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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How Chili’s should be Used

A lot of people love the tongue tingling feeling that hot peppers give you. We don’t love the throat burning feeling that lasts for the following 15 minutes.  I know from experience you need to be careful in the preparation of spicy chili’s. Prepping jalapenos and then touching your eyes after without thinking about it isn’t fun.

I love spicy food. My dad and I used to make hot wings out of ghost chili’s. They were tasty, but there is a time where the heat is just too much to be practical. Why would you want to eat something that you cant taste, because its burning your mouth so badly? Most often when I see spicy menu items its a challenge to see how hot you can handle.

Food with a kick is fine, but its the flavor that really matters. It doesn’t make sense to cook a really nice dish and destroy it with too much heat. The point of adding heat is to a dish is to add another dimension and bring out more flavor. The point of adding heat is not to kill the taste buds. If the dish has to be taste bud killing hot to be popular its probably not a good dish.

If you ask most people what the spiciest part of the pepper is they’ll often say its the seeds. Its actually not. The hottest part of the pepper is the white membrane. It often times gets thrown away. The seeds are usually spicy as well, because its touching the membrane the entire time.

Chili’s should be used in a nice balance with other flavors. The food shouldn’t be too hot, it will ruin the dish. I use chili’s like salt. You can always add more, but you can’t take it out. Add it like a seasoning until you get to the desired taste and level of heat. Peppers often times have a great flavor, but you can’t taste it, because there’s so much of it in the dish. ghost-chili-pepper

GMO Labeling

Here in Oregon, GMO labeling is on the ballot. If voted yes, starting the 1st of January any GMO foods here would have to be labeled if they are indeed genetically modified. It’s been a hot topic here in Oregon. There doesn’t seem to be too much opposition by voters to the initiative.

Personally I think it’s a good idea to label GMO’s, people should know the state of what they’re eating. I do think though, consumers will still buy the same product even if the initiative passes. Food that is in its purely natural state is usually labeled organic. I know for myself I would buy exclusively organic products, but they’re far too expensive.

The food market is set up to make consumers buy processed foods that are cheaper to produce and cheaper for the consumer. Corn in the United States is actually a poison by the FDA standards. Corn in America has been so genetically modified that it produces it’s own pesticide. We don’t export as much food, because a lot of other places don’t want it.

Giving corn a label that says its a GMO won’t stop many people from eating it. Telling the consumer that the FDA labels it as a poison and creates its own pesticide might though. Telling the consumer their food has been genetically modified is a good first step, but we must go further.

We as the consumers must push for a better solution. Instead of having GMO’s labeled, let’s push for less genetically modified food in the first place. The disease is more important than the symptom. As a culinary student this issue is an important one to me. image

Why nutrition should be more important when cooking in a restaurant setting

Generally when going out to eat we don’t really think about what we are eating from a nutritional standpoint. During the night on the town, dining at the fancy French restaurant, we probably consume over one thousand calories in one sitting. The portion sizes are very large at most places, or you have multiple courses. Eating like that every once in a while shouldn’t be too harmful, but it will leave you not feeling so great the next day. It puts a heavy strain on your body.

On a recent venture to Fogo De Chao, I tried over 20 different meats. Every different meat had something special about it, I learned a lot. The next day, and even the ride home, I wasn’t feeling too great. I overate because it was an experience and I wasn’t thinking about it. I tried over 20 different meats and had a few drinks. I don’t even want to guess how many calories that meal was.

In my opinion it’s not so much the customers responsibility to eat smart, as it is for the restaurant to cook more healthy. The customer goes to your restaurant for the experience. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at a fine dining establishment wondering how man calories I consumed, or how much fat. Half of going out on the town to eat is spending time with family or friends. Sharing an experience with people you care about.

I’ve worked in several restaurants and I’ve seen a lot of room for improvement nutritionally. A massive amount of butter is used. A lot of the time you can’t get around that without making the dish sub par. There are two key ways I can think of to make nutrition a focal point without changing the menu.

The first is the easier of the two. You can lower the portion size on items that have a lot on the plate. The key problem with this being the consumer often times feels like they aren’t getting their moneys worth. Imagine you’ve been eating at a fine dining establishment once a month for a year. You know most of the servers by name. You go in for your  monthly dinner out with your significant other, you order your favorite pepper steak. After a drink and a nice conversation your steak gets to your table and it seems way smaller than usual. Would you be happy?

