food and drink

DOWN HOMEBREW | TART CHERRY SAISON

 
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This beer was brewed for the holiday season, which stands as evidence of my lack of blogging activity lately. . . blame the baby! (Just kidding, don't blame her for anything.) Instead of your usual sweet, spiced Christmas Ale (see: Great Lakes' version), I wanted to keep playing around with saison—the chameleon of classic beer styles. So, I brewed up my standard saison recipe and poured in a bottle of tart cherry juice once active fermentation had slowed down. The yeast made quick work of the sugars, leaving behind a nice, tart pairing for family gatherings & holiday treats. Whether it was the flavor, the rich color, or merely the intention behind it, this Tart Cherry Saison made for  a wonderfully festive Christmas companion!

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Tart Cherry Saison

Appearance: Crystal clear! Deep orange color; addition of tart cherry juice resulted in darker color than previous saisons.

Aroma: Cherry—hooray!

Taste: Tart, some clove (see: Paulaner comparison), finishing dry-but-not-too-dry.

Mouthfeel: Full, round body with lively carbonation.

Style: Saison

ABV: 4.7%

Hops: Saaz.

Malt: Pilsner, Vienna, Flaked Wheat.

Overall: Reminiscent of Paulaner Hefeweizen, but with that snappy saison finish.


—M

DOWN HOMEBREW | PETITE SAISON

 
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♩♩'Tis the Season of Saison ♩♩. . . well, actually, that's nothing new around here. In my second year as a homebrewer, I have been in hot pursuit of My Perfect Saison. It is, perhaps, the best style for experimentation and has called brewers around the world to a virtual infinity of interpretations. My first iteration, full of folly & flavor, was the Dandelion Saison. This little one came along next—a bit lighter, and buoyed by some new flavors courtesy of a wild yeast strain. Next up: a Christmas version, happily bubbling away in anticipation of the holidays . . . Hark!

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Petite Saison

Style: Saison

ABV: 4.7%

Hops: Saaz.

Malt: Pilsner, Vienna, Flaked Wheat.

Overall: A nice little beer, crisp as the December air. This one's right at home in the pale afternoon light of the shortest days of the year.

Appearance: Pale, pale gold; a touch cloudy; with a head that likes to jump out of the glass.

Aroma: Me: "What does it smell like to you?" Sam: "...I don't know. Sunshine?"

Taste: Bright, floral; light and crisp; a toasty lil cracker.

Mouthfeel: Lively champagne-like carbonation; dry as a bone.

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—M

BREWING + CANNING | A HOMEMADE LIFE

 
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A few years ago, we approached an extremely talented artist about crafting a logo for our new blog, the concept of which boiled down to this: A Homemade Life. It was an ideal we aspired to, which inspired us. We'd traveled a good bit, ventured out of our respective comfort zones, and met a lot of cool, very cool people doing & creating cool, very cool things. That is to say, they were spending their lives not so much as consumers, but as producers (who also enjoyed the distinct pleasure of consuming the wonderful things they were producing). We wanted a piece of that pie. And starting a blog (this blog) would allow us to document our journey, while surely keeping us honest along the way. 

The final illustration that landed in our inboxes was a pure manifestation of what we were reaching for: ingredients fresh from the field, and a well-loved cast iron for cooking them; an abundant honey harvest to enjoy with homemade bread; jars, jars, many mason jars; and, of course, home-brewed beer. It really is a lovely image, and fortunately enough, one that represents many of the experiences we've enjoyed over the past few years. Still, in the interest of keeping it honest, it's important to admit that those experiences don't just happen everyday. For instance, we hadn't canned any tomatoes for two years despite our frequent vows to do so. As for home brewing, that had only happened three times in two years.

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...until last Friday! Sometimes you get an opening to Make Things Happen, and Make Things we did. The reality, we've found, is that such self-reliant tasks often need a bit of outside help to actually happen. Like when your boss at the vegetable farm generously allows you to take home two crates of tomato seconds, free of charge; and when your parents let you invade both their kitchen and garage for the day, filling the air with the swirling aromas of tomatoes simmering & hops thrown into the brew kettle. 

