Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Brewday: Purple Daze '09

So I normally make one batch of mead a year. Usually this is 8-10 gallons, and fermented in the big 12 gallon Pyrex carboy I, erm, acquired. This year I decided to combine our summer foraging with meadmaking and make a big multi-berry melomel. It's based on a recipe from Ken Shram's excellent The Compleat Meadmaker, which all meadmakers should own at least one copy of. My plan is to make a 10ish gallon batch and split it. Half will be treated like a red wine, oaked, maybe malolactic, etc. The other half will be sweetened to various levels and bottled more like a berry melomel. All of it will get a year before we start drinking it.

It all began with Meredith and I picking berries. And more berries. And more berries. (This should be called Discovery Park Mountain Lion Memorial Melomel, but I digress.) The berries were frozen on cookie sheets, bagged, and shoved in the back of the freezer all Summer. Supplemented with berries from the farmer's market, whatever was in season. Finally, some things came from Remlinger Farms out in Carnation. (I missed strawberry and pie cherry season due to the Bar Exam.) You can find frozen berries from them, in 3lb form, at T&C markets in Seattle.

I also had to find honey. In Miami, we had the serious hookup. A nearby honey wholesaler (and professional Fireworks company, if you can believe it) would sell me a gallon of Orange Blossom for $25. Weeeeell those days are over. I got a gallon of Blackberry honey from Bob's, but that cleared him out and I needed another gallon. Hmm, what to do?

I picked up a gallon of cheap spring water, then headed over to the Ballard Market. Poured my gallon of water on a thirsty looking parking lot tree, then headed inside. They sell bulk clover and orange honey there, with some dinky little tubs to put it in. Well I turned on the tap, and set my jug down. Checked out the teas and coffee, checked jug. Checked out bulk spices aisle, checked jug. Wandered fruit aisle, checked jug. Took a nap, checked jug. Recited Epic Poem of Gilgamesh, checked jug. A lifetime later I had a gallon of orange honey. Slapped a label on it and presented to confused checkout clerk. Total cost of both, nearly $100. Ouch. Plus fruit. Ouch. At least the blackberries were free (discounting bloodloss and stinging nettle).

Purple Daze Berry Melomel 2009

10 gallons. Ish. Probably. Somewhere near 50 wine bottles. ABV somewhere around 11-12%

12 lbs (1 gallon) Blackberry Honey
12 lbs (1 gallon) Orange Blossom Honey
4 t Yeast Nutrient
4 t Yeast Energizer
4 packets Lalvin Narbonne yeast

7 lbs Wild Blackberries
4 lbs Blueberries
1 lb Wild Huckleberries
2 lbs Bing Cherries, halved with pits still in.
3 lbs Pie Cherries, pitted
3 lbs Raspberries
6 lbs Strawberries

Mead is really, really, stupidly easy to make. Honey + water = alcohol. Wild yeast will be enough to do the trick, but if you want to make something more... palatable, then you need yeast and yeast nutrient. Here's the process. Should take maybe 20 minutes. 1 gallon honey goes into a sanitized carboy. 1 gallon hot water goes into the carboy. 2 tsp yeast nutrient and 2 tsp yeast energizer goes into the carboy. Swirl the bajeezus out of it until honey is fairly diluted. Add two to three more gallons water to it. Again, swirl bajeezus. The less water you add, the stronger and possibly sweeter it will be. Reconstitute two packets dry wine yeast (I like Lalvin Narbonne) and add to carboy. Done. Let 'er rip. Now do another carboy full. Let ferment for two weeks at 66-70ish.

The fruit. First, freeze all of it. Then thaw all of it. Since there were a lot of berries, 26 pounds, it was taking a while to thaw them. So I put them all in one of my brew buckets. I added some pectic enzyme (maybe a tablespoon, keep the haze down). I then added 10 crushed campden tablets. This added sulfites equivalent to 41ish ppm, which is a bit less than you'd start a red wine out at. But I don't usually sulfite my meads till the very end anyway so this is more than I would normally add for just a mead. Give it 24 hours, then sanitize the big 12 gallon carboy, add the fruit and rack the mead onto it.

Or better yet, rack just ONE of the carboyfulls onto it. Turns out I'd made a bit too much base mead. The fruit took up 3 gallons of space. I'd made 10 gallons of mead. In retrospect I should have made 8 gallons of stronger mead. So I had to cram the leftovers into hastily sanitized spare growlers. They'll come back later when it's time to blend and make up for volume lost to racking. But the carboy was nearly full. And this worried me a bit. And rightly so.

I came back to check it a couple hours later and discovered that the CO2 from the renewed fermentation was floating the berries like a raft, and the whole thing threatened to explode like a 4th grade science fair volcano. I quickly sanitized a carboy and the autosiphon and racked 2 gallons or so of the mead over to the carboy. Whew. Crisis averted. Purple stained hands and a sticky berry mess to clean up at 9:30 at night. W00t. So yeah, add just one carboy full and wait for the fermentation to calm down before adding the other.

