Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fermented Smoked Jalapeños

Its been chili time around the desert SW for the past month or so and we have been inundated with Hatch Chiles, jalapenos and all kinds of other peppers that are being harvested. In my own garden I'm picking the third or fourth harvest of jalapenos, serranos, and Cayenne peppers. Normally I just dry them and save for grinding into fresh chili powder throughout the year, but I was feeling a bit inspired when prepping them this year.

Ive long been really interested in smoked meats, but I'm usually so busy with my other three hundred hobbies that Ive never really given it a try. I do a lot of grilling, but nothing low and slow. Well I recently came into a lot of pecan and hickory wood and really needed to find a good use for it. Honesty after thinking about it I couldn't find a better one than smoking a pork shoulder! I grabbed a few tips from one of my favorite BBQ blogs, and stole the great idea of a using a sour beer for the mop!

Well how does all that tie into fermented peppers?

So all day long I'm picking and prepping chilies, and the amazing aroma hickory smoke and slow cooking pork was making me salivate. Then an idea occurred to me, why not smoke my chilies? and ferment them? The thought of tangy smokey jalapeno slices on top of tacos, nachos and everything else sounded far too good to pass up. So I grabbed about 4lbs of jalapenos (2lb whole, 2 sliced)and tossed them in the barbecue along with another couple pieces of hickory. I'm betting that the jalapenos will add some of their flavor to the shoulder as it smokes as well.

Now these wont quite be chipotle peppers, as those are typically cold smoked or over very low heat (140-160F) and I'm smoking them around 250F. Chipotles are also typically mature jalapenos (red) and are smoked for 12+ hours to dry them out, which I wont even try coming close to. I want some moisture left in the peppers so that they hopefully hold their shape, if not I will blend them and make a sauce.

After smoking for about 1hr, I pulled the peppers out and let them cool on a tray. I then added them to a jar and topped up with a weak brine solution. I didn't expect really any natural bacteria to be left on the peppers after smoking at 250F, so I added the lees of some fermented pickles I had on hand. The peppers will ferment for about a week or so before I lid them up and toss in the fridge.

Pickled and Smoked Jalapeños
  • 4lbs Green Jalapenos - chopped
  • 2.5% Salt brine - ~25grams of salt per quart of water
  1. Chop jalapenos
  2. Smoke over a hickory fire for ~1hr
  3. Allow to cool to room temp
  4. Add to quart sized jars and top up with brine
  5. Add lees from another fermented vegetable
  6. Place a heavy weight on the jalapenos so that none are within 1" of the top
  7. Cover with a zip lock baggie to protect from fruit flies etc
  8. Ferment at room temp (<80F) for 1 to 2 weeks
  9. Refrigerate and Enjoy
Saturday, October 22, 2011

English IPA with Tapioca Starch

I don't brew many super hoppy beers like most homebrewers do, but from time to time I really crave a nice fresh homebrewed IPA. This time around I decided, somewhat last minute, to brew up an English IPA. Since the batch was sort of spur of the moment and I was feeling a bit lazy, I didn't want to run to the homebrew store. So this batch was limited to what I had on-hand.

I just recently grabbed another sack of Marris Otter, and Ive been using MO quite extensively as of late. This time around though I thought it would be nicer to have something that was a bit lighter bodied than your typical MO or MO + crystal beer. Ive just tapped the keg of the Toasty English Pale I brewed up a month or so ago, which was MO + crystal, so I was especially motivated to try and change up the malt profile a bit. I wanted something a bit lighter bodied and a bit less malt punch, something that would be tipped toward the hops and and easy drinker.

As I said I was feeling extremely lazy so I scrounged around my kitchen for miscellaneous ingredients to thin the beer a bit. I did have some flaked corn laying around, but I'm saving that for another attempt at a Kentucky Common, so that was out. What I did have though, was a full bag of Tapioca Starch that had been sitting on the shelf waiting for me to find it a good use. (I buy lots of random ingredients from Ethnic stores, and they tend to sit around waiting for me to be inspired). Immediately I knew I wanted to use this in the beer.

