Homebrewing Beer 101: Tire Biter Golden Bitter Ale Part 1

I am a serial hobbyist. Admittedly. One of the things I love to do is learn how something works and/or take an interest in something that most people talk about but never do. In my lifetime, I’ve:

-had saltwater aquariums

-owned beehives for extracting honey

-collected sports cards, mainly hockey

-had a substantial MAD Magazine collection

-played in an acoustic guitar duo in bars

-own a full set of Callaway golf clubs in a leather tour bag

-have the best damn greenhouse in town

Those are just a few off the top of my head. At one point, I owned my own bowling ball and even have a Lionel trainset in my garage. They are all fun hobbies that there are tons of individuals out there in the world who devote their entire lives to. Now, I’ve never gone that far…most of my hobbies will either go on the back burner after a couple years or I’ll just lose interest. HOWEVER…the one thing that I love to do and have done for the better part of 20 years is:

Drink beer.

Oh, man. I’m the best beer drinker I know. I love different types of beers, from the heavy stuff that tastes like thick soy sauce to cheap Texas O.P. beer. The one hobby that I’ve often thought about but never got into was homebrewing. I have friends who have done it and have even tried homebrews. One or two were passable but the rest were downright awful. Terrible.

One night recently, I was watching Alton Brown’s Good Eats on tv, and his homebrew episode came on. Ever fascinated, I watched the whole thing and then turned to my wife and said, “I could totally do that.”

Now, normally when I come up with a new hobby, she just rolls her eyes because she knows it will either be something I forget about or it’s going to end up being something I spent time/money on. This was different. When I said it, she lit up and said, “We can totally do that.”

Bingo.

My next call was to Runnin’ Buddy. I told him my wacky idea, and he told me that he grew up with his dad homebrewing, and it just so happened that his father- in-law was a homebrewer years ago and gave him an entire set of gear to homebrew including carboy, cooker, bottles…everything. All we needed to do was clean it up, buy the ingredients, and get going.

My newest hobby was born:

Off to the big city to a local homebrew store, and we got not only the ingredients, but also some expert advice and recipes to make beer. We chose two different brews…one that should take about a month and another that will take nearly 7 months to completely age. The ingredient list:

-2lbs of milled grains

-a bucket of malt syrup

-0.5oz of Fuggles hops

-0.5oz of Hallterau hops (that’s one of the noble hops…more on that later)

-a packet of dry ale yeast (ale yeast ferments from the top down vs. lager yeast that ferments from the bottom up, so we don’t have to stir it in)

-corn sugar…looks like powdered sugar but tastes different. It’s a disaccharide, which means that we can add it directly to the wort after the primary fermentation)

-bottled drinking water (cheap stuff..not distilled)

-cheesecloth socks for the hops

-whirlflac tablets

Immediately, you are going to be overwhelmed because we are talking about ingredients and stuff that you’ve never heard of (probably). I know I was. Stick with it, though…it’s not as bad as you think. Your homebrew store will be able to provide all of this for you and explain what it all is. If not, then go find another homebrew store.

The gear:

-4-gallon, stainless steel stock pot with a glass lid

-7-gallon plastic bucket with a spigot and a sealable lid

-digital probe thermometer

-assorted other stuff. What? Yeah, keep trusting me on this and read the whole thing before you start.

The very first thing you do after inventory assessment is to sterilize everything. Even if you’ve washed and cleaned everything with hot water and soap, there still may be some bacteria floating around, and even the smallest amount of bacteria can turn the beer bad fast. We mixed 2 tablespoons of regular bleach with hot water in the primary fermenting bucket and shoved everything in there that we could…corks, burper, probe thermometer, metal whisk…anything we thought we might use at any point after the boil phase, we sterilized.

From up above:

While all that sat for 30 minutes, we started up our “brew tea”, which is a gallon of water with the milled grains seeping.