So, Sam cranked the hours away with The Squeeze-O — an incredible, old-fashioned tool lent to us by the same generous veggie farmer mentioned above. I settled into the familiar routine of cleaning, sanitizing, brewing, and then cleaning & sanitizing some more. It was a wonderful day devoted to All Things Homemade, right down to the lovingly-knit wool cap that I wore all day (thank you, Sam!). Now, there is tomato sauce put up in the cupboard for winter; there's beer, too, just waiting to be bottled. 

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—M

AFTER THOUGHTS + APRICOT BREAD

 
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Between moving, leaving our jobs, and becoming pregnant, we have veritably Kicked Up the Dust.  If our hearts are a home, we picked up the dirty rugs, beat 'em real good, swept the floor and carried on (rugs in tow . . . I would never leave the rugs). Ever a fan of the metaphor. But we did literally make that move, not just metaphorically. And now the dust is settling. There is much left to discover and even more to discern, but I can say with a good solid amount of clarity that Mark, baby and I are charting the right course. I do not know how to explain how a house can take care of someone—repair someone, even—but this is quietly, very quietly, happening.

We moved back to Ohio and into my grandma's house two months after she died. This was not the plan. The plan was to move in with her. I felt collapsing sorrow when she died despite knowing she is imprinted on my soul + lives, without suffering, brightly in my memory. But to know me is to know how much I cherish the women who raised me. Long before we had any notion of moving back to Ohio, when we imagined farming in Vermont for years and raising babies in the green mountains, my grandma sent us a piece of mail entitled "after thoughts" which was a pros and cons list of moving in with her. Pros included things like "running hot water" (a luxury we did not have at the time); cons such as "old woman hard of hearing" (ha!). A year later, she's gone and I'm sitting in her kitchen; my kitchen. At the top of the stairs lives "after thoughts", framed and hung with prominence. It is something of a tangible reminder that opportunities can be subtle, can be sweet, can be written with shaky cursive on a scrap piece of paper (in the case of "after thoughts"). It gives me reason to suspect that even when we're not open to them, opportunities might just come back around. And I love this. 

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As for the house, it is imbued with my grandma, the kitchen most of all. The thick plaster walls are home to some of her best paintings—like the mama goose and her gosling (pictured above; It is a particularly poignant painting for me, because Mark calls me Goose and we both call the baby our Gosling. It feels as though she made that painting to encourage my own journey into motherhood. I hold firmly that these things are not coincidental.), or the wood-burned peg rack of a paddling of ducks that has hung in the same spot my entire life. When she died, I was gifted her great-grandmother's 100-year-old quilt and her recipe book. Both are treasures worth more than gold. I christened her oven by baking a recipe from her book that I had never tasted: apricot fruit bread. I did not alter a single ingredient, which means I used shortening in lieu of butter or oil. And you should too, if you give it a try. And you should give it a try, because recipes only make it into grandmother's cookbooks if they are time-tested and Very Delicious.

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MARIELLEN'S APRICOT BREAD
makes two 9x5 loaves or one 9x5 loaf if halved

INGREDIENTS
1 c. dried + diced apricots
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. vegetable shortening
4 eggs
4 c. sifted flour
2 T. baking powder
1 t. salt
2 c. milk
1 c. pitted + diced prunes or raisins or currants (optional)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pecans

STEPS
—Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
—Cover apricots and prunes (raisins, etc) with hot water and let sit for 5 minutes; drain and set aside.
—Cream together the sugar and shortening for 3-5 minutes.
—Add eggs and beat until light in color.
—Sift the dry ingredients together and add to the eggs alternately with the milk.
—Stir in the fruit and nuts.
—Pour into greased and floured 9x5 pans and bake 60-65 minutes.
—Cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.