I jumped on my computer and googled up tapioca starch in homebrew. Somehow it only came up with single hit. It was a thread on HBtalk and frankly it really didn't have any information on using tapioca starch. The entire thread most people were trying to talk the OP out of using it in a beer! I never was able to find out if the guy actually tried it or not, but going blind has never been something to stop me.

I'm really not sure why everyone was so hesitant to use the tapioca starch, but many times things or ideas that are new or unheard of make people nervous. Well, Ive never been skittish to try something new, so in the mash it went! I did google around a bit to find the gelatinization temp of tapioca starch, and luckily it is in the normal range of mash temps 65-70C aka 149-158F, so no crazy step mashes or pre-gelatinization needed. I don't think I could have lucked out any better!

I'm expecting the starch to be completely converted to fermentable sugars and provide next to no flavor, but only time will tell. It could very well be extremely potent flavor-wise and dominate the beer, which could be pretty interesting in its own right.

I'm wasn't really sure what to make of it for potential gravity, but I assumed it was roughly the same as sugar at 46pts/lb. The tricky thing was entering it into Beersmith. I'm pretty sure that conversion of the starch is 100% so its essentially like adding sugar. So, if its entirely converted to glucose mash efficiency should really affect the extractable sugars, which means you really cant enter it as a malt. Unfortunately entering it as a sugar in Beersmith omits it from mash calculations. So I estimated the gravity by entering it as sugar and entered it as a malt for mash calcs.

Now your saying why not just add some sugar to the kettle to accomplish the same thing? Well Ive really never liked adding sugar to beers, except in the case of a very flavorful sugar, and using Tapioca starch is something that it seems no one has really tried. Tapioca starch is also extremely cheap, I bought the roughly 1# bag for 40¢ which is a quite a bit cheaper than sugar around me. For these reasons it seemed a great choice for adding fermentables to a beer when its only purpose was lightening the flavor and body.

When adding the starch to the mash I mixed it in thoroughly to the grain before adding water. I think you could probably also make a thin slurry of starch and water as well to add to the mash. Mixing everything together gave me a few more dough-balls than normal and was a bit thicker but it wasn't much of a problem. Within 15min the mash had thinned considerably and looked more like normal. Within 30minutes it was negative for starch, buy I still waited 60min (laziness). Tasting the runoff it was extremely sweet, much more so than usual.

Tapioca English IPA

Malt Bill
Amt (lbs)Type
8.5Marris Otter (Muntons)
0.5Tapioca Starch
Amt (oz)TypeTime
0.25Simcoe (12.7%)60
1.00Amarillo (9.3%)15
2.00Simcoe (12.7%)10
1.00Amarillo (9.3%)<170F
1.75Simcoe (12.7%)<170F
Mash Schedule
170F1.8qt/lb15min - vorlauf
YeastThames Valley WY1275 (Slurry)
85% effIBU51
6.5gal BoilFG

Review - 1/7/12 - Notes & Thoughts
Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fat Washing - Using Fatty or Oily Foods in Homebrew

So, I've been meaning on writing up a post about fat washing for sometime now, but I just haven't had a batch of beer recently that needed to use the technique. While I was traveling last week for work though I had a bit of a brainstorming session on beers I hope to brew up in the next few months and one I really wanted to use sweet almonds in.

Ive never been one to use extracts, however I do from time to time like to make something myself that can be used in a beer. I feel that there is quite a bit of a difference in making it yourself versus buying something off the shelf. Too many of the extracts that Ive bought in the past have a very artificial taste to me, and adding that to a carefully crafted homebrew never really sat well with me. So using store bought bitter almond extract in this beer just didn't seem right.

