How to Make your own Wine at home. 

      Making wine might seem like a complicated process better left for the experts, but it’s actually pretty easy. Making your own Wine is a fun hobby to get into to impress your friends and after a while save you some money.
      Wine making is a tradition passed down thousand of years. Being perfected every step of the way. The process, however, is an easy one. The science behind it is simple enough. A fruity sugary liquid is made and yeast added. The yeast eats the sugars and makes alcohol and carbon dioxide as byproducts. 
    I would reccomend buying a 5 gallon wine making kit off of the internet. They usually include a fermenter, a hydrometer, an airlock, a wine corker and other essential equipment for wine making. Brew stores are becoming a common place now, so you could find one near you and get even more advice on the process and what to get there. 
      First off, you’ll have to determine the wine you’ll want to make. I would actually reccomend buying grape juice from your homebrew store, or buy a different kind of juice at the store. Any fruit, or juice, can be fermented usually. If you’re going to buy juice at the store however make sure it comes with no preservatives. Just the juice and vitamin c are okay. Any preservatives can kill the yeast. Right now I have apple wine going. I found some nice apple cider from an orchard nearby and I’m making apple wine. 
       

Once you determime the flavor of wine you’ll be fermenting you need to add sugar to increase what’s called the gravity. The gravity is the density of sugar in your wine. The hydrometer that comes with your wine kit is the tool you’ll need. Fill up the test tube and place the hydrometer in it. It’ll have numbers down the side like 1.100, 1.050 and so on. The gravity will determine a few things. It’ll determine the alcohol potential of your wine. For example a liquid with a starting gravity of 1.050 could ferment to 6.5%. You can add more sugar to get a higher ABV. You’ll also want to take into account how sweet you want your wine. 

      The yeast is a living microorganism. It’s goal is to eat all the sugars it can until the alcohol level is high enough that the yeast is killed. Yeast comes in many strains. I when making wine use lavlin wine yeasts, because it’s easy and there are many charts on which strain to use for what. If you have a wine with a 12% ABC potential, but your yeasts tolerance is 14% than you’ll have a totally dry wine. If you have a wine with a 16% ABV potential and the same yeast you’ll be left with a sweet wine. You just need to determine what kind of wine you want and edit the sugar levels from there. 

      Once you have your sugary juice to the sweetness you want according to the hydrometer dump it into your fermenter. Now you’ll want to vigorously shake the fermenter to incorporate all the oxygen you can, this will help in the first few hours of fermentation when the yeast is rapidly reproducing.  

This you’ll want to place in a warm place, the yeast packet will tell you what range is best for it. Once your wine is around that tempature pitch your yeast, just sprinkle it on top. Now put in the airlock and let sit. The airlock is a small device that lets the carbon dioxide escape, bit doesn’t allow air in. You’ll see carbon dioxide bubbles within a few days or hours passing through it. 

     Now every step along the way you’ll want to make sure that everything is clean and sterile. I use starsan that comes with a lot of kits. It’s a sanitizer made for brewing that you don’t need to rinse off. Sanitation is big when making your own alcohol. You want to avoid bacteria that can make your wine sour or into vinegar. 
      I usually let my wines ait for about 2 months in 5 gallon increments. This gives it enough time to ferment and the yeast to clean up after itself. It’ll mellow out in this time as well, young wine is incredibly sharp. 
      Now take another gravity reading and this is your final gravity. Go on Google and look up an ABV calculator and enter both numbers into the box and it’ll tell you what your ABV is. I find 14% to be a nice number for most wines. 

     At this point pool at your wine to make sure it’s clear. If it’s still cloudy let it sit longer and clear or buy some fining agent to clear it much quicker. Then it’s good to bottle. When bottling make sure to avoid the bottom one inch of your fermenter. This is where your yeast cake will be and you don’t want any of that making it’s way into your bottles. It can cloud it up, but it’s not dangerous. 

