Olivia’s Bed – Headboard and Footboard

The head and footboard are constructed from solid 8/4 red oak for the legs and arches. The cross bars are 6/4 thickness.  The panels are nominally 1/2″ thick.

Panels

The panels in each are laminated form 2 sheets of nominal 1/4″ plywood. The pretty quarter sawn oak plywood is only 1/4″ thick and I was afraid that eventually the kids would put a foot through it so I laminated a lesser grade of oak plywood onto  it for the sides that are not readily seen (facing the mattress and the wall behind the headboard).

Panel with glue applied

The panel pieces are 26.5″ wide and 13-17″ tall. The pieces are rough cut to size and glued with Titebond Cold Press glue. This glue is designed for vacuum pressing of veneers.  On the work surface, I have piled multiple layers of scrap kraft packing paper. This way I can pull off a sheet after glueing up each panel. This avoids accidentally getting glue drips on the veneer faces and either having a splotch or inadvertently gluing the stacked panels together. I use a notched spreader with its finest v-notches for spreading the glue (barely visible in the lower right corner).  The front and back of each piece are taped together with some blue masking tape.

Next, the pieces are placed in the vacuum bag. Given that I am using a 4×4′ bag I need to stack the pieces, otherwise there is not enough room in a single pressing for all of them. I place the pairs with the lesser quality veneers facing each other. I usually also place a piece of paper between the pieces so they don’t get stuck together and pull of bits of veneer (and I forgot this time). This is a budget vacuum bagging setup with home made bag and used surplus vacuum pump (and the rig is due for an upgrade) .

Side rabbet plane in use

With the panels glued up and trimmed to size the footboard can be assembled. There was a bit of trimming of the dadoes that the panels fit in. The plane shown is made just for this task.   This is my 3rd one (Veritas Side Rabbet Plane) and works FAR FAR better than my old Stanley (very had to adjust and would not hold) or the Woodcraft / Wood River (crappy blades).   This is a particular tool where going for a good one saves a LOT of frustration.  Trimming the sides of the dadoes is never easy but this tool does it well.

Footboard Assembly

Once everything is dry fitted, the parts are sanded to 220 grit. Note that as I designed this, there are offsets or reveals at every joint. This means no having to plane and sand the joints flush. This is a big time savings and I think it also adds visual interest.  It is also a necessity if using a finish first / glue second technique as I have done on other beds and Isla’s crib.  This bed is conventionally done assemble first and finish second as I wanted the arches for the headboard to be the same thickness as the legs.

 

 

Footboard clamped up

The footboard assembly is pretty straightforward.The full size footboard can be clamped using a combination of the workbench end vise and pipe clamps. It also needed the diagonal clamp to square it up. Even though the joints looked tight it was about 1/8″ off top to bottom.

Headboard panels

The headboard panels need to be trimmed to fit. The arches were marked out with a batten so there is no template. The easiest thing to do is to use the arch to scribe the cut line.  A fence was set along the bottom edge of the panel at twice the dado depth. This way the arch edge could be traced onto the panel from underneath.

Headboard panel ready for tracing
Traced arch outline on panel

The arch was then cut on the 12″ bandsaw with a 1/4″ skip tooth blade.  There was a bit of fitting to do for the panels.

Headboard assembly

The headboard was then glued up starting with Titebond 3 for the stretcher tenons and the dadoes for the panels. Once the stretchers were loosely assembled the panels were inserted. For the arches,  tinted and thickened epoxy for the arches.  The epoxy was used to gain some extra strength and make up for some slop in a couple of the biscuit slots.  The top 3 decorative spacers are simply set in their (tight) slots with no glue.  This was a 2 person job with Teal helping as the gluing assistant.

While this was curing, I glued up the first of the base cabinets. There are 2 of these and they are primarily held together with biscuits per the FWW article.  

There was a bit of clean up on the headboard arch joints. The ends of the top arch were purposely about 1/16″ long and needed to be planed flush with the legs. The bottom arch needed a slight amount of planing for a perfect match to the leg posts.

