Monday, March 29, 2010

Dry Cured: Chorizo and Landjaegers


A couple weeks ago I began my first experiment with fermented, dry-cured sausages. I figured it would be best to start small, with something reasonably easy. The big problem was setting up a curing chamber for this. Until I was sure it would work I wasn't going to risk a large sausage going bad on me. So salami was out.

Chorizo, on the other hand, is something I really love to cook with. That tangy, garlicky, slightly spicy flavor is great with so many dishes, and I like the neon-red color it brings to things. So I figured I'd make a round of it, and have it hanging downstairs ready whenever I needed it.

As long as I was getting the equipment out and, importantly, ordering expensive bacteria cultures, I figured I'd do another kind of sausage as well. I'm a huge fan of Landjaegers, and I liked the idea of having a stockpile ready that would provide snacks for a whole Summer's worth of hikes. Fermented, smoked, and air-dried, these sausages will last for a very long time, happily unrefrigerated and hanging down in the basement. Historically, Landjaegers were often in the rations of European soldiers and I like to think of the armies of Napoleon, Wellington, and certainly Blücher snacking on them during breaks in the action at Waterloo.

The Recipes

The Spanish Chorizo recipe was the one in Ruhlman's Charcuterie, with some minor changes.
  • 5 lbs of Pork Shoulder
  • 50 gm Kosher Salt
  • 6 gm Insta Cure #2
  • 10 gm Dextrose
  • 8 gm Bactoferm F-LC (Ruhlman calls for 20 grams, which is most of the $15 packet. Nope, not doing it. Reasons explained later.)
  • 60 ml distilled water
  • 2 T Smoked Paprika
  • 2 T Ancho Chile Powder
  • 1 1/2 t Nambe Pueblo Chile Powder
  • 1 T minced garlic + 1 t garlic powder.
My plan was to make a Chorizo that was basically Spanish-style, but with some Southwest twists. When it comes to the riotously red color of Chorizo, you need chile powder, and lots of it. Paprika is absolutely necessary and using smoked paprika gives a great flavor and saves you from having to smoke the sausages. I liked Ruhlman's use of Ancho powder. Fresh, it has an almost raisiny aroma and great chile taste without serious heat. For heat, I went with some heirloom Nambe Pueblo Chile powder that I've had for a while now. Unfortunately, it seems to be losing its kick over time. The chorizo didn't end up as hot as I wanted. The final last minute change happened when I ran out of fresh garlic and had to sub in some powdered. Next time I'll use all fresh, but this worked I think.

The Landjaeger recipe was basically the one from Len Poli's amazing sausage page. After a few changes here's what I put in:
  • 2 1/2 lbs Pork Shoulder
  • 2 1/2 lbs Beefalo
  • 50 gm kosher salt
  • 2 t Liquid Smoke
  • 12 gm Dextrose
  • 12 gm White Pepper
  • 7 gm Insta Cure #2
  • 1 1/2 t Caraway Seeds
  • 3/4 t Mace
  • 3/4 t Powdered Garlic
  • 8 gm Bactoferm F-LC
Len calls for 2.5 lbs of lean beef, and while I was at the market looking for something that would work I spotted some very lean Beefalo steaks that were reasonably cheap. Perfect. So they're actually half Beefalo, half pork sausages. I also cut his Caraway in half because I'm not huge on it.

Grinding and Stuffing

The first step was ordering some things from Butcher & Packer. First up was curing salt. I've got plenty of Insta Cure #1, sodium nitrite, but for this I'd need Cure #2, sodium nitrate. Nitrites preserve sausages, keeping bad critters like botulism from growing, as well protecting the color and providing that 'cured' taste. Over time the nitrites will be used up, however. So for long term fermented sausages, you need to use sodium nitrate. The nitrate will break down into sodium nitrite and cause a slow-release of the chemical, protecting the sausage for much, much longer.

The next thing I needed was a bacterial starter culture. Bacteria! But you just said the nitrites stop bacteria. What gives? Well, certain bacteria are useful in sausage making in that they can consume sugars and produce lactic acid, which lowers the pH of the sausage and prevents harmful critters from growing. Another line of defense, as it were. They are also helpful in getting the nitrates to break down, and they give the sausage a nice lactic tang.

Ok, time to shout into the void. Bacteria Culture industry! Listen up. A 25 gm packet of Bactoferm runs $15 and is enough for 220 lbs of sausage. I am not going to make that much sausage in years of work, maybe ever. But the packet goes bad fairly quickly once you open it. Also, the bacteria are suspended in a media of some kind, so that you have to use at least 1/4 of the packet to insure that enough live bacteria make it in. So I had to put in enough to do 50 lbs of meat in order to make 5 lbs of sausage. It's not going to hurt anything to put too much bacteria in, there's only so much dextrose to eat, but it's still expensive and annoying. Take a hint from the homebrew world and make 5 gm packets for us home hobbyists making 5 lbs at a time! Sheesh. Ok, end rant. I ended up using 1/3 of the packet for each of the batches, so I've still got 1/3 left over for something else in the near future.

One of the really great things I ordered in was this 25 lb meat lug. Food grade, fairly strong, very useful. So I diced up 7.5 lbs of pork shoulder and the 2.5 lbs of beefalo, then put the lid on and set it outside. It was about 40 out, so I figured that would keep it cool enough while I got the grinder set up.

I ran 5 lbs of the pork through the largest die for my Chorizo. It's supposed to be chunky and rustic after all. Then switched out for the 3/16" die, combined the remaining pork and beefalo, and ran it through for the Landjaegers. Spices were added and both recipes were mixed in up in my KitchenAid.

I stuffed the sausages into what I believe are 29 mm hog casings. They are really pretty small casings, but unfortunately I have a lot of them (had to buy a full butcher's pack) so until they're gone all my sausages will be a bit on the skinny side. C'est la vie.

Here are the Landjaegers on the right, all in links.

For the Chorizo I needed to make individual servings. So I stuffed them out in about 12-16" lengths, pulled the casing forward about 4", then stuffed another link. When I was done I went back, cut the links and tied up the sausages with kitchen twine. These were then hung in my kitchen for a while to air-dry and to get out of my way while I worked on the Landjaegers. You can see one is a bit off colored. It had the last of the Landjaeger still in the tube, so it's a half-and half-Landrizo.


The sausages needed to be fermented, and the bacteria really like a nice warm, humid spot. Something a bit hard to find in Seattle in the Winter. Also, the Landjaegers needed to be pressed, which helps them dry out later. The solution came to me thanks to my new meat lug.

I put the Landjaegers on the bottom, arranged in a single layer. Then I put a cookie sheet over the top of them. They need about 5 lbs of weight pressing them. Guess what, my chorizos weighed about 5 lbs! A match made in heaven. So I put them on top, and put in a bowl of water to keep the humidity up. Then on went the lid and into the oven they went.