      Once I’ve bottled it I let it sit for another month and drink. It’s really easy, especially once you’ve done it once. Don’t be afraid to make some mistakes along the way it happens. 
     For more patient people I reccomend making a batch of mead. Mead is honey wine. Just dissolve honey into warm water until it’s the proper gravity for what you want and add your yeast in the same way. I say this requires patience, because you need to let this sit for a year. It’s like jet fuel for a long time then by the year mark it’s a golden delisuous beverage. 

     Fermenting your own Wine is a really fun project. It’s easy especially after your first time and you can make 5 gallons of wine for a significantly cheaper margin than buying at the store. This is after you’ve bought your equipment. You have complete control over flavors and preference. You get to make wine the way you like it and you get the knowledge of the science of fermentation. 
      I reccomend anyone give this a try. If anyone has any questions let me know, or if you’d like a more detailed look on any steps or equipment. 

Advertisements

Lamb Ragu with Ricotta Cheese and Mint 

A simple slow cooked ragu is simple and tasty. Once you get it going you just let it simmer away for a few hours. This recipe is for a lamb ragu, however the method will work for any ragu you would want to make. Rabbit ragu is also fantastic.
It’s simple in the method as well as the food and equipment you’ll need. What you’ll need:

Olive Oil 

Onion 

Carrot

Celery 

Fennel

Salt/Pepper

Oregano 

Thyme 

Rosemary 

Mint

Red wine 

Diced or ground lamb 

Tomato paste 

Canned tomatoes 

Pasta 

Ricotta cheese 
First of all you’ll make you’re mirepoix. Dice your onions, celery, fennel and carrot. In a large pan sweat your vegetables in olive oil and season. 

Now you’ll chop and add your herbs. I tend to go moderate on the herbs. This can make the difference between an okay and a really good ragu. Depending on the protein you’ll be using in the ragu adjust what herbs you’ll use. For this recipe I use oregano, thyme and rosemary. Lamb is a gamey protein so you’ll want herbs that can stand up to that. I love basil, but it doesn’t add much adding it now. It’s too light and delicate for this recipe to come through enough in the final flavor of the ragu.

Add your tomato paste at this point. Stir it around and let it fry out. Let most of the moisture cook out. This will create a fond on the bottom of your pan. The stuff thats kind off cooked onto the bottom. Now you’ll want to deglaze this with your red wine. I just use a simple table wine. 
Add your canned tomatoes and water. Now is when you let it simmer for hours. Cook until your diced lamb is falling apart. If you used a minced lamb this would take less time, however the texture of the chunky lamb is nicer. Gently simmer don’t let it boil. Adjust your seasoming at this point.
For this recipe and ragus in general, use a bigger pasta. I prefer a short pasta like a penne or papradelle. Fresh pasta is perfect for this kind of recipe. Cook it al dente in seasoned water. 
In a separate smaller pan add as much ragu as you want and your pasta and stir. Let it sit for a minute. It will be extremely hot so it’ll stay warm for a minute. This helps the pasta and ragu come together as one the most they can. 

Ricotta cheese does this a lot of good. The creamy soft cheese with the rich tomato sauce is a match made in heaven. Finish with a little chopped mint and you’re ready to serve. 

What you need to know about crab 

Being a part time Alaskan something I know an awful lot about is crab. It’s a seafood fan favorite. I think every summer I worked in Alaska you can bet I cooked thousands of pounds of crab. Almost everyone that came off the cruise ship sought after king crab. 
This blog post will help you decide what crab to use for what, how is the best way to cook it and what to look for when buying crab. 
First of all lets talk about how to look for good crab. Luckily this is basically the same from crab species to species. You want your crab to look bright and vibrant not pale and dry. Look at where the legs meet, they should be clean and the flesh bright white. The legs should be firm and have practically no bend when you try. It’s pretty simple to buy crab. I always reccomend buying from boats on the dock. It’ll be the freshest and usually the cheapest. Fish markets are second best then grocery stores after that.

Crab from species to species have different flavor characteristic. My favorite is Dungeness crab it has the most distinct crab flavor. It’s a nice balance of salty and sweet when it’s been cooked. I used to go crabbing on weekends as a kid and I would get so excited when a big Dungeness crab would come off my trap when I pulled it up. 
Dungeness crab is good for crab cakes mixtures, but only about 50 percent of the crab you want to use. This is my favorite crab to eat by itself. Maybe with lemon and an herbed aioli. When you think Dungeness think what can I make with it that the flavor of the crab comes out more than anything else. Like a light crab salad or by itself. 

