From harvest to table ~ what's cooking now?

This blog shows where all those garden goodies I grow end up. I call this little eating area next to the stove my "chef's table" because at all the best restaurants it's a privilege to be invited to dine in the kitchen where the chef reigns supreme. So here I am "reigning" and you are all invited. :-D

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Wheat-free bechamel suace

I found myself with 15 pounds of russet potatoes over the holidays and some huge sweet onions.

Let's see - potato soup?  roasted veg?

Hey.  How about a huge roasting pan of scalloped potatoes?  Yes!

I don't usually make bechamel sauce, instead just mixing up milk with cornstarch.  But I was curious to see if I could use SPELT to make bechamel.

So I melted 1.5  (6 oz) sticks of sweet organic butter, let the foam disperse, then added 6 oz of spelt to make a roux and stirred that for 5-6 minutes.

Then I added 1.5 quarts of organic 2% milk and brought it all to a simmer. 

With wheat flour the bechamel would have started to thicken quite quickly.  But the spelt (whole grain) wasn't cooperating.  For the first 10 minutes the bechamel looked like bread crumbs floating in milk.  Crap.  I figured I'd wasted a lot of good food.

But around 11 minutes I notice some resistance against the spoon.  I crossed my fingers.  By 13 minutes the sauce was finally coming together!  Now I had a nice almond-colored bechamel flecked with bits of spelt germ.

I had layered my roasting pan with no less than 15# of potatoes and 4# of onions.  I flavored them with dry mustard, thyme, smoked paprika, sea salt, black pepper, chipotle powder and garlic granules.  Then I covered it all with bechamel.

Silly me.  No way was that going to be enough sauce for a pan that big!  So I also poured in another quart of 2% milk!

I was afraid the sauce would separate when cooking, but no.  The extra milk just sauced right up and in the end I had a huge pan of creamy scalloped potatoes.

I had been expecting company to come down Christmas eve to dig into this bounty, but plans changed.  No matter.  I now have enough frozen scalloped potatoes to get me through a whole winter. LOL

Well there.  I've used SPELT flour for Irish soda bread and bechamel.  Let's see what else I can use this ancient grain flour for.  Stay tuned.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Double delicious

I don't do any Christmas baking, but this year I wanted to thank a couple of friends so made up a sweeter version of the spelt Irish soda bread as gifts.

Here I've included a cup of raisins in the batter and sprinkled a generous spoonful of sugar crystals on the crusts.

Both were baked in iron skillets (from ReStore).  In these batters I made a change from my initial spelt bread - I cut back the liquid by 2 oz each bread.  This made for a drier bread with better texture (I felt).

Not pictured are a couple of regular white AP flour breads.  The larger spelt bread (on the left) went out as a gift - same with the white (wheat) soda breads.  The last spelt bread is staying with yours truly ... juuuust in case someone might drop by for a visit.  If not - it certainly won't go to waste (but more probably to waist.  *heh*)

Happy Christmas. :-D

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bread SPELT differently

For 23 days now I've avoided all wheat products: bread, pasta, baked goods, etc.  I've also been very careful to read ingredients in prepared foods and sauces.

It's amazing how pervasive wheat is.  Even soy sauce has wheat so I had to buy soy sauce made with rice instead.

If nothing else, avoiding wheat has made all my eating to be something quite 'mindful' now.  I don't just grab and go.  I pause and consider.  This mindfulness has given me an opportunity to look at alternative foods that hadn't hit my radar in the past.

And, by and large, I've had no problems avoiding wheat.  (I'm sure I'd have probs if I were of the sort that ate out a lot, but I can go weeks and weeks not seeing the inside of a restaurant or diner.)

But one thing I really DO miss is something to accompany all these lovely soups and sauces I've been making lately.

Soup and chile without bread to dunk.  Eggs and turkey bacon without toast.  Fruit and cheese without some crustinis.  Even a little sandwich now and then.   *whine*

Yesterday I decided to do something about that.  I went out and bought a couple bags of SPELT (<= click) flour (stone ground, whole grain, unbleached, unbromated and unfortified).

Just a reminder, I'm avoiding MODERN WHEAT with it's heavily modified genetics and suspect gluten/gliadin components.  Spelt, on the other hand, is an ancient precursor to today's wheat.  A simpler grain.  And one that is making a comeback.

I wanted to try it.  First project: soda bread.  I knew that the gluten in spelt is softer, less substantial, so I didn't use my 'normal' AP flour recipe.  Instead I found a simple spelt soda bread (<= click) on the web and used that instead, but I omitted the herbs.

