Sunday, January 11, 2015

Home Red Winemaking

This year I was lucky to take part in some old school Italian style red winemaking.  I stood in with a group of guys who have been making wine together for some years now.  Their styles differed from completely old school no additives or preservatives and extended ageing sur lees, to a more modern approach adding a minimal dose of sulphite and frequent transfer off lees to avoid any off flavors.  Here I will outline a basic recipe for turning fresh grapes into red wine with no added ingredients, completely natural and truly a gift from the gods.

First get some fresh quality grapes from a good winemaking varietal.  There are many to choose from.  Inspect the grapes for visible rot or mold.  Fresh undamaged fruit is essential in making wine with no additives.  Here in the USA most grapes available to the home winemaker are from the vast vineyards of California.  You may be lucky to live near a vineyard or have a freind who grows wine grapes. Grapes are usually harvested in late September until late August here in the northern Hemisphere.
First the grapes must be crushed removing most of the stems.  A little stem is good as it adds tannin to the wine.  This grape crusher above crushes the grapes and automatically removes most of the large stems.  It is placed over the vessel that will be used for fermentation.
This is 20 cases of grapes crushed.  At this point the wine is left to spontaneously ferment.  Natural yeast that lives on the skins will consume the sugar and create alchohol.  This usually begins in a day or 2 and lasts about 5 days or so.  Red wine fermentation occurs with all skins in contact with the grape juice.  From the skins are derived the color, tannin and characteristic aroma of red wine.
During fermentation the skins are pushed to the top by the gas produced by the fermentation giving the juice the appearance of boiling.  About twice a day the skins must be pushed down in order to release some gas and ensure proper color and tannin extraction from the skins.  This is done with a stick or metal device resembling a large potato masher.  This step is very important in a red wine.

When fermentation is almost complete the wine has to be pressed to remove the skins, pits, etc.  It is important that the fermentation is not complete because after this step great care must be taken to avoid the contact of oxygen with the wine.
After pressing the wine is put into some sort of bulk aging vessel.  This is a 54L glass demijohn typical of small scale wine making.  Fermentation will complete in this vessel expelling any remaining oxygen picked up during pressing.  From this point on great care must be taken to exclude oxygen from the ageing wine.  This means containers must be filled almost to the top and splashing of the wine during transfers must be avoided.

The wine must now age, mature and settle.  This is best done by patience.  Wine should not be rushed.  Between 1 and several months the wine will be transferred off any sediment that has collected in the fermenter.  It must be transferred again after a few months.  And possibly again.  During each transfer you will be leaving behind grape matter and dead yeast cells further clarifying the wine.  As mentioned above great care must be taken to exclude oxygen.  Fill your ageing vessels to the top.  If there's extra drink it and observe how the wine evolves over time.
After about six months the wine should be clear enough to bottle.  Fill clean sanitized bottles almost to the top and cork with a corking machine.  Allow to age a bit more.  All in all your wine will be ready after about 8 months from crushing.  Enjoy and send me a bottle!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Calabrese Salami Picante 12/6/14

11 lbs lean 3/8" grind
4 lbs fat 3/8" grind and hand cut

136g salt (2%)
17g cure #2 (.25 %)

39g dextrose
30g crushed red pepper flakes
11g white pepper cracked
15g fennel seed cracked
30g paprika
9g garlic powder

6g f-rm-52 in .75cup H20
1.5 cup chianti wine 

Stuffed into beef middles soaked in water/ vinegar, 85/15
Fermented 24 hours at 85'
Dried in cellar 4 weeks at 45-50'F and 60-70% R/H
41% weight loss

Salami Contadino 12/14/14

This is about a month in the cellar.

Thank you to Sonoma Mountain Sausages for the basic recipe.  I made some adjustments.

Total meat: 12 lbs pork (5443g)
9 lbs lean butt (4082g) 75%
3 lbs fatback butt (1361g) 25%
163g salt (3%)
13.6g cure #2 (.25%)
27g dextrose (.5%)
16g black pepper whole
8g black pepper ground
10g garlic powder
6g f-rm-52 in 4 TBSP H20
All the meat was trimmed, portioned and partially frozen before grinding and hand chopping.  The lean and the fat were ground separately through the 3/8" die of the meat grinder.
All the ngredients were added to the meat and well mixed then stuffed into pre soaked large beef bung.
The salami was securely tied and hung to ferment at 70-80'F for 36 hours.  The pH was measured after 24 hours and had dropped to between 4.8 and 5.2.  The salami has been drying in my cellar for about a month at between 45 and 50'F with 65-70% R/H.  I am looking for about 35% weight loss.

How to cook an Octopus

This is a large octopus weighing about 7lbs.In most places not close to the sea octopus are usually found frozen in balls or packed flat on a tray.  Some people say freezing helps to tenderize the flesh.  For this recipe any size octopus can be used.  Cooking times will vary with different sizes.
Frozen Octopus are usually fully or mostly cleaned.  Sometimes you must remove the hard beak on the underside of the body and or cut off the eyes.
Bring a large pot of water to a simmer with a lemon halved, and onion halved, a pinch of peppercorns and a few bay leaves.  When the water it boiling slowly add the octopus allowing the legs to curl up before submerging the body.
Bring back to a simmer.  Try not to allow the water to boil too hard.  Simmer until tender.  This may take anywhere from 15-30 min for smaller octopus to well over an hour for larger ones.  Test for doneness by poking with a fork.  As soon as you can pierce the flesh with little resistance carefully remove the octopus from the broth and drain well.
Allow to cool a bit.  At this point you can cut the octopus into pieces for a salad or a sauce.  One preparation that works great is marinating and grilling the octopus.  Make a marinade by squeezing some fresh lemon juice.  Stir in a splash of vinegar, some chopped garlic, fresh or dried oregano, salt, pepper and a pinch of hot pepper.  Whisk in some extra virgin olive oil.  If using small baby octopus leave them whole.  For larger octopus either cut in 1/2, 1/4, or 1/8ths lengthwise from head to tentacle, leaving the tentacles intact.  Place the octopus pieces in the marinade and toss to coat.  Marinate for a little while then preheat a grill.
Cook until nice and charred.  Serve with a nice green salad, a fresh salsa or chutney, or a nice fresh fennel and orange salad like in the picture above.  Buon appetito!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Calamari Neri, Nero di Sepia, Squid in ink sauce Cafe Capriccio Style

Calamari Neri, Nero di Sepia, Squid in Ink Sauce Cafe Capriccio StyleFresh cuttlefish (sepia).
First remove the hard backbone.
Locate the ink sack and carefully remove in reserving it.
Remove the beak.
Peal the skin off by hand.
Chop the body up lengthwise from the head down then crosswise into chunks.
Simmer the ink sacks in a little water then strain through a sieve.
 Chop some bacon, onions, peppers and garlic.
Sautée some bacon in olive oil.
Add the chopped vegetables and cook for a few minutes.
Add some tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.
Add the chopped squid and stir.
Pour in the strained ink and bring to a simmer.
Cook until very tender.  Cook some pasta aldente and toss well in the sauce.
Buon Appetito!