Not long ago I read a rant by someone who was (rightly) complaining about the poor quality of the ingredients you find in store-bought beer. I thought I would post how I brew my beer so that people could see how simple it really is. It’s also cheaper!
The beer I brew, which is about as complicated as baking bread or a batch of cookies, easily rivals the more expensive beers you can buy in the store. So here we go!
I got my recipe from the people at the store where I buy my ingredients. I start with fresh water. I add 4 cups of rolled barley (I buy organic barley in bulk) to a sock that acts like a tea bag. Then I steep the barley in water that is almost boiling for 30 minutes. Once I have this started, I get out the yeast so that I can bring it to room temperature and I clean and disinfect the primary fermenter.
Brewing beer is similar to making cheese. You must make sure your utensils are extremely clean so that you don’t introduce unwanted yeast or bacteria to your product. Just so you know, the worst that can happen is that you spend money brewing a batch of bad beer. To my knowledge, no one has suffered from food poisoning from a bad batch of beer. You do suffer a financial loss, though, something I think we all want to avoid.
In addition to water, these are the only ingredients you need to successfully brew a good batch of beer: yeast, grains (in this case, barley), a malt extract, corn sugar that you will use later, right before you bottle your beer, and hops.
After you have cleaned and disinfected your primary fermenter and steeped the barley, the next step is to add the malt extract and hops to the barley “tea” and boil your wort. Depending on the recipe, different types of hops are added at different points during the period where your wort is boiling.
When this is finished, you need to cool your wort to room temperature by putting it in an ice water bath so that you can add the yeast without killing it. Just so you know, I have added yeast to wort that was as warm as 95° Fahrenheit and the beer did not suffer. I was just too impatient to wait for it to come down to the prescribed 70° Fahrenheit.
After the wort is cooled, I add more cold water so that the batch comes up to 5 gallons. I then add the yeast, give it a good stir and put the fermentation lock on top of the lid of the primary fermenter. This allows gas to escape without letting wild yeast into your brew. Now I just sit back and wait for it to ferment a little while. In about week, I will move the beer into the secondary fermenter. It will ferment for about a week longer before I bottle it. I’ll post another article on the racking and bottling process.
For those of you who are interested in getting started brewing your own beer, you can purchase everything you need for around $150. Each successive batch costs me between $30 and $50 for a five gallon batch, roughly equal to the amount of beer in two cases.
Brewing beer can be much more complicated than the process I have outlined here. A real food purist might want to grow his own hops. He might want to make his own malt extract instead of having it done for him, sort of like baking a cake from scratch instead of using a mix. He might want to experiment with different grains, different yeasts, different brewing processes. But if you are incurably lazy like I am, you can brew really tasty beer with very little effort.
And for my Catholic friends who prefer to drink blessed beer, here is a link to a blessing for beer. 😀
I am writing this post with the intent to give hope to other amateur gardeners. This is probably the worst gardening year I have ever had. I have completely lacked enthusiasm, the weather hasn’t been too cooperative, weeds are starting to get out of control and whatever I have planted has gone in late.
A couple of years ago, a fellow gardener donated some extra strawberries from his garden to me. I received them in a 5 gallon bucket and dutifully put them in the ground in the garden on the east side of our property near the house. I love fresh strawberries and I hate weeds and I thought this would be the perfect way to have my cake and eat it too. They are thriving despite the rather brutal weather conditions we’ve had here: wind and frigid temperatures in the winter and drought in the summer.
At the time I planted these, there were five scraggly plants at the bottom of the bucket that I didn’t have the heart to throw away, so I threw them into our south garden in an empty spot without much hope they would survive. Out of the five, only one made it, but here is what it looked like this morning.
Look at what that one pathetic plant has turned into! It is now a force the weeds must reckon with! I must confess that I share this picture with shame. This garden has been seriously neglected. On the other hand, it has been interesting to observe just how productive it is with absolutely no help from me. This is the second year that we have had volunteer lettuce and chives. I think I’ve put about an hour’s worth of weeding in this year, just to give the lettuce a little room.
So, I have discovered that with almost no effort, I will have lettuce and chives from my garden this year, that because the strawberries are taking over, I won’t need to weed as much, and that the weeds which used to be the bane of my garden have now yielded to a new ground cover yielding delicious surprises. Moral of the story? You may give up on your garden, but it may not give up on you!
Filed under: Chickens
It’s hard to feel bad when you’re holding a chick.
Filed under: Cows, Raw milk | Tags: cow, cow shares, Jersey calf, Jersey cow, raw milk
Well, we have decided to take the dive and do a cow share program at City Girl Farm. I have been hesitant because we only have Tiddles, our family cow, not a herd of dairy cattle. That makes the risk for the shareholders a little higher since if something were to go wrong and her lactation ended, there aren’t other cows there to take over. On the other hand she produces what a herd of 5 or 6 goats produce so there is plenty of milk! Plus, nothing beats fresh Jersey milk. It’s the best! But my children are getting older (one is gone half the time) and we just can’t drink enough milk, make enough cheese, butter and yogurt to keep up with what she produces after having calved in November.
