Hard Apple Cider

17 Oct

It’s apple season! Aside from picking about 20 lbs of apples, we also got a gallon of pasteurized apple cider from Recon Farms. Cider’s actually much easier to brew than beer because there are only two ingredients: apple cider and yeast. Make sure the cider has no preservatives in it; yeast will not be able to grow in cider that has any sort of sorbate in it. After sterilizing and sanitizing everything, these are the rough steps:

Primary fermentation: Oct 11, 2015

  1. Pour all the cider into a 1 gallon glass jug.
  2. Pitch yeast. Use champagne yeast. The 5 oz package was for a 5 gallon batch, but we put all of it in. We also rehydrated the yeast using a bit of warm water; you’re supposed to pitch 1 oz by just sprinkling it on top.
  3. Put a cap and air lock on top. The cap that came with the jug didn’t have a small rubber hole, so we used the rubber tubing to go from the top of the jug into a half gallon of water. The gases could escape through the tube into the half gallon container, but things couldn’t go back up the tube into the jug.

Initial gravity reading: (messed up and made reading after pitching the yeast.) 1.040

Secondary fermentation/Racking: Oct 17, 2015

4. Using a siphon, move all of the cider from the primary jug into a sterilized secondary jug. I moved everything into a large container, washed the primary jug, and moved it back into that container.

5. Cap with an air lock. Didn’t use the half gallon with tubing this time, but just a regular air lock. 2015-10-17 09.51.06 2015-10-17 09.50.37

Final gravity reading (6 days later): 1.010

Poured one cup of cider out for hydrometer reading. It smelled like cider but with a bit of brewing yeast flavor, and a strong alcohol smell. It tasted cool, a little sour, still had some apple flavor, and was not sweet. It was mild and didn’t have a lot of alcohol flavor; no off flavors. Kind of similar to the third jug of apple cider that we bought, left in the car for a day, and is now slightly fermented in the fridge.

Bottling: TBD, about 4 weeks from racking

Resource: http://www.howtomakehardcider.com/rack-bottle.html


Update: Bottling: Dec 22, 2015

Well, what happened was a little bit of residue started forming on the surface of the cider (white yeasty stuff) and a little something was growing in the air lock. So I kind of gave up on this batch. I was disheartened, so instead of dumping it out, we just decided to leave it. 2 months later, I decided to just clean it up. Well, when I opened the cap, it smelled amazing. Not yeasty anymore, not stinky or bitter, but sweet and slightly acidic like fermented apples should. The layer of residue on top of the cider wasn’t mold or bacterial colonies. They looked more like the yeast and foam that had formed from initial fermentation. I decided to go for it anyways. I would be bottling about a gallon of fermented cider into 4-6 bottles of beer that were a bit more than a pint. The largest was 1 pint 9 oz; the smallest large bottle was 22 oz; I also had a clear Corona bottle and a green Granny cider bottle just so I could look in throughout the bottling process.

  1. Cleaning: rinse all the bottles with soap and water. Rinse bottles 2x with C-brite (about half a gallon with a half teaspoon.) I didn’t rinse with regular water but I should have because there were C-brite bits in the cider after bottling, so I had to dump out some precious cider to get rid of it.
  2. Backsweetening with dextrose. I had a 5 oz bag of dextrose from an old batch of beer brewing supplies. I also crushed one half of a campden tablet into the dextrose – not sure how well it mixed. The recommended amount is one tablet per gallon. I have a weird mix of feelings in that I want the yeast to stay around and create bubbles, and I want the yeast to all be gone so that the sugar remains as a sweet element.
  3. Because I bottled first, I now had three ~1 pint bottles and two 12 oz bottles. Ideally I would rerack, mix in the priming sugar and campden into the liquid before bottling. Instead, I guestimated about 1 oz of sugar into each bottle, with more going into the larger ones. Let’s see how this turns out.

Evaluation of the cider. The taste was very tart. It smelled sweet and apple-y but was not, but it was also not vinegary. The hydrometer reading before adding sugar was 0.998 or 1.000. I could not make a post sugar hydrometer reading. So theoretically, the cider is a 10% (!) cider. It sure smells that way.

2015-12-22 17.53.35

2015-12-22 18.23.15

Soy milk: Vitamix vs Soy n Joy

12 Mar


My mother visited and brought two huge bags of soy beans because I told her I like soymilk. I wanted the soy beans because I have a soymilk maker, a Soy n Joy, so I can make my own out of dry beans any time I want, and it is super easy. The convenience of the Soy n Joy is that you can put dry beans into the bean holder, add cold water straight from the sink, and just let it run, and in about 15 minutes you’ll get hot soymilk.