Otherwise there it will sit for about 3 months. Then I'll rack, let it sit, then rack again probably. Bottling will be next Spring sometime.
Read more

Brewday: Fresh Hop Beer!

So the weatherman was predicting the end of Summer here, and we had one last glorious weekend ahead. My Centennials were doing pretty well, as you can see above. My Cascades and Willamettes grew to about 7 feet tall and then just stopped. No weird diseases or pests. Just stopped. But they were planted near the end of June so I can't really blame them. My Chinooks have flowered but the cones weren't ripe yet. I decided to go ahead and make the Fresh Hop beer with just the Centennials. If it began to get cold and rainy while I waited for the Chinooks to come around I might lose the whole lot to mildews and diseases. The first year is about building root structure anyway. Can't wait for next year!

So I climbed the ladder, unhooked the C-clamp that the rope was tied to on the roof, and we harvested what we could. I'd had aphid problems on the Centennials and Cascades. Sprayed with insecticidal soap three times throughout the season. But I think what really helped was a wasp colony that found the vines and started eating the aphids. Still, freaked me out when I had to climb up there...

We managed to harvest a mighty... two ounces. Yep. Woo hoo. With the 1/4 ounce I'd already harvested and dried, that was it. I'd planned on using six ounces of fresh hops in this recipe, so I faced the choice of: use what you have and see what happens, or cut with Cascade and make something drinkable but inauthentic. Decided, screw it. Use only the 2 oz and see what happens. The bitterness of fresh hops can be difficult to dial in, so I did use an ounce of Newport to get the IBUs spot on. Anyway, the reason you use fresh hops is their superior aroma and flavor anyway, not bitterness.

Fresh Hop Pale Ale
All Grain. 5.25 gallons
Est. O.G. 1.054
Act. O.G. 1.061 (over boiled, oops. Diluted later with a gallon distilled water.)
Est F.G. 1.012
Est ABV 5.2%
IBU = somewhere between 40 and 45

9.5 lbs Pale Ale Malt
8 oz Crystal 80
4 oz Cara-Pils

Mash at 151 for 75 minutes. Knockout at 168. Collect 7.5 gallons.
90 minute boil
1 oz Newport (11.1% AA) at 60 minutes.
1 oz Fresh Centennial at 15. I would have preferred 3 oz.
1 oz Fresh Centennial at 0. I would have preferred 3 oz.
1/4 oz Centennial (dry hop)
Whirlfloc at 15.

Used Wyeast London III. You could use American Ale and it would be fine. I just needed a starter for my upcoming Pumpkin Ale.

Oh yeah, water modifications. Into the mash: 1 T pH 5.2 stabilizer, 2 t gypsum, 1/4 t kosher salt, 1 t Epsom salts.

UPDATE 11/19/09

The beer has turned out well. It's pleasantly hoppy actually, despite only 2 oz of fresh hops. It seems to have picked up a floral, perfumey hopiness more than anything, which is really, really weird considering it was Centennial hops. There's a bit of grassiness too, which I attribute to dry hopping with the 1/4 oz dry whole Centennial. Won't be doing that next year. Needs a bit more body. I'll mash at 154 next year.
Read more

Brewday: Baltic Avenue Porter

A week ago I moved my two Oktoberfestbiers in to kegs and was left with the accumulated yeasty dregs. What oh what to do? Brew something I haven't brewed in years, obviously. A Baltic Porter.

Heck, the last one was at least four years ago. I seem to remember a hurricane interfering with my lagering. Katrina? Wilma? I can't remember. But it all came out ok, the coconut version took gold at the Coconut Cup that year. I put a grainbag full of toasted coconut flakes in the secondary of half the porter.

The style itself comes from Russia and the other Baltic countries, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. Basically it's a strong porter, almost like a Russian Imperial Stout, but brewed with lager yeast and Czech hops due to the location. A good one is incredibly complex and smooth, no harsh burnt or roasted flavors, just lots of coffee, caramel, chocolate, and a hint of weird fruit (raisins, plums) sometimes. Using Carafa will keep the bitter harshness down while providing the color and flavor of burnt Black Patent malt. Authenticity might dictate using Polish Lublin hops, but I used Newport because, well, I had Newport.

What's fun about this style is that it was a seriously Cold War beer, and it wasn't until the Iron Curtain fell that we started seeing it in the West. Which is a shame, because they're delicious. My favorite of the commerical examples are Baltika 6 and Zweic, though for American brewers Duck Rabbit and Victory's Baltic Thunder are also pretty darn tasty.

Brewed on a nice sunny day with no major cockups. Decided to run out during the mash and pick up two more packets of yeast. Used a mix of Wyeast Bavarian and Munich Lager yeasts, since I combined the Oktoberfest yeasts anyways. Gravity suffered for some reason. I moved the rollers on my grain mill closer together for the next batch. Seems to have fixed it.

