Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Keith's Bent Stick Lager will be ready for New Years Eve

As you know by the earlier post, we have been playing with the carboys again and we whipped out a nice batch of hefeweizen a couple of weeks ago, which was spectacular (my reserve was gone on Christmas Eve). But, we also brewed a European Lager that is intended to be as close to Stella Artois as possible.

Stella was originally brewed in the 1300s as a holiday beer, so it only seemed fitting to bring some to life in Keith's garage this holiday season... plus Keith has one of those beverage coolers that we used to cold ferment the beer, which is the true way to brew an authentic Lager. It was my first time using this method, and so far I am pleased with the results -- with one minor exception.

Look at my last post with the picture of the carboys sitting in the beverage cooler... can you see anything wrong with that picture? Of course, I can see my mistake now, but I missed it completely at the beginning of the fermentation process.

Anyone who understands brewing and proper storage of beer should be able to spot the mistake too. Thankfully, it did not damage the brew too much and there are some people who actually like the added effect that was created.

Anyway, I can't wait to try the finished product, which should be close to done by News Years Eve... we bottled a few in Grolch style bottles to help speed the carbonation... I'll post the pictures of the finished product once it's complete...

Oh, and the name? It is derived from our pseudonyms on the Spokesman Review's Huckleberries Online Blog: Keithincda, Bent, and Stickman...

Here are some pictures on our bottling party yesterday. In the picture above, Stickman is doing the honors of filling the bottles this time.
Let the siphoning begin... 

Capping the 22-ouncers after Stickman filled them up...

Those growler bottles sure hold the beer nicely...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Beering up the Garden a bit...

Sunny tells me its time to balance the blog with a little beer talk now that we are in a dormant season in the garden, so Keith (in Cd'A), Stickman and I got busy with a 20-gallon batch last weekend. We went with a 10-gallon batch of European Lager that we are bottom fermenting in a fridge in Keith's garage for a true Lager. This beer will take longer because it ferments in the 55-58 degree range, where most beers ferment at 65-70 degree range. I think this will be our closest attempt yet a faux Stella Artois...  

The other 10-gallon batch is a German Hefeweizen. This beer should be bottled next weekend, and we should be ready for tasting in Stickman's driveway on Sunday, Dec. 12th. The Lager wont be bottled until at least Christmas weekend. If it is ready by then, we should be able to crack open a few bottles of that beer on New Year's Eve! We'll keep our fingers crossed on that one...

(I'll put up some better pictures once Daisy Girl sends them to me)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

And the winners are.....

Here are the results of the great pumpkin weigh-in:

In the family category, we have son-in-law Dan as our 1st place winner. His guess was 162 lbs. Dan, you win $25.00!

Our 2nd place winner (and our youngest winner)  is my great nephew Bradyn. His guess was 172 lbs. Bradyn, you win $10.00!

In our friend's category we have our 1st place winner as the lovely Kerri Thoreson. Her guess was 152 lbs. Kerri, you win the satisfaction of being the closest guess in our friend category : )

Our 2nd place friend winner was Keith Allen. His guess was 167 lbs. Keith, you win the satisfaction of being the 2nd closest guess in our friend's category : )

And the real weight is............. 158 lbs!

Not as big as we had hoped but we doubled in size from last year's pumpkin. I'd say that's not too shabby for our 2nd year of growing them. Next year we will shoot for 200 plus.

Thanks to everyone for participating!!!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Weigh In

It has become a fun family tradition to grow giant pumpkins. At the end of the season we have this little contest called "guess the pumpkin weight".  The person closest to the actual weight wins a monetary prize. This year the prize is $25.00 for the closest guess or $30.00 if you are spot on the weight. Last year's largest pumpkin weighed in at 76 lbs which we thought was a decent weight considering we are new at giant pumpkin growing. http://bentsbeergarden.blogspot.com/2009/10/jack-2-before-after.html

I guess we learned some stuff about growing them because this year the pumpkin looks to be at least double the size from last year. For the sake of fairness though, my dad is keeping the pumpkin weight a secret. In order to accurately weigh it he had to drive it through the local landfill scales. This year he placed a "floor" of 150 lbs on the pumpkin because so many guesses were way under the actual weight.

