Maple Blueberry Cider

Well, I realize it has been a while since I posted anything but much has happened in my life. Time has become my commodity of choice and so I try to use it wisely and, when leisure time comes my way, there are a few things that rank higher than my blog. Like brewing. I’m still brewing. Not as often nor as voluminous as I used to but I am happy to report that I am still brewing.

I’m a big fan of Woodchuck’s summer cider. I like it because it has a hint of blueberry. I wanted to brew some sort of summer cider that would be easily drinkable and have that hint of blueberry. But after my disastrous attempt at Blueberry Pancake Mead, I decided to approach this one differently.

First off, I used maple flavoring instead of actual maple syrup. Yes, I know–that isn’t very cool. But it did work. I like brewing with maple syrup, but I’ve also come to learn while it is a good ingredient for fermentation and adds an interesting flavor, the maple flavor disappears. With the maple extract, it remained. The second thing I did was rack the cider off of real blueberries and then added a large amount of pure blueberry juice to the secondary. This really helped the blueberry flavor remain.

Maple Blueberry Cider (3 gallon batch)

  • 3 gallons of apple juice
  • 2 pints of blueberries cooked in 1 cup of white sugar.
  • 1lb of sugar (minus 1 cup).
  • 1 teaspoon of maple extract
  • S-04 Yeast

After 1 1/2 weeks in the primary, I racked this off of the blueberries and into the secondary. Then I added 32oz of blueberry juice.

After another 1 1/2 weeks I bottled it.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this will make it to the summer. 3 gallon batches instead of 5 (which is what I’m brewing now) don’t last as long. They especially don’t last as long since I now give so much of what I make away. I’m not complaining.

For your viewing pleasure:

maple cider

God loves an orchard: “Only the trees which you know are not fruit trees you shall destroy and cut down, that you may construct siegeworks against the city that is making war with you until it falls. ” (Deuteronomy 20.20 NASB) 

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Exciting Development

While we are in the period of transition and preparing to move I thought I’d share an exciting development with you. Mrs. Wine and I have become members of a CSA. A CSA means community supported agriculture and basically, what it means is we have become shareholders in a local farm. The farm is Bird’s Havens Farms and it had some neat add ons. We’ll get 1/3lb of raw cheese/week as well as eggs. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, I found a farmer that sells whole, 1/2 and 1/4 beef as well as 1/2 or whole pork. Even better, he has trained under Joel Salatin. So we’ll be buying our yearly supply of beef from him as well as pork (something we’ve wanted to do for a while).  I’m looking forward to eating in 2015!

 

Update on the Brewery

I’m sorry for the long silence. Things have been crazy. There will not be much activity for a while because we are moving. Our prayers (and perhaps yours?) were answered. Mrs. Wine got the job; I got the job as well. We found a beautiful century home. When we went into the basement Mrs. Wine said to me, “You can brew here” and I was sold. I have big plans for the brew room which will culminate in a keezer. Lots of pictures to follow. There will also be brewing again with recipes. It’ll be fun.

So patience please and the blog will pick up once we are settled.

American gods

I’m currently working my way through Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Though I have long been a fan of the cinematic adaptations of his books, this is the first time I have actually read Neil Gaiman. I wasn’t sure what I should expect but I didn’t expect this. The book is weird; not China Mieville weird, but weird nonetheless. The basic premise is that the gods people have believed in over the millenia do exist. But they somehow are brought into existence through our faith and when we no longer believe, they are left in this weird, immortal, limbo. America is filled with the old gods, like Odin, who immigrants brought with them. These old gods are now being squeezed out by the new gods of American culture.

But while the premise is interesting, it lends itself well to some introspective thought on what is America and what defines Americans. Gaiman explores this somewhat through his main character’s extensive traveling with Mr. Wednesday (Odin):

“It’s almost hard to believe that this is in the same country as Lakeside,” he said.

Wednesday glared at him. Then he said, “It’s not. San Francisco isn’t in the same country as Lakeside any more than New Orleans is in the same country as New York or Miami is in the same country as Minneapolis.”

“Is that so?” said Shadow, mildly.

“Indeed it is. They may share certain cultural signifiers—money, a federal government, entertainment; it’s the same land, obviously—but the only things that give it the illusion of being one country are the green-back, The Tonight Show, and McDonald’s.” 

Living in a Tri-State region, I’d have to agree. While there is much that unifies us, there is a tremendous difference in culture between the populace of the three states. In addition, being a transplant, I have an outsider’s perspective on where I live and it is very different from where I’m from.

So what does unite us? Gaiman makes the case that Americans are a very religious people: we worship lots of different gods. I’m always happy when I find something in pop culture echoing the Reformed faith. As John Calvin said, “The human heart is an idol factory… Every one of us from our mothers womb is an expert in inventing idols”  We worship our government:

“As they passed their first signpost for Mount Rushmore, still several hundred miles away, Wednesday grunted. “Now that,” he said, “is a holy place.” Shadow had thought Wednesday was asleep. He said, “I know it used to be sacred to the Indians.” “It’s a holy place,” said Wednesday. “That’s the American Way—they need to give people an excuse to come and worship.”