Baltic Avenue Porter

All Grain. 5.25 Gallons.
Est O.G. 1.089.
Act O.G. 1.082.
Est. F.G 1.016-1.020.
Est. ABV 8 - 8.5%
32 IBU

12 lbs German Pilsner malt
3 lbs Munich Malt
12 oz Caramunich (I subbed Caravienna because I was out of caramunich. Oops)
8 oz Crystal 80
8 oz Chocolate Malt
4 oz Carafa II
2 oz Special B

Mashed 90 minutes at 150. Knockout at 168. Collected a total of 7.5 gallons to boil down to 5.25.

Water modification in the mash = pH 5.2 stabilizer, 1/4 t gypsum, 1/4 t kosher salt, 1 t chalk. No lactic acid adjustment for the water, Seattle's water has low residual alkalinity and though it has a high pH it drops quickly and easily. The dark malts would be more than enough.

1 oz Newport (11.1% AA) at 90.
0.5 oz Czech Saaz (3% AA) at 15.

Whirlfloc tablet at 15.

Pitched with a packet of Wyeast Bavarian Lager, Wyeast Munich Lager, and yeast cake of both of those from two Oktoberfest batches.

Ferment at 50 degrees for 10-14 days, bring up for a diacetyl rest at 62 degrees for at least 3 days, then rack to secondary to finish, stepping temp down a degree or two every day to 34 degrees. Leave there for a couple weeks. Keg and serve sometime in February probably.

Update: 2/15/10

Ugh. It has a heavy phenolic note that is totally offputting. My guess is that it wasn't cooled enough before pitching. I took it off tap and let it hang out for six weeks to see if it improved. Nope. Looks like it's the sink for this batch. The recipe is sound though, I just need to cool it better before pitching. Based on what I've been getting using ground water during winter here, it looks like lagers are going to be a seasonal project.
Read more

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Mushroom Hunt 3: The Olympics

A week ago we took the ferry over across the Sound, grabbed my parents, and went mushrooming out in the Olympic National Forest. It's been a dry summer here, the Cascades have been pretty sorry for mushrooms, and rumor had it that the Olympics were much more productive.

Of course, I'd never hunted there and had no idea where to go. I briefly considered going all the way out to the Quinault Rain Forest, which is supposed to be a kind of mushroom nirvana, but it was too far for a casual day outing like this. Maybe some other time. So we just headed off to the Quilcene Ranger Station and asked them. They were of little help where mushroom sweet spots were concerned, but did point out a nice loop we could do on forest roads that would take us around to different elevations in the nearby mountains. So we set off, figuring we'd just pull over at likely looking spots.

The first two spots did produce some interesting mushrooms, but nothing particularly edible. And we were on a hunt. A hunt for the wily Porcini and the, um, slightly less wily Chanterelle.

On the bright side there were lots of Banana Slugs...

So we kept driving. The forest ranged from Doug Fir and moss floor, to recently logged thick underbrush, to hemlock and alder in the wetter areas. Many parts were too steep to easily search.

Higher up we found a trailhead and decided to park and follow the trail a ways. We quickly found and harvested some good Wolf Fart puffballs (Morganella pyriformis). Further up the trail we came to a washout, loaded with small trees and covered in various kinds of Boletes and Suillus. The problem was that they were all pretty old, pretty wormy, and not Boletus edulis, the King Bolete, our sought after pal the Porcini. Still, we field cleaned some of the better looking specimens and brought them home to decide on eating them after more book consultation. I really am pretty new to boletes, and though most of them are safe to eat we still operate under a 'When in doubt, toss it out' philosophy.

My dad found this happy clump of mushrooms growing under a stump. I have not been able to positively identify this mushroom. It reminds me of Enoki mushrooms, which are a Flammulina, but Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest doesn't have them in it.

Enokis are white when you get them in the grocery store because they are cultivated in the dark. But in the wild, they take on an orangy color. Here, these are a sortof purple brown. It's a mystery.

Sad too, enokitake are delicious!

We moved on to our fourth location, a logging road off the main drag. Signs were good within moments. There were
Russula everywhere. A couple minutes into it my Mother let out a very excited "Woo hoo!" Chanterelles ahoy! We began to cover the area and found several more. Things quieted down for a bit, then Meredith and my mother found a hillside Mother Load.

Chanterelles everywhere.

Before long we were spoiled for choice and leaving the little ones behind. (That is, ones that were over the legal 1" minimum but still fairly small. Obviously, you leave the really little guys to get bigger!) Some of them were quite large, 4-5" in diameter, 6" long.

My mother was a seriously happy camper.
(I love this photo! Too bad it's a bit blurry.)

We picked as many as we could find, which was quite a lot actually, and decided it was time to head home. The legal limit is one gallon of a particular variety and three gallons of three varieties. We were near the Chanterelle limit. For one person... But the forest had been good to us, no need to be gluttons. We did make an important stop on the way home though.

The grocery store for wine and butter!

It was a nice warm day evening, so we sat on the front porch with a nice cold beer, cleaning and identifying our finds for the day. The total ended up being 104 chanterelles, with two being White Chanterelles (they do grow in the same areas).

A total of six pounds!

Dinner was going to be good...

We had three mushrooms to work with. Chanterelles, obviously. There was just a question of how many to use... We had about half a pound of puffballs. And of all the boletes we found that day, it turned out a couple from the neighbor's field were in the best shape and so we had a few of those.

