Bose-Einstein Physics Meet BBQ

As is the way with great discoveries, scientific and otherwise, today I invented the Q-ball by combining essential tidbits from earlier enlightened philosophies. I employed Occam’s Razor, which as applied to food preparation can be interpreted as the “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients” (Julia Child).

I also employed Quantum Physics by accepting the conundrum that while every electron lives at its own little orbit, these orbits are infinitesimally close to one another, and in fact, we never know if that little bugger is home or out gathering charge. In other words, everything is just a blob. (Matt to Dr. Scala: “You mean you’ve lied to us?” Professor: “Well, yes.”)

And then there is the third component: Tennessee Pork. Slow roasted natural pork butt, cooked overnight in the slow cooker with a bottle of rauchbier (smoked beer), ancho chilis, and beaucoup cumin, then shredded and mixed with chipotle BBQ sauce. Recipe follows.

So what happens when these concepts are synthesized? Do we get the next Halliburton loophole to shave more dough from the federal larder? No, this is much more world-changing. More precisely my invention is called a ‘Q-Ball (note the apostrophe – since it represents a contraction of BBQ). The ‘ball’ part will soon be self-evident, but let’s further describe this ball as a non-topological soliton.

One example of a soliton is a standing wave. (Source: botheredbybees)

BBQ, as we all know, is short for bar-be-que. But whatever that means is up for debate. I doubt I need define a soliton, but just in case you tuned in from a fermion universe, a soliton is a collection of bosonic particles in an equilibrium configuration, neither gaining or losing bosons. Solitons comprise constituents which are held together by weak forces and is envisioned as more or less, you guessed it, as a standing wave or a blob.

You probably remember from advanced statistical mechanics that there are five elementary bosons and my ‘Q-Balls use all five. (No quarks or leptons are required.) They are, in no apparent order:

  1. the gluon (also called gluten) is the elastic force that allows the ‘Q-Balls to expand during photonic irradiation and condense during cooling without disintegrating into fermions,
  2. the weak force Z (representing zweibel (DE) or in English: onion),
  3. the weak force W (it represents the energy of cabbage; we’re not sure why ‘W’ but then cabbage is a bit of a mystery, isn’t it?),
  4. the photon (this is how we cook the ‘Q-Balls for maximum enjoyment, and finally,
  5. the Higgs bosons, sometimes called the “god particle,” which due to a misspelling by an editor was actually supposed to be Pig’s bosons, often served with BBQ sauce. [Ed. it has recently been proposed that there are five different bosons of this type: 1) pork butt, 2) back ribs, 3) shoulder, 4) shank, and 5) bacon. Sausage is actually a composite boson made by a collision of any Higg’s boson with the strange quark, which itself is a fermion. Other physicists call the research into question. You don’t have to own a particle accelerator to own your very own boson.]

Although physicists can only theorize about the Q-Ball, you can easily make a ‘Q-Ball at home. The idea came to me because in Lincoln, Nebraska a similar construct, called a Runza, is available from fast-food chain restaurants throughout the city. Let me point out, and I make no apologies here, that a Runza is filled with fermions, not bosons, and therefor must comply with the Pauli Exclusion Principle (the theory states that it is impossible for one to be in the same room with a television playing Pauly Shore’s Bio-Dome). Fermions, remember, can only occupy one quantum state at a time. Thus, eating a Runza means that all other quanta cannot co-exist in your digestive tract, hence the rapid escape of other waves and particles. The name is a reference to this effect.

Wikipedia provides instructions on how to construct a Q-Ball, but since my calculus is rusty, I suggest you try my method instead. I think you will find that ‘Q-Balls illicit a much more sympathetic response from one’s body since the bosons can co-occupy the same quanta as the colon. Add to this the fact that left-handed fermions can interact with the W force (remember: the cabbage), so at least for southpaw fermions, eating ‘Q-Balls should have no adverse effect on digestion. Right-handed antifermions should have no problems either; right-handed leptons should take a Tums.

