Caramel Kombucha

I read the results of few different experiments on the effects of different sugars in the fermentation of beer, and was inspired to make my own caramel use as the sugar source for a batch of kombucha. One of the reasons this appealed to me is that I’ve never followed the conventional advice to dissolve my sugar in my steeped tea as it cools. I’ve avoided this out of a concern that some of the sugar might caramelize, which could have some effect on the flavor of the kombucha (seems somewhat likely) or health of the microbes (seems unlikely).

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Kombucha Fermented on Raisins

How will the flavor of kombucha change if raisins are added at the beginning of fermentation? I’ve seen raisins recommended for water kefir and other kitchen fermentations, and the seem to be helping my water kefir grains (which have never thrived) come back from the brink of death. I added 1/2 cup of Thompson raisins to an otherwise normal 1 quart micro-batch.

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Date Syrup Kombucha

I was intrigued to see that date sugar is nothing more than dehydrated dates ground into a coarse powder. I wondered what the effects would be from the non-sugar components, so I decided to give it a try. While shopping I noticed that date syrup was a lot less expensive than date sugar, so I decided to use 1/4 cup of that in place of the usual sugar in an otherwise normal 1 quart micro-batch.

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Erithritol / Stevia Kombucha

I know many people are wondering about this, because they want to limit their sugar intake and think this may be a way to do it. The big question is whether the yeast and bacteria in kombucha can actually use the erythritol or stevia as a carbon source. Everything I’ve read says that they won’t, but there are yeast and bacteria that will ferment stevia, and I’ve found one reference to a bacteria that will ferment erythritol. The big question is whether any of those yeast or bacteria are in the kombucha culture. I used 1/2 cup of stevia-blend sweetener in place of the usual sugar in a 1 quart micro-batch of my usual kombucha to find out. Continue reading

Kombucha Nutrient Experiments

I have an ongoing experiment (to described in a later post) in which fermentation stalled, and I wanted to add additional nutrients to see if that would get it going again. I didn’t find any kombucha-specific information on that, so I decided to run an experiment! A while back, I ran experiments trying to ferment with minimal ingredients, like tea-only and sugar-only. The tea-only trial did nothing, which would be great to see if additives help, but since tea already provides the needed nutrients, that wouldn’t make a good starting point for an experiment of nutrient additions. In contrast, the sugar-only trial was lacking nutrients, which makes it similar to my current interest. Unfortunately, it also kinda worked, though the results were weird. Still, it should be pretty easy to tell if I can improve on weird, so I used my sugar kombucha as the basis for this experiment.

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Hop-Tea Kombucha

I took my normal kombucha (scaled 1/4 to a 1 quart micro-batch), and added 1 cup of hop tea. I made the hop tea by measuring 1 oz of Cascade whole dried hops into my thermos, adding boiling distilled water, and steeping for 12 hours. The tea was 200° when I closed it and 130° when I opened it. I diluted it with cold distilled water to bring it down to room temperature before adding it to the kombucha. I used the extended warm steep in an effort to isomerize some of the hop’s alpha acids, mimicking the way it acts as a bittering agent and preservative added to beer wort.

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Molasses Kombucha

I used blackstrap molasses in place of sugar in this 1 quart micro-batch that’s otherwise normal. Unlike white sugar, molasses contains vitamins and minerals, and I’ve seen it mentioned as a potential additive for kombucha and water kefir. A potential risk is that many vitamins and minerals beneficial within specific bounds, but detrimental above those. For example, magnesium and zinc are each needed for yeast to function, but too much zinc can reduce yeast growth while excess magnesium does not.

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Oaty Kombucha

I added 1/4 cup of rolled oats (not quick-cook) to a 1 quart micro-match of my usual kombucha. I know, this seems like a weird thing to do, but I got the idea reading a blog post in which Scott Janish reviews the research related to using oats in beer. In short, it’s good for yeast, and in many cases, what’s good for yeast is good for bacteria, so I decided to give it a try even though many steps of the process (of making beer and kombucha) are very different.

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Malted Kombucha

I made a 1 quart micro-batch of kombucha, following my usual recipe, except that in place of sugar I used Briess Pilsen omried malt extract (DME). Malt is a particularly interesting sugar source because a kombucha culture should be able to thrive on malt alone. In this case, malt + tea should have provided a surfeit of nutrition. Would this produce similar effects to my double-sugar kombucha?

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Lactose Kombucha

Lactose isn’t fermented by normal beer yeast and is added to make it sweeter without increasing alcohol content or carbonation. But some yeast and bacteria can use lactose, and some of the species that can (*) are known to be common in kombucha, so I sweetened a micro-batch of kombucha with it (in a 1:1 replacement for my typical white sugar) to see what would happen.

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Kombucha-Fermented Coconut Water

I added scoby to jar of Simple Truth coconut water. This brand appears to have quite a bit less sugar than other brands (even the unsweetened ones), so I wasn’t sure if I would need to add sugar to get it working. I decided to leave it for a week or two, and play it by ear. Most recipes for fermented coconut milk are either CW + water kefir grains, or CW + <your favorite probiotic capsule>, so I hoped CW + scoby will work just fine.

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Dry Hopped Kombucha

I’ve been experimenting with adding hops to kombucha for a more beer-like experience. In brewing terms, I’m dry hopping kombucha. Dry hopping is generally done for aroma, and doesn’t generally produce much bitterness, so dry hopped kombucha should emphasize all of the ancillary hop flavors that most people probably don’t think about. But I have to wonder if the kombucha’s low pH might affect the hops in such a way as to realize some of the bitterness too.

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Kombucha-Fermented Red Wine?

Yes, fermenting something that’s already fermented sounds a little crazy, what can I say? Inspired by my success at adding vodka to the normal kombucha fermentation process, and the ongoing batch of kombucha-fermented cider, I decided to see what would happen if I added a kombucha scoby to a bottle of red wine. Rather than a nice continuation of the vodka experiments, I mashed the two together.

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Glucose Kombucha, Take 2

I’ve taken notes on quite a few different batches of kombucha that aren’t yet documented in a blog post. This is one of those…

I’ve made glucose kombucha before. I made it again in hopes of stopping fermentation before all of the sugar fermented out. I wouldn’t expect it to taste sour at that point (despite a relatively low acidity), but it would probably be rather drinkable while still imparting the usual probiotic benefits to my vinegar-phobic family. If nothing else, it could be used to make lemonade, sweet tea, etc.

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Kombucha Cider, Batch 2

My first batch of kombucha-fermented cider turned out pretty well, to the point of sparking interest from my kids, so I quickly made another batch. This was largely the same as the first time around, this time remembering to have the heat on the whole time (as the first batch was intended). There was also a small procedural difference: since the first batch ended up over-fermented, I was careful to check pH and flavor every two days. Continue reading

Yerba Mate Kombucha

I’ve taken notes on quite a few different batches of kombucha that aren’t yet documented in a blog post. This is one of those…

I’ve seen yerba mate mentioned as a possible “tea” for kombucha. My research indicated that it should have adequate levels of nitrogen and other nutrients to sustain the culture, so I decided to give it a try. Reed’s kombucha is made from a mix of yerba mate and oolong tea, which also suggests that it should work, but I don’t think most commercial kombuchas actually use cultures that propagate from one batch to another, so it doesn’t really speak to the sustainability of yerba mate. Then again, anything that isn’t overtly antimicrobial is probably workable in a blend.

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Piloncillo Kombucha

I’ve taken notes on quite a few different batches of kombucha that aren’t yet documented in a blog post. This is one of those…

I picked up 4 cones of piloncillo from Meijer, and grated three of them to make ~1 cup of sugar. Piloncillo is made by putting sugarcane juice into a mold, and letting the moisture evaporate. It’s a lot like brown sugar used to be, before they made brown sugar by mixing a little molasses into plain white sugar.

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Kombucha-Fermented Apple Cider

I’m fond of cider, and I was curious what would happen if the “usual” cider fermentation process was augmented with a kombucha culture. I dropped a scoby into unpreserved apple cider to find out. On one hand, it seemed promising, since hard cider (fermented “naturally” or otherwise) tends to happen readily and has tasty results. On the other hand, I wasn’t adding anything with acid or alcohol to help ensure that the kombucha culture dominated the process. It would be possible to end with something disgusting, or even toxic.

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Starting Acids for Kombucha

As I was thinking about what to title this post, I was tempted to give it a very academic-sounding name, like “Effects of Inoculating Acids on Kombucha Flavor”, because it is clear and precise. But it seemed a bit too wordy, and since I wasn’t intending to come up with an academic title until I was struck that it sounded like one, I decided it was too much.

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Tea-Tincture Kombucha

As a follow-on to my two-week-old post about kombucha made with spiked tea, and my one-year-old post about kombucha made with vinegar-extracted tea, I made kombucha with tincture of tea. For the tincture, I steeped 1/2 cup of organic Ceylon tea in 1/2 cup of Exclusiv Vodca (vodka) for almost six months. At the same time as the tincture-based kombucha, I made a batch of kombucha using 1/2 cup of organic Ceylon tea that I purchased from the same bulk bin at the same time as the tea used for the tincture.

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Kombucha from Spiked Tea

Just over 1 year ago, I made kombucha from a vinegar extract of tea. In preparing to follow that experiment with kombucha made with a homemade tea tincture (alcohol extraction), I made a series of kombucha batches with the addition of vodka. I wasn’t sure how much of the tincture I could add before the amount of alcohol would have a detrimental affect on the brew, so I gradually increased the amount of vodka until I reached the volume that my tincture would produce when it was ready. I chose vodka because it is relatively inexpensive and contains minimal “contaminants” that would flavor or be potentially harmful to the culture.

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Kombucha Brewing Temperatures

As spring turned into summer, I noticed that my scobies seemed to be very thin in the middle. At time I had a scoby 1.5″ thick at the edges and 1mm in the middle. A veritable donut scoby. At first I thought it was due to the formation of large bubbles of CO2 pushing the middle of the scoby out of the surface. I started checking the scoby weekly, also making sure that it wasn’t sticking to the side of the jar. I’ve now resolve the problem by reducing the temperature of the heating pad located under the jars.

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How I Make Kombucha

There are hundreds of sites with instructions on how to make kombucha, and I hadn’t originally anticipated that someone would want that information from me. Generally speaking, my blog is for my own use, primarily recording my experiences for future reference, and secondarily for sharing those with my friends and family.

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Sassafras Kombucha

This is not just kombucha flavored with sassafras, which was a disappointment when I tried it. Instead, this is 1 quart of sassafras tea fermented with a kombucha culture. I steeped 2 tablespoons of dried sassafras in 1 pint of boiling distilled water for three hours (until it was cool). Then I added 1/4 cup white sugar and 1/4 cup strong (pH 2.8) kombucha tea from my scoby hotel.

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Xylitol Kombucha

This 1 quart experiment was started early March, and ran for 6 weeks. At the time I wrote:

This is a quart of “normal” kombucha except that the white sugar has been replaced with xylitol. I’ve read that xylitol doesn’t work in kombucha, so this has the same expected minimal fermentation as the sugar-free kombucha, except sweetened by all of the starting unfermentable xylitol. In other words, I may end up with plain sweet tea. However, there are a few yeast or bacteria that can use the xylitol, and perhaps some are in my culture. We’ll  see!

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Agave Kombucha

Apparently, agave syrup is 60-90% fructose. I used C&H Organic Blue Agave, but I don’t know what the fructose content was. I’ve read that fructose becomes acetic acid while glucose becomes gluconic acid.  Since one of my goals is to produce a probiotic drink that doesn’t taste like vinegar, I want to better understand the process by which acetic acid is formed, and see if I can influence it. Thus, I made a batch of agave kombucha expecting it to taste very vinegary. It didn’t.

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Coffee Kombucha

I followed the same recipe as my usual kombucha, but using 1/2 cup of fine-ground, dark-roast Colombian coffee in place of tea. After brewing for 17 days, the fermentation was easily noticeable, but the coffee flavor was still prominent. Since I can’t really notice the tea flavor in my usual kombucha, I let it go a little longer to see if the coffee flavor would decrease. I tasted it again at 24 days and the acidity was getting a little overly strong without any abatement of the coffee flavor, so I decided to bottle it.

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Kombucha Sans Scoby, part 1

In my September post about anaerobic kombucha, I mentioned a study that involved brewing kombucha using a starter culture without a scoby. If you search online for “scoby growing”, you’ll find a lot of instructions on how to grow a scoby from an existing batch of kombucha. As far as I can tell, the only time when a scoby is useful, is when you don’t have a liquid starter culture of existing kombucha, and the scoby itself is acting as the culture.

