Thursday, February 28, 2013

Charcuterie - Maple Bacon - First Attempt

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
 Maple Bacon
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

After cooking

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.
Photos courtesy of Mrs. Thirsty

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bottle Day and Tasting - Double Chocolate Oatmeal Stout & Electric Citrus Saison

After the trouble of a double brew day I was looking forward to tasting both of these beers.  My original plan for the Double Chocolate Oatmeal Stout was to let it sit over a couple vanilla beans for a week.  Between my work trip at the beginning of December and then travelling home to Canada for the Holidays, I didn’t have time to let it sit for only a week.  So in order to still get the vanilla flavour I planned, I decided to use vanilla sugar for bottling.  The specific sugar that I used had little pieces of vanilla bean in it.  I used 41g of the vanilla sugar, planning on the carbonation being very low.  Bottling was smooth and I was able to get 18 Full 0.5L bottles from the batch, though the beer was a little cloudy, I thought it might still clear in the bottles. Checking the gravity, the beer seems to be a whopping 7.8% alcohol, this could be dangerous.  The beer was also nowhere near as dark as I wanted for this stout, coming out maybe a little darker brown then the Ye Old Confused Brown Ale.

Three weeks later I decided to try my first Stout.  The top popped and when poured the carbonation was great, just enough to tickle the tongue a bit and bring out the aroma.  There was a little bit of a head formed, with big bubbles, but it didn’t last long and left no lacing on the glass.  It was still the dark brown but it hadn’t cleared at all from bottling, if anything it was cloudier with little bits of vanilla bean floating around.  The yeast cake on the bottom was about 3mm thick, though pretty stable.  The smell right off is clearly of hops, with a little hint of chocolate and nothing of vanilla.  The taste is bitter, almost harsh, with a long aftertaste almost of citrus.  There is a slight sweetness to compliment the bitterness and a good mouth-feel, thick but not really creamy.  Overall, this really isn’t a stout but I’m not sure what it could be classified as, maybe a brown American IPA??  About a month down the road, I’ve had a couple more of them, and it seems the harshness has mellowed.  It’s still bitter, with more of the hop flavour and chocolate come through.  Age is bringing out the positive qualities of this beer, maybe this will be a re-brew in the future, and I just need to figure out how to get it to clear.  Aww well, part of the fun is in the trial and error.

Continuing with the double trouble theme, I bottled the Electric Citrus Saison on the same day.  Since this was just a 4 litre trial, I’m not overly concerned.  I decided to continue with the honey additions and bottled with 37g of Acai Blossom Honey, giving the Saison a very high carbonation.  When pouring into the bottling bucket, the beer was crystal clear and very pale yellow.  This resulted in 8 full 0.5L bottles and a final alcohol by volume of 6%.

I popped one of these just after the first Double Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, and I was sorely disappointed in the carbonation.  It was almost flat, thought the smell was very nice and refreshingly citrus.  The beer was very clear with a really pale yellow.  Citrus and hops warred with each other as the prominent smell, the coriander and cardamom taking a back seat.  The taste was nice, tart and refreshing, though a little cloying without a good carbonation.  About a month later the carbonation is perfect, helping produce a beautiful white head when poured, which fell to about half a centimetre, lasting to about half way through the glass.  The citrus notes are there in the aroma, and in the flavour, though the honey hasn't come out that I can tell.  This will be a nice beer to enjoy in the summer and may require a full batch brew.

Photos courtesy of Mrs. Thirsty

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Flash Blog - Veggie and Stars Soup

So over the holidays Mrs. Thirsty was talking with her brothers (we'll call them the Hungry Brothers) about the vegetarian lifestyle.  Hungry #1 has been a vegetarian for a number of years and Hungry #2 has lived both a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle, though in the last couple years has reintroduced meat into his lifestyle.  What Mrs. Thirsty was curious about was understanding how to live the veggie life.  More specifically she asked what foods to consume to ensure that you're getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals, what are common meals, how often do you eat and so on.  Armed with this knowledge and a whole bunch of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks, she has started 2013 as a Pescatarian , also known as a vegetarian that occasionally consumes fish.

A major reason for this decision is so that we both begin to eat healthier and include more veggies in our diet.  A smaller reason that she confessed to me is that she wants to give me another challenge.  Can I cook tasty food that is gluten free, sometimes lactose free or low lactose and vegetarian?  Well, we're gonna find out.  If and when I develop recipes that are tasty and meet these requirements, I'll post them up and tag them as appropriate.  I always did want a wife that would challenge me, I am really glad I found her.

