In 2009 I was finally diagnosed with Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH) and since then I've been trying to learn how to live and still have fun while removing Gluten from my life. Having recently moved to Germany from Canada by way of 2 years in California, I’m learning about gluten free cooking and brewing on a whole new level and while it can be mind bogglingly frustrating sometimes, it makes the successes all the sweeter and so much more fun.
Breakfasts here in Germany are rather different then back home.Usually they involve sliced cheeses, deli meats; maybe some smoked salmon or pickled herring and various types of bread.Some scrambled eggs, Nurnberger Sausages or bacon, a hardboiled egg or two.A little bit of Muesli, fresh or dried fruit and yogurt.All in all they are a wonderful experience but lately I’m missing the classic American breakfast.There is something about two eggs done your favourite style with a side of bacon, ham or sausage, some hash browns and maybe a stack of buttermilk pancakes that has the comfort of home to it.Probably my favourite breakfast is a couple eggs over hard with a big side of corned beef hash, add a glass of orange juice and a bottomless cup of coffee and I’m in my own little slice of heaven.
Lunches here are great for the most part and very hearty.Lunch is the major meal of the day, breakfast having lots of options but not necessarily eating all of them and generally dinner is a bit smaller.Lunches are big meals, filling and really get you through the afternoon, but I found recently I’ve been missing that corned beef sandwich or Ruben with extra dressing. A couple nice slices of rye bread, lightly toasted, three or four slices of corned beef, a scoop or so of sauerkraut and some Thousand Island dressing ... Yum!
Are you noticing the theme yet?This week I’m obsessing over Corned Beef.Corned beef ties into the whole concept of Charcuterie and food preservation that I’ve been playing with this year.Basically corned beef is a cured piece of beef that is then boiled until cooked through.I know, I know that description is a little blah, let me try that again.Corned beef is a magnificent piece of beef brisket with all that beautiful fat marbled throughout, which is brined in cure, salt, sugar and various spices to give it a stunning pink colour and an intoxicating aroma and then slowly braised or simmered until that fat melts and the whole brisket falls apart in your mouth.Well doesn’t that sound a little more appetizing?
In general beef is not as cheap here in Germany as it is back home and I haven’t found corned beef on any of the shelves.Papa Thirsty was coming into town for a night and since he’s been living with Mama Thirsty in China for the last year and a half I thought he’d appreciate a little corned beef hash.So I set out, reviewing some recipes online and reading through Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting Smoking and Curing and putting together flavours that I like to come up with my own recipe.
Mr. Thirsty’s Corned Beef
So when I was putting this together I was struggling to figure out how to substitute a few things for what I had available her in Germany.I’ll put here both what I used in Germany and what I would use back home in Canada.
Tafelspitz – So this is a cut of beef from the bottom of the sirloin, commonly referred to as the Tri Tip.The Germans have a completely different way of butchering their beef and for the life of me I couldn’t find a brisket to save my life.I was trying to explain what I was doing to the butcher and this little old lady next to me who didn’t speak a lick of English understood and told me that this is what they use for similar recipes.
Markensalz – This is a salt that is produced in Bad Reichenhall, a town in Upper Bavaria near Salzburg, Austria.The don’t really use Kosher salt here that I could find, so I made sure that I did this recipe by weight, eliminating the discrepancy that occurs when referencing salt by volume,
Pökelsalz – This is basically salt with a percentage of nitrites included for food preservation.In North America the amount of nitrite is regulated and the salt is actually dyed pink to ensure that it is not confused for table salt.Here I’ve found it hard to find, finally buying some from my spice guy in the weekly market.Yes I have a spice guy.
Prep Time 60 minutes + 5 days
Cook Time 180 minutes
The Pickling Spice
You can play with these ingredients to suit your tastes, I was surprised when I was done, that the clove actually dominated in the aroma and the bay leaf is really subtle.Remember that the final result really depends on the age of your spices.The spices in that spice rack you got as a wedding present 20 years ago are not going to taste or smell as good as the ones you bought yesterday.
