Not all roads lead to Rome

When you want a boring chore done you should give it to a lazy person. He will find the most efficient way to do the job.


And homebrewers have software. No complicated calculations, just fill in some numbers and everything will be done with the speed of light.


Wine makers have a bit more work. Measurements, consulting tabels, calculating.


Right, that is what you thought. The calculations involved in wine making are not many, and really simple.


And the homebrewers software? Yes, it is not correct. Calculating the alcohol percentage is no problem. But bitterness? Not really.


My friend uses “Biermacht”. I use a dutch program called “Brouwhulp”. Since he is more knowledgeable than I am, I asked him to make a recipe with liwuid malt extract, and some steeped malt. A simple beer, light in colour, about 6% alcohol, not very bitter, but a bit more hop aroma.


He prepared a recipe for me and it looked good. I entered it in “Brouwhulp” and the bitterness was IBU 32. Not extremely bitter, but still.. His program “Biermacht” said that the bitterness would be IBU 24. A huge difference.




Apparently there are more ways to Rome. But they are not going to Rome.





In “Brouwhulp” you have several options for the bitterness calculation. That sounds great, but it is not.


Here are the IBU values for my recipe with the different calculation options:


  • Rager IBU 32
  • Tinseth IBU 45
  • Garetz IBU 19
  • Daniels IBU 30
  • Mosher IBU 22
  • Noonan IBU 30


Between 19 to 45. Poor beermaker. How can you recreate a recipe when you don’t know how the bitterness was calculated?


The nice book by Adrie Otte explains that there are several options for the bitterness calculation and advises to choose one and learn how a certain bitterness feels. In fact he sais that you should always make the same mistake. Which I believe is a good advice.


But it is impossible to copy a recipe from somebody if you do not know which method was used!


After this revelation it became even worse. You can also set several calculation methods for the colour of your beer. Behold the results:


  • Daniels EBC 23
  • Mosher EBC 15
  • Morey EBC 9


Again the results are very different!


And again the same advice. Pick a method and always make the same mistake!


Brewing software…… We sleep at night. With one eye open!




P.S. I: It gets worse. I will tell you later.

P.S. II: Please visit our shop van Leven in de Brouwerij.


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The mystery of the smoked cheese

Here is the next challenge. Smoked cheese. Thet balcony smoker is meant for warm smoking. It feels happiest at 70 C or hotter. Perfect temperature for cheese.. Fondue.


How do you prevent the cheese turning into yellow paste?


The answer is so simple that you just cannot find it. You have to keep it cool. And it is not that difficult. Just put a plate of ice in the oven and put the cheese on top of it.






And it works. You have to pay attention because the cheese really should not melt. So: Open the lid now and then, reduce the heat, add more ice, remove the oven from the heat, anything to keep the temperature down.


That is the only thing that is a bit tricky. This was the first time trying to smoke a cheese. Usually first tries lead to failure, but this was a great success. The result is fantastic. A lovely smoked cheese! The taste of the smoke fits the cheese perfectly. It does not overpower, the cheese still tastes like cheese and the smoke is real. The smoked cheeses available in supermarkets are not smoked but bathed in a smoke sollution. This is a different animal. Much nicer.






Amd this is how you do it:


  • Buy a cheap, young cheese.
  • Cut it in slices of about 1,5 to 2 cm. (Can be bigger if you have a bigger oven!
  • Dampen the woodchips.
  • Find a container that does not melt and fits in the oven.
  • Light the burners and increase the temperature.
  • Set the burners to the lowest setting.
  • Put the woodchips in the oven, place the leaking tray, the dish with ice, and place the rack with the cheese.
  • Check the temperature of the cheese thoroughly and keep it as low as possible.
  • Turn the cheeses and move them so they smoke evenly.
  • Smoke for approximately one hour.


The cheese is apparentely a bit intense, or not nice. Leave them in the refridgerator for about a week. If possible vacumed.