But turning it onto the 'Warm' setting for a few minutes every now and then, I was able to keep the whole mess surprisingly, ridiculously, impressively close to 85 degrees for two days straight. At that point, I took the chorizos off and gave the landjaegers a break from the pressing. By now they had become somewhat rectangular, and though not as regular as ones pressed in a mold, they had a nice shape. Chorizos went back in and they all got a third day at 85. The whole kitchen smelled garlicky and fermenty.


Landjaegers are cold smoked, which apart from flavor gives them another layer of protection from mold. This presents a problem for me, as I only have a hot smoker. But I've been able to jury rig a solution using my Weber Smokey Mountain. By putting six lit coals in the bottom, and piling the smoke wood around them, I've been able to do a fairly good job of keeping the temp around or below 90 degrees. I say fairly good job because it is by no means perfect, but it works well enough.

After three days of fermenting I took the landjaegers out and hung them to air-dry for a few hours. They'd taken on a nice color, were somewhat rectangular now, and smelled really quite good already. I fired up the smoker and they went on for four hours. For wood I used hickory, maple, and alder. I also put some cheese on because, hey, smoked cheddar is tasty too and the fire was already going.


Careful drying is the really tricky part in making dry-cured sausages. Too hot and you encourage spoilage bacteria. Too humid and you encourage bad molds. Too dry and you get what's called Case Hardening. The outside casing of the sausage dries too fast, creating a hard barrier that prevents the inside of the sausage from drying properly. Since it never really dries out, something eventually starts growing and the inside of the sausage rots. Not good eats. I wasn't really worried because my sausages were so darn skinny, but still, this was uncharted territory.

I suspected that my basement cellar, where my wines, mead, cider, etc. were all aging away, would also work pretty well as a curing chamber. My experience has shown that it maintains a pretty close 60 degrees in the winter. On the hottest day ever recorded in Seattle it was only 74 in there. It's totally dark, so light won't spoil the fat in the sausages. It seemed reasonably humid, but I also put a bowl of saltwater in there just to help it out. Finally you need a bit of air circulation to help dry off the casings. I had a small fan from my old beer fermenting chamber back in Miami, so I plugged it in and aimed it near but not at the sausages to get some air moving.

I hammered some finishing nails into one of the beams and used pliers to bend them into a J shape. Then hung the chorizos off the hooks. The Landjaegers were in long chains, so I hung these off some hooks in the back of the closet. All in all I was pretty happy with the setup.

The basement smells really interesting now.

The chorizo gave a sort of tart, cured smell while the landjaegers gave a smokiness. That small room now smells delicious. Hopefully the airlocks will do their jobs and my wine won't end up smelling like sausages.

I figured it would be three weeks before the sausages were properly dried, but due to their skinny casings they were pretty much ready after about two weeks. I cut a chorizo open after day 10, just to watch its progress and check for case hardening. Still a bit mushy in the middle, but almost there. And no hardening to report. A couple days into it I did notice a few small mold spots on a couple of the chorizos. This was easily dealt with by wiping them down with a little white wine vinegar. Didn't come back.

The Big Moment

I'm very happy with how both sausages came out.

The chorizo has a really rustic appearance, and a great dark red color. As you can see it has a nice definition, with large white chunks of fat standing out against the red background. It has a good tangy flavor, garlic and chile are there too, with just a hint of smoke. It cooks up nicely, producing vibrant bright orange grease, but it's good raw too. This one went excellently in some scrambled eggs for breakfast. My only complaint is that it's not spicy enough. I need to ditch my older chile powders I guess. Next time I may put some cumin and Mexican oregano in as well.

The Landjaegers are excellent. Nice texture, good level of smoke, excellent spicing. I regret not adding all the Caraway just a bit, biting into one is a mini-flavor explosion. The sausage has a nice definition, small chunks of fat and a good distribution of spices. The smaller grind gives them a good texture, dry but not tough. Like beef jerky, but in sausage form. They're still weeping a bit of oil, I'm hoping that will stop eventually and isn't a bad thing. But I'm quite happy with them, and they have already made a good snack on an outing. And there are about two dozen more hanging downstairs. Summer is set.
Read more

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Brewday: 'The Theme From Titanic Is Now In Your Head' American Rye Alt

Ok, strange name. But Celene Dion is now scorching your neurons. And mine. Ugh. Anyways, I was feeling a bit nostalgic for one of the places in Miami that made there life bearable. The place where everybody knows your name. Well that is if, like me, you happened to frequent it at least once a week. I speak of Miami's best brewpub, one of the only places in town to get a good beer, my former home away from home, The Titanic.

Probably the single beer I drank the most there was Captain Smith's Rye. And rightly so. It's a great beer. Under the Titanic's first brewer, Jamie Ray (now at Montgomery Brew Pub in Alabama) it took a GABF bronze in 1999 and a silver in 2000. The current brewer Steve hasn't changed it much, and I don't even want to know how much of it I drank during my time there. Twenty ounce mug, five years...

So I was missing it a bit. And I had four pounds of malted rye in the stores. It also turns out, and I'm not sure how or why, that Jamie Ray made a version of the recipe that comes included with BeerSmith. How convenient! So I tweaked it to my system, modified things a bit, and got brewing.

The basic idea behind this beer is that it's a hybrid of styles. It's too dark, strong and hoppy to be a 'traditional' American Rye, and it's fermented with Dusseldorf Alt yeast. Though it is hopped like an Alt, it's also a bit strong, and has rye and no caramel malts. So it's not quite an Alt either. All I know is its a spicy, dry but smooth, 6%, amber rye/alt delicious bastard.

A note on brewing with Rye. As you may have heard, Rye is a bitch to brew with. The reason has to do with it being huskless, and with a smaller diameter kernel than barley. It will turn to goo in the mash, and unless you keep the sparge hot, and use some rice hulls, your mash will get stuck. It's also hard to mill, you need to adjust the rollers closer together to crack the kernels. But it's also kind of gummy, and if you move the rollers too close it will jam (and if you're me, the drill's torque will flip the mill over, spraying rye everywhere. D'oh!). Setting the mash bed took a long time, and I vorlaufed a lot of wort. Little rye chunkies kept slipping through. So it's not a bad idea to use flaked rye. Unfortunately I had malted. Oh well, needs must.

This was also a chance to try out my shiny new magnetic stir plate; a prize for taking 3rd Best In Show with Captain Slow's SEB at the Cascade Brewers Cup. I made a 1L starter of White Labs Dusseldorf Alt the night before. There's a small magnet inside the flask that is being spun by a magnet in the base, creating the vortex which introduces oxygen and keeps the yeast in suspension.

What a fascinating modern age we live in.

