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Friday, April 21, 2017

April Mead

So my wife likes to forage. She filled one of our deep freezers with pears, autumn olive, persimmons, and so on last fall. I kept meaning to do some meads with them, she kept saying that produce was set aside specifically for that. I don't care much for persimmon so I passed on that part. There was also store bought cranberries, three pounds of them.

It would have been good if I'd gotten on this sooner, the advice I've gotten is don't leave the fruit in the freezer more than a month or two. But I think I dodged the freezer burn bullet, and freezing does help make the juice more available.

A lot of meadmakers will just make a standard mead as a starting point, mixing honey and water, then put the fruit in a mesh bag in the fermenter. I haven't tried that method yet, I've been using the fruit juice to mix with the honey, which works too. But last fall, working with fresh fruit, I learned the limits of the wine press.

To defrost the fruit, I mixed a weak sulfite solution (one Campden tablet per five gallons of water) and let the fruit thaw overnight in the water.

The autumn olive and cranberry in the press still didn't yield much juice, after a ton of work, a little under a gallon. I was pretty discouraged. Corinna claimed the pressed fruit for jelly and I moved on to the pears.

You can see here how the autumn olive would rather squirt out between the staves of the press than give up juice. The pears, though, strong language was enough to get them flowing. Once I filled the press with the pears, I ran a knife down through them to help break the skins and then pressed away. With less effort than the three quarts or so of cranberry-autumn olive juice I quickly had almost four gallons of pear juice and relatively drive fruit left behind. Not like what you'd get with a hammer mill followed by a hydraulic press, but as good as I was going to get.

I was going to also make a standard mead, also going to keg up one of last October's batches, rack the other. But I was coming off the last wave (I hope) of illness from this winter. This time it was all bronchitis type stuff, I don't know if it was residual from the flue I had last month or just another round of crud.

And one thing after another, the honey had crystalized harder than anything I've ever seen. It doesn't affect how it works, but it affects how much work it is to dissolve it. I felt like I might as well be trying to dissolve rocks from my yard. The rest of the bucket, I thought of a clever way to heat it to re-liquify it: I'm going to take it to work in my car before I try to work with it again. Solar gain should get it up to 140ºF or so, that should do it.

I think that standard mead is what I'm going to make at Big Brew out at Bacchus & Barleycorn on May 6. I did demonstration brews out at B&B a few times way back when. Like I think it's been upwards of 15 years. It's a fun project, but my all grain brewing setup is pretty bulky and my process is very slow. I'd get out there first thing, a couple hours before anyone else, and still be the last one cleaning up. Plus, I think the last time I did it I was driving an F-150, so I had a lot of hauling capacity. My gear pretty well filled the Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon I drove before that, too.

These days I drive a 2006 Scion xB, which is a roomy car for an econo-box, but I'm not sure I can haul everything at once in it. But for mead? A couple-three buckets, my brewing tool box, drill, degassing wand, a few measuring cups and spoons, a scale, I could haul my mead setup in a Smart Car. Plus, if I go standard mead (as opposed to spending six hours wrestling with pressing fruit juice, I can be done and cleaned up faster than an all extract beer brewer.

After that standard mead, it'll be about time to get more honey, from there I think I'll try the aforementioned technique of making a sack style mead and dropping a mesh bag of fruit in it.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Taste of Shawnee

Our favorite sushi restaurant (not my favorite, necessarily, I'm a sucker for Bob Wasabe, but the restaurant Corinna loves to go to that I do too) is in Shawnee. But Sushi Mido doesn't participate in Taste of Shawnee for whatever reasons. I personally believe they should, some of the crowd that comes out for this is probably in the demographic of people who think sushi sounds scary, but if they could sample a roll only risking one ticket, I bet a good percentage of them would find out they love the stuff. And if you can't enjoy the rolls from Sushi Mido there's something dead inside you.

But plenty of fine eateries do participate. Some are chains, some are local restaurants that have a few locations, some are mom & pop type joints. I'm guessing they're all owned or run by Rotarians since it's a Shawnee Rotary is who puts it on. Which is how I end up going, Dad's a Rotarian and I end up with quite a few free tickets, which makes it a heck of a cheap date. I bought a few out there, but when four people can basically pig out for seven dollars, that's a deal.

And being that I'm the new recipient of a Judgement with a Stay for some medical bills, I'm all about the cheap dates. Everybody knows that if you send $100 a month to someone you owe a big medical debt to, they'll keep it out of collections. Everybody knows they won't (or maybe even can't) sue you if you're making that good faith effort to pay. Ask Leonard Cohen about what everybody knows, it turns out everybody is misinformed.

And I have good insurance by today's standards. So now if I pay some lawyers $200 a month (and presumably keep paying KU Med $100 a month as well), they won't garnish my paycheck. This is what winning looks like in America today.

