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Prickly Pear Syrup and Soda Pop Recipe

Prickly Pear SodaAfter the great harvest of prickly pears, my first and most immediate need was to thank those that supplied the fruit.  While there will be wine and mead in the future, those are many months off and not the beverages of choice for everyone, so soda pop it is.  Notice the little nod to my Midwestern upbringing.  It has to start with the syrup; which by the way, can also be used for margaritas, lemonade, ice cream, or any number of things.

Prickly Pear Syrup

  • 2 cups pure unsweetened prickly pear juice (previously prepared)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Juice of 1 lime

Heat the liquids to dissolve the sugar.  Bring it to a boil.  Cool in an ice bath before pouring into the storage container of your choice.

Prickly Pear Soda (or Pop to the rest of my family)

  • 1 oz. Prickly Pear Syrup
  • ½ oz. additional Prickly Pear Syrup (optional)
  • 10 oz. Soda Water
  • 1 oz. ½ & ½ cream (optional)
  • 1 lime wedge for garnish (optional)
  • 4 oz. of ice

Mix all ingredients into a pint sized glass and stir.  The variable from 1 to 1 ½ oz. of syrup will allow you to range your mixture from light to a sweeter, more fuller-bodied soda.  Add cream for a creamy, smooth texture.  It is worth the extra purchase at the store.

 
 

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The Pulp of Prickly Pears: A Desert Harvest Adventure

Prickly PearsI was fortunate enough to find myself with over 30 lbs. of prickly pears for various culinary and fermentable adventures.  Thirty pounds is a lot of fruit and my carboys are full, but the season to pick this cactus fruit is now.  So my first task is to preserve the fruit so that I could tackle these tasks at my leisure.

A lot of wine and mead recipes called for 5-6 lbs. of fruit, so I divided my batch up into 6 lb. increments.  I found that 6 lbs. just about filled up a 1.25 gallon bucket that I use to buy 15 lb. batches of honey with.

Some of my reading said to grill the prickly pears just long enough to burn the picklies off.  This process was also to make them easier to skin.  So, I dumped six pounds of the cactus fruit on the grill and gave it a whirl.  I quickly suspected this wasn’t going to be my method of choice.  The grill was heated unevenly and too far from the flame to really burn the spines as effectively as I wanted.  It helped a lot, but at what expense?  The heat was causing the pears to juice out and I feared losing volume.   Worst of all, I had several more batches to go and this just didn’t seem to be very efficient. How much gain for my pain?

For the rest of them, I just decided to skin just as they came off the plant: raw and prickly as the name suggests.  Despite my leather gloves, I am still carrying tweezers around with me by the way.  If I were to try a burning method again, I think next time I will rig something up sort of like grilling marshmallows over an open flame.  At any rate, methods like this just seem more reasonable for smaller quantities of fruit.

As for the efficiency, it didn’t seem to loose me as much as I had feared.  The 6 lbs. of grilled fruit yielded me just over 3 lbs. of pulp and juice.  I weighed two of the raw increments.  One of them was just ½ ounce more; the other was close to ½ lb. more.  The raw increments had more pulp intact but still enough juice to be messy.  With such a limited sample, it is really hard to say how much the method really accounted for.  I suspect I was also becoming more efficient at gutting these little buggers.

Pulping the Prickly PearSpeaking of gutting and skinning, I developed a method I had not yet seen before that seemed to work pretty well for me.  Holding the fruit upside down, stab the fruit through just above the blossom and cut away from you toward the stem, cutting the fruit in half lengthwise.  This way you have two fruit halves held together by the blossom.  Use a spoon to clean it out like scraping the goody from an artichoke leaf; though the consistency of the raw fruit is more like eating a kiwi with a spoon.  Keeping the two halves attached just makes it easier that trying to put down and pick up the halves with a bulky cumbersome leather glove.

From here I just put the goody in freezer bags and froze them.  For most fruits that you intend to juice, freezing becomes a good part of the process anyway.  The ice crystals that form cut and burst open the cells allowing it to juice out much easier when you are ready for it.

When it came time to prepare the juice, I thawed out a bag and brought it to a boil, then strained it with cheese cloth.  From what was originally six pounds of fruit, I now had a little over three cups of juice with a specific gravity of 1.038.  It will need sugar, but it is packed full of flavor and will be the inspiration for many adventures to come.

Now that I have gone through this I am left with lingering questions that I want to someday resolve.  First, why did I bother skinning the fruit?  I saw a lot of articles on the internet about using a food processor to break up the goody for juicing.  What is wrong with putting the entire fruit in the food processor, then cooking it down and straining it?  Would the spines not get strained out?   Would there be any off flavors produced?  How do companies that sell prickly pear products do it on a large scale?

