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

Tips for cooking a Chefs dream protein: Duck

Duck is an incredible protein. It’s by far in my top 3. I love it for its flavor, as well as its versatility. I could sit here for an hour and riddle off duck dishes to cook. I’ll spare you that and give you a few of my favorite ideas.
Think of duck like a very fatty chicken that’s all dark meat. I know some people don’t like dark meat, but give duck a shot anyway. You breakdown a duck nearly identically to how you’d break down a chicken. The way you cook it is different though. You can utilize every part of the duck. 
The simplest way to cook a duck is to season, rub oil on it and roast it whole. A roast duck is very nice. Low and slow for this to let the fat render. I reccomend scoring the skin, this will also help the fat render. Duck like I said earlier is fatty, so you want to render a lot of that fat out to get a crispy skin. A crispy skin is key for a good roast duck. 

Confit is a cooking method I wrote a blog about not long ago. Duck lends itself well for this. Duck confit is incredible. Simmer in olive oil with parsley, thyme and garlic for hours until it’s crispy and the flesh is falling off of the bone.
Always use the leg and thighs for this. They have the most connective tissue and do the best this way. It’s so simple to do this. Just put it on the stove and simmer until done. This is really a crowd pleaser too. I would argue it’s far better than bacon even.

If you make duck confit, you can now make rilettes out of that. This is almost like a duck spread. Duck confit with chopped herbs, shallots, duck fat and a little bourbon. I chill mine and have it ready in jars in the refrigerator. It’s a great snack, or appetizer on some warm bread, or a cracker.
Duck breast is fantastic. Get a nice hot pan for this and a miniscule amount of oil or butter. Cook it like you’re cooking a steak in a pan. You want to make sure your duck is salted and dry when you put it into your pan. Always sear it skin side down with the skin scored. 
Cook it 70 percent the way on the skin. You want a nice dark golden brown. When you flip add butter, maybe a compound butter and baste it. You should have a nice crispy duck breast, flavorsome and medium rare. Yes medium rare. Duck breast goes tough quickly when you overcook it. Medium rare makes for the best result in texture and flavor. 

Foie gras is arguably the best part of a duck. It’s the fatty liver of a duck raised for that purpose. This is a hot topic, because most places force feed the ducks with tubes to make sure the liver is engorged. It isn’t humane in some places. Some places do it better. Some places in Spain let the ducks rome fields with nuts. The ducks gorge themselves and you get the desired result. Not only is this more humane, but it tastes better too.
Foie gras is like duck butter. It’s one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. Just sear it and put it on some toast it’s perfect. In a hot pan with no fat sear golden brown on both sides and serve. 

Easy beef Wellington 

Beef Wellington was an intimidating dish for me to cook at first. It seemed difficult, but making a few for dinner is really an easy thing to do. A beautiful fillet mignon in puff pastry. What you’ll need:

Fillet mignon 

Stone ground mustard 

Prosciutto 

Portobello mushrooms

Thyme 

Oregano 

Basil 

Parsley

Puff pastry 

Salt/pepper 

Eggwash 
First of all you’ll cut your fillet into about 4 inch long rounds. This makes them look nicer and cook more quickly. Sear your fillet until nice and brown on all sides. While still hot rub your mustard on it. Lightly coast it. The beef will absorb a lot more mustard flavor while it’s hot. 
Blitz your mushrooms and herbs in a blender. Add this to a sautee pan with no oil and cook out all the moisture from the mushrooms. 
Set your prosciutto out on plastic wrap. Enough that it’ll wrap all the way around the beef. Place your mushroom mixture on top of the prosciutto in a thin even layer. Place your fillet down now and wrap around tight. 
Now you can wrap it in your puff pastry coated in eggwash. Pinch the seems tight and score the top of the puff pastry. Place on your baking sheet seem down and bake until your desired tempature is reached. I reccomend using a digital thermometer. You won’t be able to feel the beef for doneness so this takes the guess work out of It.
When it’s done, rest it for around 8 minutes and slice into thick slices. I like to slice mine around 1 inch thick. 