 

Olivia’s Bed – First Cuts

Some cuts, such as the legs and horizontal rails are quite straight forward.  However, the headboard top arches are not, requiring a specific sequence of cuts to not waste material and get good crisp joints. When I was purchasing the wood, one piece stood out as a perfect candidate for the top arches. However, it had little extra width to spare. This ruled out cutting the arches on the CNC router, as I could not spare the extra half inch for the router bit.

The sketch below from my notebook, shows the sequence of cuts but the upper edge is not shown (and it must be parallel to the bottom edge as it is the reference in cuts 7 and 8.  The layout of the arches was done with a wooden batten board about 3/8″ thick. Unfortunately, I did not have enough hands or enough patience to get photos of that part of the process.

Arches cut sequence

The ends (cuts 1&2) were made to overhang the leg posts by ~1/16″ on each end. I figured it would be easier to trim the ends of the top arch rather than the whole of the length of the legs to fit. Cut 3 frees up the top arch and then with the table saw fence set, cuts 5 and 6 are made. Be sure to make them on the “top side” of the line so that when you clean up the underside of the top arch, you do not intrude on the joints.  Some may say that my cuts (4&5) were excessively conservative in this regard (oh well – learn  from my mistakes).  When making large radius cuts like these, use a wide blade. I had a 3/4″ blade in my 24″ 7.5HP bandsaw for this. Yes, a 12-14″ bandsaw with a 1/2″ 3 TPI skip tooth blade would work great for these cuts. The ripples you see in the cuts are due to the blade having been previously kinked and then pounded out sort of flat due to a free hand log bandsawing missile mishap a few years ago (another story for another time).

After Cut 3 which separates the upper and lower arches, you can do 4&5 which set the bottom of the top arch square. Cuts 7&8 set the width of the headboard. So these are critical to get right. These cuts are referenced to the “bottom” of the board and shown above.

After the lower arch is cut out, and the bottom of the top arch (cuts 4&5) are made it is time for a dry fit up to see if things are aligning properly. As you can see above, the joints line up nicely. Now I can proceed with the final arch cuts.

Once the arches are cut out, it is time to do the final shaping and smoothing. This requires a spokeshave for the concave surfaces, a hand plane for the convex and a large sanding block with 60, 80, 120 grit sanding belt stock (yes there is a second life for broken sanding belts).  A card scraper works over select sections that need help.

As you can see in the photo above, the legs have mortises for the horizontal cross rails.  I like to cut the tenons for long pieces like the cross rails on the radial arm saw, equipped with a stacked dado blade set. 

The arches are joined with biscuits. Two #0 biscuits are used for each joint.  The headboard also gains strength from the large  (1×1.5×1″) tenons on the cross rails , one of which you can see being cut above.

The biscuit slots in the leg and top arch are shown below. Close-up of the initial fit up of the head board arches.

This is the headboard first dry fit assembly    Next will be the panels and dividers.

 

 

 

 

 

A Bed for Olivia

With another child on the way, my grand-daughter Olivia will need to give up her old crib / bed for the new child in a few months.   So it is time to make her a bed that will last for a few generations.

Kelly and David wanted one with storage underneath. We sent photos of various options back and forth. The lofted ones were discarded. The one closest to what they wanted had an arched headboard and low footboard. They did not want a very tall headboard, so that it could be placed in front of the window.  I did some more digging and ran across an article on Fine Woodworking for a storage under a bed.   David and Kelly did not care for that bed design but liked the storage.   So now it was time to rough out the design in Sketchup.

 Each side would have 2 drawers and a cubby at the headboard end. This allows for placing nightstands alongside without obstructing the storage. The drawers will run on undermount drawer slides.  The flat panels in the head and footboards are not terribly large and as luck would have it, I can use a beautiful piece of quarter sawn oak plywood left over from the last Dresser Project end panels for the forward facing sides!

The drawer faces will be inset slightly from the dividers. As I modeled overlay drawers, they just did not look right next to the cubby. We can play with the amount of inset, 3/4″ is shown in the rendered image.

I often have some extra days off around the Christmas and New Year and there is generally a furniture project that takes up much of that time . This year it is Olivia’s bed.

