Archive for the ‘homebrewing’ Tag

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.

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

09-27-2014 Journal Entry-Drinking Wine Before It’s Time!   Leave a comment

With most of the gardening chores completed things have slowed down around here a bit.  Who am I kidding?  We’re just killing time until the day the “Fair” opens.  That would be the Fair held every year in Fryeburg, Maine.  It’s by far the largest event in the state and it’s a week long party for the many thousands of attendees from all over the country.  We’ll be attending next week and it will be twelve hours of farm animals, large crowds, crazy good food, and hundreds and hundreds of photographs.  So like I said we’re just killing time until the Fair.

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Today I’ve been completing a number of small projects which required very little effort on my part.  As I was walking through the house I remembered one thing that I absolutely had to do sooner rather than later.  It was time for the Concord grape wine to be bottled.  It’s been almost three months in the making and the fermentation has finally stopped.

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The final product is a beautiful dry ruby red wine with an unbelievable bouquet. So it’s a half hour of washing bottles and making my usual mess.  I tend to be a bit clumsy and if I don’t spill at least one bottle of wine in the process I just don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything.

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There’s nothing like siphoning wine through a little plastic tube, spilling it on the floor, down your leg, and onto nearby books, papers, and house pets. Curiosity may have killed the cat but in this house a good squirt of wine onto a persistently nosy cat is as good as it gets.

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After filling and corking nineteen bottles it was then time to put on the fancy gold PVC covers.  This requires a large pot of boiling water into which the bottle tops are quickly dipped causing the cover to shrink and seal the corks. It’s imperative that the bottle not remain in the hot water for more than a few seconds or there will be trouble. That truth became immediately evident when my first cool glass bottle was held into the boiling water for more than four or five seconds and the top exploded.  Now I’m down to eighteen bottles but with a much better understanding of things I shouldn’t do.

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I finished the remainder of the job but held back another bottle for the better-half and I to have with dinner.  I poured myself a large glassful and waited for her arrival from work.  I found out in the middle of the second glass that there was definitely a sufficient amount of alcohol in the wine.  I had a wonderful glow on which translated to my canceling dinner. There was no way I could safely cook without possibly burning down the house.

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When the better-half arrived home she drank a couple of mouthfuls of the wine, declared it delicious, and then immediately opened a beer (she isn’t much of a wine lover).  She made her own meal and I ended up having an off-the-cuff snack consisting of Wheat Thins, a dab of Smart Balance and peanut butter with a dash of triple berry jam.

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This batch of wine has passed my final acid test.  Any wine that can make me eat this slop for dinner  contains more than enough alcohol.  I tested it with my vinometer and it contain just a hair more than 9 percent.  That makes for an excellent batch of 18 proof red wine, more than enough to make almost any food edible.

08-29-2014 Journal Entry– More Garden News!   Leave a comment

As the summer continues to wind down we’re slowly preparing for the end of the garden and this years growing season.  We still have a few tasks that need to be completed before I take it down for the last time. We have what seems to be an endless supply of cherry tomatoes this year which we’ll be eating steadily until the first frost.  My better-half has taken steps to can a few quarts of those tomatoes and they’ll be delicious during the upcoming Maine winter. Even though they’re canned they taste better than those hot house selections available in the food stores.

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This is the first year we’ve grown black beans and I have to say they grow fast and in great numbers.  We spent a hour yesterday shucking the beans and delivering them to the dehydrator.  We can store them for a longer period of time once they’ve been sufficiently dried.

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We also planted three varieties of kale which are in need of processing in some fashion. Earlier in the summer we blanched a quantity which went directly into the freezer.  I harvested what I thought was a large quantity of kale leaves yesterday thinking I would dehydrate them and store them in jars much like dried parsley.  Then they could be used in soups or sprinkled on almost any food as a flavor enhancer.  I really do love the smell and taste of kale and look forward to using it as often as possible. Unfortunately once dried and crushed my large pile of leaves turned into a single quart jar full.

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‘Picked’

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‘Blanched’

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‘Iced’

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‘Finished Product’

I’ve been maintaining  a fairly accurate record of what our garden has produced thus far and I’ll be posting that list within a week or so.  I feel the need to brag a little because this garden has produced more than we could ever have hoped for.

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As you can see the concord grape wine has taken one more step towards final bottling.  It looks and smells wonderful and I managed to sneak a taste and it was excellent. A few more weeks and this batch will be finished and bottled.

