To the English version of the blog of Leven in de Brouwerij. Here you can find a diversity of stories about wines, cheeses, and beers that I have made. And I am also not afraid to share the failures that I created. Perhaps these are even the most informative. They are surely the more entertaining stories.
I do not want to discredit myself, but I have to mention that I am an amateur without any training in the three arts. However that does not stop me from making very nice wines, cheeses, and beers.
Here you can find a wordpress version of this blog.
When you want a boring chore done you should give it to a lazy person. He will find the most efficient way to do the job.
And homebrewers have software. No complicated calculations, just fill in some numbers and everything will be done with the speed of light.
Wine makers have a bit more work. Measurements, consulting tabels, calculating.
Right, that is what you thought. The calculations involved in wine making are not many, and really simple.
And the homebrewers software? Yes, it is not correct. Calculating the alcohol percentage is no problem. But bitterness? Not really.
My friend uses "Biermacht". I use a dutch program called "Brouwhulp". Since he is more knowledgeable than I am, I asked him to make a recipe with liwuid malt extract, and some steeped malt. A simple beer, light in colour, about 6% alcohol, not very bitter, but a bit more hop aroma.
He prepared a recipe for me and it looked good. I entered it in "Brouwhulp" and the bitterness was IBU 32. Not extremely bitter, but still.. His program "Biermacht" said that the bitterness would be IBU 24. A huge difference.
In "Brouwhulp" you have several options for the bitterness calculation. That sounds great, but it is not.
Here are the IBU values for my recipe with the different calculation options:
Between 19 to 45. Poor beermaker. How can you recreate a recipe when you don't know how the bitterness was calculated?
The nice book by Adrie Otte explains that there are several options for the bitterness calculation and advises to choose one and learn how a certain bitterness feels. In fact he sais that you should always make the same mistake. Which I believe is a good advice.
But it is impossible to copy a recipe from somebody if you do not know which method was used!
After this revelation it became even worse. You can also set several calculation methods for the colour of your beer. Behold the results:
Again the results are very different!
And again the same advice. Pick a method and always make the same mistake!
Brewing software...... We sleep at night. With one eye open!
P.S. I: It gets worse. I will tell you later.
P.S. II: Please visit our shop van Leven in de Brouwerij.
Here is the next challenge. Smoked cheese. Thet balcony smoker is meant for warm smoking. It feels happiest at 70 C or hotter. Perfect temperature for cheese.. Fondue.
How do you prevent the cheese turning into yellow paste?
The answer is so simple that you just cannot find it. You have to keep it cool. And it is not that difficult. Just put a plate of ice in the oven and put the cheese on top of it.
And it works. You have to pay attention because the cheese really should not melt. So: Open the lid now and then, reduce the heat, add more ice, remove the oven from the heat, anything to keep the temperature down.
That is the only thing that is a bit tricky. This was the first time trying to smoke a cheese. Usually first tries lead to failure, but this was a great success. The result is fantastic. A lovely smoked cheese! The taste of the smoke fits the cheese perfectly. It does not overpower, the cheese still tastes like cheese and the smoke is real. The smoked cheeses available in supermarkets are not smoked but bathed in a smoke sollution. This is a different animal. Much nicer.
Amd this is how you do it:
Buy a cheap, young cheese.
Cut it in slices of about 1,5 to 2 cm. (Can be bigger if you have a bigger oven!
Dampen the woodchips.
Find a container that does not melt and fits in the oven.
Light the burners and increase the temperature.
Set the burners to the lowest setting.
Put the woodchips in the oven, place the leaking tray, the dish with ice, and place the rack with the cheese.
Check the temperature of the cheese thoroughly and keep it as low as possible.
Turn the cheeses and move them so they smoke evenly.
Smoke for approximately one hour.
The cheese is apparentely a bit intense, or not nice. Leave them in the refridgerator for about a week. If possible vacumed.
And there it is: A simple cheap, tasteless, young cheese has been transformed into a true delicacy! It smells so horribly nice. The tastes are so lovely together.... Great, great, great!
Works well with camembert as well. Same recipe.
P.S. II Please visit our shop Leven in de Brouwerij.
A poor translation of a Dutch saying.
Oxygen is the devil. For wine. For everything. Rust. Rotting. Fires. All caused by oxygen.
Water is harmless.
Oxygen is not all bad. I would not know what to do without it.
But for wine and beer it is not very good. This is not very accurate because oxygen is important for yeast to multiply in the first stage of fermentation. Yeast can create more energy with oxygen.
