Thursday, October 29, 2009

Barlow Pass Mushroom Hunt / Wild Mushroom, Soft Egg, and Dandelion Green Pizza

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Last weekend we headed up for another hunt in the Cascades. Our trip to Monte Cristo had been fun, but we didn't really have much of a chance to hunt for mushrooms. But they'd been there, we'd seen them in passing and there were other people obviously there on the hunt. So we went up on Saturday and did a search around the Barlow Pass area on the Mountain Loop Highway.

We began in the area around the parking lot where we'd spotted the giant bolete a month back, and wandered the woods there for a good two hours or so. There's a huge boulder there that actually forms a sort of cliff, a good 75 foot drop, which I discovered when I was trying to come back down it. Otherwise the area is pretty open, second growth Doug Firs, moss, etc. Loads of mushrooms everywhere. Loads, thousands, everywhere you look, of tiny little guys. They were quite pretty actually, but very little edible. It's been cold, and I think boletes are pretty much done there. We found a few very old ones, and a few Suillus. Did manage to find one Boletus mirabilis, that we brought back. There were a few late season Chanterelles around too.

We found these guys, which we believe are Angel's Wings, Pleurocybella porrigens. In 2004 these caused the deaths of 14 elderly people in Japan, though they're commonly collected as perfectly edible member of the Oyster Mushroom family. No poisonings have been reported in the US, but we left them there just the same.

The big find for me, and for once I was the one to find them, were two Hedgehog Mushrooms, Hydnum repandum, which we hadn't found before. These are edible and delicious, and sometimes you can find them in the markets. I think Foraged and Found had them once this Summer, and I was disappointed when they were sold out before I got there. These guys are suspected to be related to chanterelles, and have little spiky protrusions on the underside instead of gills.

Meredith found this healthy crop of Ramaria, which we think is rubripermanens. These guys are considered somewhat edible, and there was certainly a large bunch of it, but it has a laxative effect on some people and we decided that we weren't really hungry enough to play Russian Roulette with a night on the John as the stakes.

We wandered a bit more around the area but called it quits after finding nothing else for a while. So we hopped in the car intending to find another location that looked promising. Here's where we were faced with a choice, and made the wrong decision.

Barlow Pass is where the pavement ends on the highway, from there it's 27 miles of dirt road to the mountain town of Darrington. We'd never been down that way and decided to take a look. Well the road follows the Sauk River, and it's just a fancy graded version of the old wagon road from the Skagit Valley to Monte Cristo. It's reasonably well paved, some bad potholes here and there, but we made a good 20-25 mph. For almost all of the run it's bordered by river and low-lying scrub, Alders, Maples, Devil's Club. In short: not good mushrooming territory. There were some forest roads and certainly old mines there, but that will have to be another day's exploration. After a while it was pointless to turn back. So we had a scenic hour long dirt road drive to Darrington. From there we drove the rest of the highway to Arlington, and were home in a total of maybe 2 1/2 hours. Grumpy and disappointed. So I got cooking.

Wild Mushroom, Soft Egg, and Dandelion Greens Pizza

This one came out of my deep desire for a) not getting in the car again to go to the grocery store and b) pizza! The base recipe comes from Chef Gray Brooks of the Tom Douglas restaurant Serious Pie. I've not been there yet, but I do plan to go tomorrow night and I must say I'm pretty excited. The recipe is printed in the Summer 09 Beer Northwest, if you care to find a copy it's a good interview. Gray uses chanterelles and arugula, but I didn't have enough chanterelles and no arugula, so I went out back and picked some dandelion greens from my lawn instead. Boom. Bitter greens, free, ready to go, no pesticides or anything because I don't take as good care of the lawn as I probably should and, most importantly, no trip to the store.

Beer Pizza Dough

I really, really like his pizza dough recipe and it's going to become my new staple.
  • 1/4 C pilsner (I just used my Oktoberfest Maerzen because it's on tap downstairs, easy to pour 1/4 C without opening a whole beer. Though I did that too...)
  • 3/4 C warm water
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 1/2 T olive oil
  • 3 C flour. (I used 1 C bread flour, 2 C all purpose)
Combine the beer, water, and yeast. Then in goes the honey, salt and a tablespoon of the olive oil. One cup of the flour, mix in with a big spoon. Then 1 3/4 cups more, mix for a couple minutes till mostly incorporated. Use the rest of the flour for the counter and knead the dough for 6 to 8 minutes. Use the last of the oil to coat a bowl, plop the dough down in there, roll it around and over to coat and cover with a towel to rise for 45 minutes. This will make two pizzas.

Pizza!

The recipe calls for (at least!) 1/4 cup chanterelles per pizza. I didn't have that. So I used a combo of the chanterelles, hedeghogs and the mirabilis we found. Clean em up, chop em up, toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 10 minutes at 350. They won't be done, just par-cooked.

Now assemble the pizza.

Preheat the oven to 500, with a pizza stone if you've got it. We do.
For one pizza you'll need:
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • olive oil
  • chile flakes
  • the mushrooms
  • 2 eggs (broken into separate cups, yolks intact.)
  • 1 1/2 C arugula (or well washed Dandelion Greens)
  • 1/4 C Parmesan
  • 1 T Lemon Juice
I doubled this and made two pizzas, using all of the dough (and making a tasty breakfast too).

Now do as I say and not as I do... Sprinkle corn meal over the underside of a cookie sheet, then shape out your pizza, vaguely rectangular is good, or oval, and plop it on there. Drizzle a little olive oil over it, sprinkle with garlic and chile flakes. Spread the mushrooms evenly around. Now slide it off the cookie sheet onto the stone (which has also had cornmeal spread all over it).

If you're like me and like me, an idiot, you will spread the pizza on your counter, where it will then a) be impossible to slide onto the searing hot stone and b) stick like a total bastard. That's what I get for being tired and not thinking first. So my pizzas were a bit...wonky.

