Archive for the ‘Cook's Room’ Category

Organic Party with Beer and Wine

Friday, November 28th, 2008

An Organic Party, this is the theme of many trendy parties since people have become more aware of the need for a greener and ECO friendly environment.  You would normally think of getting organic meat and vegetables, how ever organic beer and wine are fast becoming more available.   I like the idea of being organic but I can’t really taste the difference between organic and non-organic food products.   The organic beer also seems to be similarly priced as non-organic.  With providing better health and being more environment friendly, buying organic makes a lot of sense.


Certified Organic food must be made with at least 95% organic ingredients to follow standards of the USDA.  Organic food products are grown without using pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics or growth hormones, are free of animal and industrial waste and processed without radiation and food additives.   So this can’t be a bad thing.  If the product is produced locally, this also helps keep your dollars local, another big advantage.  However you should understand a little about what being organic means.


Organic Beer

Organic beer is usually from small regional microbrewers but increasingly national brewers like Anheuser-Busch,  Miller and New Belgium now all provide organic beer products.  The Stone Milol Pale Ale and Wild Hop Lager from Anhewser-Busch labeled by the Green Valley Brewing,  Miller’s Henry Weinhard’s Organic Amber Premium Ale are a few examples from the big brewers.  New Belgium has the Mothership Wit organic wheat beer that is very good.  Two other beers for smaller breweries are Butte Creek pilsner and Bison’s pale ale.  American organic beer totaled 40,000 barrels in 2006 and over 50,000 barrels in 2007, a 25% increase.


Beer has fairly simple basic ingredients; hops, malt, yeast and water.  Water comprises more than 90% of the beer and can come from different sources; rivers, springs, wells.  The malt comes from the barley that can be grown organically.  The hops are from a flowering vine that adds flavor and aroma to balance the malt sweetness.  Yeasts are micro-organisms that convert the sugars into alcohol and by nature are organic.


According to the USDA, non-organic hops can be used in “certified organic products” if the organic version is not “commercially available.   So many of the larger brewers will use non-organic hops and the beer will still be certified organic.  So the best bet to get fully organic beer will be from your local microbrewers where there is a better chance they will be using organic hops.  The larger national brewers may or may not be using organic hops.


Organic Wine

Organic wine is a little more complex since it requires not only organically grown grapes but also different processing methods.  These differences can alter the grapes traditional taste, aroma and color but still be very good wine.  Winemaking techniques are very difficult to make organic since faster processing time, fermentation steps and little or no sulfite additives can be used to control the yeast and protect the wine from oxidation.  Most organic wines will contain low levels of sulfites from natural sources.  Not using the synthetic sulfite compounds also will help reduce the common headache associated with drinking wine. Wine made with lower amounts of additives and modified processing are usually called Natural wines.  Many of the organic wines will be made using organic grapes but with the more traditional processing techniques.


Organic wine will have a different meaning based upon the country of origin.  Different countries have their own certification standards, so what may be considered organic wine from one country, may not be in another country.


A good wine is due to many factors and a good organic wine only adds to the complexity of the process.  Organic wine usually comes from a healthier soil environment and provides a fruitier flavor.


It has been my experience that finding organic wine is harder than finding organic beer.  A couple US organic wines are from the NY Four Chimneys Organic Winery and the CA Paul Dolan Vineyards.   Many more are available by checking with your local wine store.

Wood Chips for Barbequing Flavor

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

Take barbequing to the next level by adding different flavors with different woods. Most people, including myself, tend to grill food to save time, both in the actual cooking time and easier cleanup. However you might want to plan a little more time and treat your guests to something a little different. Why not? A party means good times and good food.


True barbequing will use wood smoke to help flavor the meat and vegetables. The smoky flavors will vary depending upon the wood and the type of grill. There are many different woods you can use; some examples are alder, apple, apricot, birch, cedar, cherry, grape, hickory, lemon, maple, mesquite, nectarine, orange, peach, pear, pecan, plum and white oak. Most woods can be used, except for the treated lumber used in constriction.


Mesquite and hickory are common wood chips and along with oak, are very good general purpose wood chips for barbequing. Any of the hardwoods work well since they will burn slower and fruit woods provide excellent flavors.


Some woods seem to go with different meats better than others. Hickory is good with chicken, applewood for pork and mesquite adds a great flavor to beef and game. Vary the type of wood to change the flavor! Some woods like mesquite and pecan will provide a stronger flavor then most fruit woods. A wood chart, thanks to Sams Smoker, can help with knowing the different wood characteristics for barbequing. It is best to slow cook the meat since it usually takes at least 30 minutes to get a minimal smoky flavor.


Using only wood chips to grill is not recommended since they will burn unevenly and quickly. When using a charcoal grill, soak the wood chips in water and beer for 30 to 60 minutes, drain off liquid and then add wood chips directly to the hot charcoal. The soaking will make the chips smolder and keep them from burning too quickly. If using a gas grill, either use a partially filled metal tray next to the meat, wrap the chips in heavy duty foil with a few holes on top or some grills have a built-in smoker box for wood chips. You may need to heat the gas grill on high until there is plenty of smoke, then turn the grill down and keep the grill lid closed for the best results when cooking.


Should you always clean you grill after or before grilling meat? According to Barbeque Myths, it doesn’t really matter as long as it is cleaned prior to grilling. So try something different for your next backyard barbeque with some smoky flavors.

Customized Labels

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

Another idea for that special event is custom labeling. Maybe for your wedding reception or special anniversary, get your wine with your own name on the label. Pernod Richard is providing labels, limit 5, to any US resident at no charge for the following brands for Chivas Regal®, The Glenlivet®, Jacob’s Creek®, Kahlua®, Mumm Napa® and Wild Turkey® Russell’s Reserve bottles


Each label is an authentic label personalized with your names and is offered free of charge. You order only the labels and attached them to your bottle purchased from your local retailer. Several styles are available for each brand with room for 7 lines of text.


Another company My Jones also offers a 12 pack of Jones Soda in your favorite favor and with your custom label that includes a photo. The cost is around $30 but this may work for special occasions.