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Vin d’Orange

15 Jun

I’ve had Vin d’Orange in restaurants as an apertif a handful of times, and only really knew that it was a tart, slightly bitter, orange-flavored wine (citrus + bitter: right up my alley).

Then earlier this year I read Samin’s description of making it and was inspired, during the brief window with sour Seville oranges were available at Monterey Market:

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After 40 days soaking a mix of rose wine, a little vodka, sugar, a whole vanilla bean, and sour oranges (tasting every few days), it was nicely bitter, and I strained and bottled almost 12 bottles of it.

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This gave me an excuse to buy a wine bottle corker, heat-shrinkable capsules to cover the corks, and with H design a label:

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I even made a small pint-size batch with the three Chinotto sour oranges we harvested from a container-bound backyard tree:

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After another 4 months aging in bottles it’s starting to develop– the initial bitterness has mellowed and it’s nice to sip / feels like it wakes up the taste buds. There is still a bit of bitter aftertaste a minute after you stop drinking it– but I’ve read I may want to let it age a full year or more to really come in to its own. I can be patient… I’m drinking some two-year-aged pluot cordial now…

 

Fermenting Fridge

21 Jan

This barely counts as a project because of how simple it was.

I wanted a fridge I could use for homebrewing in hotter months (keep beer at 60-70F, or cider at 50-60F), that I could use to homebrew lagers for the first time (control temperatures in the 35-55F range at different stages of fermentation), to slowly lacto-ferment vegetables (not really necessary, but to do longer, slower multi-week ferments around 60F even when it’s warmer), or even to retard bagels (rest in a cool place overnight to slow yeast growth while allowing lactobacilli a head start).

I’d read a bit about DIY ways to replace the thermostat on a conventional fridge… and then dug up a much easier way.

img_7744I bought a Danby DAR044 Compact Refrigerator (price varies, about $180 when I bought it) and an Inkbird Temperature Controller ($35).

The Inkbird temperature controller is a simple pre-wired alternative to custom temperature control relay boxes many people build– it has a temperature probe and two outlets, and turns on whatever’s plugged into the “heating” outlet whenever the temperature is below a certain setpoint, and turns on whatever’s plugged into the “cooling” outlet whenever the temperatures above a different setpoint.

I just plugged the mini-fridge into the “cooling” outlet, with the temperature probe threaded up through an existing hole in the back rear of the minifridge that leads into a drip tray. You remove these two screws to remove the drip tray:

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And use a drill to slightly enlarge the drip hole from the outside and fish the temperature probe up into the fridge:img_7742

That’s it. It just worked.

It worked so well I set up a second fridge, so I could be fermenting beer or pickles in one (at 60-65F) while lagering or long-term storing fermented vegetables (or keeping beer cool) in the other at 35F.

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As one example, here’s the temperature of the fridge over the course of brewing a lager– at 55F for the first few weeks, raised to 65 for a few days, then lowered to lagering temp at 35…

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And typical contents: fermenting chiles, preserved lemons, and sauerkraut:

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Quick Pickled Radishes w/ Lemon Zest

3 Jan

IMG_20180103_192851I’ve made quick pickles many times– usually just soaking thinly-sliced vegetables in vinegar, but this simple variant turned out especially well so I’m jotting it down.

I started with a daikon and some sort of purple Japanese radish from the winter garden:

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I sliced them thinly and tossed them with a few tsp of salt, massaging/mixing them with the salt again after 5 minutes. After about 10 minutes the salt had drawn a large amount of moisture out of the radish slices, and I quickly rinsed them and patted them dry.

I then covered them in a little white wine vinegar and Meyer lemon zest and let them sit another 20 minutes. Voila! A nicely supple texture (firm but not as crunchy as a raw radish), fresh and tart with minimal bitterness.

 

Growing (and pickling) Mouse Melons / Cucamelons

31 Jul

Back in mid-February I started some mouse melon seeds indoors under a grow light. Within a few weeks:

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Six weeks later, they were reaching out to grab onto anything nearby:

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Finally in mid-April I was able to plant them out (after “hardening them off” for a week by setting the seedlings outdoors under an awning in partial shade, to acclimate them to the outdoor weather). A makeshift trellis made from wire mesh and pieces of bamboo, at the end of a raised bed with compost and some drip irrigation along the roots:

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They grew slowly and tentatively at first, only gradually climbing the trellis as single vines… but as the weather warmed up and they got their roots established, they exploded, covering the entire trellis edge to edge.