Rock crab come In several subspecies. Where I grew up there was no catch limit on rock crab. I caught and ate so much I almost got bored with it. Rock crab is sweeter and more mild than most other crab. Usually smaller and less meaty than Dungeness.
When you cook rock crab use them in things like crab cakes where they can be helped by your other ingredients. I also like to use rock crab in crab dips, hot or cold, and potato croquettes. Rock crab and things like bacon and pancetta go well together. Adding something salty really helps rock crab. It can be eaten on it’s own if you like crab that’s a little sweeter. 

King crab to me is like king salmon in the sense people love it because it’s big. You get huge meaty crab segments from it. King crab is more flavorsome then rock crab and less than Dungeness. King crab is the most meaty in texture. It’s actually pretty nice on it’s own. With and herbed aioli and lemon juice. Crab cocktails is a good usage of this type of crab too.
If you’re looking for the funnest crab to go fishing for I would go with king crab. Dungeness tastes the best, however the huge king crab are the funnest to pull out of the sea. 

When I cook my crab I just use salted water. It’s simple and the best way in my opinion. It keeps it flavor neutral so no matter what you’re going to do with it, it’ll taste really nice. Don’t limit what you can do with your crab by adding uneccisary flavors. 
Put your crab in at a full rolling boil. You can slice a knife through the head to kill them instantly before, but if you put them in alive still they’ll be dead within a few seconds. Either way is just as humane. Once your crab is cooked shock it in ice water. This prevents it from overcooking and separates the flesh from the shell. I slice my crab down the leg and peel the shell off to get nice clean segments of crab meat. 

Now that you have just your meat you need to cook something with it. I like a nice simple crab dip. Just mix it with a soft cheese, herbs, cream, butter and vegetables and serve or bake. Baked crab dip with warm bread is incredible. I’ll upload a post with my recipe for this in a later post.

Crab is also popular in sushi. Like in a California roll. A hand roll. Sushi is a nice way to eat crab because it balances the crab flavor with that of the rice and other ingredients. 

Super easy cold brew coffee

For the longest time I turned my nose up to any cold coffee. I said coffee is supposed to be served hot. Now that it’s summer and I work in a restaurant I tried cold brew coffee and instantly fell in love. Especially after I realized how easy it is to do. 
The nice part is you don’t need to buy anything. You’ll need coffee filters, coffee and something to steep it in like a mason jar. Most people already have these if you drink coffee on a regular basis. 

All you do is pour 1 part coffee grounds to 4 parts water and shake and put in your fridge. 12 hours is easy, 24 is medium and 36 is strong. The other day I had procrastinated straining mine for 4 days and I tried a sip straight, it was like jet fuel strong. Once you’ve strained your coffee out and it’s in a grounds free mason jar it can hold for a long time.

Choose a coffee that you like. Making it cold brew will give you the pure flavor of that coffee. When you cold brew coffee it’s also significantly less bitter than when you brew it normally. It’s also served cold, so if you really want the natural flavor of a coffee try this method it’s a trip compared to normally brewed coffee. Try filling an ice tray with cold brew coffee to use when you serve your cold brew coffee. This won’t dilute your coffee when you serve it like normal ice will. 

Your cold brew coffee can always be ready in your refrigerator unlike hot coffee. It’s also far better when it’s hot outside. No one really wants cold brew coffee in January like they do in July. Just imagine having a week’s worth of coffee ready. Just waking up on a warm spring or summer morning with your coffee ready in the refrigerator for you. Strain your coffee Sunday night into 7 smaller mason jars, so all week all you have to do is grab one and go. 
You can even premix your coffee. I like mochas myself when I’m drinking cold coffee. I can put my syrup in the bottom of the jars and just gran one In the morning add a little milk, shake it and it’s ready to drink. No steaming milk or waiting around for the coffee machine to hurry up. 