Christine wanted to do a comparison between the Soy n Joy and our Vitamix, which is also able to make soymilk, almond milk, and various butters out of any nut, bean or legume you could imagine. So last night, I soaked a bunch of soybeans, and this morning they were all expanded and some had slightly sprouted. I ended up with about two cups of soybeans.

After boiling the beans, I split them about half ways into the Vitamix and the Soy n Joy.


The Vitamix only blends the beans and water, so they need to be cooked beforehand.


The Soy n Joy usually takes dry beans, blends and heats them together, so it’s more of an authentic soymilk making process. This time, I used the soaked, cooked beans in the Soy n Joy to see if it made the end result better.


The results:

The Vitamix blend is on the left. It definitely came out thicker and more flavorful. The Soy n Joy soy water came out on the right, and this is an atypically bad end result. I think that because I put in soaked beans but didn’t fill up the container, there was half the soybean content that normally goes into the Soy n Joy, and the minimum water level was still 4.2 cups (vs 3 cups for the Vitamix recipe.) The Vitamix soymilk was also thicker because all the ground soybeans are still in the soup, which makes it tasty but also gritty. The Vitamix beans were also not cooked as much; it’s more like a soybean smoothie rather than soymilk. A second trial is needed with the same amount of beans but dry in the Soy n Joy.


Soymilk with the Vitamix

1 cup presoaked soybeans (soak 6-8 hours overnight)

3 cups cold water

Soak soy beans overnight, then take 1 cup of the expanded soybeans and boil them for about 5 minutes on the stove. Drain the original water, and add 3 cups of fresh water along with the beans to the Vitamix. Start at low variable speed, slowly increase to the max variable speed, then change the setting to High speed and blend for about a minute.

Soymilk with the Soy n Joy

~1/2 cup dry beans

1000 ml cold water

Put the beans in the bean holder. Add water up to the bottom line of the water container. Start the machine. Enjoy.

Total time of procrastination: 20 minutes

Ways to prolong procrastination: Eat it with youtial. We have an air fryer, and will do a later post about it.

Homemade Chili and Beer Carnitas

24 Nov

When I moved to San Diego about five years ago, I took with me a love of carnitas burritos from Anna’s Tacqueria. Anna’s?!, you’re probably thinking. Little did I know that Anna’s is far from the gold standard I thought it was. When I tasted real carnitas on that little Mexican border city, my understanding of carnitas leveled up, and my craving for carnitas increased. Since then I’ve evaluated the quality of mexican restaurants everywhere based on their carnitas burritos.

Yet one thing eluded me – the ability to eat homemade pork as tender and flavorful as the carnitas from San Diego. At the local Costco they actually sold a large packet of ready-to-eat carnitas, which was simply an indulgence. Bulk, inexpensive carnitas, local avocados, and beer was the best thing I could ask for on any Sunday afternoon. So now, back in Boston, I’ve occasionally satisfied that need with a lowly Ana’s burrito, but I yearned for large quantities of overindulgence.

So thanks to Smitten Kitchen, I finally found a way to carnitas heaven. I basically used their recipe, just adding a bit more seasoning I had sitting around, and a can of beer. And having learned to cook it for myself, I learned to understand pork even better. I used to only buy the flat porkchops or pork ribs. Now, give me a huge hunk of fatty pork butt or pork shoulder and I will turn it into the juiciest east coast carnitas burrito. Would you like a horchata with that?

Homemade Carnitas with chili peppers basted in beer

3 lbs of pork shoulder or butt, fat on
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon/lime juice
1 beer
2 onions
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Adobo seasoning
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
3 small chili peppers

Cut the pork into 2 inch chunks. In a large steel pot, marinade the pork in orange juice, jemon juice, and beer. Add the dry seasoning and mix. Add water until the meat is just covered. Turn on the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the temperature to a simmer. Cut onions into 2 inch chunks, and peel and crush the garlic. Add the garlic, onions, and chili peppers. Let simmer uncovered for two hours.

After two hours, turn the heat up to medium high and continue to cook, now turning and stirring the meat occasionally.

Keep this up for about 45 minutes, until all the liquid is gone and meat is starting to brown on the edges. When the chunks of pork are slightly browned and will fall apart easily with any poke of a spoon, the carnitas is ready.

Total time of procrastination: 3 hours
Ways to prolong procrastination: Make homemade guac and salsa.

Nutella Swirl Chocolate Chip Cookies

12 Nov

My sister is studying abroad in Denmark this semester, so I mailed her these cookies for her birthday. They haven’t gotten there yet, but hopefully she’ll receive a box of cookies, not crumbs…

I modified the recipe from justJENN recipes. Since I really wanted the Nutella flavor to come through, I used four WHOPPING tablespoons of Nutella and just 1 cup of chocolate chips. Well, the second part was just because I ran out of chocolate chips. But anyway.

