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7May/100

Mead for noobs (honeywine for supernoobs)

I want to make my own beer. I do not drink. However, I still want to make my own beer. The fall back is the initial setup I want is around $160, then the cost of ingredients at another $40. Ultimately, I'm starting a savings plan to let me buy all the stuff in a few months. Meanwhile? I'm making some mead!

 

A buddy at work talked about starting his own a few months ago, and in my recent sporadic decision of home brewing, suggested I start some mead since its cheap, and has to age for a several months, anyway. Sooooo, I did. I accompanied him to a home brew store up in Gwinnett and bought a 3 gallon carboy, a stopper, and an airlock. Then off to walmart I went to buy ingredients for an ancient orange mead recipe he gave me from here .

 

Ultimately, you need a jug (at least one gallon), 3.5 # of honey (pure), 25 raisins (yeast food), bread yeast, two large oranges, spring water, stick of cinnamon, some cloves, optional nutmeg and allspice, and time.

 

The below picture is not the water I used, as I went and bought spring water instead, and this is the ingredients used for a two gallon batch vs one gallon).

 

Fill the jug with a half gallon of spring water, heat some honey up in boiling water (in the jar ) to make it runny, and pour into the water. Add the raisins, the orange (I zested then peeled and threw orange pieces in to remove the pith), spices, and top off with water to the 1 gallon mark of your jug. Shake it vigorously for 5 minutes if you can to mix all items, and once its cooled to 70-80 degrees, add the yeast and give it a swirl. Install your airlock, and wait patiently for it to brew!

I made two types here... On the left, is my blueberry vanilla orange-honey mead. Its literally a handful of blueberries (some squished to release extra flavor), a whole vanilla bean, 3/4 an orange, and 3.5# honey all added to a one gallon jug (literally, the water jug the water came in). My airlock on this is a balloon with a hole poked in the top to release gas as it builds up, but keep contaminents out.

On the right, is my Joes Ancient Orange Mead (aka, JAOM). The ingredients are the same as above mentioned, except everything is doubled except the yeast and cloves.

 

Here is a shot of the JAOM looking into my 3 gallon carboy. All the yummy ingredients floating on top. Eventually, everything will sink to the bottom of the jug and the mead will become crystal clear. At this point you siphon it out into clean bottles and store/serve/enjoy!

 

This is a side shot of my JAOM on day 1. I'll post up pictures later as it goes through the stages.

 

Honestly, if you have $20 and wanna try making some of your own alcohol, give this a whirl. It will produce at a minimum of 4 wine bottles full of alcohol to enjoy. Let me know, I'll help ya go through the steps (assuming I did it right myself!)

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4May/100

Oh you sweet succulent fragrance of vanilla, how you fill my life!

Vanilla beans in a bag

Seriously... who doesn't like the smell of vanilla. I'm sure even Jeffrey Dahmer has the same appreciation for vanilla as Betty White -- hell, I'll go as far as Betty Crocker! Tangent -- Betty White is hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend with Jay-Z --- whattttttt? Awesome.

So back to the main focal point of this entry. Vanilla! More specific, vanilla extract!

Are you ever stuck wondering what to get your mother for Christmas -- that same mother that you buy spa gift certificates for, but doesnt use them? Whos that same mom that would always make you give her a foot massage during X-Files or a back massage? How about the father that as soon as he sees something on any infomercial he has already ordered it on the phone or the internet before the first airing of the commercial is finished? It's hard. No, its damn near impossible. You're stuck poking and prodding for that hint of what might be useful, and until recently for my father, my little brother and sister were about as useless as asking a bag of sugar what to get him as a gift (hey, they were young and focus their life on video games and whether or not to eat that juicy booger or not!).

So here I am. 25 and single. Nothin goin on but a small loft in Atlanta and a couple of cats. I mean, if I wanted to add to that another level of lameness, why not MAKE MY OWN VANILLA. Well, I'm going there. It gives me something to spend 5 minutes a day on -- kind of like how I can now watch the tomatoes, peppers, garlic chives and broccoliiiiiiiiiiiiii I planted grow from seeds!

Thus, I proceeded with the grueling task of internet research on how to make my own vanilla extract -- alright, that was sarcasm. I found two reviews on how to do it and figured I had the gist, and it was time to start my adventure.

