Saturday, July 13, 2013

Bread, Garden, etc.

Last week I made a whole wheat version of the Tartine bread. It came out very well, I was excited about. I was a little worried at first because we had things to go do during the day so I didn’t get a chance to work the dough as much during the primary fermentation. However, at the end of it all it came out pretty well. And most importantly, it tasted delicious.

The garden is moving along. The okra are finally starting to flower, so hopefully we should start getting some pods soon. The corn has really come alive, some of them are 7-8 feet tall. There are plenty of small ears out there, so I’m hoping we’ll get a little bit of corn. The pumpkins and dry beans (black eyes and holsteins) are doing well in the bed with the corn.

The tomatoes are still producing, even in the heat. I think I’m going to try and let them stay in the ground and try to get some fall tomatoes off of them when the weather cools down. Eggplant are still kicking. Really the only that has slowed down are all of our string beans, but we got plenty out of them.

Oh yeah, the cucumber plants are trying to take over the garden. If anybody wants cucumbers let us know.

Friday, July 5, 2013
Tomato Rainbow

Tomato Rainbow

Thursday, July 4, 2013

So Close

The above two pictures are from the round of golf I played on Wednesday evening. The round was notable for a couple of reasons.

One, if you look at the picture on the bottom that is the sole of my left shoe in my hand. Before we started the sole came unattached from the shoe. So played the entire round with the sole clapping every time I took a step. What’s the sound of one foot clapping? Now I know. It actually completely came off in a bunker on the 17th hole. I played the last 1.5 holes wearing a slipper. Upon further inspection, the right shoe was about to succumb to the same fate.

Two, this was the best score I’ve ever shot. I broke 50 on the first nine by a good bit and even with my horrid last six holes I still ended up right at 100. If I could have kept together a little more on the back nine I could have really put something nice together overall.

What’s interesting was that the first hole where my score went off the rails I actually hit a great drive. It was my second shot that I sliced something horrible into the woods. From that point on I just couldn’t put more than one good shot together.

We had a good night for independence day. Worked on our plates at the saucer, and then hit up the top of the Triangle parking garage to watch the fireworks all over the city. Happy Independence Day!

Monday, June 10, 2013
The past few weeks
We had a great time in Louisiana. Then we had friends stay with us for Memorial Day. Then we had a great mini-cation in the Bay Area for a wedding and some visiting (and wine tasting, see above picture). Then this past weekend we had another great time with friends visiting (and lots of eating).
This coming weekend we have nothing of note planned, and I am going to enjoy the heck out of it. Activity is always great, but it’s also nice (and recharging) to occasionally just have a weekend of being a homebody.
My veggies have been a mixed bag this year. The beans did really well for a while, and the tomato plants look great, but we’ve only had a few tomatoes actually turn. I have some giant green tomatoes out there. The cucumber plants are taking over the garden, but I just have one cucumber to show for it. And don’t get me started on the corn…
I’m clearly doing something wrong this year. And I don’t know what it is.
In other exciting news I officially started triathlon training today. I went swimming and it kicked my butt. It’s amazing how much fitness I’ve lost in the last 9 months. But hey, you have to start somewhere, and that place is today in the pool. I signed up for the Jack’s Generic sprint and depending on how things go I will shoot for the labor day olympic or sprint downtown. I need goals and structure, so I’m excited to get back in the groove. 
On that subject I weighed 210 today. That’s just 5 lbs short of my heaviest weight in the beginning of 2010 before I lost the weight and won the contest at the gym. Yikes.
Carrie and I have a goal of not going out to eat for the rest of the month. That plus the exercise I’m hoping will get the 2nd half of this year moving in the right direction!

The past few weeks

We had a great time in Louisiana. Then we had friends stay with us for Memorial Day. Then we had a great mini-cation in the Bay Area for a wedding and some visiting (and wine tasting, see above picture). Then this past weekend we had another great time with friends visiting (and lots of eating).

This coming weekend we have nothing of note planned, and I am going to enjoy the heck out of it. Activity is always great, but it’s also nice (and recharging) to occasionally just have a weekend of being a homebody.

My veggies have been a mixed bag this year. The beans did really well for a while, and the tomato plants look great, but we’ve only had a few tomatoes actually turn. I have some giant green tomatoes out there. The cucumber plants are taking over the garden, but I just have one cucumber to show for it. And don’t get me started on the corn…

I’m clearly doing something wrong this year. And I don’t know what it is.

In other exciting news I officially started triathlon training today. I went swimming and it kicked my butt. It’s amazing how much fitness I’ve lost in the last 9 months. But hey, you have to start somewhere, and that place is today in the pool. I signed up for the Jack’s Generic sprint and depending on how things go I will shoot for the labor day olympic or sprint downtown. I need goals and structure, so I’m excited to get back in the groove. 

On that subject I weighed 210 today. That’s just 5 lbs short of my heaviest weight in the beginning of 2010 before I lost the weight and won the contest at the gym. Yikes.