In goes the pizza for 4 minutes. Then, using the bottom of a ladle, make a small indent on the two ends of the pizza and pour the eggs slowly into them so they don't run everywhere. Then back into the oven for another 4-5 minutes until the egg is soft-set and the crust brown.

Take it out and slide onto a cutting board. In a bowl dress the greens with a little olive oil, salt and lemon juice. Sprinkle all but a tablespoon of the Parmesan on the pizza, then place the greens on it, then sprinkle with the rest of the Parmesan.

Serve 'er up!

How was it? Awesome. Like a Caesar Salad Pizza. The mushrooms were good but the lemon juice is a bit overpowering. More mushrooms next time! The crust is excellent. The egg quickly goos all over and makes it rich, so you don't miss the mozzarella at all. The mirabilis was edible and ok, but not my favorite mushroom. I'll do something with it alone, if I find any more this year, to see if I really do or don't like it.

Serious Pie makes a version of this pizza with guanciale, and since I'm fresh out of my own I look forward to trying it tomorrow night!
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The Most Annoying Sound in the World

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From our Monte Cristo Mine hike: here's Al and Meredith pushing the old railway turntable. I have to post this, just for the sound.

video

And because it's strikingly similar to this:

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Brewday: 2009 Riesling

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Sunday was the Riesling crush. Just as with the Pinot Gris, I'd ordered the grapes from Doug Schaad of Schaad Vineyards down in the Chehalem Mountain AVA in Oregon.

Remember that storm the PNW had little over a week ago? Apparently things were tough for Doug and his son, who were up harvesting Pinot Noir before dawn on the 16th and didn't stop until it was done. Which apparently was worth it, the next day the rain made truck access to the vineyard impossible.

It's going to be a weird year for Chehalem Pinot Noir. A long dry sunny summer was great for the grapes. Wineries in the area were reporting harvesting at 26 or more brix, one even reported 28! (1.116!) At that sugar level these will be some high-octane wines, and it's going to take skill to keep the alcohol from overpowering the fruit. It could be a great vintage, or terrible, depending on the vintner. We'll have to wait and see!

Well a week later the Riesling was harvested. Rieslings are usually lower sugar, with high TA and low pH. No exception here, though the O.G. was a bit low. The grape clusters were a bit "rain attenuated" due to the weather, meaning there were rainwater drops within the clusters which diluted the pressed juice. Oh well. It was 20 brix at pressing, (1.080 for the homebrewers out there), so it should end around 10.5% ABV. I don't really like crazy dry Rieslings either, so I'll probably back-sweeten it a bit to near-dry and I may blend some of it into some of the Pinot Gris.

This time I only bought 100 pounds, so I got it home in a full 5 gallon carboy and two growlers. Sometimes having too many growlers works out. Took TA and pH readings, did the sulfite calculations, added 2.5 campden tablets. The must went into the lagering fridge overnight, where my Baltic Porter is currently hanging out at 36 degrees. This allowed the cold to drop a lot of the solids out of the must, as you can see here. I then racked off into a 6.5 gallon carboy and pitched two packets of Lalvin Narbonne, rehydrated with 14gm of GoFerm.

It's taken off finally, after lagging a day. But Riesling ferments should be long (up to three weeks or more) and cold so I'm not too worried. My little fermenting room is holding around 60 at night and 64 during the day, and it's the best I can do. Next year I'll make sure no lagers are going and use the fridge, set at around 55. I am also going to do reds next year, Pinot Noir and maybe Marechal Foch, and I'll have to find a way to heat those up to 80...

So it will sit and chug along for a couple weeks, then I'll rack it and begin settling it. Hopefully it will be in the bottles within six months.

Riesling is one of those varietals that is clearly terroir expressive, so I look forward to doing a head to head next year between mine, an Eroica from Chateau Ste. Michelle and one from Germany or the Alsace.

Everett Cellars Riesling 2009
  • 20 Brix
  • Initial TA .75
  • pH 3.0
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Brewday: 2009 Hard Cider

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Every September Bob of Bob's Homebrew takes orders for cider juice, to be delivered in late October and picked up at the store. The last time I bought juice was in 2004, right before I moved to Miami. I made a Cyser (Cider/Mead) out of it that ranks as one of my favorite things I've ever fermented. It ended fairly dry and chardonnay-like, and didn't score well in competition because the apple was a bit overwhelmed, but it was a good 13% and tended to sucker-punch the unsuspecting. So I was quite excited to be able to order cider this year. It's been a while.

The juice comes from an orchard up on Lopez Island, in the San Juans. The bulk of the press is normal sugary apples, Golden Delicious, Jona Gold, etc. But the grower also planted a variety of English Cider Apples, many of them weird heirloom varieties, and these go in too. All told there is something like 23 kinds of apples in here.

It arrived pre-sulfited so making the cider couldn't have been easier. Sanitize carboy. Drive to Bob's. Fill carboy. Buy Wyeast Cider Yeast. Smack. Get home. Pitch with a couple teaspoons yeast nutrient. Done. Fermenting away in the low 60's. Now we play the waiting game.

I decided not to go the Cyser route this year, as I already have 12 gallons of berry melomel going and another 12ish of Riesling and Pinot Gris, so I'm good on wine. Gravity reading was 1.052, which would make for a 4.75-5.0%ish beer. I had considered adding some brown sugar to go for a New England Style Strong Cider. But I highly suspect that this will ferment down to dry, 0.999, at which point it will be closer to 7% ABV, which is plenty strong enough.

Plan is to keg, diluted and back-sweetened to 5% ABV and 1.006, for a Draught Style Cider on tap, and to bottle the rest, possibly in Belgian bottles, as a dry sparkling cider.
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mushrooms: Tom Kha Soup with Chanterelles and Boletes

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The mushroom fest continues. Yesterday I went for a walk down to Golden Gardens to see if I could find a madrona tree that was currently shedding its bark. No dice. (Hopefully it will be a future post, however.) But on the way I couldn't help noticing that there were mushrooms everywhere.

