Braggot

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Look!  A filthy stove!  Actually, this is my hops and amber malt extract that just got done boiling for an hour. 

I have enough wine and mead either bottled or ready to bottle, as well as wine kits, to make about 200 bottles of wine.  So, I decided that it was time to branch out and make something new.  One of the wine/mead books I have is Ken Schramm’s The Complete Meadmaker, and while browsing the book looking for other ideas, came upon a recipe that seemed like it would be an easy introduction to the making of a braggot.  So, off to the cooking store I went looking for supplies. 

At the store I decided that for my first attempt I would forego using whole grains and use a malt extract instead.  I chose to use an amber malt for this braggot (which I am having second thoughts about now), and am using  a clover honey from Costco.  I would really love to use another type of honey, but it is too expensive to get it shipped to Juneau and use it in the quantities I use yearly.  The Costco honey worked well with my blueberry mead, so it should work well here as also. Hopefully, anyway.

Recipe:

3.3 pounds Amber Malt Extract

2 ounces Cascade Hop Pellets

1o pounds Clover Honey

2 tsp. Yeast Nutrient

2 tsp. Yeast Energizer

5 grams Lalvin D-47 Yeast

Specific gravity was about 1.097, or an ABV of 13% or so.  I plan to carbonate it so only time will tell on this one. 

Some pics!  Strawberry-Rhubarb Wine in carboys; Yeast!; a really bad picture of the braggot in the primary:

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I transferred my Strawberry-Rhubarb Wine to the secondary(s) yesterday.  There was so much crap, in the form of melted strawberry debris, in the primary that it was difficult to rack it pure, so I transferred the remaining liquid to a one gallon container to let both settle out.  I had the same issue with my blueberry wine and mead, where there were so many seeds that I ended up with a huge amounted of wasted wine.  I will re-rack in about 10 or so days when I see a good degree of settling.

The blueberry wine and mead were back-sweetened yesterday, and I must say that both are pretty good.  I have only been making wine for about a year and a half, so am not sure how home-made wine/mead ages for a long time when bottled.  But if it is anything like my kit wines that I have aged for 6 – 9 months, these two wines should be really great. I plan on bottling both on the 14th of August, which will be exactly one year from the date the yeast was pitched. 

In other wine news, I picked up an RJ Spagnols Grande Vieux Chateau du Roi kit today.  The description is:

The intense aroma of this BIG red features a complex mélange of ripe cherries, blackberries and bell peppers.

I will probably start the Roi next Monday. 

Killing Trekking Poles

27Jul10_West_Glacier_IMG_0232I really love my Leki Makalu carbon trekking poles, but I have killed my second pair in four years.  I really believe that the first pair was defective, as it broke in a place where it should not have broken and there was very little pressure put on the pole at the time it broke.  I sent that pair back to REI, and they refunded my money (and I ordered another pair) without issue.  The breakage of this pair, however, was my fault, so I will not be sending them back. 

On to my Monday night hike.  Last night we left the house at 1730 for a late afternoon hike of the West Glacier Trail in Juneau, AK.  This trail is about 1.5 miles from our house, so we are usually there 4+ times per week.  Well, not this summer, but in previous summers anyway.  My ankles were somewhat sore from Saturdays and Sundays ankle twisting incidents, but nothing serious.  The trip up the trail took 1 hour 12 minutes, which is a nice speed.  West Glacier Trail is approximately 7 miles round trip, has a total ascent of 1338 feet where we stop. 

The trail is an easy trail with a few exceptions comprising mostly of slippery rocks and a couple of high steps.  There are drop offs, some very steep and high, but you are mostly surrounded by vegetation.  We arrived at what I call the “false” top when the sun had already gone behind Mt. McGinnis. 

The first picture is of the valley, and Mt. McGinnis on the right.  The second picture is of the Mendenhall Glacier, as is the third picture.

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We “observed nature” for a few minutes, and then strolled down the mountain.  I suppose I was not paying attention as to where I was placing my feet, so my left foot decided it was a good idea to step off the trail.  This caused my left foot to slip down the slope, and me to lunge forward and to the right so I would not fall off the trail and tumble down the mountain (again).  I did a fairly good job of staying on the trail, but my arm landed on my trekking pole, breaking it as seen in the first image.  A few scrapes on my right leg, both arms, and some neck pain was my punishment for not paying attention.  The rest of the hike went rather well.