That has to simmer at 153 degrees F for 20 minutes. Why so precise? The whole grains have a lot of sugars and resins deep inside their kernels that will be really bitter if they are extracted, so if you keep the heat down they will not seep out. In addition, you CANNOT squeeze the bag they are in AT ALL or you’ll squeeze them out.

The mesh grain bag with the grains inside:

Do this over the sink our you’ll have this to clean up:

While the brew tea is making, I boiled another pot of water, then put a towel in the bottom so that the malt syrup could get hot and be easier to pour out. I’ll explain more in a bit, but the malt syrup is an extracted blend of grain sugars already pre-made by the brew store. Serious homebrewers will extract their own, but since this is our first time and since it takes about a day to extract them, we are going to just use the premade stuff. I don’t expect that to change.

Shangri-La Dog is there to help lick up anything that hits the floor.

After the water boils, turn it off and put the uncovered syrup bucket in, making sure you don’t overflow the water.

The malt is so sugary sweet, you can barely stand it. It looks like super thick honey and kinda tastes like honey a little bit, but the aftertaste is really potent. Not bad, but definitely a shock to the system when you taste it. It’s beautiful, though.

In goes the bag of milled grains.

We kept the water boiling at 153® for five minutes to make sure we could maintain the heat. As well, we gently stirred the tea from time to time to equalize the temp and make sure there wasn’t a build up of heat in one spot under the bag.

After 5 minutes, you can see the wort begin to take shape as the water turns a pretty blonde color.

Meanwhile, we took 1.5 quarts of water and heated it up to 170 degrees. We’ll use that to pour thru the tea to make sure we get all the goodies out when we are draining it.

After 20 minutes, we pulled the bag and drained it. Then, we poured the extra hot water thru it.

Top off to 3 gallons of water for the boil. We’ll bring this up to a boil…

The pour in the malt syrup. It’s so thick that you have to immediately start stirring it up or it will stick to the bottom of the pot. Why do I know this? you might inquire? Later.

After we bring that back to a boil we are going to had the hops. Remember up top, I mentioned we are using two different types of hops. “Hops” are the petals of a flower from a plant that is the same family as marijuana (no lie). Brewers have used the petals straight in for years, however they now concentrate them into pellets for homebrewers. I’m sure real beer makers do the same, but we for sure are going to. There are four types of “noble hops”; those are the original hops that were first used:

-Hallertau Hallertauer Mittelfruh

-Tettnanger Tettnang

Spalter Spalt

-Saaz

They are all grown in central Europe and are the standard for Bavarian style beer. Other hops varieties are grown all over, but the noble hops are considered the grandfathers of beer flavoring/finishing. Today, we are using a British hops called “fuggles” (leave it up to the Brits to come up with a goofy name) and the noble hops, Hallertau. We’ll do this in two stages: flavoring & finishing/aroma. The fuggles will boil for 75 minutes and add a big robust flowery flavor. The Halltertau will only be in for two minutes because we just need the aroma and oils to give a bitter punch that this recipe calls for.

We’ll put those into a cheesecloth sock, darned at one end and tied off at the other end. The pellets will swell up and expand pretty big as they cook, so we need to give them plenty of room to grow.

The boiling wort (which is what you call beer before it’s finished):

When the rolling boil begins, we throw in the fuggles and let them cook.

Now, I wish I could explain to you how great this smells. The malted barley and Munich grains that are in the bag smell like Grape Nuts if you’ve ever had them cooked. The hops smell so good…it’s like perfume, but with an anise kick. It’s so strong when you first open the bag that it takes you back, but you immediately get right back in for another whiff.

After 60 minutes of boiling on the flavoring fuggles hops, we need to add whirlfloc. Whirlfloc is a synthetic additive that doesn’t affect the smell, taste, or flavor of the beer at all. What it does is grab on to all the suspended particles in the beer and make them heavy enough to sink to the bottom of the primary fermenting bucket. If we were making a dark beer, then this isn’t an issue. However, with a lighter golden beer then we are probably going to see particles in the beer if we don’t filter it. Since we don’t want to filter, we use whirlfloc. Purists will use Irish Moss, but we’ll just use whirlfloc for ease of use.

