Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Paddling bLog - Creekin' the Gorge

We went up to the SFA on Sunday with Melody to do the Gorge run.  There was no water (the release was cancelled due to issues at Camino PH), but that was cool cuz we wanted to beat the water anyway.  We were looking for some creeking practice (aka: hitting lots of rocks).

The flow was down at about 250cfs, which made getting through some of the class II section hard, having to scoot over gravel bars and whatnot.  Once we were in the Gorge it was a lot better.  Overall, I'd say most of the river is easier at low water, there isn't anything pushy and you're moving slower, so it's easier to make the moves.  The moves themselves tended to be somewhat more technical, since you're bouncing off rocks all the time and the river is in a much narrower channel.

The only spot that was any trouble at all was Satan's.  As with most of the rapids, the places that are normally big holes are reduced to the boulder typically underwater.  At Satan's, the underwater boulders are pretty close together and the river does an abrupt drop between them, at a 90 degree angle from the direction your boat is heading.  The easy way to deal would be squaring up to the drop, but that would smack you nose first into the wall at the bottom.  With a bit of steam built up, we all went sideways off the drop, it nearly ate Melody, but she got through.  Marion got rolled, rolled up, smacked into the wall anyway which flipped her back in, but she flushed from the hole and rolled up again beautifully. I got mostly eaten too, but by some black sorcery, managed to keep upright, smacking into the wall actually saved me from certain rolling practice.

All in all, very recommended for when you're tired of the Gorge at normal flows and want the river all to yourself (none of the rafters dare go at low flow).

Cider Update III

Update III, the ill-conceived, bastard child of update II.  Snicker...

We bottled the first 5 gallons of cider when my sister, Kim, came by to hang out.  It hasn't finished with the yeast settling yet, so they will probably take a month or more of bottle conditioning before they're ready to drink.  We used the new bottle capper that my coworker Matt gave/lent us (he just kegs anymore), and it worked great.

When we racked from the secondary carboy into the bottling bucket, the SG was 0.996, the same as it had been when we racked into the secondary carboy, so we are certain now that fermentation was complete and we've just been waiting for the yeasty-beasties to settle down.

The cider is pretty tasty, on its own, but we decided to up the ante a little bit by adding some malic acid when we bottled, I think somewhere on the order of 1 tsp, which added quite a bit of sour apple flavor to the juice.  We also used 3 cans of apple juice concentrate as the sugar source for carbonation.   The combination of sugar and some extra apple flavor was delicious.

After adding the malic acid and the concentrate, the SG was back up at 1.070.  This is higher than the starting gravity at the very beginning, so we may have just doubled the strength of the cider, or potentially made for explosive (or extremely foamy) bottled product.  As a precaution, we put all the bottles inside a rubbermaid tub to keep the carpet safe. 

Next up:  Bottling the Beast, Tasting the Beauty

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bread Recipes

Here are a few bread recipes that I use in the breadmaker all the time.  They go great with BBQ ribs.

French Bread

  • 1.5 cups water
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 2.5 tsp bread yeast
 Throw them into the bread maker in that order, set on white or french cycle.  If you don't have a bread maker, you'll mix them up in your mixer with the dough hook until it forms a nice cohesive ball, let it proof in a nice warm place for a few hours.  Punch it down and let rise again, then bake at 350 until it gets brown, maybe 30 min, but not sure.

Potato Bread

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 glugs olive oil
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 potato, "baked" in microwave, peeled then mashed or grated
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 2.5 tsp bread yeast
Similarly, throw into bread machine in the order presented, run on white bread cycle.  Alternatively, mixer/dough hook, rise, punch, rise, bake.

No Knead Bread

This is from Mark Bittman.  It works good, and tastes amazing for how much work it takes.
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups water
Mix up dry ingredients with a quick hand fluff.  Toss in the water and mix it until it's just mixed together and forms a cohesive lump.  Let it sit for 12-24 hours.

After it's done sitting, flop it out on the counter, pat it a little until it's a fairly uniform thickness, somewhat circular shape.  Grab opposite edges, and fold in thirds into the middle, from two orthogonal directions.  Sprinkle some flour out and set the loaf on it, throw some more flour over the top.

Get your oven pre-heated to 500 F with your dutch oven inside of it.  When the dutch is blazingly hot, carefully pull out the oven rack and remove the dutch lid.  Toss the loaf into the dutch with the seam side up and replace the lid.  Shove it back into the oven.

Let it cook for 30 min with the dutch closed, then open it up for the last 15.  Turn it out of the dutch to cool, this allows the crust to form up on the bottom.  Viola!  Bread.

This is a picture of Marion's first No Knead Bread

Sunday, November 8, 2009

BWM Water Pump Replacement

I guess it was about 6 weeks ago now, we were driving home from dinner when the car starting making these awful noises.  We limped it home and opened up the hood to see the fan stuck up under the fan shroud, where it obviously was never meant to go.

After working myself up to the task for five weeks, I finally went and opened the hood up again to see what I could find.  I initially intended to pull the shroud out (since it was warped from the collision) and see if it would work without any major repairs.  To get said shroud removed requires taking the fan out too, since the tolerances are too tight to remove one without the other.

Removing the fan was only minorly painful, it nominally requires a 32mm open end wrench and a special tool for holding the fan pulley, but I was able to make it work using a large crescent wrench and a screwdriver.  Once I had some leverage on the fan, I noticed the shaft it mounts on was wiggly (which it definitely shouldn't be), which got me reading and I found out the fan mounts to the water pump.  I hate water pumps.  They suck and should be cause enough to switch over to electric engines.

