Saturday, May 31, 2014


This variety are apparently vigorous growers in SE WI.  

This is year three, people.  This is supposed to be the year that you get all the hops.  And since I got a whole pound off of this plant last year, that seems like it could be a reality.  I have already pruned it back so much at the base and with all the extra little shoots coming off of the base (not to mention the shoots coming up three feet from the base and out into the yard.  It already has laterals that are a foot long.

My Mt. Hood plant is running a distant second and the Willamette is third.  I had a Nugget plant that did not make it through the winter.  Too bad, so sad.  But it is an interesting experiment in which varieties like this climate.  We'll see what happens this year, but I could almost be OK taking the other two out and just letting this guy run wild.  

Musical Carboys

OK, yeah.  *That* needed to get transferred.  I am not impressed with these big-mouthed carboys.  The airlock dried out and in about 4 days, I had a nice thick film on the beer, once air had gotten in.  We'll see how fermentation picks up in secondary, but I think it will recover just fine.

In order to make that semi-emergency transfer, I needed an empty 6-gallon carboy, so I ended up transferring it into a carboy which previously contained:
a Pinot Noir, transferred into a carboy which previously contained:
a Cabernet Sauvignon, transferred into a carboy which previously contained:
a cider, which I bottled.



Every story has a beginning,

a middle,

And an end.

In this case all three are bacon.  It's so smoky, peppery, salty, & porky.  It's intense.  I think it balances those things well, but it's a flavor explosion in your mouth.  I suppose that is part of the point of bacon.

The charcoal fuse method worked well.  I still think there are ways that I could slow down the fire and "smoke" the meat without "cooking" it.  There's a nice, slightly uncooked section in the center that will fry up perfectly in the pan.  It even has just a little bit of that iridescent shimmer that bacon gets on the exposed grain of the meat.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Bacon 2.0

Alright, alright, alright, alright.  We're going to try this again.  This time I am wet-curing the porkbelly in a 5% salt brine.  This will make it much harder to add way too much salt, and much easier to adjust the salt level for future iterations.  

Step two is smoking it, of course, most of the flavor that we consider to be "bacon-y" is actually degraded lignin from the incomplete combustion of wood.  The previous time, when I was smoking the first piece of bacon, the fire got too hot and did not last as long.  I did some research and found an interesting idea on for what they called a "charcoal fuse."  This is basically a stainless steel drywall mud pan full of holes.  One step-bit later:

Oh, my aching shoulder.  That was a lot of holes.  I was literally dipping the bit in water between holes and taking breaks to let the thing cool off.  Fill it up with charcoal, top it off with some pieces of wood, and we're ready to smoke something.  The idea is to start a fire at one end, and it will slowly burn down to the other, maintaining a slow, steady heat.  Throw wood chips on top, and you've got a continuous source of smoke.

Now, when I got the porkbelly from Bunzel's, I got a six pound piece.  That turned out to be a little too much for my brining tub, so I sliced about a pound off, made a little salt/pepper/herb rub (with a dash of cayenne) and went to town.  I lit the fuse with a little handheld Bernz-O-Matic torch (I'll never use another method again) and let'er rip; vis:

It tastes like little bits of roasted pork dipped in butter.  Mang.  It's not bacon, of course, but it's not meant to be.  I'm on to something here.  The fuse method needs some refinement, it did a fantastic job of maintaining the temperature longer and with less intervention than most other things I've tried, but it was pretty hot for how I want to smoke bacon.  It will be awesome for the next time I make pork shoulder though...

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Seven Weeks

We brewed again last week; style.  All I made was a Nut Brown.  I need to make a few recipes and get them up here, for that and also for the Honey Wheat I made the week before.

We were visited by the famous (or infamous) {or maybe both "in" and famous} Topher Starshine, who brewed a beer (or rather had a beer brewed for him) in the form of an Oatmeal Stout.  The working title was Haute-meal Stout.  J'approuve, Topher.  J'approuve. 

I got to put my big new burner through the paces.  It was pulling pipe-duty, and that's not a job for a lazy, slackaday burner.  We're still not totally on top of how to keep up with all the hot water we need, but in our defense, sometimes we need 40 gallons of 180 degree water all at once.  I just feel like we could do better.

Oh, and the post title...  I give blood every eight weeks.  I was a little late the last time around because that was my day to give.  (I hate to skip it, because the vampires at the blood center start calling.)  Anyway, when we were scheduling this brew day, I noticed on my calendar that I would *not* be late because of donating because I was due the next weekend.  Which meant it had only been the seven weeks since the last time we brewed 60+ gallons at once.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mixed Drink

Ginger Beer was the cult hit of the ILB tasting.  Just like looking straight into the sun leaves a dark spot in the center of your vision, it leaves an impression on your palate.  It's like your tastebuds freak out, jump up, and leave a ginger-shaped hole in the doorway of your mouth.

Anyway, one of the consistent ideas was to use it in mixed drinks, ergo, this was done.  I mixed it with some scotch and it was amazing.  

Three Tiers

I'm one step closer to efficacious homebrewing, this time in the form of a big old propane burner; no more almost boiling on the stovetop.  Also, in the great homebrewing tradition of finding new and better ways to burn yourself with hot sugar water, I have improvised the above-pictured three tiered sparging stand, consisting of:

Top: mah Grillz
Two: a bench
Bottom: the dirt.

It's super-effective.