Tag Archives: homebrewing

candy break

Enough heavy stuff.  Who wants candy! (all raise hands)

Anti-Hero Caramels with Himalayan Pink Salt, to be exact…

IMG_1947

IMG_1948
I take commissions.  Bring me your favourite beer and I’ll make it into candy.  Noms!  Or, you know, we could just drink it.  It’s all good.

happy new year!

Closed out the old year by checking off one neglected project off the list- finally bottling that wildberry wine that’s been wanting attention for, oh, way too long.  As usual, the thing I put off went relatively quickly and painlessly- a good reminder to just do it already!

IMG_20131231_155534 IMG_20131231_174236

Before and after…

IMG_20131231_181559

Tart and tangy, but with a kick!

New Years Eve was bittersweet- spent the beginning with some neighbors, making veggie tacos, and then some doubles ping-pong (I’m terrible but it’s fun no less).  The fella brought Loki to the studio, and I took the crazy pup for a walk and let him romp with Zeus in the yard to get the two of them some much needed exercise, then each got a chicken leg for a New Year’s treat.  Back to the studio for some chinese takeout with the fella, as was always our tradition.  Then I rang in the New Year with a solo cup of champagne and a beer in the basement bunker of our neighbors at VK farm as fireworks and semi-automatics went off all over the west side, then when I deemed all the bullets had come down, called it a night and walked home for bed.  Had hoped to go up north to a friend’s party, but the weather just wasn’t conducive to that, and I’m trying to take it easy on myself as I’m still getting over being sick a couple days ago.

We’re getting our winter’s biggest snowfall for New Years… it’s gorgeous, although not the best moving weather… was hoping to get the rest of my stuff into the house today and tomorrow but will have to roll with the punches and drift with the snowdrifts, and focus on organizing what’s here and trying to get a toasty fire going.  Sounds terrible, I know.  Cheers everyone, and here’s hoping for good things in 2014!

Lye Pit, Ether, Fu!

So as usual, not all went according to plan in the artful brewing session, but all mostly went well… as always I owe the Fellow infinite thanks for going along with my crazy ideas without too much protest… he did all the hard work, and I (wo)manned the clean-up shift. Thanks to the fellow for his continued patience, and thanks to those who stopped by, to those who sampled the frothy medieval-style fresh beer in the big green bucket at the closing party, and to those who will try the finished beer in the new year that is currently bubbling away.  Photos from the day coming soon…

Highlights from the closing party included the summoning of the White Nile Crocodile, a fearsome beast with mighty riddles, conjured from the Lye Pit by the horned and wizened Al.  Nasty ashes from the junk mail burning two days previous still swirled around the bonfire pit as two modern-day hipster lumberjacks displayed feats of strength, laboriously sawing through a stack of over $50 worth of perfectly good pallets and torturing what looked like a serviceable crosscut saw with more than a few nails along the way.  The fellow and I looked on, somewhat bemused at the rhythmic soundtrack that their efforts lent to our friends’ crocodile performance… the first riddle (answer: gentrification) standing out in stark relief to these art-students chopping up what would have been a good week’s work for any scrapper in our neighborhood.  We wondered then what they were going to do with all that good kiln-dried wood, and recalled our kitchen last winter, a horror of sawdust, splintered wood and nails as we broke up pallets, fed them to the hungry wood stove, and huddled near their warmth. 

I had those small cares rocked away by the next performance, where I got the chance to climb into a resonant coffin that swayed gently as two ghouly femme fatales bowed and sawed away at the electric-cello-like instrument built into the top lid.  It was oddly soothing, and i enjoyed the brief sound bath. 

Good show, New Capitol.  It was odd last night to not have a bonfire to head to just down the street… though the smoky echoes remain, deeply embedded in the fibers of my Carhartt jacket… but I hope that you guys are enjoying a return to normality and regular sleep.  Cheers!

From the Fellow…

So, you know how in the “About us” page, I mention that the fellow may chime in from time to time?  He’s often a man of few words, but brewing (or sometimes, a few brews…) gets him going!  I’m looking forward to this chance to “take the show on the road” and brew in a different space… I’ve still got a lot to learn, so I’ll be taking notes!  Cheers…

“Hey Friends,
Sorry for the last minute invite to an artful event that we’ll be doing tomorrow from 6am to 2pm. 12/12/12

Yes, I will have coffee going.  Everyone is welcome to bring fermented
beverages to drink and share.

