Gourmet Italy’s Quality Guides: Craft Beer II

Beer trippin’.

We promised (here) to be your guide in the world of craft beers. Well rinse the glasses, and let’s set sail!

First stop is fundamental: what is a beer, how is it produced?

In its contemporary version, the drink is composed of four fundamental ingredients:

  1. Water
  2. Barley malt (also other grains are used)
  3. Hops
  4. Yeast

 

Four extremely simple elements, able under the guidance of a good brewmaster to give birth to a branching range of colors and sensations… How does then the magic happen? Which chemical and physical processes act on the mixture, thus determining its sensory features?
- Alchemy, cooking or science? Birth of a beer. - 

 

The basic process, in brewing, is fermentation of the sugars contained in the grains into alcohol.

 

For this to happen, sugars must necessarily be available in forms simple enough to be ‘attacked’ by the yeasts: it is for this reason that the grains employed in brewing are malted.

 

Malting is a complex process contemplating the germination and follow dessiccation/roasting of the grains in dedicated chambers: when the barley (or other cereal’s) grain germinates, the enzymes developed during the vegetative activity break up the starch molecules to simpler sugars, able to be ‘digested’ by the yeasts.

malt ‘kilning’ 

Temperature and length of the dessiccation process, instead, apart from the sugars also effect the grains’ protein structure; originating caramelization, toasting and roasting phenomena which impact the final product – beer – in terms of aroma, sight, texture.
Malting is a process (almost) never taken care of by the brewery: it generally requires huge investments in terms of buildings and technology, so that most of the malt employed in beer making is produced by specific companies and subsequently sold to the breweries.

 

The brewing process then starts with the milling of malts. The milled grains are mixes in dedicated tuns with hot water (temperatures ranging from 30° C to 75° C, according to the characteristics a brewer might desire for the final product) and left to mash for a couple of hours: during this phase, proteins are broken down to aminoacids, sugars to elementary molecules.

 

Tini d'ammostamento/bollitura

Mashing/boiling tuns

Following step is the boiling: carried out basically to sterilize the wort and dissolve aromatic resins found in hops, which are added during this phase. The tannins found in hops, furthermore, clarify the wort; bonding with the suspended protein particles and having them precipitate to the bottom of the tun.
After the boiling worts enter a machine called whirlpool: it ‘centrifuges’ the must so to create, at the center of the tun, a… Whirlpool.The so-called ‘teacup effect’ generated by the whirlpool gathers the solid residues found in the wort (mostly hop fragments and cereal flakes) making them easily removable

After whirlpooling the wort is cooled, poured into fermenting tanks and inoculated with yeasts: then it will ferment at variable temperatures and time lengths, according to the desired type of fermentation. Fermentation can be ‘top’ or ‘bottom’ (we will deal with this further on in a dedicated post), and it is the ‘heart’ of the brewing process: that is, the thing able to transform a water and grains mixture into a complex and noble beverage.
Besides creating alcohol and CO2, fermentation harmonizes the wort; the incessant work carried out by yeasts creates most of a beer’s notable aromas.

Open-tun fermentation at Brasserie Cantillon, Bruxelles

When fermentation is complete, beer is matured, that is poured over and left to decantation: during maturation CO2 levels normalizes, the aroma rounds up as yeasts fall to the bottom of the tank to be successively eliminated.
The now-beer is then bottled, with or without small doses of sugars and yeasts aiming to obtain a second fermentation (bottle conditioning).
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Valentine’s Gourmet Menus: ‘The Romantic’

Valentine's

… When I fall in love
( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZolqOpNzfv0 )

‘Tagliatelle al pomodoro

Why. It’s Valentine’s and you want to make one special thing, for your special one. You researched and imagined the wildest and most elaborated recipes. But No, then you thought. In love you need simplicity. And care. To know how to appreciate little things. That, at their best, are the most surprising. The essential perfection of Pastificio Cavalieri’s Organic Tagliatelle meets Alicos’ cherry tomato sauce for a moment of true intimacy…

When. When your partners come back from work, if you want to see their eyes sparkle twice.

How. Cook tagliatelle in salted boiling water (1L per 100grams pasta): al dente. Strain and save some of the water. Use it to moisten the pasta as you add Alicos’ tomato sauce. Breathe deeply and realize Spring is coming once again. Share this dish with your loved one, topping if you like with a drizzle of good extravirgin olive oil.

