Wednesday, October 23, 2013

An Announcement Long Overdue: New Homebrewing Book in the Works!

Somehow in the hustle and bustle of True Brews being released and general life craziness, I neglected to share a key bit of information: I have a new brewing book in the works! The tentative title is Malts Water Hops Yeast and it will be an introduction to homebrewing basics along with 65 awesome recipes that I've been working on all summer. You want a hefeweizen? You've got a hefeweizen. You want a mango-infused Belgian-style tripel? You've got your mango-infused Belgian-style tripel (plus, perhaps, some coconut). 1-gallon or 5-gallon batches, newbie brewer or old brewing pro — my hope is that there's something in this new book for everyone.

Malts Water Hops Yeast is currently due out summer-ish 2015 from my favorites over at Ten Speed Press. Apologies for the lack of posting while I'm away working on the book. Thanks, everyone!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer Homebrew Recipe: Strawberry Kombucha

If I have one regret in writing True Brews, it's that I didn't discover the magical duo of ripe summer strawberries + kombucha until it was too late in the game to add it to the book. This combination is like kismet — it's just meant to be. It's fizzy and tart and sweet and juicy all at the same time. This is drink that (I'm convinced) will make kombucha drinkers out of the kombucha dubious.

Ever since strawberries started showing up again at our markets here in Northern California (the real ones), I've been making batches of strawberry kombucha nonstop. It's the perfect thing to do with those few over-ripe or slightly squished strawberries that inevitably come with every pint basket. Kombucha doesn't care if the strawberries aren't the prettiest in the bunch, and once you take a sip, you won't either.

Kombucha and ginger are old bffs, so I throw some into the jar when I have it. The ginger adds a warm, spicy note that, if possible, makes the strawberries shine even more. Try it both ways and see which you like better.

Also, I don't know how the weather is where you are, but my scobys are loving the warm weather — which at least makes one of us. I can see streams of bubbles filtering up through the layers of scoby and the sweet/tart/fruity flavor is spot on. My bottled kombucha is also fizzy to the max. Love.

Strawberry Kombucha
Makes 1 gallon

3 1/2 quarts water
1 cup white granulated sugar
4 bags black tea (or 1 tablespoons loose tea)
4 bags green tea (or 1 tablespoon loose tea)
2 cups starter tea from last batch of kombucha
1 scoby
1 pint strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons minced ginger (optional)

Bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar to dissolve. Drop in the tea and allow it to steep until the water has cooled.

Remove the tea bags or strain out the loose tea. Stir in the starter tea. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon glass jar and gently place the scoby on top. Cover the mouth of the jar with a few layers of cheesecloth or paper towels secured with a rubber band.

Keep the jar at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, and where it won’t get jostled. Ferment for 7 to 10 days. Check the kombucha and the scoby periodically.

After seven days, begin tasting the kombucha. When it reaches a balance of sweetness and tartness that is pleasant to you, the kombucha is ready to bottle.

With clean hands, gently lift the scoby out of the kombucha and set it on a clean plate. Measure out your starter tea from this batch of kombucha and set it aside for your next.

Combine the fermented kombucha, diced strawberries, and ginger (if using) in a clean 1-gallon jar (or divide among smaller jars). Cover the mouth of the jar with a few layers of cheese cloth or paper towels secured with a rubber band. Keep the jar at room temperature out of direct sunlight for two days. Strain the strawberries and ginger from the kombucha and bottle. Leave about a half inch of head room in the bottles.

Store the bottled kombucha at room-temperature out of direct sunlight and allow 1 to 3 days for the kombucha to carbonate. Refrigerate to stop carbonation and then consume within a month.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

True Brews: Your Questions, Answered!

Hello! Welcome to this handy FAQ page regarding the new (and fabulous!) homebrewing book, True Brews. Wondering what this book is all about? Curious if it's the right book to adorn your shelf and/or coffee table? Live in Nowheresville and want to know where to find brewing supplies? You've come to the right place.

Is this book just about beer brewing?

Nope! We have eight whole chapters with eight entirely different fermented beverages going on in here: soda pop, kombucha, kefir (both milk and water kefir), hard cider, beer, mead, sake, and fruit wine. Each chapter starts with a master recipe that will walk you through the particular quirks and techniques for that particular beverage, and is followed by a whole bunch of recipes you can make at home.

