Perfecting the home cooked burger

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Lately we have been trying to perfect our home cooked burger making skills, and after a series of attempts I think we have gotten pretty close.

Every good burger should start with some good beef, and for our latest attempt we picked up some organic medium ground beef from Rowe Farms (above). It is best to get something with some decent fat content, extra-lean may sound healthier but it’s just going to make for a dry burger.

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Form the beef into patties without overworking them too much, and lightly press your thumb into the center of each. Then season with salt and pepper. That’s it. Don’t add chopped onions. Don’t mix egg or bread crumbs into the beef. Simple is always best, plus you can always add those things to the burger as a topping after the fact!

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A good BBQ’d burger is a beautiful thing, but we find a nice pan fried burger to be even more heavenly. Heat up a pan with a tiny amount of oil. Cast iron works best. Cook the burgers on one side for a couple of minutes, just until they brown up and start to caramelize nicely. Flip them over.

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If you want to add cheese, you can do it at this point. Drop a teaspoon of water into the pan, and then quickly cover with a lid. This will slightly steam the burgers, which melts the cheese, and also adequately cooks the edges of the burgers. Check on them periodically (over the course of another couple of minutes), and as soon as the cheese is fully melted, your burgers are done.

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It may take a bit of practice, working with your individual stove top and pans, but the result should be a perfect diner-worthy burger (but better) every time. With good quality beef, we aim for medium or medium-well, but even if you overcook them slightly this method should still produce a burger that is super juicy and full of flavour.

Top with your favourite toppings, and use a nice soft, toasted bun (anything too hard will just squash the burger to death with every bite). Maybe next time we will try baking our own buns…

Does anybody else have any great burger making tips? We’d love to hear your comments!

Beer Beef Pie

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This weekend we prepared one of our favourite new dishes to cook: a beef pot pie made with beer. We chose to use Wellington Brewery’s delicious County Dark Ale, which we thought would be just neutral enough for this recipe, but would still provide some rich flavours. You can use any beer you’d like. Here’s the recipe…

Ingredients
3 pounds worth of cross rib steak
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 – 7 large shallots, or 1 large onion
4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups of any beer
2 sprigs rosemary
6 sprigs thyme, plus 2 tablespoons chopped thyme
Heavy cream
Puff pastry (we used a frozen store-bought dough, but you can make your own from scratch too)

Season steaks with salt and pepper, and toss with flour. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Shake excess floor from steaks and cook each side until browned. Cook in batches if necessary, then transfer to a plate to cool.

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Add the chopped shallots to the same pot, with a little more oil if necessary. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown. Season with salt and pepper and reduce the heat to medium. Add garlic, stir, and continue cooking for a few more minutes.

Add tomato paste to the pot and cook, while stirring, until it darkens; about 5 minutes. Add the beer (about a whole tall can), rosemary sprigs and thyme sprigs. Bring to a boil and cook, while scraping up any browned bits, until the liquid reduces by half; or about 8-10 minutes.

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Add 6 cups of water and bring back to a boil. Return the beef to the pot and season with more salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, until the liquid is thick enough to coat a spoon; about 2.5 or 3 hours.

Add the extra chopped thyme to the pot and stir. Remove the original rosemary and thyme sprigs.

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Roll out the puff pastry dough (we used store-bought) on a floured surface. Transfer the filling to a cast iron skillet (any baking dish will do). Place the dough over the filling and crimp around the edges of the skillet/dish. Cut a few slits in the centre of the crust. Brush with cream and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Place the dish in the oven at 375° and bake for 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and flaky.

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The pie was a huge success. We’ll definitely be making it again in the future, and using the basic steps as a guide, will experiment with other ingredients and flavours. We were also very lucky to have some of our brewer pals bring over some amazing new beers to taste. Thanks guys!

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Pipe Burn

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It was almost a year ago that we brewed our very first porter we called “Pipe Burn”. We hung on to a bottle all year long and were excited to try it agin. It was every bit as rich, smoky, and chocolately as the first time we tried it!

