Archive for December, 2010

Homebrew Update

Monday, December 13th, 2010

I’ve finally gotten into the homebrew groove, it seems. The motivation, though, was a potential catastrophe. Namely, my kegerator can’t hold 2 typical commercial 5 gallon kegs. It seems that the dimensions of kegs vary and most are just slightly shorter and fatter than the “standard”. It won’t fit by about 1/16″!

I briefly toyed with either moving the kegerator to the big chest freezer and using the small for food. But then I had a better idea.

Since the kegerator can easily fit a commercial with a corny keg (or 2 corny kegs) then I should actually, like, BREW BEER!

And, thus, that is what I’m doing. Got a butch of heavily coffeed American Nut Brown Ale finishing in a cornelius keg while a batch of traditional English Special Bitters is in primary.

The Nut Brown Ale came out with about a ~4.7% ABV, exactly as the recipe said it should. After a week of sitting in the corny keg, the Nut Brown Ale is now on tap in the kegerator. The first few pours were a bit bitter and cloudy, but now it is pouring much cleaner and is absolutely delicious. Notable bitter coffee flavor on top of a chocolaty brown ale beer.

The English Special Bitters went in with an SG of 1.040, about 0.007 less than the recipe called for, but I’m not worried about it. Update: Came out at about 1.012 SG; or, about, ~3.7% ABV. It’ll go into the secondary now to settle and then into a corny keg in a few days to a week. I don’t expect much further fermentation, but it’ll likely end up right at 4% ABV.

A friend turned me on to Northern Brewer Homebrew Supply. Their kits are fantastic, the prices are reasonable, and they have $8 shipping on all orders.

Thus, I picked up 3 kits (and already had a kit from Fermentation Solutions, whom I’ll definitely go to when I’m ready to start doing custom recipes & for the occasional kits because theirs are quite good, too); two malt extract (ESB & Traditional English Pub Ale) and one partial extract (Oatmeal Stout).

With the gas stove, I can get through a recipe in 3 to 3.5 hours with a partial boil recipe. It is a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Better yet, when my sinuses are clogged, as they often are in the winter, all that steam does wonders!

New Puppy; Emerald!

Saturday, December 4th, 2010
Emerald Stares Back

Meet Emerald.

We picked her up from Lucky Paws Rescue last weekend.

Or, more specifically, she picked us out of the handful of people that showed up at an adoption event at Petco.

First, she was the brightest eyed, most inquisitive, puppy of the lot. She took keen interest in everything going on about her.

She also purred — yes, purred — while snuggling into my neck after I picked her up.

Supposedly, she is a Border-Collie / Black Labrador mix. We won’t really know until she puts a bit of growth on her.

Emerald Discussing Plans With Ruby

Ruby has been both quite patient with Emerald and also quite playful; they wrestle about quite often and Ruby is even sharing her rawhide and toys with Emerald!

I suspect, though, that Emerald is part pig. Both from the way she eats and because she both snorts and squeals when exploring and/or being picked up.

Now that Emerald is in the house, Ruby has taken to sleeping with Roger. Which is pretty funny given that our last dog, Janis Joplin, took to sleeping with Roger as soon as Ruby was added to the family. Apparently, the young dog sleeps with the old folks in the house while the old dog sleeps with the boy.

Go figure.

Unlike Ruby, Emerald is quite vocal. Unlike Janis, Emerald doesn’t really bark. It is much more of a sing-song kind of thing.

Emerald also hasn’t quite figured out the concept of glass yet, running headlong into the door a few times.

Emerald, The Hearth Ornament Puppy

Emerald’s current favorite place to sleep is on the hearth.

She’ll curl up like a cat, tuck her tail around her body and watch the world go by until she passes out.

Even in the last week, more of her body hangs off the edge than when we first got her.

When you pet her on the hearth, she’ll groan like an old man.

Odd dog. Just the way we like ’em.

Trader Joe’s & Sous Vide Cooking; Don’t Do It!

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Trader Joe’s has quite a few relatively high quality, often deliciously pre-marinated, foods vacuum packed and frozen in convenient plastic pouches.

Not surprisingly, I’ve seen it come up in a number of Sous-Vide cooking forums that said pouches are wonderful for water bath cooking; simply pop them in the water bath at the desired temperature and be done with it.

I even tried it myself with some tuna the other night. It was a pasteurization level cook, so the end result was closer to flaky cooked than red-raw tuna, but was otherwise delicious.

However, I — and others — have wondered if the wrapping Trader Joe’s uses is Sous-Vide safe. So, I contacted customer service and asked:

Is your vacuum packed frozen fish sealed in bags that can
handle sous-vide water bath cooking (i.e. a cooking bat at ~140 degrees

Given the growing popularity of sous vide cooking and the unbelievable
convenience/quality of your fish products, it would be helpful to mark
packages that can handle SV cooking.

The response from customer service:

Thank you for your inquiry. The packaging used for our frozen fish are
not approved for this cooking method. We do advise removing all
packaging before any cooking method.

Unfortunate, but it is what it is. I suspect this is more of a CYA response than an actual statement of cooking method incompatibility, but I’m not going to risk it. Nor will I assume that any of the meats (they have beautiful pre-seasoned frozen vacuum packed rack of lamb, for example) is safe, either.

I’m going to write a followup letter to Trader Joe’s corporate asking them to re-consider.