Sous vide Pork Loin

As you can see from my other  recipes, pork loins are a family favorite. They can be a bit touchy to get done evenly without becoming tough. So this made it a candidate for a sous vide cooking experiment.  After some research I decided on an overnight brine and

Prepare the brine

1/2 c brown sugar

2/3 c cider vinegar

1/6 c salt

4 cloves garlic crushed

1TB black peppercorns crushed

2 tsp Colman’s mustard powder

1 TB shaved fresh ginger

1 1/3 c water

 

Mix brine and immerse the roast in it overnight (5 PM to 8 Am).  At this point, the outer 1/2″ of the roast was a much lighter color presumably due to the acid of the vinegar.

 

The next day vacuum bag with :

1/4 c prepared mustard

1TB chopped candied ginger

6 sprigs fresh thyme

2 tsp ground allspice or 10 berries crushed could have gone in the brine instead

3 TB honey

 

Place in water bath at 140F for 4 hours

Brown on grill briefly (very hot fire) . 5 min per side with your favorite barbeque sauce. WIth this attempt the outside is flaking off in the tongs – schnibbles for the chef and helper.

 

Juices from the bag  made an excellent gravy but wold be too hot from the peppercorns for Teal (the black pepper flavor was MUCH srtonger in the juice than in the meat.

Defintely a basis for more experimentation to try to perfect the recipe. The leftovers are going to be great for sandwiches during the week.

 

Schweinshaxe – crisp pork shanks

On many of our trips to Baraboo, WI to visit my Mom, we will stop at the Meat Market by the fairgrounds (It was Mueller’s way back when I was a kid). While waiting for a rib roast to be cut, which I will later cut into thick rib-eye steaks for sous vide cooking,  I was looking through the meat case and saw these gorgeous pork hocks which were calling my name.

Memories of many trips to Germany and Karl Ratzch’s restaurant in Milwaukee came flooding back. So I bought a couple. I have never cooked these before, but they turned out great.  I wish I had tried this sooner.

Roast pork shanks

I searched for recipes and there seems to be no general consensus on the method. There are 3 camps it seems: boil and bake, bake, boil or confit (cook immersed in fat)  then deep fry.  I did find the Karl Ratzch recipe  but that is one of the deep fried variety.   There were also few sous vide variants with the water bath ranging from 150F for 48 hours to 170F for 8.  I was looking for fall apart tender so we went with 170 for 20 hours (basically put it in the water bath the night before).

Sous vide at 170F for 20 hours. Be sure to cover the pot or you will wake up in the morning with the cooker screaming and wondering how long has it not been cooking.  Use either no seasoning or some salt and pepper. You want the pork to shine in this recipe with very simple accompaniment.  Once the sous vide time is done, remove form the bag, reserving the juice.  Score the skin and fat and then carefully move into a baking dish. The meat will be soft and gelatinous at this point. It can easily fall apart, so use a spatula underneath.   Oil the baking dish (I used a 9×9 glass pan) and add 1/2″ of sweet beer (nothing hoppy). The reason for the oil is that there will be a lot of gelatin coming off the meat quickly and it can bake onto the pan as a miserable to clean, hard mess.

Place in the  oven at 350F on convect for 60 min and finish at 425F for 20 min. Keep adding beer to the pan so the drippings don’t burn!  There  will be a lot of gelatin and fat released in the cooking process.  We ended up with a 1/4″ layer of dark brown crunchy goodness on the bottom, floating on the fat. Delicious!  Better than cracklings and just as crispy.

This is like having a pig roast in the winter. Skin is crispy and the meat is unctuous, fall apart tender and juicy. Plus, we have more for left overs, such as black beans, rice and pork burritos.

Back when Karl Ratzch’s was open, if you finished one (and they were bigger than these), they brought out another for free. I did that once, but can’t imagine doing that now.  Yes, I took one bite and asked for the rest to be wrapped up to take home.

