Too Soon For Vacation’s End

So, tomorrow it is back to work. I suppose it’s always too soon.

Pain

I dislike yellow-jackets. It’s simple, really. After over 5 hours, by thumb on my right hand is still throbbing. After getting home from a lunch meeting, I proceeded to do some yard-work. I mowed the front yard, and then started trimming some weeds in the thick grassy stuff (I have no idea what it’s called) lining the driveway. Halfway up one side, I felt a brief sting on one of my left fingers, watched something shoot across my field of vision, and then felt a longer lasting (maybe multiple?) sting on my right thumb.

I rushed inside, where my wife suggested an ice pack, followed by the application of some essential oils. After the pain subsided from cut-my-thumb-off-now! to a more manageable level, I decided to go back out, this time with gloves. I returned to the same spot, cut a few more of the misplaced weeds in the grassy, shrubby stuff, then switched to the other side. With an armload of debris, I carried all to the roadside. Then I noticed a yellow-jacket on my left glove. I still don’t know if it was just sitting there, or actively stinging but just not getting through the gloves.

It was a sign that it was time to quit working in the front yard.

The Garden

A Summer Harvest

A Summer Harvest

Thus I entered the back yard to harvest what had gone unwatched in our vacation absence. I found many, many immense squash, and some more reasonably sized ones. I found two immense zucchini and one teeny one. And I found buckets and buckets of cucumbers. There was also a smattering of tomatoes, one pepper and a tiger melon, as you can see.

Ow, ow, ow. My thumb still hurts!

Julianne, my middle daughter, quickly took one of the cucumbers and ate it whole, as if it were an apple. Well, she ate it with ranch dressing, which she wouldn’t do with an apple, but you get the idea, I hope.

I believe the zucchini will end up as zucchini bread, so says Kim.

This complete, I ran to the front bed and got a bunch of mint, and made up a drink of rum, lemoncello (Lemon Drop), lemon juice and the mint muddled. It was good, quite good in fact, but it did nothing for the throbbing thumb.

Pickles

A run on the garden reminded me of the pickles I had moved to the refrigerator the night before. I cut one, and then ate the first half. Wonderful taste, not commercial dill pickle, rather a sharp, dill-backed spice. The meat of the pickle was softer than I was expecting, but it still had a nice bite to it. Overall, I’m happy.

First Taste

First Taste

Not so my daughter, who asked to sample the second half. She was not impressed, mostly I think by the spice. Kim thought it was merely “okay”, and I finished up the last half of the pickle. Still soft for my liking, but the flavor great.

I notice that the seeds are quite big, though they are not hard or problematic in any way.

Also, they are too big on one end to easily move to smaller storage. Bit of a pain, as the current vessel takes up quite a large space in the refrigerator. I’m not sure about cutting them and then re-storing. Sounds like lots of opportunity for spoilage.

Irish Red Ale

Checking up on the beer, I find that the foam has subsided. But I can tell fermentation is still active by the regular bubble pops visible on the surface. It’ll be a little longer before bottling occurs. But a good decision to start it, then leave it to ferment while I wasn’t there! No time wasted fretting over it.

That ends the day, short of some ice cream and White Collar on Netflix, and of course writing this post. Not much more and it is off to bed, to prepare for work once again.

Lemons and Cantaloupe

Today, I finished the Lemon Drop (lemoncello).

Much as with the Rose Raspberry liqueur, I had mistakenly ignored the original proofing of the Everclear. So, using the same measurements as for the Rose Raspberry, after straining off the lemon zest, I added 12 ounces of water, and then mixed in the 1 cup of simple syrup (still 1:1). Once it was all mixed, I put it in the freezer for later.

It was quite interesting to see actually. The Lemon Drop starter was a solid and earthy yellow, not unlike a solution of saffron and water. It was crystalline clear, even after the addition of water. The simple syrup, too, was quite clear, though not exactly crystalline. But the addition of the simple syrup to the base was an instant shift to opaqueness, with color shifting from earthy yellow to a lemonade yellow – white-ish, thick…just begging to be tasted.

ater is now. And I must say that the flavor is delightful. The mixed up proportions have not affected the enjoyability of this one, in the slightest. Kim liked it, but prefers the Rose Raspberry. Fine by me!

Next!

With Rose Raspberry and Lemon Drop out of the way, and a cantaloupe begging to be cut open, I started on a Honeyed Summer Cantaloupe. Using the same book, but with a considerable amount of adjustment this time, I started by chopping up half a cantaloupe. This came to just about 4 cups. I then poured about a cup of a North Carolina honey into my vessel.

This time, I had purchased Everclear at 151 proof (about 75% ABV), and using the calculator, tested proportions of water and Everclear to reach somewhere in the 80-100 proof range. I came to stop on 400 mL of Everclear and 350 mL of water, for a total of approximately 750mL of liquor (the equation is not exactly linear). This would result in a 91 proof liquid.