The measure was in grams. Grams?  Never fear.  While up at Hartville hardware yesterday I bought myself a Christmas present - a digital kitchen scale.  (I've been a good girl this year, honest!  And I've alway wanted one of these.)

I followed the simple instructions, but instead of baking the bread on a flat sheet, I went with a shallow cast iron skillet.  (Yes, that is an orange skillet - a used Le Cruiset I snagged at the Restore depot for a mere $4 on 50% day. :-D)

Whole grain spelt flour looks very light in the bag - like whole wheat.  But when baked, you can see it is quite dark making the bread look like a rich pumpkin or banana bread.  The texture is similar too, but that's as far as it goes.  The resultant soda bread is not sweet, but not as 'toasty' as a AP white flour.  It's just different.  And that's not a bad thing. I understand there is also a white spelt flour, but I didn't find any in my shopping this time, but I'll look for some in the future.

What the bread DOES do is make a nice platform for butter and jam.  And it's toasts up well which made my lunch of an open-faced turkey sandwich garnished with some homemade pickled Vidalia onions totally yummo.

All in all, for a first experiment with spelt flour, I'm calling it a success.  And as long as I don't expect spelt to act or taste like regular white flour, then I'm sure I'm going to find other 'alternative' dishes for this rustic grain.

After all, unless we use an older grain, fruit or vegetable, BIG FOOD will find a way to eliminate it from competition or subvert it to it's own bottom line (even GMO) greed.  

Meanwhile *munch* someone pass the jam please? :-D

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Breakfast of champions

I'd gotten lax in watching what I ate and as the top half of this pic shows.  The 11/3/12 numbers were just not good.  Even WITH taking a statin.

Good grief!

I'm a smart cookie.  I know BETTER than this!  So I went back to my winter go-to breakfast: oatmeal.

Oatmeal has always helped in the past, but this time I added another cholesterol-busting ingredient: a heaping tablespoon of freshly ground golden flax to the 1/2C (dry) rolled oats.  I enjoyed that with agave nectar throughout November.

Did it work?  You bet.  Check out the numbers (from 12/7/12) at the bottom half of the pic.  Yay!

Then, in December, for an even more powerful punch, I gave up agave nectar for sweetening and switched to a tablespoonful of organic blackstrap molasses.  Agave is just fructose.  Molasses, on the other hand, it jam-packed with important nutrients.

At first I found the molasses rather strong and sorta unpleasant.  But then I found that if I add a really good couple of shakes of ground cinnamon before I added my splash of milk, well then, the resultant bowl of porridge ended up tasting like one big molasses cookie.  Yow!

And, come to find out, a half-teaspoon of cinnamon a day has its OWN health benefits.

Since I'd only added the molasses/cinnamon just days before the 2nd test, I'm looking forward to another test just after the new year to see what (if any) the molasses/cinn addition brings to the game.  We're lucky enough that one of the local hospitals has a cholesterol clinic at one of its statcare facilities on the first Friday of every month.  For $10 you get a full lipid panel and sugar test.  It's a cheap and convenient way to see how much what you eat (and if you're exercising) is paying off.  What's great about these tests is that with numbers like this, one is encouraged to keep up with something that works! Win-win-win I'd say.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Kale convert

In 2011 I planted kale for the first time: dwarf blue curly, redbor and a tri-color variety.

I enjoyed it in the 'baby' stage - tender and sweet, but then I let it grow in the garden where they were a favorite target for cabbage lopers and fungus.  I didn't eat much of it.

In 2012 I grew Tuscan kale.  Just 4 plants.  Didn't want to get very excited about it.  I was SO reserved that I didn't cut even one leaf until Thanksgiving.  At that time I roasted the leaves (tossed w/olive oil, mustard seeds, black pepper and sea salt).  I tasted - tentatively.  OMG!

I've been cutting this kale regularly now and can't imagine cooking without it.  I harvest a bunch, rinse well, remove the center stem, toss into a baggie and Bob's yer uncle - fresh organic kale at the ready!

Monster health benefits aside, the flavor of this variety is outstanding.  The texture is nicer than the other 3 kales I grew (which I decided was 'rubbery' to me).  While I don't eat this kale raw (this time of year I want HOT food, not cold salads), it only takes a light steam/toast/roast or braise to wilt it down just a bit and 'limp' up the leaves, but still keep the the nice 'tooth'.

I've been asked how often do I 'make' kale.  Oddly, I've yet to 'make' up a batch of kale by itself (although I'm planning on braising a batch for Xmas dinner).  What I've been doing is using kale as an ingredient in just about everything else I make:

Chicken & rice noodles........................Vegetable soup........................