Now it was time to run to the local lumber mill – Kettle Moraine Hardwoods for the solid stock.  I found some beautiful 8/4 Red Oak for the posts and arches and 6/4 for the horizontal rails. There was a good selection of 4/4 #1 Common that really would have been Select if it was longer.  I came back with easily twice what I needed for the project (always build back stock).  A few days later, David and I made a trip to Menards for the rest of the plywood. I did not need any “fancy plywood” as most of it will be hidden, so I could not justify a trip up to Alpine Plywood (which is where the quarter sawn oak plywood came from).

Next:

Chicken Pot Pie

Teal really like chicken pot pies.   However, I find them to be typically bland, pasty and just not worth the calories.   So on a cold, dreary late fall day, Teal asked if we could make pot pies.  I took up the challenge: to make a pot pie that is actually worth eating.

The engineering mind took over.  I was thinking  about what makes them so boring?  The answer is, there is  a lack of caramelization,  too much goo (a.k.a “gravy”) and few if any spices.  So, I set out to correct these deficiencies and add a few twists.  I started with a small batch of 4 servings figuring I could scale it up later if they turned out.  These are still not “health food” but still better than what you will find in the frozen foods section of your local store.  If the steps below seem like a lot, remember that each is done while you are chopping the next. It is an efficient use of your time.

Teal enjoying the pot pie

Veggies

3 large carrots, washed, scraped of dark spots and cut into ~3/8″ pieces

2 medium onions chopped to about the same size

1 large pinch of dried thyme crushed

1 pinch of savory crushed

1-2  tsp sweet paprika

salt and pepper to taste

Saute the carrots in bacon grease (about 1 TB) for 3 min on med-high heat so they just barely start to brown and then add the onions. Keep stirring until the onions are thoroughly translucent  and soft. Then dump them out into a large mixing bowl and heap into a pile while mixing in the  thyme and savory, 1 tsp sweet paprika as well as salt and pepper to taste.  Heaping will conserve the heat and keep them cooking.  The carrots should be slightly soft at this point.

Leave the pan  on the stove, off the heat.    Other veggies can be added, but Teal prefers that we stick to the basics (certainly no celery or parsnips). 1-2 small (sweet) potatoes might be acceptable, but we were out.   At this point, the fry pan is sticky with bits of the veggies – these will come off as the chicken (below) cooks.

Chicken

1 package – about 1- 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  Remove connective tissue, and excess fat. Chop into 1/2″ pieces.

Dredge the chicken in 3-4 TBsp flour with 1 tsp granulated garlic. This will be a sticky gooey mess. Chicken will be coated but not “dry”.

Add 1 TBsp bacon grease to the pan. Then add the chicken and saute until lightly browned and tender. Stir to break up the pieces, but pause enough to let each side brown a bit.  We use thighs as they can withstand the higher temps needed for browning, while staying tender unlike breast meat.   Once browned and tender, remove from the heat and dump into the bowl with the veggies reserving any left-over grease. Note that at this point, the chicken is completely cooked and food safe if you want to save these for later.

Sauce / gravy

Pot pies need some sauce, but not the pasty white stuff you often see. It needs some flavor from our friendly Maillard reactions.   This starts with a browned roux.: 3-4 TBsp flour, 1-2 TBsp bacon grease. Stir over medium high heat. All of the flour should be coated and thick (and not runny). Now cook, while stirring constantly, until it is a light caramel brown.   Next whisk in 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock until it thickens and is smooth with no or minimal lumps.

Add 10 oz  frozen baby peas to the veggies and chicken,  then add the sauce and stir gently to mix.

Pot Pies

Divide the mixture into four  approximately 5″ wide oven proof ramekins. Cover with a thin layer of pie crust. Our favorite is: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/classic-single-pie-crust-recipe .

A typical single crust recipe will have a lot left over.  So you will have the opportunity for odd shaped pie crust cookie snacks  – cover with cinnamon sugar and bake with the pot pies. Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake at 425  for 30-40 min until the crust is crispy.  Remember to remove the snack pieces before they burn (about 10 min).   Let the pot pies rest about 15 min before serving.

With the added flavor of the caramelization, high proportion of veggies and herbs, even I like these pot pies. They will now be one of our winter staples.  The pies can be frozen par-baked, so the crust starts to set up  and then heated and served.