All that done, I measured in my water and Everclear on top of the honey, the juice of two lemons, and then transferred the cantaloupe pieces. I crushed all this with a spoon inside my big mason jar, and then was finished. Now we wait for about seven days.

Odds And Ends

Cute Little Potted Peppers

Cute Little Potted Peppers

Peppers!

The ornamental peppers, which we removed from garden-proper and potted to make room for other peppers are coming along nicely. Kim says to me today, looking at the picture, “Did you try one? How was it?”

“No, they’re ornamental. Wasn’t sure I should,” says I.

“You should have.” she says. Argh. Well, I’m not exactly within eating distance at the moment!

Pickles

The pickles are coming along nicely, as far as I can tell. The brine smells awesome, and I can tell there is some amount of fermentation based on the mobility of the spices, though I can’t make out any actual bubbles at the top (the plastic gets in the way and moving it is making a mess and losing larger spices at the top) and there isn’t, as yet, any noticeable foam on top. They were likely to be ready mid-week, but since I am on vacation, I will be giving them just a little extra time to ferment before handling.

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Alton’s recipe said it was likely fermentation would be visibly active on day 3. I think it is active, just not as visible as I’d like. So, hopefully, everything is well. Day 10 is the suggested completion date, if fermentation is proceeding as expected in a cool dry place.

Irish Red Ale, Continued

The Irish Red Ale I started last week was slow to get going, but is doing quite well now.

After pitching the yeast, it took about 2 days for any noticeable foam. The foam started as a thin layer of dense tan. This steadily morphed into a more recognizable, whiteish-tan foam, tall, but thinly bubbled. And this then turned into a almost filmy, slick, not-so-thick-but-not-so-thin layer of tan, milky foam.

The beer itself is dark in volume, but looks like it will be good when the time comes. I’m interested to see what the color is like when not at volume.

New Flavor Infusions

First day of a long needed vacation. Not sure what the day holds, but I plan on it being restful, to say the very least!

Last Thursday, inspired by a book I’ve been meaning to browse, and the delights of a friend’s Limecello, sampled happily, I decided to start some new liqueurs. I started two, making minor deviations, and we’ll see how things turn out in the end. The first is fairly close to Raspberry Rose, from the book Homemade Liqueurs and Infused Spirits. The second played off of memory and remnants of conversations and the Lemon Drop recipe from the same book, a copycat of Lemoncello (maybe successful).

Raspberry Rose

Starting with the Raspberry Rose, I measured out 1 ounce of dried rose bud/petals. I had picked these up recently from a spice store in Florida, and was glad to be able to use them for something fun. That’s why I bought them! In any case, I also measured out 1 cup of raspberries, which amounted to about 6 ounces, picked over to remove bad berries. To this I added the fresh zest of 1 navel orange, though the recipe called for tangerine, which was unavailable at the store.

Then I made my biggest mistake, in hindsight, which was adding 750 mL of 190 proof Everclear. The recipe had called for the same amount of Vodka, at 80-100 proof. The proof was a fact I skimmed over and only realized a day or so later I had missed. I had used Everclear at the suggestion of my friend, and will probably continue to do so, as it is cheaper for the quantity – once proof is reduced. In any case, I muddled the mixture together, sealed and set aside.

The recipe called for 3-5 days of infusing. And today is the 4 day point (well, three and a half). I got up this morning, made coffee, and then set to making up a 1:1 simple syrup (3 cups sugar, 3 cups of water). After straining the infused Everclear off of the rose and raspberries, I added some water (12 ounces) and then 1 cup of the simple syrup (per the recipe). That makes 20 ounces of additional liquid, and if my calculations are correct (with the help of a calculator over at bootlegbotanicals.com), that should reduce the near-190 proof infusion to somewhere around 98 proof, more in the range of Vodka or similar. The infusion had ended with 21.5 ounces of dark red liquid, down from the ~25 ounces (750mL) to start with. I didn’t expect to get all the liquid out, of course, adding the 20 ounces of additional solution, I should have 1.6 750mL bottles worth of liqueur.

I have now thrown that mix in the freezer, to chill for later. Need to pick up some soda water from the store before this evening.

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Lemon Drop

With the lemon drop, I did make the same proofing mistake. But it is not complete, so the final state remains to be seen. Thursday, I zested 10 lemons, per recipe and placed this in a mason jar with 1.5 cups of 190 proof Everclear (rather than the 80-100 proof Vodka) and 1 cup of Vermouth (18% ABV). That is supposed to rest, sealed, for 7 days. Soon. Very soon.

