Lactobacillus (and others!) Fermented Hot Sauce – Tasting Notes

There’s a good reason that the tasting notes for this took so long time appear, and that’s because it took a fair few weeks to ferment!

Initially it sat about for a couple of days sitting around doing pretty much zip, and then magically sprung to life and started making these big old gas pockets in the pepper pulp and a very definite watery layer started to appear from the bottom up.

20150207_222846Then it really got into it’s stride and at one point was pushing the sauce out of the top of the bottle.

After a few more weeks, nearly all of the pulp turned to a viscous liquid and I declared the fermentation done.  I’m sure I could have kept it a lot longer, but I’m an impatient sort and I wanted some sauce to splash on my food.

I strained the mash into a jug, pumped up the volume by about a third using white vinegar (as this should help to preserve it, in or out of the fridge)

Then it was time for bottling.  One of the girls in our staff restaurant at work has been saving Tabasco bottles up for me – which has been very helpful.  I had to use a syringe to get it into the weeny openings on the bottles, which is a bit of a faff – but it’s no biggie.

IMG-20150312-WA0004The finished sauce smells and looks great – a really nice Tabasco orangey-red…for about an hour – and then it starts to separate.  Really badly.  A quick shake solves it, but it’s a bit disappointing.  I’ll probably make it a lot thicker next time and not use as much water in the volume.

Taste wise it’s hot, but not powerfully so and the garlic-fruitiness is well to the fore.  I’ve been through a lot of this sauce in a very short time and will definitely be making it again.  It’s too nice not to!

Lactobacillus (and others!) Fermented Hot Sauce

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Time for another small departure from the norm…this time it’s a fermented hot sauce.  I had to do quite a bit of research on this one as there are so many sources (geddit?) of information and recipes on the web, that it all got a bit confusing.

Before you go “eurgh!” just remember that Tabasco sauce is a fermented chilli sauce and they ferment it for something like three years! (http://www.tabasco.com/tabasco-products/how-its-made/making-original-tabasco-sauce/)

So eventually I came up with the following list of ingredients.  As long as you have the salt, water and chillies you can forget the rest – I only include them because I want something that’ll  work – the other ingredients just being providing either sugar for the Lactobacillus (and friends) or additional flavouring.

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DO NOT WASH ANY OF THESE INGREDIENTS…
6x fat hot red chillies
2x Scotch Bonnet chillies
1x carrot
1/2 a sweet pepper
3x garlic cloves
1x 330cl of bottled water (don’t use tap water, it has chlorine in it)
1 and 1/2 table spoons of sea salt
1x outer cabbage leaf

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I took the bottled water and brought it to the boil and then dissolved the salt in it.  Don’t use iodised salt, use sea salt – it’ll work better (apparently)

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Then I roughly chopped the peppers and put them in the hand blender pot with the other veg (but not the cabbage leaf).  I poured just enough of the salted water in to allow me to blend the lot to a reasonably smooth consistency.

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I chopped the cabbage leaf finely and stirred that into sauce mix.

After sanitising my bottle, I transferred the lot into it and made sure that it was just covered with a bit more of the salted water and then put sanitised tin foil over the bottle top.

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Now I leave it and try not to faff about with it – before long the Lactobacillus should get going on it.  I’ve no idea when it’s finished, or even when it’ll start.  Talk about flying blind.  I took a quick taste and it’s quite nice as it and very hot indeed.  Lovely.

What’s going on in the background:

Apparently we have to provide a warm, dark and salty environment to allow the Lactobacillus to get to work – Lactobacillus is the prime fermenter in Sauerkraut, which is why I’ve included a cabbage leaf in this recipe – cabbage leaves tend to harbour Lactobacillus bacteria naturally (hence the “no washing” advice”!)

As the Lactobacillus gets going it’ll convert the natural sugars from the chillies and veg into lactic acid, which should work as a preservative – as the environment will be far too acidic to support spoilage bacteria, moulds or whatever.