Without further ado, here is a little soup that we put together last night and really enjoyed.

Veggie and Stars Soup

Mrs. Thirstys reheated bowl for next day lunch!
2 Large Carrots, peeled and diced
2 Large Celery Sticks, diced
1/2 Large White Onion, diced
1 Large Red Pepper, diced
50g Dried Mushrooms
100g Red Lentils
100g Gluten Free Pasta, Star Shaped
1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1 Teaspoon Marjoram
1 Teaspoon Thyme
1 Teaspoon Sage
1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1 Teaspoon Coarse Salt
2 Teaspoons Vegetable Stock powder
4 Litres Water
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

- Begin by heating the olive oil over medium high heat and cooking the onions until they are translucent
- Add the carrots, celery and red pepper and sear for 2 minutes
- Add the water and spices and bring to boil
- Reduce heat to a simmer and cover, let simmer for 30 minutes
- Add lentils and pasta, cover and simmer for another 30 minutes
- Once pasta is tender, it is ready to serve

When we made this the lentils broke down and thickened the soup to almost a stew.  It was rich and filling and the black pepper came through as a pleasant tingle on the tongue.

Enjoy! Photo courtesy of Mrs. Thirsty

Bottle Day and Tasting – Ye Old Confused Brown Ale

With this Brown Ale being my first try at home brewing, I was a little like a new father.  Always looking in and checking it, at one point even sitting quietly and listening to the sound of the airlock bubbles popping.  It was oddly relaxing and enjoyable.  A week before I was planning on bottling, I was asked to travel for business for 3 weeks.  I was a little concerned but decided instead of bottling early or transferring to a bright tank, to just leave it alone in the primary fermenting carboy and let it go.  All in, the beer was primary fermenting for 5 weeks.  I put it in the refrigerator in the basement for 24 hours at about 5°C(41°F) in order to “Cold Crash” the beer and encourage the yeast and any other particle floating around in there to fall.  Once I finally made it home I got down to my first beer bottling.  I have never bottled beer before but have bottled wine with my mother (Mama Thirsty we shall call her) back a few years ago.  For a couple years Mama Thirsty and I split on batches of wine at one of the local “Make Your Own” shops.  These shops are fun in that you can have some of the experience of making your own wine without the expense of all the equipment and all the work associated with cleaning, sanitizing and testing.  You get to pour in the yeast and let someone else manage the fermenting and racking activities and then all you need to do is bottle the wine.  As I said we did this for a year or two until Papa Thirsty admitted that he really didn’t like the wine that much and he’d rather buy his favourite brands. 
After that extended tangent, I’ll get back to bottling the Brown Ale.  2 days before we were supposed to fly back to Canada to celebrate Christmas with our family, I decided I had enough free time to bottle.  I added 67g of corn sugar to a small sauce pan with a half litre of water and brought it to a boil.  While waiting for that to cool I pulled a sample of the Brown Ale to get a final gravity reading and found that after 5 weeks the gravity was 1.018.  This means the final beer should be around 7.7% alcohol by volume and may be on the sweet side.  The corn sugar solution was added to the bottling bucket and the Brown Ale was siphoned on top so that it mixed well.  From this 20 half litre bottles were filled and boxed up.
All in all the bottling was really easy.  I fully expected to spill half of the beer on the counter or something to fall into the bucket.  This whole process has been too easy despite the mistake with the boil pot, so I’m fully expecting lightening to strike or something.  This is the very first time I’ve tried to do this, in a country where I’m not really confident with the language, with ingredients that are not usual. 

Showcasing GF Engineer's new label - Christmas gift from one of the best Brother in Law's around!
Let’s move forward in time about 3 weeks or so.  We arrived home from out Christmas Holidays with the families and I had about 3 days at home before it was back to England for another work trip.  Saturday before I flew out I put a couple of the Brown Ales in the fridge and decided to give them a try. 
I popped the top and poured one into a glass.  A nice, frothy, white head formed as I poured the beer, about 3cm thick.  It didn’t last very long but left some nice lacing on the side of the glass.  The most surprising thing about the beer is how beautifully clear it looked.  It was a beautiful dark gold in colour and crystal clear.   I don’t think the colour is appropriate for brown ale but I’m more than happy with it.
The smell of the beer is sweet and nutty with a little bit of the hops coming through.  The first taste is sweet.  There isn’t enough hop bitterness to balance the sweetness.  I don’t think the grains come through much, but then I haven’t done a beer with only rice syrup to compare.  There is no hint of alcohol in the taste, which I fully expected.
Overall this beer is quaffable and more than a little dangerous.  If the calculated alcohol content is true, then it’s close to 8% and doesn’t taste like it.  I think this is going into the re-brew pile but with adjustments to the hop schedule to help balance it out.  I’m also going to put a few at the back of the shelf and see how it ages, maybe if I’m lucky the hops with make a reappearance.
This was a good way to start 2013.

