Posts in Category: Beer

Rancho Pillow Harvest Day

On Sunday was our apple harvest party. Despite it being an off-year for the apple crop, we made enough cider for everyone to have some. We had the cider press going for several hours. I have about ten gallons in a carboy to ferment as hard cider. Joe took a carboy of last year’s hard cider and raised it up to the “next level”.

I made a French-style beef stew (daube), a vast amount of salsa, assorted rounds of goat cheese, an argula salad with cherry tomatoes and lemon cucumbers and pasta with a fresh sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes. In short, the goal was to use as many of the remaining tomatoes as possible. I tapped a keg of American Ale that I had brewed in the spring. Nancy made zucchini bread, congo bars and corn bread — however, we forgot to put the cornbread out.

John stopped by with his house-truck and gave us tours of his nice wooden house built on the bed of an Isuzu truck. He just left Oregon and he’s off for six months traveling around America with his four-wheel residence.

Sunday was a beautiful sunny day. We had lots of young kids around, enjoying themselves, the dogs and the pool. Lots of friends dropped by to share some food and conversation.

I was too busy to take photos. However, the last thing to be made was a pear tart by Chris and Kim Collett. They poached the pears in red-wine then covered it with a pastry crust and baked it. The tart wasn’t finished baking until everyone had left so Nancy and I enjoyed it after cleaning up. Incredible. I had to take a picture of it, although the photo doesn’t suggest how good it was.

Grab A Glass of Beer

Last Sunday, we tapped the American Ale that Ryan and I brewed in March. It has a mild, tangy flavor and good color. Everyone enjoyed it.

This American Ale celebrated Glenda’s coming home from NYU at the end of her second year; Ben’s departure to Puerto Escondido for surfing adventures; Nancy’s birthday; Katie and Ryan’s visit from Davis and the weekend stay of Nancy’s stepmother, Sarie from Duxbury. Plus it was a day that promised a long summer. (Not to mention that Maker Faire is just weeks away.) So cheers to all.


An American Ale

Two days after Ryan and I created a batch of beer, there’s proof that fermentation is going on.


We did a pretty simple American Ale. We used Cascade hops that I had dried and froze last summer. I hope to have this beer ready by Easter.

I also tasted some of our hard cider, which we made last October, and has been sitting under pressure in a keg. I really like it and we’ll have that on hand for Easter as well.

Thankgiving Redux

We had eighteen people for Thanksgiving — a big feast for family and friends. It’s a lot of work to organize and prepare but then the dinner goes by so fast. It’s wonderful having everyone together, year after year.

I wanted to write down the menu for my own keeping.



Cheese — I made a crottin-style cheese from goat milk but this turned out more like a brie. Very tasty. Others brought cheese as well. I also put out this year’s quince paste with manchego cheese.

I warmed mini-sausage links in a homemade chili catsup.

Hard cider. The first batch of hard cider was on tap. It has a distinctive sweet-sour taste, which everyone enjoyed.

Main Event

Turkey. The featured dish, of course, was an eighteen-pound organic Willie Bird Turkey cooked outside in the Big Green Egg. I did not brine the bird but applied a herb-salt rub and filled it with cornbread stuffing. The turkey took about five hours to cook at 275-300 degrees. I ended up deciding by time over temperature, which is not necessarily a good thing. The temperature gauge was reading 150 but I felt it was done. (The suggested reading is 170-190.) I let the turkey sit for twenty minutes before removing the stuffing and starting to carve. It was done perfectly — the white breast meat was very moist.

Kiwi-rye stuffing (vegetarian). A week earlier we bought kiwis at a farmer’s market in Davis, and they had a recipe for dressing. Nancy made this dressing, adding apples and diced rye bread, left over from a loaf I made earlier in the week.

Cornbread stuffing (cooked w/ bird). This was a simple stuffing, made from prepared bread crumbs. I added fennel, sprigs of rosemary and sage leaves.

Kale. I picked literally all the kale in my garden and prepared it. I braised it in batches and then put in a casserole with sauteed mushrooms and topped with romano cheese. I kept it warm in the oven. Kale is good in that you don’t have to treat it delicately like spinach.

Green beans. My own green beans are gone (except for a few that I pickled and canned). I braised several pounds of green beans and served them very plainly.