The other thing I discovered is that while the fruit looked ripe from the outside, some of the pulp was more kiwi green on the inside.  Is this going to make a difference?  Some fruit is still good when it is a little green.

If you know the answers to these questions or have anything else to add, please do.   Expect to someday see the final product of my prickly pear adventures.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2013 in Prickly Pears

 

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Orcish Smoked Porter

Orcish Smoked Porter

The Orcish Smoked Porter is something that I expect to really enjoy for myself, as it is based on successful beers I have brewed in the past and one of my favorite peoples; the Orc.  I love the porters.  They are dark, packed with flavor, not overly hoppy, and are a perfect bed to lay other flavors on – in this case, smoky goodness.

 

 

Orcish Smoked Porter

OG: 1.062, IBUs: 37.8, SRM: 73, ABV: 6.2

.25 oz black patented malt
.5 lbs Caramel/Crystel 60
.5 lbs Chocolate
.5 lbs Pale 2 row
2 lbs Smoked Malt
5 lbs DME
Safale S-04

1 tsp Irish Moss
1 oz Chinook hops [12%] (bittering)
1 oz Willamette [5%] (aroma)

I picture in my mind a tribal scene where orcs are laying about or playing games and watching a giant caldron over a blazing fire boiling delicious wort for a coming celebration.  The hot fire deepens the color and caramelizes the sugars in the wort, a concoction of water and grains crudely roasted by open flame.

To reflect the resourceful nature of the orc, I would encourage you to use local wood flavors to smoke your grain if you are so able and inclined.  As that might be a bit much for the average homebrewer, some peat smoked malt should do nicely.  I want to experiment with some different flavors of smoke.  Some are harsh and can impart too much flavor, so backing off on the smoked component would not be a bad idea.  While most orcs will find this satisfying, we might want to keep an eye on it for human consumption.

The malts were chosen for color, flavor, and familiarity as they are typical of a modern great porter.  The bittering hops may impart a piney character to represent the mountainous environment of the orc home.  The finishing hops will be mild but hopefully add some earthy component and may even enhance the spicy flavor of the previous hop edition.  The goal here is balance with a good solid smoky flavor that will go great with meaty dishes.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Recipes

 

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Arkham Pale Ale (American Amber Ale)

The Arkham Pale Ale was designed to be a gateway beer into the world of home brewing.  I set out to design a first beer to be simple, but with a theme worthy of attention.  While this is actually more of an American Amber Ale, it pales in comparison to the dark nature of Cthulhu, for whom we hope to summon with all of our friends with this beer.

Status: Beta.  My first pass got some pretty good reviews.  An experienced home brewing friend of mine suggested swapping the hop editions, so next time, I think I will try this. Everything else will remain the same.

Arkham Pale Ale (American Amber Ale)

OG: 1.052, IBUs: 33.4, SRM: 13.3, ABV: 5.2%

.5 lbs. American 2-row
.5 lbs Crystal 10
.5 lbs CaraPils (Dextrine)
3 oz. Black Patent Malt
5 lbs Light DME
2 oz Willamette [4.7%] (bittering hops)
1 oz Cascade [6.4%] (aroma hops)
1 tsp Gypsum
1 tsp Irish Moss
Safale American  US-05, Dry Yeast Addition
5 oz Corn Sugar (for bottle conditioning)

When designing a beer for first-time brewers, I wanted to go with something that was pretty widely accepted.   I chose the American Pale Ale at first because it is a pretty widely accepted beer.  It was clean and simple.   I also just liked the sound of the name.  Arkham is American, and you need something refreshing to drink when you’re not chasing around the city closing extra dimensional rifts.

As I started researching ingredients, I couldn’t help but to add something dark.  I expect the black patent malt to add just enough character to represent the dark ones.  With as little as I added, I don’t expect to notice a lot more than just the color, but we will see.  The rest of it is just good American beer.  I may experiment someday by increasing the Black Patent Malt to how its roasted darkness impacts the beer.

The real characteristic of the American ale is the American hops.  Cascade hops should add a citrus character to the beer that you would expect of this style.  An addition of brewing salt (the gypsum) should add crispness to the bittering hops.  American yeast tends to ferment cleanly.  The malts were chosen to give the beer a little body, some head, and just a bit of sweet in an otherwise dry beer.  It should also have enough kick to it to help you unwind very quickly.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2012 in Recipes

 

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