Photos courtesy of Mrs. Thirsty

Brew Day Double Trouble – Double Chocolate Oatmeal Stout & Electric Citrus Saison – Part 2

And onto the:
Electric Citrus Saison
So this recipe is based around the GF-Orange Honey Ale – Shock Top Clone that was posted by MapleTreeBrewCo on Home Brew Talk.  I liked the idea of doing something that would be really light and refreshing but I wasn’t sure about the flavours and since I had a free 5L carboy I scaled the recipe down and modified it to the ingredients I have available here. 
When I was putting together this recipe I was looking at the various definitions for Sour Ales and trying to define what category this would fall into.  It doesn’t quite fit the description or a Witbier or a Berliner Weiss so the only thing I could possibly compare it to is a Belgian Saison.  A Saison is historically from Wallonia in the French speaking part of Belgium.  It is a summer style that was originally brewed near the end of the cool season to last through the summer months.  Medium to strong in the alcohol department, but not so strong that it isn’t refreshing.  The taste is usually well hopped and dry with a quenching acidity and strong fruity/spicy overtones.  Overall, this intended to be a refreshing beer that can be enjoyed on a patio in the warmer months.
So putting this together I knew I wanted a citrus flavour to be at the forefront, with the hops to back it up.  I chose Cascade and Summit for hops, looking to capitalize on the grapefruit and citrus aromas.  As additional flavours I added in a little bit of lemon and orange juice, some orange zest, cardamom and coriander.  Also, using the Windsor yeast I was hoping to the esters would round out the citrus flavours.  Finally I finished the whole thing with some Acai Blossom honey, hoping that the delicate flavour won’t be lost.
Onto the brewing!!

Electric Citrus Saison

Grain Bill
0.75kg Brown Rice Syrup – Added 60 min remaining in boil
0.15kg Acai Blossom Honey – Added at Flame out

Hop Schedule
4g Cascade Pellet (7.30 %AA) – Added at 40 minutes remaining in boil
4g Summit Pellet (15.50 %AA) – Added at 20 minutes remaining in boil

Misc Ingredients
25ml Lemon Juice – Added at 30 minutes remaining in boil
25ml Orange Juice – Added at 30 minutes remaining in boil
25g Malto-Dextrin for body – Added at 20 minutes remaining in boil
10g Sweet Orange Peel/Zest – Added at 20 minutes remaining in boil
5g Coriander Seeds, Cracked – Added at 20 minutes remaining in boil
5g Irish Moss for clarifying – Added at 10 minutes remaining in boil
5g Cardamom Seed Pods – Added at 10 minutes remaining in boil
3g Yeast Nutrient – Added to yeast slurry
1 pkg Windsor Dry Yeast – Rehydrated and added to cooled wort

Well, I guess I should describe the issues I ran into here:

Number one, I only have the one big stock pot that I have been using, and that was filled with the still cooling Double Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, so instead I grabbed my large Dutch Oven and figured that would work well enough.  I filled the pot with 6 litres of bottled water and added the Rice Syrup.  Now the water level was only about 5cm from the top, so I was trying to keep an eye on the pot.  I fought the boil over down once, twice but it bested me on the third charge and suddenly the kitchen had a burnt sugar smell.  Well I pulled the pot off the heat, ladled off about a litre of the mixture and put it off to the side.  Then I put the pot back on the heat and reset the timer. 
Problem number two, the recipe above was the final recipe that was used, but this wasn’t the original recipe.  Somehow I got twisted around and added the ingredients in the wrong order and in some cases at completely the wrong times.  The orange peel and cardamom were supposed to be added at 10 minutes remaining and the Summit Hops, coriander and Malto-Dextrin should have been added at 5 minutes to go.  They all made it into the pot, but in a different order then planned.  I’m going to move forward with it but maybe I’ll come back and try the original recipe at some point.

