Hoppin’ on intertiaboy’s wave

A while ago my friend inertiaboy (Twitter: @inertiaboy) sent me a very nice present: 700gm of hops.  This is a lot of hops, all grown on the very robust vines crawling up the side of his big suburban home outside of Ottawa.  It puts my pathetic hop vines to shame!

So the hops were: Zeus and Chinook (two bittering hops) and Centennial and Cascade.  Clearly inertiaboy likes his American styles.

I brewed my Missing Sister IPA a few weeks ago using exclusively these hops.  Zeus in the boil; Cascade for flavouring.  I may have thrown something non-inertiaboy in there, but I can’t remember and don’t think so.

Here are some pictures.

intertiaboy's Zeus hops in the boil.

These are from the boil.  (The hops made it really easy to drain the pot because I had a screen on my valve and, unlike hop pellets, which gum up the works, these hops acted like a second filter).

I got too into the brew day to take any more pictures until I racked to secondary:

1.32 oz of fresh Kanata cascade hops

On the scale.  That’s a lotta hops. Smelled good, too!

The hops in the secondary. The foam is the ubiquitous star san foam.

As the caption says, the foam is benign.  As many homebrewers tell you: don’t fear the foam.

Playing with my macrophotography setting to get all artsy.

This is the final pic for now.  It’s been a week.  If I have time after brewing my Pitts Fuggles Special Bitter today (PSB, named after my editor who asked me “what’s a Fuggles”) I will bottle the IPA.

I tried it yesterday (i-boy’s birthday, incidentally), pulling some with a thief just to see how it’s doing.  It’s amazing how different the fresh hops make the beer taste.  More fruity, less pine.  But it’s still very young.  We will see.

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Just a quick update, and maybe later I’ll have the wherewithall to post pictures. And then figure out where the term “wherewithall” came from.

A quick backgrounder, though. this is the end of the first full week of classes. Beginning of term administrative meetings are pulling me in every different direction, and to get away from it all I’ve been doing a lot of scuba diving. In between all that:

  • Brewed two beers from one batch of wort. Jury is still out on if this is any good, and it really became a bit of a fly by the seat of my pants brewing session.
  • Canned marinara sauce using 1/2 bushel of tomatoes.
  • Canned corn salsa using fewer tomatoes
  • Canned mom’s chili sauce, using about 1/3 bushel of tomatoes
  • Canned peaches, using a half bushel of peaches. Yield approximately 10 quarts.
  • Canned peach rum sauce with the peaches I didn’t get into the jars the day before.
  • Canned spiced apple chutney. It took four apples, and is awesome.
  • Canned plum jam (yesterday, first time). Plum jam reminds me of my crazy but incredibly crafty granny.
  • Canned ketchup. Unlike the recipe that says it will take 45 minutes to cook 2 gallons of tomato liquid down to make 7 pints (that’s under 1/2 gallon) it took about four to five hours. I expected this.
  • Canned pickled bean salad (this was an attempt to have something more like ready prepared food but without a pressure canner.
  • Oh, I also made more cream cheese. That was easy.

I’m not bragging, but I am proud with my accomplishments. The great thing is, I’ll have this food through the winter, and it’s really easy to do. Mostly it just takes lots of chopping and time.

I am currently roasting tomatoes (the remainder of my cherry tomatoes) basically making an oven dried version of sun dried tomatoes. Cut in half, tossed with some olive oil, and 5-6 hours at 250F. A good way to use up tomatoes that are too few to go into many other recipes.

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Deep discounted inspiration

Planning to can peaches, I went to the Canadian Tire to get some lids for my jars.  They cost me about $65.

A few days later I went there to get a few keys cut.  They cost me $50.

Why such expensive minor purchases?

Well, it’s because I am in that certain mood. They’ve been having very big sales on some very nice kitchen items.

The first time, I came home with a Lagostina pressure cooker.  I’ve wanted one for a while, since, as a vegetarian, I cook a lot of beans and pressure cookers are good for making dry beans not dry quickly. I’m sure it has other uses. How could I resist a $150 product for $50?

The second time, they had very deep discounts on Kitchenaid enamel coated cast iron pots (you know, those small round Dutch ovens?).  How could I resist?  A $100 product for $30?

Now I just have to figure out what to do with them.  I’m looking forward to autumn, when stews and bean dishes are more appropriate.

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Let the madness begin

I’m currently on a little trip to visit some friends. I’ve been away for a week and am beginning to think of the return journey. In two weeks, classes begin again, and along with planning a syllabus, working out readings, rewriting lectures and girding myself for general school-year busy-ness, I am thinking about the harvest. Oh, and because I’m insane, I’m also thinking about making more cheese, and the autumn brewing schedule.