Anyway, back to the happy stuff. Taste of Shawnee. It was a lot of fun. I recognized from RAGBRAI the signature sound of an antique John Deere one cylinder engine cranking ice cream. Corinna was super excited when I showed up with a dip of it, I was like, I didn't see it, I heard it. About two thirds of the way through the route every day on RAGBRAI there's an ice cream vendor that sets up with those putting, halting motors and I like ice cream (whereas my wife loves it), but after fifty miles on the bike in Iowa in July, ice cream is like a miracle.

Mo found pizza, cotton candy and turkey sandwiches, which means she was pretty much in hog heaven. She drank a smoothie, too, which see seemed skeptical of at first, but then once she'd tasted she realized it was pretty awesome stuff.

Molly Seal of Approval

We were late for our movie, or rather really early for our movie since we went to the next showing of Going in Style. So we stopped in on the Kemper Museum.

When Mo sees a piece she likes, she typically goes and stands by it or in front of it and waits for me to take a picture. She doesn't seem to have much interest in looking at the photograph, but I take it. Last time we were at the Kemper, my camera's batter had died and I had to pretend to take pictures.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

3rd Annual 73rd Running of the Pines

I can't believe how much I look forward to this event. Which was rescheduled. And restricted because last year it was asses & elbows. We need to find a bigger venue because there are so many clowns that want to get in the clown car.

What clown car? BSA, vintage and open class Pinewood Derby. Just like when I was in Cub Scouts except I don't get bullied and there's pizza and beer. And your car can have a Boogie Nights theme, or be Milk & Cheese ("shit your pants and run!"). And while we learned the hard way that the open category can't include C02 propulsion, the pretty much anything goes category just unleashes creativity.

Witness the 3D printed car with two tungsten disks embedded in it and bearings in the wheels that weighed almost a pound. Or the buffalo car that smoked it at half the weight.

Also, Boy Scouts/Cub Scouts does Pinewood Derby, I don't think the girls get to play. But at the 73rd Running of the Pines, girls were ruling: two of the three categories were won by female entrants.

If I can figure out a way to work it with Velo+, I think the next logical step is to add a model rocketry event. My KCAR friends can help, and it could cross-pollenate the scenes, my bike nerd friends getting to know my rocket nerd friends, that kinda thing. Can't launch rockets in the bike shop of course, but there's nothing that says you can't ride to a launch site. And have beer and pizza.

And since the penis thing has been broached by Dylan's car, I might need to shop for a marital aid that can be fixed up with wheels. And I have those four big wooden disks just waiting to be made into wheels on a Pinewood Monster Truck. Oh, and then there's the weed themed vehicle possibilities: why not put wheels on a bong?

As it is, we've had beer, coffee and like I say, penis themed cars. And my fairly offensive Milk & Cheese cards.

Oh, or maybe a Thug Life hip-hop car? The possibilities are endless.

And the whole thing helps heal the psychic scars my Cub Scouts experience inflicted on me.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

March Critical Mass

I have tried to take an unflattering picture of Cupcake Smasher, but it just can't be done as far as I can tell. I was glad to see her and all the other beautiful people who turned out for Mass.

I guess I've gotten out of the habit of blogging as much lately. Or riding my bike, that too has suffered in recent months. Gotta get that mojo back, not the blogging, the miles on the bike. Both because I feel much better when I ride 100 miles a week, but also because I have my second RAGBRAI coming up in four months or so.

So anyway, after making every single Critical Mass of 2016 (despite falling out of the habit of riding enough the last six months or so of that year), I missed a couple and finally made it back to the glorious Scumfresh parking lot for March.

Thing about Critical Mass is it's a xerocracy. Which is a less scary sounding word than 'anarchy' especially since most people go scrambling for a Google search to find out what it means so they know how much panic to feel at its utterance. We go where the guy up front goes unless someone decides the guy up front has made a bullshit turn and decides not to follow. This is more functional than you might think.

But since there's no set route, you just never know where you'll end up. Usually we start by going down through the Country Club Plaza. But this time, we actually circled back almost immediately to Scumfresh and went to the Scout. Then to Royal Liquor and then to the West Bottoms. This was perfect for me since I've gotten so out of shape, it was almost the direct route I would take biking home from work until they convinced me to go down to the overlook at the River Market (where Mass used to almost always end but then didn't for a long time). Then a bunch decided to ride to the new Velo Garage in North KC and I skipped out on that and rode with my libertarian friend Eric back towards my house.

I've known Eric since he was an advertiser in the K.C. Jones, the closest thing to Charlie Hebdo Kansas City has ever had, edited by an ultra-right-wing-vegetarian-Jew, the late, great Rich Nadler. Talking politics is normally frustrating and dull, but when you find someone who actually thinks, that's a whole other story even when you disagree. Actually, me and Eric tend to agree on a lot, then disagree for different reasons about other stuff.

All I have to do is quit making these 20 mile Fridays at the end of the month my main riding. I need to get back to the level of conditioning where a 30 or 40 mile day doesn't even leave me sore, and I have about four months to do that in, or the best vacation I've ever taken is going to replay itself as the worst idea ever.