Beaners..............................................................................Stir Fry.................

 I also microwave kale ribbons for a minute (to limp them) and add them to omelets, or use them as wrappers for rollups.  I've even got plans to use them stuffed, like cabbage.

Basically, kale has become just another well-used ingredient in my kitchen, like parsley, onions and garlic - things that have become one of the basic building blocks of some really good grub.

Only draw back is - I grew just 4 plants this year and doubt those lovely leaves will not get much past January.  But next year - waaaay more Tuscan kale plants, you can count on that!

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Finally floculating

The cider was racked to jugs for its 3rd ferment on 11/26/2012.

It bubbled for a few hours (to release air that was infused during the transfer and new C02 that the reactivated yeast expelled), then calmed down.

It's been quiet for a couple of weeks - only an occasional bubble in the airlocks.

The cider's been cloudy every day, so I stopped checking on it daily.

It's been maybe 6 days since last checking and I was very pleased to see that the cider is finally floculating.

Floculating is the grouping of tiny particles that eventually get enough mass that gravity can settle them out.

I leaned my notebook against the jug and you can see that the top 1.25" of cider is showing much clearer than the rest of the jug.

I'll be checking more often now so I can see how long it will take for the whole jug to initially clear and then go even further to super clear (crystal).  Yep - making cider this Fall is for drinking next Fall.  Fun, no?

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Friday, December 7, 2012


When I was little, Mom would make beans and weiners (or BEANERS for short).  Back then it was just a can of pork'n'beans and hot dog chunks.

Today my BEANERS are a little more upscale.  The franks are 100% smoked white turkey.  The beans are B&M vegetarian beans.  And, since I've a much more appreciative palatte, my mix include sauteed onions, hot and sweet pepper, garlic, celery seed, black pepper, soy,  Worcestershire sauce and a splash of balsamic vinegar.

The dish is simple, savory and oh so satisfying this time of year.

The only downer to this serving, though, is that right now I'm not eating anything with WHEAT in it.  So there is no crusty bread to soak up the sauce.  Corn chips are crunchy, but really don't do the trick.

Ah well...  I'm still looking into wheat-free bread and bakery items.  It's still early in the game, so I'm not discouraged.

Otherwise, I'm lovin' the beaners. :-D

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Walking away from wheat

Dr. Oz will have Dr. William Davis on his show Monday, December 3, 2012.

Davis said that the wheat we eat these days isn't the wheat your grandma had: "It's an 18-inch tall plant created by genetic research in the '60s and '70s," he said on CBS.

and that

Modern wheat is a "perfect, chronic poison."

Today's wheat, he said, is responsible for a lot of diabetes, arthritis, high cholesterol and blood pressure, bowel problems, headaches, inflammation, overweight, lack of sleep, etc. etc.   Click HERE for an article.


To that effect I've been reading up on wheat genetics, gluten varieties (not all created equal), alternative flours, medical articles, etc. and have come to my own conclusion.

I'm walking away from modern wheat.

And not just because of Davis's book Wheat Belly, but from my own experience.

I've gone carb-free on a couple of occasions (which, obviously meant  no wheat and, at that time, bread/pasta was my primary carb of choice) in the past and as I recall my cholesterol, triglycerides, sugar and blood pressure dropped (heck, plummeted!).  But I'd done the carb-free thing for weight loss and, since I got to where I wanted weight-wise, I brought back the carbs (including wheat).  After that, the weight has crept back up.  Same with the others for which I now take meds.

Well, gosh.  Guess I didn't learn the right lesson from the carb-free diet.  Oh well, better late than never.  I'm in my mid-60s and have a couple more decades left (I hope).  Still time to turn myself around and walk away from modern wheat.

I say walking because going cold turkey would only invite distress.  First off, it's hard to get away from modern wheat which is pervasive, like corn sugar.  Secondly, modern wheat is, apparently, addictive so no sense going straight into withdrawal.

No, my plan is to start finding ways to start replacing modern wheat in my diet.  Unlike some folks who are totally allergic to glutens, I am not, so I am free to seek out alternative grain/glutens to add to my diet as I subtract the bad wheat.

Winter is upon us and it's a great time to read, research further, and experiment in the kitchen.  My goal is to create modern wheat free items to replace:

Bread.  Not the normal sandwich slicing bread.  But something for dunking in soup, sopping up sauces, a platform for pizza.  Something probably in the flatbread area.

Pasta.  Even today's 'multi-grain' pasta are mostly wheat.  I will look for 'legacy' grain products: spelt or bulgar (older, unmodified wheats), etc.

