Archive for the ‘30 by 30’ Category


How to make hard cider

March 7, 2013

Hello, everyone! As some of you may know, Julie’s working on her “30 by 30” list. For those of you aren’t familiar with this, she came up with a list of 30 things she wanted to do by the time she turned 30. One item on her list included having a guest blogger. That’s where I (her husband, Dave) come in.

I don’t know the first thing about sewing, quilting, cooking, etc. The closest I get to Julie’s craftiness is probably through brewing and winemaking. Along those lines, Julie and I have recently taken an interest in trying our hand at making homemade hard cider. I’ll use this opportunity to share some information about our first attempt and how anyone can make hard cider at home.

First things first, equipment / ingredients:

Cider! (unpasteurized from a local cider mill is suggested)
A stock pot (slightly larger than your volume of hard cider that you want to make)
Wine tannin
Pectic enzyme
Cider yeast
Sanitizer (StarSan or Iodophor, for example)
Fermentation bucket with lid
Racking cane w/ tubing
Potassium metabisulfite
Bottling bucket with spigot
Bottle filler
Bottle caps
Bottle capper

Making hard cider is relatively simple process. Julie and I decided to do a 10 gallon batch, but you can scale the amount to whatever is preferred. You’ll want to use cider without any preservatives, since any preservatives will inhibit or prevent the cider’s ability to ferment into hard cider. We used fresh, unpasteurized cider from our local cider mill.

2012-09-23 16.17.49

One of the key things to keep in mind when you’re fermenting beer/wine/cider, is that bacteria is usually your biggest enemy. Fermentation works by creating an environment in which yeast can consume sugars and undergo a process that results in alcohol being produced. While making an ideal environment for your yeast, you also make an ideal environment for other bacteria to thrive. Bacteria can easily add off flavors to your cider, or ruin it completely.

To kill off any nasties in the unpasteurized cider, we pasteurized the cider by heating it to 170F for 45 minutes in a large brewing pot. Any stock pot will work just fine. In addition to killing off any bacteria, this process will also kill any wild yeast. There are all types of natural yeasts found with any fruit, and each yeast strain will contribute a different flavor profile when allowed to ferment. Wild yeasts could potentially create a wonderful product, or they could be horrible. We chose to kill off any wild yeast so that we could later add our own specially selected yeast strain that is known to produce excellent cider. I feel that cider is too expensive to gamble on wild yeast working out.

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In the last 5 minutes on the heat, we added pectic enzyme, and wine tannin. Pectic enzyme is mainly used to break down pectin to produce a nice, clear looking cider. Wine tannin is used to add a bit of tartness/complexity and will aid in the stability and preservation of your cider. Pectic enzyme is often added in amounts of 1 tsp per 5 gallons, but follow the directions of the package if available. Somewhere between ⅛ tsp and ¼ tsp of wine tannin per gallon should be in a reasonable range depending on the desired tartness.

After pasteurization, it’s especially important that anything that comes in contact with the cider is both clean and sanitized to prevent infection. I recommend using StarSan to sanitize equipment, which is a product available at any local homebrew shop or online.

Now that the cider is pasteurized and the additives are in, you’ll want to bring the cider down to around 68F for fermentation. An easy way to bring the temperature down is to create an ice bath. This involves filling a sink with ice water, putting a sanitized lid over your pot, and letting the pot rest in the water. Remember if you want to stir a little to cool the cider down faster, or use a thermometer to take a temperature reading, that that equipment should be sanitized!

Once cooled, you’ll want to pour the cider into a sanitized vessel that you can use to ferment in. A plastic fermentation bucket with a lid, 20%+ larger than your cider volume, works great. 7.9 gallon buckets are commonly available at homebrew shops and work well for a 5 or 6 gallon batch.

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At this point, you’re ready to add the yeast! Open up a package of your yeast of choice (we used Lalvin EC-1118) and sprinkle it over the top of the cider. Fermentation buckets generally come with a lid that have a small hole drilled so that you can insert an airlock. The airlock allows the CO2 produced by the yeast to be released, while keeping oxygen out. Put the sanitized bucket lid and airlock on the bucket. The airlock should be filled halfway with either StarSan or a cheap alcohol like vodka.

It’s best to leave the cider to ferment in an area that’s as close to 68F as possible. At this point, simply let the bucket sit for four weeks to let the yeast work its magic! You should start to notice the first signs of fermentation (a bubbling airlock) in 12-48 hours after adding the yeast.