We worship technology and television. Even Media is a goddess in Gaiman’s book. Shadow is confronted with the god of tv in a hotel room when Lucille Ball starts to talk to him out of the tv:

“It’s not Lucille Ball. It’s Lucy Ricardo. And you know something—I’m not even her. It’s just an easy way to look, given the context. That’s all.” She shifted uncomfortably on the sofa.

“Who are you?” asked Shadow.

“Okay,” she said. “Good question. I’m the idiot box. I’m the TV. I’m the all-seeing eye and the world of the cathode ray. I’m the boob tube. I’m the little shrine the family gathers to adore.”

“You’re the television? Or someone in the television?”

“The TV’s the altar. I’m what people are sacrificing to.”

“What do they sacrifice?” asked Shadow.

“Their time, mostly,” said Lucy. “Sometimes each other.” She raised two fingers, blew imaginary gun smoke from the tips. Then she winked, a big old I Love Lucy wink.

“You’re a god?” said Shadow.

Lucy smirked, and took a lady-like puff of her cigarette. “You could say that,” she said.

So imagine my surprise when yesterday, while watching Anthony Bourdain’s show Part’s Unknown he made a keen observation. This observation came while visiting Las Vegas and it had to do with another god we have come to worship. His commentary starts at around the 1.05 minute mark. Truly, if anything shows it, this scene shows us what “the kingdom and the glory” we have come to worship as Americans.

All of this leads to a pertinent question: when we worship something that doesn’t give life, are we truly living? In American Gods, the main character Shadow is confronted with this conundrum by his dead wife. I’ll end with their exchange:

“I’m alive,” said Shadow. “I’m not dead. Remember?”

“You’re not dead,” she said. “But I’m not sure that you’re alive, either. Not really.”

This isn’t the way this conversation goes, thought Shadow. This isn’t the way anything goes.

“I love you,” she said, dispassionately. “You’re my puppy. But when you’re really dead you get to see things clearer. It’s like there isn’t anyone there. You know? You’re like this big, solid, man-shaped hole in the world.” She frowned. “Even when we were together. I loved being with you because you adored me, and you would do anything for me. But sometimes I’d go into a room and I wouldn’t think there was anybody in there. And I’d turn the light on, or I’d turn the light off, and I’d realize that you were in there, sitting on your own, not reading, not watching TV, not doing anything.” She hugged him then, as if to take the sting from her words, and she said, “The best thing about Robbie was that he was somebody. He was a jerk sometimes, and he could be a joke, and he loved to have mirrors around when we made love so he could watch himself fucking me, but he was alive, puppy. He wanted things. He filled the space.” She stopped, looked up at him, tipped her head a little to one side. “I’m sorry. Did I hurt your feelings?”

He did not trust his voice not to betray him, so he simply shook his head. “Good,” she said. “That’s good.” They were approaching the rest area where he had parked his car. Shadow felt that he needed to say something: I love you, or please don’t go, or I’m sorry. The kind of words you use to patch a conversation that had lurched, without warning, into the dark places. Instead he said, “I’m not dead.”

“Maybe not,” she said. “But are you sure you’re alive?”

The State of the Union

If you aren’t seated you probably should go ahead and sit down.

Okay, are you sitting down?

Tonight, the President is going to obey the constitution(!). He will give his state of the union speech to Congress, and through the FCC, all of America. Or at least those Americans who care or are too lazy to change the channel. Alex Pareene, writing on Gawker, has a great editorial on presidential speeches. I’ve copied and pasted it here in its entirety but please feel free to click this sentence to return to the original source.

The State of the Union Is Dumb Hacks Writing Garbage Speeches

“Six years into the Obama presidency, I thought we’d finally run out of hotshot administration bros the political press could glowingly profile in exchange for future access to meaningless scooplets. I was wrong.

Yesterday, The New York Times introduced us to Cody “Hemingway” Keenan. The president has given him the nickname “Hemingway,” not because he is an overrated drunk— though he may indeed be that—but because he writes and has a beard. Unlike Hemingway, who wrote novels and stories that people still revere decades after his death, Keenan writes speeches that the president delivers and that everyone promptly forgets, because modern political speeches are disposable garbage. Judging by this profile, though, no one seems to have explained that distinction to Keenan, his friends, or Times reporter Michael Schmidt.

Keenan is presented as a classic hardboiled writers’ writer type. He drinks Scotch, like a man might do! He stares at a blank page, because writing is a difficult, solitary business. The words just won’t come! But also sometimes he stays up until 5 a.m. hashing out speeches with his other writer friend, because the only thing more writerly than writing is writing with another writer. They drink Scotch. They write, writingly. They are The Single-malt Scotch Bastards of the White House.

On Tuesday, Mr. Obama will deliver his next-to-last State of the Union address from a text written, rewritten, revised and sweated over by Mr. Keenan. In all the policy pronouncements about tax increases on the rich and tax cuts for the middle class, Mr. Obama’s remarks are certain to address the struggles of ordinary Americans in some of the gritty, Everyman prose that has become Mr. Keenan’s trademark.