‘Q-Balls

Ingredients for 4 Blobs

  • 1 cup shredded cabbage
  • 1 med. onion, slivered
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked, shredded pork BBQ (see below)
  • 1 lb of ready-made pizza dough

For the Shredded Pork

  • 3-4 lb pork butt
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teas of peppercorns, cracked
  • 1 tbsp cumin, ground
  • 2 whole, dried ancho chilis
  • 1 12 0z bottle of rauchbier (smoked beer)
  • 1/3 cup your favorite BBQ sauce

Method

Place the pork, onion, spices and beer into the slow cooker. Cooked on low for 7-10 hours until pork falls apart on touch. Cool, remove pork to a plate. Sieve the liquid, discarding the cooked onions and spices and reserving the liquid. Place 1/2 cup of the reserved pork liquid in a small pan and cook with the BBQ sauce until reduced to a thick sauce. Shred the pork and add to the sauce, coating evenly. Correct for acidity, sweetness, and seasoning with cider vinegar, brown sugar, and salt & pepper, respectively. Set aside.

Meanwhile saute the shredded cabbage and onions with the oil. Add the garlic 5 minutes later. Cook the mixture down until limp and translucent. Cool, then combine with 1 1/2 cups of the shredded pork to complete the filling.

The 'Q-Ball

Divide the dough into four pieces. Using your hands or a rolling pin, make a 5-inch circle of one piece and place 1/4 of the pork cabbage mixture in the middle. Bring the sides of the dough up and across, sealing with the opposite side to make a leakproof bundle. (If it doesn’t stay altogether it can’t be a soliton.) Repeat for the remaining ingredients. Place apart from one another on a greased pan and allow to site in a warm place for 30 minutes to begin to rise again. Bake at 400ºF until the crust is golden and firm, approximately 25 minutes.

These are so good, they could win the Nobel Piece (sic) Prize. Enjoy! TPJ

Nano Nano Pico Femto

I think the last time I owned a TV was when Mork and Mindy was still in its first run. Those shows first aired before home brewing and microbreweries were legalized. Shazbot! Really?

What, pray tell, does Mork from the planet Ork have to do with brewing? Nothing, I hope, except the current term for ultra-small microbreweries is nanobrewery and that sent me back to Mork’s interplanetary greeting “Nanu nanu.” Now I’m remembering those horrible rainbow suspenders. Yikes, I even owned a pair. TMI!

How small is small? (Source: http://www.thefoodsection.com)

The nano label grew out of the oft-heard microbrewery term, micro meaning one millionth and nano, the next more diminutive term, meaning one billionth. I guess that makes a homebrewer making 5-gallon batches on the stove a picobrewery, unless that homebrewer is a woman, in which case it’s a femtobrewery. Can you tell I was a chemist in a former life?

Labels aside, there is a discernible uptick in the number of very, very small breweries these days. I’ve had the chance to visit several lately and have quite a few more on my radar. What surprises me isn’t so much the beer they’re making. Beer can be great, good, or so-so, no matter the size of the brewery. I’m interested by the simple fact that these operations, producing barely more than a prodigious homebrewer, have chosen to clear all the legal and fiscal hurdles necessary to sell their beer. Licensing, zoning, financing, and distribution is challenge enough for professional brewers and restaurateurs, but these folks have done it. And why? And how!

What is a Nanobrewery?

Defining the nanobrewery is like trying to typify the Belgian bière de la saison. It doesn’t lend itself to a singular profile. At this point there is no legal definition and that makes the taxonomists among us fidget. There have already been cases of larger breweries cashing in on the media buzz, supplying beer to festivals that were supposed to showcase only nanobrews. And there are the major breweries that started out as what we would today call a nanobrewery: Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione on his 10-gallon system or Jeff Lebesch brewing those first batches of Fat Tire in his basement and delivering them from the truck of his car. When did they cease being a nanobrewery?

Here are just a few of the definitions currently being given:

  • One one-thousandth the size of a microbrewery, that is producing fewer than 15 barrels, or 465 gallons, per year. (OldGrowth)
  • A brewery with a batch size of 10 to 75 gallons. (Michael Skubic)
  • A brewery with a batch size no more than 3 bbl (91 gal) and no pub attached.
  • A brewery whose brewer keeps his/her day job. (attributed to MSN)
  • The embodiment of “mom & pop” brewing. (Ian McGuinness)

I like the “mom & pop” notion. These are beers from a cottage industry sold only in the immediate vicinity. One must truly seek them out. When you stop in to have your growler filled you comfortably discuss the weather or the fender bender you just avoided down the street. You are not surprised to find out that the brewer’s mother was friends with your aunt and that the pumpkins in the latest beer were grown by your neighbor. Nano isn’t so much about size as it is about proximity.

Element Brewing produces hand-bottled strong specialty ales presented with cork and cage closures and a tissue label.