 

Spent Grain Sourdough

With a little planning ahead a brewing day can also be a baking day.   I  am doing extract brewing and the spent specialty grains are perfect for baking.   The cooked grains are rich in fiber, have lower carbs and add great texture (yes, even with the husks present).

Given that many of my beers are high gravity I need to make a starter for the beer. The sourdough also requires a starter. So why not do both in parallel?

Spent grain sourdough bread

Day T-2   Pull your sourdough starter from the fridge and mix with 1 cup all purpose flour and 3/4 c water.   Mix well, cover and allow to rise at room temp.

Day T-1  Make the starter for the beer. I typically use 1.5 l water and 3/4 c DME. Bring to a boil in an erlenmeyer flask, including the stir bar, with a foil cover .   Remove from heat and quickly cool in a snowbank or ice water (brewing in the winter does have some advantages for cooling). Rehydrate the yeast per the mfr instructions if using dry yeast, add to the flask and then put on the stir plate.

Add to the sourdough starter. Add another 1 1/4 c flour and 3/4-1 c water to have  a heavy sticky dough.  Cover and let rise at room temp.    Make sure you keep the sourdough work well away from the beer starter or you will risk contamination. Doing the additions in 2 stages, seems to yield more consistent results.

Sourdough starter a few hours after 2nd addition

 

Brew and baking day

Steep the specialty grains per the beer recipe drain well and cool.   For the bread pictured above,  this was Caramunich III.       By the time you are done brewing,  the grains will be cool enough for baking.

Bread

Place the sourdough starter in the mixer bowl reserving 2/3 cup to save for the next batch.

Add 2.5 cups of the spent grains – they should be just damp at this point. Wring out if too moist

Add 2 c bread flour (King Arthur)

1 tsp dry yeast (SAF Instant)

Mix lightly and then rest for 10-15 min.

Continue mixing for 3 min. This should be a very sticky ball, mostly pulling away from the sides of the mixer .  You may have to adjust with more flour or water but do not be tempted to make it too firm.

Add 1tsp fine sea salt. Mix for another 2 min.   The salt firms up the dough, so don’t add too early or the texture will not be as nice.

Cover the bowl with a very damp warm kitchen towel and place in the oven to proof. Ours has a bread proofing (100F) setting.  Let rise for 1.5 hours.

Take the dough our and place on a floured counter. Pull and fold 5-8 times.  It will still be very sticky but this evens out the texture.

Place in a large pan or dutch oven and oil the inside well (olive oil or butter).  Cover and rise again for another 1-1.5 hours at 100F. The dough should have risen about 2.5 times.

Preheat oven to 425 F

Place bread covered in the oven for 15-20 min.

Remove the lid, set for convection backing. Insert temperature probe and bake until the internal temp is 195F (15-30 min).   Itis best to go by temp rather than time.   The Thermoworks Chefalarm with the Pro Series Needle Probe is perfect. I also use this for brewing as the probe is waterproof.

Remove and turn onto a rack to cool and serve (unless your spouse beats you to it for the first slice (as mine did in the photo above).  Serve with a glass from a previous batch of your beer.

While you may be tempted to interleave the baking and brewing work during the boil, I would recommend against it. The sourdough has a variety of yeasts and bacteria in it that would definitely not be beneficial to your beer.   I have learned the hard way not to taste the raw sourdough!

Note that previously I had tried adding brewing grains (dry) as part of the flour for the bread and the texture was not that good. The steeping of the grains for brewing makes a huge difference in the bread. I will also try increasing the proportion of spent grain in the future as well as mixing with other flours.  I am really intrigued with trying rye and oats as the spent grains.  There is much room for experimentation, based on this successful base recipe.

Home Made Pastrami

Why settle for pre-packaged pastrami when you can easily make your own with superior flavor, lower sodium and no strange preservatives?   This is another slow food recipe. Elapsed time is 4-10 days, but the actual applied time is quite short, at 1-2 hours including packaging and clean up.

Small chunk of the pastrami

 

This recipe is based on the one in Charcuterie 

The meat is brined for a week, smoked overnight and the finished in the oven.   For cured meats I prefer to use metric measurements and work by weight rather than volume .   I use a full size “packer” brisket (12-14 lbs)  I cut the flat in half and remove the heavy surface fat as well as that between the flat and point.  So now you have 3 approximately equal sized pieces that will now fit in a refrigerator crisper drawer with the brine as well as on the smoker.