I also see I owe an apology to the people who followed me for having fallen of the planet the last year. For those of you who care, here are my (pathetic) excuses:
- lost one farm hand to school and then to work
- lost another farm hand to a European vacation last summer
- attended sacred music training last summer
- became the choir director at my church
Ah! I fear I will always be torn between the city and the farm. Glad to be back, though. 🙂
Filed under: Health & Nutrition | Tags: diets, health, hypothyroidism, menopause, nutrition, thyroid, weight loss
We originally decided that we wanted a little bit of land so that I could raise cashmere goats and pursue my spinning hobby. In the four years that we have been here that vision has changed. I saw this beautiful barn and all those acres and ideas of what we could do began to just pour into my mind. We still have goats and I still enjoy spinning but when we got here we realized we could do so much more and so began City Girl Farm.
I have always enjoyed gardening, cooking and eating and I always found the idea of self-sufficiency very intriguing. So we expanded. We added chickens, a dairy cow and an organic garden. But there was a secret motive behind all this that I want to share with you in this little bunny trail.
I had a health challenge that began in the fall of 2005 when I had a miscarriage. I have never been thin and before that I had dieted periodically in an attempt to maintain a reasonable weight with a reasonable amount of success. After that happened, I found myself unable to lose the weight I had gained during the few months I had been pregnant. At the time, I had a membership at Curves and I was on their diet and religiously working out for 45 minutes four days a week. To my horror, not only was I not losing weight, but I was continuing to gain weight despite my heroic efforts. I went from a pre-pregnancy weight of 145 lbs. to a whopping 182 lbs. in a year. I was miserable.
A friend of mine referred me to her chiropractor and he told me I was suffering from adrenal fatigue and that I needed to stop exercising immediately and take a nap for an hour each day—not sit and knit for an hour, not read for an hour—close my eyes and take a nap. If I couldn’t sleep, I was to just lie there with my eyes closed for an hour. I could walk for a half hour each day or do some yoga if I felt I needed to exercise. This was not an easy discipline to maintain as I was home schooling and trying to run a busy household at the time. And since I didn’t get immediate, dramatic results I quit going to the chiropractor and kept looking for what could possibly be causing this intractable weight gain.
During this time I discovered the Weston A. Price Foundation and Dr. Mercola and I learned about how important it was to eat organically grown, nutrient dense, “real” food. People reported that making these changes in their diets had resulted in dramatic health improvements, including effortless weight loss. So I made the change, hoping that it would do something for me. I found a source for raw milk and started buying organic produce and my weight didn’t budge. I went to the doctor thinking that maybe I was yet another victim of peri-menopausal hormone imbalance. All my test results were normal, but after having me record my axillary temperature first thing in the morning for 10 days, he determined that I was hypothyroid. He put me on thyroid medication which I took for about 6 months before I felt my thyroid kick back in and I went off of it. During all that time I lost less than 10 lbs.
After that, I decided to give acupuncture a try and it worked. I began going once a week early in 2008 and at the end of the year I was down 25 lbs. I continued into 2009 and got down to 150 lbs. before I stopped going. I felt I was just too busy and I was happy to be back in a size 10. But in the fall of 2010, the weight started to come back again and by the end of last year I was wearing a size 16.
Now I am a woman of a “certain age” and not as vain as I was when I was younger. I had made peace with the idea that I might just be a plump grandmother when the time came. But the real problem, aside from the plain discomfort of carrying around all that extra weight, was that I was losing my joie de vivre. I didn’t care about anything anymore. The smallest task seemed like a huge chore and my son remarked that I didn’t seem like the happy, passionate-about-everything mother he had known and loved.
I decided he was right and in the back of my mind something whispered that I might be hypothyroid again. I determined that what was missing in my health plan was exercise and I started to discuss this with a friend of mine who is a nurse. She agreed with me that I had several symptoms of hypothyroidism and that I should see my doctor and get tested. As I was procrastinating doing just that, I came across a book called The Menopause Thyroid Solution by Mary J. Shomon and I thought, “That’s it!” I bought the book and started to read. It had a lot of great information (although there were some things with which I disagreed or felt didn’t pertain to me) and a particularly intriguing part about exercise, which is where I felt I was deficient.
I have a theory about health. I believe that if you give the human body what it needs, good food, rest and exercise, that it will naturally heal itself and function well until the day it dies. I determined that of those three pillars of health, exercise was where I needed to focus. So I ordered the program recommended in Shomon’s book, T-Tapp More. It arrived on January 9th this year and I got started. Within the first 10 days, I had lost 3″ off my lower abdomen and could get into some size 14 jeans. (I lost inches everywhere else, too, but nothing quite as dramatic as that measurement.) Those are the kind of results that speak to me. After the first 10 days of what Theresa Tapp refers to as “boot camp”, you do the exercises every other day for 20 minutes for five weeks and then back down to 2-3 times a week. Fearing that wasn’t a sufficient amount of exercise, I went on to her forums and started snooping around and that was when my eyes were REALLY opened.
To be continued….