Brewday was somewhat eventful. First mistake, I must not have had enough coffee because I missed my infusion temp by ten degrees! Mashed in at 140. My only guess is that I misread my water level and put in 2.75 gallons, not 3.75. So I got some water boiling and had it up to the correct 150 within 15 minutes. No biggie. Second problem was just more of my not checking my freezer first. I though I had some Northern Brewers in the freezer, but it turned out that I had a different 'N' hop, Nugget. So I made some last minute substitutions. If you've got Northern Brewer, I'd add an ounce of that instead of my half ounce of Nugget. O.G. was 1.063, so it will be closer to 6.4-6.5% when it's done.

Brewday: American Rye Alt

5.25 gallons, all grain
Est O.G. 1.061, Act. O.G. 1.063
Est F.G. 1.015, Act. probably 1.013-14
Est ABV 6.1%, Act. probably 6.4-6.5%
SRM: 7
IBU: 27
  • 9 lbs Weyermann Pilsner Malt
  • 3 lbs Rye Malt
  • 1 oz. Chocolate Malt
Mash in at 150. Water modifications were 2 gm chalk, 2 gm calcium chloride. Mash out at 168 with an infusion. Sometimes people skip the mash out. I would not skip it on a Rye beer if I were you. Also, add a few good handfulls of rice hulls at knock out.

90 minute boil.
  • 0.5 ounces Nugget pellets @ 12.5% AA @ 60 minutes left
  • 1 ounce Stirling pellets @ 5.3% AA @ 15 minutes
  • whirlfloc at 15
Cooled to 63 and pitched my Alt yeast, White Labs 036. Some say to ferment Alts at 60-62. White labs says 65-69, or you risk stressing the yeast causing sulfur or premature flocculation. My house is 65. I figured I'd pitch a bit cool and it will climb to where it wants to be, somewhere in the mid-60's.

So it will get about 2 weeks to ferment, then a week cold and bottling. It probably should lager for a month to mellow. Problem is I want to get an entry off to the Puget Sound Pro Am in a month. I may pull just four bottles and lager the rest. Of course, my lager fridge is also full of sake and pilsner right now...
Read more

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

You Should See Bainbridge On A Full Moon...

I think the problem here, was that he was hunting without a license.

I remember the night I bagged my first 'Were. Those were the days.

"One thing about living on Bainbridge Island I never could stomach...all the damn werewolves".
Read more

Monday, March 22, 2010

Nettles: Metheglin


I had a quart of nettles leftover from that last round of foraging. What to do with them? As so often happens, my thoughts turned to alcohol...

You can make beer with nettles. In fact, it's been used as a flavoring for centuries, if not thousands of years. In ages past it was used in place of hops in Gruits, and in all kinds of teas and tinctures. More recently, H.F.W. over at River Cottage in England has revived interest with a recipe for Nettle Beer, that really is more of a "Country Wine" than a beer. I thought about making it, but ultimately decided against. I already had something ready to go. And I wanted something for St. Patty's, which was rapidly approaching.


I would make a Nettle-Spice Metheglin.

"What the hell is a Metheglin?", I hear the Interwebs scream. Metheglin is simply the traditional word for spiced mead. Traditionally, people would put all kinds of things into mead as a folk cure. One, because the honey and alcohol made it taste better and two, the alcohol and steeping allows extraction of various compounds that aren't soluble in water. Also, in medieval times, your local water probably had a lot to do with why you were sick in the first place and did not usually end up as a chief ingredient in any effective 'cures'. So we get the word Metheglin, from the Welsh for 'Healing Liquor'. The astute among you will have noticed that "Metheglin" sounds a lot like "Medicine". Well there you go. Now drink your metheglin! Is good for you.

I had a spare half-gallon growler of mead from last Fall's Purple Daze Melomel. You can see the growler in the back of the big carboy. The main batch is still sitting pretty there on the fruit, by the way. Seven months and counting. It's going to be so good. In 2013.

So step one was to make an infusion to blend in with the mead.

Into a pot with a quart of water went:
  • 1 quart of Nettles, blanched (about 3 quarts raw Nettles).
Boiled it for 45 minutes. Then added the spices.
  • Peel of one Satsuma, all white pith removed
  • Peel of one Meyer Lemon, pith removed
  • two coins Galangal
  • two coins Ginger
  • one nutmeg, quartered
  • one cardamom pod, smacked with the flat of a knife
  • two dozen allspice berries
  • one kaffir lime leaf
  • 1/4 oz hops. Sterling. In a tea ball, because they were pellets and I didn't want them getting everywhere.
Boil for another 15 minutes. Then strain and cool.

This was a lot of uncharted territory. I wasn't quite sure what the nettles would taste like, or which spices would dominate. So I got to blending. For blending you'll want:
  • spare honey to back sweeten if necessary
  • the zest-less lemon and satsuma
  • acid blend, and sulfites/sorbates if you're going for long term storage. I wasn't.
  • A good blending vessel.
Here's my setup.

You can see I carefully decanted the mead into a pitcher. The nettle mixture is on the left, looking like swamp water. Then it just became a matter of blending. A little of this, a little of that. The mead was on the sweet side, so no backsweetening was necessary. A little bit of the citrus juices really brightened it up. I used most of the nettle extract. Subtlety is nice in theory, but if you can't taste the spice it's not a spiced beer/mead. Let the spiced speak, but not shout.

Then it was just a matter of bottling. I figured that some yeast got in from the mead, and sure enough, a week by the heating register and it was 'petillant'. Which is, easily, my least favorite word in all of brewing. But a little carbonation helps in spiced meads, if lifts aromas up to the nose.

So what did it taste like? Quite good, I think. Nettles taste like spinach when just cooked, but boil them for an hour and they change dramatically. The best I can describe it as is arrowroot. Kind of bready and sweet. Weird. The citrus and spices worked out well. Nutmeg goes great with nettles. As expected, the cardamom is there, shouting above the din. One is certainly enough. The ginger and galangal were subtle, but in the background.

Unfortunately, the spice infusion was very turbid. And the resulting mead was a bit cloudy. Tasted fine, but was a bit unappealing visually. (Though I was actually hoping it would turn bright green!) As a result it didn't place when I sent a couple bottles up to the Cascade Brewers Cup.

Nevertheless, it did take Honorable Mention in the Mead Best of Show Round, out of over 60 meads. The crowd loved it too. Well, those lucky few that got to taste the last two bottles anyway. Honestly, a week or two would have settled it out.

Oh well. Next time...
Read more

Nettles: Pesto

Ugh, this was almost a month ago. Way behind. But I think there's also an appropriateness to this delayed writing, most of the pesto is still around. In frozen form.

Anyhow, nearly a month ago I went out again, paper grocery bag and gloves in hand, to harvest some more Stinging Nettles from a local park. They grow everywhere around here, and are an obnoxious weed. Still, I try to be choosy where I pick them. Too near the sides of trails? Dogs. Too far off trail? High chance of me getting tagged by either the nettles themselves or sneaky blackberries. So this day I picked a few near the main trail.

