Habeas Brulee » Homebrew http://habeasbrulee.com Sun, 17 Mar 2013 03:04:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.21 Pear Liquor http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/12/19/pear-liquor/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/12/19/pear-liquor/#comments Tue, 19 Dec 2006 13:24:48 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/12/19/pear-liquor/

Dave and I are members of the Park Slope Food Co-op, where we each do a two and a half hour work shift once every four weeks in exchange for the right to shop. Sounds crazy, maybe, but I can walk three blocks from my apartment and find fresh turmeric root, fresh galangal, curry leaves, organic everything, and incredibly inexpensive Scharffenberger chocolate. That’s worth a few hours a month of physical labor.

A few months back, we were stocking produce when Dave decided he had to buy a big sack of Stark Crimson pears. The problem with working with produce is that at the end of your shift, you know exactly what is freshest and ripest and best in the store, and you have the time to shop then and there. Those pears came home with us.

Dave rinsed them, chopped them up into approximately 1″ chunks, and threw them into a big mason jar with some cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans. He added just enough vodka to cover the contents, then closed the jar and left it in the pantry for a month or so, taking it out and shaking it occasionally. Once it tasted strong enough, he strained out the pears and spices, and added sugar syrup to sweeten the liquor.

We like to leave it in the freezer for a while before serving, as you would limoncello, so that it has a chance to thicken and chill. It is one of the best things to ever emerge from our kitchen. Sweet, rich, intensely flavored – neither of us tend to enjoy alcohol, but we can’t stop sipping this liquor, and he has another batch in progress already.

Also, did I mention that I have a new camera? The Canon 30D. It’s my first digital SLR (oh, let’s be honest – it’s my first SLR, period). These are among the first photos I took with it when it arrived last night. The photo of the liquor was taken with the Canon 100mm/f2.8 Macro lens, and the photo of Dave protesting (yawning, he says) was taken with the Canon 50mm/f1.4 lens.

They’re already better than anything I could do with my old Canon PowerShot S400 (what I’ve been using up to this point), and I still haven’t really figured out how to use this thing yet.

I love the new camera set-up. I want a better tripod and more lenses already.

I’m having a hell of a lot of fun.

http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/12/19/pear-liquor/feed/ 11
Lemongrass Saffron Soda and Ginger Ice Cream Float http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/05/27/lemongrass-saffron-soda-and-ginger-ice-cream-float/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/05/27/lemongrass-saffron-soda-and-ginger-ice-cream-float/#comments Sat, 27 May 2006 20:52:32 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/05/27/lemongrass-saffron-soda-and-ginger-ice-cream-float/

Sugar High Friday #19: Ginger It Up! posed a real challenge for me. You see, I love gingery sweets. I make them all the time. I’ve posted about one here already, my ginger rum churros with milk chocolate dipping sauce. I use ginger in my apple pies, my ice creams, everything. And I hate using old recipes for food blog events.

I almost made ginger mousse, but time is hard to come by lately, and this isn’t really the month for extensive experimentation. I’ve never made a non-chocolate mousse before, and it may take several attempts to get it right. But I have brewed soda before, and there are few things easier to put together than homemade ice cream.

This is an easy treat to throw together; it requires mostly pre-planning and patience. I went over my old notes from when I made habanero ginger ale a few years back, and adapted it into lemongrass saffron soda. (It was going to be rhubarb soda, but for the unavailability of rhubarb in the area on Monday. It almost ended up as lemongrass apricot soda or lemongrass currant soda, but saffron really turned out to put the lemongrass in its place with a dignified firmness that nothing else was able to provide.)

The important thing to remember when making ginger ice cream is that you have to use fresh ginger, not candied ginger. The one time I used candied ginger in an ice cream, it had a jellied texture and tasted like canned tuna fish. But fresh ginger, oh, that works just beautifully.

Lemongrass, saffron, ginger, coldly fizzing together! It is hard for me to be patient, but it is so worth it in the end.

Lemongrass Saffron Soda
5 half-liter bottles of water (2 1/2 liters total)
2 C granulated sugar
12 stalks lemongrass
2 tsp cream of tartar
3 large pinches saffron (threads)
1/2 packet champagne yeast

Remove the roots and grassy bits from the lemongrass, leaving only the white and pale green portion – should be the bottom 6″ or so of each stalk. Cut these into 2″ pieces and bruise with a mallet or rolling pin.

Close each bottle immediately after emptying the water into the pot, and keep the bottles safe and clean. You will need them again soon enough.

Bring the water, lemongrass, and sugar to a boil, then simmer until quite lemony. Remove the lemongrass with a slotted spoon. Stir in the saffron and cream of tartar, and simmer until the tastes blend together. The saffron should deepen the flavor, balance out the lemoniness, and make everything taste less sweet and cloying. If you feel like you’ve been simmering for too long without the flavors really coming together, just add more saffron and simmer until it works for you.

Set up another pot of boiling water, and use it to sterilize a ladle, a mug, a spoon, and a funnel.

Let the soda cool to around 100°. Lining the funnel with a coffee filter, filter and pour about 1/2 C of soda into the sterilized mug. Stir in the champagne yeast with the sterilized spoon, and set it aside.

In the meantime, empty the pot you used to sterilize your equipment, and filter the remaining soda into it using coffee filters and your funnel. This should take enough time to let your yeast get its start in that mug. Once all the soda has been filtered, pour the yeasty soda from the mug into the rest of the soda and stir until it is evenly distributed.

Fill the empty bottles (you did keep them nice and clean, right?) with the soda. Screw the caps on very tightly – I use teflon tape (the sort usually used by plumbers) to improve the seal. The better the seal, the more carbonization and less alcohol you will end up with. I’m not particularly good at this step, so my sodas always end up mildly alcoholic.

Remove the labels from the bottles, and re-label them yourself with the date and contents. Place them in a cool, dark place for about a week, or until they start to really scare you. Check in on them every day or two in order to gauge your fear quotient.

I use plastic bottles when making soda because if they explode, at least there won’t be glass shards all over the place. The pressure can build up enormously as the soda carbonates, so explosion is a very real concern. Don’t place these in the cabinet where you keep your fancy linens. Do check in on them at least every other day.

At first, you will be able to squeeze the plastic bottles easily. After a day or two, you may notice the bottles becoming firmer to the touch. Soon you won’t be able to squeeze them in at all. Eventually, the shape of the plastic will deform as the pressure forces it to bulge outwards. Once a formerly bloopety plastic bottle becomes smooth, that’s when I get scared.

Once the bottles begin to scare you, put them in the fridge. The cold will slow the fermentation process almost to a halt, and you will be safe. At this point, your soda is ready to drink.

Just be careful when opening the bottles.

Ginger Ice Cream
About a 6″ knob of ginger
2 C cream
1 C milk
2 vanilla beans
1/2 C sugar

Scrape the vanilla beans into the cream. Peel the ginger and chop roughly. Bring the cream, ginger, and vanilla beans just to a boil, stirring all the whole, then remove from heat, cover, and let steep for at least 15 minutes. Strain into a bowl. Whisk in milk and sugar. Cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic is touching the surface of the liquid so that a skin doesn’t form, and place it in the fridge to cool. Follow the instructions on your ice cream machine for the next step.


http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/05/27/lemongrass-saffron-soda-and-ginger-ice-cream-float/feed/ 15
Homebrew Vinegar http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/03/09/homebrew-vinegar/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/03/09/homebrew-vinegar/#comments Thu, 09 Mar 2006 05:02:07 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/03/09/homebrew-vinegar/

I checked in on my everywine vinegar tonight, and gave it its weekly libation of wine. I have begun to think of it as a monster to whom I must make sacrifices, a beast I must ply with wine in order to keep it drowsy and slightly less likely to kill.

I feed it from open bottles around the house every week or so, trying to pour the wine down the side so as not to sink the layer of mother of vinegar at the top. Sometimes this works partway, and half the mother sinks, and is overgrown in a few days, as in the photo above. Sometimes it fails completely, and I fish out the sunken mother to use for making new vinegars, or to give away. This week I sunk it with half a bottle of cabernet that had already begun to turn without my help.

Ideas in Food is one of my favorite food blogs to read for sheer inspiration. They rarely post recipes, but their ideas are incredible. (Still, I must confess, when I tried out their recipe for hot ice cream, it was a complete failure, and I have no idea what to do with all the leftover methocel food gum. (Anyone want to trade something random and fun for it?))

So, when they posted about making their own vinegar, I just had to try it myself. I am an acetic acid fanatic. I still remember first discovering the way vinegar can be used in savory sauces, in desserts, in so much more than just salad dressing. And now that I have a ton of homemade vinegar, I’ll be exploring that even further.

Vinegar is made by allowing a culture of acetobacter aceti to grow in your alcohol. These bacteria consume the alcohol and produce acetic acid, which is the essence of vinegar. It helps to have some mother of vinegar to start with, which is nothing more than a slab of acetobacter aceti. (I’d also be delighted to swap slabs of mother for random fun stuff.) If you can’t get some, go to your local gourmet market and pick up Braggs organic apple cider vinegar. (It hasn’t been pasteurized, and should still have some floating strands of live mother of vinegar in it.)

Mix equal parts wine and mother (or Braggs) in a large, wide-mouthed glass jar. Cover the mouth of the jar with a double layer of cheesecloth secured with a rubber band around the rim. Leave it in a warm, dark place – sunlight and cold are both deadly to the necessary bacteria. As more of the alcohol is converted into vinegar, you can feed it more wine to keep the process going. This won’t work with hard liquor unless it is watered down with something else, as too high a concentration of alcohol will kill the bacteria.

Mother of vinegar forms a layer at the top of the vinegar in order to get air and to protect the vinegar underneath. If you wet it when feeding your vinegar, it is likely to sink. This is fine, because a new layer of mother will start growing across the top soon enough. Once your mother sinks, the best thing to do is to salvage it and mix it in with more wine or juice to start a new vinegar going, or pass it on to someone else who wants to do the same.

When I feed my colony, I pour the wine along a flat wooden stirrer in an attempt to have it hit only one side of the mother. Sometimes this works, and I end up with only a partially sunk mother. Sometimes it fails.

Every so often, I siphon off some of my vinegar into bottles to let it age further. I use a funnel lined with two coffee filters to filter out most of the mother. I don’t pasteurize my vinegars, so more mother sometimes begins to grow in them, particularly when my seal is faulty. This is not a problem – it is safe to eat mother, and skimming it off before using the vinegar isn’t much of a hassle.

I have a jar of maple vinegar going at the moment as well. Again, just trying out something mentioned in Ideas in Food, I mixed together maple syrup, rum, sauvignon blanc, and a few slabs of mother of vinegar that I’d grown in my everywine vinegar. It’s coming along nicely, and I taste it every so often to see how acidic it has become. It has a sweet sharpness to it already, and I’ll be bottling it soon. I can’t wait to experiment with it.

http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/03/09/homebrew-vinegar/feed/ 2