20gWhole Black Peppercorns
20gWhole Yellow Mustard Seeds
20gWhole Coriander Seeds
2Cinnamon Sticks, Crushed
10gDried Juniper Berries
14gAll Spice, Ground
8gNutmeg, Freshly Grated
24Dried Bay Leaves, Crushed
1)Toast the peppercorns, mustard, coriander, cloves, cinnamon and juniper over medium high heat until fragrant
2)Place everything into spice mill and grind to coarse powder
3)Place in a sealable jar
This will make enough picking spice for about 6 – 8 batches of corned beef (est. 120 – 160g).
Brining is another way of salt curing.Instead of packing the salt directly onto the flesh, we are dissolving it into water and soaking the meat in the resulting brine.This allows the salt, sugar and flavours to infuse deeper into the meat in a shorter time.
225gMarkensalz (Kosher Salt)
50gGranulated Brown Sugar (Brown Sugar)
20gPökelsalz (Curing Salt/Pink Salt)
3Garlic Cloves, Crushed
1kg Tafelspitz (Beef Brisket)
1)Add all the ingredients, except the beef, to a pot and bring them to a boil
2)Remove from heat and cover
3)Let the mixture come to room temperature and then chill to the temperature that you will be brining the meat at
4)Rinse the brisket, removing any excess fat and silver skin (the long fibrous tissue that is rather tough to eat) and place into a sealable container that will just fit the brisket and the brine together
5)Pour the chilled brine on top cover and place in the fridge for 5-7 days
The Corned Beef
After all that waiting you basically have a brined cut of beef.What really makes it corned beef now is the way that it’s prepared.Corned beef is boiled or braised to finish.If you were to take the beef, rinse it well at this point and let it rest in the fridge for a day before crusting it with cracked black pepper and coriander and smoking it you would have pastrami, another very yummy dish but today we’re all about the corned beef.
1)Place the beef into a pot and fill with water until it is just covered
2)Add the pickling spices
3)Bring water to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover
4)Simmer for about 3 hours, checking occasionally to ensure that the water level hasn’t dropped too much
5)Check the meat with a meat thermometer; it should be about 82°C (180°F).I know this is rather high for beef but the connecting tissue in the beef starts converting to gelatine at that point, making it tender.
6)I have at this point removed the beef from the water and let it rest on a cutting board for about 15 minutes to rest.I usually break of pieces but you could also chill the beef really well and slice it into lunchmeat
Overall I really enjoyed this Corned Beef.When Papa Thirsty was here I made us a Corned Beef Hash that was just awesome and Mrs. Thirsty even told me that this was the first thing I’ve made since she decided to try the veggie lifestyle that she smelled and it made her want to give it all up.She didn’t but maybe I can come up with something for her.Corned Carrots maybe or Corned Celery Root ... Corned Zucchini??I’ll have to think on it.
Going along with my Berry Beer I thought something like a Hefeweizen would be a nice spring/summer evening sipper.In my scouring of the Home Brew Talk Gluten Free forums I stumbled over Igliashon’s Purple Hefereisen.The uniqueness of the Purple rice is what really intrigued me, so I thought I would adapt it to my ingredients and give it a whirl, and a whirl of a day it was.The brew day went well for the most part right up until I got distracted while making my dinner and grabbed the handle of a pan that had just came out of a 200°C (400°F) oven.After that Mrs. Thirsty reminded me again why I love her and not only finished making dinner and played nurse to yours truly but she also finished up the brew day.What a wonderful woman I tell you.Well, on with the show.