After this, oxygen becomes harmful for wine and beer. And even that is not completely true. As you may know a little bit of air travels through cork letting the wine mature very slowly. Tannin becomes softer and lots of reactions take place. We have just a slight idea of what is happening. Wine still improves under the influence of oxygen.
Can we finally end this love story for oxygen? Well almost. Really. A young red wine can age rapidly by pouring it in a different container. If google translate is correct the term is carafe. By adding oxygen aroma's are formed and the wine improves dramatically.
And here the positive ends. Let's decant. Or perhaps not. Decant is also pouring wine in a different container. But the goal is different. Old wines may have some deposit in the bottle which you don't want in your glass. The purpose is to pour the wine very carefully in a decanter, leaving the deposit, and minimizing the contact with oxygen. You should do this just before drinking the wine. If necessary because this procedure may destroy wine in minutes.
In the hobby wine and brewing world people can react quite strong with oxygen. (Ha ha.)
I believe that this is often a bit exaggerated. Yeast uses oxygen and creates a protective blanket of CO2 lying on the wort or most. (CO2 is heavier than air) Close the bucket or demijohn and leave it. Do not measure S.G. or check it every day because you will destroy your blanket!
Oxygen is an important cause for oxidation and that is why sulphite is used. It reacts with oxygen before it affects the wine.
When used in wine everybody has an opinion. It gives headaches, is unnatural, and chemical. It is also used when conserving raisins and I never heard anybody complain about headaches from raisins. Beer, and wodka? Yes. But they do not contain sulphite. And unnatural? During fermentation yeast form sulphite itself. It is impossible to make a wine that is completely free of sulphite.
To show the point of sulphite I did a little test. I cut an apple and gave one half a sulphite bath.
The pictures are quite clear.
Apple juice from the supermarket is pretty brown. Fresh apple juice is not. I am not sure but this seems to indicate a little oxidation.
Personally I am not against using a little sulphite. The advantage of being a hobby wine maker is that you do not risc a fortune. In the worst case you have to throw away 25 liter. Not very nice but you will not be bankrupt. Obviously this is different for big wineries. They are allowed to use up to 7 times what a hobby maker thinks is sufficient.
I never lost a wine because it turned bad. Wine is good at protecting itself creating an acidic, alcoholic environment.
I am not sure of the necessity of sulphite. I have made wine without it and there was no problem with it. But I do believe that it does more good than bad.
P.S. Visit the shop Leven in de Brouwerij.
Who knew that something like this exists? Since I became addicted to smoking I wanted to be here. I had no idea what to expect. Yes, there would be eels, and smoke. That was for sure.
Would anybody be interested? No idea.. Few hundred people?
Not really. Thousands of people will be smelling like a fireplace!
And I understand it. I can't really specify what is so great about this event, but I had a great time. The first impression is funny. From far away you can see the sky turning white. Dozens of fantastic Mad Max creations making great scents and a lot of smoke. It looks a bit surreal. A whole street filled with eels!
Of course I was there to learn something. The internet was not very helpful when I was looking for a recipe for smoked eel. That is: I found recipes but all of them were completely different. I guess it is the way the WWW says: You're on your own!
I also did not learn a lot here. Everybody uses a different method. And some participants are obviously less serious than other. The only conclusions I reached were: Drying the eels is important and smoking at a temperature of approximately 70 C.
My knowledge is very limited but when the tails curl it is too hot during the drying.
I'll be in touch!
Of course you cannot leave without bringing something home
P.S. Visit the shop Leven in de Brouwerij.
The people that know me a bit know that I am not very happy with the way we treat food in the Netherlands. A popular joke is:
"What is Dutch food?"
"It is your food but then we mash it and call it stamppot."
My father is not a brilliant cook, but likes to barbeque. Nobody was allowed to interfere with his work. There was no pre cooked chicken. Awfull. Pre cooked chicken. No, my father would make real chicken on the barbeque according to his philosophy: Black on the outside, raw inside,
And that worked fine. The fat would create fantastic fires! Nowadays there is so much water in chicken that the barbeque almost terminates.
And then there is my mother. She prepared food the rest of the year. Working was unfortunately more important so we ate vegetable porridge instead of vegetables.
I did not learn to to cook from my parents. But that is the only negative thing thing I can say about them. They are the sweetest persons on th planet with a good brain and sense of humour.
But they don't care about food.
I was lucky to live in singapore for a year. I did not have a live besides work but the food was incredible, Every lunch was “Chicken Rice”.
Nothing special but everyday a party. The chili sauce is incredible. I searched forever but thanks to Christine's recipes I can eat this again.
