Monday, November 29, 2010

The Wildabeast Has Been Caged

Today was the first ever "bottling day" at the Willoughby Brewery. In preparation I rose early and scrubbed the heck out of 60 beer bottles. I expected to use about 48 but wasn't sure, so wanted to be prepared.

After they were scrubbed, and rinsed in a disinfectant, it was time to bring out the guest of honor. The carboy full of Wildabeast Weizen.

A thing of beauty, to be sure. Rick and I gazed on it lovingly, like proud parents. Now for the hardest part of the whole thing, how to get the luscious brew from the carboy into the bottling bucket. Rick's first attempts failed. He mentioned sucking on the tube which elicited a big "hell no" from yours truly. I excused myself to go check with my good friend, YouTube, to find out the proper way to prime the siphon. Once we'd got a handle on that little dilemma, the rest went smoothly.

Isn't that a sight for sore eyes? Rich, deep, dark beauty. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm!

Once the beer was mixed with the carbonating sugar, it was time for the last step. Bottling.

We ended up with 46 bottles, with a little left over for sampling. This was the BEST flat beer I ever had the pleasure to drink. Absolutely fabulous. I can't wait to taste it when it's actually bubbly.

After taking all the time to remove labels, there's no way in hell I'm gonna put labels back on each individual bottle. Instead, I put a code on each cap. WW for Wildabeast Weizen. And I enclosed a label in each box.

We'll let these set for a week and then we plan to sample a bottle next Sunday, just to see how things are progressing. It will probably be 2 to 3 weeks before it's all done and ready. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Everyday Bread Recipe

My husband requested I make some "white" bread. He also asked for thicker slices. I am happy to oblige. I am using a modified version of this recipe for white bread from Here is my version:

Willoughby Daily Bread

1 tsp. sugar
6 3/4 tsp (3 packages) yeast
2 cups warm water

Mix together in a bowl, with a whisk, and pour into a large mixing bowl. Add:
1 cup sugar
4 cups of warm water
Mix well and let sit for 10 minutes. I put mine in my KitchenAid mixer.
3 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (one stick) melted butter
6 cups unbleached flour

Mix on slow speed for 3 minutes. Pour into a very large mixing bowl. Add:
7 cups of unbleached flour (a cup at a time)
Mix with a wooden spoon after every addition.
Turn out onto floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, adding more unbleached flour as needed. Put 1/4 cup of oil in a large bowl. Roll dough around, to coat all sides. Cover with a cotton dish towel and place in a warm, draft free place and allow to rise until doubled. Pour out onto a floured surface and punch down. Cut into 4 pieces, form into loaves and place into 4 large buttered (or oiled) loaf pans.
Melt 2 TBS. Butter and brush tops of loaves.
Again cover and let rise until doubled. Remove cotton towel. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaves for 35 minutes or until they are deep brown and sound hollow when tapped. Allow loaves to cool before slicing. This bread freezes well.

Makes 4 large loaves.

HINT: I allow my dough to rise in the oven, with just the oven light on. Then I leave the pans in the oven while it preheats. Be sure to take the towel off, before baking. LOL

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I'm Still Here...And it's Snowing.

Pardon my silence. I've been fighting a nasty cold and had just enough energy to get through my workday. But I'm feeling better. There hasn't been a whole lot going on this week. The beer is still fermenting, as is the closet wine. I did send the husband on a shopping trip to the brew shop, Beer Essentials, and had him pick up some more gold beer bottle caps, some wine yeasts, a carboy handle, 4-one gallon jugs, and 4 bubbler airlocks. I've saved up enough for my wine starter kit. I just have to decide which one I want. In the meantime I found a lady over in Gig Harbor who's boyfriend is a wine rep. She hooked me up with approx. 40 wine bottles and they are getting a bubble bath as I type.

I found her via Freecycle. I love Freecycle. And Craigslist (as you already know). Here are this week's Craigslist bargains: A vintage Pendleton wool/cashmere pea coat, in new condition, for $40 (and the seller delivered it to me at work).

And this Worm Factory worm bin, for $45 (delivered to my front door). This bin is selling for $109 on

My worm colony is bursting at the seams. The worms have been multiplying like crazy this summer. I already have one stacking worm bin but it's time to start a new high rise. Last , but not's snowing here in Tacoma, WA. That's right, SNOW!

It's not slowing down the chickens, though. They are good ol' PacNW hens. All 3 of them laid an egg today.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Willoughby Brewing Company (part two)

Today it was finally time to move the Weizen to the secondary fermenter. I never thought that yeast would settle down. We've named this batch Wildabeast Weizen because the yeast was so robust. First thing's first. I sanitized the carboy, tubes and airlock.