Pork shank, sauteed onions and cabbage, sourdough bread

And by the way, the cost of the 2 pork shanks was just over $6.   These were originally “working class / peasant food”. You pay a high premium in a restaurant for something that is very easy to make from low cost materials.  Budget food greatness.

Sour beer success – Sour Cherry Sour

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts: Down the rabbit hole of sour beer , I have begun experimenting with sour beers and alternate fermentation methods. The first was the Backyard Berry Sour (Pink Beer) which will now be a staple of the beer selections. It is a kettle soured beer with lots of fruit added in secondary.   We have made 3 batches so far. It is delicious, but I still need to work on perfecting the filtering technique as the raspberries crumble and plug up the kegs and beer lines.

The second was a mixed fermentation with BE-134 and “All the Bretts”. This was based on the NB Dead Ringer with added Acidulated malt, flaked oats (for body)  and more DME and the bret yeast. It was a moderate success.  Very drinkable and  smooth but had too of a much “hoppy edge” in combination with the sourness of the Brett yeast. It was a “Good – but I’ll only have one” sort of beer.

The third was trying some brett yeast as a 3rd fermentation on a batch of chocolate milk stout that was too sweet for my liking (stuck fermentation?) . To make room for new beers the remains of hte chcoloate milk stout was placed in 3l jugs with 100ml of brett starter and left to sit in a dark corner for 3 months.  Interesting, sort of like a very dark chocolate in bitterness but not quite what I hoped for.

While doing yet more reading, I was intrigued with the idea of something closer to Russian River’s Supplication.  Plus, NB had a great special on Scottish Wee Heavy kits which would become the basis of the brew.

Being that this would be a high gravity brew I needed to make a starter.  I used Lallemand Nottingham yeast in 1.5l of water and 3/4 c DME on a stir plate for 24 hrs at about 63F. Omega “All the Bretts” OYL-218 was already bulging in the package, so I figured it was going fine as -is (warm shipping temps in October and no ice in the shipment).

Recipe

Steeping grains

8 oz Acidulated malt

8 oz Flaked oats

8 oz Carapils crystal malt

6 oz biscuit malt

2 oz  Roasted Barley

Place the above ingredients in a couple of bags and steep for 30 min at 150F. Raise temp at the end to 170F and drain well (don’t be afraid to squeeze).

Now add

6 lb  Gold Malt extract (4.0 SRM)

1 oz Northern Brewer hop pellets

Boil for 60 min

15 min before the end, add

6 lbs Gold Malt extract

1 oz Willamette hop pellets

Chill quickly and add water to get 5 gal at about 63-65F. With my well water at about 50F, I need to have the wort down to about 75F before diluting.

To the chilled wort, add the starters. OG was approx 1.090.  Use a blow off tube, in case the fermentation is a bit rambunctious.  My basement ambient temp at this time, was 63-65F and the fermenter was placed directly on the concrete floor. Monitor the temperature and add heat as needed to hold temp.

Add 3/4 tsp Fermax yeast nutrient at day 3 (68F).   Do not let the temp  go down after it has risen.  I  started raising the temp 1F per day soon after so that at day 14 it was at 78F.

Transfer to secondary

With the beer in the secondary fermenter, the next ingredients were added:

21 oz dried Sweetened Montmorency Cherries

12 oz Zante Currants (small raisins)

The labels on both of the fruits indicated that there were no added oils (which would adversely impact head retention -but I am not so sure there were not).  The fruit had been heated to 160F for 30 min in a bit of water (enough to cover).  This was to get rid of any competing bacteria or yeast. However, the temp was low enough not to add a “cooked” flavor to the fruit.

Start ramping the temp 1F per day to 85F and hold there.

On the second or 3rd day, the fruit will float to the top as the fermentation restarts. Now it is a waiting game. Shake the fermenter vigorously every day to wet out the surface of the fruit. If the top layer of the fruit starts to dry out, you risk mold growth (likely bad)  .