Yes, this is a family game but I consider my blogging friends to be family too....(you just don't get the prize money lol! ) so what's your guess??? Results to be posted on November 12th.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mushrooms, Remodels, and a little R & R.

 The past several months have been entirely crazy but fun filled. What have we been up to? Well, besides canning our garden vegetables, gardening, working at the farmer's market, participating in barbecue competitions, and catering parties we have also been learning how to grow mushrooms, remodeling our home, and we recently got to go camping too. I hope to get back to the blog world now that things are settling down. Here are a few shots of our recent happenings.

Sonoma Brown Oyster mushroom log.

Ready to harvest!

Son Dustin and my dad installing the new windows!

Our camping destination overlooking beautiful Pend Oreille Lake.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Update on a successful BBQ season

Overall our BBQ team had a great season considering that we only planned to compete once this year. Starting in May, we began winning right out of the gate. Our team split into teams of two to cook at a judging school, in which the cooks engaged in an amateur competition to supply the meat to train the judges. My team took Grand Champion and my Dad's team took 3rd out 11 teams that participated.

The next competition we cooked was a rib cook off at Tim's Meats also in May. Our team actually split up to compete against each other. I took fourth overall out of 17 teams and Steve and Jana on our team won first place in Spare Ribs.

Then it is was off to McKinley Springs Winery BBQ Showdown in Prosser Washington in June... AGAIN, our team split up with my brother Bobby and I cooking on our own team to make the event a national qualifier. We scored 4th on ribs out of 25 teams and 9th overall.

Later in June, our team finally cooked together -- in the only competition we planned to cook in -- at the Coeur d'Alene Fairgrounds on Father's Day! We scored 5th in chicken and 13th overall out of 29 teams.

Then we had an opportunity to cook with "BBQ Rock star" Harry Soo in Boise, so we packed up and went to Boise in July to cook with some real pros... We wound up taking 6th in Ribs and 13th overall out 27 teams... There were at least 10 of the nations top performing pitmasters at this event. We were jazzed...

We did a couple of amateur events and fun cooks where we always won something, and then finally wrapped up the season cooking at the Tree Top Apple Festival in Yakima earlier this month. We placed 10th in ribs and tied for 10th in chicken out of 70 teams... it was a massive event. We place 24th out of 70 overall. Here are some pictures of the food we turned in at that event:

 Smoked Apple Fritters (done on my Weber):

Smoked Pork Tenderloin and Apple Skewers:

Smoked Chicken:

Spare Ribs:

BBQ Pork:

Smoked Brisket (partial box):

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

No applesauce this year.

A couple days ago I headed to the family garden in great anticipation. I had been patiently waiting to harvest the McIntosh apples from our 100 year old apple tree for quite some time. Just a few days prior to this, I checked on their ripeness and was thrilled to see they were nearly ready to pick.

When I arrived at the family garden, my dad waved me over and told me he had some bad news. He was getting ready to mow the pasture that morning and made his routine stop at the apple tree to make sure all of the fallen apples were picked up....only there weren't any on the ground. Finding that pretty unusual, he looked up in the tree only to find it empty...literally, there were no apples left. Yep, we were robbed.

At first I was angry...who would do this? I calmed down after a bit and realized (with the help of my family's positive outlook) that perhaps someone else needed those apples more than we did. There will be no homemade applesauce this year but I have much more to be thankful for.... my family.... and all the memories that we have. You see, the apple tree has stood the test of time just as our family's love for one another. And the tree keeps on giving just as our family does for one another. So all is well and I'm at peace with the fact that someone took our apples. After all, there is always next year : )

On a side note: I blogged about our apple tree a while back and talked about its significance to our family : http://bentsbeergarden.blogspot.com/2010/02/family-tree.html. In the story, I mentioned that my mom used to make applesauce each season. Actually, I failed to mention that my dad also helped my mom with this task. In fact, they would spend countless hours in the kitchen making enough applesauce to last our family all winter long. I loved the cooked apple aroma emanating from our home on a crisp fall day. But I especially loved watching my parents work together....they always had a way to make work seem like fun.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


An heirloom tomato gone crazy
Cherokee Purples

Cherry Tomatoes

I know, I sound like a broken record but....I'm still blaming the cool weather we had in June for this year's substandard garden performance. The cool weather crops such as broccoli, lettuce, spinach and onions were a huge success. But, for the most part, the warm weather crops like the tomatoes, melons, and eggplant are just now starting to show signs of ripening. This is a good month behind what we normally experience. Granted, we have plucked many cherry tomatoes thus far, but it's really the large Beefsteaks and the Cherokee Purples we want the most and they are taking their sweet time. Optimist and patient person that I am, (ha, ha) I am keeping the faith that even the big guys will ripen before the first frost.

