Archive for the ‘Home Brewing’ Category

08-22-2016 Journal – Herbs!   Leave a comment

With the Summer more than half over our garden time is more about canning, drying, and storing the results of our efforts than anything else.  I’ve been asked in the past how I can get so much production from such a small garden. There’s really no simple answer. An old adage immediately comes to mind: “Plan the work, then work the plan.”  Test your soil and keep it fresh, season to season, with compost. Plant your plants near compatible plants.  Pull the weeds and kill the bugs. Easy peasy!

The following picture was taken this morning of my small herb garden. The total square footage is 60 ft. which isn’t all that much.  I’ve noted the herbs planted there and while they are jammed tightly into the small space they are flourishing.

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This small patch has been supplying us with fresh and dried herbs for more than seven years and will hopefully continue to do so.  We’ve had so much luck with our herbs growing that next year we’re converting another 100 square feet of garden space for a much larger herb selection. This little patch will continue as is but the new area will be loaded with every herb I can find that we can dry and store. With a larger and more diverse collection I can begin harvesting herbs to create my own mixes for picking, canning, home brewing, and cooking.

Growing more herbs has a number of advantages over vegetables because none of Mother Nature’s little critters seem to like the herbs. That doesn’t include neighborhood felines who find fresh catnip rather interesting. That will allow me to remove some of the fencing I have in place and eliminate my current problems of ripping my clothing on the fence  or constantly falling on my butt trying to climb over it.  My better-half claims that I’m the clumsiest person on the planet but I dispute that.  I’m just unlucky is all.

I will try to post as usual but our upcoming vacation may make it difficult. I’ll attempt to post from New Orleans if I can but after all it is a vacation. I’ll have plenty to post about upon our return.

ENJOY THE REST OF YOUR SUMMER

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08-18-2016 Journal – Summer Cooking!   Leave a comment

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Fresh and delicious shrimp.

Do these shrimp look good to you?  They were just as delicious as you might think or so says my better-half.  She’s a shrimp junkie going back many years and considers herself an expert.  I tried just one and really couldn’t disagree.

Summer time meals are something special around here and are to be enjoyed and relished whenever possible.  While I’m not a big fan of shrimp or lobster I do love just about everything else that the ocean has too offer.  I experiment when possible to come up with new flavors and textures with my seafood.  This week we picked up those shrimp and a large haddock fillet just for me.

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To make things a little more interesting I poached the fillet in habanero wine.  I made this wine a few years back and it carries with it a delicious flavor and heat. Once the poaching was completed the fillets were dropped onto the grill to give them a little crispiness.

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Just sooooo good.

Then it’s off to the table with a side of fresh corn-on-the-cob and a glass of Chardonnay.  Cherry tomatoes picked just before the meal and chilled are a perfect addition.  That beer in the picture belongs to my better-half.  She considers any beer she drinks as her Chardonnay.

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The garden continues to flourish now that we’ve had a few days of rain to help perk things up.  I picked this collection of hot peppers (Serrano, Fresno, jalapeno, and Anaheim’s) today because tomorrow is salsa day and I want them as fresh and hot as I can get.

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I’ll be slicing and dicing all of the other salsa ingredients this evening in preparation for tomorrow.  This is the best part of Summer for me without a doubt.

OLE!

05-28-2016 Journal – Salsa, Salsa, Salsa!   Leave a comment

Now that the garden has been planted I have extra time on my hands for other things. I noticed a few days ago that we seem to be running out of our homemade salsa.  We both love salsa so much and eat on average a quart every two weeks or so. My better-half insists on putting it on and in everything she eats so running out is not an option.  I’ve had a newly developed recipe that I’ve been waiting to make and this is the week to do it.  This recipe is called ‘Six Pepper Bean Salsa’. 

It even sounds hot and trust me it really is.  I’ve gathered together jalapeños, habaneros, Serrano’s, Thai chili, black pepper, and finally Ghost peppers. Add black beans and chili beans and a host of other ingredients and there you have it.  I even managed to harvest some early chives from my garden as well. During the summer months we always try to have at least one item from the garden in every meal.  So let’s get started.

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‘Slice & Dice with rubber gloves.’

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I usually wear very think rubber gloves when messing with hot peppers. I tried the normal latex gloves but they weren’t getting the job done.  Thick rubber from then on assures me of no more burning body parts. Then I gather the necessary jars, lids, and pots and boil them thoroughly.

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Everything must be boiled to keep things as sanitary as possible. That’ll keep contaminated jars from becoming a problem later on.  Next I begin the cooking process and the adding of a little heat.

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‘Dried habanero and chili peppers.’

