Saturday, October 19, 2013

The dreaded “Flavored Cigar”

When I first started blogging, I made up my mind that I was going to avoid complaining as much as possible. I am not here to share every beer that I don’t care for, or run down every restaurant with crappy service. I have also made a commitment to you, the readers of this blog, that I will NEVER feed you a line of bullshit for an advertiser or to gain favor with a company. I’ve tried to maintain a balance of steering you away from the really bad, and featuring the really good.

This was all made very clear when we partnered up with Thompson Cigars for a series of cigar reviews.

I suppose we both knew that there would be the time that I’d have to write about a cigar that I just hate. This could be good for you all as well, because sometimes knowing what someone doesn’t like is as important as knowing what they do. It really helps form a baseline for how much salt you need to take with their opinion.

I had (Very unfairly) decided ahead of time that this time had come when they sent me a “Victor Sinclair Shots Spiced Rum” cigar to try.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

199 years since the beer flood

Today is the 199th anniversary of the London Beer Flood of 1814. We have all heard the story a few times, but our young writers took a fresh approach to telling the story, and I thought you all might enjoy her findings. 

Enjoy, and in honor of London, please don't spill your beer today! 

by Marissa S.

On October 17, 1814, a deluge of beer swept through a neighborhood in London. The foaming crest flooded business buildings and homes alike, wreaking havoc everywhere it spread. The catastrophe came to be known as the London Beer Flood.

The flood began at Henry Meux’s Horse Shoe Brewery, which exclusively brewed porter. Late in the day, a 22-foot-tall vat exploded, filling the room with beer and causing the other vats in the room to likewise explode. With nowhere else to go, the dark ale crashed through one of the brewery’s brick walls and out into the streets. Overall, 300,000 gallons of beer flowed out of the Horse Shoe in a wave 15 feet tall.

The porter raced out into the adjoining neighborhood, filling basements and ground level rooms and apartments. Buildings collapsed as the beer tore through walls in its path, people and their possessions were swept up as the wave careened along. In one house, a woman was washed out of an upper floor window and injured. An American walking along the street that the beer used as its river bed later wrote that he had been swept up by the porter and carried along until he was plucked out of the sticky stream by rescuers. Others were not so lucky. At a wake being held in a basement beer sloshed in so quickly that the mourners were not able to escape. Mary Mulvey, her young son Thomas, Ann Saville, Elizabeth Smith and Catharine Butler joined the ranks of the dead. Two little girls, Hannah Banfield and Sarah Bates, died when the ale smashed into their homes and carried them off. Back at the Horse Shoe Brewery, employees had also suffered. Two were taken to the hospital in critical condition. Eleanor Cooper, a bar maid, had been killed when the porter knocked through the brick wall of the brewery.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fire from the garden

I have a rule that I try not to break...EVER!

It’s a simple little rule that requires me to have respect for those hot little gems of glory that come from the garden we call hot peppers! The rule: DON’T WASTE THEM!

This can be challenging when you have a friend give you a grocery sack full of  the hottest Jalapeños to ever curse the plains of Eastern Colorado!

Normally, Jalapeños are easy enough to deal with around here. Can them, pickle them, chop them up in the morning hash browns or leave them on the counter for fresh munching. But not this batch!

I knew something was up when I was told to come take what I wanted. “Just get them out of there,” he said. To the garden we went and cleaned off the plants. All total we had about 4 pounds of fresh, plump, green jalapeño peppers in a plastic grocery sack. (No, I didn’t pay $0.10 for the plastic bag!)
During the ride home, the kids kept complaining of smelling burnt plastic. I think the peppers were trying to burn their way to freedom! (That didn’t really happen)

Over the course of the next three days, I tried every method imaginable to make these things eatable, all with no success. I even tried soaking slices in pickling lime, then soaking in white vinegar for three days before canning with a lot of sugar and salt. I had hoped that the fresh baths of vinegar would leach some of the HOT out of the peppers, but I was wrong.  And before anyone asks the obvious, yes, I tried seeding and de-veining them. I also tried fire roasting, freezing and soaking in Gasoline... Which resulted in a small fire. (That didn’t happen either)

While brainstorming about the potential large number of peppers that were certain to go to waste if I didn’t think of something quickly, I decided to make hot sauce!

Using the skills I learned from making sauerkraut for the last few years, I chopped the peppers and salted them. I figured that being an alkaline food, the peppers could use a little more salt than the cabbage. I usually salt cabbage at 5% by weight. I decided to go 7% for the peppers. They are also a bit less juicy than the cabbage, so I figured the extra salt would help draw out some more water.

I then poured the fiery mix into a glass 2 qt. Container as tears streamed down my face and it became hard to breathe. These are some serious peppers. I’ve dealt with habanero peppers that were not as hot as these jalapeños.

The following morning, I am very pleased to see some bubbling activity! This tells me that there is some biological activity beginning in my jar! SUCCESS... well, assuming that it isn't the peppers eating away at the glass jar.

I will be adding oak cubes at some point in the near future. Wish me luck and hope the peppers don't immediately ignite the wood!

We will be letting this age for as long as I can possibly manage to leave it alone.

When all is said and done, the mixture will be strained and mixed to a normal heat level with white and apple cider vinegar.

Have you made hot sauce? Have you made fermented hot sauce? I’d love to hear your stories!


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Art and life

Not much beats waking up to the tropical sounds of birds singing, palm fronds rustling in the breeze or the crash of waves on the beach as the morning sun starts to cook up some humidity. Except when you get all of that and the sounds of some smooth jazz, the smell of fresh brewed coffee and the realization that you are in Key West!

I’m not the first person to fall in love with the tiny island where the highway begins (or ends, depending on your point of view). Proof of this is the endless list of people who have called Key West home. From Jimmy Buffett to Ernest Hemingway, not to mention the likes of Hunter S. Thompson, Tennessee Williams and so many others.

The adventure never stops

The adventure never stops
with the Buck Reilly series