Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Solstice Salad

Friday was the winter solstice, which is my favorite day of the year. We burned a Yule log and ate a lovely meal.

The Yule log was decorated with offerings for prosperity and health in the new year, including a pepper for a good garden, an egg shell for our poultry, and part of an envelope from a holiday card with wishes for the health and happiness of our friends and family.

We soaked that envelope bit in scotch, because it's nice to have whiskey around too.

Tradition (according to the internet) says to light this year's Yule log with bits of last year's. So, we threw in the charred remains of the last log.

And, once it caught, added our new log - part of a peach tree that blew down in a storm this summer.

For dinner we had a mostly homegrown meal. This made us feel especially powerful and mighty to be able to eat food we grew even on the darkest day of the year. Sausage from our chickens, potatoes from our garden and a salad of lettuce and two types of radishes harvested that day from our cold frame.

I hope you all had a lovely solstice and are enjoying the returning light!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Socks and Sausage

Or "Blurry photos of cats."

This post really has very little to do with sausage and nothing at all to do with socks. It's just an odd title for a blog post that is funny to exactly three people. Here is some sausage, however, so the title can be somewhat relevant.

A few weeks ago, Bill made 4 types of sausage - three pork sausages (2 links and 1 patty) and a chicken, apple, Riesling sausage from our own birds which is the stuff of dreams. Nom. The pork was mostly from a local farm market, but now that it's winter it is harder to get so it was subsidized with some Whole Foods pork.

In other news of local meat, Bill made rabbit cacciatore this weekend. We have a very sustainable population of bunnies on our property (though, when they become dinner we apparently refer to them as "rabbits" and not "bunnies"). I was rather afraid of this - my first rabbit - dinner, but it was pretty yum. I was surprised that rabbit meat is practically white and the caccitore recipe is mostly veggies (including some kitchen-ripened tomatoes I canned in late October). It was eaten on homemade pasta.

Coop and Corrie have achieved a milestone in living with us - their first lunch of eggs!

It makes me feel irrationally happy to give our Humane Society / Animal Care and Control animals freshly scrambled eggs near a warm fire. (Sugar Pie got some too - don't worry! She had her own bowl and the leftovers from the kittens.) Just a few weeks ago (or a few years in Sugar's case), these animals lived in cages and had an uncertain future. Spoiling them a little just feels right.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Year in Beer

There was an event in Indianapolis this weekend called Brew Bracket. 400 beer lovers head to the Fairgrounds to do blind tastings of local beers and vote for a winner in a March Madness style bracket. We learned about it a few days before the event and considered going. But then we realized it would be 30 minutes of beer tasting sprinkled among 3.5 hours of Bill and I staring at each other, and decided not to go. (We're hoping to learn about the next one with enough advance warning to get a gang of people to go with us, so I only have to spend 30 minutes or so staring at Bill and the rest of the time chatting with friends.)

Instead, we decided to have our own brew bracket at home with the 10 beers we brewed and bottled this year.

We collected a bottle of each type and a fancy jam jar to pour it in. I also made a spread sheet of each beer, listing the grains and hops (and their proportions) used in making it. It was Very Geeky.

They looked like this, lined up from lightest to darkest.

Bill was very excited to get started.

We tasted them from lightest to darkest and talked about what we liked and didn't, and tried to understand the characteristics of the grains and the hops we used. Then, we set up a bracket and picked our favorites. (We also played Stump The Beer-o [an amended version of Stump the Wine-o] where one of us closed our eyes and tried to guess the two beers that were handed to us by smell and taste alone.)

We determined we really like the unusual beers the best - a grapefruit hefeweizen, a spruce lager, our pumpkin ale with homegrown pumpkins, and a brown - the only beer we've brewed so far from all grains and no extracts.

We thought about the suppliers of the kits and ingredients we have brewed. Three of our favorites were recipes from books and the pumpkin ale was a kit from Northern Brewer. (We bottled a Winter Spice Ale from a NB kit yesterday and preliminary tastings say "YUM!" We also re-racked a Peat-Smoked Porter from them yesterday. That one needs a little time to age, but has promise.)

We did NOT drink the full bottles of each of the ten beers. Much alcohol was sacrificed for our experiment, but we found it to be a fun and enlightening exercise...maybe an annual event??

Bottle Cap Key: The numbers are the month and year it was bottled.

A - Altbier (Brewer's Best Kit)
BAG - Brown all-grain (Monkey Paw Brown Ale recipe from "The Complete Joy of Home Brewing" by Charlie Papazian)
CR - Cream Ale (Great Fermentations kit)
GH - Grapefruit Hefe (an alteration of this recipe)
P - Porter (Dred Brown Porter from Great Fermentations)
PMP - Pumpkin Ale (Northern Brewer Smashing Pumpkin Kit with added 6-row and pumpkin mash)
SP - Spruce Lager (Black Honey Spruce Lager from the Papazian book)
T - Tripple End kit from Great Fermentations
W - Witbier (Brewer's Best Kit)
W2 - Witless in Indiana (GF kit)

Monday, December 3, 2012

But how does Sugar feel about the kittens?

She seems to be doing just fine...