As part of the 24hours for 25days closing day of the New Capital gallery space located alley track side of 3114 carroll, I’ll be keeping the show going in the upstairs gallery with a live multi-split-batch-party-gyle brewtacular starting at 6am.  I’m supposed to be done and cleaned up by 2pm so that the next artist can setup their show.   I will be teaching whoever shows up what I know about brewing with the focus on growth and change via the brewing process and regeneration of yeast (and hopefully very minimal other singlecell monsters:)

Its the last day of New Capital officially hosting gallery hours and they have been open for the last 24days 24hours a day..with around the clock shows etc.  The general theme is transformation, rebirth and change.  Personally I haven’t had time to brew for the last 2mos or more and am looking fwd to it.

If you wanna bring anything to ferment as part of the interactive
growth of our exhibit, i have lots of yeast starters going and the
brews created tomorrow will be drank on new years day as part of a
follow up event at the gallery for the rebirth of the year.

Please feel free to come tomorrow even if you can’t make it during the 6-2 slot.  There will be lots of really fun things going on including an awesome people puppet alligator show around 7 (or 9?) and a big bonfire to warm the evening.

basically you stand on carroll looking at the tracks at the furthest
east part of the building and then walk north through a giant gate
when you are almost to the tracks you will see a bombed out loading
dock, and in that general corner area there are two doors, one pushes
open and one opens to a wall.  You’ll figure it out.  Bring a friend!”

New CapitALE update

Image borrowed from thefoodlunatic.wordpress.com as my camera is still on the fritz.  Technology hates me.

Image borrowed from thefoodlunatic.wordpress.com as my camera is still on the fritz. Technology hates me. Careful though, his blog will make you HUNGRY.


Figures… in an exhibit dedicated to transformation, our time slot has shifted! Didn’t you expect that? The fellow is taking the day off work and we’ll be keeping “brewers’s hours”… we’re brewing an all-grain batch inside the gallery (yay! should be toasty in there!) from 6am till approximately 2pm tomorrow to coincide with the afternoon installation schedule. The gallery is at 3114 W. Carroll Ave; look for the 24hrs/25days sign on the chainlink gate east of the building… the gallery door is in the back.

We’ll be back in the evening for the alligator performance, and you can visit the beer there or at our studio (not sure yet where it will be fermenting? Depends on the temperature in the gallery… it’s a perfect 62 in our studio right now).

We made three eherlenmeyer flasks of starter culture last night with three different yeast blends, so if you want to join in the fun, bring in a clean gallon jug or carboy, an airlock and stopper if you have them, and some sort of sugary liquid to ferment! Tej (Ethiopian honey wine)? Mead? Cider? Cyser? Funky fruit wines? Jailhouse hooch? Let us know if you’re bringing something and if you need a vessel or airlock! The starters are whirling away on their stir-plates and making millions of billions of yeast babies that are ready to get to work!

Fermentation, Transformation, and Retreat

http://www.nwedible.com/2012/11/giveaway-farm-curious-wide-mouth-recap-fermenting-kit.html

I like this idea… but don’t like buying stuff when I can alter something I already have to do the trick. I’ll post pics of the experiment when my camera is back online (I’ve recently been hit with a double-whammy technology mutiny of laptop-meltdown and camera-on-strike… hopefully a new battery will bring the camera back, but the laptop has been pronounced dead. Memorial services forthcoming, after I return the refurbished hard drive that did not resurrect it. Sigh.).
So… plastic jar lid + holesaw + drill should = bungable mason jar, $0. Hooray! Time to go raid the airlock and stopper drawer! Yes, we have one of those. Or rather, two. A whole drawer of each. I know. It’s a sickness… I call it Hobby Disorder, or other more colorful but FCC-banned epithets when I’m frustrated with trying to impose order on our oft-chaotic and crammed-to-the-gills with mostly-useful-but-often-in-the-way-or-superfluous-stuff studio…

I dream of an uncluttered space but I don’t think it will ever happen, at least not here, and certainly not now. I look at craigslist ads for yurts the way some folks dream of a time share in the tropics- escape! Tranquility! Exotic destinations! For me that would be just a little fabric room out back that will have NOTHING IN IT… ok, maybe some candles and a tatami mat. A girl can dream, right? I’d take a strawbale studio too… I’m not picky. With a rocketstove cob bench and a desk in front, I would never have frozen writer’s fingers again!