I've lived in Seattle for years but until I started seriously foraging mushrooms this year I never really noticed them. Now it's like I have The Sight, and I see them everywhere. Just a couple blocks walk and it's "Oh, Fairy Ring mushrooms. Yep, there's some more. And some more." Yes they're edible (and I like them) but I'm not sure what's been sprayed on that median strip. Also, this is where we walk Ase (and everyone else walks their dogs too...) I kept walking and found some small boletes popping up out of someone's alleyside. Not sure which kind. Further on, I swear there's a huge crop of Augustus popping up in another yard. Only two were past the fence line, obviously growing on the roots of a huge Doug Fir on the corner of their property. They were still late-button stage, in a day or two I'll check again (and possibly abscond with them). Further on in someone's lawn there are some large white mushrooms similar to my A. nivescens from earlier, maybe campestris (Meadow Mushroom).

I guess what I'm saying is, it's amazing that all these edible and delicious things are popping up all over the place, and the only thing that keeps people from eating them is ignorance and fear. And I think that's what I love most about foraging. It's the thrill of discovery, like an Easter Egg hunt, coupled with learning more about your environment and a hint of 'You dead yet? Nope. Ok, have some more.'

On to a recipe for a cold rainy Fall day.

Tom Kha Gai with Chanterelles and Boletes

Tom Kha is, without any doubt or reservation, my favorite soup. Maybe there is some soup made in the highlands of Papua New Guinea that I would like more, but until I try it Tom Kha reigns supreme. Normally you use chicken breast and button or straw mushrooms. Well I decided to make my recipe using a chicken thigh we had and some Chanterelles and the mystery bolete from our last expedition. The base of this recipe is from Quick and Easy Thai Cuisine Lemon Grass Cookbook. It's short, it's cheap, it has lots of pictures, and minimal ingredients or fuss. And I have not made a bad thing out of it. I have made many different recipes from many cookbooks for this soup, this is how I make it now.
  • 1 can coconut milk, we like Chao Koh.
  • 1/2 lb chicken, sliced thin. Easier if it's frozen a bit first.
  • 5 slices of galangal. Either fresh, dried or frozen. It's a rhizome similar to ginger but essential to this soup. Ginger won't be the same. If you use fresh you can slice it and then freeze it before it all goes bad. Frozen it is almost impossible to slice without a bandsaw...
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass. Cut the dry ends off, slice into 2" pieces, then bruise a bit with the back of your knife or a mallet.
  • Five Kaffir lime leaves, bruised a bit too.
  • Mix together: 3 T Fish Sauce, 3 T Lime Juice, 1 T palm sugar. (or brown sugar)
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms. I used Chanterelles and a bolete for this, but you could use many kinds of mushrooms. You could also skip the chicken, which would make this vegetarian (unless you're uppity about fish sauce), and increase the mushrooms. The soup would then be Tom Kha Het.
  • Cilantro and "Rooster Sauce" (Sriracha, we use the one with a Rooster on it.)
In a pan cook the coconut milk, chicken, galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves until the chicken is almost done. In goes the mushrooms and fish sauce/lime/sugar. Bring back to a boil a minute or two and serve. Garnish with cilantro and add burn to your heart's content with Rooster Sauce. It's really good, but it is Thai and I wouldn't use any really delicately flavored mushrooms here, they'll get spiced out. I think one of the almondy agarics would go very well with this.
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Mushroom Show / Pumpkin Gnocchi with Agaricus

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Mushroom season is slowly winding down and while there is probably another month left, the peak is over. Nevertheless we have been eating a lot of mushrooms recently, and I think it would be best if I posted several separate posts about some of the last two weeks dinners rather than one huge one.

First up, we went to the Puget Sound Mycological Society (PSMS) annual Wild Mushroom Show last Sunday! And despite a pounding post-bar-passage-party headache, I had more fun than you'd think possible at a Mushroom Show. Certainly the many trays of different mushroom species was informative and interesting. I was doubly happy that each tray featured the sort of plants and habitat the particular mushrooms can be found in. I hear that the presentations were excellent (Lang Cook of Fat of the Land and Christina Choi of Foraged and Found) but I didn't make either of them, unfortunately.

Some gripes: parking. By 1:00 there were lots of people, and the dirt road they had us parking on became The Somme, with confused one-lane traffic. Also barbed wire and sporadic shell fire. OK not really. Second, the ID table.

One of the main reasons we ended up going was the Identification Table. PSMS experts will sit and identify any mushrooms you wish to bring in. Well a day or two prior Meredith had found a bunch of large white mushrooms growing on campus. Our best efforts had it nailed down (obviously) to an Agaricus. The question was which one? Some are ridiculously delicious. The A. Augustus from earlier in the Summer, for example. Some are poisonous and will make you curse the Porcelain God. So ID is important. But it's a good species, if it's edible. After all, common supermarket button mushrooms are A. bisporus. We had it narrowed down to possibly A. Campestris, but ours were growing under a large pine tree and not in an open grassy field. It didn't stain yellow quickly, or smell like benzene or anything (no A. xanthodermis), it just smelled a bit like marzipan, so we were pretty confident that it was edible but not 100% sure.

Well people brought in mushrooms to ID by the truck full. And it took us about 45 minutes to get to the table, while two people ahead of us had every mushroom in the book identified. I appreciate that you don't know much about mushrooms, and yes, I agree, they're very interesting. But seriously people, limit it to two, maybe three mushrooms and let the rest of us in.

Fortunately it took all of 10 seconds for the PSMS guys to ID ours, and announce to the crowd of onlookers (most of whom had brought inedible species in) that we'd found Agaricus Nivescens and that it was ultra-delicious. w00t! Our ID problem had merely been that Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest did not list nivescens, as there are many species of Agaricus in the NW. Looks like it's time to get an additional book!

