Category Archives: Drink

Hot Chocolate

Chopping dark chocolate to make hot chocolateToday I made hot chocolate using chocolate.  It was the first time I had ever done that.

I grew up drinking hot chocolate made from prepared powder that came in little packets.  The baggies had tiny, desiccated marshmallows in them that rehydrated when combined with hot milk.  There was usually a portion of the talc that failed to dissolve and accumulated on the bottom of the mug.  (Yum!)  The drink tasted mildly of bad chocolate, but mostly it tasted like milk.

It first occurred to me that one could make hot chocolate from chocolate when I read The Polar Express, in which children are served hot chocolate “as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars.”  That caught my attention.  … Continue reading.

Mulled Cider

A mug of frothy, steaming mulled cider.A few years ago I waxed eloquent about mulled wine as a way to use up leftover wine and appreciate exotic spices.

Since then mulled wine has been fully supplanted by mulled cider in my house.  I’ve been pressing cider in increasing quantities, and the abundance of cheap, delicious apple juice has pushed wine further and further from my thoughts and my dinner table.

What I am appreciating most about mulled cider is its adaptability.  After fermented apple juice, every other possible ingredient is optional, so the drink can be tailored to the moment.

If I’m using dry cider from last fall I’ll add some honey for sweetness and body, but if I have cider fresh from the press I … Continue reading.

Apple Press

Cider flowing from the press.Once apples have been crushed, they need to be pressed to extract the juice from the mash.  As with the apple crusher, I’ve been using Kevin’s apple press for the last couple years, but decided to build my own this fall.  I am indebted to him, and to Whizbang Cider for his post on rack-and-cloth pressing.

The essential components of the apple press:

The Press: some kind of geared, ratcheted jack that actually exerts the force that presses the apples.  We started out using a scissor jack (pictured below) but have since found that a hydraulic pump jack is more balanced and easier to operate.

The Frame, which sustains the force of the press. The top and … Continue reading.

Apple Crusher

An apple crusher, formerly a garburatorThis post is about “converting” a garburator into an apple crusher.  I use sarcastic quotation marks because there’s really very little you have to do to change a garburator into a crusher.

For the record, I stole all of this from Kevin, who built his first apple crusher years ago, posted about it here, and has generously lent it to friends many times since then.  I just got around to making my own, so I thought I’d write about it for the sake of completeness, but there really isn’t anything in this post that isn’t already in his.

The first step is to obtain a kitchen garburator that has never been used.  I have seen them on Kijiji, … Continue reading.

Draff Bread – Spent Grain Bread

A fistful of spent grain, ready to be baked into breadI’ve been doing some all-grain brewing this spring.  After the mashing process the malt has given up all its caramel earthiness to the wort, and you are left with several pounds of spent grain, or draff.

There are lots of ways to use this stuff up.  Commercial breweries commonly sell or give draff to farmers as livestock feed.  It can also be composted so long as you have lots of other, greener compostable material to balance out the mixture.

Draff is also commonly baked into bread.  Realistically the home brewer will not be able to bake enough bread to use all of the spent grain – the bulk of mine still ends up in the compost heap – but it’s … Continue reading.

Rhubarb Shrub

Oddly enough, I eat a lot of local fruit this time of year.  Especially rhubarb.[1]  Every spring and summer we freeze a large quantity of chopped rhubarb stalks.  The following April it suddenly occurs to me that in a few weeks there will be fresh rhubarb popping up in the backyard, and that I should probably use up last year’s harvest before that time comes.

Think of the following posts as either a way to clear the freezer of last year’s fruit, or as a way of looking forward to the new fruit on its way.


A glass of rhubarb water

Sticklers will insist that this drink isn’t really shrub.

Shrub is an old-timey North American drink, traditionally a reduction of fruit … Continue reading.

Homebrew: Fermentation

During Advent I started writing about brewing beer at home, but I got distracted and didn’t finish all the posts. So far we’ve discussed mashing and boiling, so now we move on to fermenting.

Rocky head formed during fermentationThis post is about fermenting homebrewed wort to make beer.  I wrote it on a Tuesday afternoon.  Earlier that day I had gone to Sherbrooke Liquor and found that they had bottles of Muskoka Spring Oddity (750 mL, 8% ABV) on sale for $6.99.  I first tried this beer in the summer of 2012, and thought it was pretty good: broadly in the witbier style, malty, cloudy, aromatic, laced with spices.  While I would never turn down a glass of Oddity, the truth is I’ve … Continue reading.

Roasting Coffee at Home

Green (unroasted) Costa coffee beans from TranscendDid you know that for much of modern history domestic consumption of coffee involved roasting the beans yourself every time you intended to brew a cup of joe?

When coffee first swept Europe in the seventeenth century, most coffee was brewed and consumed in public coffee houses, but by the nineteenth century, most coffee was prepared at home.[1]  Green coffee beans were purchased from a grocer, then roasted, ground, and boiled just before serving.  And not just on lazy Saturday mornings: under every circumstance, if there was time to drink coffee, there was time to roast the beans yourself.  During the American civil war, green coffee was a standard ration for the Union army,[2] and every night soldiers … Continue reading.

Cider Vinegar

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley.

-Robert Burns, “To a Mouse”


A bottle of honey-coloured homemade cider vinegar.This year, for the first time, I successfully “made” vinegar.  I didn’t write about it earlier because I didn’t feel like I had actually done anything, or learned anything.  Hence the quotation marks.  The truth is that with the numerous little crocks and tubs in which I’ve fermented cider, every so often something really weird happens that I can’t explain.

I tried really hard to make vinegar last year.  I read quite a bit online about the process.  The conversion of alcoholic beverages like wine and cider into vinegar is a fermentation in the broad biochemical sense.  When we make cider, yeast, a … Continue reading.

Homebrew: Boiling

Having completed our mash, we are ready to boil.  What I call “the boil” actually includes a number of steps:

  • bringing the wort to a boil,
  • adding hops,
  • removing coagulated proteins and other impurities, and
  • rapidly chilling the wort to fermentation temperatures.

There are several reasons the wort must be boiled:

  • The bitterness, flavour, and aroma of the hops are best extracted at a rolling boil.
  • Boiling deactivates malt enzymes, setting the gravity of the wort.
  • Boiling sterilizes the wort.
  • Boiling coagulates proteins and protein-tannin combinations, helping clarify the wort.
  • Boiling drives off water, concentrating sugars and allowing the brewer some control over the gravity of the wort.
  • Boiling over an open flame can lightly caramelize the wort, adding
Continue reading.