As I was working my way along a jogger stopped and asked me, "Hey, are you picking nettles?" "Why yes, yes I am." "There's a #$%&-ton of them down around that bend." "Thanks!" Sure enough that part of the park was rife with them. I've still not quite got a firm answer on the legality of picking in city parks, so I consider it my civic duty to eradicate some of this green menace from areas where say, children and the elderly might be: benches, scenic overlooks, etc.. Honestly, the park crews have to clean it out. I bet they'd be thrilled if someone else did it. Got tagged twice in the process, need to be more careful! So itchy! But sure enough, I soon had my grocery sack and was on my way home.

Washed and blanched, I ended up with about two quarts of ready-to-go nettles. But what to do with them?

Lang Cook of Fat of the Land never ceases to amaze me, and his post on Nettle Pops got my mind going. You make pesto. Then freeze it in an ice-cube tray. Voila! Little pesto pops that you can just heat up whenever you need to pesto something. Brilliant. So one quart of nettles became pesto. In a food processor:
  • 1 quart Nettles, blanched, drained and squeezed, and roughly chopped. Probably 3 quarts of dry nettles. I really should go by weight. Oh well.
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 1 cup toasted Pine Nuts
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic
  • a little lemon juice or wine vinegar to brighten things up
Blitz everything for 30 seconds or so, then start to drizzle in olive oil until it becomes the texture you want. I like mine a but chunky. A cup or so of oil should do it.

Once you've got it like you like, you can stick it in the fridge for a week or so. We chowed down on it with a simple loaf of bread, and I made a few simple pasta dishes with it.

But if you're thinking long term, you can spoon or pipe it into an ice cube tray. Each cube is enough to dress two servings of pasta pretty decently.

As a pesto it has all the right garlic, nut, Parmesan flavors, but not the 'basil'. I don't see why you couldn't put basil in it, other than it's not in season when nettles are. But I like it as it is, the nettles have a spinach thing that's mellow but nice. And very, very nutritious. And I've got a dozen Summer dinners half-done, ready in my freezer. Sweet, and worth the sting.
Read more

Sake Update III: Kasu


Sake Update III.

At the end of the last post, I'd pressed the sake and bottled some as nigorizake. The rest is sitting cold in my lagering fridge, and I'll rack it in a few days, pasteurize it, and let it bulk age for about two months. Then it'll get bentonite, filtering, repasteurizing, and bottling. Then drinking! In the meanwhile, I've got cleanup to do.

One of the fortunate side effects of making sake is the lees, or sake kasu. Kasu is composed of yeast, koji, spent rice and unextracted sake left over after pressing. Fortunately it is really useful in the kitchen, a lot like its soy-sister: miso. So I made a tasty weekend dinner for my lovely wife to showcase a couple of its various uses.
  • Kasuzuke Black Cod and Halibut
First up is my favorite, a very traditional way prepare fish: kasuzuke. The idea is that you make a marinade of the kasu, as well as some sugar, mirin and miso. You leave fatty fish (typically Black Cod, aka Sablefish or Butterfish) in the marinade for several days, then grill or broil it. The salt, sugar, and sake all work to cure the fish, extracting moisture and making it dense and flavorful. The kasu, mostly but not completely wiped off, caramelizes, making the skin crispy, sweet, salty, and very, very tasty. Here in Seattle, it is a staple at several restaurants, and you can buy it fresh and ready to go in the marinade at Uwajimaya, and at Ballard's own Fresh Fish Co., where I buy most of my fish. I've used the recipe Uwajimaya before, but this time I used the nearly identical one from Tom Douglas' Seattle Kitchen:
  • 1 pound Kasu
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 T light miso
  • 1/4 cup mirin
  • 1 1/2 pounds fish, preferably 4-6 oz steaks with (well-scaled) skin on.
Brine the fish in a quart of water and 2 T kosher salt for about half an hour. Then pat it dry. This will help it release water and be firmer and more awesome later.

I used a Black Cod steak, and a nice piece of Halibut fillet. Think fatty, firm fish not oily. Black Cod, Salmon, Halibut, work great. Heck I used Pompano once and it was great. Really killer fresh Kingfish (though typically considered very oily) might work too, if it was caught that day.

Combine the kasu, miso, sugar, mirin and a cup of water in a bowl and whisk together. In a pyrex baking dish or plastic tub of some kind, pour some of the marinade on the bottom, then place the fish in and pour the rest of the marinade over. Make sure the fish is covered. Then lid it or plastic wrap it, and into the fridge for three days at least.

Mmmm smells like sake.

After three days, you can go ahead and cook it. Or leave it there for a while longer, no worries.

Preheat your oven to broil. Spray a baking sheet or broiler pan with oil. Take out the fish and wipe off most, but not all of the marinade with a brush or paper towel. Arrange on the sheet and broil for 10-12 minutes, flipping halfway, until it's golden brown and starting to flake.

Serve toasty warm and dig in with chopsticks. The fish flakes nicely, and the kasu gives it an awesome sweet-tart-salt-sake flavor that it very unique. Just watch for bones, if you're not using a boneless fillet.

You can save and reuse the marinade a couple times. Just use your nose. If it smells pleasantly of sake, it's good. If it's growing fuzzies and smells like low tide, then ditch it, obviously.
  • Soup: Kasu jiru
Yep, just like miso you can make soup using kasu. There are a lot of recipes for it out there, some with enough ingredients to make a full meal. But I just wanted a side soup, like a simple miso.

So I made one up.

Step One in a lot of Japanese cooking is the dashi, fresh fish stock that is found somewhere in many, many Japanese dishes. Basically it's a quick stock of katsuobushi, (dried, fermented, smoked, and shaved Bonito) and kombu, (dried kelp). For this round I decided to go a little more on the fish route, and instead of using katsuobushi, I made iriko dashi.

Iriko, are dried tiny little sardines. They haven't been smoked like the katsuobushi, and so their flavor makes for a fishier soup, which I thought would go well with the kasu. The recipe for the dashi came from Elizabeth Andoh's Washoku, an excellent and beautiful guide to Japanese home cooking. I recommend it highly.
  • 15-20 small Iriko, trimmed (pop off the head, scoop out the guts as best you can. As you can see I kind of forgot to do this. I don't think it really hurt anything.)
  • 4 1/4 cups cold water
  • 10-12 square inches of kombu
  • 1 dried shiitake mushroom
Put everything in a pot and soak for 20 minutes. Then put on medium heat until tiny bubbles start appearing around the edges. Lower heat and keep at that level of simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes. Then strain. You could keep the shiitake and kombu for other uses, including another round of stock or in a dish. The stock is best when used fresh, but it will also keep for three days or so.