At 4 weeks add 4 oz used toasted oak cubes. I had saved these from a previous batch of beer. I am not fond of the burnt character of the fresh oak cubes.  I rinsed the cubes briefly in Star San to avoid contamination rather than soaking in Bourbon or Rum. I wanted just the light oak character to come through

After 6-8 weeks the fruit will sink to the bottom. This is your indication that the secondary fermentation is complete.   Throughout the secondary fermentation the SG never really moved as measured with a hydrometer (I needed taste samples anyway). The floating fruit threw the Tilt Hydrometer way off. It ended up at 1.016

At the time of writing it is still only partially force carbonated and head is basically non-existent (dried fruit processing oils?).

Dates / times

Start – 11/3/19

Transfer to secondary  11/17/19

Keg 1/25/20

This seems to be a success. I need a few others to taste it. I am getting ready to do another batch, maybe shifting more towards the currants  or trying frozen cherries instead of dried. It almost begs for a hint of cinnamon as well. I will try some experiments in the meantime before committing to a whole batch.

 

Clamp racks

Completed F clamp racks

Clamp racks are an easy project with the CNC router. They are a good way to use up the ever increasing pile of plywood scraps.

Old F clamp rack

I had an old and very simple rack for F clamps above the bench by the radial arm saws. However, it is not very convenient requiring a long reach to pull the clamps and some of the import clamps do not fit over the bar very well.

 

Pile of pipe clamps

Another problem is that the pipe clamps are just piled in a corner by the patio door. THey were hard to get to and I was afraid of cracking the glass.

So, with some downtime from larger projects required due to recent Cubital Tunnel release surgery and a pile of plywood scraps left over from Olivia’s bed, I decided to make new clamp racks. The idea was triggered by the new Lee Valley catalog which has single row racks for sale.

The design goals were to:

  • Allow for hanging from the walls or overhead floor joists maximizing flexibility of location.
  • Provide space for multiple (4-6) clamps per row for either F clamps or pipe clamps
  • Use up the existing plywood scraps without creating more.

This meant that the dimensions had to be flexible to adapt to the scraps on hand  without cutting into a new sheet and the “back boards” needed to be a bit tall to allow for hanging from the upstairs floor joists.

Back board for F clamps – right most slots squared up

Layout for the backs was done in V-Carve Pro. The slots are 3″ high by 0.47″ wide. The mortises are then squared up with a chisel. This ended up being faster and easier than rounding the bracket tenons. You could do this with a regular router and fence as well, but remember to use 1/4 or 3/8″ bit as the slots need to be less than 1/2″ wide for a good grip on the brackets.

The brackets are 3.25″ tall. This was the width of several strips of baltic birch plywood that I had left over from making dresser drawers. The lengths were 7 to 8 ” depending on the rack.  The bottom edge is sloped at about 12 degrees – I thought it looked better than simply leaving them square. The notches at the ends are 0.7″ tall by 1/8″ wide.  This gives just enough shoulder so that the brackets are self aligning when driven home and the tenon is very slightly recessed when viewed from the back.

Apply glue to the slots and drive the brackets in with a large mallet.   They are basically self clamping.

Back of the clamp bracket

1″ screws and fender washers are added to the back for added clamping pressure and to ensure the brackets cannot pull out under load. The screws and washers had been waiting for this occasion. I had not used them previously due to bits of epoxy and the washers being stuck on the screws. They were left over from doing the deck strips of the boat.

Pipe clamp rack

Now the clamp racks are hung and the clamps are much neater and more accessible. Next I will need to rearrange the various jigs and other items on the back wall since they are easier to get to with the new racks.

F clamp racks with the light back in place

Finish is a couple of coats of shellac. This  was another left over and I need to mix up a fresh batch for the bed.

If I were doing it again I would make both racks with the jaws facing the back wall as this provides more clearance in front of the peg board.

