Friday, July 26, 2013
The August meeting (Tue Aug 13) will be held at 8pm as usual. However, we will be holding the IPA competition at Twisted Jimmy's rather than at PA BBQ. Twisted Jimmy's is right next door to Steel City Samiches on North 7th Street. Depending on the construction on 7th, it's likely that you'll have to park on Philadelphia Street.
Monday, July 1, 2013
I love food. I mean, I really love food. I have not yet found a single aspect of the entire food preparation process that I don't enjoy. Everything from spreading manure from my own chickens onto my garden, to slicing an onion, to scrubbing the crusty bits of lasagna from a pan has its rewards. Each task presents challenges that, if approached in the right mindset, can be restorative and fulfilling practices of self expression. Moreover, for me, all aspects of food are about connection. Connection to the environment, connection to ancestors long-gone and cultures far-away, and connection to the loved ones who you get to share yourself, and the food you prepared, with.
My love for all things food and the connections I feel when dealing with food has lead me, and my best helpers (my dad and my daughter) in some interesting directions over the years. We like to call them experiments or projects. Some might call our endeavors extreme, or even hipster. There may be some truth in these labels. My food projects tend to bring back something old, like growing heirloom dried beans; reject blind consumerism, like brewing my own beer; are highly educated philosophies, like making my own charcuterie and cheese; and have an artistic touch, like my sculpted adobe pizza oven.
The pizza oven happens to be one of my favorite projects thus far. My two best helpers looked at me as if I was insane when I presented them with a copy of Build Your Own Earth Oven, by Kiko Denzer. But, they both quickly accepted the idea that they were going to build the oven together while I took pictures. Now, everyone who comes by my dad's house for a swim gets treated to a wood fired pizza and I have a great picture of my dad in front of the oven where he looks like a caveman.
Home brewing has been one of my favorite experiments. I get a thrill out of having a million yeast pets in a bucket working so hard that you can feel their heat, smell their sweat, and see their breath. Then you get to taste and share in their efforts. I like to think that my home brew recipes border on the extreme or are at least unique. All of the recipes I have developed have a story and I have taken to naming my beers after the people with whom my connection runs deep. I named my most recent beer "Daveman-Caveman", recipe follows, after my dad. My dad acquired the nickname Daveman, pronounced Dave-Man on a camping trip when I was a kid over 25 years ago. The "Caveman" part of my beer's name obviously came from the photo I have of him in front of the pizza oven, which I used as the label for this beer.
So, how do you sum up a person with a beer recipe? People are complicated…beer can be too. To me, the name "Daveman" implies superhero capabilities, both in mind and body. Most daughters probably feel this way, but I think my dad is the strongest, smartest guy around and he can fix anything. My dad is fun and likeable yet authoritative. He is a bit rustic and rough around the edges but has a soft side. He can tend a fire yet delicately bake a pizza. And he can use tools like the best of them. Actually, my dad doesn't drink beer. His drink of choice is bourbon and when at local bars where bourbon offerings are limited, he always orders a straight double shot of Old Grand-Dad with a Coke or Pepsi chaser.
"Daveman-Caveman" evolved into something complicated and extraordinary. Literally, it is a burnt orange and oak stout infused with Old Grand-Dad 114. Figuratively, it is fun yet authoritative. It is strong with a soft side. It is a superhero. The orange zest, when prepared the way I have, takes on a new flavor rarely encountered. It isn't sweet like candy or citrus like the fruit. It is effervescent and deep; a complex oak accentuated smoke. It is the kind of smell you would expect to find in a log cabin in the fall. Typically, citrus flavors aren't paired with stout, because the stout is too, well, stout. But here, using fire and bourbon to intensify the zest only, the true orange essence comes through. I have been advised by those in the Indiana PA Alesmiths that "Davemand-Caveman" is delicious and they have never tasted an orange quite as intense. They also advise that if left to age, the oak will mellow and "Daveman-Caveman" will become legendary. I think he already has. Thanks Dad, for sharing my love of food and extreme food experiments.
1 Stout kit (Brewer's Best is a good choice) or your favorite stout recipe
4-6 large naval oranges
2.5 ounces whisky barrel chips or dark oak chips
3 cups of your favorite bourbon (since we are pairing with a stout, darker is better)
Two weeks before brew day, using a vegetable peeler, take the zest off of the oranges in long strips. (Then remove the rind, discard it, and consume the fruit.) Place the oak chips and zest in a glass bowl and add 1 cup of whisky. Take your bowl outside and light the contents on fire. Use a fire-safe spoon to stir the contents. When the fire dies out, the edges of the orange zest and chips should all be toasted, but not black entirely. Once you are certain the alcohol has all burnt off and the fire is dead, go back in the house, put the chips and zest in a canning jar and add the two remaining cups whisky (drink what doesn't fit in the jar). Let this rest. Brew and ferment stout according to kit instructions. When you move your beer to secondary fermentation, strain the whisky into your bucket. Place the solids (chips and orange zest) into cheesecloth, tie shut, and add to secondary fermentation. Remove the pouch before bottling.