Chicken and Chanterelles

We had some chicken breasts so we pan seared them with some salt and pepper, then finished in the oven. Made a sauce with a clove of garlic, a chopped shallot, a pound of sliced Chanterelles, and some butter. Added some white wine, a weird Chardonnay my parents had picked up in Oregon. The vintner was, um, new to the game and messed up his sterile filtration. So some yeast got in the bottles and made, well, Chardpagne. He was selling it for $5 to get rid of it. It was interesting... Petilent is word I'm looking for. But it made a good sauce. So with the wine in, we finished with the drippings from the chicken pan, sour cream and more butter. The sauce was spine tingling good. You know how it is when you taste something and it makes your shoulders bunch up and a big smile spread across your face? Yeah. Served copious amounts on the chicken breasts.

Zucchini and Wolf Farts

Oh little Wolf Farts. Like little mushroom marshmellows. Last time I cooked them they got lost in the sauce, became little barely-there mushies. So this time we chopped a zucchini from the garden, and sauteed it and the puffballs with two cloves of garlic in some olive oil. Added Herbs de Provence to taste. This dish was all about texture, the mushrooms and the zucchini were texturally indistinguishable. Very interesting.

Roast Potatoes and Boletes

Sliced some potatoes into wedges. Salt, pepper, oil, oven. Par cooked them, then added the sliced boletes and finished cooking it all together in the oven. A nice side. Potatoes went very well with the Chanterelle sauce...


We divided up the loot and headed home. I had about two and a half pounds of Chanterelles. Cooked up an awesome Chanterelle cream sauce with about a half pound of them, some of my homemade pancetta, and a caramelized leek, served on fresh made tagliatelle. Oh man.

I took a half pound, chopped them fine, put them in a mason jar, and covered in Tito's Vodka. This will sit for two weeks, then run through a coffee filter to make a sort of Chanterelle Schnapps. This will be added to a Belgian Golden I'll brew in the next few weeks to make a Chanterelle Beer based on Randy Mosher's recipe in Radical Brewing. Can't wait to see how that turns out!

The rest of the Chanterelles were cleaned and sliced, sauteed in butter and then frozen in several tupperwares. Now I can just bring them out and heat, instant pasta sauce or whatever.

We're probably going out again in a week or two. And you better believe I marked that spot on the map!

Read more

Friday, September 18, 2009

BLT From Scratch Challenge

So a while back Michael Ruhlman issued a challenge on his blog: make a BLT.

From scratch.

Make the bread. Make the bacon. Make the mayo. Grow the tomato. Grow the lettuce. Of course, you have to draw the line somewhere. So while you'd get bonus points for raising the pig or growing the wheat, it wasn't required. Still, I did my best to make as many of the ingredients myself as I could. Here's my entry.

And here's what went into it.

Step one: put some Tom Waits on the stereo. I'm not sure why, but it's BLT music.

First, the mayonnaise. God I hate making mayo. It's not that difficult, it's just that if you screw it up it's back to square one. And it's murder on the wrist if you use a whisk. Which I did at first. It's old skool, you know?

Speaking of old skool, interesting fact. Mayonnaise is said to have originated in Port Mahon, on the isle of Minorca, off Spain in the Med. The island bounced back and forth between the British, Spanish and French during the colonial and Napoleonic wars. In 1756 the French fleet captured the island from the British without losing a man (the unfortunate British Admiral was later tried and shot for losing the port.) The French admiral was so ecstatic that he did the customary thing and ordered his chef to create a dish commemorating the victory, which he then popularized throughout France. Who doesn't like talking about the dish you ordered to celebrate your glorious victory? So we got mayonnaise from "Mahon". Oh the things I learned from reading all of the Master and Commander books. Anyhow, when I got tired I moved everything into my mini-prep cuisinart. Which promptly broke the emulsion. ARGH. Back to square one. The key is patience, a bit of luck, and an electric hand mixer. So once I dug that out, I began again.

Ok, for real this time. Mayo begins with an egg yolk. Mine came from my parent's chickens. Those lucky fowl live in the nicest coop in the NW. It has stained glass windows. No seriously. (My mom is a stained glass artist). So I had some eggs from their chickens, and cupped a yolk into a bowl. In went 1/2 t salt, 1/2 t mustard, a pinch of cayenne, a pinch of sugar. Whisked up, then in went about half of a mix of 2 t lemon juice, 1 T white wine vinegar. Whisk. Drip in, drop by drop, a mix of 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil and 3/4 cup vegetable oil until it gets kinda creamy looking. (The olive oil was too strongly flavored to use on its own.) Then slowly add in the rest of the oil. Add the rest of the lemon/vinegar when half the oil is in. Then continue whisking and adding oil until it's all in. Then add teaspoons of hot water until it's a good consistency. There you go.