Finally the salsa is ready for canning. I know canning seems complicated but it really isn’t.  The process is simple and easily managed. The more often you do it the easier it becomes.

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And here’s the finished product.  Thirteen quarts of really delicious salsa that is also hot enough to get anyone’s attention.

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EASY PEASY

05-26-2016 Journal–Miscellaneous Updates!   Leave a comment

As summer looms in my future I’ve been attempting to close out some existing projects to make room for what’s to come.  My infusion of hot peppers in tequila has finally ended with the hot peppers almost bleached white as you can see. I took a small sample and gave it a taste test and was very very hot.  I can’t wait to give it a try in a my first attempt at a Hot Pepper Margarita. I think it will be fine for me and my better-half but I doubt if most people will be able to handle the heat. We’ll see very soon.

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‘The Tequila sucks the color and heat from them.’

My second project has been the Sake that’s almost ready for bottling. Within the next few days I’ll begin the bottling process and finally be done with it. It’s taken a little longer than usual due to it’s refusal to clear.  It’s looking good now and it also has passed my first taste test.

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‘Nice and clear.’

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Today I’ll be making my second visit to the Saco Police Department. I’m trying to renew my permit allowing me to carry a concealed weapon for another four years.  I’ve held permits in multiple states in the past but I have to say the state of Maine isn’t quite as difficult as some others.  My reapplication was only ten pages long and in comparison to some states it’s rather short. I’ve finished the forms, obtained a new and handsome picture of myself, and a check to the city, of course, for $20.00. By far the cheapest fee I’ve ever paid for this constitutional privilege.

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CAN’T LET THE BUREAUCRATIC MINUTIA GET ME DOWN

05-20-2016 Journal – Hot Stuff!   Leave a comment

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Before I get started today I need to make a declaration. I LOVE HOT PEPPERS!  It’s my opinion that almost everything is improved if you can make it hotter.  I make a lot of salsa’s and chili’s and have upwards of six really excellent recipes using an assortment of hot peppers.  I grow some of my own when possible and I’ll buy from almost any source when certain peppers aren’t available locally. 

I received some bad news a few days ago concerning an ex-loved one who passed away.  I was feeling a little blue after receiving the news. My better-half suggested we go out for dinner and where better than a Mexican restaurant to look for therapy.  We’ve been visiting this restaurant for years and we knew the food would be excellent. Not only could I people watch for a while but I could also eat all of the  smoking hot food I could handle.  A proper atmosphere to rid myself of the blues.

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I’ve told you all of these boring facts about myself so you’ll understand the rest of this story.  As we waited for our food to arrive a new bartender appeared and began chatting with everyone.  He and I got into a friendly discussion about our love of hot food  when he surprised me.  He pulled a large jar from under the bar that was filled with tequila. Floating in the the tequila was an assortment of hot peppers, habanero’s, Serrano’s, and jalapeño’s.  The tequila had been soaking up all of that lovely flavor and hotness for a week. He dared me to try his latest creation, the “Hot Pepper Margarita”.  I couldn’t refuse and look like a coward so I took a long pull on the straw after salting my tongue and lips.

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I’m sure you’ve heard the term “taking ones breath away”. That’s exactly what that margarita did.  It was a little sweet and hot enough to make me gasp. It was freaking delicious.  Little did I know that I was first customer dumb enough to try it.  I was so dumb in fact I tried it again and again.  My head was sweating, my mouth was burning, and I was in heaven.

Now you know why I have this mother-of-all hangovers this morning.  I stumbled into the kitchen last night around 3:00am badly in need of a glass or two of cold water.  The water was so cooling and delicious but tasted strangely familiar . . . just like jalapeños. I’m now on my third cup of coffee as I sit here writing this and it too tastes just like jalapeños.

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Don’t get me wrong . . . I’m not complaining in the least.  I can’t wait to get back on my feet and do it all over again . . . in a week or two.

I’m going out later  today to make a few purchases of my own.  Two bottles of tequila, habanero peppers, Serrano peppers, and a few jalapeño peppers. I’ll be making my own hot pepper infusion to serve a perfect  Hot Pepper Margarita to any of our summer visitors.

PASS THE ADVIL PLEASE.

05-14-2016 Journal–Home Brewing & Gardening!   Leave a comment

It’s been a week of good weather except for yesterday. The rain forced me inside to take care of something I’ve been procrastinating about.  As I’ve mentioned previously I am in the process of making a batch of Sake.  I began the process on March 18 and it’s been fermenting since then. The point was to let the yeast settle to the bottom of the containers once fermentation was complete and then I could siphon off the clear liquid. Unfortunately this batch decided not to clear and remained very cloudy. I decided to resort to an old stand-bye to clear it . . . it’s called Sparkloid.