Ah, who can forget all those examples of President Obama delivering the “gritty, Everyman prose that has become Mr. Keenan’s trademark.” The president sounds like a regular Hank Chinaski these days, haven’t you noticed?

“He reminds me of some of the folks I grew up with in the old days in Chicago journalism — those hard-bitten, big-hearted, passionate writers who brought the stories of people to life,” said David Axelrod, a longtime adviser to Mr. Obama and a former newspaper reporter.

Axelrod, in the spirit of political communication, is using words to advance not a set of facts but an impression. I have no reason to doubt the size of Keenan’s heart, or the force of his passion, but the Times helpfully provides a capsule biography on how “hard bitten” he is:

In fact, Mr. Keenan, born in Chicago, went to high school in the wealthy town of Ridgefield, Conn., in Fairfield County, where he threw more interceptions than touchdowns, voraciously read spy novels and was president of the student body. He graduated from Northwestern University, and rolled into Washington at the age of 21 with just a fraternity brother’s couch to crash on and a cocky attitude.

Right, yes, he is exactly what he appears to be: Another of the legion of frat boys who go to DC after college to begin careers in politics. If he in any way reminds you of an old-timey hardscrabble Chicago newspaperman, you have been in politics far too long, or you are blind and illiterate.

Modern political speechwriting is not a high-minded pursuit for brilliant talents. Aaron Sorkin should be shot into space for perpetuating this bullshit fantasy that still enamors hacks like Cody Keenan. Writing a 6,000-word presidential speech is a process that bears only a mechanical resemblance to writing 6,000 words meant to be read and appreciated by normal humans. Some political speechwriters may also happen to be good writers, but they would have to achieve success in a field other than political speechwriting to prove it. (Former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett, for example, is funny on Twitter and a good political columnist.Neither of those things were evident in his work as a speechwriter.)

I am not arguing that any untrained schmo off the street could write a State of the Union address. Modern political speechwriting is certainly a skill, and one that requires experience and practice to master. It is not, however, a literary endeavor. It is marketing, and not even particularly imaginative marketing. Advertising people who call themselves “creatives” do more actual creative work than political speechwriters. Do the people who write statements of risk for pharmaceutical ads walk around swishing single malt in tumblers and comparing themselves to The Lost Generation? (Well, they probably do, but they are wrong.)

Political speechwriting is an exercise in the proper arrangement of cliches and platitudes, with a bit of “messaging” of policy ideas to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Speeches like the one the president will deliver tonight are designed to deliver pleasant inanities (The State of the Union is Strong) and sell certain carefully audience-tested proposals as vaguely (or misleadingly) as possible. The State of the Union is less written than it is designed, structured and organized around applause prompts and camera cues.

Here, for example, is some of Keenan’s hard-bitten, muscular prose, from a previous State of the Union address:

“Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades,” Mr. Obama said in the opening lines of last year’s State of the Union address, written by Mr. Keenan.

The president went on: “A farmer prepared for the spring after the strongest five-year stretch of farm exports in our history. A rural doctor gave a young child the first prescription to treat asthma that his mother could afford. A man took the bus home from the graveyard shift, bone-tired but dreaming big dreams for his son.”

That is boilerplate State of the Union rhetoric. Do you know what it doesn’t sound like? Good prose by a good author. Peggy Noonan could down two bottles of white wine and crank this kind of shit out in ten minutes before passing out. Paul Harvey would’ve been embarrassed to read this on the radio. It’s a storyboarding session for a TV commercial. If you actually imagine those images, the first thing that comes to mind is a soothing voice rapidly reading pharmaceutical contraindications.

Because Barack Obama is himself actually a decent writer, and because he is a good orator who has delivered some memorable speeches, his speechwriters have been showered with attention since before he was even elected president. Jon Favreau got a similar Times profile during the 2008 campaign, one of the first of a flood that would be written about him until he left the White House for the more lucrative fields of consulting, speaking, and screenwriting.

It’s not even limited to the Obama bros. John McCain had his own ersatz Hemingway in longtime aide Mark Salter—who at least ghostwrote McCain’s books, something that more closely resembles literary writing than preparing campaign speeches or Senate addresses. Salter was the recipient of numerous profiles during the 2008 campaign. (“Salter, 53, comes by his love of grit and combat honestly.”)

It probably all dates back to the cult of Kennedy, and JFK’s partnership with Ted Sorensen. But political rhetoric has inarguably declined in literary quality since the 1960s about as much as it had already declined, by then, since the 18th and 19th centuries. No one currently involved in speechwriting is ever going to craft a Lincoln’s Second Inaugural or a Washington’s Farewell Address, because speeches of that nature are not considered effective political communication in the 21st century. Modern speechwriters are certainly not doing anything comparable to writing deathless fiction about the realities of the American experience, because it would be weird if a politician delivered stark observations on the human condition instead of trying to make himself appear more acceptable than his political opponents to people who pay attention to presidential speeches once a year.

Tonight’s State of the Union might be an effective speech, but it definitely won’t be a good one.”  ~ Alex Pareene