Fake/Faux 'Nduja

>> Monday, February 19, 2024

Another food recipe! Shout out to Beltex Meats who introduced us to 'Nduja a few years ago. While they do carry a different supplier's 'Nduja year 'round, my favorite is the one they make in house a couple of times per year. I remember they posted it on their IG account and I thought it sounded amazing. By the time we got there they only had a fist-sized piece left and we bought all of it. 

For the uninitiated, 'Nduja is a spicy, spreadable pork sausage from the region of Calabria in southern Italy. To me it's like a spreadable cross between salami and pepperoni. I was looking into making my own when I stumbled across this recipe for "fake" 'Nduja that sounded like it was super close to the real thing. We like to spread it on a slice of baguette, often with a slice of cheese. Add some of this to your next charcuterie board and you won't be disappointed.

The key ingredient for both real thing and this faux recipe is Calabrian hot red peppers. Those and the Fresno pepper may be the hardest things to find, but fortunately Calabrian hot red peppers can be found in specialty grocery stores and on Amazon. I had to substitute a red jalapeno for the Fresno pepper. 

Here's the recipe as I made it:

Yields about 1 1/2 cups 

200g (7 oz) Boars Head Genoa salami, cut into cubes 
110g (4 oz) Volpi chopped uncured pancetta 
48g Bob's Red Mill Sweet Cream Buttermilk Powder 
28g Paprika 
1 medium Fresno pepper (sub red jalapeno if you can't find Fresno peppers), stemmed, seeded, and chopped
2 to 4 Calabrian hot red peppers in oil - drained, stemmed, chopped (start with 2, add more for more heat)
6g Kosher salt
1 -2T Olive oil (start with 1 and add another if needed)

  1. Add everything in a bowl and stir to roughly combine. You can also do this in your food processor, but I had a hard time getting the buttermilk powder mixed in uniformly. 
  2. Process in a food processor with a metal blade for about 30-40 seconds. If it seems too dry and crumbly, add a tablespoon of olive oil. It should resemble a coarse paste. You do not want it as smooth as a typical pate.
  3. Taste it and if you want more heat, add another Calabrian hot red pepper and process again to mix.
  4. Transfer to a small container and refrigerate to firm up.
Serve it with bread, crackers, and cheese. I've heard it's also great added to spaghetti sauce, but haven't tried that yet. 


Tropic Prince Saison

>> Sunday, February 18, 2024

Today I'm brewing a beer inspired by Tropic King from Funkwerks out of Fort Collins, Colorado. Tropic King is an Imperial Saison and I'm shooting for something a bit lower ABV than it is, more of a table strength Saison, so I'm calling it Tropic Prince. I'm a sucker for limited release yeast, so for this beer I'm using a yeast strain I've never used before, White Labs WLP546 Marañón Canyon Wild Cacao Yeast. White labs describes this yeast as follows:
This yeast was isolated from the thought to be extinct Pure Nacional variety of cacao. In 2007, this rare variety with white beans was rediscovered in the remote Marañón River Canyon in Peru. The fruity, phenolic, and wild-like characteristics of this strain make it an ideal choice for farmhouse and saison-style beers.
I used to brew Saisons more often than I do now, the primary reason being I judged Belgian beers at a local homebrew comp years ago, and most of the entries were so over the top with esters and phenolics that it ruined "Belgian" character for me. They were the equivalent of early on when IPA popularity started to surge and every brewery was trying to make the most bitter, high IBU beer possible; basically the beers you don't see offered anymore because they literally assaulted your palate. I liken it to smoked foods; smoke can add complexity to food, but you have to be careful not to overdo it and end up with something reminiscent of liquid smoke, ash tray, or fire pit. A little bit can be great, but more is not necessarily better. 

One of my favorite approaches to Saisons is to use a traditional Saison strain paired with a cleaner strain or paired with brett. Blending strains and lower fermentation temperatures helps keep the esters/phenolics in check, and I've been really happy with the results. I'll be employing that same method on this beer by pitching a blend of WLP546 and US-05. US-05 will also help ensure complete fermentation as WLP546 has a reputation for stalling out a little early. Lastly, I'm excited to use Rakau hops in this beer as I don't believe I've used it anything other than my NZ Pilsner recipes in the past. It adds lots of tropical fruit notes, hence the Tropic King/Prince name, Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today: 

Target OG: 1.050
Target FG: 1.008
IBU: 30
ABV: 5.9

6.375# Proximity 2-row Pale
1.375# Weyermann Munich II
0.375# Rahr White Wheat Malt
0.25# Briess Cara-Pils Malt
1g BrewTan B in mash
19g Rakau (60 min)
14g Rakau (10 min)
4.66g BCAA (10 min)
Yeast nutrient
19g EKG (Whirlpool)
19g Rakau (Dry-hop)
White Labs WLP546 Marañón Canyon Wild Cacao Yeast
US-05 Yeast

Mash at 150F, 90 minute boil. Start fermentation at 65F then ramp up 1F per day over five days.