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Hojicha Kombucha

As mentioned in my last post, I recently bottled kombucha made from hojicha tea. It started out really promising, as it had a really nice flavor that was rich and mild, but with enough strength to keep it interesting. However, I discovered that most of that disappeared upon bottling and refrigeration. It’s a bummer, but even still it was good enough to drink a quart without any added flavor. Perhaps this is something to consider as a continuous brew, where I use a spigot to draw off however much I need at the moment.

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Slow Going

I’ve read that kombucha fermentation tends to change as the seasons change. This certainly seems to have been true for me, as progress in each of my four 1-gallon jars slowed to a crawl over the last three months. This is despite the fact that they’ve been a room with constant temperature and a heating pad to make sure the temp is in the 76-86° range. Each one has been brewing for 4-10 weeks, and and only the 10-week batch was particularly strong.

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Doubled-Tea Kombucha

My last batch of kombucha had a flavor I didn’t enjoy, and I’d like to figure out why. I initially surmised that it must be due to the use of Gunpowder Tea, but it eventually occurred to me that this was also only the second time I’ve used loose-leaf tea. In the first instance I used 2 tablespoons of Oolong, which was approximately the same volume (though perhaps less density) as my usual family-size tea bags. My second time with loose-leaf I did a bit more research and decided that 4 tablespoons of gunpowder should be the common measure for 1 gallon of finished tea. (I also described this process here.)

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Vinegar-Tea Extract Kombucha

While reading Gunther Frank’s book, I was intrigued by the description the use of alcohol in making kombucha. It’s also mentioned on his website, albeit with less less discussion than what I recall (or imagined) being in the book. I’ve read somewhere that Kombucha starts to brew with the yeast turning the sugar into alcohol, and then continues with the bacteria turning the alcohol into acid. Thus, adding a little high-proof alcohol not only helps prevent contamination by unwanted organisms, it also allows the bacteria to start working without waiting for the yeast.

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Anaerobic Kombucha

Last post, I mentioned that I had an experimental brew that I’d describe later. The time has arrived: I was inspired by the oxygenation experment, which contains:

According to the literature, human taste sensation of sourness not only depends on [acidity] but is also influenced by the shape of the molecules in question. Vinegar tastes considerably more sour than lactic acid with the same pH.

It has been suggested that one could cover the brewing container with a plate if a reduction in sour taste was desired. This would cause more lactic and less acetic acid to be produced. My experiment seemed to confirm this as far as flavor was concerned.

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Brown Rice Kombucha

The “sugar post”. I should really have more references, even it’s just a URL where I read about different things, but I wasn’t taking notes. Sorry.

Virtually all kombucha recipes call for sucrose (table sugar), though some call for brown sugar, sucanat, or other things that are still basically sucrose. Some even call for maple syrup, honey, molasses, etc. Chemically, sucrose is almost a 50/50 split between fructose and glucose, and the same is pretty much true for most natural sweeteners, including more exotic things like date sugar or coconut sugar (though not stevia, which is magically sweet without sugar). This means that, chemically, the difference these things will make in the final brewed kombucha will primarily come from whatever additional things (impurities) happen to be flavoring the sugar you use.

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Cold-Brew Kombucha

As mentioned last time, my latest batch of ‘buch started with decaf Luzianne tea that had been cold-steeped for 24 hours. I said that I thought it would be ready after another week, but at mid-week it didn’t seem close, so I wasn’t expecting it to be ready this evening. Nevertheless, my prediction was on the mark, and it was ready to bottle this evening.

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Kombucha

This is likely to be the first of several posts. There’s a lot of different information online, some of it contradictory, so I’ll document what I’ve tried and what I’ve discovered.

My first batch followed a typical recipe:

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 gallon distilled water (because my tap water has chlorine and flourine)
  • two tea bags (Luzianne family-size black decaf), steeped for 5 minutes
  • one scoby and 1 cup starter kombucha from a generous donor

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Lamb Brats with Cherry Salsa

I picked up some lamb brats made by Moore Family Farm, and fried them up in a bit of olive oil. I ate the first one bare, but it seemed to be missing a little something. I envisioned a slight sweetness that one would normally get from a bun, but the closest thing I had to a bun was a bagel. I decided the bagel would do, but that I should add something else as a sauce. I pulled out some Esch Road Medium Cherry Salsa. This turned out to be the perfect accompaniment to the rich flavor of the lamb brat. It even sounds like a pairing you’d get at an expensive gourmet restaurant. Maybe I should suggest it to Big Grove Tavern; it definitely fits their farm-to-table schtick.

Smoke and Pepper?

Back in March, I was in Chicago and had my first meal at a Red Robin. I had a Smoke and Pepper burger and a chocolate and Myer’s Rum shake. Both were delicious, but I still managed to be a little disappointed by the burger. While it tasted great, I could taste neither smoke nor pepper. Apparently the flavor is supposed to be from the alder-smoked salt used on the burger and the black pepper used on the Bacon, as well as smoke- and pepper-flavored ketchup. The fries come with the special ketchup and I was never able to pick out the namesake flavors. Weird.

Nevertheless, it was rather tasty, and I’d be interested in the recipe. I’ve not yet seen one online, so I guess nobody’s recreated it.

Quebec vacation

Right now it’s -5° (-20° windchill), and we’re forecast for a low tonight of -10° (-25° windchill). 15 years ago this month, Alice and I traveled to Ste-Adèle, Québec (North of Montreal) to celebrate our second anniversary. (Our first was celebrated in Big Bend, TX. While it was quite a bit warmer, we still had icicles hanging in our tent at the Chisos Basin Campground. More on that in another post.)

My recollection is lacking a lot of details, but we stayed a a great B&B that provided an activity package that included dog sledding, snow shoeing, and snowmobiling, in addition to their own hot tub and sauna. I don’t remember their being many other guests, which was nice for us. They’re still around, so I guess they get enough business to survive.

Snowmobiling along trails and across frozen lakes was great fun, even if the snow off the trail was yards-deep in places. Dog sledding was also fun, but a lot more work than I expected.

We also drove up to Parc National du Mont-Tremblant and enjoyed the scenery, (Right now it’s -22° there.), ate at a local restaurant we had the sole car amongst a dozen or so snowmobiles in the parking lot, and first experienced poutine (yum). Oh, and ate at a French restaurant in Montreal.

We traveled along the north side of Lakes Erie and Ontario heading east, and on the south side heading west. It was a bit of a shock crossing into Vermont and buying gas. We went from seeing everything in French (maybe English) to everything in English and Spanish (no French in sight). Go figure.

On the way back we stopped to see Niagara Falls (cool, but very, very cold) and get wings and brews in Buffalo at Pearl Street Grill & Brewery.

Zambian Comparo, pt2

This update will include the results to two different samplings.

Americano

This was almost identical to the espresso sampling, particularly the late pulls. Okay, but not very satisfying.

Moka Pot

The flatbean was dominated by a dull grapefruit bitterness. It was a lot like the americano, but stronger, fuller bodied, and more simplistic. Half and half dulled the flavors without diminishing the grapefruit.

In stark contrast, the peaberry really started to shine! It was tart and fruity without being overbearing, and unlike the flatbean, was enticing. A pleasure to drink. It inspired my to try it iced, and while it was still good, it wasn’t as good as it had been hot. I added a splash of half and half to the iced version and it turned into a drink that was different, but equally delicious , when compared to the hot coffee out of the moka pot.

Zambian Comparo, pt1

I hadn’t ever expected to conduct a reprise of my peaberry/flatbean comparison, but I was browsing coffee at my local coffee shop and ran across a similar-yet-very-different pair of coffees: Ljulu Lipati and Ljulu Lipati Peaberry. They’re similar to my previous sampling in that there’s a peaberry/flatbean sibling rivalry. But thye’re different in that they’re from Zambia, and coffees from Africa tend to be at the opposite end of the flavor spectrum than coffees from Indonesia. FWIW, I don’t expect to find as much difference as I did when comparing the two Sulawesi. On with the sampling!

Espresso

Flatbean: It’s good, though perhaps not quite what I would normally prefer in an espresso. I was a little shocked when I took a sip, and decided that it had a distinct flavor of grapefruit, and then read the label to find that “grapefruit bitters” is the first flavor listed. It then lists sour cherry, which I also detected as a complicating factor in the grapefruit. I don’t usually “get” the flavors listed on the bag, so if you’re in the same boat and want finally taste the marketing copy*, give this a try.

Peaberry: This is prety similar to the flatbean, though it is different. The grapefruit still dominates the flavor. That said, I’m not sure I would have come up with that specific description if I hadn’t tried the flat bean first. I wasn’t really able to identify any others myself, so I looked at the description on the bag and was able to imagine tasting the roasted red pepper. Had I been trying, maybe I could have tasted that with the flatbean as well.

In each case, the late pull tasted very much like the ristretto, but watered down a bit – still strongly grapefruit.

Caveats

I didn’t think to look until I saw a distinct difference in crema pulling the peaberry shot, but the two coffees have different levels of freshness. The peaberry was roasted April 3 and the flatbean March 22. I wouldn’t call eitherei one is fresh, but I could definitely tell a difference in the appearance. I don’t know much the flavors differ, or if I could detect them.

*I call it marketing copy, but I don’t really doubt that the cuppers actually tasted these flavors. I’m sure they have a much more trained palette, and probably don’t the weak sense of smell that skews my gustation.

Clover

A while back I heard some buzz about the $11k Clover and how it made an incredible cup of coffee. Intelligentsia installed several in their stores, and started serving all coffee, brewed one at a time from the Clover (at some locations). I have a lot of respect for Intelligentsia, so I figured that whenever I made it up to Chicago I’d stop by and give it a try.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Chicago, so I checked to see which locations had a Clover. None. I learned that way back in 2008, Starbucks bought the manufacturer, and stopped selling new units or parts. After 5 years, no other clovers were left, they finally figured out how to use them, and they started introducing Clover into select locations. One of these locations was convenient on my trip, so I stopped twice to give it a try.

Starbuck uses the Clover to brew only their Reserve coffees, which seems reasonable to me, though it also gives them an extra reason to charge a pretty penny. Day one I had a Mexican bean, and the entire cup was dominated by the typical Starbucks char. Maybe the Clover was amazingly transparent, or maybe I was influenced by the hype, but I tasted even more char than usual. It’s disappointing that an origin as subtle as a Mexican wouldn’t be handled better.

Day two I ordered a Ethoipian Yirgacheffe, figuring the (potentially overbearing) berry flavors would shine through. And they did! Unfortunately, the strong berry odor out of the cup disappeared as soon as the coffee had cooled enough that I could drink it. In the end, I got two cups of coffee that were mediocre at best. And with several excellent roasters in Chicago, that’s a real shame.

Comparo: pt3

In Comparo: pt2 I mentioned my observations on pairing beans with a complementary preparation, and how I expected these Indonesian coffees to fare better in a French Press. This test didn’t work out quite like I expected.

The peaberry actually made a pretty tasty cup of coffee, better than the americano before, so I suppose my prediction was validated. However, I expected the flatbean to shine in the French Press, and to finally prevail over the peaberry. Nevertheless, as with each previous comparison, I much preferred the peaberry to the flatbean.

I have just enough left to try my Moka Pot, so that will be up next.

Comparo: pt2

Last post I introduced the two coffees I’m comparing. This week I try them in americano – it will be brief. My americano is 1 oz of espresso ristretto diluted with 3 oz hot water.

Unsurprisingly, it mirrored the espresso samples. The peaberry was pretty good, and the flatbean was not. The latter was bad enough I had to add a little half and half in order to finish it.

This was disappointing, but somewhat expected. I’ve found that heavier/earthier beans are better prepared in a french press and that brighter beans are better in a moka pot. Since an espresso machine could be considered a very optimized moka pot and Indonesian coffees tend to epitomize heavy, earthy coffees, this preparation isn’t expected to bring out the best in either of these coffees. FWIW, I find bright coffees in a french press to be harsh, and earthy coffees in the moka pot to be muddy. Using the right tool for the job makes all the difference. :)

 

Comparo: pt1

I was intrigued by the following description:

Same varieties. Same farmers. Same washed process. Peaberry vs. flat bean.

Peaberries have a reputation for being”different”, and this is a rare opportunity for a direct comparison, so a coworker and I split the following Indonesian coffees to evaluate them side-by-side.

