I alluded two weeks ago about making beer at the farm. There are many beer drinkers in our midsts, and it was getting a little expensive to keep up the supply, while holding true to the budget constraints of winter on the farm. A good six-pack was running over $10 plus deposit. There was always growlers, but we found that we usually could tack-on the cost of a brew and lunch to the bill as well. After having lunch at Founders, our favorite micro-brewery in Grand Rapids, we started discussing the possibility of making our own beer. Why not? It would be affordable, fun and hopefully delicious. How hard could it be? The brew masters: Val, Lynne and Tim began gathering supplies. Five gallon fermenting pails, carboys, thermometers, bottles, caps and a spiffy looking bottle- capper were assembled. The process of making a home-brew, although time-consuming, is not in itself difficult. The allure of a substantial cost savings is only part of it. The real attraction is personally crafting a brew for yourself and others. This is similar to a gourmet cook wowing others with her culinary skills. After all you can follow a recipe, but brewing beer is indeed a craft.
Sunday’s are currently our beer making day. The process goes something like this:
Fill a large stainless steel kettle with 2.5 gallons of water and bring it to 150 degrees F. To this add a bag filled with cracked grains and steep for 20 minutes. Take out bag and bring liquid to a boil. Then add both liquid and dry malts, stirring constantly to dissolve, bringing the liquid back to a boil. Next add your flavoring or bittering hops and boil for 45 minutes. After that, add your aromatic hops and boil 15 minutes more. Cool liquid from 212 degrees F to 70 degrees F (snow works great for this). Once cooled to 70 degrees, transfer liquid from stainless steel pot to plastic fermenter (5 gallon bucket). Add enough water to reach the 5 gallon mark, stir in yeast, put on lid, attach bubbler and set near wood-stove. Let it do its thing for one week. After one week, transfer the potential brew from the fermenter to a glass carboy. This is called ‘racking’. Once again seal carboy with a bubbler and let it rest for two more weeks to complete fermentation and liquid to clear as sentiments drop to the bottom.
Finally, rack the beer into a transfer bucket. Add 2 cups water and priming sugar. At this stage you can fill and cap sterilized bottles. The final process allows for the sugar to act on the yeast and carbonation is created. In a mere two to four weeks you have your elixir. In the past five weeks the brew masters have made: IPA, Oatmeal Stout, India Black Ale, European Bock and Smoked Porter. Of course good beer should be accompanied by good food. The following dish got rave reviews. Make sure you use bone-in pork chops. It does make a difference.
Pork Chops with Cabbage
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 bone-in pork chops, 1 inch thick
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- 3 slices pancetta or bacon, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium onion, cut in 1/2 inch vertical slices
- 1 head green cabbage, cored and sliced thinly
- 3 Tbsp all purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
- In a Dutch oven or large roasting pan placed over two burners, heat olive oil on high. Salt and pepper pork chops and brown on one side 3-5 minutes until golden. Turn and cook 1 minute more. Transfer to plate.
- Reduce heat to medium. Add pancetta or bacon; cook until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Add onion; cook until softened, about 5 minutes more. Add cabbage and cook, stirring frequently until wilted and lightly golden, about 6-10 minutes. Add the flour and stir until ingredients are coated. Add the milk and cook until thickened, about 4-6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Place the pork chops on top of cabbage and transfer to oven. Bake until pork is cooked through, about 10-15 minutes.
Good beer, good food, good friends. Let the good times roll.