Happy Halloween!

Simply images of the candy necklaces we made to hand out on Halloween, and some pumpkins:


A New Beer–Smoked Porter

23Oct13_DSCF2007I have made smoked porters before, but I have never smoked my own grain, nor have I used such a high percentage of smoked grain as I did in the beer below.  My past smoked porters were rather simple beers, with s moderate percentage of smoked grains.  However, they have always been intensely smoky, often times reminding me of sitting around a camp fire drinking a good beer.  Since the smoke generator for my Bradley is still working, and is my dedicated cold smoker, I thought I would give it a try.

To smoke the grains, I took 3.5 pounds of 2-row, and 1.5 pounds of Belgian Pilsner, and placed them on parchment paper that I molded to the smoking racks.  I lightly sprayed the grains with water, and placed them in the smoker with 2 hours of cherry and one hour of oak.  I turned the grains every hour, and sprayed more water on them midway through the smoke.  I also left the vent wide open to 23Oct13_DSCF2011keep the temperatures below 95 degrees.  I pulled the grains at 3.5 hours, as there was still wood left, left the grains to cool on the racks, then sealed them in zip-lock bags for two days.  When I opened the grains to brew the beer, the smell was wonderful.  I am looking forward to this beer.

The recipe was another recipe I found on homebrewtalk.com, though I did change the recipe slightly by adding 0.5 pounds of flaked wheat.

My last brew saw a poor efficiency of 69.4%, but I was back on track this time, though a bit high at 85.1%.   I did a 90 minute boil due to the Belgian Pilsner used in the smoked malt mix.

Recipe – Smoked Porter:

Boil Size: 6.75 gallons
Batch Size:  5.50 gallons
IBU’s:  24.7


45.5% – 5 lbs. Smoked Malt (3.5 pounds 2-Row, 1.5 pounds Belgian Pilsner)
27.3% – 3 lbs. Munich Malt
9.1% – 1 lbs. Cara-Pils
6.8% – 12 oz. Crystal Malt – 40L
9.1% – 12 oz. Chocolate Malt (350 SRM) 
4.5% – 8 oz.  Flaked Wheat.


0.75 oz. – Williamette (pellet – 12.5 IBU’s) – 60 minutes 
0.50 oz. – Northern Brewer (pellet – – 12.1 IBU’s) – 30 minutes


1 pk. – Irish Ale (Wyeast Labs 1084) – 2 L Starter

This was a fairly easy brew compared to my last two, and I was quite pleased with the way things went. The wort tasted quite good, and was bubbling away 4 hours after yeast was pitched.

Woodpeckers and Chickens

26Oct13_DSCF2018One of the things we have a lot of here are birds – lots of birds, including woodpeckers.  We have seen several woodpeckers, but they always stayed in the trees and left the buildings alone.  However, it seems that this may be the overwintering grounds for other larger woodpeckers that have taken a liking to our shed.

We noticed when buying the property that the enclosed portion of the shed had patched woodpecker holes, so this has been a continuing issue.  One morning Misty21Oct13_DSCF2002 noticed birds in her studio, so we took a look and found three woodpeckers.  They had pecked a new hole in the wall.  We decided it was time to resolve the issue of woodpeckers breaking into the shed, and it seems we have been successful so far.  The image on the right is of Micha making a woodpecker barrier.

The first thing we tried was spray foam, but this lasted only a day, as they found cracks where the foam had not reached and pecked away until a new entrance was formed.  The next morning we went to the store for more foam, but I though that a better solution would be chicken wire and wood.  What we (Micha) did was put plywood from pallets against the wall and covered it with chicken wire.  We made sure that all of the cracks and corners were covered with wire, and so far it has worked.  The birds can peck away and make a hole, but cannot get through the wire.  If for some reason this does not work – they will die. 

Next Spring we will need to work on eliminating the pigeons.

So, I am building a chicken coop, finally.  I have two sets of plans and am taking the best ideas from each set 26Oct13_DSCF2016to build to coop.  At this time, the coop will be 8’ X 4’, and be a bit over 8 feet tall.  I wanted a shorter coop, but think the height will be better during the summer.  I finished the floor and part of a wall, but am waiting until the first week of November to finish it, as things got a bit busy lately.  The coop will be good for 8 chickens, and I will post pictures and the coop progresses

Now I just need to figure out where I want to put it.

Photos of the Day–Sunrise and Quail

Two photos from our morning coffee, including a picture of our resident quail – there are 12 of them living in a pile of pine branches we are leaving as a home for them.




We were sitting on the East Porch this morning, and we saw this “thing” in the field about a half mile away.  I could not identify it, so I got my camera out, put the telephoto on, and took the below picture.  The quality is quite poor as I had to blow it up to 100% and crop, and I still have no clue to what it is.  Looks like a steer in shape, but a sheep in the front with a goat head.  If anyone wants the original, you I will send it to you.


Mmmm – Chicken


Fired up the Cookshack AmeriQue today in order to smoke a chicken for dinner.  A simple rub of salt, pepper, sage, hot pepper flakes, hot chili powder, and olive oil were put on the skin an hour prior to cooking.  I did not brine the chicken, but plan on brining next time.

A chunk of apple and a small bit of cherry wood was placed in the wood pan.  The smoker was not preheated.  The initial pit temperature was 220 for the first hour and a half, then bumped to 275 for the remaining time.  Temperature probe was set to 160 and the probe was placed in the breast. 

The chicken reached 160 at 4:08 after 4 hours 12 minutes in the pit at which time the pit turned itself off.  I left the chicken rest in the smoker, which started to cool down, until 4:30.  Internal temperature was 169, which to me always produces a fully cooked chicken.  For me, pulling at 160 sometimes has resulted in underdone thighs, to I usually pull in the 170 area.  I placed the chicken in a glass pan, covered with foil, and let rest until 5:00 PM.