After 13 more minutes, it’s time for our finishing or “aroma” hops. The first hopping gives flavor. We go with a more potent hops to add the smells of the hops only. For this, we are using the Hallertau:

Two bags of hops.

Notice the line on the inside of the pot where the original level of the wort started. We’ve reduced down considerably, concentrating the smells, sugars, and flavors of the wort.

The finishing hops stay in for two minutes, then we turn off the heat and pull the bags.

The wort will continue to churn for a bit with the carry-over heat. If you taste this now, it tastes like sweet bread that you’ve liquefied. Big flowery taste with a bit of bitterness on the back of your tongue from the hops.

We let this cool down for 15 minutes in the pot. Then, we took 8lbs of ice and put it into the sterilized primary fermenting bucket with the spigot turned off so it doesn’t run all over the floor.

For reference, by the way, we cut the hops socks open to take a look at the hops after the cook. The flavoring fuggles hops are on the bottom and are a noticeable browner color, as we’ve cooked a lot of the chlorophyll out of the flower. The aroma hops are on top and are still bright green.

The grains that we seeped for the brew tea look like cattle feed, and frankly kinda smell like cattle feed, too. We’ll set those out in the fancy greenhouse to dry and will put in the birdfeeder.

Pouring the wort into the fermenter…look how beautiful that is.

Pouring it over the ice will help melt it.

Remember what I said about having to stir the syrup well or it would stick to the bottom and burn?

Damn, I hope that doesn’t come back to bite us down the road.

Topping off with another gallon of water to make five gallons total in the fermenter (

The wort in the bucket:

We have to let this cool off to somewhere between 65-75 degrees before we “pitch” the packet of dry yeast. If it’s too hot, then the yeast will immediately die. If it’s too cold, the yeast could die or just be arrested and not bloom.

The packet of yeast

“Pitching” the yeast into the top of the bucket:

Now, we do NOT stir this up. Because we are using ale yeast, it needs to sit right on top to work. The yeast feeds on the sugars in the wort and craps out air and alcohol as a natural process. We need the air to escape in this portion of the process, but want to keep all the alcohol. We do this by sealing the top of the bucket except for a small hole with a “burper” or an “airlock”. This will slowly let air out while not letting any back in. Air has bacteria, and we don’t want that.

Alton Brown tells us to add water into the airlock to make bubbles, but the gearheads go one step further. If you use vodka in the airlock instead of water, then it keeps it extra disinfected. It just so happens that I keep vodka laying around for just such an occasion.

Carefully pouring it into the airlock chamber.

Upright.

Knucks for a finished wort

Here comes the tricky part. We’ve got to let this ferment for 10-20 days in a dark cool place, no hotter than 70 degrees and preferably around 60 degrees. It just so happens that we have a coat closet that stays at 62-65 degrees at all times

That’s our first part. There are two more parts on the way, but you’ll have to wait for a couple of weeks for the wort to ferment.

To be continued…

The Garden is Calling

The Garden is calling me … I received two new seed catalogs. Yea!

All kinds of organic, heirloom and hybrid varieties.

Other cool garden accessories and products…

For tonight … that’s all I got. Been burning the candle from both ends this week, but  I’ll be dreaming about the garden tonight. [Also I am having terrible writer’s block. Sometimes this is as good as it gets.]

Random Awesomeness in Pictures

Sometimes things don’t quite come together. Tonight was one of those nights… I had plans for this blog post, but Jdubs is not cooperating so I had to redirect. But now maybe it’s going to be something more awesome than I had originally planned.

I looked through my random photographs and there are several I haven’t been able to use elsewhere. So I decided to write this post as random awesomeness in pictures.

A few days ago United Supermarkets had a sale on berries. I LOVE berries, and since it was cold, I made oatmeal and berry awesome in a bowl. And I have serious coffee every day. This is pressed coffee. The French version of Cowboy Coffee; it’s not for sissies.

