Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Gizmo Likes Bread, Too





In the foreground is a loaf of the trencher bread I made.  In case you wanted to know what it looks like being eaten by a greedy cat.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Better Bread

My previous foray into bread making was not a resounding success.  Keeping with my new philosophy of follow the recipe, I found a few new bread recipes to try out.

First up is a simple two pound white bread recipe from a bread machine book.  Total easy mode.  Go out and get a bread machine and follow the basic white bread recipe.  Bread machines really make this easy but of course the ingredients can be combined in a mixing bowl and cooked in a regular oven just as easily.

Stepping it up, I found an historic beer bread recipe called trencher bread.  The ingredients include eight cups of rye flour, seven cups of spelt flour, and two cups of beer.  A half ounce of dry yeast is proofed into one cup of warm water.  I've talked about proofing yeast before.  The recipe finishes up with an additional quart of water and two tablespoons of salt.  My grocery store has many things but didn't have these varieties of flour but I found them at the food co-op.  To make this bread, mix the flours together and split off half of the mix to rise overnight with the beer, yeast, and water.  The rest of the flour gets salted and mixed back together the next day.  It rises and gets kneaded again and formed into almost a dozen small loaves which rise one last time before they're baked.  Of course, we should be able use our yeast starter to make an ale for the beer in this beer bread recipe.  I'll report back on how that goes.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Follow the Recipe

Metheglin is a variety of mead flavored with hops, herbs, or spices.  Capsicumel, a hot pepper flavored mead, would be a metheglin rather than a melomel.  Melomel is mead flavored with fruit, like the peaches I tried before.  I promised I was going to make a capsicumel earlier and so I've started one after getting a great deal on a large quantity of Anaheim peppers.  I've had some level of success with mead and also some peach orchard scented abominable failure.  The key is following a good recipe and this time I'm using one from Charlie Papazian's Brewing Mead.

This recipe starts with a well-tested effective basic mead that can be brewed and bottled on its own.  But I'll be adding in gruit, which is the flavoring that takes this brew from mead to metheglin.  I also changed up some of my brewing day technique following guidance in Brewing Mead and elsewhere.  This new process stirs together honey and water and heats it to a low boil before adding it to more water in the carboy for fermentation.  Later the gruit is boiled into a strong tea and added to the mead at bottling time.  I got the peppers early so they are seeded, bagged, and frozen until first fermentation is done.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

One Hundredth Episode Special

For everyone playing along at home, this is my one hundredth article on Blogspot.  It's been a great several years.

I've been trying to publish a couple articles a month or about two dozen a year.  Sometimes I'm successful in that endeavor.  My articles cover a wide range of topics documenting many of my various adventures and misadventures.  It's clear I'm not a writer by trade but I do like to turn in a good effort and I take pride in my work by trying to write clearly.  Again, levels of success vary.  
Thanks for reading and here's looking forward to the next hundred.  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ale Aboard

Now that we're wrangling our own yeast for home brewing, let's talk a bit more about this.  For the home brewer, it's one less thing to put in the shopping cart when stocking up for brew day.  Just take the corral out of the refrigerator, boost the volume, and get ready for a new batch.  Of course, you'll either need to set up several flasks, one corral for each species you use, or you'll need to pare down the variety of beer recipes you use, selecting only those that use the species of yeast you're raising.  Who am I kidding?! You're opening a ranch.

But now think about what these starter flasks are.  It's yeast, water, and malt allowed to ferment.  That sounds like unhopped beer.  There's evidence that it may even be the original recipe for ale, dating back to Chaucer's day!  We're all used to the super hoppy IPA style common today but in 1483, the ale brewers in London wrote a letter to the Lord Mayor petitioning for a law to ban hops and spices from being included in ale.  From that, we can surmise that ale as it was made then was only yeast, malt, and water.  That's according to research by Lt. Colonel Gayre in his book Wassail! In Mazers of Mead.  As opposed to mead which is made with honey, ale is or at least was made with less expensive malt and didn't include hops until the 16th Century.  India Pale Ale, of course, dates only to the British colonial period where the excess hops acted as a preservative when shipping beer overseas.  So our yeast starters, effective for our regular brewing, are an historic brew in their own right.  That's definitely something I'll be exploring on a later brew day.