Fat washing is a technique that allows you to extract the strong flavors and aromas from any type of fat that you wish. If you frequent any homebrew boards you'll most likely come across at least a few posts that want to be able to use nuts, oils, or even bacon in a brew! Very rarely though does someone suggest trying to fat wash the ingredient, and instead it is ground up and tossed in the mash or in the secondary. The problem is that with this approach you almost always have a very thin layer of oil to deal with post-fermentation, and as well all should know oil kills head retention and can make a beer go rancid fairly quickly.

Instead of dealing with the oil post-fermentation when it is a very thin layer and covers all your fermentation equipment, it is much easier to deal with before the ingredient is ever added to the beer/wine/mead. Fat washing is a very simple technique that can extract all of the flavor and none of the headaches from any of these flavorful oily ingredients.

To begin fat washing an ingredient it is necessary to have a strong neutral alcohol (I prefer Everclear), a mason jar - preferably one tall and narrow, and if the ingredient isn't an oil and is something like almonds or walnuts you should have a stack of coffee filters, and a way to grind the ingredient up as well.

Fat Washing
  1. Your first step to extracting all the great flavors is to prepare the ingredient that you wish to use. So if you want to use bacon you should fry it up and drain the fat off to use, if your using nuts, roast them if you wish and grind them up. Oils are the most simple and require no additional processing.

  2. Take the oil (bacon fat, butter, sesame oil, etc) or nuts/etc and place them in the mason jar.

  3. Cover the oil, nuts, or whatever your using up with the everclear or vodka. I prefer everclear in that it is cleaner tasting than a cheap vodka , I will then dilute it with distilled water to make an extract with roughly the same alcohol content as vodka. Its best to use no less more than a 50:50 mix of alcohol to ingredient. So if your using something like bacon fat the more fat that is used versus the alcohol the stronger the flavor can be.

  4. Wait......How long is up to you. In general things like sesame oil or butter require much less time than nuts or other larger ingredients. Ive done butter and sesame oil in about 1-2days but nuts can take a few weeks. You should swirl the jar whenever you can to keep the ingredients mixed up, or better yet toss it on your stir plate!

  5. After you feel enough time has past, strain out any large ingredients like nuts and allow the ingredients to settle. Slowly a layer of oil will separate itself from the alcohol and float on top.

  6. Once you have a layer of oil on top place the jar into the freezer with a straw placed into the jar. This should freeze the oil layer and allow you to extract the alcohol underneath. Pull the straw out and a hole will remain in the oil, you can now pour the alcohol out through the hole. This process may need to be repeated 2-3times before there is no fat layer left. This step becomes much much easier with a tall narrow jar, as it helps to concentrate the fat into a thicker layer allowing for easier separation.

  7. I like to give one pass through a coffee filter for any extract before I use it. In my experience it has the tendency to catch any last little amounts of oil left in the extract and removes any small bits as well

  8. Use your Extract!

Ive used this on many different types of ingredients. I have included a list below that I will update as I try more ingredients. One thing that I have noticed about using these extracts is that some like bacon fade considerably with time, while others like sesame oil or butter never loose their punch.
  • Sweet Almonds - TBD?
  • Grapefruit peel - Tends to be very sharp and the extract actually makes my tongue numb
  • Orange Peel - Sweeter and softer than grapefruit
  • Lemon Peel - floral like lemon flavor
  • Bacon Fat - Strong bacon flavor very little needed, but does fade with aging
  • Butter - Strong buttery flavor, never fades. I used this in the Hot Wing beer
  • Walnuts - Nutty flavor, great for adding to porters!
  • Sesame Oil - Intense sesame flavor that does not fade
  • Walnut Oil - Stronger than using just walnuts, but not quite as aromatic
  • Soon! - Cocoa Butter - Hopefully will give me a great dark chocolate flavor!

Almond Extract/Liqueur Recipe

4oz Raw, unsalted Almonds
1.5C Vodka or equivalent Everclear + Water

Now I'm actually doing two versions of this extract for additional flavor. One will use the raw almonds as is, the other I am home-roasting the almonds. To roast the almonds I am layering them on a baking sheet and roasting three times at 400F for about 12min. After each roasting I remove the almonds from the oven and place on paper towels to cool and remove some of the oil (something Ive picked up from DIY nut liquer recipes)

After Both sets of almonds were ready (2 x 4oz) I ground them to a fine powder using a coffee grinder.