The water pump in my BMW is a known suck-fest.  It is a recommended maintenance replace item every 60,000 miles, so it wasn't really surprising that it had failed.  To replace the part itself is pretty easy, it's almost like the engineers knew it was going to have to come out regularly so they made it easy to get to.

I have the 2.8L BMW Z3 coupe (engine M52 TU)
  1. Remove fan and cowling - 32 mm wrench and either a special tool or a large screwdriver to keep the pulley in place.  The fan is threaded onto the shaft CCW, so righty loosey.  Pop the two rivets on the cowling (one in each top corner).
  2. Get the belts off - for each belt, there is a hydraulic tensioner which keeps everything tight.  Pop the covers off these with a small, flathead screwdriver.  A T50 torq bit in a nice long socket wrench gives enough leverage to push the hydraulic tensioners down, letting you slip the belt off the pulleys.  The more forward belt runs the AC, the longer serpentine belt runs the water pump, alternator, and power steering/brakes.  You have to get both of them off, and should probably replace them while you're doing so.
  3. Remove the pulley off the water pump - 4 bolts, 10mm heads
  4. Drain the coolant system - There is a valve at the bottom of the radiator on the drivers side.  There is a valve at the bottom of the engine block, exhaust side, and cylinder 2
  5. Take the nuts off the water pump - 4 nuts, 10mm
  6. Use two M6 bolts in the threaded holes on the water pump to push it out of the engine block, try to move the bolts evenly
  7. Lube the gasket on the new water pump with clean antifreeze
  8. Reverse removal steps with the new pump
  9. Once it's all put back together, fill the coolant system and bleed the air out - turn heater to high, fan to low, and idle the engine, once the bubble stop coming out at the bleed screw, you're done.  Don't forget to check the level after the first time you drive the car.
All in all, it was a straight forward repair.  It only required buying 1 new tool (a T50 torq bit), new belts, new water pump, and anti-freeze for a total of <$200.  I would do it again instead of taking it in to a shop.

Don't forget that antifreeze is nasty bad for critters, so clean up after any spills, don't leave any AF out, and make sure not to kill your pets.  Apparently it gives them liver failure and they die a slow, horrible, painful death.

BBQ Ribs - A Cooking Adventure

I recently bought a rack of pork ribs and tried out a few methods for cooking them.  Here are the winners:

Weekend Ribs - BBQ slow cook

These ribs want some attention while they are cooking, so it's best to do on a day when you're nearby to tend them appropriately.  To start, fire up the grill to inferno and clean the grill as necessary with your wire brush.  Take the ribs and apply your favorite rub.  This can be as simple as garlic salt (like I used), or a nice fancy rub that has cayenne, salt, pepper, msg (for the daring).

Put the dry rubbed ribs on the inferno hot grill over burner A, and turn burner A off, leaving burner B at inferno.  After 10 minutes, flip the ribs over onto burner B, turn burner A on to low, and turn off burner B.  You now have nice grill lines and have seared both sides of the meat, hopefully sealing some of the juices in.  For the next several hours, only apply indirect, low heat; flip the ribs about once an hour.  5-6 hours is a good timeframe for eating these, but if you're short on time, they are edible at 4 hours.

Weeknight Ribs - Crock Pot, BBQ finish
These ribs are great for preparing ahead, letting them cook unattended for hours, then "preparing" in twenty minutes once you get home.  Cut up the rack of ribs so the sections will fit into the crock pot.  Get the grill hot (as above) and give these ribs some nice grill marks on each side.  Cut an onion into 1/2 inch slices and throw the onion and about 1 cup BBQ sauce into the bottom of the crock pot.  Put the crock pot on high while you're pre-grilling the meat to get the sauce up to temp.  Once the ribs have spent their time on the grill, throw them into the crock putting more sauce between the pieces as you stack them.  Turn the crock pot to low.

If you're lucky, you have an old crock pot that'll cook at a nice temperature (~180F) all day at the low setting.  If not, you have a newer unit that will boil anything you put in there.  With an older unit, you can pretty much cook the meat all day, since at 180F, the soft gelatinous connective tissue will stay put until you come home.  With the newer units, you want to limit the amount of time in the crock pot to about 4 hours, since too much time above 180F will cause the meat to come out dry, yck!  (see food science entry below).

Once you get home, and the meat has finished cooking in the crock pot, you'll want to fire up the grill once more.  Put the ribs on for 10 minutes a side at medium to high heat, until they get a little crispy and delicious.

Side Dish - Easy Coleslaw

Whichever version of ribs you make, you'll want to make the slaw a day ahead of time.  Cut a head of cabbage into wedges, remove the spine, and slice as close to paper thin as you're willing to do (a food processor can work too).  Toss the cabbage with a few pinches of salt and put in a collander (inside a bowl, of course) in the fridge for up to 6 hours.  Grate a few carrots and cut a red onion into tiny bits.
The sauce is easy:
  • 1 1/4 cups mayo
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar (a little more if you like a sweeter slaw).  
Mix up the wilted cabbage, carrots, onions, and sauce.   You *could* eat it immediately, but it'll be much better tomorrow, when you cook the ribs!

Basic food science entry:  Meat is composed of muscle, fat, and connective tissue.  The muscle and fat lose water above 140F, tending to dry out.  The connective tissue begins to melt, losing tough/chewy characteristics, at 160F up to 180F, and turns gelatinous.  Above 180F the gelatinous connective tissue seeps out of the meat into the broth making the broth delicious, but the meat dry and chewy.  Thus, the goal is to cook it for several hours between 160F and 180F to get the most tender, succulent meat possible.  Here's where I learned about this: