Archive for September, 2009

#29 Deb’s GF Ginger Beer

September 25, 2009

Raining, raining, raining…

Couldn’t pick a better day to stay inside and make up a brew. Plus, I really needed to get on with it, seeing as the supplies of the previous GB were running low, and the warmer months are coming on.

I stripped the recipe right back to basics, after my over-spiced previous attempt. This also takes advantage of ingredients that are easy to get a hold of:

  • 2kg organic Ginger, chopped.
  • 3x lemons (I actually used 1 standard lemon, and 2 Lemonade lemons, which are sweeter and more like a yellow, sour orange…)
  • 1kg dark brown sugar
  • 200g Dextrose (Coopers, available at any supermarket)
  • 300g Maltodextrin (aka Corn Syrup, or brew improver, also available in any supermarket. Coopers also do a Brewing Sugar, which is a mix of maltodex and dex. Not sure of the ratio, but if you were to use this, use 500g).
  • 2x cinnamon sticks
  • 2tsp Irish Moss (natural copper finings – you can usually find finings in the homebrew section of supermarkets also)
  • 4-5g Yeast Nutrient (diammonium Phosphate; use 1g per 5lt. This is something you may need to get from your local HBS. You need this if you are not using malt, as there is not enough nutrient for the yeast cells to munch on, nutrient which is normally present in malt. If you don’t need to make it gluten-free, then try using malt instead of the other sugars; it will taste more like beer with ginger however, so there is a definite taste thing happening here also.)
  • 1x packet Morgans ale dry yeast (this was left over from a kit. Other wise, I think I would strongly recommend Safale US-05).

Chop the ginger (I use the bamix) and the lemons (peel & all), and stick it in a pot with lots of water and boil. I let it boil for a couple of hours. I then drained the liquid, added more water and boiled more. The idea is to get as much of the ginger flavour out of the solid as possible. Oh, and strain it – you don’t want solid dregs in your barrel! When I finished this process, I had about 5 litres of a gingery soup.

I then add the cinnamon and brought to a gentle rolling boil. Added the Irish Moss (instructions on how much to use and when to add will usually be found on the packet) – finings are optional, but they help you end up with a crystal clear brew at the end of the process. With this stuff, I needed to add 1/2 hour before the end of the boil.

I then added the sugars, stirring so as not to let any of it clump or stick to the bottom (this will burn the sugar and affect the flavour). Corn syrup (maltodextrin) is used to add more body and head to your brew. If you are making beer from grains, this is usually unnecessary, but I find it useful in GB’s, Ciders, and Meads. Its not a fermentable sugar, but will increase the original gravity of the brew.

Once this has boiled for long enough (in this instance, 1/2 hour was enough), I took the pot off the heat and let it cool. Since I will be making between 20-25lt, I will need to add cold water; thus I usually let it cool down to about 40°C (roughly equivalent temperature to what comes out of your hot water tap). Once the water is added to the desired volume, I find this usually brings the entire wort down to mid-20’s.

This is important, as yeast requires pitching at correct temperatures. Check your packet of yeast for instructions, but pitching temps for kit yeasts are usually ~24°C. Too hot will kill the yeast cells; too cold will keep them dormant. With dry yeasts you can either sprinkle them directly into your fermenting barrel, or you can make a starter. A starter for dry yeast is simple: 1 cup boiled water, cooled to pitch temp (check packet for this), and sprinkle the yeast into this and leave for 15 minutes. You’ll come back and find a paste. IMPORTANT: make sure the vessel you use, and anything that comes into contact with the yeast is properly and thoroughly sterilised!

Which brings me to the next point. Ensure your fermenting barrel, and anything that will come into contact with the brew (such as a stirring paddle/spoon) is sterilised. Supermarkets also sell this stuff. Napisan works, but requires a lot of rinsing. I will often use it for sterilising my barrels, but I also use a no-rinse product I buy from my local HBS, especially for bottles and for spraying onto stuff I’m about to use. Methylated spirits is good for constantly spraying your tools (stirring paddles, etc), as the alcohol allows it to evaporate at air temperature.

Check the gravity of your brew before pitching yeast. This is done using a hydrometer – again, something that can be bought in the homebrewing section of supermarkets, but also at your local HBS. Record the level. When your brew is finished, you will take another reading, and then this gives you an indication of alc/vol level. Gravity readings also tell you when a brew has finished fermenting, as the reading will be the same 2-3 days in a row.

This brew had an Original Gravity of 1.046

Once the brew has cooled to pitching temp, add the yeast nutrient and stir thoroughly, followed by the yeast. Then seal up your fermenting barrel, and give it a good shake. Yeast also needs oxygen to multiply, so regularly giving your GB a shake and getting lots of bubbles is a great way to help things along. Again, when using malt, this is not so necessary, as malt has everything yeast needs to do its thing.


Busy in the kitchen

September 22, 2009

Whilst all those lovely new season vegies are busy growing, why don’t we step into the kitchen to see what lovely delights we’ve been able to come up with…

Winter Brewing: #27 & 28 Happy Pils “B” & “C”

While the weather was cold over winter, I managed to make two batches of my Happy Pils pilsener. I used different types of hops in each of the batches. The basic recipe is as follows:

  • 1.5kg Bohemian Pilsner grain
  • 500g Munich Malt I (light)
  • 100g Carapils
  • 2kg LDME
  • ½ tab Irish Moss
  • Wyeast 2278 Bohemian Pilsener starter (425ml)

The first batch I did used “B”-saaz, which is a strain developed in New Zealand, and is rumoured to be what is used in the James Squires Pilsner. The schedule for that is as follows:

  • 30g B Saaz (AA7.8%) @ 60mins
  • 30g B Saaz @ 15mins
  • 20g B Saaz @ 5mins

The second batch used traditional Czech saaz hops, which makes this batch a Bohemian Pilsener proper:

  • 70g Czech Saaz hops pellets (AA3.6%) @ 60mins
  • 30g Czech Saaz hops pellets @ 15mins
  • 20g Czech Saaz hops pellets @ Flame-out

Both batches remain untouched in bottles as I write this, as brews made with a bottom-fermenting yeast strain require longer (and cooler) time to prime in the bottle. Permaculture principles always permeate my brewing, as I take advantage of the seasons when brewing, thus minimising my need for gadgets that need electricity – why try to brew lagers in summer, or ales in winter?!? These beers will be left until those warm summer nights when the ideal thirst-quencher after a long hot day in the garden is a cold, crisp, hoppy beer.

Cooking from the garden

I have had a ball over the last couple of months cooking “on-the-fly” (as I like to call it). I can’t plan recipes ahead of time, and I never seem to be able to plan a menu before I go to the shops. So, I work along the ‘organic principle’ of working with what I have at hand, which not only includes what is in the garden, but what is in my fridge or pantry. At first, this idea was daunting – but then I discovered another use for Google – type in your ingredients and the word “recipe”, and up comes a diverse and wondrous variety of possible combinations of ingredients. Its then just a matter of finding something that you: a)have all the ingredients available; and b) like the sound/look/taste of!

The following is a recipe I found in this way. While I had all of the ingredients in my fridge/pantry, most of them are also found in my garden – its just that they are still in punnets or growing as seedlings still. So in a few months, I will be able to make this one again, but this time with all home-grown ingredients.

Pumpkin & Parsnip Cassoulet

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 lge onions, chopped
  • 500g pumpkin, diced
  • 500g parsnip, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2x cans mixed beans (I didn’t have cans, so I used a selection of dried beans, left to soak for several hours in a bowl of boiling water with some bi-carb soda. The beans I used – all growing currently – were Borlotti, Black Turtle, Red Kidney, White, and Pinto. After soaking, I measured out about 500g, and then put the rest in the freezer. I could have used Azuki, but they generally take a lot longer to soak, much like chick-peas)
  • 2x cans diced tomato (Again, come the end of summer, we should be able to provide this as fresh ingredient, given the number of seedlings we’ve got going. Just remember that you’d need a lot more than 850g if using fresh…)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 300ml Vegetable stock (I actually used stock I had just recently made from scratch and had left over from something else. Making your own stock is easy, reeeeal easy….)
  • 2 lge sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 tbs sugar (reduces the acidity from canned tomato; maybe not necessary if you used fresh tomato)
  • 75g breadcrumbs (we use gluten-free of course. Often mixed with a bit of polente)
  • 25g parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 160-180. Heat the oil in a large pan/wok, add onions and fry for 5 min/until golden. Add pumpkin, parsnips, and garlic, and cook for a further 3 mins. Stir in beans, tomatoes, wine, stock, thyme, sugar, and plenty of seasoning (or to taste). Bring to the boil, then transfer to a large casserole dish, pressing the beans and vegetables beneath the liquid.

Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and grated cheese. cover, then cook for 40 mins in oven. Uncover, stir well and cook for a further 40 mins.

Serve with garlic bread and stir-fried cabbage (I used kale from the garden, equally nice!)

This recipe should serve 6.


Help with cooking

Can I just say that Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion is a must for any kitchen-gardener. This is a handy guide to the most common ingredients found in Aussie kitchens, and details the best way to use them, including what other foods they go well with. Combine that with Google, and you are set to being your very own Masterchef!

If Firefox is your default web browser (and quite frankly if it isn’t, then it should be), then there is also a marvellous recipe search engine called GoCook which you can install as part of your toolbar.

My biggest kitchen-gardening inspiration would have to be Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his River Cottage venture. There is a section on seasonal recipes on the website; but I have to strongly recommend trying to get a hold of his TV shows. I believe ABC1 will be screening River Cottage Spring from this week onwards at 6pm.

But closer to home, the ABC’s The Cook and the Chef was also good to learn about seasonality in cooking. Unfortunately, the final episode was screened last week. However, it will most likely continue on ABC2 or as daytime re-runs; and I know it screens also on pay-TV’s Lifestyle Food channel. They had also released a DVD-box set that was organised according to seasons, which we have. I don’t know whether it’s still available, and chances are they’ll re-release something now that the show is no longer being produced.

Of course, I also quite enjoyed Ready, Steady, Cook – both the original British version with Ainsley Harriott, and the Australian version which screens on channel 10. The idea that a chef could be given a set of ingredients and come up with something amazing was always inspiring – especially when I used to look at a pantry full of food, and not be able to come up with anything beyond what I knew (mainly bolognese pasta, or some kind of curry).

Combine these with fresh produce out of your garden, and you have the potential to eat at home like you would in a flashy restaurant or cafe.


Spring update

September 4, 2009

Contrary to what the masses believe, Spring has been here for over a month now. The idea that somehow nature magically changes seasons on the September 1st is both daft and just plainly ethnocentric, reminiscent of the days when God was portrayed as a bearded, white, anglo-saxon-looking male. Obviously, someone forgot the plant world that Spring doesn’t come until September, as the following photos (taken in early August) will attend to.

Our first Duck eggs

Our first Duck eggs

Almost like clockwork, come the first week of spring, and Marbles and Bubbles laid their first eggs. Indeed, for the last 4 weeks, they have consistently laid an egg a day. Lovely! The last week however has seen production die off – possibly because of the cold? It was certainly useful for cooking, giving us a sensational ingredient to mix into mashed potato or soups to provide a rich flavour that is just divine!


Goji cuttings

Goji cuttings

We took a whole lot of cuttings off the Goji trees just as they started to shoot new growth. Hopefully, all these cuttings will strke, and we’ll have a good lot of Gojis to sell or give -away as gifts – a much sort-after plant for those in the Chinese Herbal Medicine profession.