Essentially... this is what you need:

  1. A knife - paring or razor. Something sharp, people!
  2. A butter knife, or back of your paring knife
  3. Cutting surface (something you can wash)
  4. A bottle of booze! Vodka... brandy... Quality doesnt matter, apparently. Your store bought extract is booze, fyi. 40% by volume (80 proof)
  5. Maybe some empty beer bottles you can reseal, or some wine bottles. Easiest way, buy a few half pints or pints of alcohol and put the beans directly in the bottle!
  6. Vanilla beans (raw, unprocessed, organic or not is up to you (even though organic is a crock) For every pint of alcohol, you need ~30 beans (.1# worth, but more the merrier)
  7. 1-6 months of mild attention (aka, dont forget its in the cupboard!)

Pretty simple... right? Wait til I describe and show you what to do... its sad.

So... when I help people on the phone with their computers, I always start with this: DO NOT THINK FOR YOURSELF! DO EXACTLY, TYPE EXACTLY, AND CLICK EXACTLY WHERE I SAY! -- They agree, but they never do. I should have them sign a contract and when they break it I can charge them double for wasting double my time. So ya... See above for rule: DO NOT THINK FOR YOURSELF! DO EXACTLY, TYPE EXACTLY, AND CLICK DO EXACTLY WHERE I SAY!

How to make vanilla extract (according to multiple websites, since mine arent done yet):

  • You need to gather a cutting surface and the rest of your ingredients

  • Start by taking each bean and slicing longways down the bean. Now, the trick here (its easy, I promise) is to flip your knife upside down so the blade is facing up. Poke the tip through the skin, and slide it up the bean. It gets super easy as you develop a rhythm. Make sure you do not cut all the way through the bean (this is why you're using the tip of the knife, and holding the bean)

If you enlarge this pic, you'll see all the yummy caviar you get to scrape out. Notice how the bean is 'opened' and not cut 100% of the way through!

  • Once all beans are cut longways 50% through, cut each bean in half! If you over think this and question as to what you're supposed to do, you're an idiot and shouldnt continue...
  • Once beans are cut in half, go to the end of the bean that isnt sliced through (inevitably, most of the time the tips of the beans havent been sliced since you stuck the knife in on one side, and probably didnt make it to the end of the bean all the way. You want to lay on the board, spread the bean by the uncut tip, and slide the back of the paring knife or the back of a butter knife at a 45 degree angle into the meat of the bean. This scrapes out all of the "caviar" (essentially the actual beans from the pod)

This picture is post scrapage, essentially just lift the knife to a 45 degree angle and slide in direction the bean is opened in

  • Set all the caviar to the side in a pile (do not discard!) and continue cleaning out all the beans

  • Once all beans are cleaned, chop into ~1inch pieces
  • At this point, you'll want to dump out some of the alcohol into a glass. Ideally, the glass should be boiled/steamed to clean it so you dont expose bacteria, but, go at it how you wish. The reason for this, is you're about to stick the bean pods and caviar into the bottle, and it WILL overflow if you do not empty some due to displacement.

  • Dont be surprised, as step 7 said, you're now going to the bean pod pieces and caviar into said bottle of alcohol
  • Once most of the bean parts are in, top off with alcohol. You want everything to remain covered or it will dry out!
  • SHAKEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE OMG SHAKE IT!!!!!!! KEEP SHAKING IT! SHAKE FASTER! HARDER! STRONGER! (did you know Daft Punk is going on tour soon? cant wait!)
  • Let it sit...
  • At this point, you're supposed to give a vigorous shaking every day for the first week. Give it a smell -- mmmm
  • Week 2,3, and 4, shake a few times a week now.
  • Week 5 is when you apparently have raw vanilla extract -- albeit extremely raw!
  • Month 2 to 6, shake it whenever you remember
  • At 6 months, they say you are supposed to filter it. Do this with a coffee filter and filter it into a clean glass/bottle
  • Give it away!

Here is my half pint vodka filled with ~.1# of beans

I think this is pretty cool... Vanilla growers tattoo their beans so you can identify them. It looks like discoloring due to bugs or something, but this is the tattoo!

Oh, and save your beans when you pull them out! Let them dry back out, and stick into your bag or sugar, or jar, however you store it. You now have your own vanilla sugar! mmmmmmmmmm

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