You can also try new things. Add some chocolate, milk and some ice and blend it up. Make yourself a frappe. Make it anyway you want. All the things you can add and best of all it’s so much less expensive than most coffee shops. If you like whip cream you can make that yourself. You can just buy heavy cream and use that as the dairy in your coffee. Whipped cream is just cream and sugar whipped until it’s the proper consistency. 

On weekends you can easily spike your coffee. I think spiked coffee tastes better cold. Make a mocha or a frappe and add some Bailey’s. It’s really good this way. You can even use bourbon and honey with your cold brew coffee. Try some new things. Create your own cold brew coffee recipes.

Try making your own sausage 

I love making my own sausages. Controlling everything that goes Into them. You can try thousands of flavor combinations, not much as far as limitations go. It doesn’t require a lot of equipment either. All you need is a grinder, stuffer and casings. For the every once and a while sausage maker I reccomend a hand grinder. It attaches to the edge of the table. You can find them cheap and they do well for small batches. 

For larger batches or more often then I would go with an electric grinder. They are around 80 dollars and up, but make things go much more quickly. Another important thing is to keep as much of your grinder parts cold as possible. By this I mean your dye, the spinning parts and the tube it comes out of. Don’t put any electronic components in the fridge. It’s important to keep all this cool to keep the meat cool and firm. When you grind meat with a warm grinder it can make the meat less firm and the fat can melt. This won’t make your sausage as well. The texture will be off. Also when you mix your meat don’t over do it or it will get too warm and the texture won’t be as nice. 

I like to use beef that’s tougher. I like more connective tissue and flavor. Don’t use expensive pork or beef. You can make sausage out of just about any meat. The leaner the meat the more fat you’ll have to add. Lamb sausage is nice as well as venison. Adding fat is easy. Use bacon, or preferably pancetta. This will add a nice flavor and the fat it will need. You need the fat to keep your sausage moist. Do a little research to find out how much fat to meat you’ll want for what you grind. 

Now that your meat is ground properly and has the proper amount of fat content it’s time to season. Salt is a must, I also like to add a good amount of fresh chopped herbs. I decide on what i want dependant on what I’m going for and the meat I’m grinding. For my Italian sausage I use roasted fennel, chopped onions and mushrooms that have been sauteed off and drained of as much moisture as possible. I also use basil, thyme and oregano. I use pancetta and inexpensive pork for this sausage. 
You can also add things like cheese and fruit if you want. Pineapple and dried fruits can be good. Try sharp cheeses thru come through the best. With lamb I like to add dried apricots. 
At this point you stuff your sausages. You put them in the cylinder and press down. The tube will push your mix into your casings. 

When it comes to the casings of choice I always use intestine. It sounds gross, but it gets the job done and is the easiest to use. When you use the synthetic casings you have to remove them before eating them. In my experiance they’re also more of a pain to work with. 
You just need to press down on the lever slowly and constantly. You have to put the casing of the tube. Just press how much you need on it like a spring. The casing will come off the tube, just make sure the meat fills it up evenly. This is controlled by how fast or slow you press down. 

You’ll have a long sausage now. I usually make mine about 8 feet long into a curl. At this point you tie the ends when you’re done. Then you pinch 6 inch segments and twirl to make your links. 

Be gentle when you cook it. You can grill it or as i prefer to cook it all in a pan with a little beer. Let them poach until they’re at their desired tempature.
Like a lot of other things let them rest before you cut into them so they stay more moist. You can make any kind of sausage you want. Get creative with it. 


Enjoy your homemade sausages. Try some new things and let me know what you try. Ask me for some ideas. Share this with your friends and I’ll do a post about how to make your own salami in a later post. 

Try to dry age your beef

There are a few reasons why a dry aged steak is superior to a normal steak. I reccomend this for people who enjoy a strong beef flavor and are more patient. This is a blog post about why you should and how it works. To do it yourself it is easy, but do a little more research on your own. All you’ll really need to buy is the beef and a moisture level reader which isn’t expensive. 

Essentially all you do is clean a primal, which is just the side of uncut steaks like the picture above, above a pan of salt in a refrigerator. Preferably in a refrigerator by itself. You want to keep the moisture level down, this is where the moisture level reader comes in. Putting it above a layer of coarse sea salt sucks a lot of the moisture out of the refrigerator and aides in drying the steak. Don’t let the steak actually touch the salt though. 