2.00kg Purple Rice (aka Forbidden Rice) – Steeped for an hour
0.25kg Rice Syrup – Boil for 60min
1.00kg Rice Syrup – Boil for 40min
0.35kg Amber Belgian Candy Sugar – Boil for 5min
5.00g Tettnang [5.50 %] – First Wort Hop 15min
5.00g Cascade [7.30 %] – Boil 40,0min
5.00g Tettnang [5.50 %] – Boil 20,0min
5.00g Cascade [7.30 %] – Boil 5,0min
5.00g Tettnang [5.50 %] – at Flameout
10.00ml Brewferm Beerzym MULTI – Added to steeping water
5.00 g Irish Moss – Boil 10min
50.00 g Malto-Dextrin – Boil 5min
15.00 g Blood Orange Peel – Boil 5min
6.00 g Cracked Coriander – Boil 5min
8.00 g Yeast Nutrient – Added to yeast while rehydrating
1 pkg SafBrew Specialty Ale (DCL/Fermentis #T-58)
The steeping setup, a quick rig
So the purpose here, after making a quaffable brew of course, is to make an attempt at playing with the enzyme that I bought a couple months back when I first started this whole brewing hobby.To this end I decided to steep the rice hot water (154-165°F) for about an hour with some of the enzyme and see what happens.In this case, the water turned a beautiful dark purple that is almost black but when I tested a sample with the hydrometer, there was absolutely no sugar converted.
Beautiful dark purple
When I go back now and think about this, it’s obvious that there shouldn’t be, because the rice was never brought to a temperature where is would release starch into the water, so the enzyme never had anything to work with.Not a huge problem but a bit of a disappointment that I missed something so fundamental to brewing. I’m going to have to take a look at my plans for future brews and make sure I don’t make the same mistake.
Another rigged setup to let the water drip from the rice
So once the rice was steeped I pulled it out and set it on a grate over the kettle so any water might drip in.During this time I threw in 5g of the Tettnang hops to sit for 15 minutes in the hot water before beginning the boil.The idea behind First Wort Hopping is to take some of the aroma hops that are generally added late in the boil and add them to the 50-70°C wort that is drained from the bag in this case. This action will add bitterness to the brew that is more uniform and a hop aroma that is more balanced and complex.
The target of this beer when I was building it in Beersmith I decided would be a Dunkelweizen.This is a fruity and spicy wheat beer which dark with a malty richness.Going with the dark purple rice and the Rice Syrup base I thought this was appropriate.The caramelized honey should add a bit of a malty backbone and the IBUs as calculated are a little higher than is acceptable for a Dunkelweizen, but it should be tasty.
So the boil went well, and I put the pot outside to cool.While the wort was cooling, I started prepping dinner.I put a frying pan in the oven at 200°C (400°F) for a steak and then decided to throw some of the rice into a pan.The rice was not quite cooked so I cooked a little bacon up, added some red pepper and the rice and a little water to steam it all together.In the mean time I pulled the pan out of the oven and put in on the stove top.I put a little salt and pepper on the steak and went to grab the frying pan, to move the handle to the side.The searing pain reminded me that the frying pan was just in the oven.I cried out and immediately put my hand under some cold water while Mrs. Thirsty came in to find out the problem.
Sitting in the carboy, working away.
From here on out Mrs. Thirsty finished up my dinner for me, searing the steak on each side for 30 seconds then putting the whole pan back in the oven for 5 minutes.After dinner, when the wort cooled, Mrs. Thirsty poured it into the carboy and added bottled water to 10L and then she rehydrated the yeast with 250ml of bottled water and 8g of yeast nutrient and added all of it to the carboy.
Release the Krausen!!
The next morning when I looked in on the beer, I could tell the yeast was excited.A thick, purple krausen, had pushed up through the airlock, causing the little red cap to pop off and a little spray of purple to spread around the carboy.I’m thinking next time I need a blow off tube because this happened 4 more times over the next two days.Each time I cleaned the airlock out and refilled it, proving I am just a little insane by repeating the same actions hoping for different results.After a couple days it did slow down and the airlock has stayed clear.I’m going to plan on carbonating this on the low end of the style range and I’m really looking forward to the first taste.