Anyhow, we went to campus and picked the rest that were ripe. Then got them home and pondered cooking them. I had a spare pie pumpkin sitting around from the pumpkin beer, I'd only roasted three of the four. So dinner became:

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Sage and Agaricus

I made a pumpkin gnocchi recipe from a pasta book I have, which frankly was a bit of a failure and not worth the listing here. Search the net and I'm sure there's a better one. Mine was a bit vague on the amount of pumpkin and flour, and also I only had bread flour. So they were super sticky and didn't take shape very well. Also I'd never made gnocchi before and the first, mmmm, three dozen were kindof tragic. Fortunately they tasted ok, if a bit chewy. The agaricus was cleaned and sliced up, then sauteed in butter with salt, pepper, and about two tablespoons of fresh chopped sage at the end. Gnocchi was tossed with it. Actually, despite its various aesthetic and structural faults, the gnocchi were pretty good. The agaricus was deeeeeeelicious. Like an almondy button mushroom on crack.

Finally a word on the species. Wild Agarics are known to bio-accumulate heavy metals, like lead and cadmium, so don't eat too much of them. Button mushrooms are pretty much fine though, being grown indoors on fresh compost.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Elysian Pumpkin Festival / Brewday: Punk! 09

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It's October and that means one thing: Pumpkin Beer! Ok actually it means several things, some also having to do with pumpkins. But it's time for this year's pumpkin ale. But first, I finally was able to make it to the Elysian's Annual (5th in this case) Great Pumpkin Beer Festival. It is one of the premier pumpkin beer festivals in America. "And by America, I mean the World." (100 points if you can place that one). Elysian's Brewer Dick Cantwell is a sort of pumpkin evangelist, and Elysian's Night Owl is my favorite readily available pumpkin beer (Sorry Dogfish Punkin! You're still good though.). Thanks to Dick's reputation, connections and generous personality, breweries from all over send their pumpkin beers to the festival. And of course the Elysian brewed nine pumpkin beers itself…

The capstone of the festival is the tapping of the pumpkin. Dick and crew clean out a large pumpkin, then they use a glassblowing torch to caramelize/sanitize the inside. Then in goes some Night Owl pumpkin ale with a bit of Dragonstooth Stout wort to induce a secondary fermentation. The annual goal is to get it to carbonate without, obviously, exploding the pumpkin. So it's sealed with wax and a pressure valve is sealed in to monitor it. The pumpkin is tapped at 4:00 and everyone gets a sip. It was like a pumpkiny cider, and pretty flat this year. Still, A+ for effort.

When I started this blog I swore up and down that it wouldn't be one of those beer-snobbery tasting-note laden exercises in BJCP judging wankery (just spend some time reading reviews on Beer Advocate), so I try not to wax nostaligic about beer. A beer is good or bad, to each his own, and talking about mouthfeel or astringency is for competitions and advice on improving the beer, not conversation over a pint at the pub. And yes, there were those people there, taking little (I hope increasingly slurred) notes on their beer sheets. But I do feel that some of these were worth mentioning, purely for their uniqueness, originality and quality.

First of all, the thing that most struck me about the festival was the variety of styles of pumpkin beer. Normally the pumpkin beer style, such as it is, is based on British Bitters or Pales, occasionally a Brown here and there. They're almost always spiced and in some cases, no pumpkin is used, just pumpkin pie spices. Historically the beers were part of the privations endured by early Colonials. When wheat and barley were scarce (often imported from Europe) pumpkins made due. The settlers would use dried pumpkin (leathery strips of it) and reconstitute it in the mash. This made a low alcohol, undoubtedly terrible beer that only poor people drank.

Eventually Pumpkin beer went away entirely, until the microbrewery movement dusted it off, polished it up, and made something drinkable. At the festival there was a pumpkin version of nearly every kind of beer, and my hat goes off to the brewers for taking those risks. Nothing ventured nothing gained, and some of these were just outstanding.

Here's a few of my favorites:

The Ram Pie Hole Nitro Pumpkin Ale

  • Very well done all around, but The Ram (Northgate) gets serious credit for how they served it. A hollowed out pumpkin used as a jocky box. They then served the beer on nitro through a faucet in the pumpkin. Thanks to this beer I'm putting my own Punk! on nitro this year.

Anything by Cambridge

  • Cambridge Brewing (of Cambridge, MA) showed up with several beers and they were all great: Biere de Gourde (a pumpkin Biere de Garde), Great Pumpkin Ale (standard pumpkin ale with local organic pumpkins), and the amazing OPP (Olde Pumpkin Porter - an attempt at the old colonial pumpkin beers, except delicious. Spent a year in bourbon barrels, with cinnamon and ginger, and chewed on by Brett and Lactobacillus, finished in new oak. Outstanding! We were all down with OPP. I've never had any of their beers before but will certainly stop by if I'm in MA any time soon.

Elysian

  • This year's beers were: their standards Night Owl (pumpkin ale) and The Great Pumpkin (Imperial Pumpkin Ale), plus Hansel & Gretel (Ginger Pumpkin Pilsner), Kaiser Kuerbis (Pumpkin Hefeweisen), Jackobite (Barrel-Aged Scottish Pumpkin Ale), Mr. Yuck (Sour Pumpkin Ale - 10 months on Elysian's sour ale blend), 8472 (Dark Sour Pumpkin Ale - wow. Just wow.), Bete N' Owl (A sortof spicy hybrid of Night Owl and Bete Blanche Tripel), Dark O' The Moon (Pumpkin Stout). And of course, the big pumpkin.