French Press Coffee. Old fashioned oats, fresh berries, walnuts and a splash of cream.

Supper tonight. I made vegetable soup and chicken salad from a leftover roast chicken. The bread is the awesome country French bread we got at Central Market on Sunday. Oh and those are the little garden tomatoes I picked when they were still green, just before the killing frost. If you leave them out, they will ripen.

Soup and sandwich supper.

I almost peed my pants when I saw this (at Central Market on Sunday). You know how I love Scharffen Berger chocolate. Well here is a giant block of San Francisco chocolaty awesomeness!

OMG. I've died and gone to chocolate heaven.

The UPS man left a great big cat playhouse on the front porch. (That’s what I told the cat, anyway). Awesomeness in a cat toy.

This is awesome until the cat tries to play at 2 a.m., then not so awesome.

Who doesn’t love Sock Monkey? This hat is random awesomeness!

This Sock Monkey hat was a big hit at the supermarket tonight.

Working Weekend Garden Plans

Last night in the dark I made one final, final harvest from the garden. It was 28 degrees this morning 6:30 a.m.—a pretty hard frost. So everything should either be dead or cease to produce at this point, which is right on schedule for this part of the world.

I went a little crazy planting the night shade varieties.

My peppers have flourished in these warm days/cool nights. This stuff is lucky to be alive considering the hot, dry summer we had. I have water bills to prove how precious this produce is!

This is what my garden looks like right now.

Sad garden.
Dead, dried leaves soon will be fodder for the compost bin.

Everywhere I look there are leaves… so this weekend will be all about clearing the refuse for the compost bin and pulling up all the remnants of night shade varieties hanging on.

After all I have pansies, lettuce and broccoli to plant! This will be the first venture for me to try to grow cole crops (and cold crops) over the winter. (Want to know the difference between cole and cold? Read more …)

I’ll be back tomorrow with something more.

Falling in Love with the Fall Garden Center

I had to be in Wichita Falls today for an appointment. So before coming home, I made a stop at Smith Gardentown. What a treat! I love to visit garden centers, farms and nurseries at all times of the year. This time I was just looking and trying to get ideas for Christmas for the various horticulturalists and ornithologists in my life.

I drove up and instantly loved the place because there were ducks on the pond, Canada geese grazing and little garden statues of pigs.

Canada geese!
A little concrete piggy for the Kentucky Pig!

I love to visit farms and nurseries in the fall because it shows me what plants look like in the fall – whether the foliage is colorful, evergreen or if a deciduous plant has pretty bark.

Little Henry will be a definite addition to my garden. Beautiful spring blooms, beautiful fall foliage!
Opuntia Prickly Pear-- Thornless!

In the hustle bustle of the spring some plants get overlooked, like this really cool cacti! A prickly pear without the prickles.

Then there are the perennial favorites … a Shumard Oak. I have one just like this in my front yard and this photo reminds me why … It’s beautiful and well adapted for our area.

Shumard oak tree -- excellent tree for North Texas.

A place with a friendly cat that comes meowing for affection is always a good sign. Two cats who are friendly and want attention and are neutered means that the people here care for lots of living things – not just plants.

This cat chased me down so that I could pet it.
Kitty #2 sleuthed across the patio to get a scratch.
Swiss Chard-- excellent for the fall kitchen garden. I think this is the "neon lights" seed mix.
Mixed pansies ... happy pansy faces.
Some of the greatest rose gifts are the blooms in the fall.

The garden center is always a good place to get gift ideas for the gardener. Look at these beautiful garden globes. We can just file that under the “pretty-stuff-momma-can-never-have-because-she-has-a-boy-and-a-dog-that-is-OCD-with-spheres.”

I can never have pretties like this ...
Cloche terrarium ... nice coffee table gift for the gardener.
A flag for everyone (at least in my divided house).
Bird feeders and houses for all the little finches in your life.
Happy pansy face, y'all!

Aquarium Gone. Now What?

Aquarium, part deaux.

The aquarium in its glory days:

And the photo doesn't do it justice.