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Like I said, I love(d) my Leki carbon poles.  I have another pair of aluminum Leki’s, which are OK, and I have a nice pair of Black Diamonds, which I do not like at all.  The Leki’s seemed to have a different vibration to them that I found not distracting, and that is different from other poles.  It also seemed that they were easier to swing forward than other poles.  So, I will probably use my other poles for the rest of the summer, and order another pair of carbon poles when winter arrives.

Today is a rest day, as I have work to do.  Tomorrow is either West Glacier again, or if it is clear, I was thinking of either doing Granite Creek to Mt. Juneau, or going up to Gold Ridge.  Or maybe, taking my bike to the Herbert Glacier – always a nice ride.

Weekly Totals:

Hiking mileage:  13.5

Hiking.

IMG_0217Finally, now that summer is almost over, and I start work in 16 days, we have started hiking again!  The image on the left is from East Glacier Trail in Juneau, AK.  It is a short, 3.5 mile loop (if you start where we start) that has an approximate elevation gain, as measured my my altimeter, of 679 feet. 

Though it was raining, the hike was pleasant.  One thing I love about hiking in the rain, is that there are no bugs out.  Additionally, all the tourists stay off the trail.  I am really happy that tourists come to Juneau and hike the local trails, but sometimes it is a pain to get around them.  When the tourists are in groups headed by a guide, and if the guide sees us, then things are fine as the guide asks the group to step off the trail until we pass.  However, if the guide does not see us, or if the tourists are alone, then things can get slow, as some people are either stupid, or because they are from larger cities, just plain rude. 

Look, a wet person and some Devils Club: 

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The images above were taken on Saturday.

On Sunday, we went back to the East Glacier train and did the loop twice.  The first time we ran as much of it as possible (especially the downhill parts) and walked the second time around. 

I have very flexible ankles, thankfully.  On the way down the first time, by left foot bent inward so the side of the foot was on the ground.  That really hurt for a while.  On the way down the second time, by right foot did the same thing, but this time it bent inward enough to the top of my foot contacted a rock and left a huge bruise on the sop of my foot.  I actually thought I broke something for a few minutes.  But as usual when my ankle does something like this, all returned to normal after a while, and we continued our hike. 

So, about 10 or 11 miles this weekend.  Not a bad start.  Or actually, not a bad start if this were March!  Oh well, I am looking forward to a nice winter hiking season.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Wine

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Started a batch of Strawberry-Rhubarb Wine on the 21st.  The rhubarb is from my garden, and the strawberries are from Costco.  The berries that are in the primary have not been chopped up, as they were frozen.  I cut them the next day when they were thawed, and whole strawberries make for a better picture.

The recipe is one that I found on the Internet at Jack Kellers web site, and it looked interesting and easy, so I decided to try it.  The only deviation is that I added only half of the citric acid.  I will add more later when I know the wine needs it. 

This is my ingredient list:

24 lbs. frozen strawberries

12 lbs. red rhubarb stalks

6 cup Welch’s 100% White Grape Juice frozen concentrate

Water to make 6 gallon batch (will be adjusted later)

4.5  lbs. granulated sugar

3 tsp. citric acid (more may be added later)

4.5 tsp. peptic enzyme

3/4 tsp. powdered tannin

5 crushed Campden tablet

6 tsp. yeast nutrient

1 sachet Red Star Côte des Blancs wine yeast

I pitched the yeast on the 22nd and the wine took a day to start fermenting, but it is going quite strong now.  The slow start is partially due to the temperature of the room where I ferment my wine.  I do all my fermenting in my computer room, which is usually at temperatures in the 60 – 65 degree range, a bit cool for starting a ferment.  But it started and now the house 21Jul10_Strawberry_Rhubarb_Wine_3001061 smells like strawberries and alcohol, so all must be well. 

Foaming when pressing down the cap is moderate, though fermentation is quite active.  The image on the right is the berries standing in liquid for a day to defrost.  After the berries defrosted, I cut them with a (really sharp) knife and scissors.  All went well, and much easier than doing it on a cutting board – less juice loss also.