I also wiped down the spigot with a bleach solution.

Then it was time to rinse everything well and hook it up to the fermenting bucket. I couldn't resist sampling some. It was sweet and rich. Can't wait until it's done. Look at the lovely deep caramel color.

Now we wait 14 days, and then it's time to bottle it up.

Ghetto Neck Winery's First Batch

The weather is dark, dreary and drizzly, here in the Pacific Northwest. Time for indoor amusements. And the perfect time to get my feet wet in wine making. I had the recipe, and the equipment already assembled. And now I found myself with a large block of time. The recipe is located here, on I read through the reviews and made an adjustment to the amount of sugar. Many reviewers said that 4 cups was too much. One reviewer claimed that 2 cups per gallon was sufficient, I decided to meet them halfway, and use 3 cups per gallon. The following is the recipe, as I made it, including my more detailed instructions.

Ghetto Neck Homemade Closet Wine

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
3 cups sugar
1 (12 fluid ounce) can frozen juice concentrate - any flavor except citrus, thawed
1 gallon glass or plastic jug, with a lid
1 good quality balloon
1 rubber band

Make sure you have 100% juice. The first step is to make sure your frozen concentrate is completely thawed. Next, assemble your equipment. Wash everything you'll be using with soap and water. Rinse well. Now you'll need to sanitize everything that will come in contact with your wine. Bleach water is fine, but don't get too carried away. You want to be able to rinse the bleach smell and taste off the items. No one wants bleach flavored wine. I think 1 TBS. of unscented bleach per gallon of water is enough. You're sanitizing...not sterilizing. Fill the jugs with bleach water, along with your glass measuring cup. Also rinse out the balloons, well, and soak them, the rubber bands, the jug caps and any plastic measuring spoons/cups you'll use, in a glass bowl of bleach water. Let everything soak for 30 minutes. Now you're ready to begin. It's easiest to make multiple gallons, at the same time. You can use the same measuring equipment. Just be careful not to recontaminate it. Set items on plastic wrap or tin foil, between uses.

Step 1: Rinse out the jug, with warm water. I rinse (and shake) 3 times. You want to get all the bleach out.

Step 2: Rinse the plastic measuring cup, and the whisk. Dissolve the yeast in warm tap water. Don't worry about water amounts. As for temperature, you want it warm enough to dissolve, but not too hot. Dissolving your ingredients, at each addition, makes them much easier to get them into the jug. Don't worry if there is a little yeast left in the measuring cup. It will eventually all wind up in the jug, since you're going to use that cup to add the remaining ingredients.

Step 3: Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, the same way you did the yeast, making sure to dissolve it well before pouring.

Step 4: Pour the concentrate into the measuring cup. Put a little water in the container and stir with the whisk to get the last bit of juice. Pour that into the cup, as well, and add it all to the jug.

Step 5: At this point you should have the yeast, sugar, and juice in the jug. Now fill the jug up the rest of the way with room temperature water. Be sure to leave some space at the top. At least an inch or so. Now rinse the jug cap, place it firmly on the jug, and shake it really well. You want to get that yeast and sugar mixed up. Remove the cap (wash and re sanitize if needed for the next gallon). Rinse your balloon out well. Place it over the open top of the jug. Rinse your rubber band and secure it to the base of the balloon. YOU DID IT!

Now you need to find a dark place, room temperature, to put the jugs so the yeast can work its magic. I opted for the bottom of the linen closet. I set everything on an old towel, just in case. At this point I have no idea what to expect.

I checked on the jugs an hour after placing them in the closet. 2 of the balloons were already inflated. I took a sewing needle, ran a flame over it to sterilize, and poked 5 holes in each balloon. HINT: It is much easier to poke holes into them once they are inflated. You need to poke the holes to allow the carbon dioxide gas to escape. Don't worry about nasties getting in. The gas is coming out with such force that nothing is going to get in. Besides, to holes are really tiny.

After another hour, all the balloons were inflated (and pierced). Boy, are they ever noisy. Just hissing away. We'll leave them be, and check in on them in 3 weeks. At that time I plan to rack (siphon) the wine into glass jugs, leaving the lees (sediment) behind.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Christmas Wine

The beer is still doing its thing. The plan is to move it to the secondary fermenter (carboy) on Sunday. In the meantime I found this nifty recipe for an easy homemade wine. I want to get into making "real" wine, with fruit, but the season has passed. So I will make due with this. And it looks like fun! I couldn't wait to assemble my ingredients for Roxi's ghetto (or red neck) winery. Here are my fancy fermenters.

My super high tech airlocks.

