Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How to Make Brandy #3

 Once your must is fermented after two weeks, strain it through cheese cloth. Then put the wine in your still, and seal the joints with rye dough. Fill the chamber holding the "snake" with ice. Heat to 90 degrees Celsius. Then watch the clear liquid pour out. About 20 quarts of must gave 15
liters of wine, minus pomace, and in three 3 liter runs of the still, 1.5 liters of clear alcohol. So it was probably 10-12%. It's VERY strong now, I don't know what percentage, but more than 40%. And tastes like the grapes. Then put it in your well soaked barrel. Wait at least a year. Maybe more. That slow enough?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Ketchup Chips

These do look a little prosaic. Dehydrated tomato slices, right? Well, a little more. For those of you who like the flavor of ketchup, and might use it more often, if it didn't make bread soggy. These are seasoned with the same flavor profile as ketchup. The key it turns out is a little brown sugar and some clove. They are actually quite fetching just on their own, rather tart. I sliced them paper thin and completely utterly dessicated them, so they're crunchy. I just put a few on a turkey sandwich. Delightful. They could also be powdered and sprinkled on a salad, or anywhere you might want that flavor but not the goop of ketchup.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fall Awakening

When the ginkgos shed their lacy yellow fans, one might be tempted to succumb to melancholy. But the kitchen tells me otherwise, this is the season of birth and renewal. Here in The Valley, when the first rains drench the parched soil, the bacteria and molds awaken from their secret crevices and sweep through the house. Anything on the counter will ferment in a few days. There is the tub of must bubbling furiously and reeking of alcohol. A ginger bug dances lightly in a glass jar to make ginger beer. Green apple juice is doing its own thing, I'm not sure yet what. There is a new sourdough starter, just 4 days old and already piquant, waiting for an appropriate name. We tend to take our cues from the trees who go so obviously dormant. But pay attention to the little creatures, at least here they are happy and buzzing after a long dry summer.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Brandy #2

Within a few days of the crush, the must will begin to bubble and will give off a faint aroma of wine. It smells absolutely luscious at this point. Feel free to taste it now too. But don't forget to push down the cap twice a day. This is all the skins and pits which rise up to the top. I just pushed it down and mixed it in. The skins will give color, tannins and flavor to the must, so you want to leave them on for the whole two weeks. Though of course the color will be gone once it's distilled, the aroma and flavor of the grapes will come through in the end. As long as you don't distill it many times and strip it of all flavor!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

How to Make Brandy

In the next few posts I will explain how to make brandy. You must start with grapes. Doy. Pick them off the stems and nasty bits. This took a few hours without machines. 20 quarts. But do leave the grapes whole on the skins and pits, for flavor. This is where ALL the flavor happens. Thanks to Elke who gave them to me from her backyard! I think they're ZIN. Very sweet. Shriveled a bit. Late harvest, right? So next I will crush them by hand NOW and let them ferment naturally with wild yeast. Whatever is already there. Push the bubbly top down a few times a day. Then take to the still. That's next in a few weeks. This is so exciting. And I have more grapes. Maybe I'll take them to class tomorrow to let them do it all. Is there any reason not to do this yourself? Even if you have to find some grapes elsewhere? The only investment is a still. Next time. Same Bat Channel!

Friday, November 8, 2013

History of Alcohol Class

So I have been writing about food for about 25 years, and teaching food history about a dozen or so. And somehow I've always been able avoid thinking about consuming whatever I'm writing about. A survival strategy. In fact I've so successfully managed to separate food at work from hunger that I never eat lunch. Just breakfast and 12 hours later dinner.
But for some reason the history of alcohol class I'm writing now is completely different. After writing about some spirit for a more than a whole day, then talking about it, there is nothing I want more than to drink it. Wednesday was cognac. Monday was whiskey. YES, and I had to have them all. Monday with be absinthe. You can see what I was doing today! Am I really that impressionable, or just a garden variety dipsomaniac? I don't even like vodka. Really. No flavor or aroma. It's just watered down grain alcohol. What's the point? So what could have possessed me to buy this? The passages from Tolstoy and Bulgakov. Listening to the folk song about Stenka Razin who got drunk and drowned his new Persian bride, and dredging up my freshman year's worth of Russian. And you know what, I still don't like it, but it must be consumed. хорошо?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Whatever is in the Fridge Challenge

Sometimes you have no choice but cook whatever the hell is in the house. Freezer, extraneous bits from the back of the cabinet, odds and ends refrigerated. This was polenta and fresh corn blended into a blini with egg and milk. Then shrimp in coconut oil, only because there was nothing else. Then leftover tomato I put up a few weeks ago made into a quick sauce. Some cilantro. It all went surprisingly well together. Maybe this is the way to cook, being constrained by whatever is around.