Perhaps more interesting than definitions is the fact that many of these operations seem to be a result of a poor economy or re-evaluation of one’s career. Bill “Lefty” Goldfarb resigned from the roofing trade and started Lefty’s Brewing Co. Founder of Great South Bay Brewery, Rick Sobotka, is a board-certified anesthesiologist (I think he’s kept his day job). Steve Howe, founder of Las Vegas’ Plan 9 Brewing started with Mr. Beer kits, suffered a failed Internet business, and took on the financial risk of starting a 2-bbl system.

Scores of others claim to be simply homebrewers bringing their beer to a larger circle. Some nanos, like White Birch Brewing near Manchester, NH, have quickly grown into larger systems and seem to be making a real go of it. Element Brewing is run by two experienced professional brewers, not newbies at all. After just a year of operation they have maxed out capacity on their 4-bbl system.

The individual business models of the nanos seems to fall into one of two classes: 1) you are a glorified homebrewer trying to recoup some of the costs associated with providing your family and friends with beer, or 2) you plan to grow and starting this small is a way to limit financial risk and initial capital requirements.

Cave Mountain Brewing in the Catskills. Hey, that looks a lot like my homebrew system!

Northeast Nanos

Current estimates suggest there are about 50 nanos nationwide, but numbers could go upwards of 100 depending on how one defines the nanobrewery. There seems to be a concentration of nanobreweries in New England and New York. The Pacific Northwest is the other regional concentration. This may indicate that local and state authorities in these regions are not hellbent against new brewing businesses. I venture that it might be more difficult in the bible belt.

To date I’ve visited these Northeast operations.

And here are some I hope to visit soon.

And three more on Long Island…

I won’t be surprised if someone says, “Hey, what about XYZ Brewery?” That’s the nature of the beast, nanos are low on the radar and may not be well known outside of their very limited distribution area. Half the fun of sniffing out new beers is in finding the brewery in the first place!

Cheers! TPJ

Pear and Lamb Moussaka

Recipes are made to be broken, and I broke this one good. Moussaka, in case you’ve never had the privilege, is something of a shepherd’s pie indigenous to the Mediterranean region. The name comes to us from the Arabic word for a chilled salad, though most Americans are more familiar with the Greek variation of the dish which is served hot.

Versions of moussaka are served in countries ranging from Greece and Turkey to the Middle East to North Africa. The dish is seasoned with cinnamon, among other spices, which harken back to the days of the Ottoman Empire and the related spice trade. It has been said that moussaka is a national dish of the Ottoman Empire, but that may be an overstatement, since the versions of moussaka are so varied they bear little resemblance to one another.

The once mighty land of moussaka.

And what is this dish? Well, the Greek version is a three-layered casserole, with cooked sliced eggplant on the bottom, seasoned ground lamb in the middle, and a cheesy sauce Béchamel on top. Other versions may employ potatoes, zucchini, or other types of ground meat. I had been reading online recipes for the dish when certain posters were disclaiming this recipe or that with such epithets as “This is not moussaka, potatoes are a New World food and would never be used…” That was just enough motivation for me to make my anti-recipe-Nazi moussaka. Besides, I was already thinking about how cinnamon and cumin would pair with pears… what to do?

Pear and Lamb Moussaka

Ingredients for 8 Servings

  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups onions, chopped finely
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
  • 2 teas ground cinnamon
  • 2 teas ground cumin
  • 1 teas ground coriander
  • 1/2 teas curry powder
  • 1/2 teas sea salt
  • 1/4 teas ground black pepper
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup fruity red wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 ea Red Bartlett or Anjou pears
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 cups cooked mashed potatoes
  • 8 oz feta cheese, finely crumbled
  • 1/2 teas paprika or dried oregano

Preparation

Lamb, onions, tomatoes, and spices simmering on the wood stove.

In 1 tbsp of oil, sauté the chopped onions over medium-high heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic for 1 minute, then add meat, breaking up into small bits. Continue cooking until meat is no longer pink. Drain away extra fat from the meat, if desired. Stir in the six seasonings and tomato products. Bring back up to a simmer, add wine and water, then simmer for about 10 minutes to slowly thicken mixture.

Meanwhile, peel and core the pears. Slice into 1/4 inch slices. Coat a 9x13x2 glass or 3 qt. pottery baking dish with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Sprinkle with half of the bread crumbs. Arrange the pear slices over the bread crumbs and top with the remaining bread crumbs.

