After the bacon's finished ...

A simple potato chip can be a special treat, especially cooked after the bacon. Mandolin-sliced Russets were soaked in water briefly and cooked slowly in a pan of rendered bacon fat.


Ale - first for 2011

[Lot no. for this batch bit.ly/gxZgon]

A week ago or so, Jim arranged a trip to Rockmill Brewery.  What a decadent surprise to have Belgian style ales that had been made just a few hundred feet away.  Thanks to all at Rockmill for your hospitality  (also, see Jill's post on the day's visit).  I arrived home inspired and tossed this ale recipe together with my new brewing rig with overhead stirrer.

Stirring a mash isn't common for a homebrewer.  Because of my background, I can't imagine heating a suspension without a stirrer, so I rigged one on my pot.  I was hoping for greater uniformity in temperature, and maybe slightly better extraction.  I was making an ale and first hardened Columbus' city water with 1.5 g epsom salts and 5 g gypsum for an anticipated final volume of 5 gallons.  I did a full volume infusion mash at a max temp of 153°F for 60 minutes, pulled the grains, boiled for an hour, chilled, fermented and bottled.  Pretty simple, not many snags.  The winter tap water is cold(!) this time of year, chills quick.  Here's some action shots of the brewing.  I'll save you a couple brews Matt and thanks for the outing Jim!

Breiss 2 row, 10-11 lbs
Crystal malt 60°, 1 lb
Black patent malt, 100 g
30 L water hardened as described in text
Northern Brewer Hops, 1.5 oz, 60 min
Fuggles, 1/2 oz 30 min, 1/2 oz 15 min to end
Wyeast, American Ale
OG 1.052 (refractometer)
FG 1.012
Bottled 26-Jan-11

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Oh, some clips from our visit. Some of the manly men in our party sabered some bottles (I'm a clutz, I wimped out):
John: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5_12IG_Zyg
Ben: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsJvy24Iois


Spelt Crackers (better than last time)

click to enlarge, the image is much more clear when bigger

Spelt Crackers
spelt berries, 100 g, ground into coarse flour with a coffee mill
(berries obtained from a recent @GreenerGrocer's weekly market bag, thanks Amy)
unbleached white, 100 g
water, 150 g
yeast, 1/4 t
Mix these ingredients and let sit in fridge a couple days.
Remove from fridge (no need to warm up) and add:
vegetable oil, 20 g
sugar, 20 g
salt, 4 g
baking powder, 2 t

Mix resulting mess well with wooden spoon, knead a bit using flour when sticky, divide and roll each piece into 6 x 12" piece and place on baking sheet.  Score each sheet with deep grooves using a pizza cutter, the shapes should be the shape you want the crackers.  Then, dock the whole surface with the tines of a fork, be thorough.  Bake at 350°F until brownish.  Remove, from oven, cool a bit and snap pieces on the score lines.  They're a big hit here at the ranch.

I used unbleached white to give them a bit of  structure.  100% Spelt was too challenging (tender, tasty, but crumbly).  The yeast PLUS baking powder was an interesting mix; the idea suggested to me by Rachel having studied ingredient lists on cracker boxes, thanks Rachel.

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Behold, the Piggle

Something a bit different today. Venturing into the domestic arts, I have formed a union between cow, pig, bbq, cooking and enlightenment. Inspired by Jim's tweet regarding the desire to have a bacon-scented candle, this is my brainchild (the kid helped put them together and the wife came up with the name at dinner last night).

All you low 'n slow guys out there should have a stash of pork fat from all those pork butts. It's a pretty soft fat, but smoked and wonderful with a nice color and crunchy bits. It's soft though, not perfect for a candle. Tallow, rendered suet, however, is pretty firm and standard for making candles. Taking a 2:1 (w/w) tallow to pork fat (bits and all) mixture into plastic dixie cups and melting it in a hot water bath, followed by placing a wick inside each provided an adequate candle (snip off the plastic dixie cup). I think we got a trace of water dissolved in the fat, because there is a bit of sizzle when they burn (bonus!). Listen carefully to the video. Unfortuately, they don't smell as wonderful as bacon, so next time the source of pork fat will be bacon instead of pork butt.