Now to make the soup. Put a tablespoon or so of kasu in a serving bowl. Add a dash of stock, then whisk to get the cold kasu warmed up and dissolved. Add a pinch of dried seaweed, wakame, if you've got it. Then ladle some more stock in and add a dash of soy sauce to counter the sweet kasu. Sprinkle on some green onions or, in my case, fresh chives. Done. Soup. Like miso, but more sake-y.

You could add cubes of tofu if you wanted to, and it would be very similar to miso soup. I was fresh out. I'll probably make a more complex soup later on.
  • Madrona Smoked Scallops
Ok, so this doesn't really involve kasu but I found some Sea Scallops on wicked sale and decided to try an experiment. The previous weekend we were up hiking the Oyster Dome trail and came across a few Madrona trees that were peeling their bark. I happily grabbed a small bagful and brought it home. Madrona (Arbutus menziesii) is also often called Madrone, or Arubutus, but I've always known it as Madrona. No matter. Point is it's a plant that was traditionally eaten by the native peoples of the area, and it's getting a new resurgence in cooking. The bark is most often made into a tea, though the tree produces edible berries as well. For example, see Hank Shaw's great posts over at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. I am covetous of his Madrone Tea Egg.

My thought was to try an wok smoke something with the bark, as you might wok smoke with tea leaves. It makes a good tea, what kind of smoke would it produce? Experiment time.

I had three large sea scallops, so I sliced them in half into six smaller scallops. More surface area for smoke, and twice the value! They went into a marinade of:
  • a tablespoon of mirin
  • a tablespoon of soy sauce
  • a teaspoon of sesame oil
  • a few minced chives
  • a bit of grated ginger
  • a bit of minced garlic.
The scallops marinated for two or three hours in the fridge. Then I washed them off, patted them dry, and left them to air a bit on a paper towel. A bit of a pellicle, formed from the cure, will help the smoke adhere later.

Put my wok on high, and put a folded over piece of aluminum foil in the bottom. Otherwise cleanup will be a royal PITA.

Next I took my veggie steamer, gave it a spray with some oil, and arranged the scallops on it. Soon as the bark started to smolder I set the steamer in the wok, put the lid on and turned down the heat to medium. Kitchen fan on full blast, I smoked the scallops for about 10 minutes until they were done.

Meanwhile I knocked up a sauce. I didn't know what the scallops were ultimately going to taste like, so I just got creative. Some decent homemade Ranch Dressing? Check. Medium-Sweet Soy Sauce? Check. Rooster Sauce (sriracha)? Check. Not bad. Not bad at all!

Arranged the scallops on a bed of the sauce, with a squirt of wasabi and some chives. Only four actually made it to the table, as two fell apart after smoking and were eaten by a hungry cook.

They were delicious, but not at all what I thought they'd taste like. Despite the heavy Asian influence of the recipe, the Madrona had a real hardwood smoke character that I reminded me more of barbecue. Honestly, you could totally give these a light dusting of BBQ rub before smoking and they'd be excellent. Or steam some duck or chicken, dust it with BBQ rub, then wok smoke it for 'BBQ on a Rainy Day.'

As it was it was still pretty great, for an experiment. Next time I'm inclined to try throwing other things on the foil with the bark. A Star Anise? Brown Sugar? Some whole Coriander and Cumin Seeds? Mmm possibilities...

Finally, to complete the dinner I made a quick salad, and steamed some rice with furikake on top. Served with the Nigorizake that gave it rise, the Kasu Dinner was a delicious success.
Read more

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sake Update II: Pressing Matters


The Sake Project continues.

The sake has been pressed! After three weeks of waiting I popped the lid off the bucket and got my first taste of it. Gravity reading of 1.000. We are go for pressing!

Of course I had to find a way to press several gallons of rice and proto-sake. Fortunately, I scored a couple nylon paint straining bags from Home Depot for about $3. They're designed to fit a 5 gallon bucket, and come with elastic bands around the opening. My only advice on this is once you get the bag secured around a sanitized bucket, secure it somehow. I started scooping the rice into it and it slipped off and made a bit of a mess. So just have someone hold it, or use some clamps or something while you scoop the rice into the bag.

Next you have to get the sake out of the mix somehow. My first thought was to let gravity do the work. You could just hang it and let it drip I suppose, like you would cheese. But it would take a long time and I'd worry about oxidization.

A word on contamination while we're at it. By my guess, the sake is at least 18% alcohol! So that in itself is protecting it. But on top of that it will be pasteurized, twice, before drinking. So I wasn't too worried about manic cleanliness. Just sterilize things and wash your hands really well. You're going to need them.

Next I tried using two cookie sheets to form a sort of press, using my body weight to push down on it. It worked fairly well, but was ultimately a bit ungainly. If I had a fruit press, or a proper cheese press, those options might work well. Ultimately what worked best was just holding it over the bucket and using one hand to squeeze handfulls of the bag. Eventually I managed to wring just over three gallons out of it.

I racked the sake from the bucket into a couple bottles, with the rest going into a carboy. These bottles would be nigori, or cloudy sake, bottled with the lees. This will make it a bit sweeter and more aromatic, and a bit chalky like rice milk.

Technically I guess it's Junmai Ginjo Nigori Genshu Sake.
  • Junmai: only water, koji, and rice. Not pressed with grain neutral spirits.
  • Ginjo: the rice was polished down to 60% of its original size.
  • Nigori: it's bottled cloudy, with lees from the pressing in the bottle.
  • Genshu: I didn't do a yodan addition of water to dilute the sake down to the normal commercial strength of 14-16%. It's full bore, 18% rocket fuel!
The carboy went into the fridge at 50, where it will sit for a few days while I get my Classic American Pilsners ready for lagering. It will then ramp slowly down to lager temp with them for a few days. Then I'll rack it off the lees, pasteurize it, bentonite it, and leave it to sit and bulk age for a couple months. Then filter it, bottle it, pasteurize it, and drink it!

This is proving to be a lot of work for not a lot of sake.

The bottles of nigorizake went straight into a pot of water on the stove. I slowly raised the water temp until the sake was 140 degrees, then capped it. This should pasteurize it and make its shelf life much longer. As I mentioned earlier, the sanitization isn't crazy important. But the lactic bacteria in the sake will still, somehow, find a way to make the sake sour. Also acetobacters could get in and vinegarize it. Finally, sake oxidizes really, really quickly. Heating it drives off the dissolved co2 and helps purge oxygen from the bottles.

In the straining bag I was left with a problem. Or, perhaps, an opportunity. There was nearly three pounds of sake lees, or kasu, in the bag. You could just throw it out, but why waste such a potentially delicious gift? Kasu is one of my favorite cooking ingredients. It's like miso, but with a very perfumey-sake aroma, and a bit of alcohol. The Japanese use it in place of miso in many dishes, including soups and pickles. However, the best use by far is as a marinade for grilled fish: kasuzuke. So I scooped it out, pressed it into a pyrex dish, and popped it in the freezer to help it set up.