The second scenario is just cooking with less saturated fat and things like that. Keep the food itself more nutritional by cooking with that in mind. This isn’t easy though. French cooking for example uses an obscene amount of butter, but it makes the food delicious. Cooking French food with olive oil rather than butter would not be nearly the same.

The best way to keep the responsibility to the customer is just to have a menu to where you can cook nutritionally sound food in the first place. Most restaurants don’t think consumers keep nutrition in mind while eating out, which is true. 10 years from now It will be more important to consumers. Living in Portland i’m seeing it first hand. Places with healthier menus get more of the young crowd. Nutrition is important and it is the responsibility of the restaurant, to the consumer to cook responsibly. french

Growing your own herbs

Growing your own herbs saves a lot of money, creates a better product and is really easy to do. I’m currently growing chives, thyme and basil. It’s now fall so the lack of sunlight limits what will and won’t grow well. At this point of the year I would reccomend buying starts. Herbs that have already sprouted. To grow more delicate herbs at this time I would reccomend a garden lamp. It helps supply some artificial form of sunlight.

When starting from seeds make sure your soil is moist and full of nutrients. Most herbs require being planted between 1/4-1/2″ deep. The soul should constantly be kept moist I rimageeccomend checking it twice a day. Make sure the area where planted gets a moderate amount of sunlight. Too much sun will dry them out and sun bleach the herbs, but too little stunts growth.

I,being a culinary student, love using fresh herbs. There’s nothing quite like making pasta and having fresh basil to pick just feet away. Thyme for my sauces like my tomato sauce. Herbs on a window ceil are a great way to cut costs and elevate your food.

Fried Eggplant Vegetarian Sandwich Recipe

This is one of my favorite sandwich ideas I’ve had since starting culinary school. The chibatta bread slightly grilled so its toasty. The spread is comprised of goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes. The main ingredient is fried eggplant. This sandwich came out wonderfully and I wanted to share the idea. bread

Ingredients:

2 slices Chibatta bread

3oz. Goat cheese

3oz. Sun dried tomatoes

3 Slices Eggplant

3oz. Mushrooms

Salt/Pepper

4oz. Flour

2each Eggs

4oz. Bread crumbs

Method:

Put mushrooms in oven at 350F with salt, pepper and oil. Dice sun dried tomatoes and mix with goat cheese until smooth. Coat sliced eggplant with salt and cover with paper towels (it dries the eggplant) coat with flour after removing salt and paper towels, egg wash and bread crumb. Fry the eggplant and toast the chibatta bread. Put the spread in a thin layer on the top and bottom slice of bread. Lay the eggplant and baked mushrooms on top of the bottom slice and assemble. Slice in half on a bias and serve/eat.

Fall Harvest Vegetable Ideas

One of my favorite times of the year is fall. Pumpkins, squashes and more opens many windows of what you can cook. I’ll post some of my favorite fall inspired dishes below. Post your fall inspired dishes in the comment section!

1 Vegetable Medley with butternut squash, acorn squash, pumpkin tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon.

2 Spaghetti squash lasagna layered with tomato sauce, lamb and mozzarella cheese.

3 Pumpkin pie with a small layer of torched sugar serveddownload11 with black coffee.

Wild caught vs Farmed fish

This is a subject that I feel very strongly about. I, being from Alaska, know what quality wild caught salmon has to offer. The flavor and texture sings on the pallet. Farmed salmon is becoming a bigger and bigger market each year due to weaker wild runs. Over fishing and pollution is rapidly declining salmon runs. Higher regulations are being placed to protect salmon runs with mild success.

There are actually a lot different health quality’s between farmed and wild caught salmon. Wild caught salmon is leaner than farmed salmon by 32%. Farmed salmon swim far less than wild salmon so contain more fat. The extra fat makes the farmed salmon significantly higher in calories. Also wild caught salmon are higher in nutrients such as calcium, iron and potassium.

Most salmon farmers will tell you that farmed salmon are almost the same nutritionally as wild caught. The site i got most of my information from would disagree.

http://www.prevention.com/which-healthier-wild-salmon-vs-farmed-salmon

I think for the time being farmed fish are important. Restoring the salmon runs needs to be a priority. I personally would not eat a farmed salmon fillet, but I have smoked farmed salmon and it does come out good. If you want a really good plank or grilled salmon its wild caught all the way. salmonSockeyeRawSmall