Once fermentation is done, you’ll want to used a sanitized racking cane to siphon the cider into a clean/sanitized bottling bucket. Hard cider can be very dry and tart by default, and it often helps to “backsweeten” by adding sugars to sweeten it up a bit. Adding honey or brown sugar to taste is a common practice.

If you add more sugars, fermentation could start up again, which you don’t want, so it’s good to add potassium sorbate (in amounts on label) to halt any further fermentation. It’s probably good to add the potassium sorbate even if you don’t add more sugars just to be sure no fermentation takes place once your cider is bottled. Fermenting cider in bottles can result in dangerous bottle bombs as CO2 pressure increases! It’s also good to add potassium metabisulfite at this point to better preserve the cider. This process will create a still / non-sparkling cider.

Sanitize enough bottles and caps for your volume of cider. Fill your bottles using your bottle filler and then put on the caps with your bottle capper. At this point, your cider is done and bottled! The hardest part now is waiting. Young cider can taste outright horrible at first, with strong sulfur smells. This is normal! The most important advice I can give you at this point is to not pour it out and to simply wait for it to mature. The character of the cider will drastically improve if you let it sit in the bottle for an extended period of the time. You’ll want to age the cider for six months to a year.



The Pig Roast Part II: Whoops, Now We Have to Actually Cook a Pig

July 10, 2012

*Warning* This post will contain graphic pictures of a raw and cooked pig.

Last year when I was testing the waters with curing my own meats, I went to the Eastern Market in Detroit and got myself an 8-pound pork belly to cure for bacon. The bacon was delicious with a roasted pork flavor that was deep and rich. The difficult part for me was that the nipples left on the belly made me a bit squeamish. I conveniently forgot this fact when thinking of a whole pig. Talk about immersion therapy – but I’m getting a head of myself.

In preparation for our pig roast, we sent out evites to a bunch of family and friends. Dave tackled getting our bathroom remodel in order (another story for another time) while I began to research the best place to get a whole pig. Obviously, if you can get a pig right from a farm, go for it. That was not really an option for us, so we went with the next best thing, a wholesale meat provider down at the Eastern Market. I called then three weeks in advance to reserve a pig. Our conversation was confusing and somewhat awkward at best – I blame this on the fact that a) I wasn’t 100% sure what I was talking about and b) the woman insisted on calling the pig that we would receive “Porky” – naming it… bad idea.

Here’s what you should keep in mind when ordering a pig:

1. Plan for 1 pound of dressed pig per guest. We were thinking 50 people, so we got a 60-pound pig (also, that was the smallest pig we could get). The pig will yield approximately half its weight in delicious meat – thus a 60-pound pig will give you about 30 pounds of usable meat.

2. Ask for the pig dressed – unless you want to be gutting it yourself – didn’t think so…

3. Make sure you know whether or not your pig will arrive frozen or thawed. I was assured Porky would be roaming the farm on Thursday and dressed and ready to be picked up on Friday.

4. Make sure to get the price of the pig. Usually it’s a price per pound. Ours was about $2 per pound for a fresh pig.

Here’s the breakdown of our cooking process:

Friday, June 29th

2pm Dave left work and went to pick up the pig.

2:30pm Dave called me with this message, “we’re not on the list. Did you order the pig?”

Can we say freak out? Turns out that there were several pigs hanging with names written on the side, but none of the pigs said “Julie” or “Dave” and our names were strangely absent from the whole pig list. Thankfully they were able to “find” us a 62-pound pig, wrap it in plastic wrap, and send it home with Dave.

3:15pm Dave walked in with the pig slung over his shoulder. He was immediately elevated to godlike status in the eyes of our pets, especially our new dog, Clover.

Dave and pig

Dave and pig again

So there we were, the day before the party with a 62-pound pig and… no where to put it. It certainly wouldn’t fit into our fridge and we weren’t going to spend $200 on a huge cooler just to temporarily house a pig carcass. The solution turned out to be super easy – the bathtub. We cleaned it out really well (before and after the pig, I promise), laid the pig inside, and covered it in bags of ice.