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Sparkloid is a very fine clay that is mixed with water and boiled for thirty minutes. As it boils off you continue to add additional water.  After 30 minutes the mixture is added to the wine and thoroughly mixed in.  If it works as expected the wine will begin to clear over a period of days. This first photo was taken just after the Sparkloid was added.

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As you can see the wine is very cloudy.  Normally Sake is as clear as water but due to minerals in our water here in Maine it will eventually be a pale yellow color. This next photo was taken 24 hours after the first.

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It has cleared somewhat but will still need more time. If nothing else winemaking has taught me more than I care to know about patience. This next photo was taken 24 hours after the last.

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I can only guess that another week will probable finish the clearing. I can then bottle the wine and place it into storage.  These jugs will eventually supply me with approximately 17 – 750ml bottles or 34 – 375ml bottles.   Believe it or not it actually tastes pretty good already (I just had to sneak a taste.). It can only get even better with age.

The garden preparation continues and more plants have been purchased today. The next posting will be made after my initial planting has been completed.  I can’t wait to get started.

BACK TO WORK

05-04-2016 Journal–Bad Weather & Politics!   Leave a comment

Politics!  I’m already sick of the so called media experts and their effed up opinions on everything. I swore I’d try to stay out it but if I see a big enough A-hole I just have to say something. This comment is meant for two of the biggest ones I’ve seen in recent months, Ted Cruz and Glenn Beck.  Mr. Beck . . . It’s time for you to get up off your knees and take a rest from kissing Ted Cruz’s ass. Mr. Cruz . . . You should get up off your knees and tell Mr. Beck to "Zip Up" cause the parties over for you.  Two idiots who deserve each other’s attention and unfortunately we’ve been forced to watch.

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‘Bye Bye Teddy’

I feel a little better after getting that off my chest but I know those two morons will continue irritating me while they use up their last fifteen minutes of fame.  All of the other surviving candidates seem to be much like the band members who continued to play while the Titanic was sinking. The music wasn’t all that great and no one wanted to hear it anyway. Run for the lifeboats you idiots. Enough already.

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‘Glenn Beck – Religious Fanatic & Dumb Ass’

Spring is still refusing to arrive and I’m starting to get a bit cranky.  I want to take this damn electric blanket and pack it  away once and for all. I also want to get back to bitching about the heat that won’t let me sleep at night. The same heat that burns my feet as I walk down the beach watching all the little hotties in their bikinis. Man . . . I think I’m losing it.

I actually was forced to cut my grass for the first time this week. I was bundled up in my parka and hat because the wind was a bit nippy. I wasn’t cutting much grass but I picked up enough leaves, acorns, pine cones, and branches to fill a pickup truck.  Living near one of Mother Nature’s forests is a dirty business on the good days.  I guess I can now rest for a couple of weeks until the temperatures rise enough to permit planting the garden. I can begin shopping around for plants in a week and begin filling up my cold frames.

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I have a few things to do today before heading out to run errands. I’m going to try for the third time to plant rhubarb seeds. I haven’t had any success with them in the past but I won’t stop trying.  I really want to make my first batch of rhubarb wine this summer and I need the additional plants for future uses.

C’MON SPRING

03-31-2016 Journal – Sake & a Sexy Movie!   Leave a comment

I’m still in Maine complaining about the weather which has once again trapped me in the house for a good portion of the day.  Now I hear there’s a possibility of another snow storm this weekend, hopefully the last one this season.  Mother Nature is hanging on for dear life like she always does. I don’t understand why continue to complain. I guess not being able to control everything irritates me a little.

Some of you have asked in your emails about making Sake. It’s a fairly simple recipe that’s available by email for anyone interested.  My batch has been moved from the primary fermenter where it’s been for ten days. The yeast has eaten all of the sugar and the Sake should have approximately 15% alcohol content upon completion.  As you can see the wine looks like milk.  Yes, that’s how it’s supposed to look.  As the fermentation stops and the yeast begins to settle the wine will become crystal clear.  These jugs should supply me with fifteen 750ml bottles of Sake or 30-375ml half bottles.

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I’m been trying to finish up a second design this week which has become my homage to Amy Winehouse. I’ll post a photo when it’s complete but it might be a little difficult to show all of the details due to it’s size.  We’ll see.

I’ve been watching more movies of late as I wait for Spring to really arrive. Last night the better-half and I watched what they (Netflix) are calling a dark comedy. The movie was ‘Bad Roomies’ and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The cast members were virtual unknowns which more times than not makes for a decent movie.  This movie was funny and sexy with one of the hottest women I’ve seen in a while.  The better-half was disappointed because there were no unicorns and rainbows anywhere in the entire film.  I felt bad for her but for me it was a fun hour and a half that had me laughing a lot even after offering up a dead body at the end. 