The litre of rice syrup and water that I pulled off the boil pot was used to rehydrate the yeast for both this brew and the Double Chocolate Oatmeal Stout.  I split the litre in half in two separate plastic bottles.  I let the bottles cool to about 33°C(91.4°F), added the yeast nutrient and shook them well.  Then I added the respective yeasts, shaking lightly to make sure all the yeast was covered.  Both of these bottles sat off to the side for about 45 minutes while the wort cooled to pitching temperature.

The rest of the brew day went well.  I let the wort cool to about 30°C(86°F) and then poured it through a strainer into a small glass carboy.  I added the yeast and then topped the carboy off to 4.5L, pulled off a test sample and popped on the air lock.  I put the carboy with the other fermenting beer at about 21°C(69.8°F) and left it to do its thing.

Photos courtesy of Mrs. Thirsty

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Brew Day Double Trouble – Double Chocolate Oatmeal Stout & Electric Citrus Saison – Part 1

My experience with the Ye Old Confused Brown Ale has made me confident (or maybe cocky) and I decided to brew two different beers in one day. 
Double Chocolate Oatmeal Stout
Based on LCasanova’s Double Chocolate Oatmeal Stout and Igliashon’s NoNonsense Stout plus various other references I’ve franken-beer-ed together my own Double Chocolate Oatmeal Stout recipe.  The goal here is a thick, creamy stout with a nice chocolate aroma and aftertaste.  A side goal is that when the chocolate is thrown into the brew kettle, the whole apartment should start smelling like chocolate, which I think Mrs. Thirsty will appreciate.  This brew took some pre-planning because I had to roast some flaked oats, trying to get a nice dark colour, and then let the roasted grains sit for a time.  So I roasted half a kilogram of flaked oats in the oven starting at 125°C for 20 minutes and increasing the temp by about 12 degrees every 20 minutes stopping at 175°C for 70 minutes, stirring the batch every 5 minutes, and a final 15 minutes at 200°C.  I finished this and let the grains sit in a paper bag for a week, at which point I thought that maybe they aren’t dark enough and decided to toast 100g in a frying pan for 10 minutes very dark.  After another week in the paper bag, I was ready to brew. 

Oats after roasting

The whole purpose of the paper bag is to let any harsh aromas and flavours “waft” away.  As I understand it, using the grains right after roasting can impart some bitter or astringent flavours to the beer and some burnt aromas.  By letting the roasted/toasted grain rest for a time, the compounds that cause such flavours and aromas dissipate into the surrounding air.
So I started with 7L of water, bringing it up to about 70°C(158°F) and putting the oats into a muslin hop bag and steeping it in the water for 30 minutes.  At the end of the time the oats seemed to soak up about a litre of water.  While the oats were steeping, I put the honey into the empty carboy with 2 split, chopped vanilla beans and added about 3 litres of room temperature bottled water.  Here comes the cardio portion of making beer.  Putting a rubber plug into the carboy, I grabbed it and shook it like hell for about 2 minutes.  The purpose of this is to oxygenate the water so that the yeast has enough to grow well.

One the steeping was done, I started the boil.  I added the remaining ingredients as listed and at the end I had 5.5L of wort ready to be cooled.  While the wort was cooling I started the Electric Citrus Saison.  I’ll explain in that post about the problems but basically the pot I was using for the Saison was a little small and I had to ladle out about a litre of the water/rice syrup to prevent boil over.  Since this fluid (SG1.036) was already sweetened I decided to use it to rehydrate the yeast for both batches.  I split it into two separate bottles and added 5g of yeast nutrient to one and 3g to the other.  Then I let these cool to about 35°C(95°F), added the appropriate yeast and let them sit for about 45 minutes while the wort cooled.

Only an engineer would think of this.
Also RIP thermometer that burnt this week!

Once the wort was cooled to about 30°C(86°F) I poured it into the carboy through a strainer to remove whatever sediment I could (Hot Break, Cold Break and hops pieces).  The carboy was filled to about 8.5L at this point.  I added the yeast slurry and enough bottled water to fill up to 10.25L, mixed it up a bit, pulled a sample to test the gravity and capped it with an air lock.  When I tested the sample with the hydrometer, it came out to an Original Gravity of 1.075.  This carboy was set into a room at 21°C(69.8°F) to ferment for the next few weeks.