www.thetinylife.com

www.thetinylife.com


Instead, for now I’ve got the Frigid Future Pantry Bathroom office (current temperature, a frosty fourty-eight degrees Farenheit, but it could be worse…)- a computer on a tabletop perched on the claw-foot tub, as it’s waay too cold to shower at the house till the spring. Thank goodness for our cozy studio two blocks away with a full bathroom… and also for lots of blankets, the woodstove, and buckets and buckets of scrap wood to burn to take the chill off…

But back to fermentation talk… we’ve got an exciting brewing event coming up next week… most likely Wednesday, 12/12/2012!, we’ll be brewing a batch of New CapitALE: to celebrate transformation, flux, and future festivities… the beer will be brewed and ferment at the New Capitol gallery (3114 W. Carroll) and will be kegged in time for the January 6th open studio! Stay tuned for more details about this delicious performance piece! Our dear friends (and one a future neighbor! we hope we hope…) will be rocking the crowd with a life-size Alligator puppet (A. is the head, and B. is the butt… delightful ladies both! And a damn fine alligator, I’m certain). They’ll go on around 9, and we’ll be brewing from 6ish till we’re done. Stop by! Celebrate the beginning of the world with us!

The kettle (almost) runneth over…

The fellow made a big ole batch of hopefully-sessionable summer pale ale on Sunday… and caught the long sparge just before it overflowed the pot. Whoops! Had to take a bit of that out to boil it, but we canned the rest in big jars for future yeast starters (time, plus one stir plate, one mini-carboy or Erlenmeyer flask, one packet of yeast, plus pre-canned wort means just one ‘spensive yeast smack-pack can pitch a big batch of beer). This one was a fridge-space maker… we just downsized a full-size commercial fridge from the studio, and the bale o’ hops bag was taking up lots of space in the *food* fridge. Most of those, bulk-wise, were the Zeus hops we harvested from the garden last fall, as they’re whole cones and not processed/compressed pellets like most of the “boughten” hops. So, into the kettle they went, along with several types of aforementioned hop/rabbit pellets (get it? Hop? rabbit? Oh dear). Looking forward to a hoppy beer in a month or so! It’s been pretty heavy on the heavy belgians and stouts for a while in the rotation… craving something light and palate-cleansing. This should do it!

Dog-date… Bella spent her first night at the studio with us last night, and it did not go so well. We don’t have a crate for her here, and she spent the night trying to claw above the doorknob (apparently she succeeded in opening a doorknob once or twice, and has not forgotten the sweet spot in the door is ABOVE the knob, not at the floor). That meant the towel/apron rack hanging on the door was in a heap in the morning… sigh. I’m hoping to hear back from a craigslist lead on a plastic crate for a backup studio dog-condo plus future dog-trailer conversion (I don’t think the doggyride trailer I bought before we got her is going to cut it- she’s a big girl, and needs a big girl trailer- an airline crate and a Bikes at Work trailer, most likely. The fellah has one of their old-model trailers, but it’s the 8ft version which is not so practical for smaller jobs- I’m savin’ my pennies for the wide 6ft model that you can make smaller by removing a segment… good for soap fairs and general hauling too, up to 300#’s!). The trailer bike is currently out of commission, as I snapped a spoke on Friday while locked to the cart-corral at the grocery store (this store doesn’t have bike racks, boo). Not sure if it was the 35 mi/hr winds, an errant cart pusher, or a car-love-tap, but I locked my wheel and frame to the pipe, and when I came out, one spoke was sheared off at the rim. I was able to ride it home, but that wheel needs serious TLC that I’m not qualified to give it before it goes anywhere else… doh. Cheaper than gas… cheaper than gas… in the meantime, I’ll be stealing the front wheel off the Peugeot, as I’ll need the trailer on Saturday to haul my wares to the Green and Growing Fair at the Garfield Park Conservatory, and hopefully to go fetch a second dog crate from Bucktown. *fingers crossed*

snow apples

Yes, I know it’s fifty degrees out and there are snowdrops blooming. It’s still January (and that’s weird, though I’m not complaining, but a little confused)… so let’s just pretend there’s a blanket of snow on that barren ground out there. It will be back, I promise.

How do you like 'dem apples?

