Monday, December 30, 2013

Respect for Fred's barbecue

One of my Christmas presents this year:
This is the house brand from our local BBQ enthusiast.  He is a very hard-working and passionate entrepreneur that specializes in everything and anything that can be grilled and, of course, musical instruments!  If you are ever in the Reading area, you have to check this store out.  It is one of our proudest institutions.  Check it out at

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Vegan Mac and cheese, dairy-free soy-free nut-free, made with pumpkin!

Ok so you'll now think I'm a huge tree-hugger, but I assure you I'm not. I'm not a vegan or a vegetarian, but I will eat and enjoy just about anything.  This recipe is several years in the making, and arose out of my need to use home-grown produce and my wife's and children's allergen needs.  I assure you it is delicious if not just like the real thing, much better for you and a great use for that frozen squash.  If you don't have nutritional yeast, it's still good, but the yeast gives it a nice cheesy flavor.  If you do stock a full line of vegan dairy foods like we do, I recommend adding some vegan provolone, cream cheese, cheddar, or other creamy substitutes.  If you are not strictly vegetarian or vegan, you might add a chicken bullion cube for even better flavor. Here you go:

2 Tablespoons olive oil or Earth Balance spread
2 Tablespoons flour
1-2 cups squash or pumpkin puree (I use neck, fairytale, cushaw, but any will do)
1 cup milk (rice, coconut, soy or regular depending on your needs)
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast or brewers yeast
1 clove garlic (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 small onion minced (or 1 Tablespoon dried)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground chile powder (I use ancho or guajillo)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil over medium heat.  If using fresh onion/garlic, saute briefly then add flour.  Stir for a few minutes to form a roux, then slowly add pumpkin and milk, stirring constantly until incorporated and thick.  Bring to a boil, then stir in remaining ingredients and reduce heat.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  For the creamiest texture, pour into a blender and puree for a minute or two.  Pour over your favorite pasta and enjoy, and don't feel guilty about eating a pound of mac n cheese!

Another option:  Add 1 cup or so of cooked cauliflower into the mixture before pureeing.  Then you can skip the roux because the cauliflower will make it very thick.  It will change the flavor considerably and will add a ton of nutrition to your mac!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A yeast starter is very easy! Here are the simple steps:

I always avoided a yeast starter because it sounded complicated.  It's not.  Here is yeast starting for dummies.

Make your starter about a day before brewing.  Anywhere from 12 to 36 hours should be good.

Water to DME ratio is 1 gallon to 1 pound.  A typical 5 gallon batch would use 1/2 pound dry extract and 1/2 gallon water.  Any dry malt extract will do.

1. Boil water with malt extract for 15 minutes.
2. Cool in a bath of ice water to appropriate yeast-pitching temp.
3. Pitch yeast.
4. Pour mixture into a flask or growler and attach air lock.
5. Store at room temperature for approx. 24 hours or until you are ready to brew.


Supplies needed:

Glass container (flask or growler work great)
Rubber stopper that fits the glass container
1/2 lb dme (makes a 5-gallon batch of beer)
your choice of yeast (a small packet will work since you are growing it in the starter)

Are you ready to try an all-grain lager?

Here is a recipe I just came up with.  It came out crisp and clean, with a beautiful amber color and that classic corn flavor that the big guys have.  I was trying to clone my favorite large brewery, our local Yuengling lager.  It came pretty darn close.

American Lager (12 gallon all-grain)
14 lb Briess 6-row
6lb corn grits (I used cannisters of Quaker grits from the supermarket)
2lb Weyerman Caramunich
1 lb Weyerman Cararoma
2 lb dextrose
2oz cascade 60 minute
1oz cascade 15 min
1oz cascade 5 min
Wyeast 2035 American lager
1 gal. Yeast starter, split into two 1/2 gal growlers with air locks.


Step mash:  30 minutes at 122, 45 minutes at 156.

Cook your grits in a large pot for a minimum of 30 minutes.  Add a little extra water than what the recipe on the grits container calls for, but not too much.  My mash tun cooler is a 40 qt, so a recipe this size maxes it out.  I have to be very careful with how much water I add or I can easily overflow it when I am making temp corrections.

Getting the temperature right with a big pot of hot cereal is tricky.  I would say cool your grits to 130 before adding to the mash tun.  If you don't cool the grits ( I never feel like waiting), add them to your mash tun, then begin adding cool water until it cools to about 130, then stir in the 6-row and add water at 130 (sparingly) until the grist is wet and you have a temp of 122. Do not add too much water during this step! You will need to add more soon. Also be careful not to exceed 150 degrees at any stage. Let rest for 30 min.

At the end of the protein rest, add 200 degree water until a temp of 156 is reached.  Your total water used (including water used to make grits) should be a minimum of 5 gallons in order to ensure good sugar conversion. I like to add 6 gallons so that it stirs more easily.  Mash for 45 min or until litmus comes out clean. 

Sparge using preferred method with 170 degree water until a total of 14-15 gallons is reached in your boil pot.  Boil wort, adding hops as scheduled above, then cool to 70 and strain into fermenter(s).  Primary yeild should be around 13 gallons. Pitch yeast and ferment for 10 days in cool (50 deg) temps.  Syphon to secondary and lager in cold (35-40 deg) temps for 1 month.