I will transfer to a secondary on the 29th, at which time I will adjust for liquid levels as well as acid.

Bread, and The Head.

19Jul10_3001003 Have you ever read the ingredients on the bread that you purchase at the supermarket?  I have, and since then, I have rarely purchased manufactured bread.  So, lets take a look at what is in say, Wonder Bread:

Whole wheat flour, water, wheat gluten, high fructose corn syrup, contains 2% of less of: soybean oil, salt, molasses, yeast, mono and diglycerides, exthoxylated mono and diglycerides, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium iodate, calcium dioxide), datem, calcium sulfate, vinegar, yeast nutrient (ammonium sulfate), extracts of malted barley and corn, dicalcium phosphate, diammonium phosphate, calcium propionate (to retain freshness).

Mmmmm. Nothing like lots of artificial yum-yums in your food.  Don’t get me wrong.  I grew up eating and absolutely love Wonder Bread, especially with peanut butter, but seriously, do we really need ingredients in our bread that we have to get a degree in chemistry to understand?  I am sure, because the scientists say so, that these ingredients have no negative side effects on humans, but neither, according to the same scientists, did Thalidomide.  Well, for a while at least.

Anyway, all I really wanted to say is that I now, with some exception, make all of my own bread, and do not understand why everyone does not do the same.  I know that time is precious when both individuals in a household have to work to make ends meet, but just a few minutes away from the TV (or the beer bottle) each week will provide enough time to make all of your baked goods from scratch.

How long does it take to make bread?  Maybe 15 minutes to find and put all the ingredients in a mixer and knead them.  Another 10 minutes to shape the dough put them in pans.  One minute to put them in the oven, with another minute required to take the bread out.  Yea, I know.  I left a few hours out, but you really have to do nothing as the bread rises or bakes, so you can open another beer and take American Idol off pause as the bread can take care of itself, somewhat like your kids are probably doing.

Mixing, In The Bowl, It Has Risen:

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Ready for Baking, Finished Bread:

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The recipe for the bread in the pictures is at:  Multi-Grain Bread Recipe

I generally make oatmeal on the weekends.  I heat 2 1/4 cups of water along with one cup of rolled oats (NOT instant), 1/8 cup wheat bran, 1/8 cup Malto-Meal, and 1/4 Bob’s Red Mill 10-Grain Cereal.  When the mixture comes to a boil, I reduce the heat to the lowest temperature, and let sit until done.   The left over’s are used for bread.

I have always wanted to grind my own flour.  I thought about using my Vita-Mix, but did not have a dry blade container until Costco had them for a relatively cheap price last year.  There is some discussion concerning nutrient loss using a Vita Mix for grinding grain due to the temperature resulting from the processing, but I am not sure of the validity of this argument, since I bake my bread to an internal temperature of approximately 185 degrees, and the Vita-Mix processed flour does not come close to that temperature.  Someday I will buy a nice manual grain mill.

Since I started processing my own flour, I no longer use unbleached white flour in the bread, just whole wheat and maybe some barley or soy flour.  The taste and texture is quite different than sore purchased whole wheat flour, with a richer taste and a rougher, but very pleasant, mouth feel.   The mouth feel is different because the grind is not as fine as commercial flour.  Oh, I do not make my bread in the Vita-Mix.  I have tried that using this model, and my older metal one that I gave my daughter.  All attempts resulted in massive fail.  I make bread in my KitchenAid.

I really did not intend to go on and on about this subject, but since I did, I did. 

I just tasted one of the little loafs, and it was perfect.  Dense, moist, rich, and a bit sweet from the honey.

Now, about my head.  It hurts!  Went to the gym today and did a few light (135 pound) bench presses.  The pain returned.  Have a doctor appointment for later this week.  I love old age! 

Cupcakes, and My Brain!

16Jul2010_IMG_0211I decided to make some cupcakes for my 33 wedding anniversary on Saturday, and settled on the recipe that you see in this image.  They were OK, just not as good as I thought they would be.  On the 1 – 10 scale, they were an 8, and only an 8 because the frosting saved them.  I usually make cupcakes, cakes, and other foods from scratch, but this one included a cake mix with additions.  You could tell it was a mix by both the taste and texture.  Of course, I was a bit spoiled after the cupcakes I made for my wife’s work earlier this week.  They were a solid 10++ out of 10, with a moist, dense, rich chocolate cake, and a beautiful chocolate frosting.  