Double Chocolate Oatmeal Stout
Grain Bill
0.40kg Medium Roasted Oat Flakes – Steeped for 30 minutes @ 70°C
0.10kg Dark Toasted Oat Flakes– Steeped for 30 minutes @ 70°C
1.0kg Brown Rice Syrup – Added 60 min remaining in boil
0.20kg Black Strap Molasses – Added at 60 min remaining in boil
0.5kg Brown Rice Syrup – Added 20 min remaining in boil
0.15kg Pine Honey – Added to Carboy

Hop Schedule
5g Magnum Pellet (14.90 %AA) – Added at 60 minutes remaining in boil
5g Magnum Pellet (14.90 %AA) – Added at 30 minutes remaining in boil
6g Tradition Whole Leaf (6.70 %AA) – Added at 15 minutes remaining in boil

Misc Ingredients
5g Irish Moss for clarifying – Added at 10 minutes remaining in boil
150g Cocoa Powder – Added at 10 minutes remaining in boil
150g Malto-Dextrin for body – Added at 10 minutes remaining in boil
5g Yeast Nutrient – Added to yeast slurry as described
2 vanilla beans, split and chopped – Added to primary
1 pkg Nottingham Dry Yeast – Rehydrated and added to cooled wort

During the boil the house did smell great, like chocolate and hops, and overall the process went really well.  The wort came out looking nice and dark brown, though maybe not as dark as I wanted.  I am looking forward to this beer.

Photos courtesy of Mrs. Thirsty

Friday, February 8, 2013

Bottle Day and Tasting – Fuldauer Burnt Honey Winter Apple Cyser

So this was the first attempt at brewing and I’ve been letting it condition and age.  Way back at the end of November I transferred this to secondary.  The idea was to get the Cyser off the yeast and keep it from adding strange flavours.  The hydrometer couldn’t give me a reading, the scale only went to 0 Plato and the sample was off the chart.  Moving forward with the experiment, I took a quick taste of the hydrometer sample.  It was very tart and sour, so the only thing I could hope for is some friendly bacteria providing a Malolactic Fermentation.  Malolactic fermentation is a process by which the natural Malic Acid is converter to Lactic Acid.  Malic acid is a very tart, green apple tasting acid; on the other hand Lactic Acid is softer tasting, more of a rich, buttery flavour.  The more general information I’ve read says that the Malolactic fermentation will reduce the acid taste by about half.  When transferred to secondary, there was about 3L of Cyser left.
At the end of January, almost two months after transferring to secondary I decided to bottle the Cyser.  The main driver for this was I wanted to put something new in the carboy, but also, it would be nice to finish the job.  I had two 1L flip top bottles that one of the Hungry Brothers had brought for us from his favourite local brew pub in Berlin.  When he brought them they were full of apple wine, though it didn’t last long, so I thought it only fair that I refill them with Apple Cyser.  This only added to 2L so I cleaned out a couple 500ml flip top beer bottles, figuring I could put what was left in those.  Bottling was really simple, since this is a still Cyser, I don’t need to add any priming sugar, and I racked directly from the carboy into the bottles.  I filled the two big bottles and one full beer bottle but only about half of the second beer bottle, the rest was pulp and yeast lees sitting on the bottom of the carboy.  Basically, this left me with 2.75L of finished product.  I put the two big bottles back in the wine rack and stuck the small full bottle at the back of the liquor cabinet, the half full bottle went into the fridge.
A couple hours later I poured myself a glass of the Cyser from the fridge.  It was still a little cloudy, but a very pale yellow, almost white.  It smells awesome!!  Like fresh apple sauce or caramel apples.  The first taste is a crisp tartness with a finishing sweetness like caramel.  Malolactic Fermentation definitely happened, since it was nowhere near as sour as when it was first racked.  Even Mrs. Thirsty liked it, and she really prefers sweet sparkling cider over still.  We had our neighbour over for drinks the other day, so I put the small bottle in the fridge.  I wanted to get her opinion, since she was actively involved in getting me the apples.  A month on and it is still a little cloudy, but the wonderful apple aroma and taste are still there.  Our neighbour thought it was great and told me that there are more apples available if I want them.
All in all I’m going to chalk this up as a success.  I’ve two bottles of Cyser that I’m going to hang onto until the summer to enjoy when the heat comes.  Till then I think it’s time to try my hand at making Mead.
Photos Courtesy of Mrs. Thirsty