Friday, May 28, 2010

Sake Update 5: Filtering and Bottling

The Sake Project is finished! It's taken four months and it's finally in bottles.

After aging in bulk for five weeks it had cleared fairly well.

But I wanted it clearer, and here I made a bit of a mistake. I mixed up about two teaspoons of bentonite and 2/3 cup boiling water. Mix well, then let it sit for a couple hours minimum, and mix again. It doesn't want to mix at first. Then into the sake and swirl it around. It will take a few days to a week to re-settle. Honestly, I think it was clearer before I put the bentonite in. So my suggestion for next time is to bentonite it right after it goes into the jug. That way it'll have a month or two to settle.

Then it went into the filter. It tasted fine unfiltered, but hey, why not make it more complicated? I have a gravity-fed Vinbrite filter which works well, if very, very slowly. Really it's only good for about two gallons max, so it worked well enough for the sake.

Yes, the humble washing machine really is the homebrewer's friend. The filtration, slow and obnoxious as it was, did however produce a very clear sake.

Then into bottles and pasteurized again on the stove. I ended up with 16 twelve-ouncers of filtered, and another pint or so of unfiltered sake (towards the end I got tired of waiting for the filter).

So how is it? After all this work, is it any good?


It's really pretty good. Melon and pear in the nose, sweet rice/grain, with of course a strong alcohol note too. Too strong, next time I'll dilute it down to 16% ABV. Just a bit of a spice, cinnamon? A bit of lactic there as well.

Upfront the flavor is sweet, there's rice there, almost a caramel flavor, and a nice smoothness to it. Then it moves into a rush of warm alcohol, and ends on a tart, lactic dry note. If there's one complaint it lies here, just a bit too much lactic acid. I blame the natural sour mash moto. Next time I'll try adding straight lactic acid instead and see what happens, maybe it will mellow that aspect. Still, with the exception of that lacto bite, this is pretty much commercial grade sake. Not bad for a first try!

But it's going to be a while before I make another batch.
Read more

Spam Sushi

So I ended up cooking a Hawaiian themed dinner for my mother-in-law's birthday. A perfect excuse to make a special classic of Hawaiian cooking: SPAM Musubi. Easy, portable, tasty, spammy... hey why not?


It's easy to make. Step one is to make rice. Short grain is better, about three cups full. Once it's done you can dress it up with a little rice vinegar and mirin if you want.

Next: SPAM! Un-tin your spam. Slice into eight even slices lengthwise. Fry em up in a pan with some soy sauce and a little brown sugar till golden brown and delicious. Or use sweet soy sauce like I did.

If you've got a sushi press, great. I didn't have one. So we're going ghetto style here. Cut the bottom off the spam can, trying to minimize any sharp edges.

Get a sheet of nori and slice it in half. Lay the nori on on a cutting board and put the spam can in the middle. Grab a ball of rice, put it in the can, and tamp it down as best you can. Then sprinkle it with some furukake (a Japanese mix of sesame seeds, seaweed, and so on). On goes a slice of spam. Then another ball of rice, tamp it down. Then carefully remove the can. Use some water to wet the nori, wrap it around seal it shut. Done.

A can will make eight rolls, which is quite a lot actually. And they're pretty filling. But they seem to keep well enough for a couple days.
Read more

Garden Update: May


My how time flies. It's been almost a month since the last post. No real excuse. I cooked a few things that weren't really exceptional. Then Seattle Beer Week, ahem, intervened. We had a mushroom expedition that was a total bust. Haven't brewed anything due to a current surplus of homebrew (lagers finally coming home to roost). Honestly I haven't felt much like writing these last few weeks. But it's time to get writing again.

First up, I think I'm going to start doing a monthly garden recap. It'll help me keep a record of what grew where and when, what worked and didn't, etc.. That way next year I can plan accordingly.

Above you can see one of the real success stories so far. Purple Mustard Greens. We planted four and they're growing like crazy. Seems every day I come out and it's shot out another two foot leaf. Also, after one minor caterpillar attack in the first week it seems that nothing is interested in eating them. Does a good job of shading the lettuces too. Definitely planting them again.

The lettuces we planted from starts are doing well. We've been pulling one or two a week for salads. My mesclun mix that I started from seed is still very small, and very sad. Could be the weather, they grew fine when we had a few days of sun but they seem to hate the cold and wet. But I think something is up with the pot they're in, though I'm not sure what. Next time I'll start them indoors.

The radish leaves keep getting bigger and bigger, but don't seem to be setting radishes yet. They should be ready to go any day now, but aren't.

Green Onions: Slow. Very slow. I think the soil dries out a bit too quickly on top of the row. I planted another round in front of them, down at the base of the row. We'll see how they do.

The Yard Long Beans have sprouted. Five for five. W00t.

The Potato Project is going along swimmingly, though it makes the yard look a bit rednecky. I may have planted too many seed potatoes in the grain sack, but it does seem to be draining well. The cardboard boxes are holding up well enough, but we moved them to this spot in the yard so they 1) get maximum sun, 2) are near the mound of leftover dirt, and 3) won't need to be moved again until harvest. The tall thin box shades the leaves pretty heavily. We'll see if the increased mounding pays off in the end.