 

We’ll see if my 6oz stretches far enough, but I’d like to sample them as:

  • Straight espresso ristretto (1/3 cup of grounds pulled into 1 oz of espresso)
  • Straight espresso “late pull” (What to call this? It’s an additional 1/2 oz pulled after the ristretto pull.)
  • Americano (1 pt espresso ristretto, 3 pts hot water)
  • Cortado Breve (I’m not sure what to call this, but it is 1 pt espresso ristretto and 1 pt half and half.)
  • French Press
  • Moka Pot

 

This morning I compared them as straight shots of espresso ristretto and as late pulls. Neither was especially tasty like this, but the peaberry was better. The flatbean had a fuller flavor, but it was less pleasant. The peaberry’s late pull was weaker, but didn’t show any signs of over-extraction; it still had body and didn’t have any bitterness. On the other hand, the flatbean was over extracted, thin and starting to get bitter.

The late pull is interesting just because 1 oz of espresso isn’t much, and if I can enjoy a 50% higher yield, that’s a bonus. It’s also useful because when making an americano, 1/2 oz of tasty late pull is better than 1/2 oz of water. I want to maximize the yumminess even when diluting the yumminess to make it last longer.

Crema

Many people obsess over crema. I don’t get it, but having freshly roasted coffee makes a huge difference in crema. With fresh beans, I usually have 1/2 oz of coffee with 1 oz of crema (~1/2 in). With old beans, I get 1/2 oz of coffee with 1mm of crema. So if you like crema, use freshly roasted beans.

I’ve also heard that robusta (as opposed to arabica) is often added to espresso blends to enhance body and crema. It certainly does!. After I stopped the pull, the basket was hissing as the more crema came out. I had 1/2 oz of coffee with 2.5 oz of crema. After the pull, the crema was solid enough to have peaks where it had dripped down.

I got S. O. Espresso India Sitara From Paradise Roasters (http://www.coffeereview.com/review.cfm?ID=1206), and I ground and pulled it 5 days after roasting. In my experience, there’s a noticeable freshness difference 10 days after roasting, so this would have been square in the middle and the extraordinary crema couldn’t be attributed to post-roast outgassing. Of course, I’ve only tried this once, so it could have been a fluke.

Too cold

It’s been over 15 years since I was a winter bicycle commuter, and I’ve been eager to see what my lower threshold would be. Today exceeded it. This morning the temp was 11° and the windchill was -4°. My rule of thumb is now either < 15°, or (more likely) < 0° windchill. My fingers get too cold, and I can’t tolerate any more loss of dexterity to insulate more. My toes, legs, and other parts got a bit chilly too, not to mention freezing my windward ear while I was standing at the bank drive through.

My bike computer didn’t like it either, though I’m puzzled why my chain and derailleurs were sticking. Maybe those are unrelated?

Anyhow, it never gets too cold to walk, so now I know when to hoof it.

Untouchable

In 1 Samuel, Saul is King. I think we tend to think that obeying one’s King would be a good thing, like obeying the law. (Were Saul’s commands de facto law?) Obeying the King might even be generally required by God. And Yet, in 2 Samuel 1, David is pretty clear that raising a hand against God’s anointed is WRONG, even when commanded to do so by said anointed. Is this just a case of putting God’s Law before Man’s Law, or is there something else going on here?

Better Espresso

A while back I got a new coffee grinder as a belated Christmas gift. I already have a countertop grinder, but it won’t grind fine enough for me modest espresso machine. This means that my espresso has been pretty thin unless I get my coffee pre-ground. This means that my coffee isn’t ground fresh, which means that my espresso has been stale. This isn’t ideal.

The new grinder, which will grind fine enough for Turkish coffee, more than fine enough to choke my espresso machine. This means that I can grind my beans right before I pull a shot. This also means that I can order freshly roasted beans. What a difference it makes!

Since my last coffee post I’ve also modded my portafilter to allow me to use a larger, unpressurized basket. The combination of the grinder and basket is great, and I can now regularly pull 1-1.5oz shots (from 1/4 cup of beans) that are better than what I’ve been served anywhere else. As a comparison, I use to order 3 shots of espresso with 1 shot of water for my americano. Now I use one shot of espresso with three shots of water, and it still has more body than what I used to order.

Relocation

Wednesday, we closed on a new house. Saturday, we moved in and started sleeping there. ASAP, the old house will become a rental to help pay the mortgage on the new house. :)

Now we have 1 bedroom for each child and 1 toilet for every 2 people! Things are already more peaceful…

80s television

Occasionally, when I’m sick and too braindead to read, I watch ’80s TV. It’s kinda fun to revisit the shows of my teens, many of which didn’t last more than a season or two. In addition to the stereotypical shows like Knight Rider and The A-Team (whose unrealism bothered me even then), I really liked shows like Automan, Manimal, Street Hawk, and Air Wolf. Usually, I can’t watch more than a few episodes before I’ve had enough. There have been three exceptions.

Misfits of Science was undeniably cheesy, but it is still entertaining. And somehow, more than any other show I’ve seen, feels quintessentially ’80s. I don’t know how they do it, but it feels like it embodies that decade, cheese and all.

I had completely forgotten about Stingray, but ran across it while conducting a survey of ’60s and ’70s TV themes while building an instrumental funk station on Pandora. (It’s not from that period, I just found it while looking there. :) Stingray is surprisingly well done, but it was apparent that by the second season they were trying to figure out how to mix it up and keep people interested. Somehow they manage to do that for me through the second season, more than 20 years after the series ended.

Sledge Hammer! was, and continues to be, my favorite ’80s show. I own the DVDs. As satire, it’s spot on. It’s highly imaginative and logically extends the original material to the point of silliness. It probably helps to know the material being satirized (Dirty Harry, ’80s pop culture, etc), but having grown up immersed in it all, it’s hard for me to say.

I’ve not watched everything I enjoyed back then, but I think I’ve revisited most of it. I’ll post again if anything else is remarkable.

Changes

I’ve never been one for petitions, but I’ve always hated Daylight Savings Time, even when I was a kid. There’s a petition at whitehouse.gov to eliminate DST. I don’t really believe this will make a difference, but maybe it will help, and it’s really easy. You can “click and forget”, and maybe something nice will happen.

Houston Food

In my post on Texas in August, I mentioned that I couldn’t remember the name of our dinner location in Houston. I thought it was Mexican, but apparently, it’s “Latin American-Caribbean Fusion”. I like Mexican, but that description reminds me of a tasty restaurant here in Champaign that I think of as “gourmet equatorial”.

It was El Pueblito Patio, and if you have the opportunity to go there, I highly recommend it. It was amazingly delicious, and felt very friendly and authentic. Seriously, I think we all felt like they were a big family, and like they were welcoming us into their family. (Radio Maria is nice, but it has a sort of artsy fancy-date pretentiousness about it.) When they found out that it was Rachel’s first birthday, they brought out a huge piece of Tres Leches – big enough for all five of us to share. It was easily one of the best desserts I’ve ever had. Sadly, I can’t remember my entree, but I seem to recall Rachel having a plate of fried plantain?

Go there.

Hot Toddies

I’ve long heard of a Hot Toddy, but never tried one. I searched online and found widely varying proportions. Here’s the common range I found for a basic Hot Toddy:

1-2 oz whisky, brandy, rum, etc
1 tb honey
1-2 tsp lemon juice (or 1/4 of a lemon)
1/4c – 1c hot water

I decided to start with something in the middle:

1.5 oz Woodford Reserve Whiskey
1 tb honey
1/4 lemon
1/2 c hot water

I heated the water to boiling, poured it into a mug, added the other ingredients, and stirred.

It had potential, but I didn’t really care for it very much. I’ll try it later with a splash of bitters.

I next tried it with Myers Rum, and it was pretty tasty. I’ve read that a spiced rum works well, though I don’t have any. It’s not the sort of thing likely to get much use (not liking coconut), so if I do sample that, it will be from a small 1.5 oz bottle.

Next up was with my Corsair Rye, and this was also quite tasty. However, this stuff is one of my favorite whisk(e)ys, and it seems like a bit of a waste to dilute it with anything. I was a little sad to see it that this almost finished off the bottle.

With Redbreast it was okay, but remarkably uninteresting.

Connemara was also pretty tasty, but I feel like I lost a lot of the more interesting bits of Connemara. For example, there was no sense of peat in the finished drink.

I found that I could easily increase the water to 3/4 cup without it getting too weak; I didn’t try any more. I also didn’t change any other proportions because everything tasted well balanced the way it was. For a bit more detail on the specific Whiskeys involved, see my last post.

Maybe next I’ll try Hot Buttered Rum. I’ll have to buy more rum.

Moderation

Although I have usually a variety of liquor on hand, I don’t tend to drink it very often or in much quantity. I have two Irish whiskeys that I purchased in Ireland 10 years ago. I’ve have a Bourbon not quite as long, but it’s been quite a few years. A small 1.5 oz bottle of rum I bought a couple of years ago for a Puerto Rican custard (which I’ve still not tried with rum!). My Rye was a gift from a friend the Christmas of 2011.

My favorite of the bunch is the rye, despite the overly-long name: Corsair Experimental Collection 100% Kentucky Rye Whiskey. I like rye, and this is the best I’ve had.

Redbreast 12 Irish Whiskey is okay, but not remarkably interesting. The Connemara peated Irish Whiskey (cask strength) is really interesting.

Myers is the best rum I’ve had. The flavor it thick and dark, but is a bit overly simple and could use some refinement. I’ve tried many “better” rums, but they’ve all been pretty flavorless in comparison to Myers. That said, the local selection has exploded over the last 10 years or so, so I’d be a lot more likely to find something tasty if I started started sampling again.

Texas in August

This is a followup to my post on Texas BBQ, where I promised I’d post notes from other BBQ joints I’d hoped to visit. This includes that, and notes many other places we either did visit or intended to visit.

We stopped by the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, OK, and it was very cool.

Later that day we had an impromptu stop by Adelita’s Cafe in Eufala, OK. It doesn’t really get good reviews, but for us the service was excellent, the atmosphere was great, the portions were huge, and everybody enjoyed their food. My tamales were delicious, and I’ve yet to find better ones anywhere. I was hesitant to stop at an unplanned Mexican restaurant because there were so many (reputedly) great ones on the itinerary, and I didn’t want to get burnt out. That wasn’t a problem, and I’m glad we stopped here.

In New Braunfels I had hoped to visit Adobe Verde, but it was not to be. However, we did enjoy tasty baked goods from Naegelins Bakery and German food from Friesenhaus. We stayed at one ore more Hampton Inns on this trip, and they were all great.

In San Antonio I dropped off everyone at the Kiddie Park, and went to pick up Alice’s sister from the airport. We went back to the park, grabbed a fitting lunch across the street at Good Time Charlie’s, and then headed downtown for a Riverwalk Cruise. The cruise is a great way to see things; it’s quick, easy, informative (there’s a guide), and the perfect choice when you have kids. :) We got ice cream from a quaint hole in the wall we saw while waiting for our cruise.

Eventually it was time for supper, and we were in the mood for Mexican. We didn’t make it to Tito’s or Rosario’s, but we did eat at El Mirador. I don’t think anyone was happy with the food, the slow service, or the dark, cramped atmosphere. I remember being particularly intrigued by Rosario’s, just because recent tasty additions to Dos Reales sounded like they’d been lifted directly off of the Rosario’s menu. I figure if the Illinois version is good, how much better would the Texas version be?

In Corpus Christie we stayed at the Best Western Marina Grand Hotel Lodging, and we weren’t pleased. The service was nice enough, but the rooms smelled smoky, and it seemed like the odor was coming from the HVAC.

 I don’t remember if we got to actually touch any dolphins, but we definitely got to see them up close. The people at Dolphin Connection were wonderful and knowledgeable.

It looked like we’d be just in time to see the Sea Turtle Hatchlings at Padre Island National Seashore, but it was the tail end of the trip and we decided that everyone was too tired to make it there before sunrise.

The USS Lexington was very interesting, but I saw only a small fraction of it in 1hr I had while everyone else was at Magee beach swimming and flying kites.

I really wanted to try the BBQ mutton at the Gonzales Food Market, but it didn’t work out. This even despite the fact that there was a satellite store in San Antonio. :(

We pulled into Houston very hungry, and my family is always in the mood for Mexican. We didn’t have any plans’ so we called Alice’s Uncle Lee, who had lived in Houston for several years. I can’t seem to find it now, but it was incredible. I’ll give it its own post when I find out what it was called.

In the Joaquin, the last town before we passed from Texas into Louisiana, we stopped at the rustic Worsham Grocery, grainery, and general store. It turns out that the proprietor used to live in West York, IL, and knew Libby’s dad when he was Postmaster there. It’s a small world.

Pods Wrapup

The temperature from my espresso machine isn’t especially consistent. I’ve seen temperatures in the cup range from 160° to 130°, and from 190° to 170° if I run it without the portafilter. So far, it doesn’t seem to have a big impact on the quality of pod-based espresso, but I’d have to use a bunch of identical pods to to test that.