The Rossa Bianca eggplant is slowly but surely growing. This is my first year growing eggplant so it will be a miracle if they actually make it. lol...Regardless, they are quite pretty.

The Tango celery is a success again this year. In fact, this is the second year we won a blue ribbon at the fair with it.  It's amazing how much more flavorful it is compared to store bought celery. I froze some yesterday so that we will have plenty for making soup this winter.

Although, the purple bells are smaller than normal this year at least they are ripening. And...

the purple tomatillos aren't quite purple yet.
The good news is that the temperatures should stay in the 70's range for a few days and that should help things along....Who said patience is a virtue? I say hurry up and ripen tomatoes...I want to preserve some tomato sauce.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fall is in the air.

We still have a fair amount of summer left but you know Fall is approaching in North Idaho when the pumpkins are maturing and the corn crop is ready to harvest.

This is a pic of one of our Atlantic Giant pumpkins. According to giant pumpkin grower, Howard Dill, the trick to getting a big pumpkin is to only allow 1 or 2 blossoms to mature into fruit and to make sure the fruit is "set" by early July. This means you have to decide early on which pumpkins look the healthiest and most promising as far as size and shape goes. Then, you will have to continually cut any new blossoms off. Another thing to consider when growing the giant pumpkins is fertilizer. Early in the season, it's best to provide the plants with a water soluble fertilizer that stresses phosphorus such as a 15-30-15 mix. Once the fruit sets you should switch to a balanced blend such as 20-20-20. Then in late July switch to a fertilizer that is heavy in potassium like a 15-11-29. Some competitive growers fertilize at a rate of 1 to 2 lbs per week from the time the fruit sets to the end of the growing season. We didn't go that crazy with the fertilizer this year but perhaps next year we will be a little more aggressive with it. Trimming vines is also a crucial to growing these giants. You should start pruning early in the season. Essentially, what you want to prune are the main vines once they reach 10 to 12 feet beyond the set fruit. The side shoots off the main vines should not be longer that 8 feet and apparently burying the cut ends of the vines helps to prevent water loss.

Last year we had a couple decent size pumpkins but we hope to surpass that this year....we still have a month to go, so it looks promising.

On another pumpkin note, we grew about 10 sugar pie pumpkin plants this year. They are just starting to turn orange and I can't wait to try cooking with them. Last year we adapted our own pumpkin pie recipe from this site's recipe and it was fabulous:


I want to try new pumpkin recipes so I would love to hear from anyone that has a great recipe to share.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The market: what's hot and what's not.

Here's a few pictures of some of our veggies we sold last week at the market. This year has been a learning experience. I have learned that some items just don't sell as well as others. For instance, it seems that the market is saturated with carrots and zucchini...go figure on the zucchini : )

However, other items seem to be in great demand right now...If I had enough ripe tomatoes to sell I'm sure I would sell out each weekend. The tomatoes are a slow go this year as June's weather took its toll on the heat loving plants.

Another hot item at the market are the Walla Walla Sweet Onions. We have sold out of them nearly every weekend. As such, next year I will definitely have to increase our onion crop.

It seems that many market shoppers like a wide variety of produce that you just can't find in the grocery store. Take baby corn, for instance. I wasn't sure how it would sell but it did quite well. I often use it in stir fry dishes and suggested that to my customers. I know they will be pleasantly surprised by the flavor.

The purple tomatillos are starting to fill out their husks. They should be ready for market by next week or the week after. I can't wait to try them in salsa.

Our purple podded pole beans aren't doing as well as hoped... I'm going to give them some organic fertilizer and hope they start producing more beans soon. The bush beans are producing a ton so I don't know why the pole beans are being so slow this year.
The Hill County Red Okra have the most beautiful flowers on them. I only know a handful of people who even like okra so hopefully it will sell. If not, then I will get busy pickling it. (Goes well with a Bloody Mary.)

