Sunday, October 31, 2010

oh dear the cider

difficulty rating: pint
we started some hard apple cider as one of the wine experiments and since then i've done it a couple of times. it is by far the easiest booze i've made and it's very tasty. something like a cross between mead and beer. it only takes a month and i even got good results with no-name brand apple juice and brown sugar. the first time i got drunk on this i woke up the next day not hungover, still drunk. it's a bit harsh and beer-y at first sip but is mellow a the second sip and soon tastes like more, as in, i want more of that. you simply take a gallon of good apple juice from the green grocer (comes in a nice sterile glass jug which is now your carboy), pour out a little to make some space, add a cup and a half of sugar(white or brown or whatever), and a pkg of champagne yeast from the homebrewing store. shake the crap out of it, top up with the reserved juice to an inch and a half from the top if needed, then replace the lid with a balloon that you've poked a few holes in. leave it in the closet for 3 weeks, then siphon it into pop bottles (sterilized with bleach and soap, rinsed very well. they can take the carbonation, wine bottles can't) leaving the sediment at the bottom out, and add another cup of sugar. cap it and leave it for another week. ta dah! chill it before serving and go start another batch, you'll want more. i did a 4 gallon batch in a water cooler jug (sterilized) with no-name apple juice and brown sugar and it turned out just fine too. you can use one pkg of champagne yeast for up to 5 gallons of cider so the 4 gallon one cost me around $20 and gave me 8 2-liter bottles. pretty damn good i say! i haven't measured but i'd say the alcohol content ends up around 10%, certainly higher then beer but not quite as high as some wines.

Friday, October 8, 2010

bwhaha goat cheese and sourdough!

difficulty rating: rolling in her grave
i love goat cheese. i love sourdough. i hate that they're both fairly expensive. nearly anything you make at home is better so why not try these too?
the goat cheese is stupidly simple. you just heat goat's milk to just boiling (stir constantly, watch carefully), remove from the heat and add vinegar to curdle, then drain (in cheesecloth or an old pillowslip) and add salt. i used 2L of milk to 1/4 cup white vinegar and a tsp or two of salt. this turned out a little dry (read: kinda rubbery?) so i'm going to stir in a little whipping cream i have leftover to add a bit of smoothness to it but it was still wonderful on the fresh bread with some red wine.
i've tried sourdough before but was never able to produce anything edible. this time i kept on the starter and fed it every day for three weeks till it was good and healthy. you can make your own with a cup of water and a cup of flour, stirred together in some kind of container that lives on your counter. to feed it you dump out half (or use half) and add about a half a cup more water and flour. i never bother measuring anymore. it lives in a jar. i'm calling him jeremy. he's my kitchen pet. all the recipes i've tried before led to bread that didn't rise or didn't taste like anything or gave me a nasty stomach ache. apparently there's some tricks to this:
1)give up on the measuring. you shouldn't be doing this unless you already know how to make bread and if you do know then you are perfectly capable of tossing in "that much" until the dough looks and feels right
2)be patient! it takes at least 3 hours for even the most active starter to rise your dough and the longer it rises the better the flavor will be. you can even put it in the fridge overnight to do it's second rise and then finish it in a warm environment the next day
3)give it a nice warm place to grow. like your oven that you turned on to the lowest setting for 5 min with a pot holder under the container so it doesn't get too hot. heat kills yeast, cold makes it dormant. for it to make bread you want it in a warm-sauna or just-above-body-temp environment.
4)don't tear into it immediately out of the oven! the wild yeasts are still active and will make you sick. give it a good 30-45 min to cool down first. it will still be warm, don't worry.
the "recipe" i did was pour 50-75% of my active starter into a bowl, added a bit of warm water (maybe half a cup?) a good splash or two of oil, half a palmful of salt, a palmful of sugar (makes yeast grow faster), and stirred it up, than added flour and stirred and kneaded until i had a solid, elastic, slightly sticky dough. i let it rise in a greased bowl for 3 or 4 hours, then shaped the loaf and put it in the fridge overnight (i don't think this made much of a difference to be honest), next morning it hadn't risen much so i put it back in the warm oven for a few more hours, till it was good and rounded over the lip of my loaf pan, then i turned the oven up to 375 for 35 min. it didn't sound hollow when i tapped it but it was getting pretty brown so i turned the heat down to 325 and baked for another 10 min, then let cool for about an hour. this turned out lovely but, like many breads made with basically just flour and water, it lacked richness. next time i'm going to add warm milk instead of water and maybe an egg and butter instead of oil to give it a nicer rich quality, kinda like my favorite buttery buns recipe but with a sourdough flavor. there's lots of ways to do this so don't let anyone tell you that it must be perfectly precise. sourdough takes time and effort and experience but it is satisfying and healthy. anyone who knows baking will tell you that off-book homemade sourdough is fucking hardcore.
i also have two different sour cream experiments a-brewing so i'll let you know what works best. and did i mention that the homebrewed hard apple cider turned out AMAZING? i have a 4 gallon batch brewing for samhain but i'm using different juice and sugar so we'll we how it differs. if it's not as good and/or i can't get the simple mead to cooperate in time i'll be making a 4 gallon batch with the organic apple juice and regular sugar to be drunk at yule