We’ll see…

Further sources (ha, see what I did there?) of information:

https://matthumbard.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/food-fermentation-1-fermented-hot-sauces/

http://kitchenlib.com/basics/why-i-dont-use-whey-as-a-vegetable-fermentation-starter/

Yeast stir-plate build

You can tell when this home-brewing has stopped being just a hobby and become a weird obsession; it starts with a bit of canned kit brewing, then you go to extract and before you know it you’re doing all-grain.  Then you start building temperature controllers, brew-fridges and all manner of other shite that clutters up your house.  For my money, the ultimate “you’ve getting into this too deep” accessory is the yeast stir-plate.

Eh?  Whassat?

A stir-plate is just a way of keeping a yeast starter in constant motion and adding in a steady supply of oxygen – so that when you come to pitch the yeast starter into the wort, your yeasty mates are in perfect condition.

People who ferment their beer from yeast starters report better attentuation in their fermentation, improved taste in the finished beer and increased virility in the bedroom.

I’m also hoping that it’ll mean that I can culture up yeasts from bottles of commercial beer that I’ve particularly enjoyed (Hook Norton, Adnams and crazy Belgian beers especially)

There are already tons of posts and articles on other blogs detailing how they made their stir plates and why they make starters, etc.  So I’m going to just include the information here that I found useful and had to hunt around for, plus some pictures of my incredibly shoddy workmanship (it’s no surprise that I work in IT and am not a craftsman or tradesman)

20150122_201031It’s basically a lunchbox, with a computer fan, some neodymium (rare earth) magnets, a rheostat and an old phone transformer.

Here’s the parts list and where they came from:

  • Lunchbox from the cheapskates shop (£1.39)
  • 5v Phone Charger (Free from the parts bin at work)
  • 12v PC case fan (1x bottle of homebrew to the guys in desktop support at work)
  • 50x 10mm x 1mm rare earth magnets ( £3 or so from fleabay, I used six of them)
  • 1x 25ohm 3Watt Rheostat (£4 fleabay)
  • Electrical tape and Blu-tack
  • Some m4 long shank bolts and nuts to secure the fan to the lid of the lunchbox

As you can see I’ve very professionally attached the magnets to the fan hub using Blu-Tack.  It’s the only thing that worked.  “No more nails” was a dead loss.  Araldite would probably have worked:

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I wired the positive in to the central pole of the rheostat and the positive from the fan to the left pole.  This seemed to work OK.  I also had to use a 5v power supply as a 12v caused the fan to skitter around the room whenever powered on (with or without the rhesostat):

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Once we were all assembled I only had to put the Borosilicate 1L flask on top (£9 fleabay again) and drop in the smallish magnetic PTFE-covered stir-bar from the set I bought (7 pc set £9 fleabay)

With the rheostat set to about halfway you get a nice little whirlpool – which should be enough to get a starter going:

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..and if you really crank it up, you get a right old vortex!:

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Brewing with the seasons…

After brewing up my Dark Star Festival ale in the last hot, golden, days of late summer and ending up with the fruitiest most estery-tasting ale ever; I’ve decided to change my approach and try to brew more in line with the seasons and the prevailing temperatures.

I’m quite lucky – living slap-bang in the middle of England, as the temperature variance for the whole year is never much outside of -5C and +25C so it’s not like I ever have to contend with real extremes of temperature like our US cousins.

Now, we all know that yeast (ale yeast in particular) can be a funny old beast – once you take it out of it’s temperature comfort zone it’s liable to do all manner of crazy things: too high and it’ll rip through a wort and produce all manner of off-tastes, fusel alcohols and other weirdness in the finished beer; too cold and it’ll produce unrelenting blandness and maybe even give up the ghost completely – leaving you with a half-fermented and way-too-sweet finished product.

Fortunately, there’s a wide variety of beer styles that I can try to pair up with the prevailing weather and make the most of it…

So, let’s take a look at the various maximum temperatures for my neck of the woods, the temperature it’s likely to be inside my house as a result and which yeast types are likely to be happiest:

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A tiny table!  You can click on it to view the detail…

Well that’s interesting, isn’t it?  It looks like I’m pretty much good to brew ales and stouts all year round – apart from the very hottest three months of the year.  But that’s no problem as I can easily get on with some Saison and Belgian ale brewing when the temperature is above 20C.