My apartment is tiny. Can I still make these brews?

Definitely. All of the recipes in this book are scaled to 1-gallon batches or smaller. This means smaller equipment (and less of it) and less space needed to store all your goods.

Wait, 1-gallon batches? Why so small?

Aside from taking up less space,  I think 1-gallon batches are ideal for beginners just learning how to brew things like beer and mead. It's easier to keep track of all the various steps and avoid mistakes when you're working with a gallon or smaller. Plus, smaller batches means you'll drink through them more quickly, which means you get to brew another batch of something else! Also if something does go wrong, it's a lot less painful to pour 1 gallon down the drain than 5 gallons or more. Trust me on that one.

Once you master the 1-gallon batch, it's an easy step up to larger batches. The process is basically the same (using bigger pots and bigger carboys) and all the recipes can be scaled up.

How many bottles can you get out of a gallon?

About 10 bottles.

I've already been brewing beer [or mead, wine, etc.]. Will this book still have something for me?

I hope so! Part of the reason I wrote True Brews was because I wanted to try brewing all these different kinds of beverages — beer was my gateway into homebrewing, and it just made me all the more curious about brewing soda pop...and then mead...and eventually all the rest of them. I think that if you're already knee-deep into brewing one kind of homebrew, chances are good that there's another project in this book that's going to spark your interest.

If I'm brewing all these things, will I need to buy a lot of equipment?

Nah! All the recipes use the same basic brew kit, so you won't find yourself constantly buying new tools just for one project. A lot of the equipment will be things you probably already have in your kitchen, like soup pots and canning jars. The few truly brewing-specific tools, like carboys and racking canes, can easily be found at your local homebrew shop (and since this is the Age of the Hipster, I am willing to bet that you have a local homebrew shop somewhere closeby).

Not me! I live in Nowheresville and there's not a single homebrew shop to be found. Where can I pick up all the special equipment and ingredients I need to make these awesome brews?

The internet is your friend! Here are my favorite sources for homebrewing equipment and supplies:

MoreBeer - soda, beer, cider, mead, wine
Northern Brewer - soda, beer, cider, mead, sake, wine
Cultures for Health - kombucha and kefir

Hopefully this little FAQ takes care of your most burning questions! Wondering about something that I don't mention here? Leave a comment!

Photo Credit: Paige Green (c) 2013 for True Brews

Monday, May 13, 2013

Upcoming True Brews Events!

MAY 2013:

5/21 - Omnivore Books, 6-7pm, 3885a Cesar Chavez Street, San Francisco, CA 94131

JUNE 2013:

6/8 - Homebrewing 101 Lecture at the Brisbane Public Library, 2-4pm, 250 Visitacion Ave, Brisbane, CA 94005

6/17 - Homebrewing 101 Lecture at the Foster City Library, 7-9pm, 1000 E Hillsdale Blvd, Foster City, CA 94404

AUGUST 2013:

8/18 - Farm to Fermentation Festival, Santa Rosa, CA

This page will be updated as new events are added.

(Image: Paige Green (c) 2013)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

True Brews Is Out May 14! Here's a Sneak Peak...

Woah, dudes. True Brews is about to be a Real Thing in the Real World. After spending so much time with it alone here in my little apartment, I am so giddy with giddiness that it will soon be going out to bookstore shelves and mailboxes and libraries all over. Also a little terrified...but mostly excited, I swear! Maybe 85% excited and 15% terrified. Let's go with that.

Mostly, I just really hope that you all like it. Here's a little peak at the goods:

If you do so choose to get yourself a copy, there are some links to some places where you can buy it on over there on the upper-right. No pressure. Libraries are also my friend. However you get your hands on a copy, please do report back on your brewing adventures. I'd love to clink virtual glasses and hear all about it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Peculiar Woes of the Recipe Developer:
Chronic Dry Hands

I envy people with soft hands. When I meet them, I don't want to let go of the handshake. I want to cling, lemming-like, to the incredible smoothness of their fingers and rub their knuckles against my cheek. It's true. I try not to let it show.