I have learned in my Prud’homme class that it is better to age beers that are at higher in alcohol. This one is only around 5%. We didn’t note anything that made it particularly better or worse than the first time we tried it, but it was still just as good!

Beet Beer

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Last weekend we brewed up a beet beer. We were inspired by some picked beets we made for a canning party earlier this year. We used 2-Row, wheat malt and a little bit of CaraRed for some body.

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We picked up some organic beets from our local health food store and used our food processor to shred them up.

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Our mash pre-beet addition.

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After boiling the beets, we added them to the mash!

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We also poured in the water that the beets were boiled in. These juicy red beets created a beautiful ruby red colour.

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The aroma was very bready, and grassy from the beets.

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We decided to use Willamette hops for a mild and pleasant, slightly spicy, earthy, fruity and floral characteristic. We also did a single early addition of Perle hops for their pleasant and slightly spicy bittering properties.

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We added a Whirlfloc tablet for clarity and everything came together nicely, the aromas and warmth of the brew was really nice on this cold winters day!

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Finally, we use California Ale Yeast. It’s versatility and clean flavours were perfect for this beet beer. We wanted the earthy and sweet beet flavour to come through, so we are hoping this yeast will accentuate that nicely.

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After the beer settled out for a day, the colour was breathtaking.

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We are going to add some cinnamon sticks and cloves in the secondary, and see how the beet flavour holds up after fermentation. We can’t wait to pour this ruby red beer into a glass!

Homebrew Tasting: Reporter Coffee Porter

Back in the fall we brewed a coffee porter with the help of two friends who happen to be reporters. Naturally we’ve named this beer “Reporter” Coffee Porter.

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The malt bill included Pearl, Chocolate, Rye and Crystal 80 malts, plus some toasted barley. We added some strong cold-brewed coffee into the secondary fermenter a few days before we bottled.

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The beer comes in at 6.3% and turned out really well. It pours a very opaque black, with a thick tan head. There is a nice hit of coffee aroma and flavour that comes through in the finish, with a slight spiciness present. There is also a nice roasty bite, and a hint of dark chocolate. The coffee flavour lingers for a while.

Here’s the full recipe for those interested: Reporter Coffee Porter.

Acadian Driftwood Pre-Oak Tasting

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We brewed a beer a while back that has been sitting in the fermenter for a while now. We’re calling it Acadian Driftwood, and it was brewed with some smoked malt, rye malt, and maple syrup. We had planned on aging it on some oak chips, and finally got around to racking it over to a secondary fermenter to do that.

We soaked the wood chips in a jar of whiskey for over a month first. We used a mixture of Jim Beam Bourbon and Tap 357 Maple Rye Whiskey.

At first we were going to attempt to drop a couple fabric bags full of oak chips into the carboy, but that seemed like too much trouble. We ended up just throwing the chips into the carboy loose and racking the beer onto it. We’ll just have to take some extra precautions to not get the chips stuck in the auto-siphon on bottling day.

We had a sample of the beer before we oaked it and it was already pretty tasty. The smoked malt comes through nicely, yet very subtly, which is exactly what we were hoping for. The maple is not very detectable, but that was kind of expected, as it would have fermented right out. We aren’t aiming for an in-your-face maple flavour anyway, but we’ll see if the maple-whiskey soaked wood chips do anything for that.

The gravity reading is now at 1.016, down from an OG of 1.063, giving it an ABV of 6.1%.

Looking forward to having another taste soon!

Resolution IPA

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This New Years we brewed a special IPA to put on tap at home, Resolution IPA. We took the basic recipe of our Pride & Joy IPA, and tweaked it a bit. While Pride & Joy uses only Citra hops, for Resolution we added in some New Zealand Cascade as well. We also threw a bit of Rye Malt into the grain bill. Check out the recipe at the bottom of the post.

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Taylor’s sister pours the first glass…

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The result was a very delicious and flavourful IPA. A little more bitterness than the all-Citra version, and a little less juicy, but very bright, citrusy and bitey. A great refreshing beer to have on tap.