08-10-2014 Journal Entry – A Birthday Surprise or Two!   4 comments

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My last vacation of the summer has ended with the return of my better-half from her recent trip. She arrived late last night and fell into bed exhausted from all of the driving. She was wound pretty tight but dropped into a dead sleep within minutes of her head hitting the pillow. I knew I was in for a blow-by-blow description of the entire trip as soon as I woke up in the morning.  Boy was I ever right.

She was moving kind of slow in the morning but after a couple cups of good strong coffee she finally appeared almost human. I rolled out early myself to get my forty minutes on the treadmill out of the way.  As I came upstairs from the workout she surprised me with a belated birthday gift and a promise of a steak dinner with all the trimmings later on.  I honestly never expected that because I’m not a someone who’s a big birthday celebrator.

We started the day with a food shopping trip to refill the larders.  It was a nice day with sunny skies and warm weather and we thoroughly enjoyed our time together. We made a visit to the local Walmart, purchased a little of everything, and then just wandered around for a while to people watch.  It was then that I began thinking of the dinner she was planning and what I could contribute.

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As you’re aware if you read this blog often enough you know I’m a amateur winemaker. When we arrived home I went directly to my wine cellar to find a wine to compliment that beautiful steak she was going to prepare. I’ve been told by many people that homemade fruit wines usually loose their flavor after being bottled for more than two years.  I found a few bottles of a strawberry wine that I made in 2003.  At the time that wine was excellent and laughingly became known as the dancing wine.  If you drank more than two glasses you’d be overwhelmed with the desire to dance your ass off.  After eleven years I wasn’t exactly sure what we’d find.

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‘It Was a Very Good Year’

Upon returning home we moved to the deck for an hour of total relaxation slowly sipping on a glass of wine that smelled wonderful and tasted even better.  Two glasses each and we were aglow. I was shocked at how good the wine still was after all of those years in the bottle. We decided to take a short break, fire up the grill, and prepare the food for dinner.  The steak was cooked medium rare and melt-your-mouth tender. Aluminum foil wrapped vegetables from the garden finished the meal off rather nicely.  It was then time for a second bottle which went down even easier than the first.

It was great birthday celebration that was totally unexpected and I can report officially that we both were pleased with the end result. I just love happy endings. 

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It’s now the morning after and I have another tidbit of information to pass along.  That freaking wine while having excellent taste also brings along with it a mind-numbing hangover. I truthfully think I’m gonna die. Even the good coffee that usually saves the day isn’t working worth a damn. I’ll end this posting now because I need a power nap and a few dozen extra strength Tylenols.

Don’t come to my impending funeral, you’ll be disappointed. Happy Birthday to me.

06-17-2014 The Japanese, Turtles, and Muslims!   Leave a comment

I’ll start off to day talking about consumerism.  I didn’t realize just how much of a consumer I actually was until I began tracking my purchases and saving every receipt.  I’ve been doing that for years now and every so often as I’m entering that end-of-month information into a spreadsheet I’m forced to admit my somewhat excessive consumer issues. Once each month I find myself standing next to a trash can filled with receipts and that has to tell me something.

That being said as I was reading yesterday I discovered that in comparison I might not be as bad as I first thought.  I noticed that as bad as we American seem to be when it comes to crass consumerism the Japanese make us look like a bunch of amateurs.  Here’s a collection of tidbits on the Japanese and their quirky approach to retailing and consumption.

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“In Tokyo, Japan there are vending machines that dispense frozen meat, jewelry, and even dating information.”

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“A company in Kyoto, Japan, makes waterproof books for students who like to study in the bath.”

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“Kanebo, a cosmetic company in Japan, has developed a line of panty-hose that are embedded with vitamins and special scents that are released when worn.”

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I know you thought I was kidding, right!   Those crazy fun loving Japanese will merchandise and sell just about anything.

Next I’ll address a subject that has always fascinated me. Synchronicity!  I’ve firmly believed for most of my life that there are no such things as coincidences.  As a former extensively trained investigator it’s been proven time and time again to my satisfaction. Unfortunately there have been a few random times that "synchronicity" has reared it’s ugly head and I had no logical explanation.

Two days ago my better-half and I were taking a walk near our home when a passing motorist stopped to tell us about a large turtle she saw crossing the road. She was concerned it might be hit by a car and had turned around to check on it. I walked a short distance and found the turtle scrambling from the highway and helped him along in his travels to get off the road.

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We returned to our house and I sat down at the computer to check on a few things on-line.  On Facebook I found an entry from my step-daughters husband who was traveling for work and happened upon what else, a freaking turtle on the road. He posted a photograph of himself parked along a highway and assisting the rather large turtle to cross the road to avoid the dangers of oncoming traffic. 

