Fermented cider

My efforts in the kitchen are often inspired by Rachel, thanks! She recently made cider and I couldn't resist co-opting my existing equipment to give it a pilot run. I used a couple bags of Gala organic apples from Kroger (not the beauty hand-picked ones Rachel used) and pushed them through a vigorously cleaned meat grinder. This option was interesting. It was fast and seemed to sheer the apples nicely. Then, using a vigorously cleaned sausage stuffer, pushed on the pulp to get some juice. I used a screen on the inside of the piston to prevent the pulp from getting in the juice.

I was curious to learn the juice extraction efficiency using this setup and to know just how sweet gala apple juice is for fermented cider (it tastes amazing before fermentation!). From 3 kg of the pulped apples, I got about 1.5 kg of juice and by refractometer 12° Brix. I skipped the campden tablet step and pitched a wine yeast. I should get a nice 4-pack of cider that's about 6% abv. I'll bottle with 2.5 volumes of carbonation. Here's the photo shoot.

galas and one granny smith

apples after the grinder

using a *cleaned* sausage stuffer

squished apples (apple cake?)

takes a lot of apples, ca. 50% by weight extraction of juice, meh
• Oops, had I read in advance and used pectinase, I'd probably have gotten a 6-pack out of this effort.  Next time.
• Book I used was Art of Cidermaking.
Update 25-Feb-2011, most activity subsided and gravity around 00.  Small sample tastes really good.  I'll bottle in a couple weeks, once clarified.
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Firedome refinements

A while back I outlined a few goals for the Firedome project. I want it to behave so I can feed the masses. Ideally, I'd like to be able to use downed wood from my lot (cheaper for long cooking sessions and little residual ash) and I really needed it to be charged on the fly.

I live by the tagline on this blog, yet I'm not a perfectionist. Developing an idea, for me, is a practical matter. Get the job done as good as I can given the timeframe. 80% of ideal is good enough - time to move to another project. Sometimes I wish I were a perfectionist, but life's short. Anyway, I think I'm finished with this. I'll cut one more dome out - no hinged door - Kate's generously donated Weber dome, your time has come, meet my angle grinder, you two go have fun.

So, here it is. Note the door stays open throughout the cooking. This enables a nice constant temperature and prevents the neighbors from being smoked out. A dancing fire prevents one from determining the headspace temperature accurately. All I could do is measure surfaces. The clay base was steadily in the 950°F range, ca +/-30F, the inside of the dome surface, about 700°F. It was windy so the heat wicked off the surface, but the base was pretty stable. All I needed to do was toss in chunks of wood from the front to maintain a fire. I only had little pieces and they burned quickly, so I'll be repeating this with bigger chunks (see bottom image).

This is one of two test breads I ran today. The first came off the grill and I tossed it straight to the neighbors for their breakfast. I think they liked it.

Before the next run, I went through our neighborhood and dragged back a bunch of fallen wood, chunked it down and am ready. But, not this weekend. I'm too ecstatic to face any irreproducibility. I'm taking a break to bask in the glory.


Pizza casserole

After a big pizza bonanza, the toppings get mixed in to some pasta and baked. Just don't call it Mac n cheese.


Superbowl Pita

The night before the superbowl, I made 4 kg of pizza dough for the big day.  I stored it outside in a loosely  covered container on my deck.  I used about 3/4 of it on the day of the superbowl and the remainder has sat in there for 11 days now. Since the raccoons decided to pass on it, I had to find a use for it.

Some time ago, Andrew convinced me a yeasted dough would last much longer than I expected.  I now believe a lump o dough has approximately 4-5 full rises before the dough is spent; eventually it gets too sour and needs to be refreshed with more flour.  The weather's been cool enough so the entire 11 days has been a long retarding period and it was ready to go tonight.  I made pitas for our hummus tonight.  They had a hint of a sourdough flavor and were great with the hummus.

The dough was scaled to ca. 200 g pieces, squished into circles and allowed to rest about 10 minutes uncovered.

I baked them in a 500°F oven on a preheated baking sheet. The sheet was enamel on steel. A new favorite baking surface of mine.