Friday, August 17, 2007

Making Mead, a sticky situation

First let me say, it's a fine and lazy day, attempting to type with babe sleeping on lap while converting RAW photos to jpgs (pet peeve of mine in a huge way). OK, I take it all back, babe is awake and son # 1 being very insistant. No longer a lazy day, but it sure sounded nice for those 10 seconds

However, what I really wanted to expound upon was the fine and highly technical art of mead making. As the scientist of the family I am responsible for keeping the cellar stocked with esteemed beverages, and my latest yearnings have directed me toward mead, the nectar of the goddesses, the honey-based wine. After much research and browsing, I finally decided to wing it, cause there seemed to be a whole lot of garbly gook surrounding the subject, and I tend to lean more towards simplicity. I've got the yeast, the water, and the honey, what more do I need?

Weeeeeeeeeell, time, for one thing, cause that's what it took to dissolve 4 lbs of honey in an unmeasured amount of water (some instructions had indicated that warming the water would be helpful, though not necessary, as I discovered, as long as you have time and a good stirring arm). Measuring tools would also come in handy seeing as after I dissolved all the honey I found the specific gravity to be a tad low (1.062) meaning I had too much water and not enough honey (hmmmm, it suddenly occured to me that I should add some sugar). And now, having added the yeast 4 days ago, I have found that there is no fermentation occuring at all, none, zip, zilch. Bad sign. I recall mention of "yeast nutrient" having to be added (what kind of yeast can't survive in a batch of honey I ask, ahhhh, but it is not survival that is the problem but GROWTH!) so being that I am miles and miles away from any kind of fancy "yeast nutrient" supplier, I have decided to wing it (and you're surprised?). What could be more nuritious to a friendly little Blipitylicious farindiciae than a wholesome slice of my soon-to-be-famous sourdough bread? So I have thrown that into the vat, added another packet of yeast (good thing I bought two) and am crossing my fingers that something more evil and vile won't overthrow the whole thing before the yeasts have a chance to work their magic.

My highly technical and elaborate procedures, unfortunately, are not highly reproducable (somewhat like my cooking) therefore, with the optimistic hope that this does turn into something deliciously wonderful, it will be just that much more valuable simply due to the fact that it is induplicateable. What fun!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Sourdough Rye Crackers

It's amazing how a huge failure can turn into a grand triumph if you have the patience and flexibility to work with it a bit. In an untimely flash of inspiration yesterday I decided to make a giant batch of bread. First I ground the grain (feeling like a god-damn self-righteous little red hen), then activated the yeast, and with the help of my 2 year old added about twice as much than I wanted. I also added a secret ingredient, yogurt (with active culture), which is supposed to give sourdough a more intricate flavour. Then we made a sponge, which is the correct term for runny bread dough (hold aside a few cups of flour from the dough).

Now being the kitchen goddess that I am, I own one of those fabulous Bosch contraptions that mixes my bread for me (a worthy investment for all you goddesses out there), so I let the sponge "sour" in that for the rest of the afternoon, mixing it down every time the rising action threatened to blow the lid off. This supposedly breaks down the flour into something so wonderfully healthy that I don't even want to think about it. Then I mixed the rest of the flour in and the dreaded failure occured. I just referred to the Bosch machine as fabulous but on a couple of occasions it has been too fabulous and overmixed my bread for me causing the gluten to break up (or so I've been told) and creating a disastrous sticky mess. I had on my hands about 16 cups of glue... after all that work..... aaaaaaarg! I could have killed the little red hen.

What could I do except throw the whole mess away, but I didn't have the heart, and I have learned not to take drastic measures while experiencing a fit of rage (drastic measures are saved for fits of desperation and an overwhelming need to experience change). So I put the lid on and threw it in the fridge overnight.

24 hours later I knew I had to make something out of the mess or I would be discouraged from making bread indefinitely, soooooo, I made crackers, and you know what!!!!! They're delicious! They taste like Swedish hard bread and are chewy and crunchy at the same time, in fact, I would almost classify them as TGFC (too good for company). Of course, it helps to have your own grain mill, which allowed me to grind Triticale (tre-te-CAL-ee), a grain that is a cross between rye and wheat. It also helps to have a wonderful husband, who once ordered up a hand crafted rolling pin the length of my femur, which allowed me to roll 3 long rectangular crackers at a time. Still, the whole process took pretty darn near 3 hours, but has been such a grand discovery that I simply must blog my success.

I have to include that a large part of this inspiration came from which is a fabulous website and may even change my whole outlook on food. Also, a book called Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon which I highly recommend to anyone who is serious about what they eat and the downfall of nutritous food in our society.
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