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The God of Small Things - A little less than a happy high — LiveJournal
The God of Small Things
When it comes down to it, the various 'lost arts' to which I'm drawn are pretty simple things. Give yeast sugar and provide a comfortable environment and it will make alcohol and carbon dioxide. Choose the nature of the sugars and how you treat them and suddenly you're making beer, wine, or mead, possibly even specific varieties of them. I won't say that there isn't a certain magic to it, but it's of a kind that is more wondrous than spooky or mysterious.

I recently watched "Dr. Strangeloaf", a Good Eats episode that explored the baking of bread. In it, Alton Brown talked about bread as a simple thing, but went on to say that since it is a simple thing, every element is very important. This had some resonnance, if only because as I was tending to things yesterday, I found myself coming across little things that could potentially have far-reaching effects on some of my simple projects. This cast a rather dull shadow on a largely productive (if isolated) weekend.

For instance, I discovered only after I had covered the entirety of my mascarpone tart with pear slivers that the cutting board on which I had been working hadn't been cleaned well enough to rid it of the flavor of the onion that had been cut on it the day before. Given that the flavors at work in the tart are fairly subtle, I'm guessing that even though the tart pretty, the added flavor may be a little off-putting.

Earlier in the evening, I cracked the old ale for a Q/C check. At over a week, there should be some carbonation, but I got nothing from it. There's not even a tell-tale yeast buildup at the bottom of the bottle. I thought about it for a while, and realized that I hadn't stirred the beer in the bottling bucket after it was added to the priming sugars. I had thought that the action of the siphon was going to be enough to sufficiently mix the lot together, but it appears that I was mistaken. Although it's not a total loss - beers of this style are occasionally without any carbonation - it's still an unexpected result, and the change is enough that it radically alters the character of the beer.

I'm actually more concerned that all of the priming ended up in one bottle, which means that there's a possible glass grenade sitting in my pantry.

The fun doesn't end there, though. I also took a moment to rack Johanna's wine, and noticed a slight tartness that wasn't there before. Either it's going through a stage in its development that I know nothing about, or there's possibility that we'll soon have three gallons of very fresh red wine vinegar. Assuming the worst, I then have to think about the other brews that have had contact with the racking equipment since I last racked the wine, and the list is sad-making: the old ale, Dot's veritable wit, Alan's root beer, Pete's experimental spruce, and of course, the clandestine hooch wine.

Please note that two of these problems are directly related to cleaning issues, and that all three are detail oriented.

7 comments or Leave a comment
inahandbasket From: inahandbasket Date: February 21st, 2006 11:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
oh dear. not sanitation issues again...
komos From: komos Date: February 21st, 2006 11:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have been anal about cleaning. The only other thing I can think of is that the wine might have oxydized, but I thought that made wine taste more stale than tart.

Fact of the matter is that I've no real idea what I'm doing with wine, and I've taken to fretting over it. 'Course, when Pete expressed concern with the ESB as it was fermenting, I fretted over that, too, and that turned out just fine.

The onion thing, though... less than optimal.
mudguts From: mudguts Date: February 22nd, 2006 10:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
this is horribly uncouth, im sure... but im finding myself contemplating the use of "anal" and "cleaning" in the same sentence.
i find it both disturbing and comforting at the same time.
perhaps it hinges on which is the dominant word... "anal" or "clean".

komos From: komos Date: February 22nd, 2006 10:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Everyone prefers a clean bottom. Anything less is just unsanitary.
starboogie From: starboogie Date: February 22nd, 2006 01:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
I enjoy making bread. It's like a meditation session focused on a biology experiment where you get a good shoulder workout, resulting in the production of some of the most awesome food in existence and a incomparably delicious-smelling house.

People've suggested to me that I ditch the bread effort and whip up a batch of beer someday. But I decline, 'cause even if my total inexperience in the subject wasn't a bit of an obstacle, beer probably doesn't smell as good as bread when it's baking.
komos From: komos Date: February 22nd, 2006 07:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Really, you're halfway there. The big difference is that instead of putting your yeast in a glutinous mass, you're setting it loose in a bunch of sugared water. Beyond that, it's just details.

I happen to like the smell of beer as it's in the boil, but you're right... it doesn't smell near as good as fresh-baked bread.
inahandbasket From: inahandbasket Date: February 26th, 2006 09:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
7 comments or Leave a comment