And my fruit juice. Only the best!

The plan is to get these going on Sunday. I want them to be ready to drink by Christmas. I'm making 4 different varieties: Grape, white grape/raspberry, apple/raspberry, and cranberry blend. Yum! I was so excited to get started, I had to run out to Safeway and pick up the juice and balloons right away. Unfortunately they didn't have bags of balloons. WTH??? But they sold them in the floral section for $.25 each. Yikes! Oh well, it's for a good cause ('cause I want some wine). The lady asked what colors I wanted for the balloons? "Um, they're for wine airlocks, and I doubt the wine will care". She still sorted through and made sure I had 4 different colors (shrug). The fermenting jugs are mostly from my fabric softener (white vinegar) with one milk jug thrown in for good measure (because I didn't have 4 of the others).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Beer Update: Narrowly Averted Disaster.

Lucky me. I was blessed, the first time out, with an extremely happy, hard working yeast. Yesterday was quite exciting. It started with the bubbler leaking beer onto the top of the fermenter.

Is this why they call it a "bubbler"?

I swapped out the bubblers, replacing this dirty one with a clean one. I came home for lunch at about 3pm. Good thing I checked on the beer, as the situation was critical. Sorry, I forgot to take a picture. I was too busy panicking. The top of the fermenter was covered in beer sludge, the bubbler was clogged, and the top of the fermenter was bulging. I'm not very smart, but even I knew this was very, very bad. I was minutes away from having beer sprayed all over the ceiling. I did a quick sanitize on the other airlock and switched them out. Probably just in time. When I checked on it, after work, everything had settled down. I think the worst is over. The bubbler is now doing a gentle blub, blub.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Willoughby Brewing Company (part one)

My dear husband bought me a deluxe brewing kit for our 28th wedding anniversary. Nothing says love like 10 gallons of home brew! Last night we rounded up all our equipment.

This morning he and I set about mixing our first batch, a weizen. This will make 5 gallons. That's a LOT of beer. Yay! While he brought the 2 gallons of water to a boil, I sanitized the equipment. I will probably end up preferring bleach for a sanitizer, but I used the iodine type stuff that came with the kit, for most of the items, this time. I'm not digging the way it stains. And bleach is cheaper. And you know I'm a thrifty girl. I soaked the lid for the fermenter, separately, and in bleach.

Once the water in the brewpot was boiling we added the wheat malt syrup and the dry malt extract.

We also added the Saaz hops.

Then it boiled for 50 minutes until it was time to add the Hallertaurer hops. It boiled another 10 minutes and then the wort was ready to cool, in a cold water bath, then add to the fermenter, along with 2 gallons of cold water. The straining of the hops, as the wort was poured, was the only tricky thing that would've been next to impossible for me to do all on my own. I will rig up some kind of cover for the fermenter, with a hole drilled for the funnel, so I can do this all myself. Rick wanted to aerate the wort, so we poured it back and forth, between the brewpot and the fermenter, about 6 times.

At this point Rick had to leave for work, which meant I'd have to finish on my own. Once the wort had cooled below 80 degrees I pitched the yeast (a nice Hefeweizen) and secured the fermenter lid (which involved a hammer).

Then it was time to lug the thing to the fermenting room (aka the spare bedroom) and attach the bubbler airlock.

Now we just have to let the yeast do its thing.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Blanket Of Leaves

I am feeling quite smug, having gotten my backyard all clean and tidy for the winter. I even mulched the garden, for the first time ever. We'll see how well it works. I put down a good layer of newspaper, then covered it over with the gorgeous leaves from my sour wood tree. The leaves make the garden look like it's covered in an orange blanket.

I had a little left over, so began mulching the back corner garden.

And I have pruned all the spent canes from the raspberries and tied the good canes up and out of the way.

I hope to get my indoor garden sown this weekend. And I also plan on making my first batch of beer. I love weekends!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Under Pressure

I had been looking for a used pressure canner. They've been hard to come by, over the summer. But I put out a request on the Puyallup Freecycle list and was fortunate to find a lady who had one sitting unused in her garage. Remember when that David Bowie/Queen collaboration, "Under Pressure", came out in 1981? Well this pressure cooker was around before that. Look at the groovy box.

Apparently this lady had not canned in a long, LONG time. When I opened up the box, this was inside. Notice the old-school price labels. No bar codes on these babies.

The only thing it didn't come with were instructions. And those were easy to find online.

I made the mistake of asking the husband if he'd like me to bake some white bread, for a change. Of course he would. I guess it's the least I can do after months of forcing the family to eat my wheat bread. Here are four loaves of white bread, fresh out of the oven.