A few things about what happens to the steak when it dry ages. The beef will shrink by about a third. The moisture being drawn out is water weight and mass and when you pull that out the steak gets smaller. Also it will form a not so appetizing crust like in the picture above. This is okay, you just need to trim it off and the steak underneath will look beautiful. A rich red color. 
I reccomend using a New York strip or a ribeye as your selected primal. It will shrink and you will have to cut the crust off so you want something bigger, not like a fillet or clod. 

With the steak shrinking the beef flavor intensifies. It consolidates the flavor. It makes it a rich and beautiful flavor. A typical first time dry age is 30 days. It intensifies the flavor and is easy to eat. The longer you dry age the steak the more rich the flavor gets and it will get a funk after about 70 days. Some people like it, but others don’t. I like it myself. I’ve had steak that was dry aged 90, 180 and 270 days and I think anything over 180 is too much. It starts to get way too funky tasting like a string blue cheese. 

When you go to cook your dry aged beef cook it medium or below. You’ve ready sucked a lot of the moisture out of It, so it’ll go dry quickly if you overcook it. Dry aged beef is more tender, however it will go dry more quickly. I love to pan sear mine and baste it with a compound butter. Always let it rest, this will also help your steak be more moist and pleasurable. Do some research and try it yourself. 

Try a few ways to enjoy an oyster 

Oysters are really delisuous. Oysters have the most wonderful ocean flavor. It’s like salty ocean breeze. I love raw oysters. A lot of people have written off oysters, because they tried them raw once and they hated the texture. The texture of a raw oyster can be off putting for people who are texture oriented. When you buy a whole oyster you have to shuck it. Take an oyster knife to the joint of the oyster. It’s the part of the back where the little indent is. Gently place the tip of the knife in and rock slowly back and forth. This will pop the oyster open. Then pull the top off and separate the oyster from the bottom by gently running the knife around the bottom of the oyster. 

When I eat a raw oyster I like a splash of Tabasco, or lemon juice. The acidity does wonders with the salty ocean flavor. A  mignonette is a nice touch too. It’s vinegar, or lemon juice with shallots and sometimes liquor or honey. Just a tiny bit goes a long way. 

When you go to buy an oyster make sure it’s closed. Oysters are alive when they’re closed and they go bad quickly when they’re not quite closed. Scrub the outside of the oysters well to make them look nicer. Be mindful when you harvest oysters to check for red tide warning. This is where there’s been a algae boom and shellfish harvested in that area shouldn’t be eaten. They can be very dangerous. 

 When a raw oyster doesn’t suit your fancy try cooking them like something more relatable. Fry frying oysters. Fried oysters can be incredible. They’re already seasoned, I simply flour them, eggwash and coat them in panko. They cook extremely quickly. Serve them with some dipping sauce like a herbed aioli. 
Try putting the fried oysters on a sandwich like a po-boy. A baguette toasted with a spicy remoulade, tomatoes, onion and lettuce. The oysters go perfectly on this sandwich. Fried oysters also go really well with cole slaw. 

Baked oysters can also be nice. When you cook an oyster the texture is much nicer. It’s firm not slimy. When you bake an oyster try removing them and adding some mayo, herbs and bread crumbs to the oyster and baking it in the shell. These make for a really wonderful appetizer. Just serve with an aioli and lemon. 

Scallops a culinary gem of the sea

Scallops are beautiful in flavor, texture and appearance. Sweet with a mild ocean flavor they’re a real treat. You can take a scallop dish so many different ways. I prefer them seared myself, however you can also poach, or eat them raw. 
Luckily, most scallops you’ll find in the store, or at the fish market will come cleaned and ready to cook. Watch out for milky looking scallops that usually means they haven’t been kept well. 

Sometimes they’ll come in their shell and you’ll have to clean them. Cleaning a scallop is easy. Simply take a small knife and insert it into the shell and gently scrape it from the shell. Open the shell and remove your scallop. Now all you have to do is remove the skirt from the scallop. Just run your thumb around the main peice if the scallop and gently pull the skirt off. You’ll be left with a beautiful,  clean scallop ready to cook.

