Dry, sparkling cider

Cider

It’s my favorite time of year – confetti leaves on the sidewalk for shuffling through, blankets, the light scent of smoke from those neighbors lucky enough to have fireplaces in Brooklyn.  And cider!  I love cider – the dry, crisp sparkling kind that might just give me the courage to try and make friends with those neighbors and offer up a bottle or two in exchange for an opportunity to sip next to the hearth.
Lately, we’ve been trying our hand at making our own.  After a few experimental small batches inspired by an overzealous weekend apple picking, we went all in on 5 gallons to give as party favors for my BFs birthday (it was a big one).  So far, everyone who has tried it has been delighted – words like “complex”, “farmhouse” and “great texture” have been trickling in.  I wasn’t planning on writing this up so don’t have many pictures – but it was so simple (the most complicated part is gathering the equipment) and rewarding I wanted to share.  The next time we brew (cider or beer), I will be sure to have my camera on hand to document the process.

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Fermented Hot Sauce

HotSauceIt seems I have a bit of a hot sauce problem.  The other day, I came across some beautiful cayenne peppers at the market and a vision of them pureed into a lusty, tangy bottle of lava swam through my thoughts.  I bought a few handfuls, chopped, salted and pounded them into pliancy, and then set them aside to see what happened.

Fermentation took off overnight, and by the end of the next day the brine was already so tasty that I asked my boyfriend to pick up any hot peppers that looked interesting at the Union Square Farmers’ Market. He came back with just a pint of pretty red jalapeños – which I subjected to the same treatment, this time with a bit of ginger.

Three days later, both jars of future spicy condiment bubbling away, I strolled by the Farmers’ Market myself and found a gentleman with an entire table dedicated to beautiful chiles of varying heat.  I walked away with a bagful of more long cayennes and a handful of red Anaheims.  I’ve now got one sauce pureed and bottled, two jars bubbling away, and an idea for a new item to include in holiday gift baskets this year.   Continue reading

Up soon: Natural Ginger Ale (ginger beer)

 After a few days of relief, it’s back to being hot and sticky here in New York.  Just the thing to put me in the mood for a frosty, fizzy drink with a gingery bite.
I’ve currently got two bottles of this potion getting bubbly on the counter – known variously as home fermented ginger ale or ginger beer (I’m calling it ale because I did not use any packaged yeast, but if you know any other reason for the distinction I would love to hear it).

This is so easy to make, the hardest part is not rushing the process.  I’ve done it once before but did not have a fermenter with a tight enough seal, so was a bit disappointed with the carbonation.  I’m much better prepared this time with swing top bottles and rubber gaskets.  Once these are done fermenting, I’ll be back with a write up.

Higher hydration, more open crumb

Bread

Maybe I should just rename this blog “Sourdough and Kimchi.”  Even though I was pleasantly surprised with the first loaf of sourdough I made using nothing more than flour, water, salt and naturally occurring yeast and bacteria, I was coveting those gorgeous boules with the open, airy insides and all those pockets for trapping extra butter or drizzles of honey.

It seems that one of the secrets to this is increasing the hydration (the ratio of water to flour) of the dough.  I could not read enough good things about the Tartine Country Bread recipe on the internet, and now I know why.  Although it’s time consuming (not counting the time to warm up and resume daily feedings of my starter, about 36 hours from start to finish), the process is pretty simple and most of that time is just waiting for fermentation to do its thing.  And look at the gorgeous crumb of this loaf!

I plan on trying this a few more times before sharing a more thorough write up, but the difference this technique made was so exciting that I couldn’t wait to post this picture.

Sourdough dreams are made of this…

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My sourdough starter has been hibernating in the refrigerator for about a week and a half. The schedule is to feed it every Tuesday morning until I’m ready to bake, taking out about 25 grams of starter and discarding, and stirring in about 25 grams each of flour and water. The last two feedings have been with rye flour, to prepare for a rye sourdough next (or maybe some rye bread to try and reproduce the wonderful smørrebrød we recently had in Copenhagen).
Looks like it’s having a grand time with lively dreams so far!

First Sourdough

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In the last few days I’ve learned that there seem to be as many different techniques and ingredient lists for making sourdough bread from a starter as there are bakers. Everyone has their own way of feeding the starter to get the yeast at their most voracious, their own slightly differing proportions of flour, water, starter and salt, a favorite blend of flours, and a variety of ways to proof, knead and bake the dough. Continue reading