The QA on the pods is a little slack. A few pods had an edge sealed into the wrapper. With the exception of the one pod I opened on the “stuck” side (tearing into the pod), the effects were inconsequential, since I only lost a bit of paper.

I had an odd experience of bad pulls with the Segafredo Deca Crèm and Compagnia dell’Arabica, Dacaffeinato Leggero Light. One pod variety was watery and flavorless the first time, but fine the second. The second I was able to “fix” by immediately stopping the pull and “flipping” the pod. I can’t imagine how it could be a pod defect, but I also can’t figure out what user error could be responsible.

I’ve had a cold all week, though I’ve not been especially congested. I don’t think this skewed things too much, as I always have a weak sense of smell and tend to miss subtle and not-so-subtle olfactory and gustatory effects.

I initially thought of using a numeric scale to rate various qualities of the espressos, but I didn’t feel like I had sufficient sense of the scale to avoid revising it with each cup. Now that I’ve made it though everything, I feel like I should be able to do it justice. I’ve assigned each pod a series of values, bease on a 1-5 scale, and included benchmarks for drip, French press, Moka pot, and the best espresso I’ve made.

I’m a little dissatisfied with the ranking because not all characteristics are equal. I care more about strength than body and more about body than bitterness. I briefly considered using a 1-3 scale for bitterness, and a 1-4 scale for body, but I decided that was too complicated and would probably be confusing.

Here are my ratings for what I’ve tried, grouped by regular /decaf, and sorted by descending preference.

Body (mouthfeel/viscosity)

1 water/thin
2 light
3 moderate
4 medium
5 heavy

Strength

1 water
2 weak
3 moderate
4 strong
5 intense

Bitterness

1 intense
2 moderate
3 slight
4 hint
5 water (none)

Benchmarks

my best home espresso: 5 5 5
moka pot: 4 4 4
french press: 3 3 4
strong (good) drip: 1 4 3
standard drip: 1 3 3

Decaf

Compagnia dell’Arabica, Dacaffeinato Leggero Light: 3 4 5. 2 2 5.
Caffé Izzo, Decaffeinato: 3 4 5. The second was not worthwhile.
Caffé del Boge, Blu Decaf: 3 3 5. 2 2 5.
Lucaffé, Dacaffeinato: 2 4 3. 2 4 3.
Starbucks, Dark Decaf: 3 4 2. The second was not worthwhile.
Miscela D’oro, Decaf: 3 3 3. The second was not worthwhile.
Covim, Suave Decaffeinato: 2 4 3. 1 3 3 (characterful).
LavAzza, Dek: 2 4 3. The second was not worthwhile.
Segafredo Deca Crèm: 2 4 2. The second was not worthwhile.
Espressione, Decaf: 2 4 2. The second was not worthwhile.
Caffé Borbone, Decaffeinato: 2 3 ?. The second was not worthwhile. (characterful)
Danesi Caffé, Easy Espresso Decaf: 2 3 3. The second was not worthwhile.
Amigos Caffé, Decaffeinato: 2 2 3. The second was not worthwhile.
PodMerchant, Decaf: 2 2 3. The second was not worthwhile.

Regular

Lucaffé, Blucaffé: 3 4 4. 2 3 3.
Lucaffé, Pulcinella: 3 4 4. 2 3 3.
Lucaffé, Mamma Lucia Blend: 3 2 4. 2 3 3.
Lucaffé, Classic: 3 4 4. 2 3 3.
Lucaffé, Columbia: 3 4 5. 2 3 4.
Lucaffé, Messico: 3 5 5. 2 4 5.
Compagnia dell’Arabica, Purissimi Caffé: ? ? ?. 2 4 3.
Compagnia dell’Arabica, Columbia Medellin Supremo, Vellutato: 3 5 5. 2 4 4.
Compagnia dell’Arabica, Brasil Santos, Delicato: 3 4 5. ? ? ?
Compagnia dell’Arabica, Kenya “AA” Washed, Intenso: 3 4 5. 2 4 4.

Covim, Orocrema: 4 3 4. The second was not worthwhile.
Espressione, 100% arabica: 3 3 4. 3 2 5
Espressione, espresso: 3 2 5. 3 1 4.
Podmerchant, Stout: 3 3 3. The second was not worthwhile.
Pellini Top, Arabica 100%: 2 4 5.  2 2 5.
Lavazza, espresso gran crema: 2 4 2. The second was not worthwhile.
Covim, Gold Arabica: 2 4 ?. The second was not worthwhile.
Amigos Caffé, Extra Bar: 1 4 ?. The second was not worthwhile.
Caffé Izzo, arabica 100%: 3 3 2. The second was not worthwhile. (Boring and balanced to a fault)
Illy: 2 3 5. The second was not worthwhile.
Caffé Rialto: 2 3 3. 1 2 4.
Miscela D’Oro, Espresso: 2 3 2. The second was not worthwhile.
Podmerchant, Arabica: 2 3 1. The second was not worthwhile.
Segafredo Zanetti, Espresso Casa, Gusto Cremoso: 2 2 5. The second was not worthwhile.
Caffé Borbone, Miscela Oro: 2 2 4. The second was not worthwhile.
Caffé Borbone, Miscela Blu: 2 2 4. The second was not worthwhile.
Vivi Caffé, Espresso Casa:  2 2 4. The second was not worthwhile.
Podmerchant, Blend: 2 2 1. The second was not worthwhile.
Amigos Caffé: 1 2 ?. The second was not worthwhile.

There’s a clear set of winners for regular. The pods from Lucaffé and Compagnia dell’Arabica were all better than the rest, and each had a second 1/2 oz that was good enough that it might warrant a “normal” 1 oz ristretto pull. Covim Orocrema gets an honorable mention.

As for decaf, why is is that only decaf had any pods with noteworthy depth of character? Puzzling. There isn’t a clear place to draw the line between ones to purchase by the box, and those to forget.

From here on out, as I finish off the last half of the pods, I’ll probably check to see if the results second pod is consistent with the first, but I’m not planning to blog about it. I’m also likely to experiment with ways to improve the results from my machine, adding cream, etc.

Pods #13

Yesterday I received four boxes of Starbucks pods, so this is the penultimate post of the pods series. Next will be the wrapup.

Starbucks

  • Dark Decaf: The first cup was medium bodied, with a strong flavor and strong bitterness. The second was light bodied with medium flavor and strong bitterness.

Lipogram

Today I learned about Gadsby, a novel written without the use of the letter “e”. Apparently this sort of thing is called a lipogram. I was reminded of one of my favorite stories by Edgar Allen Poe, X-ing a Paragrab.

In the same vein as my surprisingly popular post on the opposite of synergy, I’m looking for the opposite of “lipogram”. Unfortunately, I’ve had no luck in my search. I was originally led astray by numerous sites that incorrectly attribute it. Wikipedia says that it is from ancient greek “λειπογράμματος” and dictionary.com says that it is of lipo- and -gram. They are far from alone, but they would appear to be incorrect. “Lipo-” means fat, and “-gram” means letter, and “fat letter” is seems more likely the opposite meaning of lipogram.

OAD and Phrontistery agree that

“Lipogram” is a backformation (a word created by removing suffixes and prefixes from a prexisting word) from the Greek adjective lipogrammatos, meaning ‘wanting a letter’. The term is a combination of lip-, a weak stem of leipein ‘to leave, to be wanting’, and gramma, grammat- a letter.

From what I’ve read, it looks like “lambano” is probably the most reasonable greek word to turn into a prefix, and it has derivative forms of lempsis and lepsis (think narcolepsy). Based on my almost complete lack of understanding of Greek, I’d propose “lepogram” as a similarly backformed word to describe the missive of Mr. Touch-and-go Bullet-head. It’s unfortunate that it is so similar in spelling and pronunciation to its antonym, but this is logolepsy; we can’t compromise correctness for the apathetic.

Is there a more correct construction? Do we already have a word to describe this? Let me know!

Pods #12

Decaf!

  • Caffé del boge, blu decaf: Medium body and flavor, no bitterness. Second cup had light body and flavor, without bitterness.
  • PodMerchant, decaf: Light flavor, body, and bitterness. Second cup had watery body and flavor, and light bitterness.
  • Compagnia dell’Arabica, Dacaffeinato Leggero Light: My first pod pulled like light brown water I flipped it over and tried again, and it was better. However, it was thin and bitter, so I suspected a problem and threw it out. I pulled out my spare pod and it too pulled like water. I stopped it right away, flipped it over and tried again. This time it was medium bodied, medium strong, and not bitter. The second cup had a light body and flavor, still without bitterness.
  • Lucaffé, Dacaffeinato: light body, strong, and a little bitter. The second cup was exactly the same.

Click here for the introduction to this series.

Pods #11

Decaf!

  • LavAzza, Dek: Light body, strong flavor, with a little bitterness. The second cup still had light body, but was also little flavor aside from bitterness.
  • Espressione, Decaf: Light body, strong, bitter flavor. The second cup is thin, and the only flavor is a light bitterness.
  • Caffé Izzo, Decaffeinato: medium body, strong, and no bitterness. The second cup had light body and flavor, and no bitterness.
  • Miscela D’oro, decaf: medium body and flavor, with a slight bitterness. The second cup had a light body, flavor, and bitterness.

Click here for the introduction to this series.

Texas BBQ

A couple of years ago we went to Texas for David and Alyscia’s wedding. True to form, I did quite a bit of research on various family activities and different restaurants to try on the trip. There were a few different BBQ places I was hoping to sample, but I only made it to one of them.

Thankfully, it was Joe Cotten’s Barbeque Joint. I see that Joe Cotten’s burned down March 2, 2011, after 64 years at its Robstown location, but it’s reopened for carryout and catering in nearby Calallen. I hope to make it back if I’m ever in the area.

It’s been two years, and I don’t recall a lot of details, so this will be brief. The pork, brisket, and sausage, were quite tasty, smoky without tasting like smoke, and the sauce was a great (but unnecessary) complement. I was eating it in the passenger seat while we drove from New Braunfels to Corpus Christi, so the restaurant’s ambience wasn’t able to contribute to my enjoyment of the meal. My recollection is that the sauce reminded me more of salsa than the thick and sweet (KC-style) sauce that’s common in the midwest or the vinegary sauce common in the Carolinas. It didn’t actually taste like salsa, but the texture was thinner and more chunky, and the flavor was much more fresh and less heavy than more common BBQ sauces. It broadened my horizons.

If I can find my notes from the other places I’d hoped to visit, I’ll post those too.

Pods #10

Six from Lucaffé (all rather similar)

  • Blucaffé: strong, medium bodied, and a little bitter. The second cup was light bodied with moderate flavor and more bitterness.
  • Pulcinella: strong, medium bodied, and a little bitter. The second cup was light bodied with moderate flavor and more bitterness.
  • Mamma Lucia Blend: moderately strong, medium bodied, and moderately bitter  The second cup was light bodied with moderate flavor and more bitterness.
  • Classic: strong, medium bodied, and a little bitter. The second cup was light bodied with moderate flavor and more bitterness.
  • Columbia: strong, medium bodied, and no bitterness. The second cup was light bodied with moderate flavor and light bitterness.
  • Messico: very strong, medium bodied, and no bitterness. The second cup was light bodied with moderate flavor and no bitterness.

That’s the last of the unsampled regular pods, now all that’s left is decaf.

Click here for the introduction to this series.

Pods #9

A promising lot from Compagnia dell’Arabica

  • Purissimi Caffé: I dropped the first cup, but the few drops I got were promising. The second cup was light-bodied, and tasted like a decent strong drip coffee.
  • Columbia Medellin Supremo, Vellutato: Moderate body, and flavor intensity nearing that of real espresso. No bitterness. The second cup was light bodied and had a moderate drip flavor with only a hint of bitterness.
  • Brasil Santos, Delicato: Moderate body and strong flavor without bitterness. (I got distracted and dumped the pod before pulling a second cup.)
  • Kenya “AA” Washed, Intenso: Moderate body, with a strong flavor sans bitterness. The second cup was light bodied and had a moderate drip flavor with only a hint of bitterness.

Click here for the introduction to this series.

Pods #8

  • Miscela D’Oro, Espresso: less flavor and body than a good drip, with more bitterness. The second cup was undrinkable dark bitter water.
  • Podmerchant, Arabica: light bodied, but with a whiff of classic coffee flavor that’s drowned out by bitterness. Second cup was thin and bitter.
  • Podmerchant, Blend: light bodied and still bitter, but without the classic coffee flavor. Second cup was thin and bitter.
  • Podmerchant, Stout: medium bodied, but with moderate flavor and low bitterness. Second cup was light bodied dark brown water.

