I used some old painting canvas I'd had around for years as a liner, to make it really sturdy. The outside is a linen-like fabric, and I used a heat and bond film to applique the three dots. Easy peasy. Like always, the hardest part was wrapping my brain around sewing the lining to the outside and turning it inside out... Which I actually gave up on and just turned the seam allowances in to face each other and just sewed it all from the outside. Phew, much easier on the noodle, and looks just as good.
Friday, November 28, 2008
In order to carbonate, you have to add one last blast of sugar for the yeast to eat up - yes, those bubbles are just yeast gas (tee hee!). There are a lot different ways to do this, and this batch we're trying out using dried malt extract (DME). We dissolved the DME in about equal parts water, and boil it for around 10 minutes, to make sure there's no bacteria hanging out in it. Then we gently added it into the beer. Now we're really ready to bottle.
We siphoned the beer out of the carboy, previous to this, and into the bottling bucket, which has a spigot. At this point, you just turn on your spigot and fill up the bottles - carefully. There are little things you can attach to you spigot that make it easier - they fill when touching the bottom of the bottle, then stop as soon as you remove the pressure. Ours broke a couple of batches ago, and it wasted a lot of beer, so we're sticking to our spigot.
Well after 50, give or take, there you are - 2 cases of beer, made by your own little self. Sadly, we have to let these guys bottle age. If we drank them now, they wouldn't be fizzy and they might not taste as great as they will in 4-5 weeks. With cane sugar, you can usually drink after about 3 weeks, but DME takes a little longer. So, here they are, back in the coat closet, silently becoming delicious. Eat up, eat up, little yeasties.
Since there's usually a few sips that won't go into a bottle, we tested this out, and guys - it was good. It's always a pleasant surprise when it turns out the way you'd hoped. It tastes like wonderful, fresh, creamy Guinness - better than any I've had bottled or draft, in the U.S. or U.K. So, now we have another reason to be excited about Christmas Eve - we can celebrate by cracking open our own yummy Guinness!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I also made some simple stocking ornaments to go along with the birds, in matching fabrics.
They were very easy to make and I think they turned out sort of darling. And who doesn't love something with pretty ribbons attached?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
This is curds and whey, people! Let's shudder briefly for Little Miss Muffet, who hopefully was eating cottage cheese. The milk solids, well, solidify into a sort of custardy texture, separating from the whey. Now it's time to cut the cheese! Well, okay, cut the curds...
This is K deftly cutting the curds in a sort of grid to gently break them up, so that they will be ready for the next step, reheating up to 105 degrees, being "slowly moved around," as the instructions told us to do.
After hitting the temperature and with additional stirring time, our curds began to sort come together more in the whey, and ended up looking like this...
Kind of groty, right? I'm not gonna lie to you, at this point, there is an unfortunate (but faint)baby spit-up odor in the mix, but the path to cheese is not without its perils...Well, okay, it really sort of is - it's miraculously easy. Next we drained off the whey - K making a lot of great whey puns all the while. We were shocked at the amount we were left with, momentarily convinced that we had created matter. Here's the curds separated from their pal, the whey.
Now comes a series of trips to the microwave for short periods of time, to heat and then separate more whey. Then comes the stretching, when K bravely handled the piping hot curds, stretching and unifying everything into something that looked like, and - hey - actually was cheese! Before the very end you add in a little salt or herbs or hell, whatever you want.
There it is! Mozzarella cheese! This first batch took maybe 45 minutes to an hour, and the second batch really took just a half-hour, as the directions said it would. Here's the glamour shot of the cheese, right before we sat down and put it to good use with the help of some crackers.
Isn't it pretty? It was damn tasty, too. In addition to cheese, we also used some of the whey for a pizza dough, and made what is darn close to a salted caramel ice cream. All in all, it was a very fulfilling day in the kitchen. As Ricki the Cheese queen says, it's just the beginning of our cheese adventure!
Sunday, November 16, 2008
But, since all flowers must eventually fade, I just finished a new project from the Alabama Stitch Book, by Natalie Chanin.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
You can sort of see the hops there - they look like big oatmeal grains. After this is done, it's time to pitch the yeast, i.e. throw the yeast in. During this whole process, we've been letting the yeast packet start, so that the yeast are all fired up and ready to go. You can see how big the originally flat packet has gotten.
After it's all shook up, as it were, it's time to add more water - until you hit the 5 gallon mark on the ole bucket. Some people say you spring water, but others say tap is just fine - that all the "stuff" in tap water lets the flavors cling to something. Adding in the water is another great chance to incorporate more air into the mix. After that, you slap on the air tight lid, put your airlock in the hole, and just let 'er go. Fermentation has begun, so it has to be kept between 68-72 degrees, and out of bright light, so our bucket is living in the coat closet this time. Here's a shot of the airlock bubbling away the next day.
The main fermentation doesn't have to take that long - ours seemed tapped out after just 2-3 days. At this point, we "rack it," or syphon it out of the first fermentation bucket into the glass carboy, to let it keep fermenting away from the sediment.
And here's how she is right now, looking very dark and delicious. It'll spend another two weeks in this second fermentation, then we'll be ready to prime and bottle. Priming is adding one last additional shot of sugar to allow for the carbonation. Factory beer is pasteurized, to kill all the yeast (cause it'll make ya sick), so the beer we buy is force carbonated in order to be bubbly. This batch we're going to try priming with some of the powdered malt, instead of corn sugar. Hopefully we'll get a better, less sweet taste than in the past. I'll make sure to post about the bottling process in a few weeks. A five gallon batch usually yields about 50 bottles, or 2 cases. It's fun, but veeerrry messy.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Here we have our grain all bagged up in cheese cloth, and ready to go. This is how you start your wort (which apparently is pronounced wert ). The grains are steeping in 160 degree water, for varying times, depending on your recipe.
Okay, I think there's going to have to be a part 2 to this process! Next post: pitching the yeast, aerating and letting her go!
Saturday, November 8, 2008
1.The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder ( I can't choose just one)
2. The Anne of Green Gables books by Lucy Maud Montgomery (again, can't pick just one)
3. Misty of Chicoteague by Margeurite Henry
4. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
5. If You Listen by Charlotte Zolotow (with the old artwork)
These are almost just a snapshot of what I'm feeling this particular day. Who can say what I might list next week, or next year? I suppose I'd call these influential in that they either stuck with me and made a deep impression upon me my whole life, or in that they showed me something new or showed me a way in which I did fit into the world.
Here's the set of Laura Ingalls Wilder books me and my sisters shared since, well, birth, I think. They are clearly well loved, and opening them - despite broken spines and very yellowed pages - is in every way like coming home. God, I love books, don't you?
Sunday, November 2, 2008
I just love this time of day, when the shadows get long in the back yard and the sky is all orange and bright. There's something very comforting about it to me. It's the end of the day light - the light of everyone coming home, the light of dinner time and everything being right in the world.