And there it is: A simple cheap, tasteless, young cheese has been transformed into a true delicacy! It smells so horribly nice. The tastes are so lovely together…. Great, great, great!







Bon appetite!




P.S. I

Works well with camembert as well. Same recipe.




P.S. II Please visit our shop Leven in de Brouwerij.


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The Dutch eel smoking championship




Who knew that something like this exists? Since I became addicted to smoking I wanted to be here. I had no idea what to expect. Yes, there would be eels, and smoke. That was for sure.

Would anybody be interested? No idea.. Few hundred people?







Not really. Thousands of people will be smelling like a fireplace!

And I understand it. I can’t really specify what is so great about this event, but I had a great time. The first impression is funny. From far away you can see the sky turning white. Dozens of fantastic Mad Max creations making great scents and a lot of smoke. It looks a bit surreal. A whole street filled with eels!







Of course I was there to learn something. The internet was not very helpful when I was looking for a recipe for smoked eel. That is: I found recipes but all of them were completely different. I guess it is the way the WWW says: You’re on your own!

I also did not learn a lot here. Everybody uses a different method. And some participants are obviously less serious than other. The only conclusions I reached were: Drying the eels is important and smoking at a temperature of approximately 70 C.






My knowledge is very limited but when the tails curl it is too hot during the drying.


After my first steps with the balcony smoker it is about time for the real deal. I ordered an  adult model. I can’t wait to try it!

I’ll be in touch!





Of course you cannot leave without bringing something home





P.S. Visit the shop Leven in de Brouwerij.


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Water rots the poles. Fools drink it.

A poor translation of a Dutch saying.

Oxygen is the devil. For wine. For everything. Rust. Rotting. Fires. All caused by oxygen.

Water is harmless.

Oxygen is not all bad. I would not know what to do without it.

But for wine and beer it is not very good. This is not very accurate because oxygen is important for yeast to multiply in the first stage of fermentation. Yeast can create more energy with oxygen.

After this, oxygen becomes harmful for wine and beer. And even that is not completely true. As you may know a little bit of air travels through cork letting the wine mature very slowly. Tannin becomes softer and lots of reactions take place. We have just a slight idea of what is happening. Wine still improves under the influence of oxygen.

Can we finally end this love story for oxygen? Well almost. Really. A young red wine can age rapidly by pouring it in a different container. If google translate is correct the term is carafe. By adding oxygen aroma’s are formed and the wine improves dramatically.

And here the positive ends. Let’s decant. Or perhaps not. Decant is also pouring wine in a different container. But the goal is different. Old wines may have some deposit in the bottle which you don’t want in your glass. The purpose is to pour the wine very carefully in a decanter, leaving the deposit, and minimizing the contact with oxygen. You should do this just before drinking the wine. If necessary because this procedure may destroy wine in minutes.

In the hobby wine and brewing world people can react quite strong with oxygen. (Ha ha.)

I believe that this is often a bit exaggerated. Yeast uses oxygen and creates a protective blanket of CO2 lying on the wort or most. (CO2 is heavier than air) Close the bucket or demijohn and leave it. Do not measure S.G. or check it every day because you will destroy your blanket!


Oxygen is an important cause for oxidation and that is why sulphite is used. It reacts with oxygen before it affects the wine.

When used in wine everybody has an opinion. It gives headaches, is unnatural, and chemical. It is also used when conserving raisins and I never heard anybody complain about headaches from raisins. Beer, and wodka? Yes. But they do not contain sulphite. And unnatural? During fermentation yeast form sulphite itself. It is impossible to make a wine that is completely free of sulphite.

To show the point of sulphite I did a little test. I cut an apple and gave one half a sulphite bath.




The pictures are quite clear.

Apple juice from the supermarket is pretty brown. Fresh apple juice is not. I am not sure but this seems to indicate a little oxidation.

Personally I am not against using a little sulphite. The advantage of being a hobby wine maker is that you do not risc a fortune. In the worst case you have to throw away 25 liter. Not very nice but you will not be bankrupt. Obviously this is different for big wineries. They are allowed to use up to 7 times what a hobby maker thinks is sufficient.