The mammoth dill plants are at least 5 ft tall now and covered in ladybugs....a good sign. : ) I won't sell much of it at the market since we usually make lots of pickles for ourselves.

The celery is not doing as well as last year's crop. This year we grew it in rows rather than raised beds which made it more susceptible to the cool weather and bugs. Oh well, you live and learn. : )

Cucumbers have been a good seller ....I grow mostly Straight Eights but also grew a few pickling cukes, Izniks, Cucinos and Lemon Cukes.
People around here love the Lemon Cukes so next year we will grow lots more.

I am glad that I had the opportunity to participate in the market this year. It's been loads of fun and I can't wait to do it next year too....I have learned a ton on what sells and what doesn't. I have learned that presentation (thank you Daisy Girl for your artful displays) and great customer service will draw people in and bring them back. I have learned that gardening is definitely my passion and my calling in life. I want nothing more than to provide the community with healthful, tasty food that contains no chemicals. And doing it for a living would be a pretty sweet gig. Peace : )

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gardens and barbecues

I can't believe it's August already. It has been a whirlwind of activities at our house this summer; the farmer's market, barbecue competitions, a new grand baby, and of course all the normal summertime activities. It appears that things won't be slowing down anytime soon either. I'm not complaining but I do wish there were more hours in a day. Lol!

The garden is really starting to produce some veggies just in time for round two of the farmer's market.The first batch of bush beans have been harvested twice now and the second crop of beans are about ready to pick.

We have harvested lots of zucchini and several peppers and tomatoes. I am hoping the Red Okra and the Rosa Bianca eggplant start producing soon. The flowers on the Red Okra are sure pretty.

I'm pleased with the growth of the Walla Walla Sweet Onions. I harvested some to sell at the market and they were a huge hit. The cukes are the next vegetables to explode in production...they are already taking over the garden.

In other news...Bent and team attended the 2010 Idaho Barbecue Championship at the Boise Music Festival in July. They placed 5th on ribs and 13th over all. Bent let famous pitmaster Harry Soo, borrow some of his equipment for this competition. In return, Harry gave the team grilling tips and he engraved the two Weber Bullets they lent him. Needless to say, the team was thrilled to be cooking side by side such a famous competitor. I'm told that lending your barbecue to Harry is like letting Eddy Van Halen borrow your guitar to play at a concert. Lol!

Hopefully the last picture doesn't offend anyone....this was a whole pig roast that Bent and host cooked for practice. (Of course the boys had to put green olives in the place of the poor piggies eyes).....The practice cook was a huge hit and everyone ate a ton....It was soooo good!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The weedy and the wonderful

Weeds don't need planting in well-drained soil; they don't ask for
fertilizer or bits of rag to scare away the birds. They come without
invitation; and they don't take the hint when you want them to go.
Weeds are nobody's guests: More like squatters.
- Norman Nicholson.

Anyone who has a garden knows all too well that plucking weeds from it are a never ending chore....Thus, the saying "growing like a weed" : ) Many people think I'm crazy, but for the most part I really don't mind weeding. I use this time to meditate, de-stress and even exercise. No, I'm not out in the corn patch doing sit ups or jumping jacks. Rather, I am hacking down weeds with my trusty hoe or digging them out with my pitchfork...Now to most non gardeners, gardening may not seem like much of a workout but you really use a lot of muscles you never knew you had... Just think of all the crouching down and constant bending you have to do....I call them garden crunches Lol! I think a certain someone ( Our Engineered Garden ) should create a hoe that calculates calories burned while working in the garden. : )

The corn rows desperately needed weeding so I took a couple hours on Sunday and worked on it. It's always a good feeling when the garden is nice and weed-free. It's like the feeling you get right after you cut the lawn ....or maybe that's just me...... : )

I hadn't looked at the garden up close for several days so I was surprised when I discovered baby zucchini and cukes finally coming on.

We have harvested several Totem Patio tomatoes this season but I'm rather disappointed in the flavor. They are far less sweet than other varieties we grow. We only have two plants so it's not a big deal.

The final surprise has nothing to do with the garden : ) Grandson Silas was born on July 17th at 10:53 pm....we think he is absolutely wonderful! And personally, I think he will make a great gardening buddy some day. : )