Click here for the introduction to this series.

Pods #7

  • Caffé Rialto: small bodied with moderate flavor and slight bitterness. The second cup was a muted version of the first, with less body.
  • Pellini Top, Arabica 100%: small bodied with strong flavor and no bitterness.  The second cup was a muted version of the first, with the same  body.
  • Illy: small bodied with moderate flavor and no bitterness. The second cup had only little flavor and body.
  • Lavazza, espresso gran crema: light body, strong and bitter. the second cup has less flavor, no body, and was still bitter.

Click here for the introduction to this series.

Bitter

Ever cooked with nutmeg? It has an unusual quality I find interesting. The flavor is great, but only up to the point at which you get too much. Then the flavor turns bitter and nasty. How does that sudden change happen? What else is like this?

I’ve only ever found one other thing that shares this quality, and that’s Angostura Bitters. Angostura also has another unique quality. It’s magical. Not only is it tasty all by itself as a flavoring, it can magically “smooth” other flavors. Coffee a bit harsh? Add a dash of bitters. But wait, that’s not all! It can also make two different flavors blend in a pleasant way. I’ve used it to meld the flavors of a lime-cranberry pie. I’ve not tried it as much as it seems like I should, but I’ve not yet found a flavor-dissonance that wasn’t helped (if not resolved) by the addition of Angostura Bitters. Know of anything else like this?

pods #6

  • Caffé Izzo, arabica 100%: moderate body, flavor, and bitterness; balanced to a fault. The second 1/2 oz is the similar, but slight.
  • Espressione, 100% arabica: Moderate body and flavor, low bitterness. Second cup still has Moderate body, but with muted flavor and no bitterness.
  • Espressione, espresso: Moderate body, and no bitterness, but only a little flavor. Second cup still has moderate body, less flavor, and a little bitterness.

Click here for the introduction to this series.

Pods #5

Decaf

  • Segafredo Deca Crèm: brown water. No body or flavor. It must contain Robusta, because it had crema, albeit one that was pale and disappeared quickly. Incredulous, I tried the second pod. This time it was light bodied with a strong, moderately bitter flavor, not unlike the unimpressive espresso I could order at any local coffee shop. The second cup was almost completely devoid of flavor and body.
  • Caffé Borbone, Decaffeinato: Strong, moderately characterful flavor, with a little body. The second had little flavor and body.
  • Danesi Caffé, Easy Espresso Decaf: medium flavor and light body, some bitterness. The second was thin, lightly flavored, and moderately bitter.

Click here for the introduction to this series.

Pods #4

A bland bunch

  • Segafredo Zanetti, Espresso Casa, Gusto Cremoso: light bodied, not much flavor, but no bitterness. Second cup was half of the first.
  • Caffé Borbone, Miscela Oro: light bodied, little flavor, little bitterness. Second cup was brown water.
  • Caffé Borbone, Miscela Blu: light bodied, little flavor, little bitterness. Second cup was brown water. (Much like the one before…)
  • Vivi Caffé, Espresso Casa:  light bodied, not much flavor, little bitterness. Second cup was average (bad) drip.

Click here for the introduction to this series.

Pods #1

For Christmas I received a huge variety pack of ESE espresso pods. This is great, because it combines two things I enjoy: coffee and sampling. Up to this point I’ve only had pods from Starbucks, and while drinkable, they aren’t as good as espresso from freshly roasted and ground beans. I have 45 different pods to sample, so I’m hoping to find at least one that is above average, and more than simply “enjoyable”.

If I hope to end my sampling with a knowledge of what I liked (or disliked), I’ll have to write it down. And if I’m doing that, I might as well do it here. I’m not expecting each”review to have much detail. I’ll make a new post for each “set” of reviews and finish up with a review of everything. I two pods of each variety, so I’ll be able to make additional side-by-side reviews at that point. I may post more than one review a day.

For reference, I believe a good espresso should be full-bodied, feel viscous, and be strong enough to be bracing (maybe shocking), but WITHOUT being bitter.

I’m making the espresso in a DeLonghi EC155. I’m starting with a 1/2 oz shot (molto ristretto) in order to give the pods the best possible chance of meeting that standard. I pull a second 1/2 oz shot to get a feel for the flavor of a normal 1 oz ristretto shot.

First Sampling:

  • Amigos Caffé: thin and weak even in the 1/2 oz pull. the next 1/2 oz  was watery.
  • Amigos Caffé, Extra Bar: the first 1/2 oz was thin, but like strong drip coffee. The second 1/2 oz was rather bitter.

Blonde

My pastor works part time at Starbucks. Yeah, it’s kinda weird, but I think it’s cool that he has a normal job interacting with unbelievers as a layperson. One of his benefits is more free coffee than he can drink, and I’m one of the people that benefits from his overflowing blessing.

Mind you, I’m not really a fan of Starbucks coffee. I think that name “Charbucks” is too uncomfortably close to the truth, but it’s free, so I can deal with it. (See, I’m not a snob! :-) When I saw the blonde line of coffees, it piqued my interest and I had to give it a try.

It’s weak.

I was warned about this, but I didn’t believe it. I chalked it up to simply dark roast versus light roast. I’ve had the had a couple of weeks to try the Willow Blend, in regular and decaf, in my espresso machine, moka pot, French press, and as a New Orleans style cold-steep coffee. I *can* make it strong, but it crosses the line of no longer tasting like coffee, and no longer tasting a little good.

No matter what I do, I can’t make a strong flavored cup of coffee that actually tastes good. I’m really puzzled by this. I don’t believe that light-roasting is the problem; I’ve enjoyed quite a bit of coffee from Terroir, which has championed the practice of lightly roasting coffee, and it’s always been excellent without any difficulty making it strong. (Ironic trivia: Frappaccinos, which taste very little like coffee, were actually created by George Howell (of Terroir), and Starbucks acquired the product when it bought George’s first coffee company.)

It gets a barely passing review from Coffee Review, who describes it as: monotoned, flat, muted, lean, and simple. (More info on the CR ratings can be found here.) The review of the Willow Blend suggests that the weakness is intentional. I don’t know that it’s better than Dunkin, but it’s certainly better than Folgers and their ilk. But blond Starbucks vs bold Starbucks reminds me of when I was a coffee neophyte. I would buy Maxwell House Dark Roast not because it was “better”, but because it had more flavor (which seemed better to me). I’d now buy Starbucks House over Blond because it has more flavor, though it’s probably not really any better. I guess I’m just not the target buyer for this product. I wonder if I’m the target buyer for *any* Starbucks product…

Xmas

This past Sunday I was reminded of my previous Yuletide Rant. Could this be a divine nudge to actually do something (besides complain)?

We sang God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen, whose refrain repeats that Christmas brings “tidings of comfort and joy”. After than when we had our time of sharing praises and prayer requests, a member of the worship team mentioned the she did not feel what the song described, and asked for prayer to feel this comfort and joy. Later an elder mentioned that he disliking the all the stress associated with the “Christmas season”. (He may have said it more strongly, but I don’t want to overstate it.)

This is true in my family, and I suspect it is true for most Americans. It’s my experience that this is also a season when we tend to sin more against others, especially our families, in a variety of small, mundane, everyday sort of ways.

If we are to figuratively “gouge out our eye” if it causes us to sin, shouldn’t we remove the cause of this seasonal propensity for sin?

I also liked the sermon, which was eerily apropos. Sovereignty in action! The first half should be of particular interest to anyone who doesn’t yet have kids, or whose kids are too young to really be aware of Christmas “traditions”. YMMV.

Gloves

I’m picky about most things, and gloves are no different. I like my gloves to be understated, not bulky (unlike most gloves), and to actually fit my hands in terms of finger length and size.

My “main” gloves are lightweight and genrally used when the weather is freezing or below. I stay pretty warm all by myself, so I don’t usually need much insulation as long as my outer layer keeps the wind from stripping away my internal heat. My go-to gloves were first simple-glove-liners and then something along the lines of batting gloves. Glove liners really aren’t that durable, and aren’t very wind-resistent. The problem I have with batting gloves (and most other athletic gloves) is that they tend to have a prominent logo and look flashy. Lat year I found great gloves in an unlikely genre. Bike gloves typically have substantial padding on the palms, but these do not. They apparently come in a variety of colors, but I have black. If history continues to repeat, by the time this pair wears out, it will no longer be manufactured and I’ll need to find something else or get lucky on eBay.

I also have a pair of lightly-insulated leather gloves that I wear when the lightweight gloves aren’t enough. It’s it’s really cold, I’ll layer the two.

For biking I really like the Specialized Blob gloves from the mid-nineties. I have a well-worn and very comfy pair I’ve had for 15 years, and another, later model I found on eBay a few years ago. They’re not quite the same, and not as nice, and aren’t breaking in as comfortably, but they are still nicer than other gloves I’ve seen from recent years. If the weather is a bit nippy, I layer my main gloves under them.

Christmas Music

This is a bit more positive than my other Christmas post

Way back in high-school, I worked at Fisher’s Big Wheel, a department store of the Midwest and Northeast. I only worked there through two Holiday shopping seasons, but it was enough for me to never want to hear Christmas music again(*). It wasn’t just the (relatively) few songs that were repeated ad nauseum in the store, it affected my ability to enjoy any Christmas music, including hymns.

Thankfully, after twenty-something years, I started being able to tolerate some Christmas music, and have purchased a few “atypical” albums for my wife (Harry Connick, Jr.Diana Krall, and The Fab Four). This year, and maybe a little last year, I actually wanted to hear some Christmas music.

(* I have to admit that I was, previous to my Holiday work experience, disproportionately affected by the fact that my elementary school’s music program, which played used an identical Christmas curriculum for grades 3, 4, and 5. I can still see the Nutcracker filmstrip, and while the ballet’s music is now tolerable, I still loathe “It’s a Holly Jolly Christmas”, which we sang at least once a week for four weeks, all three years.)

Joyeux Noël

I’ve been contemplating coming up with a different word for Christmas, something that’s not commercialized and means what Christmas really should mean. I find myself irritated by people that are upset that stores now say “happy holidays”, and I want to protest their confusion of what virtually everyone considers “Christmas spirit” with anything religious (though I suppose idolatry is religious). The only way it seems appropriate for every single greeter to wish every single customer a Merry Christmas is if it means nothing more than a wish for happiness. And that just adds another layer of whitewash over the real meaning of Christmas. Personally, I think it’s an increase in honesty; a step in the right direction. What most people celebrate is not the birth of Jesus. Most of our “Christmas” traditions aren’t Christian in origin, and have nothing to do with Christianity now.

I wish we could be rid of other veneers of nominal Christianity in America. We should expect sinners to be sinful and saints to be saintly (imperfectly), and it’s to everyone’s detriment when meanings become corrupted and people think they are something they’re not.

What if you were told that all you had to do to get free groceries for a year was to go stand in line at your local grocery store and be the first 500 of people to enter when they open on Black Friday? Free groceries is good, right? You’ll do it! You drive by Thanksgiving day and you see a line forming and you decide that it’s worth it, so you skip out early on dinner and wait all night. You’re pretty cold and sore by morning, but you’re encouraged by the signs in the windows that advertise the amazing, once-in-a-lifetime free gift to the first 500 people. They open up and you’re handed a whole case of Twinkies. Not just any Twinkies, these are the last Twinkies from the factory! No matter how much you like Twinkies, or enjoy speculating on collectable cakes, you’re understandably bummed. You wanted a good, valuable, and useful thing, and you got a mass-produced confection that you’ve seen sold on every street corner. Now, just imagine that instead of groceries, you were promised Heaven. Sorry, go to Hell.

I wonder if I could celebrate Advent instead.

Key Lime Pie

I was recently asked for my Key Lime pie recipe, and realized I don’t have a current version online. This is really only an update of the recipe I posted earlier. I thought about updating the old post, but some comments wouldn’t make sense, so I decided to just make a new post. That will also make it easier to find.

Ingredients

crust

1 pie crust (prebaked, 8′, shortbread)

filling

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz)
¾ cup key lime juice
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp ginger juice

whipped cream

½ cup heavy cream
1½ tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp lime zest (persian limes tend to have nicer color, are cheaper, are easier to find, and work just fine)

Method

Preheat oven to :  350°

Soften cream cheese at 350° for 10 minutes and whip. Add sweetened condensed milk, ginger juice, and lime juice, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Pour into crust and bake for 20 minutes. (Technically, baking shouldn’t be needed, as the juice and the milk react and thicken. I’ve never actually tried it without baking. :)

Vigorously mix cream and sugar until you have soft peaks, spread on top of pie, and then decorate with lime zest (or lime slices). The lime zest is easier to sprinkle evenly if I zest it while the pie is baking, throw it into the freezer, and pull it out immediatly before serving.