Brine

1 gallon  / 4l water
300 g kosher salt (Mortons)
225 g sugar
35 g pink salt  (Cure #1)
1 tbsp / 8 grams Pickling spice (make your own or get Penzey’s)
90 g dark brown sugar
1/4 c 60 ml honey
5-8 garlic cloves – thinly sliced

Mix the brine making sure the salt and sugar are dissolved.   Place the brine and the meat in a crisper drawer or suitable container in the fridge. If you have room, place a heavy plate on top to keep the meat submerged.   Turn the meat every 1-2 days.   After a week remove and rinse well.

If desired, cover with 1 tbsp /8 g crushed coriander seed and 1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper.   I usually halve this or skip it as Teal does not like the heat of the pepper.

Smoking

Place the meat on a rack, pat it dry  and allow to come up to close to room temperature. The reason for this is to form a pellicle on the surface – a tacky coating that better absorbs the smoke. By warming it up you will also avoid having the smoke condense and make a sooty mess on the surface of the meat.

Smoke at 220- 225F for 14-16 hours over hardwood charcoal and cherry wood chunks (branch slices 3-4 ” diameter and 2-3″ thick are perfect).  I start in the late afternoon or evening and then can pull it off the next day.  This is where the Heatermeter comes in handy which provides perfect hands free temperature control.    You are looking for an internal temp of 160-165F . There should be a nice bark on the surface.   It will taste great but still be too tough.

Now moved to a covered  dutch oven with 1/2″ of water in the bottom and place in the oven at 275F for 3 hours. Final  internal temp should be about 200-205F.  At this point it will be nice and tender but firm and dark pink throughout.

If you have any brown or light pink areas in the middle it was not brined quite long enough or froze while in the brine (this last batch froze as the fridge is in the garage and temps dipped to well under freezing too early in the season).

Serve and enjoy.  We vacuum pack chunks and freeze for later (and raiding by our kids).

 

Down the rabbit hole of sour beer

Over time I have had a few sour beers,  but I had not done much exploration of the genre. After the success of the Backyard Berry Sour a.k.a. Pink Beer, I wanted to explore them more broadly. Unfortunately, Wisconsin is seemingly  not on the sour beer  distribution web  (if one exists). A few trips out East and careful scrounging for sour beers locally additionally piqued my interest.   However, the prices ($13-23 / 4 pack) were at the upper end of my price range.

I did however decide that based on my tastings that I wanted to try my hand at “brett beers”. That is, those that are fermented with the aid of Brettanomyces cultures rather than just sticking with the safer kettle soured (Lactobacillus culture) beers.  To most brewers and vintners, having Brett in the brew is a sign of contamination and when not intentionally added, leads to off flavors, gushers (beers that spray forth when opened) and bottle bombs (don’t wait for a human to open them).

More research was in order, so I could make my own. Hopefully with some controls so I could brew conventional beers and keep the brett monster in its place.  The first purchase was  “American Sour Beers” which provides a great overview of the processes, methods and recipes.   The second was “Yeast” which covers the use of yeast in brewing as well as the necessary scientific methods (proper culturing / propagation, cell counting, viability testing, etc). Both of these appealed to my inner engineer.  I was especially impressed with the writing style in Yeast, where one of the authors (Chris White of White Labs ) does not make this a pedestal to promote his own products but rather uses them as infrequent examples – great restraint.

Next was the need for a bit more equipment.  There is the fear and potential problem of accidental cross contamination.  So it is best to keep all plastic parts separate between the regular and Brett beers. That means fermenters, hoses, stoppers, siphon, wine thief, lids, Tilt hydrometer, etc.   I also purchased a microscope and hemocytometer to do some cell counting (OK this was just for the inner geek but fun anyway).   I do also practice double sanitization (once after washing everything after brewing and once before brewing) both as a good general practice and to avoid accidental cross contamination.

