Tag Archives: fermentation

The weather outside is frightful!

Those who know me well are aware that I have a rather low tolerance for Christmas songs… but there is one song that I not only enjoy, I collect! I confess to owning, as of this moment, 65 versions of the song “Let It Snow.” One of my holiday pleasures is playing my “Let It Snow” playlist softly in the background when friends are over — I enjoy watching to see how long it takes them to figure out that they are hearing the same song over and over. I have versions from such a wide array of genres that it can take a while for people to catch on.

Looking out my window today, the weather is indeed frightful. It’s not snowing — yet — although friends who live a thousand feet higher than me had a flurry this morning. It’s 40 degrees, raining, and very windy here. The sun will set, somewhere to the south and hidden by clouds, at 4:20 PM today. Welcome to Pacific Northwest almost-winter!

CFL and I saw a new movie last night, the world premier of a 48 minute documentary called “Out of the Mist” (the link will take you to the official trailer) about the Olympic wilderness. The film played to an over-packed house at our local college. So many people showed up, in fact, that they opened up a second theatre and had two simultaneous screenings! CFL has met and hiked with one of the people featured in the film, while a couple of their names were familiar to me. In the audience we saw lots of people whom we both know. This is, after all, a film about the beauties of “our own back yard!”

Most of the places shown in the film are far in the back country, well beyond where I have ever ventured. CFL was able to identify many of the locations (he can boast of having climbed Mt. Olympus, a feat I can only imagine). But although I haven’t seen the specific places shown, I’ve seen front-country places that are enough like them that I left the theatre homesick for our mountains… and impatient for next summer when I’ll be able to get up there again.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Ridge looked like this earlier today:

Hurricane Ridge 12/07 1:51 PM

There are 69 inches of snow on the ground, with, obviously, much more to come!

I do find it a challenge at times to stay active and upbeat this time of year. But this morning I decided to make the best of it and did 6 miles on my treadmill. Even though it’s a boring old treadmill, at the end of my run I did feel a sense of accomplishment and just a touch of runner’s high. That’s not so bad!

This evening CFL and I are going to our local homebrewing club’s holiday party, where you can bet we’ll all pass around our various masterpieces. And then we’ll bundle up and walk home — no matter how frightful the weather (well, unless it gets really frightful in which case we’ll call the designated driver whom we have waiting in the wings). Tomorrow we’re off to Seattle for our first beer festival, at which local commercial brewers will showcase their special winter/holiday beers. For that outing, we’ll park the car an hour-plus away and take the ferry and bus to and from our final destination.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a pot of veggie chili simmering for tonight’s party. Downstairs our “Beyond the Pale” IPA is quietly winding down its fermentation in the secondary fermenter, while our second iteration of “Up the Elwha ESB” is bubbling away at a mad 65-beats per minute pace in the primary fermenter. All is good.

How good is it? Here’s what Hurricane Ridge looked like an hour later, at 2:51 PM:

Hurricane Ridge 12/07 2:51 PM

Things are getting better! Surely summer can’t be too far behind…

How about you? What keeps you going in the dark cold days of December? What places do you dream about revisiting next summer when the world is once again warm and green?

Slow happy dining extravaganza

Tonight I sat down to a simple but very meaningful meal: homemade sauerkraut (six weeks in the making after months of growing the cabbage), homemade 100% rye sourdough bread (a week and a half from beginning the sourdough starter to baking the bread), and a couple of nice cheeses (not local but excellent), all topped off with an Angeles Porter from Slow Happy Brewing (now about a seven weeks since brew date).

Is this slow happy dining or what?

While CFL and I do carefully control the ingredients and environmental conditions for our beer, the sauerkraut and bread are wild and crazy!

The cabbage fermented on its own in a crock, happily doing its thing on whatever wild yeasts had chosen to inhabit our cabbage. When we finally tasted it, we were amazed at how crisp and crunchy it is! Really flavorful too — it’s not like the limp store-bought stuff at all.

I kicked off the sourdough starter with whatever wild yeasts happened to be hanging out on an apple from a tree in my front yard. My first attempt a month ago failed because I got lax about feeding the starter more flour after it began to bubble. I kept a close eye on my second attempt at a starter and caught it at its prime, just in time to start my first loaf of bread. It then took me about two days to get a lively bread dough going in my cool kitchen. When baking day finally came, I used a brand new cast iron loaf pan and held my breath.

The bread came out perfect! CFL and I consumed almost half of it in the first half hour, and then we had another large chunk of it at dinner.

The bread, sauerkraut, and beer complemented one another perfectly, with the cheese adding a few nice notes as well. CFL tells me his pastrami completed the ensemble nicely; I’ll take his word for that.

I forgot to photograph my plate, but here is a photo of our Angeles Porter. In contrast to our first batch, this beer has an impressive head! This particular bottle was actually a tad more exuberant than most — which is why I’d grabbed my phone to capture that moment.

There is something immensely satisfying about eating a meal that you not only prepared yourself, but waited a loooooonnnng time for! As I write this, the second batch of cabbage is aging in my pantry, to be enjoyed beginning about two weeks from now. It will be a lovely shade of pink, as it’s two-thirds red cabbage.

Two batches of beer are aging in my upstairs loft, to be debuted this weekend (Up the Elwha ESB) and next weekend (Grand Festivus XII). The still-unnamed strong Scotch ale is downstairs in a carboy, enjoying a long cozy relationship with a bunch of oak chips before it will be bottled (probably next week) and then aged another 45 days. Today we bought the ingredients for our second porter. It’s a recipe that I invented based on a lot of reading and my determination to create something as true to the “robust porter” style as possible. We’ll brew that one this weekend and plan to debut it just before New Years.

I think I’ll wake up the sourdough starter and begin another loaf of bread tomorrow morning… and maybe bake on Sunday.

Although CFL and I are committed to living one day at a time and enjoying each moment as much as we possibly can, I’m coming to love the long slow happy rhythm that fermenting requires. Especially this time of year, as the nights get longer and colder, it’s good to know that there is genuine, living, local, healthy food growing all around me. It’s good to mark the calendar and anticipate the first tastes. It’s good to plan a couple of batches out and realize that I’ll be eating or drinking them next year.

We’d both lost so much — we’d both lost the person whom we hoped and expected we’d spend the rest of our lives with. Somehow, when we create the slowest of slow foods together, it’s an affirmation that for us, life will indeed go on.

Slowly and happily.