We spent the rest of the night alternately cleaning the house and doing last minute research on the Internet. Originally, we had thought that it could take up to 12 hours to fully cook our pig, but given how small our pig was and the fact that we weren’t going to stuff it, we reasoned 6-7 hours would be plenty. This was the hardest call for us to make – if you’ve tried looking up proper cooking times for whole pigs on grills, you know that it can vary and there are no guarantees that your pig will be done in time for your party. We used the ultra scientific method of reading a lot, averaging, and finally guessing. We knew we wanted the pig to get to 160 degrees F in order to be thoroughly cooked and we *hoped* that 6-7 hours would get us there.

On the morning of the pig roast, we woke up at 8:30am. The plan was to start the charcoal at 9am and throw the pig on at 10am. Instead, I woke up with the terrible realization that our grill on the roaster would place the pig way too close to the coals. Luckily, we live five minutes away from a Home Depot, so we raced over and found some bricks. We covered the bricks in foil and placed them on the support bars. With the added height of the bricks, the pig would rest about 8-10 inches above the coals (not quite the recommended 12 inches, but it would have to do). Here’s how it looked:


We used two chimneys to start the charcoal and poured them evenly at the bottom of the roaster. All in all, we put about one 18-pound bag of charcoal in the roaster and let it get hot.


While the coals heated, we took the ice off the pig and rinsed it off. We rubbed the whole thing down with kosher salt and pepper. We rubbed the belly cavity with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic.

Pig in the tub

Dave carried the pig out to the back where we had the roaster resting on the cement. For safety per cautions, we put a layer of heavy duty, grill foil on the chicken wire to catch any grease and had the hose handy.


And then we put the pig on the grill like this:


Problem. There was no way it was going to cook evenly on its side and we didn’t want to have to flip it halfway through cooking. I suddenly recalled how I had read that some people had cracked the spine on the pig in order to get it to lay flat on the grill… and with no time to spare (it was already 10:20am!) Dave grabbed a mallet…. and beat the pig’s back repeatedly to crack the spine in four places.

No picture of that – I was too busy cringing at the dull thuds of the mallet striking pig flesh.

At 10:30am, we got the pig on the grill, laying it as flat as we could get it. We checked it after one hour at 11:30am and covered the face in foil in order to keep it from burning. Here’s how it looked:

one hour in

Ideally, the temperature needs to be constant around 225 – 250 degrees F. Ours ran a little hotter than that. We splashed the coals with water to bring it down at times, but ultimately we couldn’t always guarantee it was low enough.

About halfway through the cooking at three hours, we pulled the edges of the grate up carefully and added another bag of charcoal to the roaster.


Then we virtually forgot about the pig until 5:00pm. Ok, we didn’t actually forget about the pig, but we didn’t fuss over it and threw ourselves into last-minute party things like making dip and throwing junk into odd places of the house where people wouldn’t notice it. People started to come over at 4:30 and at 5:00pm we held our breath and stuck a digital thermometer into the thickest part of the pig’s leg. We were shooting for 160 degrees F. We got 185 instead. A moment of panic ensued. *Later we found out that this was not the end of the world. The pig was juicy enough that the meat was super moist and tender. Phew!

Here’s how it looked after 6.5 hours on the roaster:


And here we encountered a problem. The foil we put on the grate kept the grease from the charcoal. Unfortunately, when we began to move the pig, some of the grease drained onto the charcoal which caused little flare ups of fire. It took four people very carefully lifting the grate, one at each end, with pliers and hot mitts. We had a table set up next to the roaster so they did not have to go very far – however, I’m pretty sure it felt like a mile.

moving the pig

We let the pig rest for about 20 minutes. In that time, I managed to rope our friend, Amanda, into carving the pig with me. Our conversation went something like:

Me: Hey Amanda, how do you feel about carving meat?
Amanda: Usually I leave that to Chris (her fiance).
Me: Great! Here’s an apron and a knife and tongs. Let’s just step outside…

Amanda was a good sport though and in no time we had the pig carved with the meat shredded into aluminum pans for people to help themselves to.


Carving two

The 62-pound pig produced about 30 pounds of meat, which we fed to 50 guests. There were only a couple pounds of meat left after all was said and done – not the mountains of leftovers that we were dreading. The meat was delicious. It was moist, flavorful, and almost unrealistically tender. We served it with several choices of bbq sauce and side dishes that all of our guests had brought. Nothing went to waste. We scraped the bones clean to get all the meat. Clover graciously worked on the ears. Even the eyes didn’t go to waste because Dave and my co-worker’s husband ate them. Dave described the experience as “squishy but strangely porky.”