We still have a little less than half a bushel of apples from the cider pressing (we picked through the best ones that were left at the end of the day and spared them from the grinder), still holding fairly well, though their skins have thickened slightly and some are turning wrinkly (we’ve tossed the few off ones to the chickens). They’ve been sitting in our spacious walk-in cooler/root cellar that is our currently unheated house (we have space heaters in the bathroom and under the kitchen cabinets, and heat tape on the pipes to keep them from freezing)… no sense really trying to heat the place till we have insulation, and walls, and other such fripperies, (not to mention the fact that the furnace really ought to have a proper chimney before we fire it up- the woodstove does a good job taking the chill off the place though). Besides, if we want to be warm we can go to the studio where it’s an even 60 most of the time (and thankfully that’s where the working shower is, even if it occasionally requires moving a keg or pile of soap stuff out of the way), and if we heated the house, then where would we store the apples, winter squash, and potatoes? The basement, right. We’ll have to remember that for later… and at some point unbrick the walled-off former root-cellar area under the porch stairs on the north wall of the basement, with a borrowed or preferably hungry feral cat handy to catch the rats that will almost certainly run out as that’s why it was bricked up in the first place. Lovely. Let’s save that one for another day, shall we?

But the point of this is those apples. They’re still good, but won’t stay that way forever. I sorted through them, set a big bowl of the nicest ones aside for eating and pies and decided to make sauce with the rest. I cored them all and chopped them roughly, weighing out 6 pounds in one pot and three and a half or so in another. Add a little water to each (roughly a cup and a half in the larger, and a cup in the smaller- double the suggested amount but i figured they’d have lost moisture in storage since they’re not waxed), a hint of good cider vinegar and cinnamon in the big pot, and a handful of frozen cranberries, a pinch of ginger, and zest and chopped flesh of one orange to the other. Simmer each, stirring frequently so they don’t scorch, until they’re nice and mushy. I added a tiny bit of honey, a couple tablespoons to each pot- the cranberry one probably could have used more but I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to get out the bucket to refill the jar. I’m planning to pair that one with pork chops or roasted meats anyway, where the tartness will be refreshing.

Kitchen slang for these is "trolling motor". This one is for a very very tiny boat.

I pureed the plain sauce with an immersion blender- these are so handy… we got a nice one for $20, I kid you not, from the food scientist who invented Cool Ranch Doritos (though he preferred the term “wizard” to scientist I believe) who was closing down his business awhile back- Alefellow found him while searching for stainless on craigslist and got some useful stuff- like a stainless tank with castors, that helped bring the world Coke slurpees, or something like that, but which we usually use for the far more humble but important job of chilling wort- put a secondary immersion chiller in it, fill with ice and water, and recirculate the hot water coming out of the copper coil in the big kettle with a high-temp pump, and you keep a LOT of water from getting dumped down the drain… and end up with a tank full of hot water at the end of it, good for washing brewing dishes, filling the mop bucket, watering plants, or just keeping around as a nice temporary heat sink in winter.

Cran-Orange top left, apple cinnamon, front and center.
Oh yeah, applesauce. Right. Ladle into clean jars. I used half and quarter pints (eight and four oz) so I won’t have to repack them into smaller containers for lunches- kinda like those snackpak things, but refillable), check for air bubbles and run a spatula around the inside of the jar to dislodge them, wipe the rims, put on the lids that you fish from the bowl of hot boiled water with a handy-dandy magnet on a little plastic wand- take that, food wizard! (or tongs, or your quick fingers if you were a cook, chemist or moonshiner, or otherwise lack feeling in your fingertips- I think of the scene from “My Stepmother is an Alien” where she reaches into the pot on the stove each time I do this and laugh a bit). Tighten down the rings (tight, but not too tight- any trapped air needs to be able to escape after all) and stack them into your preheated canner- boiling water bath or pressure works, just make sure you sterilized your jars first by boiling to be on the safe side if you’re not using a pressure canner. Close the lid, vent the steam for 10 minutes if pressure canning, or wait for your water to come up to a vigorous boil if not, and start your timer. Kill the flame when it beeps, fish your jars out of the boiling water bath if you used one (jar lifter tongs are really nice here, though regular ones do in a pinch) or let your pressure canner slowly cool down- don’t open it until the dial reads zero, or no steam escapes when you tap the weight, depending on which kind you have of course). Processing times and a more concise but scientific description of method can be found here:
http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_02/applesauce.html

Ta Da! You're done. Let 'em cool, and remove the bands for long storage. Label them so you don't forget what's in there or what year you made 'em... although I'm sure we'll go through these pretty fast.