By July they’re pumping out hundreds of tiny, crisp vegetables that look like a miniature melon and taste like a cucumber injected with a bit of lime juice. There are several dozen in this photo alone if you look carefully:

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Close-up:

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We’ve been eating them raw straight off the vine (they’re especially good when picked just slightly below peak size), put some in salads, and I turned a few quarts into kosher-style dill pickles– lactofermenting them at room temperature in a 5% sea salt brine with dill and garlic from the garden as well as mustard seed and peppercorns (and in one case, some leftover brine from a previous Jimmy Nardello ferment). They worked well as pickles, keeping their crispness, and developing that nice half-sour pickle tang after 4 days fermenting at room temperature and a few weeks in the fridge…

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[the left jar is a new batch about to ferment, the right jar is pickled and ready to eat]

They work well as snacks, and I look forward to trying them as a cocktail garnish…

 

 

 

Preserving Citrus & Hot Peppers

4 Mar

Another winter weekend, another bout of citrus preserving.

First, citrus peels rubbed in sugar to extract oils and make an oleo saccharum, my favorite way to get flavor out of citrus. I tried both bergamot from Monterey Market and a mystery pomelo/citron hybrid(?) citrus from someone in our neighborhood. I was lazy about my usual careful cutting out of all pith inside the rind of the pomelo/citron since it didn’t taste especially bitter.

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I also wanted to try making black lemons / black limes— both whole meyer lemons and bearss limes from the back yard trees, boiled in very salty water for 10 minutes, then put in a dehydrator whole for 3 days (rather than sun-drying them over a month as would be more traditional– our rainy Oakland winter wasn’t cooperating).img_20170205_182004

The result, surprisingly, was very dry (almost brittle) limes and lemons with glossy black interiors and a slightly funky taste– it will be interesting to see if they are dry enough to truly keep without spoiling and add flavor to stews and cous cous…img_20170208_211200

Someone else gifted me some red and yellow rocoto peppers (capsicum pubescens), which were extremely hot but with a bit of fruitiness like a habanero. I dehydrated a few trays of them to grind into chili powder and filled another jar with them and a 4% sea salt solution, garlic, and mustard seed to see how they ferment:

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The end result (including some whole limes packed in salt to make preserved limes, and a bergamot-rice vinegar shrub made from the oleo saccharum)– img_20170209_195354

Not shown, a “pomelocello” made with the pomelo/citron oleo saccharum, the juice, and cheap vodka.

Not bad for a weekend’s work. The dried rocoto pepper powder has already become a good go-to for chili, beans, and stew, and the bergamot-rice vinegar shrub makes a great non-alcoholic cocktail diluted about 1:6 with sparkling water.

Red Cabbage Sauerkraut

26 Feb

This batch of sauerkraut turned out especially good:

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I cut two heads each of savoy and red cabbage into long narrow strips, then sprinkled them generously with sea salt, let them rest, then kneaded them until juice was coming out and they were turning translucent. I added a decent amount of caraway seed and a handful of dried juniper berries, covered it with a few spare cabbage leaves, and weight them down with some ceramic weights– pushing the cabbage down into its own liquids. Then I just let it lacto-ferment in a crock on the counter for 3 or 4 weeks, tasting periodically.

The result was a moderately sour bright maroon kraut that still had some good crunch… I moved it to the fridge to slow further fermentation.

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So far it’s gone especially well with sausages and mustard, or with home-smoked brisket and fermented thai chilies on a taco…img_20170213_202350

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Fermented Green Chiles

12 Feb

My third, fourth, and fifth batches of fermented hot sauce:

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Two of them started as ways to preserve two bushes worth of green cayennes and Thai chiles (chilis? chilies?) from a back yard raised bed that got a later start in the season so didn’t turn red before the weather turned cool:

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I packed a jar full of green chiles with some mustard seed and garlic cloves in a 4% salt brine and let ferment for about a month at 60 degrees, then skimming off mold or anything floating on the surface, straining, tasting, and pureeing with some of the reserved probiotic brine to make a tangy, slightly umami hot sauce (no vinegar added). The cayenne in particular has more going on than just “hot”.

I do want to figure out a better blending / straining technique for the times I want a thin hot sauce that’s less like a chile paste.