From what I’ve read the Belgians ferment their ales up to 30C – Belgian yeasts seeming to be selected to be pushed hard at high temperatures – that’s where they love to produce their characteristic phenols and flavour profiles.

Some Saison yeasts seem happiest at temperature in excess of 30C!  I’ve also read that fermenting Saisons at under 18C is not worth it as it just doesn’t deliver a good enough flavour profile.

Notice that any form of bottom-fermenting Lager yeasts are right out – they’re only happy at temperatures below 10C for the most part.  That’s where I may need to invest in a brew fridge.

At last, I now feel that I have some sort of order in my brewing calendar…that is until I’ve sorted out the aforementioned brew fridge – then the world will be my oyster!  Lagers in July, anyone?

In defence of Safbrew S33 yeast

0001439_safbrew-s-33-115-gThere.  I’ve said it…

I used S33 on my latest oatmeal and coffee porter – and whilst it’s not displaying any Belgian craziness so far, it certainly did the job I asked it to:  i.e. taking a 1063 wort down to 1013 in under two weeks.

There are some things to be aware of, though, and these are things that I think helped me out a lot:

  • Don’t expect WLP001 or US-05 performance – you aren’t going to get to 1009.  It just ain’t going to happen
  • It won’t get below 1020 if the temperature is below 20C and certainly not if it fluctuates.  This yeast looks like it’ll stall out at the first opportunity, so cosset it and keep it comfy
  • Although I said it’s not Belgian crazy, it is estery.  I’ll report back further on that as the porter develops and ages
  • Don’t expect rapid flocculation: even though the bottles are looking clear, there’s still a certain cloudiness near the bottom.  You WILL need to cold condition for a while.  Even the corny keg is not clear yet (8 days later)
  • I have no plans to use this  yeast in anything other than “dark” strong beers.  Not IPAs, Not Bitters or anything else like that.  I am, however, very keen on putting it though it’s paces with stouts and maybe even fruit beers

So there you go.  Give S33 a whirl and see how you get on…I’d love to hear your experiences, so comments are welcome…

http://www.fermentis.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/SFBS33.pdf

Medlaaaaaaaar!

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(it’ll probably help more if you shout the title out loud very in the style of Bruce Dickinson out of Iron Maiden.  I used to know someone who used to get very drunk and go up to rockers in the street and pretty-much scream “Met-laaaaaar” in their faces just like that.

You really had to be there, I suspect…and he did get very good at running away quickly…

Anyway.  Glory be.  A review of fruit.  Whaaat? (alright, you can drop the Bruce Dickinson thing, now)

Medlars (Mespilus Germanica) are a strange sort of cross between a crab apple, and a rosehip.  When they’re on the tree they’re as hard as iron and completely inedible.  But if you leave them alone until about now (November) they start to breakdown – and there’s no easy way to say this – rot…well, rot and ferment.

Yes, ferment, that’s better.

The traditional name for this rotting/fermenting is “Bletting” (which is an old french word meaning over-ripe) and once our Medlars have bletted sufficiently, see below, they are transformed…

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an eviscerated Medlar

Slightly wrinkled, and yielding to the touch you simply have to slice them open to reveal the slightly unappetising looking innards.  If you think that’s bad, you’ll be even more happy to learn that the French call them cul de chien (Dog’s arses) because if you look closely they do look a bit like dog’s ring-pieces.

Despite the appearance, the rotting and the canine connotations, the aroma is actually pretty good and very complex: almonds, marzipan and sweet apple with dates and a slight peppery-lemon on the back edge.

The mouth-feel is, well, an odd experience – largish stones/pips take up a fair bit of space in the two inch fruiting body, so you’ll need to work around them with a spoon.  The flesh is soft and grainy – a bit like the brown bits you get in old apples. but the taste is the most surprising: apples, spiciness, dates and dried figs with a solid streak of citrussy lemon running through.  There’s almost an apple pie and custard sort of theme to it, too.

You can cook with them, but that seems like a lot of faff.  Apparently they go especially well with wine.  I think a nice Belgian beer like a Duvel or even a wheat beer would be even better.

As mentioned above – the best way to eat them is to go at them with a spoon.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mespilus_germanica