I find the pie is best the second day, so I’ll usually make it the night before and then top with whipped cream right before the pie is served. The flavor will be intense, and the whipped cream will help balance it. If you find the flavor is still too intense, you can reduce the lime to 1/2 cup and eliminate the ginger, but I wouldn’t recommend it. :)

Omphaloskepsis?

Ultimately, some people will find themselves irritated by things like the discussion of Bad Decisions. We’re pretty much infinitely imperfect and ignorant, so there’s no way on earth to divine a certain answer and it’s all conjecture. Anyone who’s mind is grounded on concrete things will probably want to run away and never look back. But I’m naturally abstract, and this is some of what goes through my head as I try to make sense of the world around me . (I’m always creating and refining models, systems, and frameworks…) I’m also naturally introverted, so it is usually entirely inside my head. It seems like a good idea to get it out. Not only do things look and sound a little different when they are “outside”, but it also provides an otherwise absent avenue for external correction.

I’m aware that people occasionally find me combative (or I’m occasionally aware that people find me combative). While I acknowledge this, I really don’t understand it. It seems like I can either accept any idea, or take an idea, tear it apart, and evaluate it. I’ve generally done this with with anything I already believe, and it seems like it would be foolish forgo this before replacing any held belief with a new one. My feeling is that the alternative is to be a nonthinking lump of flesh, and that doing so would render my existence pointless. This is undoubtedly extreme and wrong, but it’s how I feel, and I can’t just change the way I feel because it’s not correct, reasonable, or rational. (Trust me, I’ve tried.) In any case, my “attacking” another person’s idea (not the person) would be better taken as a sign of respect, because I think that the idea is worth of consideration and possible adoption. Similarly, I get also uncomfortable when someone else seems to accept my idea without adequate vetting. I feel patronized or dismissed, not honored or respected.

Some people think that their relationship to me somehow grants their ideas adequate reason for adoption. Being my boss, pastor, parent, wife, daughter, brother, or friend doesn’t make someone omniscient or infallible. People who care about me (and themselves) should want their ideas honestly evaluated for mutual benefit. Having a relationship certainly does grant their ideas some degree of additional consideration, but that consideration is evaluation, not acceptance.

I’ve also been told that it can be upsetting that I always believe that I’m correct. It’s true; the alternative is to believe that I’m incorrect, and that’s a logical paradox. How would I live each day honestly thinking “I believe the sky is blue, but that’s not true” (to use a silly example). It doesn’t even make sense. Of course, I do believe things that aren’t true. I’m sure my thoughts are full of all sorts of foolishness. But I don’t (usually) know what they are, and I’m glad to be corrected. I don’t want to believe incorrect things! I’m sure some would suggest that I could live in uncertainty, not having any confidence that what I believe is correct or incorrect. I’m not even convinced that it’s even possible. If it is possible, it’s probably universally accepted as a paralyzing pathological condition. No thanks.

Maybe it’s just a matter presentation. My interpersonal skills certainly aren’t what they could be. I am also, at times, needlessly negative.

Bad Decisions

At some point in the mists of time I concluded that bad decisions can be attributed to one of two causes:

  • Ignorance, when an otherwise good decision was made with faulty information.
  • Stupidity, when a bad decision was made despite good information.

Ignorance is pretty straightforward. Nobody like to be called ignorant, but it’s ridiculous to try to claim that one isn’t often ignorant. We’re never omniscient, so to some degree we always suffer from some level of ignorance. But the focus here isn’t on what isn’t known, it’s on the bad decision. The issue of the missing vital data is secondary. I feel pretty confident that this is the correct word.

Stupidity is less straightforward. It seems like there should be a better word, but I’ve not yet found one. As with “ignorant” nobody like to be called stupid, but everyone who isn’t perfect, regardless of their intelligence, makes stupid mistakes. Everyone. If you have a better word, suggest it, but be prepared to defend it. I’m not interested in words that indicate slowness or foolishness; that’s not what I have in mind.

Are there other causes of bad decisions that can’t be attributed to one of these things as the root cause? Maybe Incompetence, but I’m not convinced that it isn’t an example of Stupidity. Deception and Confusion seem to clearly be no more than extenuating circumstances that lead to Ignorance in the decision-making process. It’s probably a mistake to lump emotional aspects into stupidity, but I’m not sure what else to do with that, and it seems likely to be about as useful as stuffing worms into Pandora’s box. I could easily be wrong about that. What about spiritual causes?

Is it only bad decisions, or can this be expanded to other mistakes? Physical mistakes seem to have a host of other issues, and I’m not sure I’m really interested in expanding this into “every possible cause of anything that could possible go wrong”.

There’s probably a branch of science that studies this precise subject, and has already established well-defined nomenclature. If you know what it is, enlighten me!

key lime experiments, pt 5

In pt. 4 I tried using green stevia powder. I don’t remember the texture, but it tasted horrible. I decided to try again with stevia drops. I knew that I didn’t especially like the flavor of stevia, but I was hoping that the drops would have a negligible effect on the texture and that the lime juice would overpower stevia’ aftertaste.

#18

1 oz cream cheese
1 tbsp key lime juice
8 drops stevia extract

Notes: texture is okay, but it’s not sweet enough.

#19

1 oz cream cheese
1 tbsp key lime juice
12 drops stevia extract

Notes: texture is okay, if a bit wet, but it’s not sweet enough and I can taste the stevia.

#20

1 oz cream cheese
1 tbsp key lime juice
16 drops stevia extract

Notes: texture is still okay, if a bit too wet, and it might be sweet enough, but the stevia leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.

Conclusions: I’ve run out of ideas for this, so I’m not expecting any more Key Lime experiments. However, there is one thing I’ve tried (but not documented), that is worth developing into a whole pie. I’d like to get it into edible form in time for the holidays, but we’ll see.

NOLA

Early 2005, just a little after Easter (I think), Alice, Elizabeth and I spent a four days in New Orleans (and four days driving). It was relatively quiet and clean, and we had a nice time. I wanted to take a cooking class, but I chickened out. Maybe Next time. We really liked Lola’s, an absolutely tiny Whole Foods Market, and the Fair Grinds Coffeehouse, all near Esplenade and Mystery. I liked breakfast at Elizabeth’s, but Alice didn’t share my enthusiasm. We stayed near the corner of Royal and Canal, so it was easy to walk many places and drive to everything else.

We also toured the Aquarium, City Park, a giant city of the dead, and, of course, the French Quarter. Alice and I can’t go anywhere without visiting a Library (our typical date destination), so we made a stop there too. The beignets at Café du Monde were quite tasty, and their chicory coffee was okay too. I wish I could get a good beignet in Central Illinois.

I made a point of stopping by the legendary Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel to sample a few classic New Orleans cocktails. I don’t remember exactly what I tried (other than a Sazerac), but I didn’t especially care for them. However, the point was to sample good examples of local “delicacies”, so I consider the experience a success. Despite all of the cool things in NOLA, I recall being rather exhausted and frustrated due to the vacation being far more extroverted than I can comfortably withstand. I had the Sazerac to myself and my visit served as an effective afternoon respite while Alice and Elizabeth were napping.

It was a little surreal a few months later when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. We’ve occasionally wondered how many of the places we enjoyed are still existence (the adorable Whole Food’s is gone). One goal with this post is to record these things so that we can remember to look them up the next time we’re there.

Swing Metal?

I’ve recently been exposed to Diablo Swing Orchestra, and it’s an interesting idea. Adding crunchy metal riffs to swing music works better than I had imagined, but there’s one small problem. For some reason, only the first track actually sounds like swing. The rest of the album sounds like typical symphonic metal. The whole album has operatic vocals, including the otherwise cool first track, and I’m not sure I could enjoy a whole album of swing metal with that vocal treatment. You can download their first album using the provided link and see for yourself. I also listened to their second album and it follows the same trend of first song being swing metal and the rest of the album being symphonic metal. It makes me wonder if the Swing part of their name is a gimmick that can’t be sustained through the whole album.

Zozzaro

Lately I’ve been enjoying listening to the covenant series by Rev. James A. Zozzaro. I discovered him in the sermonaudio.com app, though I ended up downloading sermons from his church’s website and loading them up on my iPod.

I tend to think that if I agree with everything I hear, I’m not being adequately challenged, so I’m not bothered that I don’t agree with everything he says. Most of it is excellent.

I’m looking forward to listening to his ongoing series on the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Eternity

I miss role playing, and I wonder if there’s a good “family-friendly” gaming group around. I really enjoy OOTS, it’s about a party of characters who are all well aware that they are characters with stats, skills, and ways to game the system. Sometimes it’s thought provoking, and occasionally even touching.

Yoda had it wrong. It’s not the doing, it’s the trying.

Heaven isn’t boring, even for the Lawful Good.

Eternity may not be as quick as you think.

If you want to read a bit more context, the “paradise” interlude begins at http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0487.html and ends at http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0500.html.

Puerto Rican Custard

I started making this a few years ago, and it’s been a hit from the start. Uncharacteristically, I’ve felt little compulsion to tweak it from my first go. I based it on a Condensed Milk Custard from “Puerto Rican Cookery” by Carmen Aboy Valldejuli. I made this as a pie, using a store-bought 8″ shortbread crust, rather than as a traditional flan, and couldn’t resist making a few other changes along the way. :)

It’s worth mentioning that although this contains a fair bit of coconut milk, the coconut flavor is relatively subtle. This is good, since I don’t like coconut. The coconut milk is there because the original recipe called for water, and I couldn’t bear to add water to custard.

Ingredients

8 egg yolks
1 can sweetened condensed milk (full fat)
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 tsp blackstrap molasses (I’d probably prefer more, but any more and the less molasses-philic members of my family might start to complain.)

Preheat to 350

Mix the ingredients, adding one at a time. Pour them into the crust and bake it for one hour.

Boil an additional can of sweetened condensed milk to make a tasty caramel and drizzle it over the top, serve a dollop with each slice, or something similar.

I also want to try it with Myers rum (omitting the molasses) and an Oreo crust. Or maybe I can mix caramel, rum, and cocoa powder…

Correlation and Causation

This [old] article does a good job of describing some of the problems with studies that conflate correlation and causation. I’m sure that the fact that it specifically deals with smoking will make it controversial, but it shouldn’t. The same problem exists all over the place. It doesn’t discredit science, it discredits the hucksters. It takes science out of the hands of of the activists that use science as a convenient cudgel, cleans the muck off of it, and helps us view it as the scalpel that it is.

Socks

Why is it so hard to find plain, thin, quarter-crew socks? Most have padded soles, as if that’s not what shoes are for. The rest have logos, swoops, or something else that eliminates the possibility that the sock will go with anything. It used to be a bit easier, but for the last several years most suitable options have been replaced with the tiny socks too short to separate my foot from my shoe.

All is not lost, though, I found white Wigwam CT Tour Socks and purchased a dozen pair or so. Very nice. These join the black Wigwam King Cotton socks that also fill my drawer. That’s right, I have only two different socks. They don’t need sorted, don’t need paired, and there is never a stray. I can even pull out matching socks in utter darkness.

Incidentally, the King Cotton, while thicker than the CT Tour, are similar in being the same thickness top and bottom. Why people want their feet to be warm on the bottom and cold on top I’ll never know, but these socks don’t have that problem.

Questions

What is the “meaning of life”? Should it be or look the same for each person? Each Christian? Is it just “something that is”, a truth that exists regardless of our awareness or acceptance of it? Is there a difference between “real” meaning and what we think or feel provides meaning? Is it some sort of unavoidable destiny, or something that we should ponder, meditate on, or walk towards? Is it even possible for us, as human beings, to not act on that which gives our life meaning? Should we strive for meaning? How often? Yearly? Monthly? Weekly? Daily? Hourly? Constantly? What does this striving look like? What do you do? What gets in your way? What helps you on your way? Will you ever get there? Do you ever change direction? Do you forget where you are going? How do you keep from deriving meaning from the striving? How do you make the striving meaningful instead of mere motions?

Such is life.

 

Truth’s No Stranger To Fiction

Enlightening commentary on how not all truth is fact. To get to the commentary, scroll past the comic. There isn’t really enough of the comic for me to recommend it on its own merits, though I have been following its (slow) progress.

I’ve had this queued for several weeks, and was intending to post it Sunday afternoon, but in a fine example of divine timing this week’s sermon commented on how truth is elusive for mere mortals. I decided to hold onto this until I could also include a link to said sermon. The relevant bit is just past the 20 minute mark.