The almonds are then placed into separate jars (I'm making 2 separate extracts) and covered with the vodka or everclear mix.

I am planning on leaving the nuts in the alcohol for about 3-4wks at which time I will filter and extract the alcohol from the oil layer. When it is finished I will post updated pictures of the final extract along with a small review of the taste of each. After I use these extracts in an upcoming brew, whatever remains will get a small addition of simple syrup to make these into (hopefully) a delicious aperitif.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sauerkraut Gose - First Batch Review

So I've finally gotten around to opening and reviewing my experimental Gose. Tasting this beer I don't think anyone would even come close to guessing it was fermented with a yeast/bacteria culture from sauerkraut!

Appearance - Hazy golden yellow, very clear pour for the first half of the bottle, all of the haziness came from the bottom half (left lees in bottle though). Next to no head formation though there is light amounts of lacing.

Aroma - Sour nose mostly lactic, though there is a small hint of acetic acid. Maybe slightly lemony, but overall not too strong/complex of an aroma.

Taste - Very wheaty, berliner weisse-esque. Nearly perfect amount of lactic sourness, salt is present and maybe slightly stronger than would be ideal, but it fits the overall taste well. Nice lemony finish.

Mouthfeel - Very slick and luxurious mouthfeel, I'm guessing this has to be bacteria/yeast derived as my berliners never have this mouthfeel and while salt may help Ive never experienced it doing so in this way. Carbonation is moderate and while at first I was worried about it, now I'm quite pleased with the CO2 level. In my b-weiss beers I always feel that the prickliness and Co2 bite take away from the light flavors.

Drinkability - Very high, salt level does knock it down a notch, but that's easy enough to fix in a future batch, and actually when I did the full batch trial I did just that, although maybe not as much as I should have?

Overall - I'm very pleased with this beer! Without a doubt this is going to MY GO TO METHOD for light sour beers like gosebier or b-weiss. The flavor is great, nicely tart and otherwise very clean, honestly its not something I expected and I'll get to see if it will be repeatable with the pickle dregs I used in the full batch.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Dark Belgian Table Beer - Review

Appearance - Dark brown, slightly hazy with reddish highlights when held up to light. Off-white 1 finger head that lingers with only small amounts of lacing. Slightly lighter color than I had hoped for, but still good looking

Aroma - Mild spice and pear, maybe a hint of the chocolatiness of the D2. Not really any hop aroma

Taste - Its kind of a difficult beer to describe. The yeast character is definitely restrained, there is noticeable Belgian yeast character in the finish though. The D2 syrup really drives most of the flavor profile, there is a bit of chocolatiness that lingers throughout the flavor. It has a finish that is sort of Coca-Cola-like. The bitterness balances it fairly well, although I definitely think that a bit more residual sweetness would really help the flavor of the beer overall.

Mouthfeel - Medium to medium-light body, somehow I manged to over-carbonate the beer a bit (for my tastes at least) to about 2.8vol. I'm slowly lowering this but to compensate I have been swishing the beer quite a bit to lower it down to what I'm guessing is around 1.2-1.5vols. At this level it meshes a bit better with the flavor

Drinkability - I'd actually have to say that this is one of the easiest beers to drink that Ive ever made. I'm owing a majority of this to all the sugar in the beer lowering the FG and making it something that you can drink a lot of without getting filled up. Which was sort of a reason for doing it, and is the hallmark of many bigger Belgian Beers

Overall - Probably the least favorite of mine of the three versions of Belgian Table beers Ive brewed. I do think that it deserves another look though, as I mashed a bit lower than I think I should have and I believe a touch of residual sugar (maybe from a crystal malt?) would really round out the flavors. All in all its a great way to really understand the flavor impacts of D2 syrup.

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