Prepare the topping by heating leftover mashed potatoes and stirring in the feta cheese. Add a little milk or water, if needed, to loosen potato-cheese mixture to the consistency of applesauce. As an alternative, make 2 cups of instant potatoes according to manufacturer’s directions, adding the feta cheese to the boiling water just before adding the dried potatoes.

Assembly. Spread the cooked lamb-tomato mixture over the pears. Spread the potato-cheese mixture on next. Sprinkle the top with paprika or dried oregano. Bake at 325°F for about 45 minutes, or until juices are bubbling up around the outside and the topping is golden brown. (If you’re really scared of the pears, you can revert back to a more traditional version by substituting two medium eggplants, peeled, sliced, and oven-roasted.)

Serve by itself or with rice and sautéed seasonal vegetables. My beverage recommendations here normally veer towards wine, such as an Argentinian Malbec or a Spanish Tempranillo. Beer will work very well, too. You can’t go wrong with a malty brown dubbel or bockbier. I especially recommend the Moretti La Rossa!

A great fall dish to warm the insides.

Epilogue. Breaking with recipe traditions opens up whole new doors of flavor. It reminds me of the time I had a business lunch with a group of suits. It had been my job to source the restaurant, and I chose Donna Nordin’s Cafe Terra Cotta. CTC was one of the greats in the New Southwestern style.

One of the guests asked, “What’s good here, Matt?” I replied, “They’re famous for their goat cheese stuffed prawns.” And he says “Why would anyone ever stuff a prawn?” He had a steak. I had the prawns. The business deal never materialized. Food is the great lie detector. Cheers! TPJ

An Apple Philosophy

I feel the annual cycle of apples. There’s the exuberance of bud-break, the celebration of spring blossoms, the randomness of this year’s pests, and the anxiousness of rainfall, drought and untimely frosts. How badly did the deer attack last year and how severe will the coming winter be?

I thought I should a find a picture to express this, something to represent the cycles of the apple. And this is what showed up…

Ho hum. An apple was a fruit before it was an industrial deity. Sometimes branding pisses me off. A pub in the mountains of western Massachusetts cannot be called Berkshire Beer Works because Boston Beer Works owns the ‘Beer Works’ moniker (after all, that privilege cost them $100 Gs when they were earlier sued by Boston Beer Company for being named ‘Boston Beer’ something). The beers of the Boston Beer Company aren’t even brewed in Boston! The Beer Scribe, Andy Crouch, describes all this in his handy reference The Good Beer Guide to New England. I guess being a lawyer and a beer nerd enlightens one to this aspect of the business – breweries suing one another. War, not peace, seems human nature. Surely I’m rambling.

Times like this make me appreciate the little things in life. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the fact that my Apple computers don’t suffer from downy mildew, attacks by Japanese beetles or deer, or that they work well even in the middle of a drought. I do. I do recognize that. My point being that apples (the carbon-based ones) are pernicious spawn of a complex, temperamental environment. Then again, so are the silicon ones. It comes down to how much we wish to “push” to make things happen.

My pear tree in Nebraska, diminutive thing that it is, produced some beauties this year.

My apple trees in Vermont didn’t fair so well. Heavily browsed by deer and denuded by Japanese beetles, the poor darlings are sending out new leaves in early October. I hope they can put away a little stored energy to make it through the winter. It was also a very dry summer here. That didn’t help. As the old saying goes, “Apples like to have their feet wet.” Oh yes, and the late frost that wiped out most of the blossoms.

As I was expressing my dismay with my struggling orchard, a friend simply said, “Consider it a work in progress.” I like that. It takes off the pressure of trying too hard to make something natural conform to my expectations. I’m not deluded in this. To have an orchard is to prune and graft and fence and fertilize. One necessarily tries to modify the natural order. The balance is in the degree to which you do that.

I try not to take ownership of the universe. It is what it is, and that thing that the universe is, I accept as something I don’t understand. Some people do the that with acts of faith, some by being unconscious. Me, I try not to answer cosmic questions. I define those as pop-quiz questions for which there is no grader to tell me right, wrong, or partial credit.

My paltry effort to care-take, water, fertilize, prune, fence, harvest, patrol, defend, champion, culture, talk to and generally enjoy is just that, a whisper in the winds of the age. Growing apples, for me at least, for my few pedigreed trees and those wild stallions that Dave and I try to rescue from the dark shadows of the meadow’s edge, these are all ultimately beyond our ‘control.’