Thickening.  I will not use wheat for thickening and will switch entirely to cornstarch and arrowroot.  Barley is also nice.

I found a nice website (<= click) that lists a myriad of wheat-free and gluten-free flours.  I'll be visiting it regularly this winter as I  see what's what.

I'm also lucky that we have a natural foods store nearby so I'll be checking out their grains/flour selections.

Bottom line - watch this  blog for posts labeled "wheat-free" as I look for other grains, existing products  or create my own.  I have written up a baseline for myself.  Luckily I'd just had blood work on Nov 12  to check my liver enzymes (because I take a statin for cholesterol) so that will come in handy when I get the blood rechecked in 6 mos.  I'll also keep a "How am I feeling?" journal to monitor joint pain, sleep patterns, moods, appetite, energy, etc.

I'm expecting only good things in the end.  Want to come walk with me?


P.S.  Decided it was also high time to remove powdered coffee creamer from my diet.  This stuff used to be $2/jar.  Now it's up to near $4 - which is the same price for a half-gallon of organic milk.  Yep.  As of today, I'm going to learn to like milk in my coffee.  Milk vs chemicals.  Gotta be a good move, no?

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cider - 3rd racking

It's been 4 weeks since the cider had been transferred from the primary ferment pail into the secondary ferment jugs.  Time to rack again to clean jugs for a third and final ferment before bottling.

Some bottle at this point.  But I'm in no hurry and I understand from research that, when given lots of time, cider can develop some very nice flavors, sooo ...

A racking we go.

I only have 4 jugs, so I cleaned the 4th (empty) jug, sanitized it, then siphoned one of the 2nd racking out to the new jug.  Notice I also filled a sanitized beaker so I could test the current gravity to see what the sugar/alcohol situation doing.  Hmmm.

I'm first to admit I'm not an expert at reading a hydrometer.  But at least I have a good pic to refer back to when I am. LOL

If found that the pump/siphon was a pain to use and trying to get the clamp on the end of the tube was also a pain.  Also this setup left almost 1.5" of cider/lees in the first jug.  That quite a loss to this nube.

So I then sloooooowly poured out as much lee-free liquid from the jug into a sanitized wine bottle.  I'm sure there are a few lees in the mix, but just look at how much cider I saved - 375 ml (half a wine bottle).

I then poured that into the newly filled gallon jug.  Is this wrong?  Maybe.  But since this is all an experiment, it's all in the name of science.  *heh*

Okay then. Wash/sanitize empty jug and repeat 2ce.

For the next 2 transfers, I didn't use the pump or even the racking cane.  I just used the tube and initiated the siphon by filling the tube with cider and shoved it into both jugs.  It went well and, again, there was about a half a wine bottle of cider that I poured off the lees and added to the new jugs.

I think, then, that I only lost a little over a cup of cider/lees from each jug.

There.  I inserted sanitized airlocks and set the jugs back on the shelf to (hopefully) clear and mellow out.  Done.

Oh heck!!!   Can you BELIEVE this?  I was so involved with the washing/sanitizing/racking etc. that I NEVER ONCE tasted the cider???   Yep, definitely a nube.   *sigh*    Oh well, it sure smelled nice!

 Stay tuned.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Annual broth bonanza

Everybody in the pot
I feel sorry for those folks that, after the Thanksgiving holiday, they don't have a nice turkey carcass to call their own.

Oh, sure, it's convenient to have your feast at a restaurant or at friends and/or relatives, but, honestly, that's only the tip of the holiday iceberg!

Leftovers, people. Leftovers!  For sandwiches, casseroles, turkey tacos, dressing'n'gravy, etc.

And let's not forget the 400-pound gorilla of leftovers - the carcass!

Jellied turkey stock - skimmed
Sunday I got out my 10-quart stock pot and filled it with all the turkey bones, giblets, and bits of meat, covered them in 5 quarts of water, then added aromatic vegs to fortify the stock.  In went the usual suspects: carrots, a potato, 2 stalks of celery, a large onion, a handful of fresh parsley and the rest of the kale crisps.  Then came the garlic, black peppercorns, bay leaves.  Finally - 2T of white vinegar (to leach out some of the calcium from the bones - so good for you!).

I brought it all to a boil, turned it down to simmer and let it go for a good 5 hours.  I tell you, the house never smells as good as when there is stock simmering on the stove.  Especially when outside temps are in the 20s like it was here on Sunday.

Turkey stock in bags for the freezer - quart jar for Mom
That evening I strained out all the solids, transferred the stock to a smaller pot, and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

This morning the stock had settled (bits on the bottom, fat on the top and a nice medium jelly of stock in the middle).