2 chicken legs
4 to 5 slices ginger
1 spring onion (shallot), sectioned
2 cups white rice, rinsed and drained well
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
2 to 3 bay leaves
Salt, to taste
2 cups chicken stock
Cucumber, few slices for garnish
1 bowl water, should cover the chicken
20 ice cubes
2 to 3 chilies (depends on how hot you like)
5 slices ginger
6 cloves garlic
3 Tbsp lime juice
4 Tbsp chicken stock
sugar, to taste
salt, to taste
Heat oil in wok, sauté minced garlic and grated ginger until aromatic.
Add drained rice and stir fry for 3 minutes.
Toss in bay leaves and pour chicken stock into the rice. Bring to a boil.
Transfer to electric cooker and cook rice as usual.
Rinse chicken and drain well.
Place spring onion and ginger on chicken and steam over high heat, covered with a lid, for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through. Insert a chop stick or needle into the thickest part of chicken leg. If clear liquid runs out, it’s cooked. I
mmediately transfer chicken legs into iced water and soak for 15 to 20 minutes. This is an old traditional Chinese way of making the skin and meat of steamed chicken become smoother and tenderer.
To prepare chili sauce, just process all ingredients with a food processor for a minute. Add salt and/or sugar to taste.
When the chicken legs cool down, drain well.
Chop into chunks and serve with cooked chicken rice.
Garnish with cucumber slices if desired.
Many Chinese people like eating steamed chicken with minced ginger and spring onion sauce. Just heat up a bit oil in wok or saucepan. When the oil becomes very hot, immediately pour the oil onto minced ginger and finely chopped shallot. Add salt or soy sauce to taste. That’s the popular ginger and shallot sauce for chicken. This Hainanese chicken tastes fantastic, accompanying with both chili sauce and minced ginger shallot sauce.
You can buy chicken rice everywhere in Singapore and each stall has it's own recipe and they are all proud of it, Which is completely justified. If you have ever been to Singapore and did not eat this.. You have not been to Singapore.
P.S. please vistit the shop van Leven in de Brouwerij.
It is not a disease.
Yes, you are correct. 1880. I bought it a few years ago from my parents in Spain.
And not for a fortune. Is it a wine from 1880?
Well, yes and no. Solera is a way of blending wine.
The barrels of 1880 are placed on the ground.
Barrels of 1881 are placed on top.
The barrels of 1880 are partly bottled and sold.
A blend of all the years from 1880 and on is created. Obviously there is not much left of the wine created in 1880.
But still: Is'nt it a great idea to drink something that has survived generations, crises and all distucting world wars?
What is a good time to drink such a wine?
A little over 10 years ago I started making wine. I read a lot about it and also about whether it was healthy or not. I found a lot of research that made me feel good. A few were not as positive but all together the results were surprisingly reassuring.
I started reading this scientific document but unfortunately I am not enough scientist to understand it. The part that I do understand is the message in this graph.
A so-called J curve. On the horizontal axis the amount of consumed alcohol and the vertical one can be called "health" I suppose. Drinking moderate amounts increases your life span. When you drink a bit more this positive effect disappears. And when you drink even more it becomes unhealthy.
The mayor conclusion that I pick up from this is: A moderate drinker is living a healthier life than the abstainer. Great news right?
Some time ago I client who is also a friend, asked me: "My cholestorol is a bit high. Is drinking beer good for me?"
I answered him: "I may not be a doctor but I prescribe it to all my patients."
I googled just for fun and I found a page that is typical for the days we live in. (Sorry that it is in Dutch)
It is the first hit in google and it must be the number one worthless pag on the whole internet. It opens with: Alcohol and cholestorol are no friends.
The writer continues to explain that 2 glasses alcohol per day improves the good cholestorol (HDL), and that the total cholestorol increases when you drink more than 2 glasses.
Then he reaches the conclusion that it is not adviceable to drink a lot of alcohol.
He twists and turns his own words just to say that alcohol is bad for you!
And that is what is happening these days. Alcohol is in the doghouse. In England they went overboard. A few years ago doctors would advice the elderly to drink a glass a day. And younger people also received the blessing: Three glasses per day for the men, and two glasses for the women was fine.
Now the policy is that each drop of alcohol is one too many. Every english person: Please stop drinking NOW!
Right. That is going to happen!
But what is the truth? Google it. You can find every answer that you are looking for. In the mean time I will find comfort in one of my favorite quotes.
“There are more old drunkards than old doctors.”