I really need to work on taking pictures of food.  The majority of them are very poor quality (see above!).  Then again, since I went digital and got away from total manual settings, most of my pictures are not that great.  Something to work on in the future I suppose.

I was at the gym on Friday, doing my regular Friday routing, when I think I broke something in my brain!  Or, at least that is how it felt.  After my squats, I was doing my second set of high-rep, low weight straight leg dead lifts (180 pounds), when on rep 12, I felt a sudden very sharp and intense pain on the top right of my head.  I did rep 13, and needed to stop because of the pain.  I was not dizzy, and suffered no other effects or symptoms other than the pain.  I took a minute to recover, and tried to finish my set.  Didn’t happen!  I could not even lift the bar off the floor because of the pain.  I went home (and ate candy).

On Saturday, I went to the gym to finish the routine that I failed to do on Friday.  I did most of it, but quit because the pain returned.   The pain seemed to build the further along I got into a set, and then partially subside when I was done.  After 30 minutes of this, I had had enough, so I hit the sauna.  Weightlifters (exercise induced) headache? 

The whole experience has been unusual, especially since I feel great (though with a very slight head and ear ache) when I am not exercising.  I may go hiking in the mountains today to see what happens next.  Tomorrow I will again venture into the gym and see what happens.  If the pain returns, I will probably see a doctor, who will charge me hundreds of dollars, and tell me I am fine.  Or…….!

Forum and Gallery

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I spent the majority of yesterday installing, configuring, and testing (playing with) Gallery 3 and Coppermine.  After all was done, I have decided to once again use Coppermine for an image gallery for this site.  While I enjoyed many of the features of Gallery 3, and was surprised at the ease of installation as compared to other Gallery releases, in the end Coppermine 1.5.6 was my choice.  Improvements over previous versions include mass image uploads, general configuration of categories and albums, as well as  the ease of changing administrative functions.  Gallery 3 is good, just not as good as Coppermine as a stand alone gallery, in my opinion.  I have loaded some low resolution photos in the gallery for testing.

The forum is also online and has several discussion forums available.  These will change over time, but it is a start. 

Now that everything is up and running, I just need to start writing, but am having a very difficult time doing so.  I have a huge number of ideas (and opinions), it is just difficult typing them out.  I had the same problem in my last class (in my PhD program) and barely made all the writings on time.  I will give it a go this weekend, setting a goal of posting 5 times per week in the blog, and daily in the forum in order to get discussion started.

Plans, Plans, and More Plans.

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Summer vacation is half over and work begins again in 4 weeks.  A summer filled with hiking, biking, wine making, and other activities is coming to a close.  Actually, a summer filled with those planned activities has not, and probably will not, happen.  Of course my most personally important plan, hiking the Chilkoot Trail, seems to also be something that may not happen this summer.

I am not sure what happened this summer, whether it was the weather, the indecisiveness of our future plans in Juneau regarding moving or not, old age, cosmic rays, or something else, but it was very difficult for us to do anything not related to the garden or the gym.  Even getting the house ready to sell has not happened.  Of course, the garden is the best garden we have produced, but still…..

So, today I have promised myself that I will begin hiking with a new plan of hiking the Chilkoot Trail mid-August.  In order to make this happen, it will mean I need to start getting back into hiking shape starting tomorrow, because though I have been going to the gym regularly, there is a huge difference in gym fitness and hiking fitness.  Additionally, whether or not I do the Chilkoot will also depend on if I change jobs or not, so I am not holding my breath.

If I do manage to get to the Chilkoot this summer, I have decided to sacrifice weight for comfort.  Over the past two years I have attempted to find a light weight pack that I found comfortable carrying 26 – 30 pounds.  I have tried GoLite, Deuter, Granite Gear, and and REI pack.  So far, none of them compares to my favorite pack, the Osprey Crescent 85 (and the Arc’teryx Bora 95 for winter – it can carry my snowshoes strapped to the sides without issue!).  The Crescent 85 quite heavy at ~7 pounds, and is way too large for 30 pounds of gear, but it it sure comfortable when carrying any weight when compared to the other lightweight packs. 