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Parmigiano and white figs Jam

Why. Because afternoons are everlasting, it’s still cold out and under the blankets it feels great. A snack, a kiss, a both comforting and enticing aperitif will make the atmosphere golden.

When. Late at morning, or early at night. Be off-hour; completely free to live at your own pace.

How. Lay Parmigiano on a wooden board and flake it to bit-sized pieces. Let it crumble and fall apart. Then use a teaspoon to trace weaves over the cheese, with that special jam. Look at the figs take place, let them kiss Parmigiano, lean for a while, slip. Taste strictly using your fingers, don’t forget to feed the best bites to your beloved. And have fun together, always.

 

Vesuvio Apricots and warm spices Crumble

Why. Because loving is also spoiling. At the right time, still especially in the right way. You melt like butter, lulled by the almond aftertaste of Vesuvio apricots. A bit of tenderness balances the heat of a spicy spirit: entrancing is the warmth of a hug…

When. At the end of the day, as an introduction to a tenderness of the sweeter kind. Remember to save some for tomorrow morning’s breakfast. 

How. Preheat oven at 200° C. Mix in a bowl 150g. cake flour, 50g ground almonds, 125g chilled cubed butter, 70g raw cane sugar – and slightly pinch together on your fingertips, without kneading, until the mass will form crumbles and some bigger lumps. Add a touch of spices: garam masala and fennel seeds, or cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper… Freeze for 10 minutes. In the meanwhile, drain the apricots from their syrup and cut them to halves, laying them down on a buttered tray cut-side up. Pour dough over the fruit avoiding manipulation to the least, and bake for 30mins, until golden and crisp; and the scent of butter embraces your home. Eat with a spoon the fruits as tender as kisses, and seek discreetly for his or her eyes.

 

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Valentine’s Gourmet Menus: “The Spicy”

Valentine's

 

Organic Penne rigate, seafood and artichokes patè

Why. Because there’s no place more beautiful than a beach at sunset: it’s still Winter and only the right scent can make you feel like stretching on the sand. And because artichokes “are good in taste, and for those who find enjoyment in serving madam Venus” (Costanzo Felici, 1558).

When. When you feel like surprising someone’s senses, body, mind.

How. Clean some raw prawns, place them in a container with water, few drops of lime juice, juniper berries and pink pepper; leave them to marinade for about half an hour. In the meanwhile stir fry in little olive oil a thinly sliced shallot, celery and fresh hot pepper by the taste – and cook penne in boiled salted water (1L water per 100g pasta), drain when al dente. Sautè penne and smother if too dry with some of their own cooking water, then add Sommariva’s artichoke patè (bittersweet, frothy, sensual) and stir off-heat. When plating, decorate with the marinated prawns, some pink peppercorn, and if really the chase gets to the last gasp with a couple of sea urchin fillets.

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Pork fillet gravlax, peppers in jam

Why. Because raw is primitive and close to the instinct. Because the glazing and the freshness of peppers are dangerously sensual. Because transgressing the ordinary is a real pleasure.

When. SIf it’s the first time you ask someone over for dinner – or for a snack to tickle fantasy without stealing too much time for way more important matters.

How. Place the pork fillet in a sealable glass container and sprinkle it with a mixture of sea salt, black pepper, crushed szechuan pepper, verbena or marjoram and thyme. Massage the meat, letting the spices penetrate in depth. Seal the container and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 10 hours; from time to time taking out the liquids from the container. Slice thinly and serve with some pieces of glazed pepper and dill: raw, carnal yet sweet; moved by a freshness which easens the contact of bodies.

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Pancakes with Apricots Jam

Why. Because in the morning you’ll feel like laying back and relaxing. Even if more likely you’ll have to deliver some breakfast in bed…

When. As a dessert and a warm prelude to a night of endearments, or as a last endearment after a night of warm preludes…

How. Sift together 350g. cake flour, a teaspoon sea salt, half a teaspoon baking soda, tow teaspoons baking powder, two tablespoons white sugar. Stir in 400ml buttermilk, a slighlty whisked egg and two tablespoons extravirgin olive oil: warm on medium-low heat a big nonstick skillet and lightly rub it with a paper towel soaked in olive oil. Pour the batter according to the thinckness you desire and let it sit in the skillet untile the surface turns bubbly: using a spatula flip pancakes and complete cooking. If you wish, moisten them with a few drops apricot brandy. Serve topping with apricots jam: fleshy fruits, toasted edges, and a soft heart will loosen muscles and any kind of resistance.

