Here in the PNW our seasons are a little different than other places. We have the rainy season when others have winter and spring, then the sunny (or smokey) season during summer, then instead of a normal autumn we just have spiders.
No Halloween decorations needed, nature takes care of it. This time of year the Orb weavers have spent all summer growing and are preparing for winter by putting up webs everywhere. Anywhere not commonly trafficked now has impressively large webs with 1 inch spiders lying in wait at the center. After a while you get good at spotting them so you don’t get a face full of spiderweb.
Last week I had a great opportunity to camp in Washington’s Enchantments. This a magical area in the cascade mountains with chains of pristine alpine lakes leading up the mountains. Its a popular and challenging hike and it can be difficult to get permits to camp overnight; so when a friend of mine with permits for an overnight trip asked me to join, how could I say no.
This is the first backpacking trip I’ve done since high school, and when base camp is 8 miles from the road and at 5500ft of elevation in the cold mountains, this was going to be a little more challenging then what I’m used to. With an old backpack, some new cold weather gear, and a borrowed tent I was ready to go, counting ounces and trying to make my pack a lean as possible. The 4000ft climb up to our camp at upper Snow Lake was a difficult hike, but not as bad as I was expecting, and the views at camp and hiking further into the enchantments the next day was well worth being sore. I made up to Inspiration Lake, passing Lake Viviane, Leprechaun Lake, Sprite Lake, and Perfection Lake, before turning around to get back to camp before dark. Saving most of the upper Enchantments for next time.
Continuing to look for more uses for my pasta maker I wanted to try making my own ramen noodles. The noodles are pretty simple, but for one special ingredient; ramen noodles are made with an alkaline solution. While I do have some lye from making bagels, its pretty powerful stuff; it seemed like using some sodium carbonate would be easier and safer. Sodium carbonate can be created by heating sodium bi-carbonate (baking soda) in a low oven for about an hour.
The alkaline reacts with the flour to help develop the gluten, giving them that chewy texture. The dough was a little tougher to form than normal pasta dough, but the kitchen-aid was still able to manage it. After rolling it out and cutting with the spaghetti cutter I had homemade ramen noodles.
Its a lot more work than instant ramen, and there is still room in my pantry for the prepackaged noodles; but this was excellent, and a fun exploration in cooking a new food. There are so many different ways to prepare ramen I can expand and simplify as I want. Next if I want to put in even more effort I can try making Chashu pork belly to have with the ramen.