Easy Mushroom on toast with an egg

This is one of my favorite things to eat. A simple mushrooms on toast with an egg. It’s so easy to do, delisuous and fast. Some tips before we get going, use good bread, herbs and determine how you want your egg. I prefer a nice rustic sourdough bread myself. The sour does really well with the egg and mushrooms rather than over power it or not add anything to it. Make sure your herbs are fresh and when chopping herbs always roll your knife through it rather than smash it down on them. Be gentle with your herbs. I prefer my egg soft poached or Sunnyside up. I love how the yolk tastes when it mixes with the mushrooms a bit.  Sunnyside up is nice, because you can more easily season it and the buttery element is nice. What you’ll need:
Slice of rustic bread 

Mixed mushrooms 

Garlic 

Butter 

White wine 

Egg 

Salt/pepper 

Thyme 

Parsley 

Oregano 
First of all get your bread toasting. What up your pan and add a generous amount of butter. When this is hot and melted. Add your mixed mushrooms and sautee. You should season at this point. Mushrooms will soak up all the fat and then release it again after they’ve cooked more. Be careful not to add anymore butter even though it’ll look like it needs it you want it delisuous and buttery, but not dripping with butter.
At this point you can add your chopped garlic. Let this toast. It’ll take the bitterness out of the garlic and make it much more pleasant. Add a dash of white wine and let reduce to almost nothing. Take your mushrooms off the heat and finish with your chopped herbs. 

Now we assemble. Get your rustic toast and add a generous amount of the mushroom mix. Place your egg, cooked how you choose, on top and serve. 

What part of the chicken to use for what

The chicken is a staple of most kitchens. Everyone has their preference, dark meat vs white meat. The chicken is separated into the breast, tenders, chicken wings, thighs, drumsticks and the gizzards. Every part has a cooking method that best suites it for a moist and flavorsome meal.
The breast is simple in cooking method as it is in flavor. The best way to cook a chicken breast is to grill it or bake it. The chicken breast in of itself has the least amount of flavor of any of the chicken cuts. It’s better cooked with a method that will cook it quickly, or it will become dry faster. Also a cooking method that directly let’s you control it’s flavor. Grilled chicken is nice over a salad or on a sandwich. Baked chicken breast like cordon bleu is also a nice way to prepare it. The breast needs a little help in the flavor department.
The tenders are also not very flavorsome, but like in the name, they’re very tender. I like to make my chicken strips with this. They’re usually already a nice size for that. This will cook them quickly so they shouldn’t be dry. They’re small so grilling them can be a little tricky.
The chicken wings are simple. Flavorsome and bite sized. I always just do mine fried. They should come out moist and delisuous. The wings have much more flavor, because it has so much more connective tissue. Dark meat is more flavorsome. There’s not a lot of meat on most chicken wings so frying them is just the easiest. If you bone them out there’s not really much left.
The thighs are my personal favorite cut of the chicken. It’s dark meat and flavorsome. They stay moist a long time with or without the bone in. The thighs are very nice braised or sauteed. I like to braised them. The connective tissue breaks down  and they’re very flavorsome and tender. It also allows them to absorb a lot of flavor from the braising liquid. Thighs baked skim on is also nice. 
The drumsticks are kind of tricky in a way. They can be cooked many ways. Grilled, braised, sauteed, baked or fried. I like to keep them on the bone it keeps them the most moist. I like to bake or fry mine. They’re dark meat, but already pretty tender. My advice for the drumstick is to remove the tendons and the cartilage on the bottom of the drum stick. You wouldn’t eat that and it makes it nicer to eat. 
The gizzards are usually pretty tough. I like to sous vide mine for at least 24 hours and fry them. Tender, packed with flavor and nutrients.  I never let my gizzards go to waste. 

My easy shrimp Alfredo recipe 

Alfredo by nature is an incredibly easy thing to cook. Your basic Alfredo consists of just butter, garlic, cream, pasta and salt. This makes for an easy great dish, however it is pretty boring that way. Prawns with a relatively strong, mildly sweet flavor does well with the richness of the cream. What you’ll need:

Butter
Garlic 
Salt/pepper 
Italian seasoning 
Shrimp 
White wine
Parsley 
Heavy cream 
Linguini pasta 
Asiago cheese 
First of all you’ll heat your butter and add your garlic. Let this toast for a second and add your shrimp. Add a little white wine and simmer. Season and add your Italian seasoning.
When the white wine is almost gone add your pasta and heavy cream and reduce. Once your cream has reduced add your shaved Asiago cheese and stir off the heat. Never stir in your cheese on the heat, it’ll give it an off texture and become gummy. Finish with parsley and stir. 
I use linguini pasta for my shrimp Alfredo. It’s relatively thick and stands up to the heavy cream sauce better than a thinner pasta. 