Back In The Saddle?

I have many things I’ve intended to post, but Haven’t because it always seemed like I needed to be more organized, or complete my analysis, or something else. Int he interest of actually doing *something* and moving forward, I’ll post what I have even if it’s “unfinished”. Maybe some would never have been finished; it would be a shame to let them disappear unshared. The blog is as much for myself as for my community and family, but I don’t know if anyone besides random internet denizens will ever read it. Whatever.

In an effort to maintain some sort of momentum, I’ll try to make no more than one post a day. I know, that sounds silly considering how long it’s been since I posted with any regularity. But don’t take it as an indication that I intend to post every day, or even every week. It means only that in have several things in queue, and if I post them all at once I could squander my opportunity to actually develop a habit.

If do you read this and you know me in real life, I’d appreciate it if you left a comment or sent me an email. It may not matter if anyone else reads this, but it is nice to know my audience, and I’m incorrigibly curious.

key lime experiments, pt 4

I made there a while ago. I didn’t take notes, and only remember that none of them turned out well.

#14
1 oz cream cheese
1 tbsp key lime juice
1 tsp Stevia (green powder)

Notes: A continuation of the efforts from #13, #12, and #2 to make #1 tasty while preserving the texture.

#15
1 oz cream cheese
1 tbsp key lime juice
1 tbsp xylitol crystals

Notes: A continuation of the efforts from #13, #12, and #2 to make #1 tasty while preserving the texture.

#16
1 oz cream cheese
2 tbsp key lime juice
2 tbsp sugar
1 egg yolk

Notes: A continuation of the efforts reduce the high proportion of egg in #4 without the negative side effects from #11 when the egg was simply halved (using the modification suggested in the summary of pt. 2)

#17
1 tbsp key lime juice
1 tbsp evaporated milk
1 tbsp sugar

Notes: An idea from the summary of pt. 2)

key lime experiments, pt 3

I had a small bit of cream cheese that needed to be used, I modified #2 and #1 from key lime experiments, pt 1. I substituted honey for sugar in the former and doubled the lime juice in the latter. I let the girls help me make and sample these.

#12
1 oz cream cheese
1 tbsp key lime juice
1 tbsp honey

Notes: Much like #2. Sarah didn’t like it, but Elizabeth ate it all up!

#13
1 oz cream cheese
2 tbsp key lime juice

Notes: The texture was better than #1, but perhaps a titch too soft this time. The flavor was very intense, and not good. I talked Sarah out of trying this one; Elizabeth tried it but didn’t like it at all.

Conclusions:
The texture of #1 and #13 is really is quite interesting, I just need to find a way to sweeten it without adding so much moisture. Are there any natural “dry” sweeteners? Maybe stevia or a sugar alcohol?

Nutty Bean Soup

The recipe below started as an attempt to make something like a cream of potato soup that featured beans and contained no dairy (or potatoes). It works pretty well, and is really easy. I took it to student feast last Sunday, and while I didn’t get as many complements as with previous dishes I’ve taken, it didn’t appear to get sampled much. Maybe I need to come up with a more enticing name!

Ingredients

(a)
1¾ cups white beans (1 can)
1 cup water
2 tbsp red wine
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp almond butter
2 teasp cilantro (dried)
1 teasp garlic (dried)
1 teasp sage (dried)
1 teasp coriander (dried)
1 teasp sea salt

(b)
1¾ cups black beans (1 can)
1 tbsp walnut oil
½ cup fresh corn
½ cup small onion (finely diced)
1 teasp prepared horseradish
black pepper (fresh ground)

Method

Puree (a) ingredients. Finely dice onion and saute with corn in walnut oil in large skillet. Add puree and black beans and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in horseradish, and serve. Black pepper to taste.

Happy Days

Happy Prohibition Day. Sure, most other probably call it “Repeal Day”, but I don’t like the sound of it, the subject is rather ambiguous, and the day Prohibition was repealed was certainly the happiest day of Prohibition, so I think my way works too.

Too bad my cold means I don’t want a drink.

key lime experiments, pt 2

In the conclusion to key lime experiments, pt 1 I wrote:

Eventually I’ll try more variations of #4: with half the egg yolk; where the egg yolks are swapped with beaten egg whites; and where the cream cheese is swapped with heavy cream.

I’ve unfairly excluded butter from my list of dairy products, perhaps I should try it as an addition to #5? That would hearken back to “Lemon Pie, Pt 3″.

Today I addressed those.

#8
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp key lime juice
1 tbsp sugar

Notes: Texture was not very creamy or smooth, and the flavor was quite mild.

#9
1 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp key lime juice
1 tbsp sugar
1 egg yolk

Notes: Similar to 4#, but with a softer texture. The flavor was rather mild. Overall, probably no better than #2.

#10
1 tbsp cream cheese
1 tbsp key lime juice
1 tbsp sugar
1 egg white

Notes: Similar to #4, but the texture was a bit coarse and the flavor was very mild.

#11
1 tbsp cream cheese
1 tbsp key lime juice
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 egg yolk

Notes: Flavor and texture is good. Similar to #4, but less smooth and rich. This is still a *lot* of egg, but it seems to be too little.

Conclusions:

I’m not sure where to go from here. The mild flavored ones have me perplexed. There’s a lot of lime juice in there, how could the flavor disappear?

I need to develop #4 a bit more, and I’d still like to do *something* with #1. And maybe #4 and #10 with double the lime/sugar? I’m also curious what #10 would be like it I beat the egg whites into peaks and gently folded them in. Fluffy perhaps? Maybe #1 with honey (halved) instead of sugar? I wonder how brown sugar would fare?

#9 with cornstarch should be similar to flan, that’s probably worth a try. And maybe another where half of the cream is milk.

I already know what happens when I mix lime juice and sweetened condensed milk. I wonder what happens when I use evaporated milk?

key lime experiments, pt 1

I’ve started using my silicone cupcake forms to make small pies for sampling. They let me get away with omitting the crust and making very small quantities. I generally just scale everything down until I end up with a single egg, reducing the baking temperature and time to allow for the drastic increase in relative surface area.

This weekend I made a Cardamom Buttermilk Pie and a Key Lime Cheesecake. Neither was noteworthy, but after making those I had some extra ingredients so I figured I might as well thrown some things together and see what happened. (I didn’t expect them to all be edible…) Here are the experiments and notes, in the order of sampling.

#1
1 oz cream cheese
1 tbsp key lime juice

Notes: This was really interesting, I liked the texture even if it was a bit more firm than I was looking for. I got the impression that doubling the lime juice would get the texture spot on. Unfortunately, it didn’t taste good. Cream cheese alone isn’t tasty, and adding lime juice doesn’t help.

#2
1 oz cream cheese
1 tbsp key lime juice
1 tbsp sugar

Notes: This tastes really good. I was surprised to find that the texture was a lot more “loose” than #1, apparently from the sugar?

#3
1 oz cream cheese
1 tbsp key lime juice
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp corn starch

Notes: flavor and texture is good, though a bit firm; I suspect I could cut back on the corn starch.

#4
1 oz cream cheese
1 tbsp key lime juice
1 tbsp sugar
1 egg yolk

Notes: Flavor and texture is good. Very similar to #3, but a bit less firm and noticeably smoother and richer (and more intense). Proportionally, this is a *lot* of egg. This realization prompted the next variation just to see exactly what the cream cheese contributes.

#5
1 tbsp key lime juice
1 tbsp sugar
1 egg yolk

Notes: Flavor okay, texture is kind of… loose, similar to #2, but more so. Interesting, but not a path to explore further.

#6
1 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp key lime juice
1 tbsp sugar
1 egg yolk

Notes: Okay, texture, diluted lime flavor and an unpleasant tinge of something in the aftertaste. It also had an odd “drying” effect on my mouth.

#7
1 tbsp buttermilk
1 tbsp key lime juice
1 tbsp sugar
1 egg yolk

Notes: Similar to #6, but the texture and flavor were each watery.

Conclusion:
I’d like to revisit #1, but I need a way to make it sweeter. My impression was that adding more lime juice would make the texture more fluffy. I need a sweetener that won’t have the dramatic affect on the texture as granulated sugar.

Eventually I’ll try more variations of #4: with half the egg yolk; where the egg yolks are swapped with beaten egg whites; and where the cream cheese is swapped with heavy cream.

I’ve unfairly excluded butter from my list of dairy products, perhaps I should try it as an addition to #5? That would hearken back to “Lemon Pie, Pt 3”.

Maybe after Thanksgiving I’ll have an chance to try more.

pie crusts

Over the last few years, it has gotten more and more difficult to find the Keebler shortbread pie crusts that I like to use for my pies (which are generally in the theme of creme). Friday I saw that there was no longer a space on the shelf for Shortbread crusts rather than the increasing norm of filling the shortbread slot with yet-another graham cracker crust. I went for my second (and increasingly available) choice of granola crust, and it was better than expected. They seem to be grinding the granola so that it has more of the fine texture of the shortbread crust, while still being a sort of granola. Of course, fine granola is still not shortbread. Furthermore, fine granola isn’t really desirable for those times I want a granola crust.

I suppose this is just one more indication that I need to start making my own crusts. Have any quick and easy recipes for shortbread or granola crusts?

lemon pie, pt 4

This time I tried a modification of my key lime recipe, making a few substitutions.

1 pie crust (prebaked, 8′ granola)

1 can evaporated milk (12 oz)
3/4 cup crystallized honey
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 eggs

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp bourbon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix crystallized honey and evaporated milk and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, and then stir in lemon juice. Beat eggs, then slowly temper with lemon/honey/milk mixture. Mix in cornstarch. Pour into pie shell and bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, overnight if possible. Make fluff and spread onto pie as close as possible to serving time.

As with pt 3, the lemon juice was half fresh squeezed from meyer lemons and half bottled by Santa Cruz Organics. I had ~1/2 cup extra filling, so I’d have to tweak things if I wanted to work from this in the future. It was okay, certainly edible, reminiscent of pt 1. Not particularly sweet, not particular tart, and not much to hold my interest. I took two bites and felt like I’d pretty much experienced all it had to offer. It was also a bit softer than I’d like.

If I modified this in the future, I’d probably cut the milk to 1 cup and use 5/8 cup each of lemon juice and honey. This would get the volume down, the sweetness up a bit, and the tartness up a lot, but it would still be soft. I suppose more corn starch would fix that without affecting the volume, but then the recipe would start to look like a creamy lemon meringue. Or I could add more eggs, but then I’m starting to approximate my proposed modifications to pt 2. At this point, I’m more likely to just work from that recipe rather than modifying this one, or maybe try a lemon meringue.

lemon pie, pt 3

Fruittart pointed me to this Lemon Cream Tart. It looked tasty, so I decided to give it a try for my workplace “treat week” that coincided with exam week for our students. It was probably an even bigger experiment than the others. It’s the first time I’ve made a tart and the first time I’ve ever made my own crust. I didn’t actually use the pistachio crust, opting instead to use the crust from the Warm Mocha Tart.

I followed the recipes pretty closely and won’t duplicate them here. The only changes I made were to increase all measures by 50% in order to accommodate my 11-inch tart pan, and to top it with fresh raspberries rather than candied ginger. The lemon was half fresh-squeezed meyer lemons and half bottled lemon juice from Santa Cruz Organics.

I was glad for the lone raspberry on the piece I tried, and if I make it again I’ll put a layer of raspberry puree between the crust and lemon creme. It was pretty tasty, but not quite what I’m looking for (though nicely educational). The experiments will continue. : )

lemon/banana

I’ve discovered that lemon curd and banana complement each other surprisingly well. So well, in fact that I’m thinking of making some sort of pie to highlight the combination. But it seems like I need one more thing, and I’m not sure what. Perhaps some kind of nut? Suggestions are welcome. : )

lemon pie, pt 2

This time I wanted to make sure the lemon was a prominent as the lime in the key lime recipe, and at this I succeeded! Too much for most people, myself included. I used a combination of recipes, mostly the lime tart filling and the lemon curd filling. I had to make a few last-minute changes, but I’ll list the recipe I started with. (I mistakenly thought I needed 3 cups of filling, so the measures below reflect a 50% increase.)