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Well I’d love to chat a while longer but demands of the better-half come first. We’re having a small get-together tonight  and they are chores to be done. Fortunately for me I’ve stocked up on plenty of wine to help sweeten my mingling skills. From what everyone tells me, they need all the help they can get.

C’MON SPRING – WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

03-19-2016 Journal–Green Wine & Sake!   Leave a comment

Spring Fever has slowly crept up on me and I seem to be firmly held in it’s grasp.  Garden fever has also arrived along with Lowe’s receiving their first Spring shipments of plants and seeds. It’s taking all of my willpower not to immediately run there and start buying stuff.  I’m trying to keep things under control for a while but it’s not easy.

And here’s a picture to prove to some of you that I actually did celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.  It looks almost as good as it tasted:

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‘Green Chardonnay on Ice.’

With green wine in mind I thought I might start the Spring and Summer seasons properly by making my first batch of wine for 2016. In my continuing effort to stay "outside the box" and do new things I decided to make some Sake. It’s been a very long time since I’ve made any so I figured why not.  I did a quick inventory of my winemaking supplies and placed an online order for a few essentials.  They arrived within 48 hours which was perfect.  I then searched up a vendor to buy a case of 375 ml bottles and they’ll be here within a week.

Off to the food store to pickup eight pounds of raw rice, three pounds of white raisins, and a ten pound bag of sugar.  My recipe calls for a sherry yeast but I purchased a new product which is yeast specifically created for making Sake. This yeast will tolerate alcohol up to 16% or 32 proof for you amateurs out there.  It was a bit pricey but if I’m going to do this I should do it properly.

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Yesterday I began the process of crushing the rice and chopping the raisins. Along with a number of other ingredients my primary fermenter will hold what should eventually give me three gallons of excellent Sake. Here are a few photo’s of the prep.  The fermenter will sit for 48 hours after hot water is added and then the yeast will take over. Then I can kick back and wait while Mother Nature does her thing.

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‘Empty Fermenter’

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‘Bags of Chopped Raisins & Crushed Rice’

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‘This + Patience = 3 1/2 Gallons of Sake’

I can’t think of a better way to start my Spring season unless it’s a couple of thick and tasty T-Bone steaks on the grill. I’ll be setting our grill up on the deck this week and the steaks will be cooked as soon as possible after that. 

GOODBYE WINTER, HELLO SPRING

07-07-205 Journal–Moving on to Summer!   Leave a comment

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‘Don’t look at this image, it might be against the law here in Maine.’

With the holiday weekend coming to an end summer has officially been declared here in Maine.  Even with that being said we still sat on the deck over the weekend in hoodies and sweatpants because it was a wee bit nippy. So it’s onward and upward to the many summer activities soon to come.

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‘Hot Bread & Butter Pickles’

We had a stay-at-home Fourth of July this year which we both found rather enjoyable. We relaxed on the deck until dark and then decided to be outlaws and lawbreakers.  For decades it was against the law in Maine to own or use fireworks. Two years ago the ban was lifted and fireworks stores sprung up overnight and everyone happily thought their future holidays could be celebrated with a little noise. Oh how wrong we were.

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‘Strawberry, Blueberry, Blackberry, Rhubarb, and Triple Berry Jams’

It’s impossible for politicians, local or otherwise,  to keep their collective noses out of everyone’s business for more than a heartbeat.  The town politicos then began to play their silly little games by passing local ordnance to ban the use of fireworks once again. It’s just like a bunch of political morons on a power trip to pass another law that can’t be enforced.

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‘Smoking Hot Black Bean & Roasted Corn Salsa’

As dark ascended on the neighborhood the law breaking began in earnest.  It sounded like the first night of D-Day at Omaha Beach in Normandy.  Every neighbor was trying to out do the others and being the weak minded idiots that we are, we joined right in. Sparklers, Zippers, Rockets, Roman Candles . . . you name it and we had it.  All of that noise and law breaking going on and not one police car was ever seen.  They were probably sitting at home in their driveway while their kids set off their own fireworks.  It was a lot of fun, no injuries or deaths reported, and the cleanup the next day was only about twenty minutes.

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‘Honey & Maple Mead’

The remainder of the weekend we were kept very busy.  B & B pickles were made and canned, an assortment of jams were made and canned, and I finished my first batch of salsa for 2015. It yielded thirteen and a half quarts of a salsa that’ll make your head sweat.

We are definitely on a roll for 2015.