Next up: the garden ingredients. It's been a rough year for my tomatoes here. I had them in too small a pot, and when it got really hot this summer, they got blossom end rot and I lost almost the whole crop of tomatoes. Fortunately, they recovered after I transplanted them to a bigger pot. Namely some totally grassless parts of my back lawn. Even still, they had to re-flower and re-fruit and are still mostly green. This set my BLT waaaaaaay back. Fortunately, Ruhlman's own tomatoes were still green nearing the deadline, so he extended it. Unfortunately it was the 15th, and even on the 15th none of mine were really properly ripe yet. Got one today that was ripe enough to use though. Whew. If it starts getting colder I may have a feast of fried green tomatoes in my future.

The next problem was a biggie. I didn't plant lettuce this year. Or ever. I just don't bother. We use about one head a week for salads and whatnot and I just never felt the desire sit and watch slugs decimate my lettuces before I finally felt like having a salad. I'm having enough trouble with cabbage worms and my bok choi. And yes, in a fit of desperation I did briefly consider using bok choi instead of lettuce for this. So I had to find a substitute that was not my going out and buying lettuce (even though we buy awesome lettuce from the Ballard farmer's market.) Well, interestingly my tomatoes came to my salvation. When I dug up the lawn to replant them, I disturbed (and watered and fertilized) the soil. Poof. Within a week I had dandelions popping up all over the place. It's been a war of attrition against them, but I've been weeding them out before they flower. And before they flower, they are soft and tasty! And chemical free because I don't put anything on the lawn. Even water... Which is probably why there are so many dandelions.

The next problem was bacon. I have plenty of my pancetta left over. But I also have guanciale... So I cut a few slices off it. Oh yeah, come to papa. I didn't raise the pig but it's from Sea Breeze farms over on Vashon Island, so it was a fat, happy little freeranging porker, as you can see in the ridiculous fat layer.

Finally the problem of bread. We've been trying to rehabilitate our sourdough starter but it's just being a right bitch at the moment. So yesterday's dough-soup came out as this morning's... dough soup. There's something wrong with either the starter, or our kitchenaid doughhook just sucks, or probably both. The glutens are not glutening like they should, and it's not rising as well as it should. But I managed to get the dough into some kind of shape, and flop it into a searing hot dutch oven. 25 minutes at 450 with the lid on, 25 with it off. Ended up with a sort of weird hybrid sour focaccia. It's actually not bad, but I was going to dice it and make panzanella (unlike our big tomatoes, the cherries have done excellently this season). Then I got the idea of slicing it like focaccia for this sandwich. Bingo.

Putting it all together.

Sauteed three slices of guanciale till brown and crispy. Then toasted the cut side of the bread in the rendered fat until golden brown and delicious. The last slice of guanciale went on the heat just until the white fat turned clear, then it went on the bottom slice of bread to sortof melt into it. (I was going for two different textures on it, guanciale is great crunchy but it can also just be eaten raw. Om nom nom.) Then dandelions, guanciale, tomato slices, slather of mayo on the top. Boom. BLT.

How was it? Amazing. Really, really good. Structurally it was a complete disaster, totally unsound, and made a huge mess. The bread was too crusty and dense and it just squished the tomato and mayo all over. But in the words of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, "it's what I've got to work with!" The tomato was delicious, the dandelions still tender and mellow, mayo wasn't too shabby and the guanciale is just out of this world. So I stood there smiling, eating it over the sink. Fun project. Now we just need to get the bread to shape up...
Read more

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Chica es el Diablo

Sweet Jesus. Sam Caglione and Dogfish are making Chicha at the Delaware pub.

And they're doing it properly. By chewing the corn prior to mashing. You see, unlike malted barley corn doesn't have the diastic enzymes to convert its own starches. But as anyone who's tried to eat 10 saltine crackers in a minute knows, your spit turns starches to sugar. So traditional chicha involves chewing a portion of the corn to get the enzymes going, then a cereal mash and boil as normal. Usually unfiltered, 3-6% alcohol, and typically open fermented. Mmmm frothy. Of course the boil and alcohol help kill any bacteria from your fellow villagers' mouths, so really it's safer to drink than the water.

Mostly. My first thought was the episode of Thirsty Traveler when he went to Peru, drank some really bad chicha, and was violently ill for the rest of the trip. This culminated in him wearing a t-shirt on which he'd written "Chica es el Diablo". He'd been trying for "Chicha is the Devil", but was then informed he'd actually written 'Girl is the Devil." Ha ha.

I've thought a couple times about trying to make a batch. I'm not so down with sitting there chewing corn for hours on end. But I think an 80% cereal mash with some six-row barley and a long sacc rest might work. Mmmm, corny.
Read more

Monday, September 14, 2009

Of Mines and Mushrooms

So my friend Al is into exploring old mines, caves, buildings, boats and other abandoned structures around our area. And we were talking one day about mushrooms, and how he regularly sees them when he's out hiking. So we decided that we'd go out on Labor Day to explore an old mine and hunt for mushrooms along the way. It has been a very dry summer here in Puget Sound, so the mushrooming has been poor. But it rained all Labor Day weekend and we had hopes that we'd find something poking its head up out of the leaf litter...

