the underside of the microwave and all over the cook top.  We lost about 1 bottle (net) of hot sauce due to this.  As the sauce heated up,  the CO2 was released from the pulp and it rose up the neck of the bottles and blew the lids.   This was an oversight that will not be repeated.    We had to empty the bottles, boil the sauce, refill and then hot process.  No more issues.

Splattered hot sauce-4 lids blew off

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Pastrami v2


We have been pleased with the first couple of batches of home made pastrami  – see: Home Made Pastrami .  However, I am always looking for variations that are (hopefully) better. We would like to lower the salt content and adjust the spices to better match our taste preferences.

Note that this recipe uses  approximately 1/3 the salt vs. the weight of the meat of the starting recipe in: Charcuterie  by Ruhlman and Polsyn, This book is  a great intro to cured meats.

Please do not start with a pre-packaged corned beef and try this. It will be FAR too salty as they are both going for “food safety” and easy factory reproducibility, as well as  assuming you will boil the  meat, which leaches out much of the salt. It is worth the wait to start with uncured brisket.


This batch started as a whole 15lb “packer” beef brisket.  It was carefully trimmed of excess fat with the flat and point separated into separate pieces. It was then brined for a week (flipping every 2 days) in one of the crisper drawers of the garage fridge.   The other crisper bin coincidentally had a whole pork loin brining for 4 days for canadian bacon which was then smoked as before: Canadian Bacon 


Weigh your salt, sugar and cure#1 rather than relying on volume as the proportions can easily be way off by volume, especially if changing brand and type of salt, cure or brown sugar. Please excuse the mixed US and metric measurements but the spice amounts are not near as critical as the salt and sugar.

1 gallon (4 liters) water

350 g Morton’s kosher salt

225 g white sugar

80 g pink salt (cure #1)

100 g dark brown sugar

10 green cardamom pods cracked

3 crushed bay leaves

1 Tbsp dried dill weed

6 Tbsp whole black peppercorns

2 Tbsp brown mustard seed

16 whole dried allspice berries

8 cloves garlic – chopped

15 whole cloves

Mix the brine, add the meat and weight with a large plate or platter. Flip every other day.

Final prep

Remove from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.  Sprinkle with 2 tsp ground coriander and 3-5 Tbsp fresh ground black pepper.


Place on the smoler with the thicker edges out and the thin edges touching or overlapping in the center. In the BGE (Big Green Egg) , place the conveggtor with the flat side down so that you have indirect heat. Place a tray with 2 qts water on it and then the grate on top of the legs.   Set the Heatermeter temp for 225F (as measured with the probe clipped to the lid thermometer bracket) . Place the meat temperature probes in the thickest parts of the pieces and close for the night.  I typically start at 7 pm for an overnight smoke so I can get up well after dawn to check the meat. The smoke comes from the hardwood (oak and hickory) charcoal and several (6)  chunks of well cured cherry wood (slabs 3-4″ thick by 5-6″ diameter , cut in half).   I greatly prefer the fruitwood (cherry or apple)  smoke vs hickory pecan or mesquite which are too harsh for this meat in my opinion.

Brisket on the smoker and the temperature probes in the center of the thickest part of each piece

Smoker – Big Green Egg with heatermeter

90 min in, internal temp at ~130F

Next morning

The meat should be in the range of 150-170F. Edges will be higher and the center lower.  I slice a bit on the ends to check for color and flavor. It is tasty but still tough at this point (but great for a breakfast omelet).

Pull the meat and put in a large pot with about 1/2 ” of water and place in the oven at 235F.  The meat will be done somewhere between 203 and 206F which should take another 3-4 hours.

It is now ready to serve and /or vacuum pack and freeze.









The slices on the right are from the point. You can see a small tan/ brown area in the middle of one of the point slices. This is where the cure did not completely penetrate. It could have used a few more days in the brine.   The slices on the left are from the flat. At this point it is quite lean.

It all tastes great!

To learn more about smoking brisket and trimming the meat I recommend the Franklin Barbeque book.

If you don’t have a Heatermeter or are not up for building one, take a look at the Thermoworks Signals with the companion Billows temperature control blower. I have been using their probes and Chefalarms for years.