Twisted Pepper Sauce: Amongst Other Things

This post contains 5 photos.

Well, maybe it’s time to put some of that gardening products to good use, right?

My basil is grown, with a lot still in its adolescence, my chillies are doing very well, so I decided to make something “inventive”. I have three types of chillies here, but only two with fruits and not yet ripe: But I like green chillies! Anyway… I harvested a few of each and decided to make a sauce, which I will probably be used for my “Twisted Pepper Pasta”, but it will take a few weeks.

Here are the ingredients for this particular concoction:

Freshly picked basil leaves, around 30g of it;

This kind of pepper (help me identify it, please?);

And that pepper (that one too!);

Onion, garlic, honey and olive oil. I deseeded most of the peppers, blended half with the rest of the ingredients and the other half I sliced to mix with the blended paste;

Topped it up with extra virgin olive oil for conservation and flavour extraction and added the twisted pepper on top. As well as some aesthetics, the spices of the pepper will diffuse over the top layer. I will wait a couple of weeks before I use it, in order of the olive oil to extract the flavour of all ingredients.

The initial impression is that the sauce is quite mild and sweet, just the way I like it, but in time, I am expecting it to become spicier. Well, when you can taste the spicy air from chopping the chillies, you can expect something pungent!

Birthday Homebrew Label: Hanging Gardens of Nicolau’s Ale

It’s one of my best friend’s birthday today, so a while ago I decided to brew him an Ale. It’s not ready yet, by the way, but the label surely is!

Why the name?? He lives in Iraq and works for a local football team (soccer of you americans). Just trying to be a bit humorous about the daily worry we all go through!

Well, happy birthday Anderson!

Beer Economics Review: Amazon Beer Stout Açaí

I am not sure if this is a good idea, but I will publish a quick beer review worth of notice.

My girlfriend, who travels a lot, gave me several beers from local breweries from different parts of Brazil, which is great! Yesterday, we decided to drink it and, my God, what a tasty beer!

I am no beer connoisseur, but I can appreciate a good beer. And I guess it would have won the title of best beer in Brazil! It is quite subtle, coffee-y taste with not much taste of Açaí, still with a relatively high alcohol content. I wouldn’t expect the extremely hot city of Belem to have been able to produce high quality stout, of all beers, but they did the job! If you know anything about brewing, fermenting at constant, relatively low temperature is crucial, as temperature fluctuation can damage the overall body and taste of the beer. Belem do Para is the largest Brazilian city near the Equator with temperatures averaging around 28C throughout the year. It’s located at the Amazon River Delta and, adding all these factors up, it makes it one of the most humid cities on Earth. All these factors make Belem a nightmare for brewers (and for people to cope with the heat too).

Controlling the brewing temperature must cost the brewery a small fortune on heat belts, AC units etc. Also, everything (except the Açaí and water) must be imported, since the city’s climate is unfavourable for the growth of any of the raw products necessary to produce the simplest beers. All of this is reflected in the price. A 330ml bottle can cost you up to £5. These prices are also not compatible with the means of the average Brazilian, so you can only find it for sale in speciality shops and fancy restaurant, which is a pity.

With a GDP per capita of £3809 (£317/month), and 75% of the population living below that line, most of the population won’t be able to afford one single bottle of this lovely beer.

Well, that’s free capitalism for you! A city, which in my opinion, overcame all the difficulties of brewing a quality product, managed to produce something unique, but only for a selected few.

Now that I have calmed down, I can conclude. It’s a very good beer.

Wild Blackberry Mead… A Simple Name for Once

This post contains 5 photos.

In the earlier post about fruit picking, the purpose of my picked fruits is the usual: homebrew. Blackberry are bloody expensive and farmed ones are not as delicious! Anyway, In a few months, I will have, hopefully, a very delicious drink!

I favour brewing mead over other drinks because, well, I prefer to other drinks and it’s the one that is most difficult to mess up. Why? Honey, that’s why!


  • 440g of blackberries for primary and another 440g for secondary (I picked 880g, the second half has been frozen);
  • Zest and juice of one lemon;
  • 1.5kg of honey;
  • Enough water to complete 5L;
  • D-47 yeast.

First, sterilize all the equipment. Leave the berries soaking in cold water and remove any creepy crawlers that float up (hey, it’s organic stuff!)

Place the berries in the demijohn (the glass fermenting thingy). There might still be some bacteria/wild yeast/general oganisms that need to be killed.

