Learning to brew

When you “make” honey (after you extract the honey from the honeycomb), you are left with a sticky mess of wax and honey. I then wash this wax mixture so I can then refine the wax from the propolis and other bee related items. It feels so wasteful to then throw away this honey water (honey washings), that I tried several times to make mead. But each time, I made vinegar. I then went out and bought a bottle of mead to see the end product that I was aiming for: and I did not like it .

Oh dear.

Now what?

Then up popped an ad for a beer brewing workshop at the cornersmith picklery. Sold!

The beer brewing kit that is readily available in Australia is kind of like mixing cordial. Add substances A, B, C to water, let sit (brew) for 7 days then decant into your bottles, adding a carbonation ‘drop’ (dextrose sugar tablet) to each bottle.

The brewing method at this workshop was the next step along, where you might select the hoppiness of your brew by selecting the type of hops, and how long your brew your mixture for.

We were guided by Chris Sidwa of Batch Brewing in the method of extract brewing, which is a little more hands on than cordial brewing.

He ran through the importance of sterilisation, the difference that the type of hops makes to the flavour profile, as well as how long it is boiled and when it is added to the mixture.

Working in groups of 3, we got our 3 litres worth of water per person boiling, before adding the light malt extract, stirring to prevent the sugar burning on the bottom, or the foam exploding out of the top.

malt:

Malt

Cascade Hops:

Cascade Hops

These hops were developed by Oregon State University, and is one of the few freely available non-trademarked variety of hops. We added these at the -30 minute mark, and at the -5 minute mark. Everything is measured in terms of “time from ending the boil”.

You pack your hops into a double muslin bag, so that you can remove it from the brew when you put into the fermentation vessel.

Wrapped in muslin:

Hop bag

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble:

Brew

The process of boiling is to drive off unwanted flavours and remove bitterness. The reason the second lot of hops is added is to add the hoppy flavour back into the brew.

After adding the second lot of hops, we divided the mixture into our brew buckets, and enjoyed a small taster of Batch Brewing’s American Pale Ale, sourdough, cucumber pickles and capsicum (sweet pepper) relish.

We got to take our fermenting buckets home with us, and issued with a second set of instructions.

I didn’t think this one through:

Public transport

After carrying my brewing and decanting buckets home on the train (Luckily I didn’t have my pushbike, unlike one of the other attendees), we were instructed to add 3-4 litres of cooled boiling water and let brew for 7 days.

Recipe (makes approx 5 L):
3 litres boiling water
840 g malt after the ‘hot break’
1 x 30g hops @ -30 minutes
1 x 30g hops @ -5 minutes
Place mixture into your brew bucket.
Cool to approx 20 C
3g yeast (US-05)
3L chilled boiled water*.
Let brew for 7 days in a constant temperature environment, about 20 deg C, away from sunlight
35g dextrose into sterilised bottling bucket
Decant from brewing bucket into bottling bucket, leave yeast cake behind
Decant from bottling bucket into each bottle – gently – you don’t want the yeast to get all excited and foamy
Leave a little headroom (equivalent to your bottling wand)
Cap the bottles.

I had trouble capping the bottles with the supplied ‘hand capper’.

I left the lids on top of the bottles for a day to keep contaminants out, whilst I looked around to borrow someone else’s bench capper. I ended up buying one second hand.

Capped (L), Uncapped (R):

Capping

Considering the amount of force required to push the cap onto the bottle even with the benchtop capper, there is no way that I could have made the hand capper work. No wonder they are known as the deathstick in the industry!

Buy one bench capper, receive microbrew kit for free, BOGOF:


Bench capper


This was not my intention, to gain the equivalent of three home brew kegs in the space of 8 days! I’m going to have to try this recipe again, because instead of the second lot of chilled boiled water, I added honey washings which I had boiled (pastuerised). Note to self – if you do this, the beer may need to ferment for a longer period of time. This style of beer is called a braggot.


Braggot

A few months later, I did try my beer. I was left with 1/4 in the bottle, as the other 3/4 ended up all over the kitchen walls, floor and counter. Yep, it was still fermenting in the bottle. I was lucky it didn’t explode! The result was very tasty, but highly alcoholic.

The class was attended and paid for anonymously by A Sydney Foodie.

