Saturday, January 25, 2014

Smokey BBQ indoors thanks to frozen tomatoes!

Do you remember how I cooked a bunch of tomatoes in my smoker last August?  I never really had much of a plan for what I would do with them. I figured they would be good in chili and tacos, but today it dawned on me that it would form a great base for juicy pulled pork in the Crock Pot!

There is no chance for outdoor BBQ with this horrible polar vortex ruining things in the Northeast.  My wood pile is buried and frozen into a block and I am in no mood to stomp back and forth in the driving snow to cook my pork all day.

Here's the recipe:

4 pounds pork butt cut into 2-inch cubes
1-2cups frozen diced tomatoes or puree
1 cup chopped fruit (apples, apricots, peaches, whatever)
2 Tbsp of your favorite BBQ seasoning or seasoning salt

Add all ingredients to slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.  Remove meat from cooker and shred, reserving fruit and 1-2 cups of juices, which you can use to make an excellent BBQ sauce, or just puree the fruit and return to pot with meat and enjoy over rice or on a bun or tortilla.

When will you be starting your own dome?

Please feel free to contact me with any questions about building your own dome greenhouse.  Don't worry about me trying to sell you anything, I'm just an enthusiast! I have lots of ideas and resources for all kinds of domes to fit every budget, from basic temporary frame to elaborate permanent with advanced glazing.  With a little creativity and a few hundred dollars, you could build a fully functional starting house for your seedlings, chickens, over-winter bonsai and more. It's time to start planning!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Some new vegetable varieties for this year:

I have a tray started in the basement already, mostly last year's lettuce, arugula, leeks, onions, turnips. Although the seeds are from 2013, I had nearly 100% germination.

I did save some Parris Island Cos romaine from a plant that I let turn to seed.  One plant yielded thousands of seeds and they are germinating well.

Some new things to try this Spring are:

  • Chinese Red Noodle Bean-apparently great for hot weather in greenhouse
Update: This grew wonderfully and very tasty
  • Datil chile pepper
Update:  This was the most prolific of the season, and VERY hot!
  • Deux Despagne/Spanish Mammoth bell pepper
Update: Both the plant and the peppers were huge! Won the spring farm show.
  • Annie’s Rainbow carrot mix
Update: Fair germination, not too tasty, will not grow again
  • Misticanza Salad mix
Update: Nice baby greens mix
  • Verde invierno lettuce - claims to be great in the cold hence the name
Update: We had a cool summer and these grew well outside through June and again in the fall right up til heavy frost.  Definitely a winner!
  • Pasilla Bajio chile pepper
Update:  Not good for anything except drying and grinding.
  • Rouge Vif d’Etampes pumpkin (Cinderella pumpkin, last year I grew a fairytale)
Update:  These rotted on the vine.  Waste of space.  Not very attractive either.
  • Amish paste tomato
Update: Fair germination, good taste
  • Black Cherry tomato
Update: I had a 12-foot tall vine in the greenhouse.  Very sour!
  • Tomatillo verde
Update: 1 plant was all I needed.  Hundreds of tomatillos made delicious salsa verde.  Winner!
  • Amish Pie Pumpkin
Update: I only planted 1 hill of 4 vines.  3 failed and one produced a 50-pound monster.  It quickly rotted before Halloween, sadly.  Won't grow these again.
  • Baby Pam Pumpkin
Update: Nice, small pretty.  Small vines saved space.  Pumpkins were uniform and produced 2-3 per vine.  I did not eat them.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The California wonder has finally died.

Not too bad, this plant produced for nearly 7 months!  The temps dropped into the single digits and that was it. It lasted until January though!

A Recipe for Helles Lager (or a sunny pilsener)

This won a bronze medal at this year's War of the Worts:

Here is a nice recipe for a good crisp light lager.  It is a 12 gallon batch because I believe in filling my TrueBrew buckets up to the top!  This was not cheap.  For ingredients and general supplies this cost me $90, or $18 per case bottled.

Primary yield: 13.5 gallons
Secondary yield: 12.5 gallons
OG 1.059

22lb Weyermann Pilsner
2lb Carapils
1lb Carafoam
1.5oz Tettnang 60 min
1.5oz Tettnang 30 min
1oz Mt. Hood 5 min
Wyeast 2124 Bohemain Lager
1lb light DME for 1 gallon yeast starter

I got an amazing 81% efficiency thanks to a long (2 hour) decoction-type mash with a lot of rests and a long (2 hour) sparge.  A normal 60 min mash at 154 and a quick sparge at 170 would probably give you about 1.05, more appropriate for a Helles lager.  I was not expecting such efficiency, it was mostly luck.

My mash schedule looked like this:
20 minutes at 122
Pull out 1.5 gallon liquor, boil then return
20 minutes at 133
Pull out 1.5 gallon liquor, boil then return
20 minutes at 144
Pull out 1.5 gallon liquor, boil then return
60 minutes at 155
Drain and sparge  at 170 in 3 batches (I did about 2-3 gal each batch) with a slow drip over 2 hours, 40 min per batch. Depending on the size of your lauter tun, just continue batch sparging until brew kettle is filled to desired volume (14 gallons).

60 minute boil.  At flameout, I added 1 gallon of ice to drop temp to 180 then used wort chiller to 60.
Pitch yeast and ferment in 45 degree lagering cave for 1 week (this particular batch didn't finish for 10 days, then rack to secondary, lager for 1 month, then bottle.  Leave at room temp for one week then return to cold storage.

Notes after primary:  Primary fermentation took 10 days to subside.  Very active for 6 days straight before a gradual slow-down.  At first taste when racking to secondary, I received a strong floral hop aroma.  A well-bodied mouthfeel with good initial bitterness and a clean pilsner flavor.  Crisp finish with some floral hop notes.  I am happy!

Notes after bottle conditioning:  This is the finest homebrew I have made.  Finally, after more than a year I have something I am truly proud of!  I drank one after a few days in the bottle, and this pilsner is clear without additives, crisp and smooth.  The flavor is spot on for a pilsner, and although the color is definitely "sunny" but I wouldn't exactly call it a Helles.  Based on the helles lagers I have tried in the past, the bohemian yeast gave it too strong of a pils flavor.  If you want a true helles, consider using a german yeast strain.  Cheers!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Wort chiller closed loop with pump revisited IN THE SNOW

When I first tried this in the summer, chilling the 14 gallons of wort required MANY more pounds of ice than I had anticipated.  I decided to abandon the idea and just hook the chiller to my hose and run the wastewater into my garden.  I hated using the hundreds of gallons, especially since it was inefficient to use 60 degree water.  Then it dawned on me yesterday:  I have more ice than I could ever use in my back yard!
Using snow to fill the chiller, I was able to cool 14 gallons from 212 to 60 in about an hour.  Keep in mind that I cheaped out and only use a 20' x 3/8" coil.