This is my final post in the 365 Foods project, and what could be more appropriate than drinking a beer to celebrate?  I’ve had so much fun both contributing and reading the posts by the 365 team and my co-guest bloggers.  So I’m raising a glass to each of the foodies here, and to all you readers out there too.  We appreciate you dropping by!

* See Note

I have to say, I am a lucky, lucky woman.  Why?  My boyfriend makes fantastic home-brew.  For several years now he’s been producing carefully tailored brews right in our apartment, and there’s no pleasure in life quite like the pleasure of tasting a beer that has been carefully planned and prepared over the course of weeks.  As summer approaches I can count on him to produce a gorgeous Belgian-style witbier, perfect for sipping in our camp chairs.  Other times he’ll turn out IPAs, Amber Ales, or whatever is tickling his creative fancy.

To those of you who have politely sipped at terrible home-brew and tried to pour it in the nearest house plant: trust me – there’s a whole other world out there.

I will attempt only a cursory intro to home-brewing today.  The process is far too involved to do justice in a little blog post.  However, if you are intrigued by what you see, don’t be intimidated!  Once you’re familiar with the process it’s quite easy and doesn’t have to take a lot of time.  In fact, fabulous results can be had with a method easier than the one I’m describing today.

A dear friend of ours got us into home-brewing, and introduced us to Dan’s Homebrewing Supplies. Dan is incredibly knowledgeable and stocks everything you could possibly need to make top-quality beers customized to your own tastes.  He offers many recipes to get you started, and will help you create your own recipes too.  This isn’t your standard “pick-a-boxed-beer-kit” U-brew kind of place.

Today’s beer is an ale loosely based on Liberty Ale by San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Company.  I’ll break it down by ingredient, and then roughly describe the process.  I’m not the expert in the house (and while we are careful we aren’t as meticulous as some brewers out there) so I acknowledge now that what I’m about to write should be taken as a loose guide only!

Malt

In brewing, Malt refers to grains (usually barley) that have been germinated, dried, and sometimes roasted.  In this recipe we’re using mostly Canadian-grown 2-row malt, which is a classic British beer malt, and a little bit of Carastan malt, a roasted malt that adds some body and sweet, toffee-like flavour.

Hops

Hops are flowers that not only flavour beer, but act as a natural preservative.  Hops add both bitterness and aroma to the beer.  We used two American varieties: Centennial and Cascade, which both have spicy, floral characters with a lot of grapefruit.

Yeast

Yeast ferments the sugars in the malt creating alcohol and CO2.  We used dry Nottingham yeast, a fairly neutral ale yeast that would let the malt and hop flavours really shine.

The Process

We used an “All grain” method for this beer, which means that we extracted all the sugars from the malt ourselves.  A quicker method that still yields excellent results makes use of malt extract and pretty much skips the mash and sparging steps I’m about to describe.

Mashing

Mashing is the process of soaking the malt in hot water to convert the complex starches into simple sugars that the yeast can easily ferment.  We use our camping cooler and diligent attention to keep the mash at the right temperature.  The sugary fluid that results from the mash is called Wort.

Sparging

Sparging combines two processes: draining filtered Wort from the mash tun (in this case our cooler) and flushing as much sugar out of the malt as possible with more hot water.  We modify our cooler to include a spigot that filters the wort through braided stainless steel cable, keeping all the grain debris out of the wort.

Boiling and Hopping

The boil serves three purposes.  First, it sterilizes the Wort.  Second, it purifies the Wort by removing undesirable compounds, some of which evaporate and some of which coagulate at this stage and can be removed later.  Third, the boil releases flavour from hops by releasing alpha acids.  Hops are often added at more than one stage of the boil.  Hops added early in the boil add lots of bitterness but little aroma while hops added near the end add little flavour but lots of aroma.  We added the Centennial hops at the beginning of the boil and some of the Cascades at the end.  More Cascade hops were reserved for a later stage.

Chilling

The Wort needs to be cooled very rapidly.  We used a cold water bath and ice.  We then strained out the hops and transfered the wort into the Primary Fermentor.

Fermentation and Dry-hopping

Once the Wort is cool enough, activated yeast is added and the beer is left to ferment.  The first stage, or Primary Fermentation, takes a few days – we usually let it go for a week.  During this time the fermentation is apparent from the bubbling in the bung (um, yeah) as CO2 escapes the fermentor.

When primary fermentation is complete the beer is carefully siphoned into the Secondary Fermentor (for this stage we use a gigantic glass bottle called a carboy).  For this beer we will be “dry-hopping” which means more hops are added to the Secondary to increase the beer’s aroma.  Secondary Fermentation clarifies the beer and can rejuvenate the yeast a bit.  We generally leave beer in the Secondary for two weeks.