Over the weekend my husband started the process of taking down our 120 gallon saltwater aquarium. Three days later, and a whole lot of elbow grease, the tank and contents have been broken down and moved into the garage. The garage smells like Galveston, Texas. Amazing how smelly saltwater can get when it’s not moving.

It’s also quiet in the house – really quiet. There is no more pitter-pat of running water. No more whirl and hum of filters and pumps. No more fizzy bubble sounds.

Saltwater is seriously corrosive. It peeled the paint off the baseboard and discolored the the wall. We’ll be going to get a gallon of primer and matching paint so we can touch up [repaint] the wall. No wonder classic car enthusiasts don’t want cars from the coast or northern states where they use salt on the roads.

But now we have this huge, blank space in our main living room – a little more than 8 ft. of wall space. Everything is off balance. Before we had this nice balance – the fireplace on one end and aquarium on the opposite end.

Before/After

The initial set up
After the aquarium ... (the photo isn't great, but you can see the space).

I have a some ideas …

  1. Bookcases, you can never have enough
IKEA totally Rocks!

2. Kid space, with toys and games and stuff (all organized)

Yeah, right. Our crap never gets put back up and our kid is spoiled.

 

3. Art! (I’m not an art-y person but can appreciate a nice original, professional or amateur.)

Starry Night, Y'all.

 

4. A collage photo gallery — I take lots of photos of flowers. Maybe a good place for a collection of framed originals.

Zinnia blossom a few days before the "killer" frost.
Passion vine. Hearty vine that even the grasshoppers don't bother.
A Taos Mountain flower with a moth. Maybe a entomogy major can identify it.

 

5.  A wine rack (with wine, of course)

Williams Sonoma Rocks!

 

 

Nanny …  all I want for Christmas is a gift card to IKEA!

French Onion Soup

I remember the first time I had French Onion Soup. Actually, I don’t, but if you allow me to totally make up a story, it goes like this: I was hitchhiking across provincial France one summer when I was in college. After stopping in a small town for some bread and cheese, I noticed a wafting smell emanating from a cottage close to the marketplace area of the town. It was heavenly. It smelled like perfume…the perfect blend of peasantry and precision in food that carried me through the air like a Bugs Bunny cartoon where he gets the perfumed inner thigh smell of a carrot in his nostrils, which renders him helpless and catatonic as he slowly drifts thru the air towards the source of the smell.

I approached the cottage, knocked on the door, and was greeted by the most beautiful French woman you could imagine. She was fetching in the most humble ways…naturally beautiful, however she was reticent in seeing a stranger at her door who was sniffing the air like a bloodhound. In my broken French asked, “Qu’est-ce que c’est?”

Looking perplexed and glancing down at her feet, she said, “Ils sont mes chaussures.”

Actually, I think the first time I had French Onion Soup was at a Jason’s Deli or a La Madeleine or something like that. Either way, it left an impression on me.

Since I can’t recreate pastoral France nor is there a deli anywhere around me, I have to create my own FOS if I want some. Fortunately for me, my FOS is world’s beyond what you can normally find in a chain restaurant. Every young onion dreams of someday being the main ingredient in this powerhouse soup. So, without further adieu…he we goes.

Mise en place:

-two large yellow onion

-one large red onion

-one large white onion

-3/4c of cabernet sauvignon

-1/4c of port

-6 strips of bacon

-4-5 cloves of garlic

-carton of beef broth

-carton of beef stock

-provolone cheese

-a nice french loaf

Boil some water in a large pot and add a bit of salt to soften the water.

Add the onions:

Blanche them for 2-3 minutes.

Then dump into an ice bath to stop the cooking.

This will make the skins easier to remove. You want to remove the outside layers that are papery. They’ll be quite toothsome in the soup, and you don’t want that.

While they are cooling off, get your big stock pot out and render 6 strips of good bacon. Don’t cook on high…you need to be able to crisp the bacon up but not burn.

Remove the skins of the cooled onions.

