Friday, March 23, 2007

fungal and games, maybe even a lesson

We like doin' it the old fashioned way here at the monkey ranch. Whenever possible, we strongly encourage making things with the use of critters! Fungus among us? Put it to work!

When my kid asks for "fizzy juice," (and there is no way I'm gonna give her a soda cuz' of all the crap in 'em), I think, why not make ginger ale? I'd give her some homemade of that as a sanctioned soft drink for sure. Boil up some ginger tea with honey, let loose a few fungi beasties and let them work wonders. Yeah......that's the ticket. A quick trip to the grocery store for ginger and the beer store for yeast and we're in business.

Simple ingredient recipes can be deceiving. Lots of time and cleaning. Finely shredded ginger, a couple of gallons of fresh water, over a pint of honey, and about an hour of boiling and you are nowhere near done. Cooked yes, ready no. Hot ginger, no ale.

After all that boiling, you need to cool it all off for the yeasty beasty so you don't kill it. Big deep sink of cold circulating water does wonders for this. Mix well, split into two batches and flavor one with some freshly squeezed tangelo plus "some of this daddy, so mommy knows we love her" (nutmeg), while making sure containers for storage are cleaned and ready. Put unflavored batch into one gallon polycarbonate jug to use as judge for baseline and measure of subsequent carbonation. Bottle the flavored batch right away. Put into oven to experience 80-ish degrees for a wee bit to help get fermentation/carbonation going. Intentionally forget about it.

Check a few times while forgetting:
2 hours and the bottle is looking rounded some.
Wow, at only 5 hours, quite a head must be forming behind that swelling plastic bottle.
At near 8 hours, very tight and swollen, check. PPPFFFFFTTSSSSSSSSS!
Nice. Seems they could go longer though. Bottle the plain batch and put back in door cracked open oven with tangelo version for storage in warm place overnight.
At 16-ish hours (next morning), wake amateur self up and check in on experiment. Bottles look good, some bubbles near the top. What is this? Small glints of green...........shards perhaps? Sh_t!

Only one had "grenaded" during the night. Luckily, I had a pan under it that caught most of the liquid. Messy and filled with glass bits, but contained in the yeasty oven. Begin clean up and put everthing in the fridge to chill and try when cold. While cleaning, pretend how CSI would have determined the burst occurred........somewhere around 4 to 5 am, rampant carbon dioxide formation put excess stress on a weak seam in the container resulting in roughly 30% volume being aspirated in characteristic array toward far wall of oven, while remainder cascades down broken shards and onto cookie pan and oven bottom. More liquid then evaporated in the dry conditions of the stove, resulting in the seeming discrepancy between bottle capacity and liquid found at the scene. Sorry, brain does these things sometimes. I contemplate how best to capture the lesson I should take from this. Got it.

Homebrewing Lesson One: Use secondary containment next time you find self behaving so casually with carbonated glass containers.

2 hours later and yummy! Nice honey smoothness and sharp ginger bite. Tangelo and nutmeg batch also very nice. Different, but Mommy felt the love.

The following day, go to grandma's to play "name that quiche." Looks like spring, smells like garlic goat. Holy mobile hen-house, these eggs were dark yellow when scrambled. I knew it would be good before I put it in the oven. I like that.

The nearly all butter crust dripped some, burning and smelling up the place. Small inconvenience. If you own a kitchen exhaust fan, perhaps you should turn it on sometime. We have these fans for this reason, amongst a few others.

Quiche came out good. Dark yolks imparted dark eggy custard. Evening light out on the deck accentuated it. Heady smell of feta and garlic was perfecto. Quark instead of cream also lent a nice tang. Whole wheat crust, flakey and buttery. All of which went rather nicely with the ginger ale. Write this one down I tell myself.

Thursday, read a tasty post about pizza and decide I can't do without. Use two pizza stones in the oven in a new configuration and play the 8 minute, 2 cheese and 4 herbs pizza game. I love it, what's not to like at that single digit speed.

Of course, the oven took nearly an hour to heat up, but you should forget that and focus on how long it took to cook it.

With pizza a huge success, I had high hopes for the bread, and they were realized. A 'normous french loaf was to be had, done in a mere 17 minutes.

I believe the homebrew russian red 22 ouncer only lasted 13 minutes, so I guess you could say the whole numbers game sped up with the double pizza stone action.

Champagne yeast is amazing stuff. For a full three plus minutes, tiny bubbles escaped from the top of the bottle before settling down. And this was 5 days after making it. Apparently refrigeration doesn't necessarily stop the fermenting with this strain, just retards it some. Probably has a point of alcohol by now, sure smells like it. Next time I'll use half the packet of yeast in this recipe. I'll also try another one and shoot for something more like ginger beer, not soda ale. A plan is in the works.

While enjoying the "fizzy juice" Aunty reminded me of the delicious tuna she had recently bought. I immediately went inside and whipped up a sammich with the can she got me. Lip smackin' albacore I'm tellin' ya. If you enjoy tuna and can get this near you, try it. Muy delicioso! I especially recommend it mixed with mayonaise, capers, freshly ground mustard seed and a pinch of salt. On homemade sourdough of course.

If you've never played with a packet of yeast, or grown your own, try it. It's fun and tasty. And possibly alcoholic.