I got 4.75 quarts of rich stock that I will use to make soups over this winter.  Do you know how many chickens I have to simmer up to get that much stock?  A lot!  My annual 12# turkey really gives me a big bang for my buck!

So, I'm sure all you "Yay, I didn't have to cook" diners had a holiday as lovely as mine.

Mine will, however, continue to warm my friends and I throughout the winter soup season.

Now there's something to be really thankful for!

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Kale chips

Friends and I discussed what kind of veg we should have for Thanksgiving dinner.  Mashed potatoes?  Green bean casserole?   Candied sweet potatoes?

Nah - too heavy and filled with a lot of calories.   We wanted to save the calorie intake for desserts!  LOL

So I did a veg roast up with white potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, Brussels sprouts, and kale.  Everything was cut into 3/8-1/2" slices, tumbled in olive oil, sprinkled with garlic granules, black pepper, and smoked paprika, then onto the top shelf of a very hot (500F) oven untl fork tender and the edges were all crispy.

The kale was an afterthought.  Since I'd been able to save it from the deer all year,  I wanted to use it symbolically to express being thankful.  *heh*  So I cut a handful of my Tuscan kale, removed the thick center stem, then cut it crosswise into 3" pieces.   It got the same treatment as the rest of the vegs, but I added whole mustard seed to the mix.

I kept an eye on the kale and it was done in a very short time (maybe 10 minutes).  I didn't take it all the way to totally toasted although some edges did.

Wow.  Talk about a flavor explosion!  And such a delicate crunch.  The chips were wonderful plain and even more so with a light sprinkle of salt.

While I wouldn't do up a batch of kale chips just FOR kale chips, but whenever I'm doing a veg roast from now on I'll be sure to add kale to the mix.

So between a large bowl of spicy mixed veg and kale chips, turkey and the rest of the trimmings, we enjoyed our Thanksgiving dinner very much.

Hope you did too.

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cold day, hot oven

Saturday was another raw day.  And, like Friday, it was blustery, cold, and occasionally spitting rain and snow.


So I spent some time in a warm kitchen dry roasting vegetables: potatoes, Brussels sprouts, onions, and my home-grown sweet potatoes.

I sliced them up and spread them out (1 layer) on cookie sheets and, spritzed them all with olive oil, and roasted them in a very hot oven (475-500F) until the insides were soft and the edges were toasted.

Meanwhile, on the stovetop, I braised 2# of boneless pork ribs I got on markdown at Sam's.  I must say, the house sure smelled great!

In the end I got 4# roasted veg and about 2# of braised pork for the freezer (after making up a nice bowl of stew for supper).  (Sorry, no pics of the ribs.)

Sunday looks to be about the same temp wise, so I may do some more cooking.  We'll see....  After all, I'll have a whole extra hour to play with.

Happy time change.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012


And then there were 3....

Cider consolidation - from 4 jugs to 3

I had a pleasant email conversation with Jessica over at  the  "Making Hard Cider" (<= click link) website where she gave me some good advice.

She said that it wasn't really optimum for there to be so much headspace in the 4 jugs and she recommended combining them and using, perhaps, a wine bottle to handle whatever was left in the 4th jug.

Alrighty, then.  I got a wine bottle at the ready.

To transfer the cider, I considered siphon/hose.
Then I considered using a sanitized turkey baster.

Finally, I opted for the simplest of all, I just slowly tipped the 4th jug into the other 3.

Thankfully I didn't stir up any of the lees in the 3 jugs.  Previously there was about a couple of inches of decidedly clear cider in the jugs before topping up, now they are back to being lightly clouded.  I'm not worried.

As for the 'rest' of the cider in the 4th jug - there really wasn't any useful at the end.  Maybe 2C of cider/lees.  It went down the drain. Had I siphoned I probably could have recouped at least 1C more of cider.  But it wasn't worth the hassle.

So, we now resume to our regularly scheduled program - waiting.

Thanks, Jessica!

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Big day in the basement

As you saw from yesterday's post, fermentation in the big pail had ceased (well, technically, it ran out of sugars to process, so they stalled).

Time for racking out to glass jugs for the secondary ferment.

In the primary ferment, everything goes great guns, gushing and slushing.  A really rough cider is created - probably harsh and not tasty they say.

Now, however, secondary (and, perhaps even a third) ferment will take time and slowly transform the cider into something a lot more refined.

So, Igor!  To the basement.

First we cleaned, then sanitized all the equipment.  (Joy...)