Want to sterilize fruit? Want to sterilize anything? Cover it in honey! Add half of the honey into the demijohn and leave the fruits soaking in it. Honey is anti-everything… it will kill wild yeast and other fungi, bacteria, any tiny organism in and around the berries + all the health benefits. If the amount of honey added is kept high, the likelihood of infections in your brew decrease quite a lot.

That’s why it’s hard to get mead wrong. Sanitation and infections are a big problem in wine and beer, but mead has the power of honey to back it up! Pretty cool, right?

After a good honey soaking for about 30 minutes, add 1.5L of boiling water to the demijohn and let it sit for another few minutes. Close it with the airlock/blow tube. Even though mead is harder to infect, don’t take chances! Further sterilization will occur, but this step is most important to dissolve the honey, mostly.

In a sauce pan, heat the water add the honey, lemon juice and zest. Mix until the honey has been dissolved. Add it to the demijohn and close it again. Only pitch the yeast when the most is below 25C.

Let it ferment for a minimum of 10 days (fermentation is about to stop usually when the airlock is producing only one bubble every 4 minutes). Move to secondary fermentation, add the other half of the berries still frozen and let it ferment for another 3 weeks. Then move to tertiary fermentation for another 3 weeks. The mead should be clear and ready for bottling at this stage.

It takes a long time to make it, but trust me, it’s worth it!

Picking Wild Fruits: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

This post contains 5 photos.

Picking wild fruit is such a great thing to do. Just walking about the place and knowing that you don’t really need to buy everything you eat is just great! Well, at least I think it is!

Fortunately, I am just a short walk from my University, which offers a few of these wild treasures, but students and bypassers sometimes don’t respect this and abuse the privilege a little bit.

I decided to write this post because what I thought was common sense really is not.

So, before going picking some wild fruit, take some time to think….

  1. Why are you picking them?

What do you plan to do with them? It’s great to be able to go and pick as many as we can possibly fit in our backpack, right? Well, if this is how much you need to do whatever you are planning, good! But take the time to think how long they last for and if you are going to be able to use it all before it goes off. Wasting is bad and you will most likely throw it away in the bin, where it won’t get used up by nature. So, if you can’t use it, better let it fall on the ground and fertilize the tree to keep it alive for years to come.

  1. Pick only the ones that are ripe

Fruits are not hard to pick. If they are ready to be picked, they will just come off the branches with no effort whatsoever. Fruits don’t become ripe at the same time. If you pull it a little bit and they don’t come off, move on! They are not ready to be picked. Come back in a couple of weeks or so and they might be there waiting for you!

  1. If you can’t reach it, don’t pick it

Depending on what you pick, the branches can be full of thorns and can hurt you. We are humans and are extremely whinny. Anything that hurts us, we just complain. So, if you can’t reach the fruit, just leave it alone! Trying to reach can hurt you and, just as important, can hurt the trees on the way.

Photo below credit to @Symphlythebest.

  1. Pulling branches to pick fruits

This is related to the topic above. if you can’t reach the fruit, just leave it there. Get a ladder if it is too high, try a different path to try and get it, if you can’t reach it horizontally. Pulling branches can break them and that’s another branch that will never bear fruits again.

  1. Respect the Wildlife

Maybe near the trees, you will see some birds that won’t go away, even if you come really close to them, hissing geese and swans, bees etc, they are not doing these things for no reason! They are doing it because you are imposing into their territory, they have nests etc and would like you to stay away. Try invade their privacy… you will get a geese ass-whopping!

Volucella Pellucens

  1. Keep an eye out for scumbags

Yeah, scumbags! I said it! When going for a walk, a run or whatever, keep an eye out for people doing harm to plants or local wildlife. Sometimes an angry look does the job to make them aware that they are doing something wrong! Sometimes not, but ah well, we all have different approaches (Maybe I also think that geese are a bit scummy? They love hissing at me at any time for the year… so….).

Well, I think I said my peace! Respect nature and you will be rewarded! Given my container, you can guess what I will use my berries for!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture

Published as part of the Weekly Photo Challenge

Bread crumbs, so versatile! Texture that turns into other textures. What are you using it for? Stuffing? Alla Milanese? Schnitzel? Crumble? Do you like it crackly? Soft? Fried? Baked? Well… it’s great!

Enjoy it!

The Conundrum of a Below-Average Guy

I was just reading with a friend a debate that I am sure has crossed everyone’s minds. I have mixed feelings about the subject and I will try to stay out of controversy! You don’t do whatever you want! It’s mostly a free world after all! But I have two different opinions on the matter… but it’s my personal opinion and maybe it’s not worth the kbs it’s written on! I will carry on anyway.