Another spring beer that I’ve been thinking about for a while is a Ginger Beer.I’ve had a few ginger beers over the years, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.They tend to be fairly one note with a sharp ginger bite and leaving your lips tingling for hours from drinking a pint.Proper ginger beer is brewed using a ginger beer plant.This is an organism that is a composite of yeast and bacteria.In this case I’m more brewing a beer with prominent ginger flavour.
0.25 kg Amber Belgian Candy Sugar – Boil for 45min
0.25 kg Milk Sugar – Boil for 30min
15.00 g Tradition [6.70 %] – Boil for 45min
200.0 g Ginger Root, chopped skin on – Boil for 45min
100.0 g Ginger Root, chopped skin on – Boil for 30min
100.0 g Ginger Root, chopped skin on – Boil for 15min
5.00 g Irish Moss – Boil 15min
10.00 g Lemon Grass, chopped – Boil 5min
10.00 g Lemon Zest, chopped – Boil 5min
5 whole Cloves – Boil 5min
5.00 g Nutmeg, fine grated – Boil 5min
2 whole Cinnamon Sticks, broken – Boil 5min
½ pkg SafBrew Ale (DCL/Fermentis #S-33)
30 g Light Brown Sugar
100.0 g Ginger Root, chopped skin on, soaked in vodka 2 weeks – In secondary for 7 days
Everything boiling away, it looks like a lovely ginger soup ;)
My plan here is to layer flavours, one over the other, like a well made meal.Starting with the hops to provide a base canvas of bitterness, I then plan on three different additions of ginger.By cooking the ginger for three different lengths of time, it will change the flavour that each provides.The longer it cooks, the mellower the flavour will be, so in this case I will be adding a bit of sharpness a with each addition.The final racking over the raw ginger soaked in vodka will provide that final layer of sharp aroma and taste.The lemon grass, zest, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon should add mild flavours and significant aromatics to the beer.The milk sugar should only be about 75% fermentable, leaving a little bit of sweetness and body in the beer.I’ll taste at the first racking and then again at the bottling and if the body is thin I may add a little bit of Malto-Dextrin to improve the mouth feel.This beer may come out a bit hot, meaning the alcohol taste may wind up being very prominent but as I understand aging will mellow this heat.At this point I will plan on aging as is, though if this beer comes out well, I may try aging it over lightly toasted oak chips next time, to add a bit of vanilla to the flavour profile.The banana here is really not adding much flavour, but is more there for the protein and texture it provides to mouth feel and head retention.
The brewing went really well for this beer, making the whole apartment smell wonderful.Even the garbage pail smells great because of the left over ginger and banana.When the cooled wort was transferred to the carboy, it was a medium dark brown, a little darker than Vernors.After some of the sediment drops out it should be a nice, clear golden colour like Canada Dry.The yeast I’m using here is a SafBrew S-33.It is supposed to be fairly clean, without many esters and finish somewhat high on the gravity.Leaving a little sweetness will be great.
When I we first moved to California, I slowly became obsessed with what I consider to be one of the best desserts ever conceived.Sweet and creamy, cool and a bit crunchy, decadent yet not cloying I am of course talking about Crème Brulee.Literally translated to Burnt Cream, this is very simply a custard base with a melted sugar crust.I was somewhat intimidated by this dessert, not really understanding the versatility of eggs and how vital a role they play, and since Mrs. Thirsty is lactose intolerant, this wasn’t one of those dishes that she wanted me making all the time to perfect.Not that she didn’t enjoy it, just that the price of entrance had to be worth the main event.With that in mind I would occasionally use coconut milk, trying to find something we could both enjoy.Since moving to Germany we have found that there are a lot of Lactose Free products that we didn’t find so readily available in North America, the largest brand being MinusL.They have this heavy cream that is lactose free and wonderful to work with, and work with it I do.We generally keep about 3 boxes of this hanging around the apartment at all times, just in case I get it in my head that I want some crème brulee.After playing with various ratios of egg to cream, and different flavourings I found this has been my best base for a crème brulee, from here you are only limited by your imagination
Finished Product FirstIsn't it beautiful!!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Number of Servings: 6 – 150ml ramekins
6Egg Yolks (Free Range is ideal, deep orange and rich)
2)Combine heavy cream, cinnamon, vanilla and lemon zest into heavy sauce pan over low heat.Steep for approximately 20 minutes.Do not boil.