We can love and caress them, shear them, lighten their load, carve off their rot and suckers… but, as the overused saying goes, at the end of the day, they are apples and we are men. And we cannot make something else conform to an unreasonable reality. So we count the good things that happen and we learn life’s lesson from the things we cannot alter. Humility is a fine headmaster. Just as ontogeny recapitulates philogeny, my friend and I toil to understand the stratagems of a single plant while nations struggle in wielding their people, economy, and political strategy.

We are the single apple blossom and the one bee to their global strategy and their universal manipulation. It reminds me that as individuals we are like the wild tree just discovered, reaching upward in a clogged up mess of overstory, once the farm of an early Vermont settler, now a tangle of regrowth. Apples, after all, did not originate in the Americas, they were brought here to comfort and restore the famished, mostly by way of hard cider. My cider will not be this year and that is perfectly fine. TPJ

Beery Links text box

  • • Beaumont – World of Beer
  • • Brooks – Brookston Beer Bulliten
  • • Brown – Pete Brown
  • • Connelly – Beer Philosopher
  • • Crouch – BeerScribe
  • • Daniels – Cicerone.org
  • • Hieronymus – Appellation Beer
  • • Knut Albert’s Beer Blog
  • • Papazian – Beer Examiner
  • • Russell – Joe Sixpack
  • • White – Old Time Cider
  • Of Wild Hops and Zeal

    Not much was calculated when I discovered abundant wild hops on a bike ride in Lincoln. It was all reflex and excitement. I stuffed a bountiful bine up my jersey and rode swiftly home. The aromas of hop and body making a heady cologne.

    What I didn’t count on was another climbing plant that grows profusely in the soggy, temperate jungles of secondary growth weeds… poison ivy. But I would not know of my malfeasance until the hops were harvested, dried and packaged. This is the way I am with poison ivy, it takes a few days until the worst is known.

    Regardless of the impending rain, tomorrow we were to return with knapsacks. The getting was good; most were ripe and some had started to just brown. And so we did return.

    Each grouping seemed to be its own variety. The first were medium-sized and elongated. They smelled resinous and grapefruity. The bracts were the palest green with deep yellow deposits of essential oils tucked between.

    Nearby, high in a scrub oak, grew small, round hops. These were faintly spicy and refined, suggesting cinnamon. They had little lupulin, though, and it would takes volumes of these fine friends to equate to just a handful of a more bitter hop. We moved on to fuller bunches.

    By now one knapsack was nearly full. I saw some tempting large hops growing in prolific clusters. As nature would have it, they grew further and higher in the wet thicket. These large and elongated darlings had a fruity aroma, one we compared to cooked strawberry jam.

    With a plastic grocery bag on one arm, I pushed my way down a short slope through a thicket of briars hiding amongst goldenrod and fall weeds. Above, intertwined with the hops, kudzu sprawled and offered its hair-like spines to my flesh. The hop harvest was in hostile territory – my socks full of burrs, my shins and arms impaled, and my fingers sticky with the waxy hop resins. We called it at one and half knapsacks full. Incoming rain and an accumulation of briary insults had taken their toll.

    I had become exposed to poison ivy in my quest. Next year would call for long pants and shirt sleeves and a healthy scrub with Tecnu immediately after harvest.

    Unless plunged directly into a “wet hop” beer, hops must be dried to prevent spoilage. Back at the house I was able to try out the dehydrate setting on my new Electrolux gas range. The problem was how to get all of the hops in the oven. I accomplished this with four baking sheets packed full. With the oven set at 120ºF, it would only take about 18 hours to dry them all.

    Half went into airtight bags in the freezer. I’ll be using these this winter to make Found Hop Porter for my dear friends Kathryn and JD, to be served at their wedding reception. The rest were placed loose into a paper grocery bag and set in the cellar where they will remain for the next three years, oxidizing, loosing their bitter components, and slowly becoming ready for use in a future lambic beer episode.

    Brewing with wild hops has its challenges. They don’t come from a hop producer with an assay of bitter acids considered essential for accurately formulating the bitterness of the beer. One can chew the raw hops or make a hop tea to estimate bitterness, or one can call upon intuition. When I’ve made beers with wild hops in the past, I’ve just relied on whimsy and aroma. Be sure to check out Jay Wilson’s beervana’s web log. He’s brewing with wild hops, too, in Corning, Iowa.

    Cheers, TPJ

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