Friday, September 2, 2011

Prepping for Oktoberfest

This is basically the post where Mike the Gay Beer Guy shows us up because he makes everything — including the sauerkraut! — from scratch....Not gonna lie— kraut from scratch has me just a little annoyed. But go for it Mikey

Hi Janet, Hi Rachel -

Oktoberfest. Yes, that’s right...Oktoberfest. What better way to celebrate the tapping of the first kegs of fall than by a city-wide street festival?! This is my guide to a completely made-from-scratch menu so that you can enjoy Oktoberfest in your very own home, from beer to brat (with some sauerkraut in between). Maybe you don’t have the equipment to make the beer at home, but everything else is certainly something ANYONE can do!

The process for making sauerkraut takes a few weeks — shorter than the beer but don't delay. Every culture has a version of fermented food, and Germany is no exception. I borrowed info from a few sources online, including

Cabbage - outer leaves removed, cored, and shredded
Salt - any kind will do, we used kosher salt
(yes that’s it!)

The specific numbers of ingredients depends on how much kraut you want to make. We used half a head for kraut; the rest went into stir fry or something like that. In your sanitized non-reactive fermentation vessel (we used old kimchi jars, kimchi being Korea’s contribution to fermented foods), weigh out the shredded cabbage (make sure to NOT include the weight of your vessel). Figure 2 ½% of this weight and this is the amount of salt. For 1,000 grams of cabbage 2 ½% would be 25; this is the amount of salt (25 grams).

Mix the salt evenly among the cabbage. I used my hands, after washing them of course. Depending on how much head space you have, you’ll want to weigh down the cabbage... for us, we essentially have 1 quart of cabbage (we’re using a 1 quart kimchi jar) so no weight was necessary.
Cover your cabbage, but if you have a screw lid (like ours or a mason jar), don’t tighten all the way. You need some gas exchange as the cabbage ferments!

That’s all there is to it. Just let the cabbage sit and ferment! Every few days skim off the top “scum” from the sauerkraut, but you can leave this alone until ready to eat, which is when exactly? Well, when YOU think it’s ready. Fermentation doesn’t always follow a schedule. I suggest trying a little every few days after 2 weeks have gone by.

Another note on sanitizing your fermentation vessel. have an abundance of food-safe non-rinse sanitizer around. If you don’t, which is probably the case, I would boil glass for 10 minutes or so in a pot of water, cover the pot at the end of your boil, and let the pot cool naturally until room temperature. Not the quickest method, but it works. I’ve also tried putting plastic and glass in the microwave with a little water, but I don’t feel it’s sanitary enough.

Making sausages at home is really not has hard as it might sound. Essentially you’re just taking ground meats, mixing them with herbs and spices, and cooking them. In addition to spices, you can include some veggies or fruits, or even cheese (maybe some apple, Parmesan, or chili peppers?). This is not your traditional Bratwurst recipe. This is my favorite sausage combination. I don’t have a fancy casing filler or sausage machine. I just mix everything together and cook it up as a sausage patty. Feel free to simmer everything in beer (the Oktoberfest perhaps?) or just simply on the grill or in the frying pan — anything and everything works with this one...

Ingredients - I just guess on the spices, but this is my best guess
Ground Pork (I used ½ pound for 2 decent sized servings)
a few ounces of pork fat (my butcher just gives me his scraps)
1 tablespoon ground dried sage (2 tablespoons if fresh)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 t salt
a few grinds of fresh black papper
(I also put some grated Parmesan cheese in the mix sometimes, but I didn’t have any on hand this time)

Duh... mix everything together. You may need to pulse the extra pork fat in your food processor. When everything is combined, put the mixture in the fridge for about an hour to let the flavors meld. Next, form patties or fill in your sausage casings.

To cook your FABULOUS Oktoberfest dinner -
Simmer the patties or links in your lager of your choice, but I recommend a nice Oktoberfest or Helles. You can use almost any beer; most beers get more bitter as they boil, so keep this in mind (you don’t want to use your favorite IPA). The sausages will cook through relatively quickly; once done, move the sausages to another pan to brown (you may need to add a tiny bit of olive oil, but that’s ok!). When you’re browning the sausages, add your kraut about halfway through, so that it cooks and begins to show some color. When everything becomes nice and happy, move the sausages and kraut to your serving plate to rest. Add the beer from the first pan to the second, deglaze, and begin reducing making a sauce.Serve the sauce on the side (in my opinion) with your favorite (or better yet, homemade) mustard!

The Beer You should start with the beer because it takes the longest. Since not everyone is a brewer who reads this blog, I'm putting the recipe at the bottom. This recipe comes from Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer’s book, Brewing Classic Styles. Since first brewing this, I’ve changed the yeast strain but kept everything else the same. As with all beer, it’s the yeast that makes the difference! By the way, this recipe won me my first gold medal in competition!


(just in case someone asks what the difference is, there is none...I’m pretty sure the name comes from the brewing of the Maerzen in March, fermenting it and lagering it in the caves until October, when the tapping festival is, hence the names Maerzen and Oktoberfest)
OG: 1.055
FG: 1.015
IBU: 27
ABV: 5.5%

Recipe designed for 6 gallons at the end of the boil, 5.5 into fermentation, 5 into keg
5 lbs Pilsner Malt
4 lbs Munich Malt
3 lbs Vienna Malt
1 lb CaraMunich
Mash at 151-153* for 1 hour

1.5 oz Hallertau 4% AA for 60 min
.5 oz Hallertau 4% AA for 20 min

Jamil recommends WL820/WY2206 yeast (Oktoberfest/Bavarian Lager) yeast for this. I have found success with a strain the resembles the Ayinger profile, which is WLP833 German Bock Lager yeast. Wyeast sold this last year or 2 years ago as a platinum strain, but it is available all year round through White Labs. I religiously follow Jamil’s advice when fermenting lagers. This is different from what older sources say! After the boil, cool the wort as much to pitching temperature as you can (my wort chiller never goes low enough). By siphon or other means, rack the wort away from the cold break material into the fermenter, and get the wort into the fridge. Cool it down to 45*, oxygenate, and pitch your yeast. Make sure to pitch a good and healthy starter or pitch on top of a cleaned yeast cake from a previous batch. Slowly raise the temperature to 50* and ferment for 3 to 4 weeks (depending on how the fermentation goes). You shouldn’t have to do a diacetyl rest, because none should have been formed with this controlled fermentation... but if there’s a hint (or if it makes you feel better), raise the temperature by 10* when fermentation is beginning to slow down. Once your primary fermentation has completed, rack the beer into another vessel (carboy or keg) and lager for about a few weeks. (When I ferment lagers, I do the entire process in the same fridge where I keep my kegs, knocking the kegs I’m serving from out of commission for a few weeks... after fermentation, I go right into a keg so I can lager what was previously fermenting and so I can re-assemble something to drink out of.)

- Mike, TGBG

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