Guava swaps 2017

This is what the poor guava tree looks like right now:

Guava tree 2017

The birds… and the bats… have told their friends. So I had to double exclusion bag the fruit, because they had worked out that they could still bite the fruit through the netting and suck the sweet goodness out. This meant I had half the number of bags available. My partner saw a magpie fly past, and then hang *upside down* from a fruitfly exclusion bag, then swing and peck at the fruit within. No photo!

I ran out of netting, and fruit exclusion bags. The local hardware store had 4 x 4m netting for $25. Instead, I went to the local haberdashery store and bought gauze curtain remnants – about 3 pieces for the same price.

Gauze remnants

So I promised you last time, that I would tell you about my guava swaps.

In previous years I have made jelly, jam, guava butter, guava bread, guava nectar, dehydrated guava (failed – don’t do this), guavas in sugar syrup and then just frozen guava with dots of butter, ready for my next pie. Then I changed jobs and lost access to incredible amounts of freezer space.

So this year, I decided to swap them. I have no idea how many kilos have fallen off the tree, but it’s at least 10kg.

Swap 1: 1-2 kg guavas for 12 dozen backyard eggs
No photo.

Swap 2: 500g odd guavas for 1.5 pomegranate fruit

Guava swap 2
These were really very tart pomegranates. My co-swapper had been having them in cocktails

Swap 3: 2kg guavas for vegetarian kimchi from the intertwined foodie, preserved lemons and 6 passionfruit

Guava swap 3

I didn’t even realise that standard kimchi wasn’t vegetarian – it uses shrimp or fish sauce. The substituted seaweed added a really moreish yumminess that made me want more.

Swap 4: 1-2kg guavas for fermented honey & garlic and 3 seeds potatoes (royal otway, snow queen, royal blue)

Guava swap

Fermented honey and garlic is supposed to be a good health tonic, warding away colds and flu type things.

Swap 5: 1-2kg guavas for soapwort cuttings, dwarf peach seedling, broad bean seeds (for planting)

Guava swap 5

I planted the tripoli directly about a a fortnight ago, but still haven’t seen any shoots come up. This is against my better judgement, because I think broad beans are just *so* *much* *work*.

Swap 6: 4 guavas for purple asparagus seedling and pineapple sage cuttings. Some of the pineapple sage I then used to swap for a horseradish plant and a chinese veggie – White Mugwort.

Swap 7: 6 guavas for 3 x monsterosa deliciosa fruits (fruit salad plant/swiss cheese plant)

Guava swap 7

This fruit comes off a very common ornamental plant. The fruit is actually the “stamen” of the lily-like flower, and may take up to a year to ripen. You have to wait until the ‘scales’ start falling off (& ricocheting across the room) before the fruit is ripe. To me, it tasted like custard apple. Of course, once I had swapped this fruit, I started to see it *everywhere*, and got so excited when I managed to harvest three in short succession from a roadside ornamental garden.

Swap 8: 6 or so guavas for some “not too hot” chillies (Bishop’s crown chillies)

Guava swap 8

I still haven’t tasted them. My co-swapper was just happy to get rid of some, but he did promise that they weren’t too hot.

Swap 9: 6 or so guavas for a little butternut pumpkin and a few lilli pilli fruits

No photo.

Swap 10: 2kg guavas for 8 empty jars
No photo.

Swap 11: 6 or so guavas for cumquat & lime marmalade (big jar) and spicy plum jam (little jar).

Guava swap 11

The spicy plum jam reminded me of a spicy rhubarb pickle that I had made recently. At the end, I had a little of the spicy sugar syrup left over, so I added some plums, mushed it up and called it done. My co-swapper makes jams and jellies professionally, but only uses a little guava to make a jelly for one client. The rest is bulked out with apple juice (!?!).

Swap 12: 6 or so guavas for a ginger bug from kitchen adventures!

Guava swap 12

Ginger bug makes drinks fizzy. You start off with ginger, sugar and water; and the bacteria on the ginger ferments. When you feed the bug, you take a little of the liquid off and add that to tea in a sealed container. A few day later – fizzy!! The bottle of tea blew off the swing top lid because it didn’t get out of the way in time.

Guava swap 12

Swap 13: 1 kg guavas for 1kg homegrown mandarins

Guava swap 13

Some of the mandarins were a bit tart at first, but when they ripened up they were sweet and delicious.