Water Profile
Target Water Profile
 50  20  50  100  100  0

To 10 gallons RO water, add: 
  • 4.0g Gypsum
  • 4.3g Pickling Salt
  • 4.2g Epsom Salt
  • 2.5g Calcium Chloride
  • 0.2g Chalk
Brewing Notes
No real issues. Out of habit, I added about 2.5ml phosphoric acid to the mash, but I should have checked the pH first. As a result, mash pH was a bit lower than usual (I usually shoot for right about 5.20). That said, it really shouldn't be a big issue. 
OG came in a little higher than expected which is nice considering the last bunch was several points lower than expected. I made it a point to slow down the sparge compared to the last batch. I didn't time it, but it was in the neighborhood of 50-60 minutes which is typical for me. 
It's still winter and the groundwater temps are pretty cold and I ended up slightly overchilling the wort (~58F) so I'm heating the wort back up to 65F then I'll pitch the yeasts.

Session Readings
Beginning mash pH  5.04 
Ending mash pH  5.04 
1st running gravity  21.7 (1.088) 
Pre-Boil gravity  9.5 (1.037)
Pre-Boil pH  5.09 
Post-Boil gravity  13.4 (1.053) 
Post-Boil pH  5.10 

Update 2/20/2024
I forgot to post an update yesterday but fermentation really took off and is super active. I set little bit of WLP546 aside into a 250ml starter in case I want to brew another batch with this yeast before the next time White Labs releases it. I’m guessing I’ll be dry-hopping on Friday (2/23).

Update 2/22/2024
I pulled a small sample today. Refractometer reading is ~7.0, which translates to ~1.012 after factoring in the refraction error. Both aroma and flavor present a very pleasant "Belgian" ester and phenolic profile. I think the combo of WLP546 and US-05 with coolish temps has worked well. I'll probably add the dry hops later today. 

Update 2/29/2024
Dry hops were added late in the day on 2/22. I kegged it today with some Biofine and have started chilling it. I do my transfers under pressure with CO2. To accomplish this, I fitted my SS BrewTech buckets with optional domed lids and I have a ball lock keg post to tri-clamp adapter. I set the pressure just high enough that it slowly bleeds off excess pressure, so I can smell a little bit of aroma off the beer as well. This beer smelled really good...bright tropical fruit notes from the hops mixed with fruity esters from the yeast. I'm really looking forward to trying this beer once it's cleared and carbed.


Czech Premium Pale Lager 2024

>> Sunday, January 07, 2024

First beer of 2024, and first brew in quite a long time. I've been wanting an easy drinking lager, so today I'm brewing a Czech Premium Pale Lager  inspired by Pilsner Urquell. This recipe employs a double-decoction mash. Water is especially important with this style; you want a very soft water profile so you’ll notice below that there are only very small salt additions. Here's the recipe as I'm brewing it today.

Target OG 1.051
Target FG: 1.013
IBU: 35
ABV: 5.0

8.375# Weyermann Barke Pilsner
1g BrewTan B in mash
2.75ml HopShot (90 min)
56.7 Saaz (20 min)
28.3g Saaz (10 min)
4.66g BCAA (10 min)
28.3g Saaz (0 min)
Yeast nutrient
Wyeast 2001-PC Pilsner Urquell H Strain

Decoction Mash
  1. Protein rest at 125F for 15 min
  2. Pull first 1/3 decoction and heat to 158F and hold for 15 min. 
  3. Proceed to boil and hold for 10 min.
  4. Return decoction to main mash and hold at 148F for 30 min.
  5. Pull second 1/6 decoction and heat to a boil.
  6. Proceed to boil for 10 min.
  7. Return second decoction to main mash and hold at 158F for 30 min.
  8. Mash out at 168F
90 min boil, chill to 48F.  Raise temp 1F over 6 days to 54F. 

Water Profile
Target Water Profile
 7.0  1.0  8.0  9.0  11.0  1.0 

To 10 gallons RO water, add:
  • 0.7g Gypsum (CaSO4)
  • 0.6g Pickling Salt (NaCl)
  • 0.1g Calcium Chloride (CaCl)
  • 0.1g Chalk (CaCO3)
Brewing Notes
I’m definitely a little rusty having not brewed since July, so I’m glad that there weren’t any crazy issues. I fly sparge and I definitely collected the 6.75 gallons much quicker than I normally would. I may have miscalculated the efficiency and grain bill as I came in 8 points under target. Kind of a bummer, but I’ll still have beer in the end. This is closer to a Czech Pale Lager than a Czech Premium Pale Lager. Also, I thought I had more Saaz on hand than I actually did. I ended up doing about 30g at 7 minutes, instead of 28g at 10 and 0 minutes. I’m toying with the idea of dry hopping with some Saaz…TBD. Long story short, not the ideal brew session but it still felt good to finally brew a batch again. I’m propping up more yeast so I’ll probably give this beer another shot in the not too distant future.

Session Readings
Beginning mash pH  5.52 
Ending mash pH  5.44 
1st running gravity  22.8 (1.093) 
Pre-Boil gravity  8.0 (1.031) 
Pre-Boil pH  5.58 
Post-Boil gravity  11.0 (1.043)
Post-Boil pH  5.58

Update 1/21/2024
I transferred this beer to a corny keg fitted with a dip tube screen on top of 28g of Saaz. I’m planning on dry hopping in this keg for about 48 hours then I’ll transfer off the hops to a serving keg.

Update 1/23/2024
This beer got transferred to the serving keg along with some finings today.