|The Herb Farm|
|Putting up fermentables for the winter|
This isn’t a lesson on the herbs one would put into sauerkraut, but more like a trade-off for me since I decided not to travel to the Caribbean this year. I have committed to making a conscious effort for the rest of my life and for the good of all mankind to go green. Therefore, instead of increasing my carbon footprint on our planet by flying to the islands just to selfishly satisfy my winter blues, I will stay home and learn how to become a better craftsman.
The craft I am studying now is brewing beer. In this article, I will give you an overview of what the possibilities are and list some basic kitchen equipment needed.
Beer is probably the oldest fermented beverage in the history of the world dating back to about 6000 BC. Brewing is both an art and a science in that there are certain mathematical and chemical applications that must be observed. The art comes into the equation when one wants to create certain new flavors to compliment particular entrées. Knowing which herbs, spices and even fruit will help you in deciding the way you want your beer taste.
I have been brewing beer for more than 12 years, but have only been working to perfect my own recipes for a couple of months.
The basic equipment needed to start your own brew projects is as follows: minimum size stainless steel stock pot (12 quart — 16 or 20 quart would be better), thermometer (50-250°F minimum range) and 6-gallon food safe fermentation bucket with lid and airlock.
Additional equipment may include: hydrometer (used to measure specific gravity and calculate when your beer is finished brewing and alcohol content), secondary fermenting vessel (5-gallon glass carboy) with drilled stopper, siphon tubing, racking cane, bottle filler, and crown capper.
All of the equipment can be purchased in kit form from several sources. Personally, I deal mostly with two places: Alabrew.com in Birmingham provides me with the service of a grocery store-like shopping experience and Midwestsupplies.com in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, is a great place to shop online or with their catalog. Both businesses have a knowledgeable staff and are highly recommended because they provide excellent customer service.
Beer flavorings from the garden include, but are not limited to, coriander, fresh wheat and other grains (crushed or malted), hops, sassafras, dried orange peels, lemongrass, oak chips, honey and many other additives you can grow right outside your door.
I started with 20-minute boil kits and added different ingredients to those in order to customize the final flavors. I have now graduated to the kits that include grains and hops along with malt extracts.
Though I have crafted beers that compliment fine foods like roasted beef, braised chicken, grilled fish, rack of lamb, fried turkey and even chocolate cake, I am still working on the one that will work with eggs, biscuits and Dean’s country sausage.
For December I think I’ll brew a holiday stout beer and flavor it with berries, bitter orange peels and cinnamon. If you can’t wait until January to find out how well it tastes, e-mail me and I’ll give you a sneak preview.
There will be more on fermenting beer, along with some recipe links, in the January edition of "The Herb Farm."
Thanks for reading!