Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

So, usually I keep this blog pretty innocuous and beer related.  I don't tend to go much into politics, religion, or really into my personal life.  Those things really need to be more personal for me, discussed with good friends over a beer perhaps.  But today, I want to do a post that is a bit more personal, as I reflect on the past year and the things I have to be thankful for.  Oh, and there will be talk of beer...this is a beer blog after all!

This year seems to have been a crazy one for us, not really in a bad way, just busy, busy, busy.  I've found myself too busy to check my e-mails, see movies in the theater (or on Blu-Ray for that matter,) call friends and family, and even my reading has fallen off greatly.  I can't really complain about these things, since much of my business has been fun-related, but it seems that the year has flown by us in a whirlwind.  For once in my life I'm actually looking forward to winter (yes, in Minnesota,) because that means less travel and less things going on...we Minnesotans tend to hibernate like bears, crawling out of our caves in spring and glaring blearily at the neighbors that we barely remember.

This year I had the best trip of my life: our 10 day jaunt to Belgium with two good friends on our organized beer tour.  I had two beers go to second round of the National Homebrew Competition.  Even though I didn't win, it was pretty cool to play with the big kids for a while.  Sj has continued to expand her jewelry making into not only a fun hobby, but a small business as well (she is having an open house in a couple weeks, and I'll be serving beer.)  My family is healthy, though I don't get to see my sister and brother much anymore.  Work is going well and keeping me quite busy during the day...and most importantly I love my job and the people I work with!  My Jack Of All Brews club-mates have really stepped up this year, hosting meetings and organizing trips and swag for the club.  I started this blog too.

The most important thing I can give thanks for this year is my beautiful-beyond-words wife of 11 years, Sarajo.  She is truly the yin to my yang.  She is quite the opposite to me in many ways: Talkative, where I am quiet; speaking her mind, where I am a stolid Norwegian Minnesotan with a penchant for passive aggressive methods; standing up for friends and family like an angered mother bear when she needs to be.  Yet she has had a great influence on me and I have learned to  more talkative and outgoing, speak my mind if it really means something to me, and to stand up for things and people.  I like to think that she has absorbed some of my traits as well, becoming a bit less fiery and more relaxed about things.  And though she would deny it, she is the sweetest wife I could ever desire.  I had to drag her all the way here from Alabama, (by way of Illinois,) but it was well worth it.

I am the cook in my household, and every year I do a whole Thanksgiving spread.  We enjoy hosting friends and family who don't have family nearby, but this year it was just the two of us, (and our three cantankerous cats of course.)  I thought I would do some beer pairings for this holiday dinner.  As I worked feverishly in the kitchen I noticed white fluffy snow flitting past my window.  It was around 60 degrees yesterday!  Scratch that bit from above where I said I was looking forward to winter!

I'm dreaming of a white...Thanksgiving?

For a starter I cooked up a red pepper and pumpkin soup using the last of our East Henderson Farm CSA produce for the year.  This was garnished with some fresh rosemary and toasted pumpkin seeds.  I served this up with our growler of Town Hall Brewery's Petunia's Pumpkin Ale that we had squirreled away for just such an occasion.  A fantastic pairing, with the sweet malty beer counteracting the more savory soup.  I'll make this soup again, but might add some chipotle pepper to give it a bit more zing.

The main event was filled with a bunch of old favorites.  The essential green bean casserole (or hot dish if you are from my area.)  The chilled jellied cranberries are essential for Sj's holiday enjoyment.  A stuffing made with pork sausage from our meat CSA True Cost Farm, and dried cherries is always a winner.  Mashed potatoes with tons of butter and sour cream...Sj did a great job this year!  And of course I had to do an outrageously big turkey for two...18.5# this year.  I tried out a new recipe for maple and smoked paprika glaze on the turkey, and it was fantastic!  I used wonderful local syrup from a colleague of mine, and I'd recommend you try it, but this year was hideously bad for maple syrup, so you may have to wait until next year's batch.  I should mention that the gravy, despite giving me a lot of stress, tasted very flavorful and tied all the components of the meal together.   We paired the main course with a beer Sj brought back with her from a recent trip: The Bruery's Autumn Maple.  This beer uses maple syrup, yams and molasses, really playing well with my maple flavored turkey and the other side dishes.  A complex Belgian style beer that was much better with food than on it's own.

Once the food coma had worn off a bit I set about making my own turkey stock from the carcass and drippings, for use later in the week with my annual post-TG spicy turkey tortilla soup.  Yum!  A bit messy and slightly gross, but it tastes a lot more interesting than the store bought chicken broth.  Some of the smoky paprika comes through in the finished stock.

For desert, since I don't bake, we had a rare French cider called Dupont Reserve.  This was made with 2010 apples and aged most of a year in their own Calvados (apple brandy) barrels.  It is about 7.5% ABV and certainly has a hint of oak and booze to it.  Very effervescent, more like a champagne, coming in a large caged and corked bottle.  There is some brettanomyces funky character coming through as well and I really liked this cider a lot!

To all of you who read this blog entry:  I hope your day was as fulfilling as mine, and if not, then may next year's be better!

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