So more or less prepared, I ordered the ingredients along with both kinds of yeast needed.   I am not yet ready to jump into brett only fermentations so I followed the recommendations and stated with a Belgian style ale yeast – SafAle BE-134 for primary fermentation and Omega Yeast – All the Bretts  for the brett culture. I have used BE-134 in a number of beers and like it but the All the Bretts was the only Brett yeast in stock locally in late summer.

Next- on to the brewing.

Backyard Berry Sour a.k.a Pink Beer

My first experiment with sour beers was a kettle soured beer with fruit. It proved to be very popular and resulted in another 2 batches being made this past summer.

Kettle souring is a “safe” technique in that it uses cultured lactic acid bacteria in the wort before the boil. The boil  kills the bacteria and there is no worry about them running away (making an excessively sour beer) or contaminating the rest of your brewing gear.

This beer is based on the Northern Brewer Funktional Fruit Sour.   Without repeating the recipe, here are the highlights from Batch 1

Day 1  (friday night) Boil the malt only wort for 5 min and then cool to 80-85F.   Leave it in the brew kettle.  Add the lactobacillus culture and cover.  Heat must be applied. My Spike 10 gal Brew Kettle can be set up with a side mount thermo well into which the thermo probe is inserted and the heater wrapped around.  Initial pH was 6.5

Day 2 make up the starter.  1.3 l water, 3/4 DME boil and cover the flask with aluminum foil. Chill to 68f. Add the yeast. So far,  there have been 3 batches  T-58, BE-134 and EC1138   I like the T58 the best for this one.

Day 3 (Monday eve) The pH has dropped to 3.53 – nice and tart.  Now We continue with the brew. Do this per the recipe  including primary fermentation.  2/3 tsp Fermax was added per batch .

10-14 days later transfer to secondary  SG 1.017

Add the fruit. All of the fruit had been frozen, then heated to a boil, and mashed with a “motor boat” style stick mixer to break it up. Each 5 gal batch required :

  • 2lbs frozen Blueberries,
  • 1lb mixed frozen fruit (Raspberries, strawberries and blackberries),
  • 12 oz frozen blackberries
  •  1lb frozen cranberries

The blueberries all came from my garden. While I grow the others, including high bush cranberries, I do not get enough for brewing so I have to resort to store bought frozen.

I still do not have the perfect technique for managing the berry pulp in the fermenter. The first batch I just dumped it in.  This required twice filtering to keep the keg from plugging with bits of pulp.  The second and 3rd batches I placed in fine mesh bags and then in the fermenter but they were too “floaty” trapping the C02. I tried venting them with 1/2″ pvc pipe but this was not great either. They still floated.   I shook the fermenter daily to attempt to keep things mixed up and prevent mold growth (if the fruit on top dries out it is susceptible to mold).

Batch 1  5 days primary, 14 days secondary  OG 1.054, FG1.02

Batches 2&3  Additional 1.5 lbs golden light DME per batch above the kit fermentables.

10 days primary, 35 days secondary     Added EC1118 yeast i batch 3 in secondary    Batch 2 OG 1.070 FG 1.007, Batch 3 OG1.073  FG 1.009

Transferring the first batch to the keg. 2 more filtering passes were required.

As you can see the beer is a brilliant PINK.

The FG ranged form 1.007 to 1.009  across the batches.   This is a family favorite. All of the ladies love it, especially those that don’t care for the IPAs and Imperial Stouts that I do otherwise.  The girls have requested that I keep it on hand for all family gatherings and summer boating.

Note that some articles suggest removing the precipitate from the kettle souring step. The lactobacillus layer on the bottom of the kettle can scorch and create a burnt rubber flavor.  Tip for my next batch.

 

 

Pliny Plus IIPA

Like many of my brews this started with a kit – Northern Brewer Plinian Legacy. This is a “clone” of the impossible to find in Wisconsin, Russian River Pliny The Elder .

I wanted a very strong Imperial IPA so I also added to the kit an additional pound of golden DME at the start of the 90 minute boil.

Prior to brewing, I made a starter with 1.5 liters of water, 1 cup DME this was brought to a boil in the erlenmeyer flask with an aluminum foil cap and then chilled in an ice water bath. Once it was cool enough – 68F I added the BE134 yeast.  This went on the stir plate for 24 hours. This is a highly attenuating Belgian style yeast that also withstands high alcohol content.