I didn’t actually realise until I started writing this out, how many good things my guavas had gained me this year. Guava season started about mid May this year, and I’m now 3/4 of the way through June. Thirteen swaps!! Really?! That seems like so many.

Harvest Monday, June 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related.

I gave in, and finally pulled out my hairy winter melon cross vines. The leaves had started to die back as winter and frosts had hit. Final lot of hairy winter melons:

Hairy winter melon

3 from one vine (the main producer); the fourth from a vine on its own. 346g, 700g, 664g, 900g. That’s a total 10.64kg from some random seeds that just popped up in the garden bed.

Banana.

Banana

Its started to rain – quite a lot. My second hand of bananas started to form in about April 2017. One of the bananas had started to split – probably because of the rain. The upturned ends had also started to rot. So I harvested it, with the hopes that being indoors and warm, my bananas would start ripening to yellow without deteriorating further. 1675g the hand. Perhaps I need a ripe banana to put with them, give off some ethylene gas and help with ripening them to yellow.

Planted:

The second lot of onion seeds took, so some of these I have planted. What is interesting is a little stalk grows up, and the onion seed (slip) is on the top.

I have planted out those seedlings I showed in the last garden update post – kohlrabi, snow peas, dwarf peas. I have also planted out some garlic – elephant, and some other purple type that I picked up from the organic food store.

I also ripped out the brussels sprout “tree” – which was infected with many aphids, and possibly white cabbage moth – lots of little white moths the size of the aphids, very hard to squash. There were a few sprouts which had rootlets on them, so I replanted them. I’m trying an alternate method of control – land cress seeds. Apparently if the white cabbage moth is around, it lays its eggs in the land cress, and the larvae eat it (in preference to the brassicas). This kills them.

Guavas:

Guavas 2017

Guava season has started. I haven’t really eaten that many this year, and I haven’t had much time to process them. I’ve been swapping them mainly, more on that next post.

Horta:

Horta

Looking good for a patch entirely in the shade! I’ve harvested from this once. Not quite micro greens, perhaps mini greens. I’ve actually been harvesting dandelion leaves, sweet potato leaves, malabar spinach leaves, parsley and mustard greens for my local greens boost.

Horta, June 2017

Olives, three ways

Olives! Available as a crop to swap. I got about 1kg (and then another 1.3kg later) from one crop swapper of mostly black olives. I swapped a hairy winter melon cross, about 1.7kg.

My dream olive is a green sicilian olive from Darling Mills Farm; or a smoked olive picked up from the Orange Grove market.

I tried three ways of preparing my olives.

1. heavy salt brine
(1 litre water, 1 cup liquid)
To tell the correct amount of salt, you float an egg in it. The first egg chosen was a little long in the tooth, so I then used a slightly younger egg (3 weeks old). Then I read up at skillcult, how to make a Sicilian style olive, but more importantly, proportions of salt to water was given.

2. A dry salt pack

This I got from milkwood permaculture. You put a layer of olives in your jar, then cover with salt. Repeat.

I was at a little loss as to what to do with the olives that had slightly bruised or bad bits. My source of the olives said to throw them out, because they turned mushy. My maltese neighbour told me that she put them all in , warts & all. I made a slight compromise, chopped the bad bits off, but then I fermented them separately in a heavy salt brine. I figured that with the extra exposed surface area, they would take less time to ferment.

Here they are (left to right, as above):

Olives, two ways

I’m already having trouble from stopping my olives from floating to the surface, and my weights are obviously not weighing them down.

I also notice the bubbles of the fermentation process coming to the top. About a week in, I tried one of the olives. When I cracked open the lid, I noticed the aroma was starting to smell like the familiar ‘olive’ type smell, but it was still quite bitter. I also noticed that the colour actually starts leaching a little out from the partially green and black olives, so they turn more green.

With a later batch of green olives (swapped for a pumpkin, which I swapped previously), even though I know that they weren’t the Sevillano type, I thought that I should ferment them the skill cult way.

3. Skillcult way
One litre water. 1/4 cup salt. 1/4 white vinegar. I chucked an orange leaf in to add a little tannin, to follow in the steps of my neighbour.

I can’t wait to try the finished products!

Harvest Monday & Garden Update, April 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related.

Yes, I know it’s May. I’ve been working on this post for a while. Life has been a bit manic.