So, decent candle, good source of fat for sauteeing lentils or finding your way around the house when the apocalypse happens, but, keep in the fridge. I think they may go rancid quickly. Warm to room temperature before serving.


Spelt Berry Crackers (no, really)

This post is a work in progress and is promising.  Depicted here is a pictorial path to the crackers and my thoughts on future plans.  I post this early in hopes of others jumping in with experiments of their own.

I ground 135 grams of spelt berries using the fine setting on a coffee mill (these are abundant at thrift stores, do a dry cleaning with a sacrificial batch of grain, any grain, to remove residual coffee).

Even on fine, the ground "flour" will be pretty coarse. Here you can see the husks as well as the insides, we're going to use it all.

To this grain I added water (92 g), salt (3 g), vegetable oil (20 g), baking powder (1.5 t) and mixed it up. It's a coarse slop.

I plopped this on a piece of parchment paper, placed a piece of plastic wrap on it and gently rolled it out to something like a 15" diameter circle. The plastic was then removed to leave this.

These were baked at 375°F until an edge just started to burn, about 15 minutes. They were removed from the oven, cut with a pizza cutter while still warm and allowed to cool.

In my experience, any cracker's flavor evolves for hours after they finish baking. Their flavor is indescribable and, to my surprise, good! Not great, but that's where the development comes in.

What's next?
1. fats? Not a big fan of butter in most breads, I like vegetable oil in breads because of the texture it creates and the neutral flavor. Other fats might be good... lard? suet?
2. preferment? Why not preferment the grain flour to develop some sugar and flavor and then, just before baking, give it a shot of b powder to get the biscuit/cracker-like crisp.
3. grain? I only had spelt on hand. The original thought was for wheat berries. There are lots of options here for fun mixtures, etc.

Let me know of any ideas you all have and share in the comments.


Semolina pasta, hand rolled and rustic

Tonight we host a guest that can't have dairy and is a carb monster. Carb monsters usually are sated with pasta and butter. Tonight, only olive oil thank you. With so few ingredients, the pasta better be good. So, I tossed some together.

I don't know why, but I don't use a high fraction (or any sometimes) of semolina. I will from now on.  Today, I made a pound with 1/2 unbleached white and 1/2 semolina (fine). What an easy dough to work with! The recipe is simple: 150 g unbleached white flour, 150 g semolina (fine), 170 g eggs (ca. 3), 5 g salt, 5 g olive oil. Mix with wooden spoon until a big blob forms. Don't worry about kneading much, rolling it out will finish the kneading. Divide in 4 pieces, let rest wrapped in fridge for a few minutes (up to a few days I think), roll out each piece to a ca. 15" circle, cut into ribbons with a pizza cutter.

The initial blob of dough cut into 4 pieces, each piece is rounded and let rest in fridge.

Dust a piece with flour and start to roll out. The dough is pretty tough. Flour a bit if it sticks to the rolling pin or counter.

Don't go insane trying to get it too thin. Here's a sheet rolled out. You can see a shadow of my hand. Hard to describe how thin it is, but don't worry, even thick noodles are good.

Slap the sheet (roughly a circle) on a cutting board and cut into ribbons any size you like. A simple pizza cutter is faster than you think.  I like short noodles.

A pound o' pasta. I'll let it sit out in the dry winter air, shake it once in a while to insure it doesn't stick to itself and save what we don't use in the freezer (uncooked). I'll cook the pasta in salted water until al dente and serve dressed with olive oil and some toasted bread crumbs (instead of cheese, no dairy tonight). Maybe I'll serve something green on the side to assuage my parenting guilt because the kids certainly won't eat it.  They are probably hoping for Kraft.

Wow, the kids liked it.  And, I took the risk and served it tossed with peas - peas mixed in!  Very satisfying simple treat.  I cooked the entire batch and got a few minutes after dinner to eat some with my hands standing over the sink while cleaning up after the marauding children.  Quite the luxurious dinner.  Yes, honey, this postscript was added in case you read this post while dining "for business" at Deepwoods.  Maybe you could bring me your leftovers?
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A 50L SS reactor with overhead stirrer

I'm working on the impeller now. It'll be a slow stirring reactor for single infusion mashing to get more uniform water tempature and better extraction.