We’re prepping for our annual Kentucky Derby party so I’ve been working the alcoholic refreshments pretty hard. I have a batch of Kentucky Common and a batch of Agave Blonde made for the party, a batch of “Nutella” Ale made up for a friend and a Belgian Quad made up just for grins. Bottled the Blonde and finished off a Helles for Das Projekt. Many disasters brewing the Helles – too much water in the mash tun and the yeast left at the Homebrew Shop. It won’t do as a test but it told me how to use my “small” system.
On the wine side, we have a few in process, mostly whites. We have a Gewurztraminer made from genuine Colorado grapes, a kit Moscato and a very special wine, an Albarino (the “n” has the Spanish tilde). We got the grapes from the state’s grape expert, it’s been through malolactic fermentation and we just got it to clarify. The flavor is a blend of Riesling and Chardonnay, the Riesling because that was probably the ancestor grape – the name means “white of the Rhein” and the Chardonnay from the malolactic fermentation. We intend to make a blend of the three but also to keep some “straight”. All three are outstanding wines.
Cheese – I wrote about cream cheese. I have milk for a lactic cheese but haven’t had time to start the process. My Fourme d’Ambert is growing mold, the erroneously processed Wimer Winter has sprung a leak but is delicious. It’s going well.
Bread: For the first time in several months we are eating storebought bread. No time to mix anything up. More to come….
Sorry I missed yesterday: Life got in the way. By the end of yesterday, 24 hours at room temperature, your cream cheese should have coagulated and should now be covered by a bit of whey, looking something like this:
Cream cheese, coagulated after 24 hours of ripening
I’m working in my sink: Dimly, behind the pot in the sink, you can see the large colander I’m going to use to drain the cheese. I’ll line that with about a quarter-yard of fine weave cheesecloth, butter muslin, and ladle the curd into it. Once I’ve transferred the curd to the cheesecloth-lined colander, I’ll tie up the corners around a stiff wooden spoon and hang it over a bucket to drain for another 24 hours. Once that’s done, I’ll stir in the salt and the cheese will be done. The draining arrangement looks like this:
Cream cheese tied and draining
Unbundle and stir the cheese once in a while to move more of the whey to the outside. I like to salt the cheese, stir the salt in and then let it finish draining for a few hours. The salt helps remove more moisture from the curd. In the end, you wind up with this:
Stirring in the salt into the nearly drained cream cheese
When finished, spoon the cream cheese into a clean container and refrigerate. You’ll get around a quart of cream cheese from this recipe. The resulting cheese is light, tart, flavorful. My family likes to eat the cheese on bagels, baked potatoes or pretzel thins.
It’s an easy, tasty way to get started in cheesemaking. It’s what got me hooked.
For a while, I’ve wanted to make sourdough bagels, the main reason being the recipe and procedure I’m about to share. I don’t really make cream cheese, rather Neufchatel: All the flavor and far fewer calories, something I can appreciate at my age!
Cream cheese – I’ll call my Neufchatel that throughout this post – is very easy to make, an excellent starter cheese. It’s a lactic cheese – acid developed over about 24 hours is the primary coagulation method but it’s helped along by just a bit of rennet. It requires a couple of things you might not have, a starter culture and rennet. I use milk and cream from the supermarket, calcium chloride from my brewing supplies.
The process takes two full days, one to ripen the milk and another to drain the coagulum – the jelly-like stuff that forms due to acid and rennet action on the milk. So I’ll split the post into two parts.
Here’s what you’ll need to make the cheese:
- Some kind of sanitizer. I use Star San because I have it and it’s easy. A dilute bleach solution works well, too.
- A pot large enough to hold a gallon of milk and a pint of cream with room for stirring
- A spoon to stir with
- A way to heat the milk without scorching it. I use the stovetop on low heat, you may want to use a water bath or some other way.
- Measuring spoons down to 1/8 tsp (or eyeball using a 1/4 tsp measuring spoon)
- A large colander capable of holding a gallon and a pint
- About a half square yard of butter muslin (best) or fine cheesecloth (okay)
- A way to hang the cheese in the butter muslin to drain
- 1 gallon whole milk. I use the cheap stuff from King Soopers.