—–
1 prebaked granola crust (9″)

1 1/4 cup lemon juice (from 10 lemons?)
9 whole eggs
3/4 cup honey (substituted for 1/3 cup sugar)
9 tbsp butter
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 dash salt

Combine the juice, zest, sugar, and butter in a saucepan over medium heat until steaming. Whisk the yolks in a bowl until liquid. Slowly beat the steaming liquid into the yolks and return the mixture to low heat. Continue whisking until it thickens, about 8 minutes. Pour into crust and refrigerate. Top with whipped cream and sprinkle with lemon zest before serving.
—–

I ran out of honey, so I added 2 tbsp of blood orange syrup. I ran out of lemon juice, so I added 1/4 cup of key lime juice. I couldn’t taste the orange syrup, but the lime juice made itself known.

It was initially too soft, but it firmed up some by the next day, so it seems like making it at least 24 hours in advance might be a good idea. I had a cup of extra curd, so I put it in a nice quilted mason jar and gifted it to someone who seemed especially fond of the pie. The pie was too tart (and the filling too voluminous), so if I revisit this I’ll try these measures:

.75 cup fresh lemon juice (5 lemons)
.75 cup honey
6 tablespoons butter
6 large eggs

However, I was wishing that it was a bit more creamy. What does the butter do for it? What would happen if I swapped it out for 4 tbsp of cream cheese? My informal experiment this evening shows that a mixture of lime juice and cream cheese thickens nicely (unlike yogurt), so I suspect this would make it a bit firmer as well.

lemon pie, pt 1

As you may have noticed, I took my usual key lime to the CEFC Thanksgiving dinner. I was asked for the recipe, so I’ll point to it here. I’ve decided I’d like to figure out how to make it without using the sweetened condensed milk, partly to enable a reduction or substitution in sweetener, but also just to remove the one “prepared” ingredient for something less processed.

However, my key lime pie has developed a following (I’m expected to bring one to each family holiday), so I decided to experiment with lemon pies, hoping that the knowledge gained would transfer to my key lime recipe. My father in law is on a diet that restricts him to unrefined foods, so I’m also experimenting with using honey as the sweetener.

The first experiment was a lemon custard for my small group. It was completely edible, but not quite what I’d hoped for. My recie was a combination of custard recipes from “How to Cook Everything” and the “Betty Crocker Old-Fashioned Cookbook”.

—–
1 prebaked granola crust (9″)

3 whole eggs + 4 egg yolks
1/4 cup honey (substituted for 1/3 cup sugar)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup milk (scalded)
1/2 cup lemon juice (from 4 lemons?)
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 dash salt

Preheat over to 350.
Mix everything but milk in bowl. Slowly mix in milk. Pour into crust and bake 45 minutes. Top with whipped cream before serving.
—–

I discovered that I had almost a cup of extra filling. Since the flavor was *really* mild, I suspect that using only 3/4 cup of milk would help with that. It also wasn’t as firm as I’d like, and I expect the reduction in milk to help with that too.

I used honey from Alice’s Grandpa’s bees. It’s quite dark, and has a strong flavor that nicely complements the lemon.

Irresistable leadership?

My textbook, “Level Three Leadership”, defines leadership like this: “Leadership is the ability and willingness to influence others so that they respond voluntarily.”

I thought that was really interesting. Interesting, but unclear. I immediately thought of a “leader” who is willing to influence others, and had the necessary training to influence others, but is alone one a desert island. Then I realized that they might be using “ability” in not to mean “skill”, but “capability”. Perhaps better would be to simply say “Leadership is influencing others so that they respond voluntarily.” The author goes to some length to explain that his use of “voluntarily” excludes manipulation, and the breaks down manipulation into deception and coercion.

I think the word “respond” is also ambiguous, since a “leader” could easily, by being rude towards someone over whom he holds no authority, influence the other person to respond by taking an action for no other reason than to spite the “leader”. Of course, the word “leader” implies a follower, and the definition would benefit from simply explicitly stating that “Leadership is influencing others so that they follow voluntarily.”

Anyhow, none of this is what struck me as interesting. : )

What struck me as interesting is how well the definition, despite it’s weaknesses, seems to be describing irresistible grace.

Leadership clip

I need to take to class (in six days) a 2-7 minute video clip that demonstrates leadership. The leadership can be good or bad. In class we watched an episode of “The Office”, which was full of great examples of bad leadership. I can use VHS, DVD, or a computer (even youtube) file. Any suggestions?

Principles of Leadership

That’s the class I started yesterday. I think it will be a good class. It’s encouraging so far. Later I’ll post a quote from one of the books. Here are the books for the class:

Clawson, J. G. (2006). Level Three Leadership: Getting Below the Surface, 3rd Ed.

Kouzes, J. M. & Posner, B. Z. (2003). Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI): Participant’s Workbook and Observer Instruments

The Worldview Paper

What I was supposed to write:

Worldview Paper. Write a 4 page essay describing your own worldview. Take special care to establish what you believe, why you believe it, and why you believe it is true. Address the major issue that was raised in this course and how it has contributed to strengthening, challenging, broadening, or focusing your worldview. Your essay should integrate all aspects of the course including reading assignments, discussions, and experiences.

What I wrote:

My worldview can probably be described as the Reformed tradition. It is dominated by the five solas of the Protestant Reformation, and these convince me of the truth of the five points of Calvinism. I believe this because I experience it to be true, and it is logically consistent with my meditations on the Word. My major challenge from OL306 has been the acceptance of others as fellow heirs of God. My tendency is to judge everything by logic, and declare the illogical to be invalid. However, I believe that there are at least two valid reasons why a person’s profession of faith may not seem consistent with their words or actions: weakness, and sin.

Paul writes that the thoughts of all mankind have been made futile (Romans 1:21), but that the minds of the called are being renewed (Romans 12:2). This renewing of the debased mind means that the utterances of the saints are imperfect. Their understanding should exhibit an ever-increasing conformity to Christ-likeness, but their thoughts will contain error until the time that we are fully united with Christ.

Suppose a person affirms that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in Scriptures alone, to the glory of God alone. If they believe that the saved are such because they “choose” to accept forgiveness and the unsaved are such because they “do not choose” to accept forgiveness, this, to me, is logically inconsistent with the affirmation of the five solas.

First, this violates “faith alone”, because as Paul writes in Romans 3:27, faith excludes boasting. If I can say that I am saved because I made a good choice then I have grounds for boasting. Second, this violates “glory to God alone” because if I have any part in my salvation, then I get a piece of the glory. Again in Romans, Paul states clearly that if Abraham had been justified by making a good choice (what else is works, but good choices?) he still would have had no grounds for boasting before God. Therefore, to me, Arminianism is salvation by works, and those who hold to it cannot truly be saved (since one cannot be saved by works).

While I do believe that my analysis of the theology is sound, I now have a better understanding that my analysis of the soul is not. People are often illogical, often confused, and often deceived. While some are certain to be offended by my conclusion that they suffer from a suboptimal articulation of their hearts, I believe it if far more offensive (and infinitely less gracious) for me to conclude that they suffer the wrath of God. Some might ask if I need to analyze the theology at all. I believe I do.

Luke commends the Bereans for examining “the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11). Paul warns Timothy “some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars” (1 Timothy 1:1-2), and in his letter to the Galatians, Paul calls for an anathema on those who would pervert the gospel. Jude enjoins believers to contend for the faith. I must do so.

Does this mean that I should rebuke everyone whose theology I dispute? No, of course not. I myself am often in error, and the subject at hand is how a class discussion and textbook challenged my beliefs. I was unavoidably subjected to an Arminian explanation of atonement in class. I normally avoid Aminianism because I find it maddening. But God broadened my understanding of His love and man’s depravity. I’ve been aware of certain discrepancies here between my views and the views of teachers I respect, but I hadn’t adequately pursued reconciliation of this incongruity.

Every person is imperfect, every person has been blessed with strengths and weaknesses, and every person is inclined to understand some things more easily than others. I have a great weakness in the affections of my heart, and am woefully lacking in compassion. I have no doubt that this creates areas of profound blindness in my life, and I am grateful for the body of believers that helps me understand and appreciate that which I do not see.

While it may be obvious that sin will cause believers to live in ways that are not in accordance with their status as children of God, it hadn’t really occurred to me that it would cause believers to think in ways contrary to the gospel. I’ve not really pondered this much, but it seems logical that what we do has an effect on how we think, and that some sins will prevent us from thinking in certain ways.

If an individual makes an idol of politics, he probably will be disinclined to think in ways that are inconsistent with the functional theology that describes the salvation that he expects from his idol of politics. As Paul writes in Romans 7:22-23, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.”

I find myself most excited with the prospects of overcoming the mental blindness caused by sin. This renewal will happen inevitably, but not automatically. As I increase in the reflection of, and the delight in, the glory of Christ, I will be able to better see His glory. And the better I see His glory, the less I am blinded by sin, which leads to a better view of His glory. A glorious cycle, indeed!

But I will continue to sin, and continue to be limited by the weakness of my fallen body. I’ll need to “work out [my] salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in [me] to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phillipians 2:12-13). I’ll fail many times, but as Anne Lamott wrote about God in Plan B, “I don’t think much surprises him: this is how we make important changes–barely, poorly, slowly. And still, he raises his fist in triumph.”

The Jesus Paper

My latest homework assignment:

The Jesus Paper. In a 700 to 750 word essay, respond to the questions Jesus asks his disciples in Mark 8:27-29, “Who do people say I am?” and “Who do you say I am?” (Another account of this incident is recorded in Luke 9:18-26.) The questions require you first to discuss who Jesus is from the perspective of others. Then, provide your response to the question of who Jesus is and provide support for your answer… Does your response solicit more than an intellectual response? Explain.

—–
I had planned on saying more, but ran out of space. Personally, I think that what I did come up with, while certainly an incomplete picture of Jesus, is as complete a picture that I could draw from the text I was told to use and the space I was given. I don’t quite meet the exact letter of the assignment, but I think I exceeded the expectations for it. I briefly thought about expanding it to cover everything I’d intended, but alas, I have another paper due in five days. I am, of course, indebted to others for their thoughts, both written and oral. In the completion of this assignment I had in mind various bits from John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and Mike Shea. All passages are from the NIV.
—–

Who is Jesus? Matthew, Mark, and Luke each contain an account commonly known as “Peter’s Confession of Christ”. Each writer records Peter’s belief that Jesus was the Messiah and the belief of the crowds that Jesus was John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets. The response of Jesus to each tells us a lot about his call to the lost.

After Peter’s confession, Jesus replied, “Blessed are you… for this was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). Peter knew the secret identity of Jesus because it was revealed to him by God the Father, not through human efforts. The other people did not know because they only possessed the wisdom of man. Lacking God’s revelation, they had no choice but to rely on man.

Their ignorance wasn’t caused solely by their reliance on the wisdom of man, it was also a consequence of the Father’s concealment of Himself (see Romans 1:28). Luke 10:21-24 tells us that “Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure… No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’ Wow! Jesus reveled in the fact that the Father would elect to reveal Himself to some, and hide Himself from others. Paul confirms that it is God’s good pleasure to destroy wisdom and frustrate intelligence (1 Corinthians 1:19).

This is good news to me on many levels. It provokes my soul to praise God that I have been made an object of mercy. It promotes humility because despite the esteem given to intellectuals, my best efforts aren’t good enough. It also provides comfort in my frustrations. Even since childhood I have been vexed by people who say things that are, in my understanding, untrue. I find solace in knowing that God hides truth. I find myself dismayed and angered (and undoubtedly in sin) when encountering those who diminish the glory of God. I am saddened when fellow believers profess a puny God. My God is an awesome God, and his words bring the universe into existence. He does not call us to himself with a plaintive “Here kitty, kitty”. He calls out “Lazarus, come out!” with all power and authority to not only reveal the truth, but to raise the dead, because it pleases Him “that you may believe” (John 11:43, 15).

While Luke 10:21-24 does an amazing job of speaking to Peter’s answer to the question, Matthew contains a parallel passage that speaks to the answer of the crowds. After Jesus delighted in the Father’s revelation to “little children”, He invited the crowds to “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

The response of Jesus highlights the need to deliver the invitation. As Paul writes in Romans 10:14, “how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Paul didn’t preach using words that his audience didn’t understand. He became “all things to all men so that by all possible means [he] might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

Like Paul, I need to understand my audience. I need to contextualize it to the culture. If I’m in a culture that contains no concept of an afterlife, I need to be sufficiently literate to relate the Gospel in the concepts that they have. If I’m in a culture that denies absolute truth, I need to communicate how the Gospel is relevant even while seeking to show them that their denial of absolute truth is an absolute lie.

It is interesting to note that Jesus didn’t comment on the beliefs of the unbelieving. He praised the Father’s sovereign will and then presented an invitation that was meaningful to His hearers. This affirms my conviction that it is not profitable to dwell on untruths. I need to do little more than to proclaim the gospel in a sensible way and trust Jesus to reveal the Father to those He has called to understanding.