I cut the chicken and the meat was quite juicy, but not runny.  The smoke flavor was very mild, but present throughout the bird.  The flavor was also quite different from the13Oct13_DSCF1965 Bradley.  Not really better, but different.  Overall however, I would give the AmeriQue the edge because of the moisture of the finished product, the quality of the skin which was crisper and not rubbery as is always the case with the Bradley, and somehow the different flavor of the smoke.

The images in this post are the result, and was one of the best smoked chickens I have had. 

Fall is Here. Really?

It is October 12th, and in Caldwell Idaho, and below are pictures of my my yard.  The flowers are still blooming, especially the Petunias, which seem to be enjoying the cooler weather.  The images are of the back of my house, and of the property looking East from the house.


The temperatures are in the mid to lower 60’s during the day, and in the upper 30’s to mid 40’s at night.  Almost perfect.

Smoking and Wine

07Oct13_DSCF1931As I mentioned in a previous post, my ProCom4 is not working properly.  I was going to purchase a new, updated one.  Unfortunately,  the BBQ Guru folks do not know how to respond to email, return phone calls, or answer the phone, so, I purchased a new smoker instead and will use my Bradley for cold smoking.

The image on the left is of the new Cookshack AmeriQue (SM066) in its new home.  When I received it I seasoned it, and then decided to test it with a brisket that we received when we bought our side of beef. 

The brisket was 7 pounds and had very little fat. I found a new rub recipe and put that on the brisket 4 hours prior to smoking.  I put the brisket in the AmeriQue at exactly midnight, along with 5 ounces of hickory.  I set the pit temperature to 220 and the meat probe to 190, and went to sleep.  The next morning (5:00 AM actually) I set the pit to 225.  The brisket reached 190 at 4:00 PM, at which time I wrapped it in foil along with 1.5 cups of home made beef stock, and then wrapped that in towels.  We ate at 7:00 PM.

I am really not a fan of brisket.  They are OK, just not really my favorite thing to smoke.  However, this brisket was excellently great.  I have never has a brisket as tender, including the burnt ends, and moist, and so full of flavor.  It is my opinion that it was the operation of the smoker and not necessarily the meat that made this such a great meal.  We used the rest of the meat in tacos, with rice, and by itself. 

I will not post the brisket run recipe as I really did not like the rub that much.  It was an OK recipe, just not great.  In the future I will return to the basics of salt, pepper, and maybe some form of chili for a hint of heat.

Below are a few pictures of the brisket, from start to finish:


While the smoker was cooking the brisket, I bottled 29.5 bottles of Merlot, prepared the grain for my next brew session, and while bottling my wine, looked upon this scene from the garage:


Two Beers, and a Foam Snake

01_October2013_DSCF1913All Hail the Foam Snake!  This is an image I took while racking a Lodi Ranch 11 Cabernet to secondary.  The sample from primary was quite good, but this is a wine that is months or years away from being ready.  Will rack again in a few weeks, and then bulk age for a few months prior to bottling.

I brewed two beers this week, a Carmel Amber Ale and a Cream Stout.  I have brewed both beers before and liked them, so wanted to do them again, especially since I have no beer in the bottle yet.

The recipes are fairly straight forward, with the exception of the Amber Ale, which required the addition of Belgian Candy Syrup. As I did not want to spend $6.00 on 0.25 cents of sugar, I decided to make my own.  A rather simple process of mixing sugar, water, and di-ammonium phosphate and cooking it until it reaches 290 degrees.

One of the nice things about living here is the availability of brewing supplies.  I now have a huge hop 01_October2013_DSCF1907inventory, with many of the hops being leafs rather than pellets.  Fairly pleased with that, as well as the availability of yeast that has not had to travel weeks to get to me.  The problem I am having is accounting for the greater water absorption of the leafs versus pellets.  However, so far I have hit all of the volumes accurately and interestingly, my efficiency has been 80% for both of the following beers. 

The recipes follow:

Recipe – Caramel Amber Ale:

Boil Size: 6.75 gallons
Batch Size:  5.50 gallons
IBU’s:  37.7


75.0% – 7 lbs 8.0 oz. Brewers Malt 2-row
15.0% – 1 lbs 8.0 oz. Caramel/Crystal Malt 90L
10.0% – 1 lb Candy Syrup Dark Amber – ? SRM


0.80 oz. – Chinook (Leaf– 37.7 IBU’s) – 60 minutes
1 oz. – Chinook (Leaf- – 0.00 IBU’s) – 0 minutes
1 oz. – Williamette (Pellet- – 0.00 IBU’s) – 0 minutes


1 pk – American Ale (Wyeast Labs # 1026 – 2 liter starter)

I am attempting to alternate between brewing one light and one dark beer, so here is my stout recipe:

Recipe – Sweet (Cream) Stout:

Boil Size: 6.75 gallons
Batch Size:  5.50 gallons
IBU’s:  40.8


60.5% – 7 lbs  Brewers Malt 2-row
13.0% – 1 lbs 8.0 oz. White Wheat Malt
8.6%  -  1 lbs  Caramel/Crystal Malt 90L
6.5%  –  12.0 oz. Chocolate Malt
3.8%  –  7.1 oz. Roasted Barley
3.2%  –  6.0 oz. Cara-pils


1 oz. – Magnum (Pellet– 40.8 IBU’s) – 65 minutes


8 oz. Lactose (Milk Sugar) – 15 minutes
1 teaspoon Yeast Nutrient – 10 minutes 
3.5 oz. Coffee Beans – cracked – Flameout


1 pk – Iris Ale (Wyeast Labs # 1084 – 2 liter starter)