Half the onions, then julienne into strips. You want nice bite-sized strips. If you cut them too thin, they’ll disappear in the cooking. Make them too big, and they aren’t very fun to eat.

Do this will all the onions.

The red onions make a beautiful addition to the soup. They’ll leach that red color out into the soup.

Once the bacon is crispy and the fat is all cooked out, remove the bacon. Save it for a BLT or something. Don’t throw away good bacon.

Add all of the onion to the bacon fat.

Stir them so they are good and coated with the fat. Add some salt to make them start to cook down to translucent.

Five cloves of garlic, smashed and diced. I like to leave the garlic in small chunks so it has some texture to it in the soup.

Curl your fingers in and let the blade of the knife hit your knuckles. That way, you don’t get cut.

Add the garlic. More salt if you need.

Fresh ground pepper.

While the onions and garlic are cooking, measure out ¾c of red wine. I like using a tasty table wine that is good enough to drink along with the meal. The combo of the wine plus the soup is a great complement.

Plus 1/4c of your favorite port. I had an open bottle of vintage in my bar and needed to use it.

After a few minutes, the onion will start to become translucent so that you can see thru the edges.

Gorgeous.

Add the wines to the onions. The wine will immediately lose its deep ruby color and turn kinda brown. We need it to mellow a bit before we add the stock/broth.

And a bit more salt. Taste this along the way. The salt helps drive the moisture out of the onion and make them soft.

After a bit, the wine will mix with the moisture rendered from the onion and turn all of the onion a nice pink color.

Now, since we are going to be serving red wine with this meal, I like to mix in beef stock and beef broth. Beef stock will have fat where the broth should be just about fat free. When you drink a red wine with big tannins, serve it with a fatty dish. The fat will coat the mouth and calm the tannins so that you can experience the fruit w/o drawing your mouth up.

Stock. In.

Broth. In.

Bring it up to a simmer, then cover and reduce the heat to a low simmer.

That needs to simmer on low for an hour and a half. At this point, salt and pepper to taste, but be careful. Over the next hour, the flavor is going to change drastically as all the flavors meld together. Now, notice that all we’ve added so far is salt and pepper for flavor. No herbs, no spices. That’s by design. The beef stock should be prepared with a bouquet garni for flavor. The natural flavor of the wine, the bacon, and the onion/garlic is going to be complex enough for us.

Taste it along the way. You’ll use more salt than you’d think, but be careful not to oversalt it. It’s best to get it to the point where you think it still needs just a bit more, then after the rest you’ll find that it’s perfect.

After an hour (notice the fat glistening on top):

After the hour and a half long simmer, turn off the heat and let it rest uncovered. While it’s resting, cut a french loaf into 1″ slices.

Olive oil.

Brush the olive oil onto both sides of each slice of bread, then salt and pepper for each side.

Into a 425deg oven until nice and brown.

The crispy bread is integral to a FOS.

When the soup is finished, ladle portions into a high-sided bowl or a crock.

Put a crouton right in the middle of the bowl just on top of the soup. Don’t push it down…just float it right on top.

Take a slice or two of provolone cheese and lay it over the crouton.

Now, some people like to turn their broiler on, slide the crock into the oven, and melt the cheese under the searing heat of the broiler. That’s a great way to do it. However, I like to use my kitchen torch to do it. I can be a bit more precise and get the cheese cooked to the perfect sear up close.

Seared:

Served with a bit of that tasty wine, and you’ve got yourself a delicious meal.

Here it is in its full glory. Bust thru the crouton that’s been soaking up that soup and spoon up the cheese with those onions.

And there you have it. French Onion Soup that will change your life.

When Frost Happens

One and a half days ago the weather really changed when a powerful cold front move through. The temps dropped considerably in an 18 hour span. It went from being summer to fall in a few hours. There was nothing gradual about it. But then again this year has been anything but typical … 10 degrees in February then 100 degrees in April. Really!? Seriously!?