Harvested.

6 x Hairy/Winter Melon cross, 1.7, 1.8, 1.9, 1.3, 0.466, 0.868 kg each. That’s 8.03kg kg so far.

A hairy melon is normally hairy and long; A winter melon is normally short and squat. I think that my random curcubit is a Hairy Winter Melon:

Hairy melon

Handsome, no?

I’m not quite sure how this happened, because the seeds that I planted came from a winter melon purchased from the shops. I think that this also means that the seeds from these fruit won’t be viable because of the cross pollination. Oh dear.

Anyway, I gave one melon away;
Turned the second one into soup;
And then swapped the third for 640g of Boston Marrow through the crop and swap.

I was a little slow on the uptake, but it turns out there are lots of little ‘hairs’ on the leaves, stalks and of course *fruit*, if you’re not paying attention they stick to you and make you very itchy. So eventually I worked out that I had to wear long sleeves and gloves when admiring my fruit hanging on the vine, and checking them out. I think that it is time to harvest the remaining 6 or so fruit, ranging from baseball sized to basketball, as the vine has started to die back.

Two strawberries.

One Marigold flower – added to a salad. There have been more marigolds, but as is their intention, the ants and aphids have moved in.

Swapped.


Kombucha scoby
! Does this count as a harvest? Someone put out a call for a scoby because they had managed to kill their current one. I swapped the scoby, and got in return some fresh picked kale, fresh genovese basil, 3 limes, some bay tree cuttings, 2 chillies, oregano and thyme.

Butternut pumpkin! I didn’t grow this, but I orchestrated a three way swap. One lady had pumpkins. One lady had fresh picked saffron milkcaps, cooked with thyme and oil and snap frozen. I had just-made plum jam. I swapped my plum jam for three pumpkins and genovese basil. Pumpkin lady got some jam and a serve of saffron milkcaps. Mushroom lady got a pumpkin. I then used one butternut pumpkin to swap for 2 alpine strawberry plants (one white, one red) and one rubus moluccanus:

The last one had *grown from a single raspberry picked up from a roadside rest area*. Now that’s patience. My new swap friend then told me that my earlier native raspberry was not a moluccanus, but some other variety. Huh.

Malabar spinach:

Malabar spinach

Someone was ripping out their entire lot of malabar spinach. The cuttings from one plant went to about 20 houses all over Sydney. I offered to go and pick up the remainder, and take it to the next crop swap meeting. I cut the stems into sections and placed in water until it grew roots. I also planted two stems in the ground for myself.

I had resisted in the past planting the cuttings of the warrigal greens that I get, because they are high in oxalic acid, and you have to cook it first before eating. No such worries with the malabar spinach.

Planted.

This is the first year *ever* that I have planted seeds, and not gone off and bought seedlings.
Clockwise from top left:
Snowpeas, Kohlrabi, carrot, dwarf pea

Winter seeds

snowpeas – 50% germination
kohlrabi – germination appears to be 50%, seeds picked up from the crop and swap seed bank.
carrot – 20% germination. These were seeds saved by another crop swapper
dwarf pea – 20% germination

Others that I have planted, but not taken a photo of:

red rosso onion – 0% germination. Well, the seeds were slightly out of date (Aug 2015)

Beetroot – 60% germination. These have now been planted in the ground.

I have got some more (brown) onion seeds from a crop swapper, so I’ll try these and hopefully get a little more germination.

Banana update:

Banana plant

My bananas (second bunch) are still going underneath their little banana bag. Not yet yellow, hopefully I’ll catch these before the snails do.

Banana fruit, round 2

I also planted my “Horta” patch. Have you heard of this? It was described in my book as “Greek food for Olympians”, wild growing greens that you plant one ‘square’ (out of the square foot) method of gardening. My horta seed mix consisted of seeds I use for cooking – cumin, coriander, caraway, yellow mustard, nigella seeds, fennel seeds; then augmented with my garden seed mix: rocket, pak choy, radish, english spinach, silver beet, butter lettuce, garlic chives. Some of those seeds are a little out of date, but I can see little seed heads popping up now, so who knows what I have grown?!

HCB Comparo, 2017 Edition

I wasn’t planning on doing this, honest. But since Easter was such a long way away from the indulgence fest known as Christmas, and the supermarkets just happened to start baking these pretty much on Boxing Day… I ended up eating just a few. Then of course, I had to take a photo, and after that I might as well keep looking for my favourite bun of all time.