Like i said before I like to sear my scallops. They get a nice crust and a beautiful medium rare. The middle of the scallop should be pink when you’re done searing it. Over cooking a scallop will make it go rubbery and lose its flavor. I use a very hot sautee pan with some butter. I also coat the foot, the flat end of the scallop, in seasoned flour. This does a few things, it makes the scallops crust nicer and more distinct, as well as creating more of a fond. That’s the brown bits at the bottom of the pan when you sear it. I also make sure to sear my scallops in butter. 

Place your scallops in the pan, making sure not to crowd the pan. Once you put them in don’t touch them until they’re ready to flip. Flip them after about 30 seconds once they have a nice golden brown crust. Wait about another 30 seconds and remove your scallops. 

Now I add some white wine to my pan and deglaze. I add aromatics like thyme and parsley. Thyme and scallops are a match made in culinary heaven. When the white wine is almost gone mount with butter off of the heat and stir vigorously. Pour this over your scallops and serve. Finish with parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice. That’s my favorite way to have scallops. 

What you need to know about tuna 

For the longest time most thought of tuna as the cans you buy for 50 cents that you mix with mayo and put on bread. Tuna is much much more than that. Canned tuna is all the scraps and lesser quality tuna cooked way longer than it should be. It’s dry and bland. It needs tablespoons of mayo to be attractive to eat. 

Tuna steaks can be really nice.  You need to make sure the tuna is of good quality. Good tuna is deep read and stays together nicley when you slice it. Most tuna at the grocery store has been frozen, so I reccomend a fish market. 

In my opinion, and that of most chefs, tuna should be seared all around and sliced. A nice tuna niscoise salad is great. Green beans, fingering potatoes and niscoise olives tossed in a simple dressing with your tuna sliced over top. 
When I sear my tuna I use sesame oil and get it smoking hot and sear it all around until it’s a nice golden brown all around. I set it aside and let it rest a bit. Slice it thin, it’s relatively dense, the texture is nicer if it’s sliced tjin.
Eating fresh tuna raw is also nice. However when you eat raw fish you always need to make sure it’s never been frozen and it’s fresh. If it’s not fresh and it has been frozen i won’t usually eat it raw it’s just a safety thing. Being safe is the most important.
Poke is nice with tuna. It’s sliced red and green onions, soy sauce, sesame oil and the tuna diced small. It usually has a little more than that, but that’s the just of it. Raw fresh tuna of course is always nice on sushi.

Tips for taking the challenge out of white fish 

White fish is a fisheries term used for most fish with white flesh like cod and halibut. Usually more common than fish like salmon, because it freezes better and can thus hold longer. Fish and chips is an obnoxiously popular way to cook white fish here in the United States. I like fish and chips, but do nt limit yourself to that. 
A nice benefit of most white fish like halibut and flounder is the lack of trouble any bones will give you. Flat white fish have no bones that go into the fillet, so you just cut off your fillet, skin it and you’re good to go. Most of the time in super markets it’s already fillet and portioned ready for you to cook.

I said earlier about how it freezes better, however fish doesn’t freeze well. This is why most of the time, especially with fish and chips, the fish itself offers almost no flavor. White fish is delicate in flavor to begin with, so when you freeze it a lot of the flavor it does have is lost. It freezes better in the sense that it doesn’t fall apart on you as much as say salmon or trout would. When buying White fish look for non previously frozen. It should also be bright white and not grey. 
When I cook white fish I cook it with a gentler method that imparts more flavor and aromatics to help it along. I like to poach mine in olive oil with herbs, sear it in a pan, or bake it with lemons and herbs packed on top. White fish is a little more dense so it will take a bit to cook so lower on the tempature is better to cook it through evenly. 
Everyone’s impressed by the massive several hundred pound halibut that are pulled from the ocean floor. In reality those don’t taste good. Halibut over around 80 pounds start to loose flavor and a proper texture. Around 50 pounds is the perfect size halibut for eating.