Lemon Drop: In The Beginning

Lemon Drop: In The Beginning

Beyond

I have plans, or maybe imaginations, for something with ginger and/or cantaloupe. I’m going to hold of on Limecello for just a bit (supplies and containers is an immediate issue). And I’d like to try an Orangecello in the future as well. And if I can find Dutch gin (and maybe even if not) something with cucumber and mint, maybe. Oh, the possibilities are…endless.

Irish Red Ale

All that remains is to add the yeast. Everything went pretty smooth. No boil overs, a quick cool down, simple treatment of the grains. Almost too easy!

I started by sanitizing everything, and throwing some water in the freezer. Then I got busy with the boil. To that end, I put 2.5 gallons of water in the pan, and started bringing it to a boil. To this, I added a grain bag filled with 1.5 pounds of 120 crystal malt, 0.25 pounds of chocolate malt, and 0.25 pounds of victory malt. Rather than really sparging, or a separate heating episode, I just brought the liquid to a boil with grains in the water, as suggested by the book the recipe proportions were in. And it seemed to work just fine.

Once it was to a boil, I added two tubs (each 3.3 pounds) of CWB Sparkling Amber liquid mal extract. This is a little more than the recipe called for, but I think it’ll be fine. This then required bringing it back up to temp, which didn’t take long. Once back up to temp, I added an ounce of Challenger hops, the bittering hops for this beer. I then proceeded with the hour boil.

While the recipe only called for a half ounce of my flavoring hop, Santiam, they sell it in 1 ounce packages. So I decided to use half of it at the mid-point of the boil, and the other half, as recipe suggested, in the last minute of the boil. Once again, smooth sailing.

At this point I filled my tub with ice water and brought the pan into the tub. A little bit later, I could see the temp had not gone down quite enough, so I added a quick gallon of chilled water from the freezer. That brought it down to the near-room-temp I was looking for. I had set up a grain bag in a fermentation tub, and poured the wort into it, using the bag as a filter for the hops. It wasn’t a catch-all, but it did help a lot. Using the tub also gave me a good way to measure the volume. After water, boil, extract addition and removal of grains and hops, the volume was at 2.5 gallons.

So I added 2.5 gallons more of water to the tub, stirred and then checked specific gravity – right at 1.050. Then, using a funnel, I transferred the strained liquid to a 6.5 gallon carboy standing ready. Of course, this is a five gallon batch, but that gives head room. Grains and spent hops went to the compost pile, after cleaning up the kitchen, then it was dinner (leftover beef burgundy and smashed red potatoes) while watching an episode of MASH.

And as I said at the beginning, now I’ve just been waiting to add the slap pack of yeast. I had intended on Irish Ale Yeast, but my supply shop did not have any on hand, so I have 1335 British Ale II from Wyeast. Right after this post is done, I’ll be heading to pitch the yeast.

To all a good night, and hope you have a great week.

Oh, and the pickles see not much activity yet. It’ll take a couple days.

A Wonderful Time Of Year

It’s summer! Wow, I’ve not posted on here in a while. Lots has been going on, but things have been slow on the fermentation front. Not a standstill, but not overly active either. Things progressing, a couple beer attempts, and at least one mead started.

In any case, it was nice to head to The Happy Berry today and take home 33 pounds of fruit (18 pounds of blackberries and the rest blueberries). Some of that will end up as jam, and some as wine/mead. I wonder what a “cider” of blackberry would be like…

Dill Pickles

Dill Pickles

I also started my first vegetable fermentation with some of the cucumbers (munchers) from the garden. Dill pickles are a nice treat, so I set about starting my first batch using the recipe from Alton Brown as a guide. Looks like things should turn out okay, but it’s a little early to be certain. I don’t exactly have a good 1 gallon vessel for that type of fermentation, but I had one big enough for the amount of cucumbers suggested, and hopefully a smaller bag of the salt-water solution can seal the cucumbers under the brine well enough.

We have a ton of things in the garden. We’ve already made quite good use of the zucchini and squash, though if the caterpillars have anything to say about it, that may end. The peppers are slowly getting going. And the corn is growing slowly, as well. We should have a ton of tomatoes, if all goes well, though they are green at the moment.

Also, with some hints from a friend, I have a plan for testing out lemoncello, limecello and orangecello. So I picked up the fruit and the base for it this afternoon. Maybe there will be some time tomorrow to start on that. But tomorrow, there is a bigger goal, and that is getting the Irish Red Ale started.

I picked up the ingredients as a Father’s Day gift, and I suppose it’s high time I get the ingredients into a fermenter! I plan on using a little more malt extract than the recipe actually calls for, and a little more hops, as well; both modifications are really dictated by packaging sizes. But hopefully the color and body will be right, and the flavor good. I do like a Killian’s – not that I expect it will come off exactly like that. Just saying that I do like that style of beer, and wouldn’t mind having some on hand, and the knowledge to reproduce in the future!

Pickles, beer, fruit, jam, garden, cellos…bed.