I never lost a wine because it turned bad. Wine is good at protecting itself creating an acidic, alcoholic environment.

I am not sure of the necessity of sulphite. I have made wine without it and there was no problem with it. But I do believe that it does more good than bad.



P.S. Visit the shop Leven in de Brouwerij.


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Chicken Rice

The people that know me a bit know that I am not very happy with the way we treat food in the Netherlands. A popular joke is:

“What is Dutch food?”

“It is your food but then we mash it and call it stamppot.”

My father is not a brilliant cook, but likes to barbeque. Nobody was allowed to interfere with his work. There was no pre cooked chicken. Awfull. Pre cooked chicken. No, my father would make real chicken on the barbeque according to his philosophy: Black on the outside, raw inside,

And that worked fine. The fat would create fantastic fires! Nowadays there is so much water in chicken that the barbeque almost terminates.

And then there is my mother. She prepared food the rest of the year. Working was unfortunately more important so we ate vegetable porridge instead of vegetables.

I did not learn to to cook from my parents. But that is the only negative thing thing I can say about them. They are the sweetest persons on th planet with a good brain and sense of humour.

But they don’t care about food.


I was lucky to live in singapore for a year. I did not have a live besides work but the food was incredible, Every lunch was “Chicken Rice”.


chicken rice

Nothing special but everyday a party. The chili sauce is incredible. I searched forever but thanks to Christine’s recipes I can eat this again.

Singaporean Chicken Rice

Ingredients: (serves 2)

  • 2 chicken legs

  • 4 to 5 slices ginger

  • 1 spring onion (shallot), sectioned

  • 2 cups white rice, rinsed and drained well

  • 2 tsp minced garlic

  • 1 tsp grated ginger

  • 2 to 3 bay leaves

  • Salt, to taste

  • 2 cups chicken stock

  • Cucumber, few slices for garnish

Iced water for soaking cooked chicken:

  • 1 bowl water, should cover the chicken

  • 20 ice cubes

Chili sauce

  • 2 to 3 chilies (depends on how hot you like)

  • 5 slices ginger

  • 6 cloves garlic

  • 3 Tbsp lime juice

  • 4 Tbsp chicken stock

  • sugar, to taste

  • salt, to taste




  • Heat oil in wok, sauté minced garlic and grated ginger until aromatic.

  • Add drained rice and stir fry for 3 minutes.

  • Toss in bay leaves and pour chicken stock into the rice. Bring to a boil.

  • Transfer to electric cooker and cook rice as usual.

  • Rinse chicken and drain well.

  • Place spring onion and ginger on chicken and steam over high heat, covered with a lid, for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through. Insert a chop stick or needle into the thickest part of chicken leg. If clear liquid runs out, it’s cooked. I

  • mmediately transfer chicken legs into iced water and soak for 15 to 20 minutes. This is an old traditional Chinese way of making the skin and meat of steamed chicken become smoother and tenderer.

  • To prepare chili sauce, just process all ingredients with a food processor for a minute. Add salt and/or sugar to taste.

  • When the chicken legs cool down, drain well.

  • Chop into chunks and serve with cooked chicken rice.

  • Garnish with cucumber slices if desired.

  • Many Chinese people like eating steamed chicken with minced ginger and spring onion sauce. Just heat up a bit oil in wok or saucepan. When the oil becomes very hot, immediately pour the oil onto minced ginger and finely chopped shallot. Add salt or soy sauce to taste. That’s the popular ginger and shallot sauce for chicken. This Hainanese chicken tastes fantastic, accompanying with both chili sauce and minced ginger shallot sauce.


You can buy chicken rice everywhere in Singapore and each stall has it’s own recipe and they are all proud of it, Which is completely justified. If you have ever been to Singapore and did not eat this.. You have not been to Singapore.


P.S. please vistit the shop van Leven in de Brouwerij.


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