So the plan will unfold something like this: cream cheese making, and gluten-free beer bottling on Monday. Tuesday morning, to the market to source some can-worthy fruit. Maybe pick up a bushel of peaches, if they’re truly freestone and won’t take FOREVER to peel. After the market, head to my local natural food store for 4L of unhomogenized milk. Begin the halloumi making. While milk is turning into curds, sort out the peaches, to figure out which are ready to be canned, and which will need more time to ripen. When halloumi is finally being pressed (probably by the evening), maybe begin feta. That, or go diving (which I’ve already committed to my dive buddy to do Tuesday evening).

So this may all go in a different order. However, by Wednesday evening, I should have newly canned peaches, two or three fresh cheeses, and my twentieth dive completed. A friend is coming to visit Thursday, but Friday afternoon I should be brewing a new bitter.

Then I’ll begin to figure out which autumn beer recipes are on the agenda for the next few weeks. I’m thinking stout, barley wine and something strong and lovely likes Double IPA.

Ambitious? Yes. Do-able? Yes. Do I think everything will get done? Nope. I am absolutely useless at planning out my days reasonably. But it’s nice to dream (that’s pretty much all that gets me through the madness of September!)

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Cheesy comestibles–Halloumi

As noted in my previous post, after a bit of a challenge getting the milk right, I began what is an involved but relatively short process of halloumi making–maybe 5-6 hours, depending on how long you let it drain.

I should also note that Halloumi is normally  made with sheep’s or goat’s milk.  This was made with cow’s milk, and once I got it right, it worked absolutely fine.

Just as an aside: I’ve noticed in the three cheeses I’ve made, more work goes into cheese that takes less time.  So cream cheese takes about 30 hours, but you basically heat, add cultures, and let it sit; halloumi takes less time–you can be done in probably about 5 hours–but it has many steps.  I should note that this general observations collapses with mozzarella, which takes a few days and has a bunch of steps, including stretching the mozza into the right texture.  I have not made it yet.

Once the halloumi sits for 90min-2hours (I let it sit longer to make sure the curds were firm), you cut it into curds, and gently stir.  I’m not going through all the steps here, but basically at this point you’re trying to create more surface from which the whey can be rendered, to make firmer curds.

Here is the halloumi in curd form.

Halloumi, being stirred to render more whey.

All of that yellow liquid is whey.

Curds from the side

After stirring and letting it sit for a while (another 2 hours, basically) you gently place the curds in a butter muslin lined colander, and then press it by placing some weight on top.  I don’t have a photo of that, but I put it in a very old colander with a bowl of water on top, and it pressed relatively well (the colander had an uneven bottom, so some parts of the pressed cheese was thicker and not as well pressed, but ultimately this was not a problem.

After this, when it seems to be the right texture (another few hours should do it) you slice it to the desired size, and boil it.  That’s right: boil it.

Boiling halloumi. You can see the uneven shape of the cheese made by the colander.

When it’s done (when the halloumi bits rise to the top of the water) you drain it, salt the crap out of it (literally: salt helps the water drain out) and it’s done.

Salt-encrusted halloumi, draining. Eventually I brushed off whatever salt did not sink into the cheese

Let it cool.

Heat up your grill and throw it on.  It’s delicious!

Now, I should note that initially the raw halloumi didn’t taste so good.  When I buy halloumi from the store, it is edible without grilling (though why you’d do that I don’t know).  But this stuff didn’t taste great raw.  It might have been the type of milk I used–cow’s rather than sheep or goat.

However it tasted just as good as any other halloumi once it was nicely grilled!

If you’ve never grilled halloumi, remember that you should make sure the grill is very hot before putting it on.  I think part of the reason it does not melt is that you can sear the outside.  If it’s not too hot, the outside doesn’t sear, and it begins to melt.

Once the grill is hot, either turn it down or make sure you don’t leave it too long.  The stuff burns really quickly.

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Branching out and becoming a homesteader/survivalist?

It’s been a while since I’ve written in this blog.  The summer is busy for me, mostly because I have four months to do all sorts of things I don’t have time to do during the class year (I don’t want to say “school year” because it sounds like we don’t work in the summer, which is far from the case).  So this is a brief update.  If I have time later, I’ll go back and give more information, really for my information.

BTW, if you’re looking for “whatsinmypot.com” this is not it.  Keep looking… maybe by typing in that address in the address bar.