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Le Guide alla Qualità di Gourmet: Birra Artigianale I

Luppolo Libero

Freedom is a must.

La birra artigianale, presenza ormai fondamentale sulla scena gastronomica italiana, è senz’altro uno dei prodotti che più riesce ad accattivare fantasie e attenzioni del pubblico di settore.

Abituato all’offerta commerciale che ha appiattito l’idea di birra su un archetipo fatto di bottiglie gelate, liquidi placcati oro e frizzantezze improbabili, il consumatore medio che entri a contatto con l’artigianalità e la sua sterminata gamma di sensazioni nuove ne rimane generalmente colpito, spesso “convertendosi” al consumo di prodotti che ben poco hanno a che fare con la temibile bionda media.

Qui a Gourmet amiamo sinceramente la gastronomia e i nostri prodotti; e tra questi per la birra abbiamo un debole forse ancora più evidente…

Con la presente guida, che si articolerà in ‘capitoli’ pubblicati con cadenza settimanale, Gourmet si propone di introdurvi nel mondo meraviglioso del craft brewing: raccontandovi come e dove nascono gli aromi, i colori, gli stili.

Percorreremo la storia della birra vera visitando i Paesi in cui questa s’è sviluppata: dallorigini sumere viaggeremo fino al Belgio, all’Inghilterra, alla Germania – poi agli USA, ed in ultimo all’Italia per inquadrare le vicende, avvincenti per quanto recenti, della grande birra di casa nostra.

Per ogni tappa “berremo” insieme le pinte più caratteristiche, imparando a conoscerne i tratti distintivi in termini sensoriali e di tecniche di produzione.

Sarà un bel viaggio: ci divertiremo. Noi, soprattutto, non vediamo l’ora di spiegarvi perché termini come ‘bionda’ e ‘doppio malto’ non significano un accidente; come si chiama in una weizen la molecola che dà odore di banana, o perché dovete stare attenti se in Baviera v’invitano a bere in bicchieri dalla forma strana (vedi sotto)…

Boccale Stivale

WANTED: il minacciosissimo Boccale Stivale.

Dite, non siete curiosi? Cosa vorreste trovare in questa guida tematica, quale domanda sulla birra vi ossessiona da anni (e non avete ancora mai osato chiedere)? Fateci sapere – proveremo ad esaudire ogni curiosità.

Buon viaggio a tutti, e Salute,

Il Team di Gourmet Italy – Italian Food Lovers

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After Salone del Gusto: Pumpkin Risotto, goat ricotta, Pantelleria capers in Jamaican honey

We are back from Salone del Gusto, with some bag full of delicacies and a way lighter wallet as a counterpart: among our groceries, Alnif cumin having soaked shirts, jackets and socks forever,  a 2012 Utopia rhododendron honey ale made in Troll/made in Bi-Du Acquerello carnaroli rice, wild honey from the forests of Jamaica – it’s not everything we got, but with these ingredients we developed a celebrative concoction, together global and regional, seasonal and warm, tropical – but with an Autumn feel. This we provide: it’s Pumpkin Days…

Avvolgenze
Orange White Mountain Jungle Sweet Savory. A Gourmet Italy’s post-Salone del Gusto celebration recipe, we chose this as a symbol of universal Eating; of our own aesthetics and food sovereignty.

INGREDIENTS (randomly listed) – 2 persons:

Seasonal, ripe, sweet pumpkin: 600gr.

A potato, A carrot, A celery stalk, A red onion for the stock

Butter: 70gr.

Riso Carnaroli Acquerello aged 7 years: 250gr.

“Utopia” Bidu/Troll, rhododendron frontier ale, to deglaze rice: a dash; to drink while cooking: all that’s left.

Alnif cumin, that is Scent of Paradise in the way Moroccans imagine it: make it rain.

Wild jamaican honey, from ackee and avocado trees, a tropical explosion: one teaspoon

Half of a red onion.

