Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cooking with Brewing Equipment - Sous Vide Style!

I came across an article earlier this week about Dr. Nathan Myhrvold, a Microsoft millionaire who decided to follow his passion for cooking and develop a cookbook.  This cookbook ( started as a pet project that was supposed to be 300 pages and ended up taking over three years to develop and is 2400 pages long!  In the article it talked about his use of Sous Vide ( which is a style of cooking re-discovered in the 60's and 70's that has been slowly spreading around the world.

Right now, it is used mainly in high-end restaurants around the world.  However, there has been a slow adoption among home based chefs and it has been increasing in popularity recently.  This website has some interesting information on it (  The basic idea of the cooking style is to use precise temperature control to cook a meat EXACTLY to the desired temperature of serving, without the possibility of overcooking it.  To do this, the meat is vacuum sealed with some spices/herbs. 

Then the vacuum sealed package is placed into a temperature controlled water bath.

Coincidentally, my Hot Liquor Tank has a PID controller on it which can precisely control it's temperature.  This is where it relates to brewing beer.  Anyone with a brewing setup that can control water temperature for an extended period of time has the equipment to try this cooking method!  We decided to make some Chicken Marsala, so... we placed some flattened chicken breasts, salt, pepper, and sprigs of fresh thyme in a vacuum sealed bag and put them in 141 degree water for approximately two hours.  At 141 degrees, it takes about 20 minutes for all bacteria to be killed (  As the meat remains in solution, it becomes more and more moist as the proteins continue to break down.  Ours came out IMMENSELY moist and tender.  It really was amazing. 

Once removed from the pouches, we patted them dry while heating some extra virgin olive oil until it was smoking.  We then floured the chicken and flash seared them on both sides (less than a minute on both sides).  This achieved the proper maillard reaction to brown the chicken up both for added flavor and for presentation. 

After searing, we added some butter and baby portabello mushrooms to the skillet for 5 or 6 minutes until they soaked up all the EVOO and goodness.  After that we added 3/4 cup Marsala wine and 3/4 cup chicken stock and let it reduce for 10-15 minutes on medium.  We added 2 tablespoons of butter and poured over the chicken.  Finally, we garnished with some chopped Italian parsley. 

The chicken took on a new texture that was more moist and tender than any chicken I have had before.  It was absolutely delicious.  We paired it with some steamed broccoli and citrus/pecan/spinach salad.  All of it was delicious.  This is the recipe we loosely followed (  The cooking process itself is amazing because you CAN'T overcook it, which means it is basically error free.  The only work is vacuum sealing it, and setting the temp., after that a quick searing in a pan or on the grill and it is set to go!  I would highly recommend trying this out if your brewing equipment is capable.  It was really fun, interesting, and we look forward to perfecting the style to impress our guests! 

Please try this out and post results!  We'd love to hear from other people who have tried this! 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Oak Barrel Aging for Homebrewers (Part 2)

This is the second installment to the Barrel Aging series we are doing.  The link to the first is here....

We finally got around to brewing the beer for this barrel.  Summertime activities seem to occupy precious brewing time, but we did it!  Because we acquired a new, heavy charred, oak barrel; we wanted to use a BIG beer to absorb the concentrated flavors.  This lead us to a Russian Imperial Stout recipe that we believe will help reduce the intensiveness of the flavors from the barrel.

Brew day went very well.  We had three 10-gallon systems up and running from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.  We had no hiccups in brewing.  This was probably due to our two beautiful brewing assistants (you know who you are).  This resulted in about 60 gallons of wort to ferment.  All of the initial gravity readings were pretty close to the estimated O.G.  Our microbiologist friend propagated a large concentrated batch of Wyeast #1056 (American Ale) for us.  All twelve of our fermentation vessels (buckets and a carboy) started without a problem within 16 hours and finished out nicely.  They were in a hallway that remained at about 66 degrees Fahrenheit.

Overall it was a great brew and we will be detailing the build for the stand and the transferring of the stout into the barrel soon.  


BeerSmith Recipe Printout -
Recipe: Oak Barrel Stout
Brewer: Thomas Sanford Asst Brewer:
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
TYPE: All Grain
Taste: (35.0)

Recipe Specifications --------------------------
Batch Size: 10.00 gal
Boil Size: 12.38 gal
Estimated OG: 1.090 SG
Estimated Color: 56.1 SRM
Estimated IBU: 72.3 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Ingredients: ------------
Amount Item Type % or IBU
25 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 72.46 %
3 lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt - 80L (80.0 SRM) Grain 8.70 %
2 lbs 8.0 oz Roasted Barley (300.0 SRM) Grain 7.25 %
1 lbs 8.0 oz Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM) Grain 4.35 %
1 lbs Black (Patent) Malt (500.0 SRM) Grain 2.90 %
1 lbs Chocolate Malt (350.0 SRM) Grain 2.90 %
8.0 oz Special B Malt (180.0 SRM) Grain 1.45 %
2.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] (60 min) Hops 13.5 IBU
2.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] (60 min) Hops 14.9 IBU
1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] (45 min) Hops 6.2 IBU
2.00 oz Northern Brewer [8.50 %] (45 min) Hops 21.1 IBU
2.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] (30 min) Hops 11.4 IBU
1.00 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] (10 min) Hops 2.5 IBU
1.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] (10 min) Hops 2.7 IBU
10.00 gal Kansas City, KS Water
1 Pkgs American Ale (Wyeast Labs #1056) Yeast-Ale

Mash Schedule: Double Infusion, Medium Body
Total Grain Weight: 34.50 lb ----------------------------
Double Infusion, Medium Body
Step Time Name Description Step Temp
70 min Saccrification Add 27.60 qt of water at 172.7 F 154.0 F
10 min Mash Out Add 24.15 qt of water at 187.6 F 168.0 F