So on a rainy Labor Day we set out. The mine was the Bergeson Prospect. It's up near the Money Creek campground near the Skykomish river and Stevens Pass off Highway 2. The approach isn't too complicated, but it involves driving to the right spot, then a bushwhack up a hill aways and then about 20 minutes hiking along an old overgrown road to a small creek with a waterfall. Directions can be found here over at 2DrX.

Along the way there are some interesting things. The forest is second growth, but the trees are all around 100 years old so they're not tiny. You can see old growth stumps like this one all around. Those two notches are logging platforms. Lumberjacks of yore cut notches in the side, then stuck boards in and stood on them while working the big two-man saw.

Along the way we'd seen many mushrooms, but very little edible. I'd harvested a few small puffballs near the car. (Right where I parked actually.) Otherwise we'd seen a lot of one kind of mushroom, some kind of Lactarius I think. But right near the entrance to the mine Al spotted a mushroom, which at first I dismissed as another of the lactarius until I got a closer look. Behold! Cantharellus formosus, the Pacific Golden Chanterelle. We looked around the area and managed to find a few more, about 1/4lb in total. This marks our first foraged chanterelles! Victory! But by this time it was really raining. Soaked, we figured it was time to go into the mine.

The chanterelles were near the stream that ran in front of the mine. I imagine the extra moisture is why we found them there, it's still pretty dry in the rest of the forest. But here's the mouth of the mine. Originally it was dug as a prospect shaft and it goes straight back over 900 feet, with a few small anti-chambers off to the sides. The prospect was abandoned a hundred years ago after they didn't find whichever mineral they were originally searching for. And so the mine sits, rusty old mining cart track, some old ventilation pipes, and other bits of random mining detritus left all around.

Though they didn't find what they were looking for, there is obviously plenty of other minerals in the mine. It is pretty wet in there, barely better than the rain outside. The first hundred feet or so are flooded to about calf height. If you walk carefully you can do a tightrope walk along the old mining cart track and with tall boots keep fairly dry. I somehow convinced Meredith to carry my duckboots in her pack, so my feet were nice and dry... Unlike hers.

Over the last century the minerals have leeched into the mine, forming amazingly cool little formations all over the place. The walls and ceiling are covered with a muddy mineral layer, and little proto-stalactites are forming on the ceiling. Here's a few photos:

It's also pitch black in there so you'll need flashlights and preferably headlights. As you can see, by this point I am in good spirits but pretty well soaked from all the rain and crashing through the wet brush. I need a new hiking hat. One without mesh holes all over it...

The mine thoroughly explored and us soaked to the bone, we headed home. We had some friends coming over for dinner later, so I got to cooking. I had a whole Coho from the farmer's market, so I decided to do salmon with a sortof wild mushroom ragout.

Here are the chanterelles that we found.

The small puffballs I found near the car are pretty common in the Cascades this time of year. I found some more by the mine, and some by a roadside up higher in another nearby valley. They were recently renamed Morganella pyriformis, but many people still refer to them by their old name Lycoperdon pyriforme. Lycoperdon translates as 'Wolf Fart' and I think I, and many others, will continue to call them Wolf Farts. Pyriforme relates to their pear-ish shape if I remember correctly.

The idea is to get them when they are firm and young. The ones past their prime will be squishy, probably have a crack or opening on the top, and shoot out a poof of olive drab spores when poked. ALWAYS cut them in half before eating, just to make sure they aren't actually a young budding form of any of the various white mushrooms that can kill you dead. The inside should look like a marshmallow, like the one above, and not like the one to the left, which is overripe and filled with mature olive drab spores.

I also had some White Chanterelles, Cantharellus subalbidus, that I'd purchased at Foraged and Found at the farmer's market the day before. They differ from the golden chanterelles in being more ivory colored, a bit tougher, and growing in slightly older forests.

So dinner.

Salmon with Wild Mushrooms

Take your mushrooms, in this case about a half pound of wild golden and white chanterelles and wolf farts, and slice. I would have preferred more mushrooms, but it was what we'd foraged so that was it. Into a pan goes a couple tablespoons of butter, some chopped shallots, a clove of garlic. Once this has cooked till the garlic is done but not burnt and the shallots are softer add the mushrooms. Cook off the liquid that comes out of them, then deglaze with a 3/4 cup of white wine. I used a Sav Blanc. Add some salt, pepper, herbs de provence, to taste. Cook until reduced to a nice mushroom sauce. You could add a couple tablespoons of heavy cream here if you wanted to. (I forgot.) It's ready to go on your salmon.

For the salmon, first pin-bone the fillet. It was about 1 1/2 pounds, maybe 2 lbs. Again, man I suck at filleting salmon. Portion it out. Brush the fillets with lemon juice. Then with melted butter. Then salt and pepper. Into the broiler until just before they look done (they'll finish while resting). To plate, top with the mushroom ragout. I used some green beans for a side (steamed, butter, salt, pepper). My guests brought some potato salad for the side as well. Serve with a slice of lemon.

It was awesome. The mushrooms were delicious. The wolf farts kind of turned into little squishy pouches for the sauce, which was tasty. Otherwise I don't think they taste like too much on their own. Salmon was perfectly done, I am definitely going to do the lemon/butter brushing again.