P.S. Visit our shop: Leven in de Brouwerij.
Which is the best; A cork or a screw cap? For years a big discussion in the world of wine. Cork slowly lets air through. This improves the wine and it becomes more balanced. The screw cap should not do this. As far as I know this information is not correct and screw caps have a linet that can let a bit air in the bottle. This discussion is out of my league. Which is better? No idea. Perhaps it even depends on the wine.
However I can say which is more fun. Obviously the cork is much nicer. Uncorking is a small ritual that belongs to a good wine. The plop creates expectations and sets the mood. You take the time to enjoy the moment.
But that is also not what I wanted to discuss.
I wanted to talk about a myth that may not be known by "normal" people. The myth is that you cannot store wine standing up. It seems a bit far fetched to me. Closed is closed right?
The idea behind this myth is that de cork is dry when the bottle is standing and when it dries out it lets air pass through. The air oxidizes the wine and it goes bad.
I believed that this was nonsens until I bottled a batch of elderberry wine. I did not have place and was forced to leave the bottles.
When I opened a bottle I noticed that the wine was not as nice as I expected. Not a disaster but simply not as good. It took me a while to link the facts but after some time I realized that the bottle had been standing for a long time!
What a surprise: The myth is correct: You can't store a wine standing up!
Another lesson learned.
P.S. Visit our shop: Leven in de Brouwerij.
Elderberries are a gift to the wine maker. The berries are great for making a red wine. The flowers are also a great source for making a white wine.
The recipe is perhaps a bit vague but I did not find a clearer one at that time. I made this wine more than 7 years ago. In some way I regret making wine from the flowers because there will be no berries after picking the flowers.
After about 6 months the wine is finished. For an average wine drinker it takes some time to get used to it. Which does not mean that it is a bad wine, but the modern person is not able to handle change very well. The wine has a very strong flavour and aroma of flowers. I wrote Wild, Natural, and Powerful especially for a white wine in my notes.
Perhaps a bit acidic.
Next time I would use a bit less acid.
The wine is interesting. A lot of taste but as mentioned before: Not a wine for everybody. Elderflower is a very nice addition to an otherwise bit plain wine. Add a few grams to apple wine!
You may have noticed that the total weight of acids is not 150 grams. Since malic acid and citric acid are more powerful the total is equal to 150 gram tartaric acid.
These days I would not take so many steps. I think it is not necessary to prepare 5 liter, 15 liter, 21 liter, and finally 25 liter.
P.S. Visit our shop: Leven in de Brouwerij.
To protect cheese and for flavour salt is added. On some cheeses it is added to the outside or to the curds.
In other recipes the cheeses will be put in brine. The salt will slowly dissolve in the cheese.
The salt removes water from the rind and makes the environment less attractive to bacteria. Adding salt increases the shelf life of cheeses.
The mother culture will also be affected and the cheese becomes less sour.
Since the salt decreases the size of the curd particles it also changes the structure.
In the literature it is advised to use salt without iodine because it is supposed to be bad for the cheese bacteria. I have made cheese with normal table salt and it worked fine. I am not sure if this is a real problem or just a cheese myth.
After reading a few books and some research on the internet I decided for the following brine solution:
It is no exact science. A few grams here and there are no problem. To check the brine a brine scale is used. I don't have one but it is in fact a hydrometer with a different scale. So why not use the hydrometer for wine? The S.G. of the solution is 1155.
During the time in the brine Calcium leeches out of the cheese. ClaciumChloride is added to the brine to decrease this effect.
The solution can be used several times and improves because the "Calcium Leak" becomes smaller when several cheeses have leaked their Calcium.
Obviously you have to add salt to the brine to replace the salt used in the cheeses.
So far everything was clear.
I am a big fan of smelly cheeses like Munster. Love it!
These cheeses acquire their “aroma” by Brevibacterium Linens. This bacterium thrives on feet and in moist conditons.
Therefore the recipe for Munster mentions that you should wash it every 2 days with a brine solution.
Which I did without the expected result. The rind of the cheese should become muddy. And smelly. The cheese turned yellow but it dried out. The bacterium did not live.
The cheese was horrible. Way to salty! No surprise that the bacteria died.
And there was the problem. There is brine, and there is brine.
The solution for cleaning is a lot weaker than the solution described above. After this mistake I use a solution of 1 teaspoon in a cup of water to clean cheeses. Then you will have the horrible yellow mud on on your cheese. It is hard to believe that this is the way it should be but that slimy, smelly goo is what want on your cheese.
P.S. Visit our shop: Leven in de Brouwerij.