Allagash Ghoulship

  • Allagash sent over a single keg of their Ghoulship that was tapped after the big pumpkin at 5:00 on Saturday of the festival. In a 15 bbl brew: 300 lbs of pumpkin and 200 lbs of pumpkin seeds. No spices. They cooled it on Halloween night 2008 in their cool ship (a big shallow metal trough used to allow traditional beers to cool using cold night air and often to allow critters to land in the cooling beer, as in a traditional lambic.). Inoculated with All Hallows Critters it then got Allagash's house strain and was aged in used Chardonnay barrels. Out. Of. This. World.

Honorable Mentions

  • Iron Hill Brewery (DE) Bruce Camp-Ale. For making a beer in tribute to The Chin.
  • Nodding Head Brewery (PA) Ich Bin Ein Pumpkiner. For having the balls to make a Pumpkin Berliner Weisse.
  • Silver City (Silverdale, WA) Punk Rauchin'. For having a humorous name and the balls to make a Pumpkin Rauchbeer (and making it actually good...). Almost all the beers had excellent names.
  • Big Time (Seattle) Sasquash. For being a great blend of a pumpkin ale and a barrel aged strong ale, and being in the bullpen when Pie Hole ran out.

I should stress that throughout the day I didn't have a bad beer, and even my least favorites were quite drinkable.

BREWDAY: Punk! 2009

So here's this years' version of my annual pumpkin beer. I change it a bit each year but I'm pretty happy with the current incarnation. It begins with pumpkins. Pie pumpkins. Four of them. Or, if you're me and you run out of space on your cookie sheet you can go ahead and use three. Split them, seed them, place them in the oven (on a silpat or foil) at 350 for an hour and a half or so until they're squishy. Scoop the goo out and mash it up. You're shooting for 4lbs. You can use canned pumpkin instead if you're lazy.

This year I did something different too. Based on a conversation with Dick Cantwell about how the Elysian does Night Owl, I used the pumpkin seeds as well. While the pumpkins were roasting I cleaned the goo off all the seeds, then roasted them until toasty brown. Also remember: no oil anywhere, it will kill the head retention. On brewday I ground the seeds up a bit (they're hollow and will float, irritatingly, if you don't) and used them in place of rice hulls to help the sparging of the pumpkin. Also, I am trying to use up my grain stockpile, so I had to sub some things out at the last minute. Hence three base malts, pale would be fine.

Finally, pumpkin is a bitch to brew with and I hate it. Sorry, but that's the truth. You get almost no sugar from it, Randy Mosher lists it as 1.005 gravity points per pound in Radical Brewing, and it is full of water. And it turns to goo and can be difficult to sparge. So basically I underestimated the water content of the pumpkin this year and it really messed up the mash, making it way too thin and seriously hurting my efficiency. Oh well, c'est la vie.

Punk! 09

5.25 Gallons, All Grain. 90 minute boil.

Est OG 1.065. Actual OG 1.056. Stupid Pumpkin.

Est ABV 6.3%. Actual ABV 5.5%. Stupid Pumpkin.

IBU 22

Ingredients

  • 3 ½ lbs roasted pumpkin goo
  • 4 oz rice hulls or pumpkin seeds
  • 4 lbs Maris Otter malt
  • 2.5 lbs Weyermann Pale malt
  • 2.5 lbs Vienna malt
  • 8 oz Special Roast
  • 4 oz Caravienna
  • 4 oz Crystal 60
  • 4 oz Melanoidin malt
  • 1.25 oz Yakima Goldings (leaf, 4.2%AA) at 90 minutes
  • .75 oz Yakima Goldings (leaf, 4.2%) at 30 minutes
  • Whirlfloc tablet at 15 minutes
  • 1 lb Brown Sugar (preferably dark) at 15.
  • Yeast was repitched slurry of Wyeast London Ale III (Boddington's yeast) fermented cool, 64-66 as my basement is staying right now.

Mashed at 152 for an hour. Wouldn't skip the knock-out step on this one, pumpkin goo, so bring it to 168 before sparging.

Water Modification: ½ t gypsum, ½ t salt, 2 t chalk, 1/4 t Epsom salts.

Now on to the spicing. I've tried putting spices in the boil. I've tried it in the secondary. The best way I have found to add pumpkin pie spice to a pumpkin ale is to soak it in alcohol while the beer ferments. So I picked up some Pumpkin Pie Spice from World Spice Merchants and soaked it in some Buffalo Trace bourbon for a couple weeks. When this goes into the keg tomorrow I'll add the spiced bourbon to taste. Add just a bit more than you think you'll need, it will be muted when the beer is colder. Then nitro!

Here's the post for Punk! 08 as well if anyone is interested.

UPDATE 11/19/09

On nitro this beer is AMAZING. Add a grate of fresh nutmeg on top of the foam...

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Russell H. Everett, Esq.

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It's been a busy week and I am way behind on posting so I figure I will start with the big news first: I passed the Washington State Bar Exam!

I cannot adequately express the sheer relief and sense of cautious optimism this brings. I can say, with no exaggeration, that the Bar Exam was the most difficult, hideous test it has ever been my displeasure to take. And I won't have to take it ever again!

Swearing in will be sometime in the next couple weeks. Now the job search can begin in earnest, and of course the econopocalypse continues. So I plan on trying to do some pro bono work in the meantime. Honestly, using the law for good would be refreshing after handling insurance defense cases for so long.

As a good friend of mine told me, as his lawyer father told him, "Welcome to the pleasure of breaking yourself on the wheel of justice."

Amen.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

2009 Pinot Gris

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Last Sunday I pressed the grapes for my first wine from whole grapes! I've made several batches of wine from kits before, a Viognier and a Sav Blanc, and they turned out quite well. Making kit wine is actually very easy, and relatively cost effective. I figured it cost me around $3 a bottle, so if I made wine that tasted like it was worth more than that then it was a success! And it was.