3)Whisk together sugar, honey and egg yolks until smooth & creamy
4)Strain flavoured cream to remove solids then slowly pour into egg mixture.Whisk constantly while adding small amounts of cream.
5)Pour custard into ramekins and place ramekins into water bath
6)Bake custard for 40 minutes and check, centre of custard should slightly wobble/jiggle a bit.If too liquid continue cooking for 5 minutes at a time and check.
7)Remove from oven and water bath when custard is ready.Cool to room temperature and then chill for at least 3 hours.
8)When ready to serve, add Turbinado sugar to top and shake to spread.Using torch, melt sugar evenly to a crust.Allow crust to cool.Custard can be put back into fridge for a short time, though the sugar may not retain crisp structure.
Bruleeing the sugar with a hand torch,
you can see some of my madelines in the background
This method generally makes a pretty thick custard base.I love the creamy, dense texture and so I make it a little thick with a single layer of sugar burnt on top.Mrs. Thirsty on the other hand really likes the burnt sugar and will add a second layer to the top of her crème brulee.
Some Strawberry Creme Brulee waiting to have the sugar added
Depending on whimsy and what we have in the house I will sometimes slice some raspberries or strawberries and line the bottom of the ramekins with them.Another time I added 50g of cocoa nibs to the cream and replaced the lemon zest with the zest from an orange, trying to make a Terry’s Chocolate Orange style Crème Brulee.It worked out wonderfully.
Some beautiful raspberries,
wonderful balance to the sweet flavour and creamy texture
Since there are all those left over egg whites, I usually make some Gluten Free Madeline’s, but that is for another post.I’ll bring that one soon.
Photos courtesy of Mrs. Thirsty and Sister Thirsty
So now that we're through the holidays and through January, I figure it’s time to plan a few different batches of beer for spring.I started with Chilort's Raspberry & Blackberry Beer and modified based on the ingredients that I have available here. The goal here is something light, refreshing and tasty that we’ll have for those days in spring when Mrs. Thirsty and I are sitting on the balcony in the sun.
0.60 kg Mixed Berries, Frozen – Added to secondary for 7 days
10.00 g Tettnang [4,50 %] - Boil 60,0min
10.00 g Tettnang [4,50 %] - Boil 30,0min
10.00 g Tettnang [4,50 %] - Boil 15,0min
0.5 pkg SafBrew Ale (DCL/Fermentis #S-33)
So I started with the honey, adding it to a small pot with 1 tablespoon of water and about half a teaspoon of lemon juice. I put this over low heat, constantly stirring until it started simmering. I let it simmer for 10 minutes before removing it from the heat and setting it to the side.
Early in the Fermentation process, notice how light it is
Following the timing identified in the Grain Bill/Hop Schedule, the boil was rather easy. My stove top doesn't seem to be hot enough to maintain a full, hard boil of that much water without a top on the kettle so I generally keep the top about 75% on the kettle and just be cautious of boil over.Even with that caution, there were two times the wort beat me and it boiled over onto the stovetop, though the smell wasn’t terrible, almost like cotton candy.
When I added the berries, I paused the boil timer and let the kettle come back to a hard boil before I continued.I’ve read and been told that by adding the berries to the boil, I’ve introduced the naturally occurring Pectin in the berries to my beer.Pectin is a gelling agent that is used when making jams and jellies, that helps the product set.Pectin is found in high concentrations in hard fruit (like apples and pears) and citrus fruit but in much lower concentrations in the berries I used.The problem with pectin is that it is insoluble in alcohol, so as the alcohol content in the beer increases, the more the pectin will appear, making the beer cloudy.Now, I’m willing to accept a little cloudiness, though if my order for Pectolytic Enzyme shows up before I bottle, I’ll toss some in and see what happens.