I am a skinny guy who always carry my luggage on the overhead compartment and hardly ever check-in a bag. I only check-in my luggage when I have my tent, sleeping bags and camping equipment. I am a relatively active person, like going hiking, camping etc and as some of you know, these equipments can be very heavy. Depending on the airline you travel with, the allowances for long-haul flights vary, from a single 20kg luggage (cough cough air france cough cough) to two 32kg. These restrictions are getting stricter and you are being allowed less and less every year.

I am a 65kg average guy who usually carries a 10kg overhead backpack with me. That holds everything I need for non-adventurous trips. When carrying equipment and going for very long holidays, the checked-in luggage can easily surpass the 20kg allowed, which is a problem, as the fees for luggage are out of this world! That’s the time that I starting putting on layers and layers of clothes until my luggage comes down below the threshold of that single bag. What’s the difference? I am not carrying that weight in my checked luggage, but I am carrying that weight on the plane anyway……. so…. what’s the problem?

This is the part that confuses me. The problem with overweight luggage is saving fuel and, in turn, reducing carbon footprint etc etc, so that airlines look that they care less about money than they actually do (with the environmentally friendly label attached!). The truth is, it’s all about maximizing profit, it’s a business after all. So, with the $greens$ in mind, the aim is to reduce the OVERALL weight of the aircraft, not the luggage only. It’s a hard subject because it can invade people’s privacy, personal problems and put them on the spot in public. This is something that none of us really like, to be honest. But anyway, since the point is to reduce costs and maximize profits, here is where my thoughts split.

  1. Luggage allowance should be based on the total weight of luggage + passenger

Well, as I explained above, I can wear layers and layers of clothes on me and have a checked bag that’s under the weight limit. I can then, as I board the plane, throw all those really large jackets and take over more than my allotted overhead space.

I have travelled once beside a bodybuilder and we had this very same discussion with him. He weighed 200kg and was carrying his 30kg (20kg checked + 10kg overhead). He had then, in total, 230kg on board. I weighed 55kg back then and had a 20kg checked bag only (from which I had to remove a jacket), nothing else. Total: 75kg and a bit? So, his combined weight was roughly three times my combined weight. I told him about it and asked, with the fear of being punched in the face and dying on the spot, if he thought it was fair that I should have to pay overweight on my luggage. He said that he was carrying about 155kg more than me and had to pay nothing and there I was, roasting due do the extra layer. This made me think about another way to think about the subject…

  1. Pay-by-Weight (passenger + luggage)

Nothing in the world motivates people more than the fear of overspending (for us poor folk of course). I always travel on a tight budget and I’d love to be able to save a little more and enjoy the place without thinking too much about if I will be able to eat the next day. Again, the overall fuel consumption of an airplane is directly related to the weight of the aircraft. Hey, aerodynamics is a very VERY exact science, so attaching a number of fuel consumption to the average passenger+luggage is not so hard to do, if you are interested in the details. The average passenger + all luggages weighs roughly 110kg. If the fuel consumption, and plane ticket (excluding the taxes that we can’t control) as a consequence, are valued per kg of total mass, you’d see two things happening: People bringing less luggage and using the local launderette at their destination OR filled gyms and parks to work on their bikini bodies more often.

In relation to this last topic and being a less-than-average guy who prefers to remain active, I do feel that I help pay for everyone else’s ticket, since I don’t require as much fuel to be transported as a 230kg bodybuilder+luggage. Assuming that I paid the same for the ticket as he did, in a pay-by-weight system, my ticket-ONLY was three times more expensive than his.

Thinking about it, he didn’t even thank me for the almost free ticket!

“Still” a Very Nice Cachaça Story – Perpetuating Old Methods

Get it? Get it? Well, bad jokes can be made from time to time, but that’s beside the story.

My family comes from a place in Brazil where they are very proud for traditionally producting the best Cachaça (brazilian native spirit drink) in the country, and rightly so! Some places have modernized the production, making everything precise and what not, some other places remains with production just as it was done back a few decades ago. My granduncle used to be one of them.

No, no… my granduncle is fine! Still alive and well, but this still not so much. My grandaunt and himself had to move away from the farm… and people took advantage of that, unfortunately. Since stills are made from now very valuable copper, they managed to beat down an one hundred year old still and take the metal away while no-one was minding the farm. Sad…

Back a few years ago, I managed to take one single photo of the process of fermentation of the sugar cane juice. It was a highly unscientific process which worked I guess, but no-one understood why. After I decided to take up homebrewing, I started to put the pieces they explained to me together in an attempt to perpetuate old methods.