I've been reading a lot and following the homebrew cider forum for weeks.  I kinda knew what to expect.  And I'm always learning stuff.  Like, Sunday I just KNEW I wanted to add an auto-siphon and bottle wand to my equip collection, so first thing Monday, Frankenstorm or not, I went down to the brew shop.  (Priorities!)

OK.  Time to siphon into sanitized jugs.  First thing I noticed was that the cider wasn't dark brown anymore, but decidedly golden.  Nice.

I was afraid that the siphon would suck in to much of the lees (dregs) because I couldn't see through the white pail to know how deep they were,  so I lowered a small sieve into the pail and rested the siphon on it for the 1st 3 jugs.  Then, for the last jug, I was more in control so just held the siphon up above where I thought the dregs were and watched carefully.

They advise you to sacrifice more rough cider than you want to, but it's the only way to prevent the lees from messing up your next ferment.  In the end there was a full GALLON left in the pail.  *sigh*

Next came popping bubbler airlocks into the jugs, then setting the jugs in a nice safe place for whatever time it takes for the yeast to work its magic.  To that effect I set up a bit of a table against a far basement wall, lined up the jugs, then (using a metal clothes rack) I draped them with a nice white tablecloth.   Hey ho.

One thing about that 'rough' cider.  The initial reading was for a 6% alcohol potential for the juice.  I can affirm most assuredly that there is at least 6% alcohol in this batch.  Trust me.  LOL  The cider is a little tart (I'd added some citric acid) and it doesn't have any yeasty taste.  Does it taste like apples?  Hard to say.  Without any sugar in the mix, it's not really apparent.  But it doesn't taste unpleasant at all, so I've got good hopes for the final product.  Now it's a waiting game (and time to do more reading up).

And - oh oh oh - just as I was draping the tablecloth over the jug table, I happened to look at the end jug -- just as IT GAVE UP ITS FIRST BUBBLE!   Yay!  We're off to the races!

Meanwhile, there is just a liiiiiiiitttttlllle bit more sample cider left in the primer cup.  Well, waste not, want not.


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Friday, October 26, 2012

Bubble, bubble

3 days of ferment

4 days of ferment
5 days ferment

Very appropriate - considering Halloween is just around the corner.

Looks like the yeast nutrient is doing its job.  By day 5 it's really going strong with nearly an inch of thick foam on top.   There is no bad odor - only the smell of ripe apples.

I never know what I'll see when I lift the cover (pressing bag) every day.

IGOR!  Come quick!   It's .... ALIVE!!!    Woohaha.

Day 6 - something new!

The yeast must have digested all the sugar into alcohol - it has stopped foaming and the suds have sunk to the bottom.

Tomorrow (Sandy willing) I will rack to secondary gallon jugs.

6 days ferment - foam falling

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ooops! Missed an ingredient!

Wow.  2 posts in one morning! :-D

For some reason or other I had earlier decided to forgo adding yeast nutrient to the juice.

Don't know why.

So now that I had a tub of juice fermenting away from yesterday, I reconsidered and high-tailed myself down to the friendly neighborhood brewing supply shop and bought a jar.   "No biggie," he said.  "It's not too late to add it to the juice."  *whew*  No harm, no foul.

So I did, adding 4.5t of nutrient to 4.5 gallons of juice.  The nutrients add nitrogen, oxygen and other things that don't FEED the yeast, but ENABLE the yeast to grow better - like vitamins.

After sprinkling in the nutrient, I stirred the juice with a sterilized plastic spoon.  You can see how much yeast has developed in just 18 hours of pitching it.  Wow.  Stuff is HAPPENING in there!  I covered it back up to do it's thing some more.

Here's a pic of my cider setup in the basement.  The bucket of ferment should be racked into gallon 2nd ferment jugs within a week and I can clear the table then.  After all, that's my laundry table and eventually I'll run out of clothes.  *heh*

I'm lucky enough to not only have TWO brewing supply shops within a couple of miles, but even closer is a food supply store where they sell new and used restaurant utensils and supplies.  The white tub and the 8-quart lidded container are food grade plastic and will serve me well in this experiement.

As for the half-gallon jar of liquid?  That is a 1-step sani mix (1/2T to 1/2 gallon).  EVERYthing gets washed, dried and then doused in this no-rinse sanitizer.  I'd made some earlier to sanitize the pail, etc a couple of days ago, then dumped the rinse down the drain.  But the man at the shop said he uses his for a month, then dumps it.  Gee - now THAT's useful info.  I can make a batch of 1-step at the start of cider making and the rinse will last up to and including disinfecting everything needed for the 1st racking into jugs.  That'll save time (quick rinses for things like thermometers, hydrometers, spoons, etc. need occasionally) and $ (for rinsing out jugs, lids, racking cane, tubes, airlocks, etc.).