Sonoma Not Cross Buns:

Sonoma not cross bun

Love this. By not putting a cross on the bun, all and sundry from all religious denominations can eat it. First bun I ate cold, I couldn’t stop raving about it. OK, so the ‘s’ was a bit tough to eat, but the aroma, I couldn’t stop inhaling it. I think it was the orange glaze. The fruit had been soaked in possibly earl grey tea. The second bun I ate warm after heating in the microwave. There was a very intense cinnamon aroma. The bread had a ‘dough-y’ texture. Fruit mix included orange peel.

$3.50 Each, $19 for six.
Sonoma Bakery Cafes @ Alexandria, Bondi, Glebe, Paddington, Rosebay, Waterloo, Woollahra.

Stoneground Bakery:

Stoneground bakery HCB

Available in blueberry (slightly blue cross), raspberry and white chocolate (pink-ish cross), and “normal” fruit. I bought the latter, and probably didn’t eat it at its best. Overnight in my fridge turned it rock hard. Even after microwaving it, the bun was just ‘meh’. I couldn’t remember any fruit apart from the sultanas.

$2.20 each, $9 for six.
Stoneground Bakery in Annandale and Hunters Hill.

Zumbo’s Fruit HCB:

Zumbo HCB

I had to check my records (blog) to work out if I had tried the Zumbo HCB in the past. Turns out no, I had only tried the chocolate version. This was heated up in the microwave. I got a slightly odd scent above the cinnamon note that I couldn’t quite place. Too much yeast?

This year I tried again the chocolate version, it seem less intense that four years ago; more of a ‘cocoa HCB’ rather than a dense chocolate mudcake.

$2.20 Each, $12.50 for six.
There are Zumbo stores in Rozelle, Star City (Pyrmont), QVB (Sydney City).

Boon HCB:

Boon HCB courtersy of Boon Cafe

Photo courtesy of Boon Cafe Instagram. I’ve been here several times checking out the baked goods, and suddenly there was a hot cross bun. Buttery flavour with a sweet glaze. The cross has a nice chew texture. Made with spelt flour!
Boon Cafe, 425 Pitt Street Haymarket.

Campos Coffee HCB:

Campos coffee HCB

I couldn’t resist, the buns were so enormous and a glossy dark chocolate brown with the glaze. The cross marked ontop was a bit tough to eat. High on the cinnamon factor. We spied a little orange peel and a little red cranberry (or possibly currant). Very buttery flavour.

$3.50 Each, $19 for six.
Campos Coffee, 193 Missendon Road, Newtown 2042.

So for 2017, I have to say that the Sonoma HCB with lots of glaze, eaten cold was my favourite. I could not stop inhaling that lovely scent, or gobbling up the buns.

Devon Cafe, Surry Hills

I had the opportunity to go to a work conference in the city, so I went to bed early, and caught an early train into central station. Devon Cafe was the destination, and I had a mere 40 minutes to order, consume, and then walk to Hyde Park. Truffle cheese toasties are only available when in season, and only on the weekend. Darn it! Worker Bees need truffle toasties too!

Two breakfast dishes caught my eye, and after being reassured that it would take ten minutes, I made my choice.

Breakfast with the Sakuma’s ($25):

Breakfast with the Sakuma's

Miso grilled king salmon,smoked eel croquette, 63′ egg, radish petit salad & kewpie mayonnaise. This had a extra unami scattering of seaweed and sesame flakes, plus some brown crunchy stuff that I couldn’t identify. The croquette was mostly rice, and very crunchy on the outside. It came with lots of different elements that kept me interested, all the way to the end. I couldn’t really use the mayonnaise as I found that the salmon was quite rich even without it.

The other dish that piqued my interest *had* been the Eggs Blini – for the mere existence of the blini, but having seen my communal table mate get his serving, I was very happy with my choice.

Ovvio Ginger Zap tea ($6.5):

Ginger Zap Tea

This was nice and tingly ginger flavour. I was surprised that it didn’t come served with honey, but then I didn’t ask. It felt like such a waste to use this loose leaf ‘tea’ tissane only once, so I took the remainder with me in a little container and enjoyed its zippiness for the rest of the day.