Yesterday… (OK, 1.5 days ago)

Today …

The first hard, killing frost happened close to dawn today – it was 25 degrees at 8:15 this morning. The frost twinkled brightly all over creation this morning.

At the stop sign near my kid’s school …

Sun on the left, frost on the right. Awesome display of the warmth of the sun.

I attempted to cover my garden and a nice stand of Siam basil in my front flower bed. I had beautiful zinnias in orange and pink. Zinnias are a favorite of mine because they bloom constantly and do well in the hateful August sun plus they are drought tolerant. And we had a hell of a hot, dry summer this year.

When Frost Happens, Things Die.

Yesterday …

Today ….


The frost happened, and made this a very sad flower (and a dead flower.)

Frost killed this future eggplant.

Dead basil.

Although, the frost can bring about beauty of its own.

(How great is it to have a handy iPhone when you are driving down the alley and see something pretty?)

Welcome to the weekend, y’all!

Killing Frost and Terrorist Black Flies

The first day of November was glorious—a bright blue sky, upper 70s, no wind, overnight low in the upper 50s. Totally kick-ass weather for growing a fall crop of tomatoes, eggplants and chili peppers.

This is North Texas …It can be 90 degrees one day and 30 the next; we can have 100-degree temperature swings within the same year.


(February 2011. It was 10 degrees. 113 degrees August 5, 2011 after 10 p.m. )

I knew something was up because the last two days have been filled with black flies acting crazy, terrorizing me – at home, the office, the coffee shop, everywhere.

Black flies are one of the most annoying critters on Plant Earth. I grew up on a ranch with lots of animals pooping nearby, let’s just say you can never have enough fly swats, fly paper or bug zappers. But when the flies swarm and act crazier than usual, you know the weather is about to change. After a sudden killing frost you can walk around and see thousands of fly exoskeletons on the ground.

As a gardener, I know the end is near for my tender annual vegetables—it’s November. I’m in USDA zone 7B with an average first frost date of November 14. But, I’m clinging to the hope that I can nurse my plants along, especially since they just started producing fruit after surviving a wretchedly hot, bone-dry summer. (No exaggeration, it’s on record as the driest, hottest summer since 1950).

So I pulled up my trusty weather app on my iPhone and sure enough … big cold front moving in—decidedly not good for the garden.

I put in an emergency call to handyman husband to get supplies at the hardware store and I made a mad 5 p.m. dash to the feed store to get plastic sheeting. An hour and a half later we have the garden covered. (I am not going back out there to take a picture, Ok I took a picture this morning.)

The temps went from 70 degrees to 45 in about two hours with winds gusting up to 40 mph. I made one last harvest, just in case.

Jalapenos are beautiful, fruity and spicy-delicious right out of the garden.

Serrano peppers just off the vine.

Thanks for the help, sweet husband. Eggplant parmesan is in your future.

Burgers with Bacon and Blue Cheese (The Great BBB)

Everyone loves a burger…everyone (with the exception of my wife) loves it more when it has bacon and blue cheese on it.

There are only two cooking methods for a burger: flat top or grill. The both have their merits. Today we are cooking on the grill. Your George Foreman grill is not a grill. Return it.

Start with good ground beef.

Scratch that…start with a drink:

Then, move to the ground beef.

Season well with smoked paprika, some shots of cayenne, and Cavender’s Greek Seasoning.

Form a patty. I use this press for consistency.

Cook the bacon. Save the fat.

Fire up the grill. When the grill is hot, grill the buns. Use good buns…seriously. You need to put some fat on the buns beforehand. You can use butter or bacon fat (from the bacon you just made). As I am very health conscious, I use both.

When the buns are done grill the burgers. A little extra seasoning on the burgers at this point is a good idea.

Leave them alone on the grill…play with them too much and they will fall apart.

Get your blue cheese.

Remove the burgers from the grill (medium is perfect).

Turn on your oven’s broiler.

Assemble the burgers (bun, burger, bacon, blue cheese) on a baking sheet.

Place them under the broiler until the cheese is melted.

Garnish and consume with the beverage of your choice.