Home Brew

In my culinary pursuits I’ve visited microbreweries of every shape and size. A quick count and I realize I’ve visited hundreds of them. From a couple guys making beer in a warehouse, to massive brew-pubs and bars. From Dunedin, FL to the mountains of Virginia and out to Santa Barbara, CA. In every corner of Ontario and over in Europe and Israel… I sample a lot of small batch beer. I don’t love every one. They are all so varied. But I love the experience. There is something magical about trying beer brewed by someone who has followed their passion.  Every micro-brewery has a proud back story and a unique angle to bring to the beer scene. I’ve peered into massive vats, sampled wort, discussed the benefits of brewing small batch ale VS lager, and sampled a lot (a LOT) of beer. All of this is really to say – I know an awful lot about beer brewing and I know how difficult it can be. But oh how I’ve always yearned to give it a try.

CigarCityBrewing

Now, while I’m quite capable in my kitchen at home and in front of a grill I’ve always considered beer brewing something a little too far out of reach. It’s an intricate and delicate process that can be thrown askew by so many variables. I’d much rather enjoy a cold pint than curse a ruined batch of the stuff!

Recently though I decided to give it a go and reached out to the folks at Brewer’s Best for a little help. Brewer’s Best makes brewing kits and ingredient kits to make home brewing as simple as possible for beer fans – and best of all they are now available in Canada! The Brewer’s Best equipment kit arrived with everything I needed to get going:

  • primary fermenter
  • bottling bucket with spigot
  • easy-clean cleanser
  • siphon hose
  • bottle filler
  • hydrometer
  • thermometer
  • bottle brush
  • capper
  • airlock
  • bucket clip

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I know, it looks intimidating – and to be honest, beer brewing is not a simple process. You’re going to be steeping grains, boiling hops, cooling wort, pitching yeast, fermenting beer, and bottle conditioning. The great thing about Brewer’s Best is that they take you through every step of the process and make sure they simplify it so that anyone can do it. The equipment is all supplied, the instructions are all clear, and the ingredients are all prepared and measured. You just need to follow along!

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The ingredient kits come in dozens and dozens of varieties. So you’ll be able to brew whatever beer is your favourite. I decided to go with an Irish Stout and had a great time brewing up a five gallon batch and getting the whole family involved in the process. I’ve got a week left until I crack open my first bottle and I’m already talking it up with the guys. I’ve got lots of thirsty friends volunteering to help me sample the first batch. Here’s hoping it lives up to my expectations!

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Whether the beer is good or great it’s been an awesome experience. I’m really digging the whole home brew experience and embracing the role..

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In conjunction with Brewer’s Best,  I’d like to set one of you up with your own ingredients kit. Just comment below and let me know which type of beer is your favourite. Contest closes July 1.

Winner randomly selected via random.org: congrats Steve Woolf!

 

 

Kung Po Chicken

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Marinating a recipe’s protein in cornstarch and sake is a Chinese technique known as silkening. It gives food a tender, velvety texture like the awesome Orange Beef recipe.

I made this delicious recipe for Kung Po Chicken for my wife on Valentine’s Day one year (back before the days of her peanut allergy…) In addition to being incredibly tasty, it was also fast and simple – a winning combination. The sweet & savoury sauce pulls the whole dish together. While the smoky, hot Chiles and crunchy peanuts add delicious highlights and great texture. I give this one two thumbs up!
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Kung Po Chicken 

Adapted from Kylie Kwong 

Serves: 4
Ingredients:
White rice, for serving
1 pound 1/4 boneless chicken thighs, cubed
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons peanut oil
10 small dried red chiles
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preparation:
  1. Combine the chicken with the cornstarch and rice wine in a bowl. Cover, place in refrigerator and leave to marinate for 1 hour.
  2. Place oil and Chiles in a hot wok and then turn heat to low. Cook for about 60 seconds or until Chiles begin to darken slightly. Using a slotted spoon, immediately remove Chiles and drain on paper towel.
  3. Leaving Chile-infused oil in wok, turn heat up to High and stir-fry half the chicken cubes for 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.
  4. Add extra oil if needed and stir-fry remaining chicken for 3 minutes. Return all chicken to wok, along with reserved Chiles and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
  5. Add sugar and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add peanuts, soy sauce and vinegar and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Serve immediately sprinkled with salt and pepper, over rice.

Blueberry & Ricotta Muffins

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I read some really great chefs and cooks online and have come across hundreds of recipes I’d like to try at some point in time. However, when one of my favourite foodies comes out and says a recipe is ‘to die for’ – I know it’s worth the time to try out.
These muffins did not disappoint - absolutely delicious. Simple to make, not too sweet, moist and mouthwatering delicious. Check out some of the other great Ciao Florentina recipes on her site.
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Blueberry and Ricotta Muffins


Adapted from Ciao Florentina

Serves: 12

Ingredients:
Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
Wet ingredients:
1/3 cup canola oil
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup fresh blueberries
Streusel Topping:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
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Preparation:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients separately then using a spatula stir the two together until incorporated. Don’t over mix.
  3. Fold in the blueberries then fill 12 muffin cups 3/4 of the way full. Top with 1 tablespoon of streusel topping then bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
  4. Cool on a wire rack for 10 min. Enjoy!
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