All in all, we chalked up the pig roast as a success. We had a great time throwing it and are even talking about making it an annual event. It was much much easier than we thought it would be. For anyone thinking of throwing their own – I would say go for it! And invite us, please 🙂


Weekend Canning

March 18, 2012

From left to right: Three Citrus Marmalade, Pickled Red Onions, and Cherry, Pineapple, Orange Marmalade.

I spent a little time last weekend and a little time this weekend working on canning… and I’m officially smitten with canning. There is nothing as satisfying as that little ping of the seal and the way the food looks so bright and pretty through the glass.

And now for the official checking off the 30 by 30 list:
7. Make jam or jelly – check! I’m going with marmalade totally counts.
8. Can jam or jelly – check!

Two in one weekend! Woohoo! Although, it’s definitely a case of doing the easy ones first… I haven’t even thought seriously of organizing the craft room….


#23 Send more mail to people I love

January 29, 2012

#23 Send more mail to people I love/care about – check!

19 cards of various kinds are ready to go out in the mail tomorrow. I figure, this will be one of those things I try to do all year.. so I’m going to keep a tally.

Feels good to get started on the list though. Direction.. that’s always a good thing, right?


30 by 30

January 22, 2012

My friend, Dim of Snarky Sister, has been working on her 30 by 30, which inspired me to give it a try. Her blog is awesome by the way… if you’re not reading it, I don’t know why not… and you should probably just give up now.

Anyway, I have about 13 months before I hit 30. That’s 13 months to do 30 things which I’ve put together and will list below. Many of which are food-based, things I’ve been too scared or too lazy to try, or just for fun.

30 by 30 list (in no order):
1. Graduate (seriously, I’ve been working on this thing forever and it needs to be over… now?)
2. Debone a chicken (everyone says it’s so easy… let’s hope they’re not lying)
3. Learn how to do eye makeup really well (the key there is ” really well” – I’m proficient, but I’d like to be much much better at it… then maybe I would wear makeup more than twice a year?)
4. Throw a four-course dinner party (want to come? please?)
5. Kill/cook a lobster (I’m a firm believer that as a meat-eater I should be able to kill whatever it is I’m eating. I love lobster, but have never had the responsibility of killing and cooking one… so we’ll see…)
6. Learn to cook some Indian food (love to eat it, never cooked it.. you get the idea)
7. Make jam or jelly (so that I can do #8)
8. Can jam or jelly (so I actually follow through on canning things other than blueberry syrup)
9. Completely surprise Dave with something fun (this will probably be one of the hardest because I get really excited about surprises for him and they rarely stay secret)
10. Make yogurt (Dave’s brother gave us all the things to make yogurt for a wedding gift, so I have no excuse not to make it…)
11. Make a piece of clothing that I can actually wear (and will want to wear)
12. Make a recipe journal
13. Have a guest blogger (any volunteers? you could talk about whatever you wanted)
14. Host a pig roast (I really want an excuse to buy a whole pig down at the Farmer’s Market – really really! – also, it’s probably a good thing you don’t live closer, Susanna, or pig on the pig could kill our friendship, huh?)
15. Write something substantial (I’m leaving this one kinda vague because I haven’t decided what “substantial” means yet)
16. Make ice cream from scratch
17. Master yeast bread (or at least make one really nice loaf)
18. Eat vegetarian for a week (Dave was distressed to hear this one because it probably means he will also eat vegetarian for a week)
19. Plant an herb garden
20. Get a stamp in my passport (hopefully next month!)
21. Finish a quilt project (I keep starting new ones. I should really put “finish all the quilt projects I have going right not” but I’m totally chicken.. so I’ll settle for 1 of 25)
22. Have a picnic in the park
23. Send people I love more mail (I used to send a lot of mail, but I’ve been slacking off lately and that makes me sad)
24. Make hollandaise sauce (I tried this once and it went horribly wrong)
25. Go to an apple orchard (never been before but really really want an excuse to go)
26. Bring order to the craft room (accountability! I’m writing it here so I *HAVE* to do it)
27. Make a successful souffle
28. Visit the wineries up North (we toured a few several years ago and I would love to go back and do it right)
29. Make macarons
30. Use public transportation (before you make fun of me.. bear in mind I live outside of Detroit where public transportation is the SMART bus that very few people use. I’ll either have to figure out the SMART bus schedule or visit a city that has more methods of public transportation)

So that’s my 30. I’m hoping that it’ll inspire me to blog some more, too. Here’s to hoping I get any of it done….