My hands are not smooth or soft. They are wrinkled and scratchy and constantly crying out for lotion. But thus is the peculiar predicament of a food writer who develops recipes for a living: no sooner do I rub lotion into my desperate, thirsty skin than I have to wash them again. Going from task to task as I prepare a recipe involves regular loops back to the sink to scrub away the dough I just kneaded, the chicken I just touched, the sticky honey I just dripped, and on and on and on.

And so my hands are sadly, woefully, abused. This is a situation I have come to accept, though not with any particular amount of grace. Lotion is both my ally and my jailor: my constant companion.

My dry hands have been bothering me more than usual recently. This is something that I've come to expect in the late-winter (even here in sunny California), but it's also no doubt been helped along by the huge recipe testing project on which I'm currently working. For no other reason than because it's on my mind, I give you my current lotioning regimen:

St. Ives Daily Hydrating Lotion

This is the lotion-equivalent to my bread and butter. If you're applying lotion hourly, you need something that a) works dependably and b) that you don't mind having to wash off five minutes later when you realize you forgot to dice the sausages for that soup. It comes in a huge bottle that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, and it smells nice. Done.

L'Occitane Shea Butter Hand Cream

Oh, man, I love this stuff. I slather it on right before I go to bed and then fall asleep with my happy hands right next to my nose so I can breathe in its aroma as I drift off. What is that aroma?! It's like baby powder and soft meadow herbs and fairy dust. This lotion doesn't come cheap, which is why I only use it at night. I received some as a Christmas present a year ago and am amazed that it lasted a whole year. I am almost finished with the tube now and am torn between buying more or picking up a tub of my other favorite:

Lemony Flutter from Lush

Supposedly this stuff is intended for your cuticles, but I never stop there. Oh so soothing rubbed into cracked knuckles and that odd always-dry spot between my thumb and first finger. My only problem with this lotion is that it smells so much like fresh lemon curd that I have to constantly resist the urge to lick my fingertips.

Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Creme

Speaking of cuticles, I just remembered that I have a little tin of this stashed away in my bedside cubby, though I haven't used it for months. Not sure why. I remember that it actually worked quite well for softening the cuticles and preventing hang nails (those inevitable party crashers to the dry hands party). Note to self: bring this stuff back into rotation!

Does your job also come with a side of chronic dry hands? What's your lotion regimen?

(The top image is mine [and my dry hands], see links for all other images)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Seven Snaps! 1/5/13 - 1/18/13

Precarious perch.

Go time.

Anjali on the first morning of our Kitchn editor's retreat

Documenting the documenting of our afternoon tea, like a blogging pro


More snacks!

Snack close-up. Ahem.

Subject: Cambria; Occasion: Cocktail hour; Mood: Content

Jeni's Ice Cream in Columbus, OH. How I miss you.

Self-portrait. Trying to get my brain to be a little kinder in its judgement of my body this year.

A favorite book from my teenage years, liberated from my parents' shelf and properly ensconced on my bedside table.
Hello, ladies.
Astute followers of Seven Snaps will observe that this double round-up only includes 12 photos rather than the series-consistent 14. Not sure where my mojo went this week - maybe it's the past two months of travel catching up to me? Maybe I was slightly embarrassed by the number of cat photos I was already planning to share? I thought about scrambling to shoot a few more, but then just decided... Bah. My blog, my rules! And if a double dose of Seven Snaps occasionally contains an insufficient number of pictures, that's life.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Seven Snaps: New Year's Edition! 12/22/12 - 1/4/13

Cooking making with my mama.

Holiday travel power food



Lake Superior

Lake Superior II

Family puzzle fun times!

Making tracks of the snow-shoeing sort on a FROZEN LAKE. #badass

Dogsledding team! #alsobadass

Lake-polished stones

Anyone for a fire circle?

My brother, the artist

Lake Superior III: Sunrise Edition
It's like a took a nap on the couch just for her. (The cats were happy to have us back.)
 Happy new year, everyone! I have to admit that I wasn't convinced I'd actually keep up with these Seven Snaps all year long. I'll go ahead and give myself a pat on the back for accomplishing this particular New Year's Resolution. (The "finish the sweater I've been knitting for 5 years" resolution will carry over into yet another year.)

Want to see the whole year of snaps? Take a look through this thread: Seven Snaps!