So how is the nigorizake?

Pretty delicious! No real off flavors, though there is a bit of a lactic bite to it. Maybe next time I'll do the sokujo style starter, where you use straight lactic acid instead of bacteria in order to get a more controlled level of acidity. But iIt smells like sake, all the right ethereal perfuminess is there. It is strong though. I decided not to do a yodan dilution this time just to see what it's like at full volume. Next time I'll turn it down a bit, maybe 16%. Note: a side effect of dilution is that you make more total sake as well, so your effort goes farther. It's also pretty young, I think it will be better as it mellows in a couple months.

Can't wait to try the filtered version!
Read more

Your Morning Data

Article in the NYT presents this lovely chart:Culled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, watch as the prices for vegetables and fruits diverge from sodas, butter, and meat over the last 30 years. Go Soy, Corn and Dairy Subsidies! Also, notice that the price for fish is relatively the same? Despite increased demand and consumption? That's why we'll be the last people to enjoy wild Bluefin.

At least the price of Beer is relatively unchanged.

Ok, it's been a week of indolence and sloth. Time for some writing today!
Read more

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

RIP Mark Linkous

Just found out that Sparklehorse front-man Mark Linkous shot himself Saturday. It's A Wonderful Life is one of the most bittersweet songs ever written, and I've been a fan of Linkous' work from the first time I heard it about eight years ago. So by way of tribute, here it is:

The whole album of the same name is one of my favorites and well worth a listen, as is his most recent collaboration with David Lynch and Danger Mouse, Dark Night of the Soul.

Read more

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Bacon of Doom II

It was time for more bacon. Arguably, it is always time for more bacon but that's not the point. We were fresh out. It was time for more bacon. Bacon of Doom II.

(Maybe that's why the Cyber-Demon is so angry.... Someone stole his delicious belly.)

Since last Summer's Bacon of Doom had had come out so well I went ahead and ordered another pork belly from Sea Breeze, and a week later I showed up at the farmer's market to pick it up. This time around I didn't get the mighty proud iceberg of pork, it was a much more normal sized belly. It also happened that Liz, the farm manager, was at the market that day and so we all ended up having a chat about the pig. Turns out she'd named the pig Squeaker, since it was always so excited whenever food showed up. So I've come to think of this as Squeaker Bacon.

There may have also been a discussion of pig nipples (the skin was still on) but that's neither here nor there.

So here's the belly. As you can see, this time around 10lbs was pretty much a full belly.

The plan was to make three kinds of bacon. First would be five pounds of maple cured, smoked bacon. Next would be 2.5 lbs of dry cured spiced bacon. Finally, I'd go out on a limb and see what curing the remaining 2.5 lbs with honey would taste like.

So I divided the belly up as evenly as I could. One of the problems is that, depending on how you plan to use it, certain parts of the belly are better than others. For long strips, center cut is best. For lardons, cubes, etc you can use the ends and oddly shaped parts more effectively. Since that's how I use the dry cured bacon the wonky end ended up spiced.

The cure was 1/8 cup of the Ruhlman Dry Cure from Charcuterie, plenty of fresh cracked black pepper, some minced garlic, crushed juniper berries, crumbled bay leaves, dry thyme, some crushed grains of paradise, and dry marjoram.

For the maple cured bacon, the belly was coated with 1/4 cup of the dry cure and a half cup of maple syrup. For the honey bacon, 1/8 cup dry cure and 1/4 cup honey.

Each went into its own little bag and they went into the fridge. I'd recommend putting them in a 13x9 or on a cookie sheet in case they somehow leak a bit, which one did. Cleanup on Aisle 9.

They spent 8 days in the fridge, being flipped ("overhauled") every morning. Then I took them out, washed them off and left them to air dry while I prepped the smoker. Right before sticking it in the smoker, I decided to coat the honey bacon with a thick paste of honey and Dijon mustard.

I used a combo of about equal parts hickory, alder and maple to smoke the maple and the honey bacon. The problems began when I only had about 3/4 of a charcoal chimney full of charcoal. Being under-fueled I had a hard time holding 225-250, and as a result the bacon was, well, sort of cold smoked. But actually, I don't think it's a bad thing. It's salted and cured, and will be kept frozen until I need it. So the fact that it's not already cooked isn't a problem for me.

Otherwise, I trimmed off the skin and trimmed the bacon into more rectangular forms. Of course all the ends and scraps have their own bag, which is great for soups, chowders, etc. Then the bacon was sliced into about 4oz portions and all but one block was labeled and frozen.

The honey bacon gave me a chance to finally try out the deli meat slicer that I got for Christmas. The only problem was that it was a floor model and didn't come with instructions. So, as is natural whenever dangerous spinning blades are involved, I just winged it.

And shredded the heck out of my first few strips. So I threw the bacon in the freezer for about 45 minutes and tried again. This time it was much, much easier. So there you go, a tip.

The end result was pretty decent looking, minus the pile of shredded scraps in the corner. As for taste? The honey bacon is certainly good. No doubt about that. But was it particularly "honey" flavored? Not so much. Neither a failure, nor a wild success, just decent bacon from a local, happy, and apparently loud pig.

The dry cured bacon spent a few days in the fridge while I waited for an order to arrive from Butcher & Packer, then I hung it in the basement on my shiny new bacon hanger.

Unfortunately, a white mold seems to have taken up residence on it while it was in the fridge. It's not fuzzy, more the crusty kind like on a salami, so I'm not really worried. But I'd still prefer it not be there. So I gave the bacon a wipe down with some white wine vinegar and a coating of salt and pepper before I hung it. That basement room is holding a constant 58-60, and the humidity seems about right, but there's no airflow. Fortunately I've got a small fan that I can hopefully hook up to the light socket and get some air moving down there. Then we'll see. I've got some other dry cured things planned and I really hope this basement room works out. If the mold doesn't get under control soon, I'll wipe the bacon down again and then freeze it.

So there we go. 10 lbs of belly has made enough bacon to last me pretty well into the late Summer. Brilliant.
Read more

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Always Double Check Your Connections

Yep. Whole Pony Keg of stout gone, and most of a co2 cylinder.

My cloud of profanity is still hanging somewhere out over Puget Sound.

Can't wait to clean this up.


Firmly filed in the Don't Do This tag.
Read more

Update: Schwarzweisse I

So after 10 days in the primary at 60 degrees the Schwarzweisse was finished.

It's been a while since I bottled a whole 5 gallon batch. It's a great feeling of accomplishment when you are finished, like you've just laid four dozen happy little alcohol eggs.

The big questions though: how was the color and did it end up too roasty/astringent?

Color: pretty good, as you can see definitely on the far far end of the style. Still, not quite as dark as I wanted. Next time I'll use a whole pound of Carafa II and cold steep it.