Corn pudding. A tribute to Southern cooking, I made this corn pudding with frozen corn and diced peppers from the garden. I thought the dish turned out well.

Roasted julienned parsnips and carrots. I love parsnips, and along with the kale are the new dishes this year. I found a hand-tool for making julienne strips. I ended up with very thin strips of carrots and parsnips, over which I drizzled oil and sprinkled salt and pepper. I roasted them in the oven, flipping them over to get them to dry out a bit. Everyone liked them, as they are kind of crunchy like fries or chips but have a lot more flavor.

Purple mashed potatoes. I had saved purple potatoes from the summer. I made mashed potatoes but I didn’t have enough of just purple potatoes so I made both white and purple variations.

Buttermilk mashed potatoes. I bought a five-pound bag of potatoes and mashed them with buttermilk and threw in diced chives from the garden. I like the slightly sour taste that buttermilk adds.

Hubbard squash. I had three hubbard squash from the garden. I cut them in half and baked them and then cut them into cubes. I made this the night before and heated the squash in a casserole, adding a little bit of butter and sprinkled cinammon on top.

Little Lemon Biscuits. This recipe comes from Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.” Glenda helped me make these light, yeasted biscuits. They didn’t rise as much as I’d like but they were good.

Cranberry sauce. Making your own cranberry sauce from a bag of cranberries couldn’t be easier. The result is more flavorful than canned, and you can vary the ratio of sweet to sour.

Salad. The salad was greenleaf lettuce cut into strips (Argentine-style) with diced persimmons, pomegranate, and fennel root, which are ripe in the garden now.

Ben solved the problem of too much food by stacking in layers.



Apple Pies. Nancy made two apple pies from the apples in our orchard. She threw in a couple of slices of quince, which I could taste. She made these pies in advance and froze them.

Pumpkin Pies. Glenda made two pumpkin pies and served them with whipped cream.

I should mention that we had such beautiful weather. We spent some time outside and got a nice group photo of everyone.


We have a lot to be grateful for, but especially for the leftovers.

Brewing Kolsch

Today Ryan and I are making a batch of hombrew in the barn. We are trying a Kolsch style beer, the official beer of Cologne, Germany. I’m using Kolsch malt, Perle hops and homegrown Hallertau hops.

It has been months since we’ve brewed beer. I’ve been charged with cider making, sweet and hard. The hard cider was a hit at Thanksgiving.

We hope to have Kolsch for the Christmas holidays.

Slack Friday

While a storm threatened in the morning, the late autumn sun was bright by afternoon, lighting up a pistache tree and the leaves that have scattered on the lawn.

Foamy Moment


I took this picture on Day 4 and this foamy moment is brought to you by fermentation.   The person at the brew store told me, when I said I wanted to brew a Belgian Trippel, to expect a vigorous fermentation.

Beer: Day Two

Beer Fermentation Day 2

On Monday, there was no active fermentation. I had chilled it down overnight in the fridge.  The temperature of the brew was about 56 degrees when I took it out.    Today, when I got home from work, I checked the carboy and this batch was busily fermenting.
While it’s nice to see the foam bubbles on the surface, the real action is below and I was so surprised by the vigorous activity that I shot a short iPhone video.   It’s not very clear but you can see the tumult of fermentation, albeit briefly.

Trippel Homebrew

On Sunday, I was brewing a five-gallon batch of Belgian Trippel. It’s the second batch. The first batch was made about two weeks ago and is in the refrigerator for several weeks. The Trippel is made from Pilsener malt and uses Tettanger and Saaz hops. I brewed this batch solo, without Ryan, who is much more capable brewer.

Below is the step where the wort chiller is put in the pot, after the wort has boiled for an hour. The idea is to cool down the wort so that you can transfer it to a carboy and add the yeast. The recipe said that the primary fermentation should start at 64 degrees, which is colder than what I can get using tap water to lower the temperature. So after I siphoned the wort into the carboy and pitched the yeast, I put the batch in the refrigerator to cool overnight.

Wort Chiller

Ben was around at the beginning helping me grind the grain, which is a two-person job. He built a very simple hopper for the mill, and it worked great. It saves on clean-up.

So this batch should be fermenting for a week before it goes back into the refrigerator for a month-long secondary fermentation. We hope both batches will be ready for the wedding.