Because in my effort to share more, I just had to write a few down:


2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 stick butter
1 cup ice water
pinch of salt

chop butter and freeze. put flour into food processor and pulse with salt briefly. add butter and pulse until crumbly. remove from processor and gently mix in water until it begins sticking together. stir and handle as little as possible. gather into a ball, wrap and place in fridge for a few hours.

small head of broccoli
small yellow onion
2 small carrots

saute in olive oil, onion and carrots first, then broccoli until tender. remove from heat.

8 ounces garlic quark
6 ounces grated feta
2 ounces grated dry jack
4 eggs

mix together and add veggie saute. shape crust into desired dish and fill. bake at 400 for first 15 minutes, then 350 for next 30-40. let sit for a minute before cutting. breathe in tangy garlic goat on buttered wheat. eat.

and just because I love a nice pizza pie:


sourdough crust
tomato paste
3 ounces colby jack cheese
2 ounces dry jack
pinch of rosemary
a few sprigs of parsley
a couple of big-leaf thyme branches
one nice stick worth of oregano leaves

shape dough and smear with paste. add the cheese and top with minced herbs. crack some pepper over it. let rest for 20-30 minutes before putting on extremely hot stone (500-550). bake for 8 minutes. eat half before putting on plate.


Mimi said...

Hi Monkey Wrangler,
Great blog! I have been happily reading about your adventures for a couple of weeks now. Anyone who can cart sourdough starter into the back country in a back pack and make pizza is my hero.

I came across your blog by way of sourdough. I started my first starter in January and have been making all sorts of things with it every weekend. Your latest batch of bread looks so good! I have a favor to ask you. If you get a chance in the near future, can you write a blog entry detailing your bread recipe and procedure? It would help me out a lot to see what you are doing to get such nice looking loaves.

Thanks and keep up the good work,

Mallika said...

Ingenious, if slightly devious plan. The shards of glass would have done me in touch. Very, very brave of you...

Mallika said...

I meant, done me in "though". Doh!

HipWriterMama said...

I am in awe of the ginger ale making. I second the vote on your recipe for making sourdough bread. How do you make the starter and how do you keep it, er, pungently fresh?

cookiecrumb said...

Mr. Wrangler:
Would you be so noble as to cruise on by my blog and click on my profile page and get my email address and drop me a line? So I can get your email address?
Thank you very kindly.

Schweitz said...

Love the CSI moment - Dana makes fun of me all the time for going off on strange tangents while cooking. I'll have to point her to this post as proof that I'm not the only one.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Mimi: Hello and thanks for dropping by the ranch! I have been thinking of doing another sourdough basics post and soon. Thanks for the suggestion....stay tuned.

Mallika: Shards of glass are long as alcohol is involved. Kidding! The mess sucked to clean least my oven was spiffed up a bit. I'm woking on a higher alcohol version as I write this. No really, I can hear the bottles hissing a bit from the action of the yeast.

HWM: Thanks! I'll work on that sourdough thing for a post in the near future.

CC: Catch you soon!

Schweitz: Tangential cooking is the's kind of like cooking things indirectly. It may take more time, but your less likely to screw it up by burning it. If only I could get out ALL that weird stuff, there would be more room for exploration upstairs.

Freya and Paul said...

Great Quiche Recipe, even better Ginger Ale...would chillis be a shortcut to extra heat or just disaster do you think?

Callipygia said...

Hey the whole cooking venture sounds great- I'll bet the Ginger beer was nice with the whole thing. I'm a sucker for tuna tho, so that got my vote.

Monkey Wrangler said...

F&P: I just about always recommend using chilis for whatever you want hotter. Are you referring to disaster for the ale? I think it would be just fine.....worthy of an experiment indeed.

Calli: That tuna was SO GOOD! If you can't find it, I'll send it in a Birthday gift-box someday.....when? (put it in an email sometime)

Tea said...

My gosh, you've been busy.

I was at Biggles' house this weekend and he gave me a pinch of your salt to taste. Holy moley--it's salty! Amazing. I used Maldon for eating salt (as opposed to cooking salt) because I like the flake action, but it's nowhere near as salty as your product. And you got cool flakes, too. Nicely done. Perhaps you're also a salt wrangler...

Kevin said...

Two stones? That's dedication.

Monkey Wrangler said...

Tea: Yeah, I'm always busy, it's just a matter of how much I document it.

Thanks for the salty opinion, based on your salt-forbidden family as a child you probably have an acute sense of it's zing. As for the "extra" saltiness.....probably comes from one of the other salts (than NaCl) that you're tasting in it. Ssshh. I'm going out to Tomales Bay after writing this to go collect more water......I'll keep you in the loop via Biggles.

Kevin: One of the stones is a piece of slate, that did not survive the last bread baking use (cracked in two with a very jagged edge) so no more baking on that one......but it continues to act as a radiant source, placed on the rack above the bread or pizza. I really dig the results. Call it dedication, sure, thanks. But it might also just be a geologist playing with rocks.....and getting results.

Tea said...

Oooh, definitely keep me posted on the continuing salt chronicles. I think I like salt more than the normal person. You'd think I'd be more sensitive and need less due to years of deprivation, but I actually use quite a bit. Maybe I'm making up for the lost years.

chilebrown said...

Bring me a bottle of that stuff. I will meat you at the Bezerk Farmers Market tomorrow. You know you have to get there at 9:59 AM or earlier at the Fatted Calf Booth. Dr. Biggles will be the first in line you know. Peace, Paul