Posts in Category: Fermentation

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.

Cheese Cultures, Uniquely American

“Harvard Magazine” contributor Elizabeth Gudrias highlights the importance of artisanal cheeses in American culture. The dual definition of culture (cheese) and community identity inspires us to preserve and appreciate the importance of both.

Choose American artisanal cheeses

Ms Gudrias passes on information from Cowgirl Creamery, in Point Reyes Station, California, offering one typical message on its website: “In buying farmstead cheese rather than industrially produced cheese, you will support the fine art of farmstead cheesemaking,…help to ensure jobs in rural areas, and contribute to protecting farmlands from development.”

“This is one of the observations Heather Paxson, a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, intends to present in the book she is writing this year (tentatively titled “Cheese Cultures”). Paxson—an associate professor of anthropology at MIT and the author of a 2004 book on Greek women’s changing attitudes toward family planning—specializes in the anthropology of the everyday: how individuals connect themselves to a web of social norms through their actions, and how those actions, en masse, shape the norms.”

Watch for Ms Paxson’s book in the future and here is a link to the article highlighting the importance of our American cheese cultures.

Last Fruit Standing: Persimmons

Persimmons are the last fruit of the season, coming late in the fall and staying around through December. The trees lose their leaves but the fruit remains on the branches, hanging like ornaments. We are fortunate to have two kinds of persimmon trees, the Fuyu (left below) and the Hachiya (right below).


The acorn-shaped Hachiya is so astringent that it cannot be used until it is ripe and softened. I have not started using ours yet.

The Fuyu can be eaten directly from the tree. Dice a persimmon as a salad topping, which is especially nice when mixed with pomegranate seeds. However, like many fruit, you simply have too many of them, if you have your own supply.

Bara Brith: A Welsh Holiday Bread

I made a holiday bread substituting persimmons for candied fruit. I don’t like anything about candied fruit and I had fresh persimmons.

I modified a recipe for Bara Brith, a Welsh “speckled bread” that uses currants and golden raisins. It’s in the family of fruit cakes but I think it’s more like raisin bread. I found the basic recipe in Bernard Clayton’s “New Complete Book of Breads.” There are versions online that use self-rising flour and no yeast. Mine had yeast but it was slow to rise. In fact, I thought the recipe had failed.


In a mixing bowl, add a cup of flour, a teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 cup of sugar and one packet of dry yeast. In a pan, warm a half-cup of milk and 1-1/2 tablespoons of margerine. Then, after removing the pan from the heat, add two eggs to the liquid and stir. Add the liquid into the flour and begin beating with a mixer — I used the dough hooks. Add up to another cup and a half of flour and knead for ten minutes. The dough is a tan color and seemingly dense, a bit like taffy.

Set aside the dough in a greased bowl and cover it. Let the dough rise for at least an hour. I allowed two hours because I didn’t see much change. It was a cold and rainy day outside. In writing up this recipe, I found this account on the Food Glorious Food blog of a similar experience. Next time, I plan to try adding the yeast to the warm milk and letting it proof.

While the dough is rising, put a cup of diced persimmons and a half-cup of golden raisins in a bowl to soak in a half-cup of apple brandy (or sherry). Let them sit while the dough is rising.

Turn out the dough on a floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Now it’s time to mix in the fruit. (The Clayton recipe called for 1/2 cup of candied fruit but I omitted it.) The persimmons and raisins had been soaking in brandy for a couple hours. I drained off the remaining brandy and began working them into the dough, which is not easy. It really does seem as though there is too much fruit for the size of loaf. I wondered if the recipe underestimated the amount of dough to use.

I did not plan to use a loaf pan but instead hand-shaped the loaf. Now the loaf is set aside to rise again for about an hour. I had the same problem — that it didn’t seem to rise much. And I was nearing a deadline when I was having to leave the kitchen. Thinking the room was cold, I slid the loaf into the oven. Unfortunately, I went out for the evening and did not get back that evening in time to bake the loaf. So it sat overnight in the oven. When I removed it, the loaf had maybe tripled in size. Finally, it seemed to be alive, in the bread sense.

I reshaped the loaf and let it sit out while I pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees. I cut a slash down the top of the loaf before putting it in the oven. When I took it out a half-hour later, it looked and smelled wonderful. I could hardly wait to taste it — such that I didn’t get a good photograph of the untouched loaf.


My wife thought this bread was outstanding. I was amazed that Bara Brith had such a deep brown crust, almost as though I had glazed it. the bread was lighter than I thought it would be. The persimmons were a nice subsitute, adding an unusual color. I could taste both the sweet persimmon flavor and a bit of the brandy but none was overpowering.

For Christmas, I’m going to follow a James Beard recipe (from David Lebovitz’s site) for making persimmon bread from a puree of ripe Hachiya persimmons.

Next up: Drying Persimmons

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.

Hardening Cider

I started five gallons of cider fermenting.


The apple juice sat for a few days in the carboy in the fridge before I added the yeast (Epernay II.) Here it is on the second full day of fermentation.

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.