This year though I went all out and am making two batches of wine straight from the grape. I got in contact with a man named Doug Schaad, owner of Schaad Vineyards. He's been supplying quality grapes to small-scale and home winemakers in the Seattle area for decades now. When I showed up he greeted me looking like a country doctor fresh in from an afternoon's flyfishing in some storybook Garrison Keillor-esq Minnesota. Which is funny, because he actually is a doctor and faculty at UW Med School and is very into fishing. But he was friendly and helpful to a somewhat confused newbie like me. His vineyard is next door to Rex Hill's vineyard in the Chehalem Mountain AVA of Oregon, which is a sub-AVA of the greater Willamette AVA and about 20 miles outside of Portland. The AVA has some other notable wineries, Adelsheim and Ponzi are there, as well as Momokawa Sake's brewery. It's known for Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. Though I had the option of getting some Pinot Noir, I'm taking it a bit easy on this first run and will only be doing whites this year. Next year I'll take what I learned, plus a winter's worth of study and anxious anticipation, and make some kickass Pinot Noir.

First up was Pinot Gris. The first grapes to ripen in the AVA are often the Pinot Gris and sure enough mine were ready to be pressed and picked up on Sunday. The first step was going through the 70 pound tubs of grapes to select the ones I wanted, then guestimating the amount I'd need to get a good 5 gallons out of it. I went with 110 lbs and we loaded the grapes up and sent them through the Crushinator. Seriously, the crusher-destemmer is a monstrously cool toy. Near as I can tell you load grapes in the top, then tiny gremlins crush the grapes, spitting them out into one bucket, then shoot the now grapeless stem cluster out into another bucket. Magic! (Actually it is a combination of rollers that crush the grapes and a drum with holes in it that lets the grapes fall through, then spits out the stem. Or gremlins, whichever you prefer.)

We then loaded the grapes into the press. Sampled some of Doug's wine. Collected the free run juice. Sampled some more wine. Started pressing. More wine... You get the picture. I had brought a 6.5 gallon carboy figuring it would be enough for my 5-ish gallons. Well the juice just kept coming and coming. By the end I had borrowed a carboy and was at 7 gallons. Maybe 110 lbs was too much. Meh. My only worry is running out of carboys, they are ALL in use right now. It's ridiculous.

So the numbers.

Everett Cellars 2009 Pinot Gris
  • 23.5 Brix (1.099 SG)
  • pH at pressing = 3.18
  • Titratable Acidity (TA) of must = .65 g/100ml
  • Estimated Final ABV = 13.5 to 13.8% alcohol
So as you can see the acidity is a bit low (.7 to .9 is more normal for dry whites) and the Brix is a bit high, which is pretty standard for Gris. The wines tend to be fruity, fairly high in alcohol but with lower acidity than say, a dry Riesling. I may tweak the TA a bit later but right now I'm just letting 'er rip. Also I have to note that I got the pH and TA readings later from Doug. Turns out the Sodium Hydroxide in my acid titration kit expired two years ago. Ooops. And my pH strips are only accurate +/- .1 pH. Which doesn't seem like a lot. But I couldn't tell if it was 3.1 or 3.2, and due to the logarithmic progression of pH that .1 is a fairly important difference. It also is very important in adding the correct amount of sulfite, as its effectiveness is pH dependent.

But I got the must home, did the tests, sulfited the must, stuck the carboys in the lagering fridge for 24 hours, racked off the solids that sank to the bottom, then pitched the yeast. I used two packets of Lalvin D-47, rehydrated in warm water and 7 grams GoFerm per packet. Today I added 7 grams total Fermaid K to the carboys to really get the fermentation going. And it is. I've got some very bubbly carboys in the basement.

Fortunately we get to drink this one young! A couple weeks of fermentation, then racking and clarifying, then into bottles and we start drinking it within about 3-4 months probably.

Up next I have some of his Riesling on order. Last week the grapes were only at 19 Brix so they've got a way to go yet. Hopefully two more weeks should do it. Cross your fingers and hope for good weather down there!
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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Cascade Chanterelles & Circassian Chicken

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Saturday we headed back up into the Cascade foothills, outside of North Bend near Snoqualmie Pass to check out the FS Road 9030 area again. Our first outing in late-August was… less than successful. Still a fun day out, but no mushrooms. This time however we had much better luck. On top of that, the Weather Gods were smiling on us, and though it was forecast to be snow-flurries as low as 3000 feet, at 2200 it was dry, sunny, and fairly cold in the ample shade. So with hat, jacket and long-johns we went into the woods.

We started finding Chanterelles almost immediately. Most were in this size range. Unfortunately it rapidly became obvious that it has been cold in the mountains and the Chanterelles were showing signs of being on the way out. Many had the darker, mushier areas of old or partly frozen mushrooms. Not nearly as good as they were two weeks ago in the Olympic foothills. Still, there were some that were freshly up or that were protected under the undergrowth and leaf duff, so there's still some hunting left yet.


Time for an exercise. We're getting slowly but steadily better at this. In the photo to the right there is a Chanterelle "show". Can you find it?






OK, not too difficult. It's in the lower left corner. Here it is up close.







And here it is dug up. Not a bad find at all!

There were also a fair number of false Chanterelles around. These look similar from a distance but up close are easily identifiable by the gills, which are bladelike and not the sortof raised-bump-coral of chanterelle gills.

Here's the full days' haul. About 4lbs of Pacific Golden Chanterelles. Not bad for a six-hour outing. We also managed a few small boletes of various kinds, including one lone possible King Bolete (or more probably a Boletus fibrillosus). It's going into soup tonight.

If there was a downside to the day it was that, though the Weather Gods smiled, the Traffic Gods were vengeful. Some sort of charity walk (The "Walk Against Annoying Charity Walks" maybe? It's probably for Lupus or Children's Radioactive Hyper-Ebola or something. Obviously I am going to Hell.) occupied the Viaduct all the way to the Stadiums and we got a scenic tour of the Port and Sodo while looking for the onramp to I-90. Then on the way back we missed the exit to Snoqualmie (no Snoqualmie Brewery pint!). Then Issaquah Salmon Days wrecked our Issaquah Brewhouse plans (No Rogue!). Then Meredith got lost and took us back to the I-90/Viaduct mess. It was an Odyssey to get home. Complete with the part where my loyal crew were all turned into pigs. Also we escaped a giant cyclops by hiding under some sheep. Good times.