Oh well, only time will tell what happens with the remainder of the summer and my plans for new plans.

Oh Look. Its Hiking Bars!

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After a two week vacation, summer has returned to the Juneau area, and it is once again time to make Hiking Bars.  I started making Hiking Bars about four years ago, after continual disappointment with the majority of granola type bars available in stores.  Some of the issues I have are with the ingredients, and some with the price.  So, I searched for and found a good recipe, modified it, and make these for hiking, other outdoor activities, as well as for a quick breakfast or snack when needed. 

The original recipe was found on the backpacker.com forums, though I do not have the link to the exact thread.  As for my modifications; I replaced white flour with whole wheat flour, substituted honey for the brown sugar (there was also honey in the original recipe), I use olive oil rather than vegetable oil, and I have added a lot more dried fruit, nuts, an egg, flax meal and wheat germ, some vanilla, as well as a pinch of nutmeg.  The end result is rather pleasing, and a nice source of energy when on the trail.  Someday, some M&M’s will go in the mixture also…….

The procedure for making the bars is simple.  Mix all dry ingredients, dump the wet ingredients in and mix with a wooden spoon (picture 1).  The most difficult part is spreading the mixture on a pan.  I use a Silpat because it is easy to remove the cooked bars to cool and cut.  The trick to spreading the mixture is to use a thick spatula dipped in water.  The water prevents the mixture from sticking onto the spatula, as long as the spatula is wet.  This method makes for a smooth top to the bars, and adds a bit of needed moisture.  You may notice in picture three, that the mixture is placed on an inverted cookie sheet.  This makes it easy to remove the bars for cooling without breaking them.  Removing the Silpat is east once the bars are cool.  Just hold the edge of the bars, and pull the Silpat from under the bars (or roll one edge of the Silpat under itself until it is removed from the bars. 

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Note that I do not spread the mixture to the edge of the Silpat.

Baked at 350 for 30 – 35 minutes, the bars are ready to cool and cut.  I do cut the bars when the mixture is warm, as this helps the bars not break or crumbling when cutting.  The bars are wrapped individually when still slightly warm, and last for about two weeks in a dark cool place.

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The bars look darker in the picture than they really are, but I also should have taken them out of the oven at 30 minutes rather than 35 this time.  Oh well, they taste great!

The Recipe:

Ingredient How Much Huh?
     
Oats, Rolled 199 grams
Four, Whole Wheat 4.125 ounce
Flax Meal 35 grams
Wheat Germ 2 ounce
Salt 0.50 teaspoon
Cinnamon 0.50 teaspoon
Nutmeg 1.00 dash
Walnuts 3 ounce
Blueberry, dry 81 grams
Cherry, dry 74 grams
Cranberry, dry 103.5 grams
Raisin 81.3 grams
Olive Oil 3.75 ounce
Honey 11 ounce
Water 2 or 3 tablespoons
Egg 1 each
Vanilla Extract 2 teaspoon

Please, no comments on the grams and ounces thing.  I did this in order to count the calorie content of the bars, and depending on the vendor of the product used, it came out as grams or ounces.  It does help that I have a good scale though that does both measures. 

A final note:  I do not usually follow this recipe exactly.  I usually add more dried fruit, nuts, and flax meal than noted above. 

So.. It Begins – Again!

MtJuneau_02Aug09_0284In April, I was notified by Google that my site was a source of malicious code, and that Google was blocking my site from its site searches.  I decided that this was a good time to re-do the site, so I deleted all posts, images, and software from my host.  Basically, I decided to start again, from the beginning.

It has taken me some time to decide in which direction I wanted to take the blog, image gallery, and forum.  Various options came up, such as politics, hiking and other exercise, cooking, politics (and the coming popular uprising), porn, cooking, and others.  Unable to decide on a defined direction, I am of the opinion that this blog, and other site features, will have no direction, and include all of the above mentioned topics and more.  More or less, a blog on what interests me at the time.

In the next few days, I will re-install the image gallery as well as the possible addition of a forum.  I would like to invite readers to email me images of any subject (as long as they are legal!) and I will post those that are interesting for others to view. 

Comments are always welcome, and I hope that you follow the blog, image gallery, and forum as things progress in the future