Wassail, by the way, is a fascinating book.  Published in 1948, it traces the history and etymology of mead, wine, and beer.  Pick up a copy if you can find it.  You're most likely to find it as Charlie Papazian's 1986 book Brewing Mead which appends chapters on equipment and recipes for several varieties of mead identified by Lt. Col. Gayre.

Wassail.  To your health.  Please drink responsibly.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Scalded Dog

Hotels want to provide amenities like hot water for their guests.  As a consequence they'll often turn their water heaters up to their highest available temperature to guarantee at least some hot water under even the highest demand.  But sometimes actual safety is overlooked and faucets can release boiling hot water and injure guests.

Burn baby burn
Hot water can cause significant burns very quickly.  In the picture above, my foot was under the bathtub faucet for only an instant and received first and second degree burns in less than a second.  The red oval is the blister from the second degree burn which immediately ruptured and peeled off.  The blushing around it is the first degree burn caused by less direct contact with the water and energy spreading off the second degree burn.  The rest of the foot wasn't as pale as it appears in this photo; it's just poor color management in the camera and no post-production.

Even though this is a second degree burn, this is very small.  First aid training teaches the Rule of Nines to measure the area of a burn.  Human anatomy divides up readily into multiples of nine percent of the skin's surface area.  Your palm is one percent, an entire forearm and hand front and back is nine percent, the anterior torso (the front of the chest) is eighteen percent, etcetera.  First degree burns aren't counted, only second and third degree burns matter for this.  First degree burns are superficial, like a sunburn.  Second degree burns are more damaged, often characterized by blisters and damage in deep layers of skin.  Third degree burns are severely damaged, charring skin and exposing bone.  Of course, because these degrees categorize how much energy the skin was exposed to, higher degree burns will have lower degree burns around their periphery where skin was exposed to less damage.  This particular injury above is a fraction of a percent of burned area.

First aid for a burn like this is immediate immersion into cold water to take away the excess heat energy and stop the burning.  Burns can continue to develop for 72 hours after the initial injury due to the excess heat in the tissues.  Treatment continues by covering the significant burns with a sterile bandage and dressing.  Then the patient would normally be transported to a burn center.  Or be me, trained to treat serious but small non-life-threatening burns like this.  And I had stuff to do that day.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Start Your Engine

I've started doing something new in my home brewery.  In previous batches I only proofed my yeast.  I was typically using an emulsified dry yeast.  To get the yeast active for their fermenting duties, I'd pour the packet into a quarter cup of warm water in a sterilized measuring cup.  Doing that before starting to boil the wort gives the yeast almost an hour to get active.  Even older yeast can yield good results with this simple method.

In my latest batch, however, I switched to starting my yeast.  The day before brew day, we'll call it starting day, I boiled two cups of water with a quarter cup of malt extract then chilled that pint of wort and pitched my yeast into it in a sterilized flask.  Boil to sterilize the water and dissolve the sugar then chill down to a temperature the yeast are happy with; same as you do on brew day.  For the sugar, malt or malt extract matched to what the yeast will be working in is best but even regular table sugar will work.  Overnight, the yeast multiplied and grew strong in their flask and I pitched in the entire solution into my wort for a quick and ready start to the fermentation cycle.  Some sources recommend letting the yeast settle into the bottom of the flask and pouring off most of the water before pitching it into the wort.  It's the brewer's choice on what works best for them.

Started yeast also opens up a new opportunity for the home brewer; yeast wrangling.  Instead of pitching the entire starter into the wort, double the recipe to make a quart of starter but only pitch a pint into the fermenter, saving the remainder in your refrigerator.  Then every starting day, bring out your corral of yeast, add warm wort to bring the volume and activity back up, and proceed like before, reserving half of the herd for next time.  When you're wrangling yeast, you do have to keep an eye on your herd to prevent infections and keep them well fed so they're ready every brew day.  Actually, keep your nose on the herd; you'll smell off flavors developing in the starter if an infection takes hold.  Keep you equipment as clean as you would on brewing and bottling days and you won't have any trouble.  Happy brewing!

Please drink responsibly.