- 1 pint heavy whipping cream. I use the cheap stuff for this as well.
- 1/4 tsp 30% (by weight) calcium chloride solution. You can buy this or mix it up yourself if you have food-grade CaCl2 around.
- 1/8 tsp Mesophilic Aroma B starter. I’ve used 1/4 tsp Flora Danica starter but the cheese didn’t come out as good.
- 3 drops double strength rennet diluted in 1/4 cup cool, non-chlorinated water.
- 1/2 tsp salt. Since there’s no further ripening of this cheese, either iodized or plain salt will do.
Here’s how you make the cheese:
- Sanitize everything. You’re working with milk and know how quickly it can spoil, microbes like it that much.
- Heat the milk and cream to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir in the calcium chloride solution as the milk is warming.
- Sprinke the starter over the top of the milk. Let it rehydrate five minutes. Then stir in.
- Prepare and add the rennet solution. Stir into the milk for one minute. Let the milk stand at room temperature for 18-24 hours. I usually let it go 24. I’m sure there’s a way to measure the pH to know when the proper acidity has been reached. I never have tried to find out.
That’s it for Day 1 of the process. More to come tomorrow….
Rennet, water dechlorinated with a few drops of milk, infrared thermometer
One of the bugaboos of my brewing has been oxidation, a papery flavor that develops after the beer has been packaged. Oxidation alters the flavor of the beer over time, reducing its shelf life, but in extreme cases it can start adversely affecting the beer very quickly. I’m not talking about hot-side oxidation, that’s been debunked as a factor in beer flavor. I’m talking about any introduction of oxygen into the beer after yeast has been pitched.
Oxygen is vital to fermentation, at least initially. I’ve read of some experiments in low-oxygen fermentation but I’m not quite ready to throw out years of brewing experience based on a few experimental runs using various oils as the source of sterols for yeast cell walls. The problems occur if oxygen is introduced after fermentation is underway. The compound responsible for the papery flavors can be detected at concentrations less than a part per billion so only a little can adversely affect beer.
As I write, I’m sipping a beer brewed October 4th of last year. It’s April 18th: The beer is six months old. I can detect few signs of aging in it. About the time of this brew, I got a CO2 tank and began sparging the vessels before transferring beer into them. In fact, the beer tastes as good as when I bottled it. By layering a bit of CO2 in the carboys before racking, I limited the amount of oxygen introduced to the finished beer. It worked, as near as I can tell. My beers no longer show signs of oxidations, not this nor any of the subsequent brews.
If you can’t afford to go out and buy a carbon dioxide tank and regulator, you can still get some benefits by limiting handling of the finished beer. If you can avoid racking the beer, you eliminate one possibility to introduce oxygen. If you have access to another inert gas and can sparge with it, that will work as well. At least limt flow from the racking cane until the tube is below the level of the beer to limit splashing. Bottom line, keep oxygen out of your beer. It will taste better longer.
I sit here drinking a Pre-Prohibition Porter of my own crafting, thinking of writing again about beer and brewing. I’ve been remiss, busy with other things, mostly life getting in the way. So what’s Nosy up to?
I’ve started a new hobby, cheese making. Getting fair at it, too. Maybe soon I’ll be producing cheese at least as good as I can get at King Soopers. Hey, they have a pretty extensive cheese selection! But I still have cheesemaking now, I’m mostly at the same point there I was a few months after starting brewing. More to come as I learn and discover how to make great cheese. But the new hobby still fits the title: Cheesemaking is fermentation.
Baking – we don’t buy bread any more. That hobby, I’ll start publishing more on it as I bake, again, fermentation! Wine is going downstairs, three whites to create a blend, a red. We’ve collected several awards for wine. As things happen there, I’ll post on it as well.
And finally, beer. I’ve embarked on a project I’m calling “das Helles-Projekt”. It’s based around an idea I read where an author drank his way through a certain German city and learned to appreciate different base malts. My notion is to brew small batches of Helles, all to the same specifications, the only difference being the base malt. I intend to brew my way through every base malt the local homebrew shop has to offer to learn the differences between them. Yes, I’ll brew Helles with Maris Otter, Six-Row, Vienna, you name it, if it will convert itself, I’ll brew with it.