Anyway - that's all for today.  I shouldn't have to do anything more downstairs until maybe the weekend.  Check back then...

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Bucket list

Nine times out of ten, the first time you try something new it is confusing, hard and/or a complete disaster.

Thing is, with cider, you won't know until weeks/months later just how far south things may have gone.

On Tuesday I pretty much followed the plan laid out in that morning post, but with some hiccups.

It's a simple process:

Sterilize everything.

Pour sweet cider (or apple juice) into pail.

Measure potential alcohol.

Start yeast in a glass.

Add yeast to juice.

Cover and wait for 4-7 days for the primary fermentation to process.

Having said that, it's been an uphill learning experience today.

I poured out the sweet cider into the pail.  4 gallon jugs filled the pail to the 4.5 gal mark.  Yay? (Note: next time let juice come up to room temp.)

Floated the hydrometer.  No probs there.  (Ignorance is bliss?)

I started the yeast in a glass.  (Note: next time - bigger glass, more sugar.) Even so, you can see in the pic that the yeast really took off around the 3-hour mark.

Three hours into the 4-hour yeast proof, I added pectic enzyme to the juice (it needs to be added 1 hour before adding yeast).  The enzyme helps settle out all the micro bits of apple pulp so the final cider is a clear amber vs the opaque brown that you start with.

I saw that the  pail was sweating like crazy from condensation.  I took the temp of the juice - only 49F!  Not good.  Too cold for the yeast.  Crap.

I dipped out 2 quarts of juice and heated it to 160F on the stove then  added it back.  Temp came up to 66F.  MUCH better.  (Good for temp.  Bad for process?  *sigh*  We'll see.)

Finally, at the 4-hour mark, I "pitched the yeast" as they say (poured yeast into juice).  And that was that.

I covered the pail with the cheesecloth, crossed my fingers and turned out the light.

I'll check on it every day and take pics.  

I did not add any sugars to the juice.  The juice was already too sweet to my liking and hope that fermentation will add some snap to the mix.

Anyway, I'm just as glad I've got DAYs until the next step. I'm cream crackered as the Brits say. 

Stay tuned.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Apple interuptus

Now, where was I?

Oh yeah, trying to make cider.

After the first effort of juicing my own apples (big waste of time and effort - see previous cider post), I've elected to start with bottled sweet cider.

Saturday, buddy Dave and I went to Hartville where the apple-monger still had half-bushels of 2nds for $5.  Great.  There are more golden delicious in the box than I wanted, but - hey ho - it was all he had that day.   These are earmarked for applesauce so I can always add citric acid if the sauce gets too sweet.

But the big buy was 4 gallons ($7/each!) of sweet apple cider (pasteurized only, no additives at all).  I'm going to use it in my big CIDER EXPERIMENT.

Meanwhile, back at the lab, there are more pieces of equipment on the table.

Since I decided to make 4 gallons (instead of 2) I bought 2 more gallon glass jugs/lids/plugs/airlocks.  I also ponied up for the 6-gallon food-grade primary fermentation pail.  (I decided to quit nickel - diming this project.)

Also new: beaker to float the hydrometer,  and a bottle brush).

And remember that half-gallon of wild free-range apple juice that I DID manage to press myself and then froze?  Well, I'm going to heat pasteurize it myself and then ferment it separately.  To that effect I'm going to use a half-gallon canning jar as a jug, so I drilled a hole in the metal lid to fit a plug/airlock.  Neato, huh?

So today I start this circus.

I'll wash/sterilize the fermentation pail and cheesecloth cover, hydrometer (and beaker if I need it).  Clean clean clean.

Then I'll use the hydrometer to measure the gravity (sugar content) of the juice to give me a guesstimate of the potential alcohol of the lot.

(Oh, and I've decided, since the bottled cider has been heat pasteurized (no labeling that it was UV pasteurized) I'm going to NOT use any campden tablets in the pail.  There shouldn't be any wild yeasts to kill, and the less campden tablets, the less sulfites in the finished product.)

Then I'll activate the yeast (EC - 1118 a yeast good for mead and cider)  in a glass and when it's going strong, I'll pour it ("pitch") into the juice, stir, cover, and leave the pail in the basement to ferment for a week.  (I've learned cider wants COOL temps to ferment at 40-60F which prevents loss of flavors).

In fact, I'm going to set up the whole experiment IN the basement where temps are usually between 55 and 60 year round. Perfect cider conditions.

Time to start sterilizing.