So that’s all there is to it! I can cross that off my to-do list, and refer back to this next year when it seems overwhelming and I’m trying to do two or three times as many or more. You don’t even have to do it all in one go if you don’t have time- make the sauce the first night, throw the whole thing in the fridge (make sure you use a nonreactive, aka not aluminum pot if you’re storing it this way), pull it out the next day, back on the stove, get it good and hot again all the way through, and proceed as if you’d just done hours of work. Lots of canning jobs can be broken down this way, and some are better if they are (canning stock or anything meaty and saucy that wasn’t super lean- then instead of skimming fat you can just peel or scoop it off the top once it’s cold and it won’t keep your jars from sealing later).

Apple Ciderin’ Workparty

OK, aggies! It’s on. (actually, it WAS on… this is the invite and recap from Cider Pressin’, 2011… we will hopefully do this again next year, so stay tuned if you missed it!). We had a lot of questions. Now we have solutions!

So, we have the makings of a “whizbang” grinder (new garbage disposal and small stainless sink from the ReBuilding Exchange, small tabletop with opening to mount the grinder… just need to mount the disposal, wire a cord, and test it) {CHECK}. We also have a sweet lunker of a screw-driven fruit press that I’ve been itching to try out! We have big mesh bags to line the press (these are retired, after repairs will be usable for hop bags and such, but even the jumbo brewing bags were too small for the press and thus kept bursting at the seams. Save yourself $5 and the hassle and stitch up the hem and sleeves of old tee shirts, if you’re doing this at home).

We have a source of apples- Molly Breslin from Earth First Farm (owned by Tom and Denise Rosenfield) in Michigan will provide us with organic cider apples! If you missed the pressing, you can buy their apples and their cider already pressed at a few places around town… check their website for more information: http://earthfirstfarms.com/ ! She can deliver them to the Logan Square farmer’s market… I’m going to order our apples Tuesday the 24th, so let me know before then if you’d like to reserve a bushel or two for the pressing! You can pay me back the day of the workshop… I’m ordering 3-4 for us for the workshop (unless enough other people want apples- you should get 2-3 gallons of cider per bushel- bring a new bucket or jugs to get it home!). I’m planning to make 5 gal of hard cider, drink some fresh, and maybe try some vinegar if we get enough? We’ve got buckets of honey, so I think a cyser is also in order! I also plan to can applesauce with a half-bushel or so- that could be another workshop if folks are interested? It’ll probably be nippy, so a the first gallon or so should definitely get mulled… maybe on the woodstove if it’s extra chilly!

And we have a date: Sunday, November 6th, rain or shine (we have a pop up tent we can press under if the weather is anything like today). 11 AM-?
Location: Alewyfe Farm (the red brick cabin). Email me if you need the address!

Bring a snack to share, warm clothing, and if you have them, your shoveling muscles- in the interest of future pressings, we have two apple trees that have spent the summer in large pots- they need to get heeled in (or planted if we determine their ideal spots?) before the ground freezes. Also, we have bees, so though they’ll probably be mostly tucked away for winter, they might be interested in apple pulp… heads up if you’re allergic. We’ll have some homebrew on hand (Trappist blend with Logan Square crabapples from last fall) and if I pull the taps now so it’s not gone, a little bit of the hard cider I made last year with Seedling Fruit cider- dry, tart and tasty! Knowing me there will also be some eats…

Please RSVP… that way I can tell the chickens how many deviled eggs we’ll need.
Also, if we have more willing hands than apple jobs, and folks are inclined, we’ve got tools and there are tons of things to do! We’ve got a “barn” that needs raising (a shipping crate that needs stilts to stand on and to get tarped… fences to hang… mulch to move… branches to chip… but mostly we can stand around and have fun figuring out how this apple thing works- washing, chopping, grinding, pressing, and sampling!

We got through 12 bushels on the group press date in about as many hours- should go a lot faster next time now that we know what we’re doing, and have a feel for how fast to feed the apples without overheating the grinder! To all who came, thanks for your willing hands and good cheer… hope to see you again next time!