Carrie and I have a goal of not going out to eat for the rest of the month. That plus the exercise I’m hoping will get the 2nd half of this year moving in the right direction!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

2013 Spring Garden, May

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Kegging the Kölsch

My new keg arrived yesterday from KegConnection and I wanted to get the Honey Kölsch cold and under pressure so that I could have a bubbly taste this weekend. The clarity was something else–the Irish moss really seemed to do the job. The picture on the right has some sediment floating, but the first sample I had taken from the carboy was crystal clear. I could see completely through the carboy as you can kind of tell in the picture on the left. I’m expecting the little sediment that made it into the keg will drop once it gets nice and cold and be gone after a first purging pint.

The smell of this beer was awesome. Slightly sweet but with a crispness that one would associate with a blond ale. I can’t wait to taste it and see how it is.

Oh, I wasn’t able to take a gravity reading because I broke my hydrometer.

On tap this weekend is some much needed mulching of the vegetable garden and front beds and more bread!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

More Fermentation - Bread

So I gave the bread another try this weekend. But that’s not where the story starts.

The story starts with Chad. No, not that Chad. Chad the sourdough starter. How I ended up with a sourdough starter named Chad is a story in and of itself. Let’s just go with it.

So my first attempt to bake anything using Chad was a failure. I mean, i ate it, but it was a brick. So the person who created Chad insisted that I acquire Tartine Bread and follow his instructions to make his basic country loaf. We had some Barnes and Noble gift cards laying around, so while running errands on Saturday I picked it up. I’m very glad I did.

Saturday I took a small amount of the starter, fed it, and let it sit overnight to produce the leaven. Then Sunday morning I started the process.

Following this recipe is similar to beer making in that there is a lot of down time. In this case it was two 3-4 hour fermentation (or rising) waits. However, the wait was worth it as Sunday evening I ended up with two loaves that were quite delicious. 

There were a few things that I feel I could do better in the process. So I was kind of worried when I took the first loaf out of the oven. However, once I cut into it and saw the crumb it hit dawned on my that this bread may be pretty tasty.

It was delicious plain. It was delicious warm with butter and jam. I didn’t get a chance to make a sandwich with it, but I’m thinking that would be pretty fantastic as well.

So now Chad is asleep in the fridge, and I can’t wait to bake this bread again and hopefully fix some of my missteps.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Last Friday I completed my first all-grain brew with my new mash tun. It went pretty well, though there were a few spots where having an extra set of hands would have come in handy.

I enjoyed some of the lemon wheat while I brewed. The lemon really has mellowed out nicely. It’s going to be a good beer as summer starts to creep into the picture. But for the first all-grain brew at home I decided to go with a Honey Kölsch from AHS. I figured it would be a nice easy drinking beer for the warm weather coming up.

The cooler mash tun held the temperature really well over the entire hour. I think it lost maybe 1.5 degrees. I did a batch sparge just pouring in the sparge water in two attempts, letting it sit a few minutes, and then draining it off. I didn’t quite drain off all of the water, and I think I came in a little low on volume in the end. But my pot is only so big (having a bigger pot would be nice to not have to worry about that). I also probably let the sparge water get a little too hot.

I was able to get the wort temperature down right over 20 minutes, but I was also trying to put the water running through the wort chiller to good use. The starting gravity came out a little high (1.052 instead of 1.050) but that’s probably due to the lower volume. I did do something I’ve never tried before and added some Irish moss to try and get a nice clear beer.

The fermentation started in less than 24 hours, and it looked much more violent than the previous beers. I think this was due to the Irish moss making the sediment clump. The clumps were rolling around in the fermenter (which you can kind of see in that last picture). Hopefully between the Irish moss and some cold aging time in the keg, I’ll end up with a nice golden clear Kölsch. It will be like being back in Köln!                                                               

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What started out as the back of the Ranger filled with dirt and a plodding trip back up MoPac ended with all of the vegetable beds planted by the end of the weekend. The seeds for corn, pumpkins, okra, and summer squash all got into the ground. I also added some herbs in the cucumber bed, along with lots of marigolds for a little extra defense. Now I need more mulch.

Mulch… it’s always more mulch.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mash tun created!

After doing a couple of all-grain brews now with friends, I decided to create myself a basic setup with which to brew all-grain. Of course, the internet was my friend here. The 10-gallon rubbermaid cooler that Home Depot sells seems to be a favorite of people for this purpose.

I got the rest of the stuff from Austin Homebrew. The silver thing in the bottom of the cooler is a false bottom. It’s basically a domed sheet of stainless steel that has been perforated and it has a right-angle attachment. In the picture you can see a hose going from the side to the false bottom. I used some thermoplastic tubing (it can deal with the heat, and it’s stiff so it won’t collapse under the weight of the grain). I put a few hose clamps on just to make sure the hose doesn’t pop off during the mashing process.

The main question now is–what will be the first beer with this setup?