I was pretty impressed by how pretty the swirls and crackly tops were on these cookies. Add the Nutella at the absolute last minute, and mix until just swirled. The one downside to having large globs of Nutella was that if they happened to be on the bit of the cookie that’s touching the baking sheet (with no dough in between), they’ll stay on the sheet and leave a big hole in the bottom of the cookie.

This recipe makes 42 generously-sized cookies, which was perfect for my purposes. 21 cookies for my sister on her 21st birthday, and 21 for my friends and me to consume in gluttonous fashion.

Length of procrastination: ~1 hour from raw ingredients to mouth.

Cooking for Mom

1 Nov

My mom’s birthday was a little over a week ago, and my dad and I decided to cook her dinner. She had just returned from a long trip overseas, so we thought a nice meal at home would be much more enjoyable than a noisy restaurant.

It took the two of us two hours to make a meal that would’ve taken my mom less than an hour to make on her own. It was quite the intimidating task. My mom is quite literally the best cook in the world. This is the woman who taught me the concept of mise en place (in Chinese) and the fragrance of scallions in hot oil. She also doesn’t like eating food made by people who can’t cook. So.


Not bad, right? I did accidentally mistake the sugar for salt in one of the dishes and put a little too much wood ear mushroom in another, but my mom usually puts a little sugar in her napa anyway and wood ear mushrooms are good for you.

Happy birthday again, mom!

Garden harvest salad

24 Oct

I say garden harvest a little loosely because I stopped maintaining my backyard garden, and since the summer it’s just been growing a little wildly. However, that didn’t stop the cherry tomatoes to ripen into a nice orange hue, and the overseeded beds of lettuce to thin themselves out until I had tall bunches of mixed greens.

So the recipe is simple, but I decided to post about it because it felt good to finally harvest (for the first and probably only time) my own produce and use it. Also, I am trying to use up some of the vinegar that I got from Nathan when he moved out. Turns out it’s really high quality.

Vinaigrette Corn salad

Harvested ingredients
5 – 10 cherry tomatoes
4 leaves basil
1 large leaf of mesculin green
1 large leaf of lettuce

1/4 cup Kernel corn
1/4 small red onion
olive oil and vinegar, 3 to 1 ratio

Halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes. Dice the red onion. Roughly tear the basil and greens into small pieces. Make the vinaigrette by beating and blending the olive oil and vinegar with a fork, and mix everything in a bowl. Voila!

Total time procrastinated:10 minutes
Ways to prolong procrastination:Make cornbread and turn it into a cornbread salad like this: Cornbread salad

蔥油大餅: Large Chinese Sesame and Scallion Pancake

4 Oct

大餅 (da bing) in Chinese literally means “large pancake.” They are really popular in Chinese restaurants. Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, slightly salted, and covered in white sesame seeds, they’re an awesome substitute for rice at any meal.

This is my mom’s recipe for da bing with scallions. It’s made very similar to scallion pancakes, but uses yeast to give it some rise. As it is a “mom” recipe, it’s made mostly of visual directions and “to taste” instructions. I’ve tried to list the ingredients as accurately as possible.

Makes 4 pancakes

1 tsp yeast
2 cups warm water, divided
1/2 tsp sugar
4 cups AP flour
4 tsp oil, divided, plus more for cooking
2 large bunches of scallions, sliced into small pieces
white sesame seeds

Place the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water and sugar. Let sit for about 10 minutes, until frothy. Combine with the rest of the warm water and flour, and knead for about 20 minutes. I’m sure you can do this with a dough hook on a stand mixer, but I’m not sure how long it will take. Divide dough into four balls of equal size and let rest for about 5 minutes.

Roll out one ball as thin as possible. Spread about 1 tsp of oil evenly across the dough, then sprinkle generously with salt. Spread 1/4 of the scallions over the dough, then roll into a spiral (see pictures). Let rest for about 10 minutes while you repeat the process with the other three balls of dough.

At this point, my mom says that you can wrap the dough tightly in saran wrap and freeze for up to a week, but I haven’t tried it.

When ready to cook, roll out the spirals into pancakes about an 3/4 inch thick. Cover both the top and bottom surfaces with white sesame seeds, pressing the seeds into the dough.

Coat a large pan with a flat bottom in a small amount of oil (or cooking spray) on medium heat. Make sure the pan doesn’t get too hot, else the sesame seeds will burn. Lay each bing individually in the pan and let cook each side until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Use the sides of the pan to cook the sides of the bing. The bing should rise slightly during cooking, and the sides should be hard-to-crunchy to the touch when it’s done cooking.

Length of procrastination: About 1 hour.

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