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A synchronistic moment to be sure.  I’ve had a few other startling incidents like this during my life for which I have no reasonable answers or explanations.  Just saying.

Lastly, I finally finished the renovation of my wine-making area.  I’d been wanting to complete this job for years and finally was able to get it done.  It should make bottling and handling of my wine a much easier process than in the past.

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That’s all I have for today but I thought I’d pass along a few tidbits of wisdom from Jeff Foxworthy. In the Army we called this process “Knowing Your Enemy”. If this offends anyone out there just remember I’m just doing my part in adding a little humor to a humorless situation. So get over it.

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Have you ever wondered why it’s OK to make jokes about Catholics, the Pope, Jews, Christians, the Irish, the Italians, the Polish, the Chinese, the French (including French Canadians) etc., but its insensitive to make jokes about Muslims? We need to level the playing field for the sake of political correctness . . .

Jeff Foxworthy on Muslims

1.   If you refine heroin for a living, but you have a moral objection to liquor, you may be a Muslim.

2. If you own a $3,000 machine gun and a $5,000 rocket launcher, but you can’t afford shoes, you may be a Muslim.

3. If you have more wives than teeth, you may be a Muslim.

4. If you wipe your butt with your bare hand but consider bacon to be unclean, you may be a Muslim.

5. If you think vests come in two styles: Bullet-proof and suicide,you may be a Muslim

6. If you can’t think of anyone you haven’t declared jihad against,you may be a Muslim.

7. If you consider television dangerous but routinely carry explosives in your clothing, you may be a Muslim.

8. If you were amazed to discover that cell phones have uses other than setting off roadside bombs, you may be a Muslim.

9. If you have nothing against women and think every man should own at least four, you may be a Muslim.

10. If you find this offensive and don’t forward it, you may be a Muslim.

THERE YOU HAVE IT!

05-11-2014 Journal Entry–Red Wine and Smelly Compost   Leave a comment

I really seem to be getting readjusted to this warm Spring weather.  Yesterday was in the low seventies for the first time in almost seven months and I was loving it.  I actually wore a pair shorts for the first time and got a little tan on my legs and they were loving that. I’m still working on the garden but the yard work took precedence this week.  Being the dedicated and well trained slave that I am, I was able to make short work of the grass cutting.

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Once that was finished I took on the semi-unpleasant task of organizing my compost pile.  Some of you have little or no idea what I’m referring to so let me explain.  It’s a gigantic pile of decomposing organic material collected by me over the last few years from yard clean-ups and grass clippings.  It’s smelly and disgusting but it’s what makes the garden grow as well as it does.  Each Fall I cover the garden with it and then plow it under. That gives most of the nutrients time to leech into the soil and reinvigorate it before Spring. Each summer’s garden uses up a great deal of the existing soil nutrients and they must be replaced.

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It’s also very important to never plant the same plants in the same area two years in a row.  You’ve got to switch it up a little because individual plants requires different sets of nutrients to thrive.  In my experience that doesn’t always apply to herbs. They seem to grow well in just about any soil and require little of no fertilizer.  The only issue I’ve had with herbs is that some do poorly if planted near certain others.  Also, if you plant mints such as oregano, catnip, or spearmint too close together they cross pollinate and their specific scents become diluted.

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Once the mowing and composting was completed I decided to do something I really enjoy which is set up my first batch of wine for 2014.  I decided to make a nice semi-sweet red wine out of Concord grapes.  I mixed the grape concentrate, acid blend, yeast nutrient, yeast energizer, and four and a half pounds of sugar into three and a half gallons of filtered water and set it aside.  I then set up what’s called a yeast starter.  It’s two packets of brewers yeast dissolved in luke-warm water with one cup of sugar. I let the yeast activate for a couple of hours before mixing it into the the fermenter with the grape concentrate.

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Now it’s sit back for a week to let the yeast eat up all that good sugar and create the proper level of alcohol for the wine. Sometime in early August if all goes well I should have approximately sixteen bottles of a beautiful ruby red grape wine.

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I normally prefer making fruit wines because getting the ingredients is much easier that coming up with a quantity of grapes.  Grapes are expensive and the processing of them into a usable form is time consuming and annoying. Using a simple grape concentrate is much more affordable and makes a better quality wine (in my opinion).  This batch will end up costing me approximately $2.00 a bottle including the cost of the bottle and cork. Not too bad for a small amount of work and a month or two of monitoring and tweaking the batch.  I’m already planning a second batch for this year if I can find someone nearby with a Mountain Ash tree.  The orange berries from that tree make a smooth and tasty white wine that is to die for. I’ll keep you posted.

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