Polenta 

Polenta is one of the most versatile sides I’ve come across. It’s not even limited to side dishes, I’ve made it into an appetizer and a dessert as well. Easy to cook and inexpensive. Polenta is a ground corn meal that’s usually cooked with water, or cream. Simmered until it’s cooked and finished with cheese and butter. Creamy polenta can be served with almost any protein.
As an appetizer polenta is nice, because it can take on so many forms. I like to make polenta cakes. I make my polenta and put it in a dish and chill it. Then I can cut shapes out of It once it solidifies and toast them. Toasted polenta cake with a bell pepper, onion and mushroom gravy is a breakfast dish I made for myself all the time in the past. A good appetizer is toasted polenta cakes with sauteed mushrooms and a sunny side up egg, finished with basil and oregano. 
As a side polenta cakes are nice too. With a chicken dish try using chicken stock. With shrimp use a shrimp stock. Asiago cheese is very nice inside a polenta cake and creamy polenta. Asiago goes well with all sorts of stock too.  Creamy polenta is a nice side too. It’s smooth and creamy with a nice neutral texture. Try it with maybe a braised lamb shank or ox tail. 
Dessert polenta was an idea I had in culinary school. We had to make a dish out of polenta, but that wasn’t really challenging enough for me so I decided to make a dessert polenta. I used orange juice and heavy cream as my liquid. I chilled it and cut it into rounds. I toasted it and cut orange Supremes. Fanning them out over top of the cake and dusting it with sugar and took a blow torch to it like a creme brulee. It came out pretty nice and I’ve been meaning to do it again with lemons. 

Cajun risotto 

Risotto is a simple Italian rice dish. It’s almost like a blank slate of flavors. You can take it in many directions. One of my favorites started as an experiment. It’s now a common weekday dish I cook for my fiance and I. This is a simple recipe and very tasty, Cajun risotto with prawns and sausage. What you’ll need:

Butter 

Bell pepper

Onion 

Garlic 

Spicy andoulie sausage

Mushrooms

Chicken thighs 

Shrimp 

Aborio rice 

Cajun seasoning 

Salt
First of all you’ll hear your butter and sweat your onions, mushrooms and bell peppers. Season and add your diced sausage, chicken and whole prawns. Sautee until meat is cooked, then add your rice. 
Add water and stir. At this point adr your cajun seasoming. Continue to add water and stir. The dish will be cooked and thicker when it’s done. This usually takes about 35 minutes. 

Easy curried lentils 

I love Indian food, the smell of the spices and the simplicity. Curried lentils I eat probably once a week. It’s very simple to make and there’s no fuss to it. It’s also extremely tasty and smells incredible. What you’ll need:
Butter

Curry paste

Onion

Leek

Celery 

Lentils 

Salt/pepper 

Cilantro 

Parsley 

Mushrooms 

Chicken 
First off, I’ll get my butter nice and hot in a sautee pan, add your curry paste and lightly toast. I always prefer curry paste over powder. I think curry powder tends to be a little flat myself. Add your sliced onions, leeks and celery and sweat until translucent.
At this point I’ll go ahead and add my diced chicken and sliced mushrooms. Make sure you sautee these a minute before asking everything. The mushrooms cook much better that way. When your mushrooms are cooked add your lentils. Then add water or stock. I think water works just fine. Season and simmer until lentils are soft making sure to keep stirring and adding water as it runs out.
When your lentils are soft add your chopped cilantro and parsley and serve over rice. 

Tips for a better burger 

An American staple, the hamburger. Burgers can take many forms. Every component is equally important to make the burger something really special. The bun, the sauce, the burger and the toppings. I’m going to give you some tips can that can make burgers go from good to great. 
First let’s start with the bun. You can bake a really nice burger bun. It’s relatively easy and they hold well. I usually opt to buy mine. You can find good ones in most bakeries. I always make sure to toast my buns. This helps the bun not to go soggy and it gives it a little more flavor. 
The sauce is important too. Mayo works just fine, however I prefer to either make my own special mayonnaise, or add to mayonias to give it a little something. The sauce is important, because its mostly made of fat and creates a thin protective layer on the bottom bun and it prevents it from going soggy. The sauce should be relatively neutral so the burger patty and toppings can define the burger. The patty and toppings being the main casts and the bun and sauce being the ensemble. 
The burger patty should be kept simple. Try adding some sauteed onions or mushrooms to your beef before you mix it. I like to sautee mushrooms and add it to my beef with blue cheese. This helps keep the burger moist, flavorsome and less messy when you eat it. Another burger I really enjoy making and eating of course is a burger with thyme, basil, sauteed onion and grated parmesaean cheese. Adding aromatic herbs is a really nice touch. Don’t overwork your beef mixture. Keeping your mixture cold and not working it too much will prevent a chewy and dry burger. Be mindful of how you cook your burger. I always reccomend medium for a burger. Cooked,  a little pink and juicy. It makes for a much more pleasurable eating experiance. 
Lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle. The toppings almost every burger comes with. Boring. I really enjoy bacon, or super thin salami. Try cheeses that aren’t cheddar or Swiss. Try super thin Asiago, goat cheese, or mozzarella. Pickled vegetables are really nice on a burger too. Pickled watermelon radishes or peppers are interesting additions. My last tip is try lightly dressed greens like arugala or frisse.