Finally, I'm not a professional mycologist or speleologist. I'm not an expert in caving or mushrooming. But I am a lawyer. So by way of a disclaimer I say unto thee: just be damn sure of what you're doing and don't be an idiot. Make sure you have positively identified any mushroom you plan to eat, and even then it's a good idea to only eat a little bit of one you haven't tried before. Do you're homework, make sure you know what you're doing. Crashing through the brush and going into old mines is inherently dangerous. Seriously, don't do it. Unless you really want to.
Read more

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wooly Pigs

I picked up two 1-ish pound shoulder steaks from Wooly Pigs at the U-District market two weeks ago. They raise Mangalitsa pigs, and indeed claim to be the only breeding stock of the beasties in the Americas. Unlike most US pigs, these guys were bred to be lard pigs. And they are full of fatty goodness. Like apparently up to 79% fat by weight. On top of that, they are raised and treated well, and sold by the farmer at my local farmer's market. So all of this is reflected in the price...somewhere around $14 a pound.

I had one steak that was pure Mangalitsa and one that was an "F1 Hybrid" which I gather is part Berkshire(?) I can't really remember right now. The big question was how to make the most out of these little piggies.

Pork Confit
Confit came immediately to mind. These guys are fatty to begin with, so why not render some of that out and confit it? The basic recipe was the one from Ruhlman's Charcuterie. I used the F1 for this, and you can see the fat and marbling in the photo over there. Chunked it up, spiced and let sit for a bit. Then I had a problem. Well, a series of problems. First, I didn't have any good lard around and I didn't want to use scary hydrogenated factory lard. Second, despite looking I couldn't find duck fat either. So I used decent quality olive oil. Cooked at 225 for about 4 hours, then into a container. I'll have more on this guy a few days from now when I cook it up for dinner.

Braised Mang
alitsa with Chanterelles and Blackberries

The Herbfarm is arguably the best restaurant in Seattle. I'm poor, so I've never had the pleasure. Though I did play designated driver for my parents' wedding anniversary a couple years back and had the pleasure of tasting a 104 year old Muscatel there.

Which if you think about it makes me a terrible D.D.

Anyhow, they have been raising Mangalitsas and Berkshire hybrids for their table in conjunction with the Wooly Pigs guys. And our local tv station King 5 had the courtesy to post a recipe from them. So I basically followed this recipe. As you can see, the Mangalitsa is pretty well marbled and has a nice thick edge of fat. I trimmed off the fatty edge before braising the rest, and chopped it up. Into a saucepan with a little water on low for a few hours till it was well rendered. Then I tossed fingerling potatoes, garlic, shallots, rosemary, salt and pepper in it and roasted as a side. TASTY!

Here's the final dish. It was pretty tasty. The blackberries were all foraged in a city park the day before. The chanterelles were a nice addition. The braised Mangalitsa has a sortof juicy-pig/steak kind of texture and flavor. I guess my only suggestion would have been more pig!

But two servings was all I had.

Next plan is to get some pork belly from them and confit that, in preparation for November's Fry Day...
Read more

Chicken of the Woods and Porcini Soup

Last week I had purchased some Chanterelles and Sulfur Shelf aka Chicken of the Woods from Foraged and Found. The Chickens have the remarkable properties of being the right color, texture and flavor...of chicken. Seriously. I know everything tastes like chicken, but nothing tastes quite like chicken the way these do. Except maybe chicken.

Well after reading this post on Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, I felt inspired to try my hand at The Sexiest Soup Ever. Only instead of chanterelles I'd use my Chicken of the Woods.

Well, I only had around five ounces of the mushrooms. So I pulled a 2 oz packet of dried porcinis out of the cupboard and rehydrated them with some boiling water. Then drained, reserving the liquid, and chopped them up with the chicken of the woods. Into the saute pan they went. I pretty much followed the recipe Hank used, except I used mere chicken stock because alas I don't have a freezer full of pheasant or quail stock. Hell, I'm even fresh out of duck stock. Hmm maybe next week... I also subbed out some of the chicken stock with the porcini rehydrating water, which was super-mushroomy.

So here's the soup. I would definitely, definitely pass it through a sieve before serving. I don't have a chinois, just a normal strainer, so I bet that would make it even better. The texture was much improved after straining.

So how was it? An excellent cream of mushroom soup. Maybe not the sexiest soup ever. Honestly though, I think the porcinis overpowered things a bit. I could see how chanterelles would change the game. It did have a bit of a chicken background though, and the sauteed chicken of the woods on top for garnish was delicious. I picked up some more, and tonight I'll try them on the grill as "Chicken" Fajitas...
Read more

Brewday - Hop Suey Double IPA

So I've got a freezer full of hop pellets. They were bought in bulk, or won in raffles, or were sample packets Hop Union sends to brewers. Anyway, I've got a lot of them. And some of them are getting pretty old. And I like big IPAs, and my dad likes big IPAs, so I figured I'd invite him over and we'd do a freezer-cleaner monstrously hoppy double IPA.