Taste: At first taste it was dry and lemony, which was disappointing. But that was more because it was too cold. As it warmed up a nice banana/clove thing came in. In the back there's some malty caramels, but they're quite low. There's just a hint of toasty, but no bitter burnt. Not too shabby. My only complaint is there is a bit too much lemon esther. The curse of every hefe I've ever made. I may try a different yeast next time, but I've got one packet left of the Saf-06 so I think I'll try it again, not muck up the mash, and see if it tastes any different.
Read more

Monday, March 01, 2010

Brewday: The Great Classic American Pilsner Off

American Pilsner.

Could any beer be more loved, and loathed, than American Pilsner? Loved, because it makes up the vast, vast majority of beer sold in this country, and increasingly, the world. Loathed, because it has a reputation for being tasteless, bland, low-brow and unstoppable in its quest for total world beer domination.

It's hip to trash on American light lager beers when you're a homebrewer/beer snob. After all, we owe much of the current craft brewing movement to a rejection over the last 40 years of these mass-market lagers by small brewers and their supportive customers. Popular mass-market beers are bad, because they're popular and mass-market, while all the cool kids drink craft beer.

This contrarian stance seems a very human one to take. Many people start drinking fizzy yellow beer, then move on to more complicated styles as they get into brewing or are exposed to more craft beer. Your tastes grow up. "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways."

I was going to paraphrase that as "When I was a child, I drank as a child..." but that didn't seem quite right. The point is that these beers are something you move past as a regrettable proof of your earlier state of ignorance. Now you're a Big Boy and drink nothing but Double IPAs and Russian Imperial Stouts. You rebel, you.

Eventually though I think we come full circle. The fact is, American Light Lagers are very, very hard to brew. There is no room for error, nothing to hide behind. And it's a technological marvel that every can of Bud tastes the same the world over. Seriously, that's an achievement on par with the Moon Landing. So you begin to respect it, in a grudging kind of way.

But it's still, well, bland. But it is designed to be that way. The irony of American Lager is that the very height of the Brewing Arts is used to produce a beer that tastes as much like nothing as possible.

But it wasn't always like this. What if there was another way?

The Classic American Pilsner

The story of American Light Lager is the story of Railroads, Immigration, Prohibition, Class Warfare, Junk Science, Television, Advertising, War, Monopolization, Baby Boomers, the Growth of the Middle Class, Suburbia, and well, basically, the story of everything that happened in the last 150 years. In short, way too complicated for much discussion here. Suffice to say, many factors contributed to a race-to-the-bottom in terms of flavor. Bud-Lite today doesn't taste anything like Budweiser did, say, 120 years ago. In fact, the beer that built the fortunes of Messrs. Busch, Miller, Coors, and Pabst was a very different beast indeed.

So why not make one? After all, the joy of homebrewing is the ability to brew whatever strikes your fancy. Why not brew a Classic American Pilsner like Grandpa, or even Great-Grandpa might have drank when he was young?

Unfortunately, this beer is functionally extinct. What would such a beer look like? Much of the homebrewing revival of the style can be attributed to the writings of Jeff Renner, whose research and methods have been used for years by homebrewers resurrecting the style at home. (See The Revival of the Classic American Pilsner, Zymurgy, 2000; and Reviving the Classic American Pilsner - A Shamefully Neglected Style, Brewing Techniques, 1995.)

Traditionally, recently immigrated Continental brewers would have been faced with a challenge. Most barley grown in America back then was 6-row, meaning that the kernels grow in six vertical rows around the stalk, instead of just two as in 2-row barley. This created a problem, because 6-row has higher protein and thicker husks than 2-row, which means it could cause chill haze when used to brew the newly popular, and preferably clear, lager beers.

But 6-row had other tricks up its sleeve. Firstly, it was suited to a wider variety of growing conditions which meant that it was planted and thrives in many areas of the country. When malted, 6-row also had the benefit of increased enzyme levels over its 2-row brother, meaning it could easily convert high percentages of unmalted grain adjuncts. The higher percentage of husks also meant that lautering was fairly easy, even with gummy adjunct grains. Substituting in a percentage of corn or rice meant that the protein levels of the 6-row could be tempered a bit, resulting in a clearer beer, while the cheaper adjuncts and ready availability of the malt saved the brewer money. Consumers also enjoyed the mellow sweetness of corn, and the crispy dry quality of rice. It is a match made in heaven that continues in the American Light Lagers and Malt Liquors of today.

So what's the difference between those beers of yesteryear and today's beers? Well, there are several important technical differences in the industrial brewing process, but I think the most important difference is hops. The German and Czech brewers tended to hop these beers like a Continental Pilsner, making the hops noticeable not just as bitterness but also in taste and aroma. Traditionally they would have used Cluster, America's historic variety, but also possibly some of the Noble varieties, either imported or cultivated for the brewery. But over the years this hoppiness was slowly chipped away, until now most American Pilsners are about 1/3 as hoppy as their forebearers.

So in a nutshell, a Classic American Pilsner (or CAP, as they're often affectionately called) is a light lager, made with 6-row malt and high percentage of corn or rice, probably a bit stronger than modern lagers, and hopped at a level similar to a German or Czech Pilsner.

Well, I'm up for a challenge and my New Years Resolution was to brew lighter, more drinkable beers, so I figured I'd give it a try. I set out to write a recipe in BeerSmith, trying to use as many ingredients that I already had as possible. Most notably the beer would be based on 2-Row pale malt, because I had a 50# sack of it.

Another important step would be the use of First Wort Hopping. An ounce of my hops, normally destined for late addition for flavor and aroma, would instead go into the freshly run-off wort and kept hot (175-180) for the duration of the sparge. This results in a smoother bitterness, and retention of aromas and flavors that would normally be boiled away in a conventional hop addition. Why this works no one really knows. One theory is that the hop oils and acids attach somehow to other molecules in the wort prior to the boil, which helps them survive the process and emerge on the other side. Personally, I chalk it up to magic elves. Thank you magic elves.

Water is really important for pilsners, and Seattle's water is, big surprise, basically rain water. In the winter our water comes from rainfall, and in the summer it's melting snow. So it's well suited to brewing Pilsners. Just a little calcium chloride would be needed to drop the pH into the right area, and lactic acid to lower the pH of the sparge and knock-out water.

But as I worked on the recipe I quickly got in over my head, mostly due to mash schedule issues. Protein rest or no protein rest? Multi-step, or just infusion? Cereal mash or flaked corn? Decoctions? Argh...

So I sent a post out on AHA Techtalk to see what others thought and ended up kicking a beehive. I received a lot of advice, opinions, uppity snide comments, and well meaning suggestions, much of which was contradictory. Finally I even heard from Jeff Renner himself. Based on his suggestions I put a recipe together, but I was still somewhat attached to the first one I'd cooked up by myself.