The citrus garden

The citrus garden

The front section of the citrus garden was planted out with a bunch of new Brassica seedlings, as well as a few left-over calendula flowers. We also dug out the Dwarf Peach tree and put it into a large pot; in it’s place we planted what we thought was a Navelina Orange – which has turned out to be a Grapefruit. Let this be a lesson to those buying cheap fruit trees – there may well be a reason why they are on sale!

This patch looks like it will come together quite nicely this summer, especially since we think we have taken control of the rogue kikuyu situation….

The Brassica patch

The Brassica patch

This is the only vegie bed that has done well over the winter – albeit slowly. In here are some Kale, mini Cabbage, Silverbeet, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower, Red Shallots, and Swedes. The boxes have lettuce and mini Cabbage seedlings (freshly planted). This section is on the north of the house, so gets some nice sun in winter. The silverbeet was actually growing all along the front, however the possums helped themselves…. That’s a container of Snail Ale in the corner!

Rogue tomatoes

Rogue tomatoes

We’ve been getting self-seeded tomatoes coming up since late winter. This one turned up in a hanging pot which has strawberry seedlings in them.

Damned possums....

Damned possums....

This was my very successful patch of Sprouting Broccoli. As you can see however, just as it was about to fruit, the possums decided to help themselves to them – leaves and all, stripped bare. So, no broccoli this year whatsoever. That’s self-seeded cow-pea growing up behind them. This is related to Broad Bean, but is usually planted as a green manure (which it was the previous autumn-winter).

The first blossom of the year

The first blossom of the year

Almost like clock-work, every year the first week of August sees fruit trees around here go into blossom. This is the smaller of our two Nectarines.

This is quite encouraging, as this tree had a difficult first year, being planted in the wrong spot, and then transplanted. It didn’t really fruit last season – given that it is the first tree to blossom, then we expect it may fruit before its larger sibling next to it. Needless to say, the bees are loving our garden right now…

Which reminds me – watch BEE MOVIE, especially with your kids. Very funny and very relevent. Without bees, no pollenation, and no fertile plants, fruits, vegetables, flowers, etc. Therefore, no life. We need the bees, so lets encourage their presence in our suburbs, instead of looking to wipe them out with insecticides and lifeless suburban lawns.

Unexpected guests

Unexpected guests

These critters showed up on “Joy’s” Peach tree. Last year, it was the Plum tree that was attacked as it started its Spring blossom growth. Not sure if they are aphids (we always thought aphids were white), but can’t seem to identify them as anything else. Haven’t seen any ladybugs yet, but we expect them to show up any minute now…. The other day, the ducks were helping themselves to what they could reach; either way I think we have our organic pest control well under way.

The new additions to the family...

The new additions to the family...

And we have had kids…. Mama Cavy gave birth to four very small and very cute little guinea pigs. They’re sooooo cute…..

Right now, the cold-frame is full up with seed trays, all filled with punnets seeded with the new season’s growth:

  • Beetroot
  • Adzuki beans
  • Borlotti beans
  • Black turtle beans
  • Carrots, purple dragon
  • Tomatoes: Principe Borghese, Tigerella, Yellow Italian, and other Heirloom varieties (courtesy of Diggers)
  • Eggplant
  • Sunflowers, Russian
  • Zucchini: Lebanese and Italian Striato
  • Pumpkin: Butternut (we think)
  • Capsicum (we think)
  • Peas: golden-podded, and purple-podded
  • Broccoli (seed in punnets, as well as previous seedlings in ground)
  • Parsnip (planted in ground and in punnets)
  • Radish (planted in ground)
  • Amaranth (the leafy Greek stuff)
  • Kohl Rabi
  • Celery
  • Rosella (native Hibiscus, used for jam and champagne)
  • Potato (planted in ground)
  • Jerusalem Artichoke (planted in ground)

Now that we’re in September, there will be plenty more seeds being planted out, getting ready for a very productive and abundant summer.