The tomatoes are doing well. However, my penny-conscious cloche is a bit flimsy in the impressive wind and rain we've had lately. Next year I'll rig some PVC pipes. Also: these went in when the first starts showed up at the farmer's market. Now, though, the starts in the market are three feet tall, with proto-tomatoes already growing. I'm jealous of dry, warm, sunny Eastern Washington greenhouses. Maybe I should wait a couple more weeks next year? Or will the increased root growth from early planting pay off in the end? We'll see.

The Ruby Spinach is doing very well and we've started chowing down on it. We made a round of Swimming Rama with the Ruby Spinach and Purple Mustard Greens last night that was fantastic.

The shallots and leeks are plodding along. Sweet Peas are climbing and have started flowering. They need more sun though, and the weather isn't cooperating.

The Bok Choi and early planting of Mizuna were disasters. Pulled them and replanted new things. Too cold? Not enough sun yet? Replanted mizuna seems to be doing well so far.

Seeded this month: basil, sage, radishes, pickling cucumbers, more mizuna, more Hakurei turnips, lettuces, thyme, more green onions, yard long beans.

Hops. The hops need more sun, but are doing ok given that it's still only May. The Chinooks had been lagging but seem to finally be going now. Going to trellis them this weekend. The Willamettes are toast. Re-potted, gave them a month, no sign of anything. Somehow died over the winter, too damp perhaps? Going to dump them and use the pot for cucumbers. Fortunately the new Tettenanger rhizome has already broken the surface. Aphids and caterpillars attacked the Centennials. Water and soap to treat. Hateful little green bastards... Brown tips on the leaves of the Centennials and Cascades, either water issues (the pots are too small) or iron deficiency. Time to fertilize them again probably.

Final note: poor bed planning. I wanted to put the beds flush against the fence and the garage, but there's a buried concrete foundation that made that impossible. Now grass has grown quite high behind the beds. I'll have to come up with some way to control that, even if it's just me and a pair of scissors. If the grass goes to seed I'll never get it out of the beds...
Read more

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Chive Blossom Vinegar


My chive plant overwintered just fine and is already flowering. So just for kicks I picked a handfull of the flowers and stuck them in a bottle with some white wine vinegar. A week later it looked like this:

What a fantastic neon-pink color. As for taste, it's garlicky vinegar. Goes great in salad dressing.
Read more

Brewday: All Aromatic Oktoberfest


So this last weekend was the annual AHA Big Brew and I had a couple of my fellow homebrew club brewers over for a brewday. The idea behind the Big Brew is that clubs across the country all get together and brew the same recipes on the same weekend. I liked the idea of trying a 100% Munich beer, and my lager fridge had just cleared up, so I went for the Rocktoberfest recipe. But I decided at the last minute to use MFB (Malteries Franco-Belges) 'Special Aromatic' malt instead.

Special Aromatic is made in Belgium from French barley, using a special process that keeps the color light yet heightens the grain's maltiness. Rumor has it that it can convert itself, but I'd never seen anyone use 100% of it. So I figured I'd give it a try. It wasn't in BeerSmith's malt index so here's the details:

  • Potential: 1.038
  • Color: varies a bit from 4.5 to 5.5 SRM
  • Dry yield: 82%
  • Coarse/Fine difference: 1.5%
  • Moisture: 4%
  • Diastic Power: 32 Lintner
  • Protein: 11%
As for the recipe, I tweaked the Big Brew recipe a bit to accommodate my system and to get the best use of my hops.

6 gallon, All Grain
Est OG: 1.057. Act OG: 1.061 (so I added distilled water to dilute it a bit).
Est FG: 1.014. Act FG: probably 1.015
ABV: 5.6~5.75%
SRM: calculated to be 7, but kettle caramelization probably got it to 9 or so.
IBU: 20
  • 12 lbs MFB Special Aromatic (100%)
Mash in at 151. Special Aromatic has enough diastic power to convert itself. Barely. So it will probably take an hour or so to convert. Use iodine tests to check. Mash out at 168. Water modifications to the mash: 2 gm chalk, 2 gm calcium chloride, 2 gm epsom salt, 2 gm salt.

Now to make some dextrines. Take the first gallon of the runnings and bring to a boil in the kettle or a pot. Get a rolling boil going and go for 15 minutes before turning off the heat and resuming the sparge.

90 min boil. Used 2 oz Domestic Hallertau (leaf) at 4.7% AA.
  • 0.75 oz @ 90 min (first wort, basically)
  • 0.5 oz @ 60 min
  • 0.5 oz 20 min
  • 0.25 oz at flameout
Whirlfloc tab at 15 min. Mineral Additions to Boil: 4 gm chalk, 4 gm calc chloride, 4 gm epsom salt.

Yeast is Wyeast 2124 Bohemian Lager. Made a 1L starter on the stir plate, gave it two days then cold crashed. Decanted sulfury, nasty beer off the top, repitched into another starter for another day and a half or so. Cold crashed again, decanted again, before pitching. Fermenting at 47 to start, which is a bit cold. As it goes along I'll let it rise to 50-52. Then it will get 6 weeks, maybe two months of lagering. Beer has a really nice color and clarity so far.

Considering the chaos of the Big Brew, the brew went pretty well. Only problem is that as Spring marches onwards my ground water is heating up, so the wort only cooled down to 60 degrees. I gave it two hours in the fridge at 38 to settle the cold break and cool it down a bit more, then racked, aerated and pitched. Left the fridge at 40 overnight to help cool it even more. I really need to get a new Stopper Thermowell.
Read more