The Project - A Tale of Two Pilsners

In the end I decided that I would brew two CAPs. One I would make as simply as possible. 2-row malt, flaked corn, single infusion. The other would more or less follow the recipe in Renner's 2000 Zymurgy article. 6-row malt, corn grits in a cereal mash, with multiple rests following the traditional American Double Mash schedule. Yeast will be the same. Hops the same. Water treatment the same. Fermentation temp the same. Carbonation levels, etc.

It was to be a battle of convenience vs. authenticity. Historical Perspective vs. Modern Sensibilities. At the end, I'll take a couple growlers to the club meeting and see what people think. Was it worth the extra effort? Is one more stylistically accurate, but the other tastes better? Well have to wait and see.

Brewday #1: CAP 'n Trade 2-Row Classic American Pilsner

This recipe was designed to use ingredients I already had, and to be a simple and easy as possible.

Classic American Pilsner, All grain, 5.25 gallons, 90 minute boil
Est. O.G.: 1.057
Est. F.G.: 1.015
Est. ABV: 5.6%
Act. O.G.: 1.060, overboiled so diluted down to 1.053 with distilled water
Act. F.G.: 1.011-1.012
Est Act ABV: 5.5%
32.5 IBU
3.7 SRM

Grain Bill:
  • 8 lbs 2-Row Pale Malt (Great Western)
  • 3 lbs Flaked Corn
Mash: Single Infusion Mash at 150, then infusion to 170 for mash-out. Added a couple handfulls of rice hulls with the mash-out infusion, and 0.1 ml lactic acid to the knock-out infusion water.

Mash Water treatment: 3 gm Calcium Chloride. Campden tablet to remove chloramines.

Sparge water treated with 0.5 ml lactic acid. Collected 7.5 gallons for the boil.

The Boil:
  • 1 oz Domestic Hallertau, leaf, 4.7% AA. First wort hop.
  • 1/4 tsp Calcium Chloride at 90 (to help buffer pH of boil)
  • 1 oz Domestic Hallertau, at 60 minutes.
  • 0.25 oz Domestic Hallertau, at 15 minutes.
  • Whirlfloc tablet at 15 minutes.
After 90 minutes, cooled to 53 degrees using my plate chiller. Settled cold break in carboy for two hours in a chest freezer set at 40 degrees, which you can see in the image to the left. Racked off of cold break into another carboy and oxygenated wort. Pitched two packets dry SafLager-23, rehydrated in warm water with some GoFerm 15 minutes prior to pitching.

Fermenting in a fridge set to 48 degrees. I'll pull it out and give it a D-rest at 60 degrees for three to four days after 9 days fermenting cold. Then lager for 6 weeks at 34 and keg.


Nearly flawless brewday and super easy. Had my first boilover in a long time though, too busy blogging... :) Minor mess, need to pay more attention! Vigorous boil to encourage protein break, actually overboiled wort and had to dilute with distilled water. My tap water is cold right now, on full blast it was chilling to 53. Not too shabby, was shooting for 48-50. Mash was easy, but flaked corn tends to float, which made seeing the sparge water level over the grain bed a bit difficult.

Procedure for first wort hopping: collected a gallon of wort in a 5-gallon bucket, then mixed in the 1 oz. of leaf Hallertauer First Wort Hops. Continued to collect wort until I had three gallons in the bucket. Transferred to the kettle and kept wort and hops around 175-180 degrees as best I could. As the rest of the wort continued to sparge I kept adding it to the kettle at 1 gallon intervals, keeping it hot, until I had the full boil volume and began the boil.

So there's the 2-row CAP. Two days later I invited some interested members of my homebrew club over and we brewed the 6-row CAP.

Brewday #2: CAP 'n Trade 6-Row Classic American Pilsner

This one is designed to be a far more traditional CAP than the 2-row version. The recipe is based on Jeff Renner's 2000 Zymurgy article. It utilizes a cereal mash, which gelatinizes the starches in the corn grits and acts as a sort of decoction to pull the main mash temperature up for an alpha rest at 158. Otherwise pretty much everything is the same: water, hops, boil time, minerals etc.

Classic American Pilsner, All grain, 5.25 gallons, 90 minute boil
Est. O.G.: 1.052 (6-row has less extract yield than 2-row)
Est. F.G.: 1.013
Est. ABV: 5%
Act. O.G.: 1.050 (Underboiled, ended up with closer to 5.75 gallons)
Act. F.G.: 1.010-1.012
Est Act ABV: 5.1-5.3%
33.8 IBU
3.7 SRM

Grain Bill:
  • 8 lbs 6-row malt
  • 3 lbs Corn grits (Two 20 oz. packages was only 2 1/2 lbs. It was like hot dogs and hot dog buns, I wasn't going to buy another box just to get that last half pound. So I used a half pound of coarse cornmeal instead.)
The Classic American Double Mash

This was the mash schedule I worked from. I printed it out and posted it in the kitchen so it was readily available.
  • Prepped 3 gallons of water at 114 degrees with 3gm of Calc Chloride and some campden tablet.
  • Time 00: In a large pot, mash in 3 lbs corn and 1 lb 6-row malt with 5 quarts of 166° prepared water to hit 153° F
  • Time 15: Mash in main mash of 7 lbs 6-row with 1.4 gallons at 114° to hit 104° F
  • Time 20: Bring cereal mash to boil
  • Time 30: Cereal mash boiling
  • Time 35: Add about 1 gallon boiling water to ramp main mash to 144-146° F
  • Time 65: Add cereal mash to main mash, adjust temperature as needed to 158° F. Have boiling water and cold water ready for this.
  • Time 95: Ramp to 170° F mashout. Should take about 1.5 gallons of boiling water. Include .1ml lactic acid in water.
  • Time 105: Begin sparge and lauter
That was the plan anyway, and it went more or less like that. I had to use some boiling water to adjust temperatures here and there. Most notably, as the cereal mash got thicker I turned the heat down, and so when I added it to the main mash it wasn't as hot as it could have been. As a result I had a hard time hitting the 158 degree target and got closer to 154. Oh well. Iodine tests confirmed conversion at Time 95 so I mashed out and began the sparge. Included .5 ml lactic acid in the sparge water.

Sparge, boil, hopping, cooling, pitching and everything else was the same as the previous beer. As a result of the 6-row and a less rolling boil, I ended up with an O.G. of 1.050 and 5.75 gallons of wort. Oh well, at 5% ABV it's still stronger than Bud-Lite...

So there we have it. A tale of two pilsners. They are fermenting away, and the next post will be in two months or so when they've been lagered and kegged. Then comes the taste test. Will authenticity triumph? Will modern malts make a cleaner beer? Will both be good in their own different ways? Most importantly: did I brew a clean lager?

We'll find out.

UPDATE: The Results
Read more