I've made beer about ten times. Only one of the batches was what I would call good. And unlike years ago, there is so much good craft beer available now, it's no longer practical for me to homebrew. Besides, I don't need the calories.
I made wine once (once on purpose, a few times by accident) and it wasn't good. Not bad, but not good.
The next step is to home distill, which I've done successfully once. The contraption was quite a sight, as well as a quite a fire hazard. After weeks of prep and hours of work, I got about an ounce of rather harsh, but genuine moonshine.
Thinking of the cheapest and easiest way of doing some kind of DIY booze, I decided to try infusing vodka.
My choice of infusor (as opposed to infusee) was chai tea. Of all the gimmicks and trends with booze generally and infused vodka specifically, I hadn't seen chai tea - infused vodka. So I got some cheap stuff and dumped in a bunch of chai tea (the real stuff with whole cloves and cardamoms, etc.). The result was very smooth but not that tasty. Something in the mix (I think the cinnamon sticks) helped mellow the bite and there was no heat from the alcohol. But I'm not a fan of the flavor of cinnamon outside of apple pie, and something else in the mix gave the flavor an astringent quality. The problem with chai is that there are so many ingredients I couldn't identify the good bits from the bad.
The next step was to do batches with individual ingredients from the chai so that i only used the subset of ingredients that contributed positively.
Vodka worked OK but then I learned/realized that vodka (the cheap stuff, anyway) was essentially industrial ethanol mixed about 50/50 with water. I can buy grain alcohol (chemically the same as the stuff Brazilians use to fuel their cars) for about $10 for a half gallon.
I decided to infuse small amounts of grain alcohol with cardamom, cloves, corriander. I took small bottles and poured in 1/4 cup of the grain alcohol and one teaspoon of the spices (whole, not ground).
I let them sit a few weeks and then tasted by filtering out the bits (with a coffee filter) and mixing the now-infused alcohol with water (1 part alcohol to 2 parts filtered water. I had tried 1:1 but the alcohol burned too much) making it about 30% abv by my estimation.
All came out slightly yellow, like urine in the bowl, basically.
- Cloves: Far too harsh and bitter. This was surely at least part of the problem with the original chai vodka
- Coriander: This was a bit of a lark since I did not expect it to be good, but it was the best of the bunch. A slight grassy taste but more complex than that. I would use this again, perhaps as bitters in a cocktail with other ingredients. It was pleasant by itself too - not sweet.
- Cardamom: Also harsh and similar to camphor. It tasted like cleaning solution. I had high hopes for this one since I think of the taste of cardamom to be an essential part of chai tea.
Every herb and spice release different flavor compounds depending whether they are soaked in water, oil, or alcohol - and some end up better than others. This is why vanilla extract is an alcohol solution while clove and orange extract are usually sold in oil form.
So I'll try more but keep coriander in mind as one to do again.
We've been doing a lot of family breakfasts at home lately and I've had a chance to perfect my pancake recipe. The oats make them very tender (I tried once using mostly oats and the pancakes were tender to the point of falling apart) and this recipe uses more baking powder and egg than most other pancake recipes I've seen. The powder make the pancakes lighter and the extra eggs help hold the oats together.
These are also sweeter than other pancakes.
1/4 cup oats
1/2 cup flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup water
2 Tbsp oil
whisk and fry in 1/4 cup dollops. Makes about 10 light, smallish pancakes, enough for 2 adults.
mix 4 parts plain yogurt with 1 part honey
(this is super easy and a great general sweet topping)
and /or Peach Tarragon Compote:
(great if you have old, bruised, overripe peaches. The tarragon is subtle and makes the peach flavor more complex)
Rub off the peach skin (as much as is practical. You can leave the skin on if you want or are lazy) and dice it
1 tsp or so of dried tarragon (it has a slightly anise/fennel aroma but won't make your food taste like licorice, which anise and fennel can)
Put it all in a small lidded pan and heat over low for 15 minutes or so. The peaches will soften and release a lot of liquid.
Add a tablespoon of sugar and stir it in until the sugar is dissolved
My new favorite beer is a ten-percenter from River Horse Brewing in Lambertville, NJ.
It's quite heavy and strong, so maybe this is a sign that I'm ready for Fall already.
BeerAdvocate gives it a B, which once again makes me suspicious of their rating criteria.
Dave Grohl talks with Kyle Gass (of Tenacious D) about writing hits.
20' x 30' model city with 1,200 Matchbox-type cars
"IkeaHackers.net is a site about modifications on and repurposing of Ikea products. Hacks, as we call it here, may be as simple as adding an embellishment, some others may require power tools and lots of ingenuity. "
I'm a sucker for this style of design. I don't know what it's called.
The designer, Aaron Wood, has prints for sale on his Etsy shop