And I’ll keep the blog up to date as the project progresses.
Not much going on the past couple of weeks. I got the Kentucky Common bottled soon enough that it should be reasonably well conditioned by the Kentucky Derby party. The Saison has finished primary fermentation – Wyeast 3724 is a brewer’s test of patience – and is ready to “cellar” for a couple weeks near freezing prior to packaging. The Maerzen has finished its diacetyl rest and I’m bringing it down to lagering temperature.
It’s snowing again in Denver, for those of you who are interested in such things. That’s not unusual – our average last snowfall is about April 28th. I’ve had some fantastic brew days in the snow here.
The bakery is coming along nicely. A couple weeks ago my grandson and I captured a local sourdough starter. It makes good bread and is rather fast as sourdough starters go. My San Francisco starter takes an hour or so longer to ferment and proof. Yes, when I make a dough, I’m managing a fermentation, whether I’m using regular dried bread yeast or one of my sourdoughs. This morning I finished my first batch of sourdough wheat hamburger buns. When I can get to the grill, turkey burgers should be delicious on them with emmenthal or gruyere cheese and chipotle mayo. As with brewing, there are several keys to good bread and many of them will sound familiar: There’s time, temperature, “pitch rate” or use of a pre-ferment, starters, how much and what quality of water is used. My family can eat more bread than I can drink beer so it’s a good way to keep busy between brew days.
The winery is also in a slow phase. We have two in process right now, a red blend and a white blend. Rather than following the box instructions, we processed the white blend “Mosel style.” The box tells us to keep a reserve of grape juice and add that back once the wine is completely fermented. Now think about that for a minute: Would you ever keep a reserve of malt extract and add that back to a beer, unless maybe to condition it? Grape juice does not taste like wine, it tastes like grape juice and the result of adding it back is something that tastes vaguely like grape jelly. Remembering what my vintner friends in Germany do to produce an off-dry wine, we waited, tested and when the wine was as sweet as we wanted, we added sulfite and sorbate to stop the fermentation and stabilize the wine. The result matches the great Mosel Reislings I remember fairly well, even though there’s no Reisling in the blend. I may be bottling wines tomorrow and the white blend may be one I’ll forego the occassional bottle of beer to drink.
Today we’re gathering up supplies for the Kentucky Derby party next weekend, 2016’s first beer disposal event. Cheers!
Okay, so I don’t have umlauts on my tablet keyboard.
There’s something about brewing in April for September consumption but back in the day when lagering was done in ice caves in the Alps, it was what the had to do. But it is a beautiful sight:
I got about 86% conversion out of this batch using a 131 degree, 20 minute protein rest, a 152 degree 60 minute saccarification rest and a 15 minute 170 degree sparge. The wort came out gorgeous, as you see above. I got 6 gallons out of it and it’s perking away downstairs at 53 degrees.
All in all an uneventful brew day. No major catastrophes, nothing went wrong. Those are the good ones, when you get what you want from the grain and the process, about the only thing that made the day noteworthy was the 25 inches of new Denver snow in the background as I brewed. But the wind was calm, something I treasure when brewing outside since the least puff of wind can blow my burner out.
My Saison is still chugging away, the brave little yeast cells slurping up the last of the sugars. It’s down to 1.005 – Wyeast 3724 takes its time but is worth the wait. It’s now fermenting at 86 degrees, the highest setting on my aquarium heater. The yeast, known for their finicky nature, seem happy and that’s what matters. My Kentucky Common is cold crashing. I’ll put some gelatine in it Wednesday evening to clarify it up for bottling. It has to be ready for Kentucky Derby day, May 7th. Still plenty of time to condition.
Fermentation habit number 4 paid off: I made pizza dough and homemade mozzarella cheese during the Snowpocalypse, pizza from it today. Sorry, Papa Whozits, mine’s better, right down to the homemade sauce.