Joinery Techniques and Minimizing Error

With each cut in a given piece of wood, it becomes “more expensive”.   In some cases, simply making a few spares for test cuts and to replace a damaged piece will work. In other cases, such as this bed, there are not good substitutes, are the pieces were chosen to have matching grain and in most cases, a given set of components were sawn from single planks of wood (arches, legs, stretchers).   This set of tips concentrates on minimizing the chance for errors destroying a partially completed piece

Centered Dadoes

The bed panels are placed in 1/2″ deep dadoes in the components (legs, stretchers, vertical dividers).  The pieces were of 3 different thicknesses to add reveals and avoid flush sanding.  As I laid it out, the components were all centered, including the dadoes.  So, this simplifies the layout but does require that all of the mortises, tenons and dadoes align perfectly in order for the panels to fit well.

I find that it is easiest to make half of the dado or mortise from one side flip the piece and complete it from the other side. This way the cuts are centered.  However, it is abit more finicky to set for width as every change that is made to the fence is doubled in the cut.   Additionally, the stock I have is not perfectly straight, with the stretchers across the headboard ending up with almost 1/8″ of bow as the wood relaxed after cutting.   While this in of itself, will not be visible in the finished piece, it does make cutting the dado  more difficult and highlights one of the choices for setup.

When cutting the centered dadoes, the blade should be cutting on the side AWAY from the fence as shown above. This way, if the stock bows slightly or the operator lurches and lets the stock move away from the fence, the error in the cut is directed towards the center of the dado rather than making an unsightly gouge on the outer edge.  This allows for a second (or third) pass, to clean up the joint or to use a hand plane to do the final adjustments as shown below.  When cutting the dadoes I typically use a single blade for 1/4″ grooves and a dado blade (wobbler or stack) for wider grooves. Just be sure to set the width of the cut to only about 2/3 of the width of the final groove width to allow for the 2nd cut to make the centered groove and leave room for errors without gouging the cut too wide.

I really like the Veritas Side Rabbet Plane shown above. It is far superior to the other two that I own (a Stanley and a Wood River).

Routed dadoes for decorative spindles

The spindles on the headboard arches are made from stock that was leftover  from Isla’s crib.  They are 1 3/4″ wide and 1/2″ thick.  They fit into plunge cut dadoes in the arches. A 1/2″ solid carbide end mill was used to make the cuts. The router is guided by a fence.  When routing with a fence you want the router cut to pull the fence tight against the work piece, so that you are not fighting the tool and risking an errant cut.  So with the fence on the side towards you, the cut progresses left to right.

Knowing where to stop the cut, is the hardest part, as the marks are obscured by sawdust and often some smoke. 

To make the start and stop points more visible, I use green masking tape, which is made for striping. It is thinner and stickier than the blue tape. The color also provides a lot of contrast against the wood. The next trick, is to plunge the start and end of the cut straight down. This makes for an easy start and stop for the successive passes.   Each pass should be half of the diameter of the bit or less. This is a general rule I learned when calculating feeds and speeds for the CNC router.  With the ends of the cut defined you don’t have to try to start and stop exactly on the line, which takes a lot of the stress out of the cuts.

Biscuits in small close quarters

The stock width for the legs and arches does not allow much room for error with the biscuits.  There are #0 biscuits on the tops of the legs and # 10 on the sides. There is <1/8″ of width left over on the cuts, so any slippage will show. Additionally, the ends of the pieces are too narrow for the retractable pins of the biscuit jointer to grab hold.  So, my cure was to clamp the piece down firmly so it does not move and then clamp the biscuit jointer fence to the piece prior to plunging in.  This took the risk and suspense out of the cuts.  It just took ~30 seconds longer to set up for each cut.

Biscuits for the plywood boxes

The base of the bed is made from plywood and biscuited together. To have good alignment of the parts requires that a fence be clamped to the parts prior to cutting and the measurements for the middle dividers be made consistently from one end (foot end was my choice).

Clamps as squares

The boxes for the drawers under the bed need to be square.  The easy way to achieve this (other than good square cuts) is to use the clamps as part of the jigs to square up the box. By placing the end clamps tight up against the box sides, they cause the box to self align. Note that you need large parallel face clamps like the Bessey K-body or Jorgensen Cabinet Master or Revo . Ordinary F clamps or pipe clamps will not work for this trick.

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 baking. 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.