And if that made no sense to you, then like Handy from The Tick I say: "Read a book!"

And if that made no sense to you then god I am seriously out of touch. Onward with a recipe!

Circassian Chicken with Chanterelles

Credit for this one comes from a brief email exchange with Christina Choi of Foraged and Found. We were talking about using chanterelles in salads, she suggested pairing walnuts and chanterelles and I immediately thought up this recipe. Circassian Chicken is a classic Ottoman Turkish dish in which steamed chicken is covered with a walnut sauce and served cold, garnished with walnut oil. I first had it in Egypt at a restaurant in Cairo and it completely floored me. Since then I've made it every now and then at home. It's similar to other garlic + ground nuts or starch = tasty dip dishes from the region. In Greece and Cyprus for example, it's Skordalia, where it's ground walnuts (or often almonds in Cyprus) or leftover bread or potatoes mixed with lots of garlic and vinegar. Lower the garlic, lose the vinegar, pour it on chicken and you've got Circassian Chicken. So I figured why not add mushrooms? The base recipe comes from Tess Mallos' excellent The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole Chicken, about 3lbs. Mine was six pounds, so I trimmed off the thigh quarters and wings and didn't use them. Gizzards and guts stayed though, personal preference.
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 carrot, quartered
  • 2 sprigs parsley
  • 3 cups cold water
  • Salt/pepper

Stick all ingredients in a snug pot on the stove. Heat to boiling, then down to simmer. Simmer covered for an hour and a half to two hours till chicken is cooked. Steam it, don't boil it. When done, take the chicken out, cool a bit, and take the meat off the bones. Chop meat to 2" chunks, into a bowl with a couple tablespoons of the stock, and into the fridge. Return bones and skin to pot, bring to high boil and reduce by half to make a stock of about 2 cups, adding water if necessary.

Sauce

  • 3 slices stale bread, crusts removed. I didn't have any bread so I used a cup of Panko, which was probably too much.
  • 1 ½ cups walnuts
  • ½ t paprika
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ pound chanterelles, crappy bits chopped, appealing garnishy bits sliced for presentation. I would actually go up to a pound if I had it to do again.

Walnuts into the Cuisinart. Blitz fine. In goes the bread (or panko) and a little of the stock to wet it. Blitz. In goes the paprika and garlic. Blitz. Add stock and blitz till reasonably thick (but not chunky) consistency. Cook the unphotogenic chanterelle bits in some walnut oil until liquid has been released and mostly boiled off. Then into the food processor. Blitz. Salt and pepper to taste. Blitz. When you're happy with it (no big chunkies but still a thick sauce) stick it in the fridge. Cook up the rest of the pretty chanterelles in a pan with walnut oil. Cool.

Putting it together.

The hard part of this dish is plating. It is a lot like chicken salad, and has the same problem: it looks like gray vomit. So color is important here. Combine ½ t paprika with a tablespoon of walnut oil and let sit at least 10 minutes. Cook up some wild rice, long grain rice, bulgur or other grainy starch to plate on. (Or don't if this isn't going to be the whole meal, it would be great as a meze course.) I used a wild rice mix. Mix about a third of the walnut sauce with the chicken. Serve portions in a nest in the rice. Add more sauce over the top. Garnish with cooked photogenic chanterelles, pomegranate seeds, parsley, and the now red stained paprika walnut oil. This should easily serve six. The chicken is more dense than you'd think and is pretty filling. It's usually served cold, but I like it warm too. It actually has a lot in common with chicken salad and goes just as well in a sandwich.




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Thursday, October 01, 2009

One Does Not Simply Walk Into Mordor: Monte Cristo Ghost Town and the Mystery #3 Mine

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After the success of the last mine/mushroom hike we decided to head out and explore another mine and see if the boletes were up in the high Cascades. The destination was the Mystery #3 Mine outside of the abandoned mining town of Monte Cristo in the Mt. Baker National Forest.

In the 1890's the town was the center of a major gold and silver mining operation, and boasted a population of around 2,000. There was even a railroad that ran loads of ore down to Everett for processing. But apparently the financial turmoil of the times and the cost/benefit ratio of the mines worked against the town. Active mining was effectively done by WWI and by the 1930's the place was a ghost town. Even still it lived on as a summer recreation destination and is to this day. The town is on a mountain stream, which is one of several tributaries to the South Fork of the Sauk River. A few years back the road to the town, which follows the old railroad bed, was washed out. Since then it's been a four mile hike/bike to get to the town. Fortunately the place is maintained by a volunteer organization, the Monte Cristo Preservation Association. The trailhead is on the Mountain Loop Highway, outside of Granite Falls. Near Barlow Pass you'll see the gate across the road to Monte Cristo. You can park outside but need to display a pass. There's a ranger station at Verlot where you can buy one.

From the trailhead it's four miles to town. Many people were hiking and biking the trail that day. For time reasons we opted for mountain bikes. The trail is very easy. Except where it isn't. The problem is washouts, and there are several, but the only really bad one is where the Sauk washed out the bridge. Here you have to cross either on one of these logs, go around a ways, or just get your feet wet. Not really a big problem on this day, but my friend was up a few weeks back and the river was raging.

One of the goals was to look for mushrooms and see if the boletes were up yet in that part of the Cascades. Unfortunately, trying not to wipe out on the bike limited my off-trail mushroom spotting. But we did see a wide variety of mushrooms, I bet a more thorough investigation would find plenty of edibles. We did find this big monster bolete right at the parking lot. Didn't pick it (it was pretty old) but definitely a promising sign.