One garlic clove.

Black pepper.

Grated Parmigiano Reggiano: 40gr.

Few salted Pantelleria capers, to top up the dish

Rosemary

Goat Ricotta: 160gr.

A pinch of salt.

PROCEDURE (scrupulously listed):

Wash and rinse under running water Pantelleria capers. Dissolve in a glass a spoonful of Jamaican honey in very little lukewarm water, add the washed and rinsed capers, leave them to soak sweetness in that Caribbean jungle explosion.

Thoroughly peel pumpkin, cut two-thirds in cubes, leave the remaining whole.

Fill up a rather big pot with cold water, add potato, onion, carrot; bring to boil on a lively heat. Then stir in the whole piece of pumpkin and a celery stalk, add salt, leave uncovered on a low flame until all the vegetables are cooked.

Melt inside a wide pan 30gr. of butter, leave the unpeeled garlic clove to brown, add a rosemary branch. When garlic starts to turn golden, add pumpkin cubes, sauté on high heat until brown; add half a cup of warm stock, cover, leave to cook on a low heat. When pumpkin turns soft adjust salt and pepper, add Alnif cumin in the quantity you prefer. We opted to bathe in it. Take out the garlic and rosemary, leave to cool, pass to a blender: the cream you want to obtain ought to be velvety, runny yet compact (as it will complete the smothering); should it turn out too dense dilute it with half a coffee cup of stock.

Thinly (very thinly) slice the half onion, melt in a high-walled casserole 20gr. of butter, brown the onion on a low flame: as it turns lightly golden add rice, turn the heat up, let the grains toast well – deglaze with a dash of Utopia (sounds good, innit?), having avoided to drink it all as you wait. Start working the risotto on a moderate heat; adding ladle by ladle the vegetable stock and letting the rice absorb it; stir slowly and steadily, clockwise.

When the Carnaroli grain will be al dente (resistant to the bite, nor sticky, nor crunchy) your Risotto will be ready: remove from heat and add the last piece of butter – the last, I swear- and Parmesan. Stir vigorously and let the magic of smothering happen… When dairy will have embraced the starch in rice gifting to the dish that unique velvety feel (and I get emotional to this point), add the pumpkin velouté, stir in.

Serve by adding goat ricotta right on top of the risotto: its snow-white acidity is born to tickle, kindle the peaceful comfort of pumpkin. Complete this sensory world tour with a hint of sapidity by placing how you best like them the capers, drained from the honey brine, and generously mill some black pepper on top.

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My grandma’s apple pie.

A good karma apple pie.

Grandma since a while has stopped worrying. She’s light, as she forgets things and looks at me emptily, as if she was lost. I love her very much and remember, often, of those things she used to cook: spaghetti rolls wrapped in fried eggplants, the sweetest tomato sauce and ricotta salata on top; or those char-grilled skewers, that quite perfect pasta al forno of hers with strings of long-cooked beef and hard boiled eggs. Between the stoves of my grandmothers there are all the scents and the kitchen techniques I have in my luggage; all that I have experimented, adapted, cloned.

The one thing I could never clone, the lost recipe, is the one thing that with its soft enigma has been chasing me for years; and that I have recently found back in the quiet pen of an elementary school’s teacher.

Mrs. Concetta had me tasting this specialty of hers: the apple pie. And it was so impressing to find the crumbly softness of those afternoons when grandma was waiting for friends and the weekly card games night, and she prepared it – and it was exactly the same – that I had to ask her to write the recipe for me, in a beautiful round and balanced handwriting.

INGREDIENTS: 

 450gr. White flour

150gr. Butter

220gr. Sugar

3 Eggs

1 bag baking powder

half a glass of milk

1 good lemon

3 beautiful yellow apples.

HOW TO:

1) Peel the apples, split them in half lengthwise and cut out the pits. Cut them thinly without pushing your blade to the end; so for the slices to hold together at the bottom. Squeeze some lemon drops on top, so to prevent the apples from blackening.

2) Whisk eggs and sugar, add the melted butter, then milk and finally the sifted flour and baking powder. Keep whisking till smooth and homogeneous.

3) Pour the mix in a rounded tin with tall edges, “buttered and floured” (quote.)