The Recipe, for 5.5 gallons:

10 lbs of 2-row, 1 lb of rye malt, 1 lb of munich malt, 0.8 lbs of melanoidin malt, and 0.5 lbs of carahell.

For hops we used 1 oz Cascade at 60 min, 1 oz Citra at 15 min, 1 oz Citra at 10 min, 1.25 oz Citra at 5 min, 1 oz Cascade at 1 min, followed by 5 days of dry hopping with 2 oz of Citra and 1 oz of Cascade.

We fermented the wort with a vial of English Ale Yeast (White Labs WLP002).

Homebrew Labelling

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Since Taylor is a graphic designer by day we have a lot of fun creating our own labels and branding for our homebrews. We normally don’t label every single beer we bottle, but since we wanted to give away some homebrews as gifts this Christmas, we had to step up our packaging production a little bit.

Every one of our homebrew labels starts by designing and laying it all out on the computer. We’ll set up a letter sized page that fits four labels, and then make some laser prints on regular paper.

We use an x-acto knife to cut them out as perfectly as we can. It helps to include some bleed and crop marks on your print-outs.

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To adhere the labels to the bottles, we dip them in milk. We’re not exactly sure what the science is behind this, but the milk keeps the label stuck to the bottle well enough for our needs. The labels are very easy to remove by running them until a little water.

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After dipping the label in the milk, place it on the bottle exactly where you want it.

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Start pressing the label down against the bottle, and dab it with a paper towel to soak up any excess milk.

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That’s it! Here’s our Reporter Coffee Porter all labelled up.

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And Galactic Peach. This is a Belgian Wit that we fermented on some fresh Ontario peaches. It picked up some wild yeasts/bacteria in the process and ended up tasting extra delicious because of that. We kegged most of it at the time, but have three bottles that we are going to let age for a while before we try it again.

We labelled up a few more including Mint Condition (Chocolate Mint Milk Stout), Midnight on the Pumpkin Patch (Farmhouse Pumpkin Stout), Have Your Carrot Cake and Drink it Too (Carrot Cake Ale),  and Honeymooner (Coconut Porter).

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As an extra touch, we had a stamp made of our logo which we used to personalize some brown paper bags to wrap the bottles in.

Anyone else out there label their homebrews? We would love to see your labels and your process too!

Beer Cocktail

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We’re not usually cocktail drinkers, we usually reach for a beer over anything else, but this weekend we made ourselves some cocktails with beer IN them! The main ingredient in these beer cocktails is a sweet syrup made by reducing down some of our Honeymooner Coconut Porter. We used this recipe we found on Gizmodo as a guide.

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We used 500 ml of our Honeymooner Coconut Porter.

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We brought it to a boil and reduced to a simmer for 40 minutes, stirring every minute or two.

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We then weighed out our reduced porter and combined it with the same amount (in weight) of sugar. We shook up the mason jar to combine and then started mixing different cocktail concoctions.

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We settled on a combination of our Coconut Porter Syrup, Bourbon & London Porter. In an ideal world we would have used all Coconut Porter in place of the London Porter, but we just didn’t have enough to spare!

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We garnished it with some fresh pineapple slices. It tasted a bit like a malty Old Fashioned. Our guests seemed to enjoy and drank them up!

Let us know if you have any interesting beer cocktail recipes.

Carrot Cake Ale: Spicing Things Up, Part 2

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We’ve been working on a second batch of our carrot cake ale, Have Your Carrot Cake and Drink it Too! If you need to get caught up, check out our post on the first time we brewed it, which was for a homebrew tap takeover at Indie Alehouse. Then check out our post on preparing the spice addition.

This week we added some of the spiced bourbon that we created. It includes vanilla beans, cinnamon and nutmeg. We’ve poured some of it right into the fermenter, will let it settle in for a few days, bottle it and hope for the best.

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We also added a bit of pure organic carrot juice to the brew. We mashed the beer with 6 pounds of shredded carrots, but want to really make sure a bit of that carrot sweetness comes through in the end.

Here’s hoping this one tastes just as good as the original, and is ready in time for Christmas!