The sugar cane was extracted from the farm itself, which grew organically (very refreshing to drink the ice-cold juice from them!). The juice was extracted from a mechanical mill.

The juice from the sugar cane, without the addition of water, has around 20g of sugar per 100ml. In brewing terms, this adds to around a specific gravity of 1070, with a potential for 10% ABV (Alcohol By Volume after fermentation). The fermenting bin took 1600L of sugar cane juice.

Time to pitch the yeast, right? Which yeast? All I saw was him generously sprinkling unbleached corn flour on top of the juice. I couldn’t understand for the life of me why that was necessary (Hey, I was young, give me a break!). Later I found out that the corn flour, together with the sugar from the juice, acts as a culture for wild yeast present in the air. A somewhat similar process to how lambic beer and sourdough starters are made. (The photo below shows the fermentation at full steam). From day to day, corn flour would be added to keep the yeast going until the fermentation was done, which took about one week.

The most (fermented alcoholic solution) would be tapped into the still, all the 1600L of it, and heated up. I also never understood why they never let the most boil. The point of distillation is to transfer the alcohol with as little water as possible. As alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, keeping the most from boiling avoids a lot of water being fractionally distilled in the final product. Every time the liquid was about to boil, they would cover the fire with a piece of stone, which slid back and forth just under the bottom of the still.

Quick maths now: 1600L of most at 10% has a potential for 160L of 100% alcoholic solution, so any volume above 160L would just be water. If you have 320L as the end volume, your spirit would be 50% proof. Easy!

Alcohol was produced very nicely… but which alcohol??? I saw the first 5L or so being discarded and throw out… why???? I didn’t get an answer from them, apart that the first 5L could impair your sight. Why? Those first few litres of alcohol were methyl alcohol, or methanol. Methanol has a lower boiling point than ethanol (the good stuff) and comes out first. Our body metabolizes methanol into formaldehyde (taxidermist’s dream fluid!), which damages several parts of the body, mainly the eyes. The rest of the alcohol was ethanol and was saved.

The end volume was 250L of Cachaça. This corresponds to about 73% proof Cachaça, who would drink that, right? Well, from there, it would be put in for storage in barrels. They are not completely sealed and alcohol would evaporate slightly, so the end product would have a lower alcoholic content. Still pretty strong, but ah well!

In order for the alcoholic proof to be brought down before bottling, it would be slightly diluted with water. How much alcohol was in the final product? Well, the final product was tasted and green flagged… that’s how much alcohol there was! As you can imagine, this means that the proof was highly variable from batch to batch… but still, it is very nice to have these memories and know that a piece of history can be preserved!

MelonMel Melon Mead (Tongue Twister?)

It’s even difficult to say it, right?

I have been meaning to make a big batch of mead, since I haven’t attempted to make anything larger than 10L yet. In a local shop, close to my house, melon were on sale, so why not try to brew with it?

Melon has very little sugar… very, very little, so don’t expect to get much alcohol from it! 99% of the alcohol from this brew is coming from the honey.

For this brew, I used 4.5kg of honey, 3.9kg of the core of melon (weighed only the edible part), zest and juice of three lemons and a hand full of raisins. Let me know if you’d like me to explain the “whys” of the ingredients.

Boiled the fruit and the honey with a bit of water for 45mins, then strained it into a sterilized fermenting bin and topped up to 19L. The yeast here used is D47. The OG of the brew is 1.071 and I am expecting a FG of 0.995.

I will keep you updated on the progress! I am very interested on the final result!

Nesting Bees in my Backyard – Finally!

This post contains 5 photos.

Who doesn’t like fruit? I love it! And even more when they are nice not only for the taste, but also for the eyes. Today there are ways to mechanically pollinate flowers, but it is just not the same. Bees do the job much better than anything we built ever will.

A while back, I bought a bee house and placed it in my backyard. I wasn’t hoping for much, to be honest, but was surprised today. Here is why:

This is the house.

While I went for a glass of water downstairs, something caught the periphery of my sight. When I looked, there it was! A bee going in to one of the little bamboo cells. This was the first

And this was the second.

I was so happy that they made their nests.. the summer will be bright! I have a pear and two plum trees, next summer, if the bees continue to nest, there will be even more fruit for my brews! Below is my pear cider tree…

And this is my plum wine and mead tree!

This just brightened my day, I must be honest! I love seeing nature doing its job, so at least for my own backyard, I will try and preserve it!