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. 

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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. 

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. 

Cheese and cheese boards 

All about cheese. As a kid I get up not far from the Tillamook cheese factory here in Oregon. It was amazing. Seeing how some of the best cheese in the country is made, start to finish. I grew up eating a lot of cheddar and swiss. Pretty standard decent cheeses. I wouldn’t touch American cheese them, because I couldn’t do the taste and now, because I’ve learned it’s very close in composition to plastic. 
However as I got older I realized that cheese isn’t a simple thing. There are thousands of different cheeses with different flavors and purposes. In this post I’m going to focus on a good cheese board and some differences in classifications of cheese. 
First of all let’s look at the main way cheese is classified, by it’s hardness. Cheese is separated into 4 groups this way. Soft, semi soft, semi hard and hard. This makes it far easier to find the cheese you want. For a good cheese board you want all 4. A full, well rounded experiance of cheese. Below I will post a helpful chart on how some cheeses are categorized, so you better understand the idea. 

The harder the cheese the more difficult it is for it to melt. American cheese melts extremely easy, because it’s a soft cheese. You can put a decent sized slab on top of it and it would melt just fine. That’s why pizzas are generally made with mozzarella, because it melts so easily. When I make my Alfredos when I add my Asiago or parmesan cheese it has to be shredded pretty fine to melt properly. Also the aging process makes cheese not melt as well. Most cheeses are hard because they’ve been aged a long time like parmesan. It changes the composition and makes it saltier and harder. 

When I put together a cheese board I put one of several of each cheese on. I will also look to put a nice rustic bread on my board. Cheese and bread are so nice together. I love spreading a soft cheese over crusty bread. The texture and flavor are incredible. This is one of those simplicity is bliss things. I always warm my bread and slice it relatively thick. Try something with a gentler flavor like a light sourdough or a baguette. 

Crackers are a classic on cheese boards. I prefer crackers for harder cheeses. Remember to slice your hard cheeses very thin. The cracker holds up much better than bread against these cheeses. Again likewise with bread pick a flavor neutral cracker. With it being eaten with a hard cheese that’s already salty, pick a cracker that is light on the salt. 

The best fruit for a nice cheese board is something mildly sweet and tart. This lets the cheese bloom and is a good underdone to the rich and salty cheeses. I really like fresh figs and grapes of several varieties on my board. It gives you options and flavor and allows you to eat a lot of cheese. Apple’s can also be nice, especially a green apple. 

Wine and cheese to me is almost as good as it gets. Due to the rich and salty nature of cheese a light red wine is my preference. It changes by what cheese I’m eating, but pinot noir is usually my go too. A generally smooth, gentle and fruity red wine it helps cut the fattiness of the cheese, without overpowering it. Never over power your cheese it defeats the purpose. Chianti can also be nice. It’s mildly spicy and aromatic it’s better for more flavorsome cheeses like a hard Asiago or blue cheeses. White wines can go well with a lighter, summery cheese board. If you choose a white wine make sure it’s fruity and tart. 

Blue cheese is an interesting thing. It’s the least popular of all the cheeses. It’s packed in flavor and it has a pungent odor that is off putting for a lot of people. Blue cheese is moldy, it’s injected with penacillium to encourage the bacteria growth. This mold is what gives blue cheese it’s salty and sharp flavor. This is also why it has the pungent flavor and blue veins. Blue cheese comes in many types too some more mild than others. 

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. 

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. 

Tips to take the challenge out of Salmon 

I lived in Alaska on and off for years and one of the best ingredients there was the incredible salmon and crab. Almost everyday, all summer long I would come into work and fillet at least 2 big king or sockeye salmon. Fish can be intimidating, but it shouldn’t be. 
Salmon is great, it has it’s own distinct flavor, yet it’s light and takes on other flavors well too. Stay away from pink or chum salmon. I used chum salmon for bait and pink salmon for smoking. They don’t have the most pleasant and clean flavor you want out of a salmon. King salmon, or Chinook depending on what you call them where you live, are nice and large. King salmon to me has a little bit of a generic flavor compared to sockeye. Chinook is so popular, because of their large size. Sockeye is flavorsome and contains the least amount of mercury. The fillets that come off of a sockeye salmon have a very bright and distinct color.  Coho salmon is also pretty nice. It’s similar to the taste of a king salmon, just a bit smaller. 
I always prefer fillets over steaks. I think steaks don’t look as nice and they’re more of a pain to eat. Usually in super markets salmon comes fillet and with the pin bones already removed. Also I find salmon cooks more evenly cut into fillet portions rather than steaks. 
Look at the label in the case. Wild caught is always better. Farmed fish isn’t good. They feed it corn pellets and something to make the flesh look kind of how it’s supposed to. The flesh should look bright, not washed out or faded. Look for salmon that hasn’t been frozen. Previously frozen salmon will almost always end up being dry and it makes it harder to cook, because it’ll be falling apart more. This will also drain it of a lot of its flavor. 
Try cooking it skin on. A nice crispy skin can be nice on A salmon. I prefer it myself. If you don’t like the skin and don’t want to ruin your fillet by trying to skin it, cook it skin on and it’ll just come right off with your fingers. 
When it comes to cooking your salmon I prefer to pan sear, bake or eat it raw. Salmon is nice on sushi and in poke if it’s fresh and fatty. When I sear mine I just heat a pan up with some oil in it and put it skin side down in the pan. Let it cook about 70 percent the way on the skin and flip it. It will finish soon after. You can see it when you cook your salmon in a pan how cooked it is by looking at the side. Salmon is nice medium rare. When you bake it just season it and put it skin side down in a oven around 350 degrees until it’s done. It really is that simple. 

Tips for a better pizza 

Pizza is one of the most popular food items in the United States and other places in the world. So many kinds, so many variations. The debates they create like does pineapple belong on a Pizza, thick vs thin crust and how much sauce and cheese is too much? I’m here to give you some tips for making and ordering a better pizza.
First of all my number 1 pizza tip especially when your making it is this. Make every component equal. Make a decent crust, make a tomato sauce like the one i wrote a recipe for in a previous blog and don’t go overboard on the toppings. You want a pizza where every component comes together to make it a great pie, not just a little crust with toms of sauce and cheese and toppings. 
The crust is very important. I like to go with a medium thickness. Too thin and it will lack that texture you want. You want a little crunch a little bite. Too thick and it’s too bready and the pizza will just be unbalanced. Also a medium crust is good for cook time. 
The sauce is important. I have a recipe for a good tomato sauce in a previous blog post that can be easily modified for the purpose of a pizza. I never reccomend using a pasta tomato sauce. It never tastes right. You can also use a white sauce, pesto, or even just olive oil with some salt and pepper. Choose what sauce you’re going to select by what toppings and cheese is going on top of it. Be careful not to oversauce your pizza. This is very common and it will overpower the other components and make your crust soggy faster. 
Most of the cheese used for pizzas are mozzarella or provolone. I suggest using a mix. Mozzarella and provolone melt easy and have a nice mild flavor, this is why I always add parmesan or Asiago to give it some salty sharpness. Smoked cheeses are also a nice touch. Baratta is a stuffed mozzarella that’s nice to finish a pizza with as a topping too. 
This is where most of the debates begin. I personally really dislike pineapple on a pizza, but if that’s what you like go for it. As far as toppings go, keep it simple. Don’t just throw things on. Pick 3 or 4 things that go really well together and put those on proportionally. Try mixing some different textured ingredients. A little crunch, smooth and soft go well together. Maybe try something salty, something mildly spicy and something creamy. Maybe pancetta, pickled peppers and baratta. Balance is key when making a pizza.