A sample of the berries I plan on using in secondary.
Raspberries, Blackberries, Blue Berries & Red Currents
I chilled the whole batch in the snow outside for about 40 minutes, poured it through a strainer into the carboy, topped off with boiled/cooled water and withdrew a hydrometer sample. I set this aside to come to room temp and pitched the yeast. The yeast was rehydrated in about 250ml of warm water, starting when the wort was put out to chill.
When I checked the next morning the airlock was burbling nicely at about 2 bubbles per second and some of the hops had floated up to the top. It’s a really deep pink colour and is definitely not clear but hopefully it’ll settle out over the next couple weeks. After 2 weeks I plan to rack this on top of some more berries for a weeks before bottling.
Well, here comes the waiting game, damn I wish I was more patient.
I enjoy bacon, I really enjoy bacon.It’s salty and sweet, it can be smoky and crispy, and it seems to add its flavour to anything it’s paired with.So recently I’ve started reading a book called Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman.It is all about that ancient craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing meat and other preserving methods.This of course is making me more and more interested in the craft and art behind making this food.With thoughts of bacon, sausage and other things dancing in my head, and finding curing salt at the local market, I decided to try my hand at making my own bacon.Down at the market, I was able to also get a small piece of pork belly, about 5cm (2 inches) thick with the skin on.
Bacon with rub/cure
Yummy maple flavour on this bacon is so exciting, I can’t decide if I’m going to hot smoke it or not.Granted some of this indecision may be because of the weather.I have a small charcoal wet smoker out on the balcony, but its thin walled and the weather outside is still below 0°C (32°F).We’ll need to see what happens when it is done curing.When I got the pork belly home, I realized that half the thickness came from the spare ribs and cartilages.I sliced this part cleanly away from the remaining pork belly, setting it aside to play with later.
Prep Time 10 minutes + 7 days
Cook Time 120 minutes
500g Pork Belly with skin
300g Large Granulated Sea Salt
150g Granulated Brown Sugar
30g Curing Salt
83g Maple Sugar
Side view of the bacon
1)I mixed the dry ingredients together, and put them aside into a sealed jar.This was almost 600g of rub/cure and I won’t need near that much, so I’ll have some for later use
2)Rinse the pork belly well and then pat it dry with paper towel
3)Using a spoon I sprinkled the rub thickly over the skin side of the pork belly and pressed it in
4)Picking up the pork belly I shook off the loose rub onto a board and dipped the bare side in the remaining rub
5)Adding more rub to the board as necessary, I made sure to get the remaining sides
6)Once well covered with rub, I put it in a zipper storage bag and placed it in the fridge
Seven days later the pork belly is firm to the touch and I think it’s ready to go.I pulled it out of the fridge and rinsed it pretty well under cold water.We spent the weekend away and taking the time to get the smoker going just seems like too much effort.Instead I preheat the convection oven to about 100°C (212°F), pat the pork belly dry with paper towel and insert the probe from my digital thermometer.Once the oven is preheated, I placed the cured pork belly into the oven on a rack.I set the alarm to go off when the internal temperature reached about 65°C (150°F).After about 90 minutes the alarm went off and I pulled the pork out of the oven.It smelled and looked beautiful; marbled layers of white, dark and light pink.I let it cool to the point where I could hold an edge of the skin while I slowly slid the knife as close as possible to the skin, leaving as much fat as possible behind.
Slicing away the skin after roasting
After cooling, I cut a slice for a taste.I think the salt was a little much since is completely overpowers the maple flavour.At this point the bacon tastes much like a salty piece of ham.I think I will go back and add another 50g of maple sugar and 50g of brown sugar, to try to balance out the cure.I may also soak the cured pork belly in some fresh water for about 2 hours before roasting/smoking next time.
All in all, when fried up the bacon is pretty good for a first try.I’m definitely going to try this again, next time with a hot smoke.