Friday Night

Right before we got married I suggested to DB that we should brew beer as a family hobby or at least a husband/wife hobby. He recalls this moment as one where he knew he’d chosen the right gal for him. Since that time, he’s really taken the ball and ran with it. We’ve had some great brews, a couple failed experiments, and once, a garage floor caked with brown ale. It’s been a while since there’s been any brewing activity though, and so it was nice to visit the local brew shop last weekend and pick up some new ingredients and start fresh. He’s going for a Belgian style with this batch, and there should be plenty of it ready to go when I can (finally) kick back and enjoy a home brew again. Perhaps one day it will also be incorporated into a sour beer which is one of our long-term brewing goals (hard to pull off when you’re moving all the time). Bottling night has always been a bit of a family affair, DB does all the grunt work with either me distracting the Bear, or capping the bottles, or other various called upon errands. Whichever it is, I always enjoy this time we spend together in the kitchen, enjoying a new to us podcast, and just hanging out after a long day/week. P1030067 P1030069 P1030070 P1030071 P1030073 P1030076

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Tomato Lager Soup

P1010533Every once in a while, I wonder if I miss living in a city. Then I go visit a city and realize I don’t miss it at all. There was a time when I was living in Philadelphia, and I thought I would live there forever because I loved it so much. Then life happened. I knew there was more out there, and felt suffocated in the city. So I ran off and joined the Navy, and met DB, and we got married, and had the Bear, and now we in live in a small, remote place, and it’s great. Except for one thing. I miss the food. Philadelphia is an amazing food town, and I miss having access to all its deliciousness. In fact, the food is probably the only thing I really miss. (Ok, seriously, friends, I miss yous too, but you’re people, not things, and we always miss the people in our lives when we are far apart from one another)

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This soup is the brainchild of chef Scott Schroeder of South Philly Tap Room, once a stone’s throw from my apartment and scene of my first date with DB. He had oysters, I had this soup. I love this soup. Previously, I tried to recreate it here, and it was good, but it wasn’t THE soup. It reminded me of home, but it didn’t take me there. So I was pretty excited when I visited with my mom last spring and found this in the paper. The soup! And it’s easy! Made with pantry staples! Perfection. I used to hate tomato soup, but this what tomato soup is supposed to be. Rich, warm, with a little bit of texture and a hint of heat.

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Tomato Lager Soup (adapted from the South Philly Tap Room)

This is comfort food, it’s not meant to be light or diet friendly. Don’t skimp on the butter. If you want to go the traditional route use Yuengling which should be widely available. I use our home-brewed lager, but when we’re out of that I opt for the Trader Joe’s Vienna Style Lager. Finally, whatever you do, use whole peeled tomatoes and not diced or crushed, I tried this once and it didn’t achieve the desired effect. This makes about 8 cups and will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days. 

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter

1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin

3-4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 jalapeño, including seeds, chopped (optional)

18oz (1 1/2 bottles) lager beer (see note)

1 Can (28oz) whole peeled tomatoes in juice

1 cup diced fresh tomatoes

1/2 cup diced onion

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. In a large, heavy bottomed pot, melt the butter until and brown slightly (you want it to be a deep gold, not tan)

2. Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Saute until slightly softened, 2-3 minutes.

3. Add the lager and tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes then remove from heat.

4. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Place soup back on medium heat and add the diced fresh tomatoes and diced onion, cook about 3more minutes. (if you don’t have an immersion blender, transfer soup in batches to food processor or blender to puree)

5. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately. (Alternatively, once it’s pureed (before adding the fresh vegetables) allow to cool and freeze until ready to use. Defrost and then add the fresh vegetables when reheating)

Bottled

My husband forgot to label the secondary fermenters. So, initially we thought this carmely swirl of beer that we bottled and put blue caps on was my breakfast stout, but after some careful tasting we’re pretty sure it’s an experimental dark ale. When they finish bottle conditioning in another week or so we’ll be able to tell for sure.

I think I’ve Created a Monster…

Ok, not really. It all started when I gave someone the idea to give my husband a winemaking kit for Christmas. It was something we’d been talking about as a natural extension of our beer brewing, so it seemed the appropriate gift. Of course being intellectual types, upon receipt of this gift it became obvious that we needed some sort of instructional book to guide us in our new endeavor, so I sleuthed  around Amazon and discovered this, and since the price was good (and we had a gift card), I also found this. Well, I don’t think it took my husband 10 minutes to fall in love with Strong Waters, and with good reason. There are recipes for exotic sounding spirited beverages that we had never heard of. Any they are easy and inexpensive to produce, especially after a good friend gifted us some one gallon fermenters. So here on the left you have two versions of Zythos which sounds like an epic, mythological Greek monster. My husband was so inspired by his creation that he has started his own blog where he will share with you in detail his thoughts, processes, and musings on home brewing, spirit making, and  speculations on my reactions to it all. I am glad that I could inspire him to such heights.

Tuesday Night

For dinner tonight we had roasted tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. I adapted the recipe for the soup from Smitten Kitchen, and had roasted the tomatoes and made the stock last week letting them hang out in the freezer until it was time to put it all together. I subbed in some beer in an attempt to recreate a soup from one of my favorite pubs back home. I think it was quite successful.

The grilled cheese was also an homage to a sandwich from another beloved and missed bar. It included gruyere, sharp cheddar, and gouda. A perfect little meal for a wildly windy night. Or, as my husband commented it was delightfully spicy and paired well with Trader Joe’s 2011 Vintage Ale.

Roasted Tomato Soup (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

3 pounds plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
1/4 t dried basil
1/4 t  crushed red pepper flakes
3 C chicken stock
1 C porter beer (ale or lager would also work nicely)

Roast the tomatoes and garlic until tomatoes are brown and tender (400 deg for about an hour should do it) Once they have cooled slightly transfer to a food processor or blender and pulse until you have a chunky puree. (At this point you can stick your puree into a freezer safe container and freeze until ready for use)

To make the soup combine the puree with the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, and then simmer for 25-30 minutes.

This is the perfect accompaniment to grilled cheese, or you could follow the SK route and put your cheese on top.

Brew Day

This is the Breakfast Stout kit from Northern Brewer. It arrived a few weeks ago, but since we’ve been busy with Honey Christmas Porters and Cream Ales, I didn’t have a chance to get it started until yesterday.

Extract kits are like making a large, somewhat involved cup of tea. Steeping oats and coffee, adding extracts, stirring in some hops and making sure it doesn’t boil over. Finally,  getting your husband to help you pitch the yeast and move it into primary fermentation. Where it is happily bubbling away in our laundry room next to a super hopped RyePA.

Practical Gifts

When I am awake in the middle of the night with a hungry little baby I pass the time by finding recipes and craft projects that I know I won’t usually have the time to make, but when I came across this recipe for quick homemade amaretto (via Shutterbean)I was intrigued  by its brevity and simplicity. Since we were visiting friends (read: friends who like amaretto) for dinner the next night, it seemed the fates had aligned in favor of trying it.

Oh and the pie…delicious apple pecan streusel! I cheated and used store bought crust.