4) Let the apple halves, dusted with a little cane sugar, sink into the dough: they will be guzzled down by the rising mixture keeping moisture and softness, caressing the palate as a comforting bite, childhood for gluttons.

5) Bake at 180° C for about 40 minutes. Check the cooking with a toothpick: pierce the cake softly, when the stick comes out clean it will be ready.

6) Let cool one hour at least. Come on, resist.

7) Slice and bite. A crumbly texture sinks in seas of softness, the slightly cooked apple gives in to the teeth with an embrace without opposing; warmth. Comfort. Sweetness.

You can have it plain or with a glass of milk. I’m enjoying it tonight with a beautiful Tainted Love black saison by Extraomnes; even though a glass of  Casa Barone walnut liquor would be great; and I’m craving the astonishing 1111 malt liquor by Carrobiolo. After all, I’m not a child anymore…

 

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Granita al caffè fatta in casa

Per prepararla vi servono:

250ml di ottimo caffè espresso,
250ml d’acqua,
70gr di zucchero,
un baccello di vaniglia (opzionale),
panna montata per guarnire.

Come si fa:

Viaggiate mentalmente fino a Napoli e preparate un espresso ricco: un caffè di alta qualità è necessario perché la granita sia speciale. Scegliete una miscela antica, cremosa e aromatica, perché “che bello o’ccafè… Sulo a Napule o’ssann’fa!”. Spostate la vostra bussola mentale in Sicilia: portate a ebollizione in una casseruola l’acqua, lo zucchero e la vaniglia e lasciate bollire per un minuto. Incorporate il caffè e lasciate raffreddare. Trasferite in un recipiente e spostate in congelatore. Dopo circa un’ora, con una frusta o pochi secondi di frullatore miscelate energicamente il composto per frantumare i cristalli di ghiaccio. Riponete in freezer e ripetete circa ogni mezz’ora per tre o quattro volte. Al momento di servire, guarnite con panna montata e una pioggia di brioche calde. Inzuppate e lasciate il mondo fuori.

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Principato di Lucedio – Rice

The Lucedio Abbey, in Trino, Vercelli area: here in the XV Century the Cistercian monks first introduced in Italy the cultivation of rice.

Through an history rich in vicissitudes, having undergone the Papal and the Napoleonic domination thanks to its strategic position along the Francigena road, it is today a flourishing farm engaging in the production of extraordinary rices: the vocation of the area, together with the low-impact agricultural strategies and a centuries-long know-how, allow Principato di Lucedio’s rices to be the history-flavouredplus to make any risotto taste perfect.

 
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Acquerello, The Rice

Acquerello: a watercolor of skies mirroring in the shiny flooded ricefields: nuanced tones of mosquitoes, spikes, a late June afternoon.

This the sight at Colombara, rice farm where the most prized among all Vercelli’s Carnaroli is produced; the Rondolinos’ Acquerello. Happy grains only, at the Colombara: organically grown according to the systems of seasonal rotation, as soon as they’re harvested… They rest.

Rice aging, 1 to 7 years long, helps the grain to make protein stucture stronger; that is to tighten up, lose less starch, retain better both condiments and cooking: only by then the product will be helix-peeled (the priciest rice-refinement method – but the slowest, and most respectful of the grain’s health) and reintegrated, according to a process patented by the company, of its gem – the nutritional “heart” of rice.

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Brewery Paul Bricius

Vittoria, in the Ragusa province: a city situated on the southernmost point of the Island embodying the South itself, and all of it. There, on the Mediterranean which almost faces Maghreb (but is invaded: with Norman dominations, with baroque and Gattopardos) four friends decided in 2004 to enter the way of craft brewing.

Ahead of times compared to the Sicilian scenario – but also to the explosion of quality beer trends in Italy, in its entirety – Paul Bricius was born: co-managed by founders Licitra, Traina, Trainito and Carrubba, who still personally work their british-inspired creations with a small, direct-flame-ignited, self-built 15HL plant.

Regulating temperatures and production steps on such devices is huge work of patience and madness: still, at Paul Bricius “this is the meaning istelf of craft method, reducing to the minimum the relevance of instruments to underline the importance of Man: his intelligence, his skills, both in thinking and finally producing beer.” (excerpt from www.paulbricius.com)

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