Saturday, February 23, 2013

Radish Butter Toast

Radishes are so easy to grow, and they ripen in 25 days or so!  Plus one seed produces hundreds of seeds if you allow the plant to flower and form pods.   So once you start growing your own radishes you will never need to buy seed again… or radishes. 

I’m often caught with a bunch of ripe radishes ready to go so I’m always looking for new radish recipes and I kept seeing variations on this recipe.  Apparently this idea originated in France, a perfect topping for baguettes.   And since I had a bed full of over ripe radishes, I had to do something fast.  I went for the Martha Stewart version.  A lot of times people just slice the radishes,  but since my radishes  were in the ground a little too long I had to cut off some rotten/hard  sections , so grating them sounded like a better option this time. 

This recipe is so simple; you don’t really need exact measurements.  Basically just smash grated radish together with room temperature butter.

I lightly toasted my baguette, made using this recipe.

Then spread the radish butter mixture on the warm toast, slice and serve.

I took these as an appetizer to a family dinner and we devoured them.  I will definitely use this recipe again.  Spring is almost here, so next time I will be able to use fresh radishes!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Preparing the Chickens for Winter

I should have posted this a few months ago, but towards the end of fall we started to winterize the chicken coop.  Our birds are pretty much out in the open so we needed to give them protection from the elements.  We tend to just work with what we have, which luckily is a lot of gardening equipment left from the previous owner.  So a few tarps, some PVC, recycling and lots of hay has gotten our chickens through the winter!

We covered the roof and two sides of the coop in a large tarp.  The back of our coop is also almost all covered, except for a 2 foot strip of chicken wire which has been left open for air flow.  The front side of the coop is also left open, and we have a large board that we can place in front of the coop for extremely cold or snowy nights.  Air flow is important because too much moisture in the coop can lead to frostbitten chickens!

We had issues in the beginning with water pooling up in the tarp flat across the roof.  So we rigged up a mini hoop house by feeding PVC pipe through the lattice roofing.  The rain and snow just slides right off and keeps the coop relatively dry.

The chickens sleep in this box, which has a wire floor.   Throughout the winter we keep the bottom layer full of hay.   I have to clean it almost daily, or every other day just to help keep the moisture out.  I just use a small shovel and clean it like a litter box, changing the hay out every week or as needed.  We put another tarp over the little house on extra cold nights, below 20° F.

We have also made few additions to the coop since they started laying eggs.  The nesting box is simply an old dog cage with 2 milk crates full of hay.  Works perfectly!

We hung their food bin from the roof which has kept it much cleaner.  I want to hang the water but I’m a little afraid of the weight. 

This is where the grit and oyster shells are.  Simply an old plastic sugar jug cut in half and stapled to the wall.

So far so good, all the chickens are healthy and happy.  And hopefully only another month or so of cold nights to get through!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Brewing Beer

This Christmas my Dad and stepmom set me up with a complete beer making kit.  I thought about asking for one for Christmas but never did, they know me too well!  I had an American pale ale recipe for my first brew.  The kit had everything I would need already measured out, so it was a good way to start brewing. 

I’m just going to go over the basics to give you an idea of the process, because basically I just followed the recipe in my kit.  It was relatively simple and very rewarding! 

Cooking the Beer

First I poured the grain into a muslin bag and tied it shut, dropping it into 2 gallons of water.  Heat to 150°F, then reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes, draining grain bag occasionally to let all the flavors seep out.

Remove grain bag, bring to a boil then remove pot from heat and stir in malt extract syrup. 


Next add the hops, hops are added at different stages of the brew for different flavors. 

The first hops added are for bitterness, and then the beer is boiled for 45 minutes.

The next hops for flavoring, and boil another 15 minutes.

Another batch of hops is added for aroma, the heat is turned off and the brew sits for 10 minutes.

Remove hop bag and sit pot in sink filled with cold water until it cools to 100°F

Siphon or pour brew into primary fermenter and add yeast stirring to aerate mixture.

Cover fermenter and put out of direct sunlight and ideally between 65° and 75° F.

Within the next day the beer should foam up.
After 5 days I added more hops for a dry flavor.

In 6-8 days the foam should disappear, which means the fermenting is done

At this point I transferred my beer into my secondary fermenter (although a secondary fermenter isn’t necessary for lighter beers, it does make the beer more pure by not giving the yeast residue time to taint the flavor. Plus I wanted to learn how to use all my equipment.)


After 12-16 days the beer should be ready to bottle.  A hydrometer reading is taken to be sure fermentation is complete.  Apparently bottles can explode if fermentation is not complete!


Bottling was easy. I siphoned the beer into a priming container with a spout.

Stirred in fermenting sugar, which is what creates carbonation, when the remaining yeast eats the sugar.

 Then siphoned the beer into bottles and capped them with a double lever capper.

Pale Ales are good to go 2 weeks after bottling, but best after 3 weeks.