Bottling

We don’t use kegs, so we rely on bottle conditioning to carbonate our beer.  The beer is carefully siphoned out of the secondary into another vessel and Priming Sugar is added.  The beer is then poured into bottles and capped.  The yeast in the beer gorge on this new sugar and create CO2 in the bottles.  After a few weeks in the bottles the beer is carbonated and ready to drink.

* * *

This batch is currently in the Primary, so we’ll probably get our first taste in mid-November, and it will continue to improve for several weeks after that.  This batch will produce about 23 litres of beer (about 65 standard sized bottles) from $30 worth of ingredients.  That’s about $0.46 per beer.

I’d share with you all if I could.  But please enjoy Drink Beer Day in whatever manner suits you best!  All my best, and thanks for a great year here at 365 Foods!

~ Sage

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* Sorry. I don’t know who to attribute the beer mug photo to.  It’s on over 60 websites and I don’t know who the photographer is.

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So yeah… corned beef hash. For the uninitiated, it’s chipped corn beef fried with potatoes, onions and whatever herbs you want to stick in there. It’s one of those classic dishes designed to use up left over meat, potatoes and veggies. Usually served with a soft fried or poached egg on top, it’s salty and starchy and generally great breakfast food.

If someone other than me makes it.

I don’t know what it is with me trying to cook hashbrowns or generally any kind of shredded potatoes in a frying pan, but it never turns out. Is the pan too hot? Am I stirring them too often? Why are they sticking so much? These are all unanswerable conundrums to me. I need a potato tutorial. I come from german potato pancake people… shouldn’t this be second nature?

Mine corned beef hash looked like this… it went from very white to starting to singe. No lovely golden brown color. *sigh*

If you want to make corned beef hash, I would recommend any of the three fork or better recipes on epicurious. I wouldn’t presume to give you directions at this point!

~Dea

ps: OMG!! THIS IS MY SECOND LAST BLOG POST!!! Where did the year go??

For my final 365 blog post, I polled a few people about what they like best for breakfast. I am of the Sesame Street school myself. My son used to have a book in which Ernie and Bert went to the supermarket and the foods they picked for breakfast were eggs, milk, butter, bacon, that sort of thing.

You can make pancakes with those ingredients, for one thing, and thin crepes are a family favourite around here.

But friends of mine variously claimed that the best breakfast consists of steamed buckwheat noodles with soy sauce, Vietnamese Pho, and a fruit shake with protein powder. And an ex-boyfriend of mine was partial to a bowl of cold curry in bed in the morning (we’re no longer together…). So today we celebrate diversity as well.

Different countries like different things for breakfast – in Holland, it’s almost always a slice of dark bread with ham and a fried egg. In France, a bowl of good coffee and Croque Monsieur, the cholesterol-heavy fried ham and cheese sandwich of Paris sidewalk cafes. Maybe cold curry is a popular breakfast item in Delhi?

My friend Cy Marney (who hails from the southwest US) made a key observation: there’s the best breakfast, and there’s the best-tasting breakfast. For him, the “best” breakfast is yogurt with fresh berries and granola, but the “best-tasting” breakfast as a green chili enchilada with fried eggs on top. Ah yes, the old good for you versus tastes good dilemma.

Funnily enough, that exact choice became apparent when I made the “best breakfast ever” – which incorporated some (but definitely not all) of the suggestions above.

Three lucky teenagers woke up to a table spread with organic yogurt with honey granola, maple syrup and fresh strawberries; banana-blueberry French toast with creme fraiche; and crepes with maple syrup and crispy bacon. And coffee and orange juice, of course.

This breakfast called on the tastes of three different countries – France for the crepes, California, USA for the granola, and England for the French toast – because yes! It’s a recipe from my favourite (in so many ways) chef, Jamie Oliver.

Despite my best intentions, I personally passed over the granola and yogurt and focussed on the crepes, bacon, and French toast. Given the choice, my tastes became clear…

So what’s your idea of the best breakfast?

It’s been a pleasure being part of 365 Foods – thank to everyone!
~ Deb

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Banana Blueberry French Toast, from Jamie Oliver:

Ingredients:
White bread slices
2 eggs
sugar
blueberries (and any other fruit you like)
banana
butter for frying
Creme fraiche

Method
Trim crusts from bread. Beat eggs with sugar. Toss blueberries with sugar and mix with mashed banana. Dip bread in egg, let excess drip off. Place dollop of fruit mixture in middle of bread and press another slice on top. Fry in butter til golden on both sides. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche and any remaining fruit mixture.

French Crepes

Ingredients
1 cup white flour
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1.5 cups milk

Method
Put flour in bowl, make hole in middle. Crack egg in middle and sprinkle salt in as well. Whisk till lumpy, start adding milk bit by bit til batter in smooth. Leave to sit for 10 minutes. Fry ladlefuls of batter in butter on medium-high heat, turning the pan to spread it out – keep a stack warm in the oven til you’re ready to go. You have to watch these closely or they will burn – but don’t worry, the first pancake is almost always a write-off!