When we got to the town and got off the bikes we had more time to look. And boy did we find mushrooms! Everywhere. The problem was that they were Amanitas. Loads and loads of them, including this happy little Mario mushroom here. Amanita muscaria, the Fly Agaric. Really cool looking. Potentially deadly freaking poisonous. Wildly hallucinogenic. No wonder Super Mario is so weird. These guys, and their relatives (we saw some A. Smithiana), were everywhere.

I should mention that they recently did some sampling of the soil in the area and it proved to be thoroughly tainted with heavy metals, including arsenic, from all the mining. Maybe this amanita is double-deadly?

Here's another crop of amanitas. You can see that they are more mature that the button up above, and have taken a sortof olive-yellow color. The little white warts are still there. These mushrooms can range in color from the classic red to yellow-green to white even. So once again, perfect example of don't eat any mushroom unless you know exactly what it is!

As for edibles, we didn't really find much. We found some Chicken of the Woods, but since it was growing on an old cedar log it was probably L. Conifericola and we weren't too keen on eating it. We did find this Gomphus kauffmanii, a relative of the Wooly Chanterelle G. floccosus, but didn't pick it. Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest advises against eating both, though some people do, and we bow to superior knowledge.

So after 4 miles of biking we were in the town. I must admit I haven't been mountain biking in years and my butt hurt something fierce and I was exhausted. Turns out my rear brake was rubbing on my tire. Joy. But we chained up the bikes and looked around the place. Many of the buildings have fallen apart or burned down over the years but there are still a few in place. Most are in the town center but there are random shacks out in the woods all over. The coolest thing in the town center is an old railroad turntable, where the engine and cars would be rotated around for the return trip down the mountain.

It still rotates, albeit with an amazing, ear-piercing wail.

We set off on the Glacier Basin trail and went about a mile along it. Again, loads of mushrooms and some cool old buildings and mining detritus. The area used to have a large boardwalk with several stores, and a tram that ran the miners up to the mines. Oh what I would have given to have that tram still work...

We reached the bottom of a boulder field that ran up the side of the nearby mountain, Mystery Hill. Here I have to add that I was never really told the full plan for this hike by my friend, and wasn't quite prepared for the climb to come.


You see, we'd reached the hidden stairway into Mordor.

And one does not simply walk into Mordor.

One slowly and painfully spends over two hours scrambling up boulders and through brush into Mordor.

One of the problems I've had trying to take photos of the trip was to capture a good impression of the slopes and altitude involved. The mind makes far off things look 2-D, and both at the base and the top of the climb you don't really get a good idea of the elevation gain. So here's a topo map from the GPS we had. In about a quarter mile it climbs from 3300 feet to 4200. A 900 foot elevation gain. Some parts were nearly a 60 degree slope of sliding rock. I was freaking exhausted by the end. I admit I am seriously out of shape and kind of hate exercise. It's not that I hate the idea of exercise, it's just that I don't like being sweaty. Or tired. And I was currently both of those. This had been the most strenuous outing I'd been on in some time. And it was only half over.

But we made it to the top! Actually the others made it there a fair ways before me. What can I say, I obviously need a Stairmaster or something. But we sat down to the best damn sandwich ever eaten by Man and a bottle of wine we'd packed in. By this point it was actually quite pleasant out. There was a nice view. There was lots of random crap strewn around, from old mining equipment to random camping equipment. And, creepily, shoes. Several pairs of old shoes. I kept thinking: "Please don't let there be a foot inside... Please don't let there be a foot inside."

We heard a weird scuttling noise from a nearby rock pile. Turned out to be this little guy, an American Pika. Apparently they're one of those creatures whose sole defense is cuteness, because they are currently under consideration for EPA Endangered Species protection. We kept hearing their weird high pitched alarm call, and hoping that it was just us freaking them out. You see, we'd been snacking on huckleberries the whole climb up the hill and well, bears like huckleberries too.

But it was time to enter the mine! We geared up for the coming exploration. Apparently back in the 1890's this mine was a model of mining progress. They even made a scale model and toured it around the country, showcasing the future of the mining arts.

Well, it's seen better days.

To be fair, this is just one entrance to an entire interlinked mining complex. Like most mines around here it's got a steady stream running out the mouth of it. This one happened to be very orangy and muddy.

We soon found out why.

Al was the first inside. He'd heard that the mud was there, but that it was shallow and you'd be quickly past it. He'd also heard that it was waste deep and impassible. Today appeared to be the later. It was pretty deep. Probing with a conveniently abandoned tent pole indicated that it only got deeper.

It was like a whole factory of Oompa Loompas had melted.

It was horrible.

I think that's what a group of Oompa Loompas is called, a "factory". If not it should be.

No really, it wasn't that bad. We could have waded in. Waste deep in neon-orange arsenic mud. We had changes of clothes. But it was getting late and discretion is the better part of valor. Al got his entrenching tool out and cleared up the stream a bit, so at least the mine might drain a bit better. Then we headed back down the boulder field, covering in about half an hour what had taken us two hours to climb. From there it was back to town, onto the bikes and back to the car. Again, fraction of the time it took to get there. The bikes are a pain riding up, but that coast the whole way down is sweet.

It was fun. It was thoroughly exhausting. The town is cool, I'll probably go back to look for more mushrooms sometime. But it will be a cold day in Mordor before I climb Satan's Stairmaster again...

Finally, again Disclaimer. Don't be an idiot. Don't go on sweet mountain bike adventures over raging rivers. Don't eat poisonous mushrooms because Mario told you to. Don't go into abandoned mines. Use some common sense, or if you don't have any, borrow someone else's for a bit. I'm not an expert on anything posted here, just an increasingly fat bloke who needs some more exercise and has strange friends and a supportive and patient spouse.

Editor's Note: Wow, this is post #101! Crazy. A proper blogstone, and I also think I recently passed my blogoversary. Blog blog blog.
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