It all begins with Hop Suey. I went through the freezer and poured in any and all open bags of hop pellets until I had a whole pound. I didn't really keep track, it's not meant to be repeatable. But I think it contained:
  • Cascade
  • Chinook
  • Centennial
  • Santiam
  • Simcoe
  • Summit
  • Mt Hood
  • Maybe some Amarillos too
The base beer was based on the recipe by Vinnie at Russian River for Pliny the Elder. Certainly one of, if not the, best double IPAs produced. I definitely agree with his philosophy of: keep the grain bill light and simple, attenuate well, let the hops talk, and dry hop like crazy!


5.25 gallons. Est OG 1.077. Est FG 1.018-1.014. Est ABV 7.75%
  • 12 lbs Pale Malt
  • 8 oz Carahell
  • 4 oz Crystal 60
  • 1 lb Invert Sugar (add in last 15)
  • whirfloc tablet (last 15)
Mashed in at 151, then another infusion to 168.
Water Treatment: 2t gypsum, 1/4 t salt, 1 t Epsom salts.

Hops. You'll need one pound of Hop Suey.
  • 2 oz into the mash
  • 2 oz at 90
  • 2 oz at 30
  • 2 oz at 15
  • 2 oz at flame out
  • after a couple days when the krausen is down, add 3 oz dry hops. Let sit 5 days.
  • Rack to secondary and add 3 oz dry hops. Keg when done. I'll cold crash it overnight too to try and drop some of the hops out of suspension.
I used hop bags for the four boil additions. At the end you'll have a lot of hop trub which can be a pain in the butt and clog valves. My kettle draws through a hop back out the middle of the kettle, which works great for whole leaf hops, but I can't whirlpool pellets, so I had to use bags. If I could whirlpool I'd probably have made more smaller additions to increase the complexity. Still, at racking to the secondary it was tasting pretty darn good...

UPDATE 9/14/09

Kegged it yesterday, my but it's bitter. Great aroma and hop flavor, but the bitterness is a bit harsh. This was after it was cold crashed at 34 of course, and it got better as it warmed up. Still, I'm thinking it might benefit from a couple weeks' aging before drinking. In the future I might move the 90 minute addition forward to 60, or even drop it and add the 2 oz at 10 or 20. It's plenty bitter. FG was 1.014.

UPDATE 9/18/09

Tried it on tap. Mmmm not good. I think it needs some aging to drop the hops a bit. And some of them really were a bit past their prime, it's got a bit of cheese. And I was lazy and dryhopped a bit too long on the second addition, so it's a bit grassy too. Meh, some of those hops were pretty old, time to dump the rest.
Read more

Koolicle update

Ok, it's been a week. Here goes.

Sweet Jesus. It's a neon-red-cherry-flavored-hyperpickle. What else can I say about it.

How about: "No."
Read more

Brewday - College Debt Brett

So now that I'm back in a place where I can ferment beers at room temperature, and have a nice big basement to store things in, it was time to make my first ever (intentionally) soured beer! The original plan was to make a 10 gallon base beer and ferment 5 gallons with Roeselare Ale Blend as a Flemish Red, and 5 gallons with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis and pluots. Well, there was no Roeselare to be found. So brett it was! If you're not sure what a pluot is, here's a Slate article.

Brettanomyces is a wild yeast, most notably used in the sour Flemish ales and Lambics of Belgium. Bruxellensis is, as the name suggest, a strain harvested from the region around Brussels. Brett is a weird critter, in that it can digest more complex dextrose molecules, meaning that over time it will create a very dry beer. It takes a long time to work (3 months to a year) and likes acidic environments, so it's usually used in conjunction with good old S. Cerevisiae and often lactic or pedio bacteria cultures. Over time brett produces a wide range of interesting funks, including everyone's favorite "horse blanket" as well as spicy phenols and notes like pineapple.

The base beer was:
  • 4 lbs Pale Malt
  • 4 lbs Vienna Malt
  • 2 lbs Wheat Malt
  • 8 oz Carahell
  • 4 oz Aromatic Malt
  • 4 oz Cara-Vienna
  • 2 oz Special B
  • Hops were 1/2 oz Magnum at 90 minutes.
Mashed at 158 to encourage dextrine formation. Then decoction to knockout at 168 to further make some tasty dextrines. After all, once the ale yeast is done we want the brett to have something to eat. No fining or anything, again, more food for the brett later. After a week's primary fermentation it was racked and split into two carboys. One had 5lbs of pluots from the farmer's market. (Sliced in half and frozen first). The other had 5 lbs of blackberries I'd foraged from a local park. Again, frozen first. Added some brett to each carboy and here they will sit until sometime after New Years'.

Then I'll rack them off the fruit, add some oak chips, and let them sit another three months or so. Then into bottles and hopefully a glass by this time next year. Meanwhile these carboys (and everything else that touches the brett) will get a skull and crossbones on it, because it will never be used for normal beer again. But I'll be more on the ball next year and grab some Roeselare blend when it's available!

Oh yes: there's a lot of head-space. I purged it with co2 after racking. Oxidization bad.
Read more