Prior to chilling I added 2 tsp of Fermax yeast nutrient.

The cooled wort was oxygenated for 3 minute.

As I have learned in subsequent brews,  you need a cool start (63-65F) to prevent this yeast from getting going too vigorously and the temperature rocketing up. In this case, I started at 68-69F which was the same as the basement temp and it rose after a few days to 74F.  This batch also required a large blow off tube.

Initially, I had a  1/2″ ID blow off tube  and the lid blew off the Big Mouth Bubbler making a bit of a mess.  I have latches to prevent the lids from simply walking out the top.  So I switched to the big blow off tube (1″ ID).  Another option I discovered later, is to add the yeast nutrient at day 3  to level the fermentation rate out a bit.   In the photo above, besides the Pliny Plus with the top blown off,  you can see also 2 batches of the “Pink Beer” in secondary fermentation and the “Brett Ringer” in primary (another post yet to come).

 

date SG temp
09/01/19 1.084 69
09/02/19 1.067 71
09/03/19 1.0344 74
09/04/19 1.0267 72
09/05/19 1.0233 73
09/06/19 1.02 73
09/20/19 1.01 75
10/02/19 1.078 68

As you can see, imperfect temperature control , both in starting a bit warm and then when it hit peak, not holding that temp.    I do not have anything to cool the fermenting beer other than the cement floor and ambient air temp (no chiller – yet).  I did ramp the temp back up after the first week a bit to help keep the fermentation going. The fermenter was vigorously shaken 1-2 times per day to help keep the yeast from settling out too early

This beer has a high amount of hops and hop extract in it.  The fermenter was sticky with hop extractives when I transferred to the secondary .

Calculated ABV was 9.7%.

When transferring from primary to secondary (9/19/19) when the first of the dry hop additions was done it had a harsh flavor and a “burn” in the throat. This greatly smoothed out later.

Taste was great when kegged and served.

 

More Cowboy Candy

We made our last batch of Cowboy Candy 2 years ago and are down to two 1/2 pints and one pint being left.  This impending shortage along with the first (late) freeze of the year meant I had to harvest my peppers. I ended up with 2 gallon buckets and then some of peppers. Mostly a long jalapeno but also a few Caribbean red  habaneros.  This is not enough to do a batch, so I went to the Waukesha farmers market and bought out 3 vendors.  One of them was surprised I really wanted all of the ripe jalapenos (ripe peppers are a critical ingredient).  A final vendor provided a dozen orange habaneros.

Sunday morning arrived and so did the kids, Jessie, Elyse and David came with children in tow.  We were arrayed around the kitchen table seeding and chopping the pile of peppers. I estimate it was 40-45 lbs overall, with about 30-35lbs when cleaned (we lost count of the 3 lb batches).

Almost done, just a few peppers to go

Duties were split with the kids doing the chopping, I was chopping and doing the hot  processing of the jars.   This was our second try at doing the hot / boiling water bath processing on the deck and it worked great!  We were also smart enough this time to don the gloves from the start.  Last time we had painful side effects for a couple of days (just think of every body part you may touch with your fingers that are soaked in capsaicin – ouch).

The Blichman Hellfire burner gets the kettle up to a boil quickly (>200K BTU/hr).   This burner is designed for home brewing and double duty for canning.  The Victorio canner also works well as a brew kettle.   So, when considering what you need for brewing or home canning, keep in mind the dual uses.  This would work with a turkey fryer and burner too.

The major advantages of brewing outside are just as rewarding for canning . Keep the steam,  mess and boilovers outside as much as possible.  The 4x4s under the burner are not so much a safety consideration but rather to help keep me from bending over quite so far. 

Teal did the cooking and filling of the jars.  She had 2 kettles going: one with the syrup for cooking the peppers and a second with the cooked down concentrate for filling the jars.

With the help and better sequencing of processing steps we were done in under 3 hours.  This halved the time vs 2 years ago for an equivalent amount.

Final tally was 36 half pints and 7 pints.  We “should” be set for another 2 years.  However, as the word spreads of this special taste treat, the stash of jars goes down ever more quickly.    For the recipe see: https://bronkalla.com/blog/2017/10/01/candied-jalapenos-cowboy-candy/