Stay tuned.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pulp friction

Well, I set aside Wednesday to see if I could do anything useful with that half-bushel of apples (previous post).

I had no pulper, so I quartered up the washed fruit and blitzed it in the food processor.  What a PAIN.  You have to cut the apples slices small enough to get into the safety chute.

I took the blitzed fruit and, again, mimicking some blogs, I made up 'pillows' of pomace (smashed fruit) using 2 layers of cheesecloth.  I ended up with 4 pillows.

Meanwhile, down in the basement, I jerry-rigged a press using a (newly acquired for the purpose) 4-ton bottle jack.  I built the 'press' in one of the basement doorways.  (I really need a keeper!)

Then I laid the pillows on an inverted stainless steel colander and started pumping the jack.

In theory, this should have worked.  But there were flaws in the system.  I had had to use a 3x3 stud to span the gap from the jack to the top of the door frame.  It was, alas, inherently 'wobbly' and with the soft fruit under the press, the jack tended to tip.  So I couldn't really apply as much pressure as I needed.

At the end of the day, I was tired and not very happy with this little venture.

The kitchen was half compost pile and half junk yard (as it seemed I had to use most anything BIG that I owned).

And the final result for all that?

Just over 2 measly quarts!!  There was another 3C from a previous juicing without the press, but I was so tired after THAT fiasco, I just drank it all.... :-/

Darn.  There's not enough juice here to make cider, that's for sure, so I just bagged it up and put it into the freezer.

I still want to make fizzy cider, but now my quest is for a couple of gallons of fresh pressed local cider that has been pasteurized and contains no yeast-killing additives.

Yeah -- like THAT's going to be any easier to find!

About the only good thing right now is - the house smells like an apple orchard.

Oh well -- onward....!

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Windfall apples

I bought a half-bushel of mixed windfall apples at Hartville market for $5.00; a nice mix of golden delicious, braeburn, macintosh, couple of jonathans, etc.  I figured these should make up some nice sauce.

But, really? Applesauce?  Again?

Hey, it's been a stressful summer.

Why not try something ... different?

Oh, now THIS should be fun.

Stay tuned.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

In a pickle

There's been a decided trend this Spring.

(1st pic)  Neighbors T&T gifted me with a bag full of quart canning jars that they happened to have and thought I might get some use out of them.  There was a comment, "Are you going to make pickles this year?"

(2nd pic) Neighbors C&N brought back an empty bag I used to give them an armful of kale.  There were 2 VERY large canning jars inside.  They'd found them and thought I could use them.  "Are you making more pickles?"


Subtle!  Even my mother keeps trying to give me empty glass jars from her kitchen.  I guess last year's foray into refrigerator pickles was a resounding success.  

But nobody beats the unsubtle approach my buddy Dave took. 

(3rd pic)  Last time we ventured up to Hartville for some shopping, I was presented with a no-nonsense straightforward gift of 6 HALF-GALLON canning jars.  "Here.  Make pickles."

(4th) pic.  Notice that no one gave me any PINT  jars... *snicker*

The cukes are just sprouting now for June plant out.  Grow fast, little guys.  Meanwhile - someone call Mother Nature.  Last year we got almost 50" of rain - and was TOTALLY responsible for the huge bumper crops of cukes!!   But this year has been dry/normal.  We'll just have to keep our fingers crossed.  What a pickle ...

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Savory oatmeal wedges

Most mornings I'm just too eager to get outside and play in the garden so I usually skip breakfast.  Well, I know that isn't good.  So years ago I came up with a healthy, high protein, high fiber breakfast that would make 6 servings that I can wrap up in the 'fridge and can be grabbed on-the-go in the morning.

In a bowl I whisk up 6 large eggs (only 3 yokes, I'm watching my cholesterol), then add 1- 1.5 C of rolled oats and 6T of milled golden flax seed.  I like mine spicy so add smoked chipotle powder, cracked black pepper and a little sea salt.

I whisk some more until it's a gloppy mess.  Let it sit a minute for the oatmeal to 'open up'.  Meanwhile I've heated a skillet to medium and sprayed it with olive oil.

Pour in the batter, spread it out, and let the bottom brown.  Then, with the courage of your convictions, get a spatula under it and flip it over.  Turn down the heat by half and let the other side cook (couple of minutes).  Turn off the heat and let it sit a minute.

Cut into 6 wedges.  Each wedge then contains an egg, about 1/4 C (dry) oatmeal and 1T of flaxseed.  I like mine warm with a little BBQ dipping sauce.  I also like it cold, right out of the 'fridge if I'm on the run.  Sure saves me time in the morning and I can still have a healthy bite before I head out.

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