I’ve eased up on brewing a bit mostlyb ecuse I had way more beer than I could drink, but not enough to share.  Okay, I’ll be honest, a few of my recent brews have been fantastic, and I’ve not wanted to give bottles away!  Now I’m in the middle of the summer, with an IPA conditioning in the basement, and a Saison conditioned and ready for drinking. I’m thinking about autumn recipes, and will probably discuss this in the next few weeks.

With summer in full swing I’ve begun to freeze berries. I have not yet begun to can anything, because it’s mostly jam and jelly season and I’ve got far and away enough jam and jelly for a long time.  I don’t eat a lot of jam.  I’m also not planning on being too innovative this year; I’ll pretty much replicate what I did last year but on a larger scale, because I ran out of peaches by March and have had to ration my chili sauce, ketchup, and marinara sauce.  The ketchup was especially popular with friends, so I think I’ll be making a lot of giftable jars this year.  The marinara was a perfect go-to dish when I was needing a relatively quick meal.  I have to remember to boil off more liquid this year, because both the marinara and the chili sauce were a little watery.

But this gets to my new thing, which is cheese making. While doing a recent on-line beer ingredient purchase, I noticed cheese making kits.  I figured since the price of shipping from this particular site is a flat rate, I might as well drop $40 on cheese making ingredients.  I chose the beginners kit, because, well, I’m a beginner.  The kits are by Mad Millies, a New Zealand based company.  The one I had seemed a little cheap, an dover priced.  A package of cheese salt (basically very fine ground non-iodized salt), a package of iodophor sanitizer–ironic given that the salt is not iodized!!–a 2 oz bottle of vegetarian rennet, a few packages of mesophilic culture, a package of dried herbs, a plastic “feta mold”, some butter muslin and an instruction book that looked like it was printed on a cheap colour bubble jet printer.

However, it got me started.  Mad Millies also has some videos on youtube and on their website that help walk you through the cheese making process. First up was cream cheese, which takes about 30 hours in total, and mostly involves waiting.  You heat a half-milk, half-cream blend (I used 10% half and half) to 22C, add the mesophilic culture, stir, then the rennet, stir, and let it sit untouched for 20-24 hours.  After that, strain through a butter muslin, and hang until it’s drained (another 4-5 hours or so).  It was very good.  I think next time I will use whipping cream and whole milk, to get it even creamier.  The only problem I had was that, with so much cream cheese, and only one person here, I ended up freezing some for later.  I don’t recommend–the liquid separated from the solids, and I ended up with cream cheese soup.  I drained it again, but it’s a little grainy (though still tastes ok).  BTW, as a lover of Boursin’s pepper corn cream cheese, i added cracked peppers to 1/2 the cheese, and it was awesome.

Next up was an ambitious attempt at halloumi, that salty, rubbery cheese that you can grill. The recipe called for unhomogenized whole milk, which I thought I found at a nearby healthy food store.  I got 4 L, and was going to use 2 L for Halloumi, and then the other 2 for feta.

Unfortunately, I did not get unhomogenized milk, just whole milk (it did not say homogenized on it, hence my confusion).  Consequently, the curds and whey did not separate, and I ended up with what looked like sour milk (grainy bits in thin liquid) instead of fragile but solid curds.  I dumped it and tried again.  This time I changed up some of the process, but still didn’t get it right.  4L (1 Gallon) of milk wasted.

You can address some of the problems of separation of the proteins in homogenized milk with calcium chloride, which I have because I bought a bunch of minerals for brewing.  So I bought another 4L, this time of the clearly marked unhomogenized milk, and added a little bit of calcium chloride (CaCl2) to the milk.  I wasn’t risking another disaster.  It worked! That is the topic of the next post. . .

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Cheesed off?

While making a new order for ingredients through my online homebrew supply store, I decided to expand my DIY food making into cheese. Several homebrew stores I know also cater to this hobby. This makes sense because, not only do we like to eat what we make, but both involve attention to things like sanitation and basic organic chemistry.

I ordered “Mad Millie’s fresh cheese ingredient kit,” happy to see that the kit includes “everything” I need to make 15kg of fresh cheese.

Well, except for the equipment. The kit comes with herbs (which I don’t need), cheese salt (ditto–kosher will do just fine), sterilizer (again, got it, ’cause I brew).

What I will need is the cheese muslin, vegetarian rennet and some starter culture. Oh, the feta mould and instructions are useful.  All included, but missing some important elements.

What it does not include, nor do the instructions on my homebrew shop mention, is the $100 or so in other cheese-specific equipment. What’s worse, that homebrew shop does not sell this equipment!

So we’ll see where I can get it. I just want anyone who finds this message to be aware that you should pay close attention to the needs of the hobby, before making the jump into it.  My bad, I suppose.

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