Tamazcal Opotunia

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The tamazcal (Nahuatl for “house of heat,” or possibly Aztec for “bath house”) is a sauna-like structure invented by the pre-Columbian inhabitants of Central Mexico, and the region south to present-day Costa Rica. These structures are still in use, performing a similar function as that of a sweat lodge or steam room.

Starting around 7000 BCE, complex agrarian cultures began to form in this region, along with the creation of sedentary agricultural villages, and ceremonial centers. Purification rituals were among the curative ceremonies performed by these indigenous people, designed to rejuvenate the body after battle or a ball game.

Tamazcal: Aztec Sauna or Sweat Lodge

Tamazcal: Aztec Sauna or Sweat Lodge


The way in which these therapies cleanse the body is believed to involve “heat shock proteins” (HSPs) that are created in response to environmental stresses, in this case the high temperature and humid environment of the tamazcal. HSPs are involved in binding antigens and presenting them to the body’s immune system. They also provide an essential role in the formation of other proteins, and in the body’s cellular repair system.

Along with the heat therapy provided by the tamazcal, many practitioners suggest imbibing in another source of HSPs: Opotunia-Ficus-Indica, or prickly pear cactus. The fruit is high in antioxidants, particularly betalains (betanin and indicaxanthin), two molecules that give the juice its nearly fluorescent red color. With a flavor reminiscent of watermelon, the juice is rich in Vitamin C, and is one of the first cures for scurvy! The plant also contains at least five other antioxidant flavinoids. The pulp of the fruit contains the carbohydrates glucose, fructose and starch, proteins, and fibers rich in pectin.

Eleuthero root (Eleutherococcus senticocus)is a medicinal plant native to northeast Asia. It is often referred to as Siberian Ginseng, as it is widespread in North Korea and throughout Northeastern Russia. It is not the same as Panax ginseng, the more common Chinese herbal medicine. Eleuthero is considered an anti-oxidant “adaptogen” that reduces the impact of stress, while stimulating the central nervous system.

Rooibos or “red bush” (Aspalathus linearis) is a broom-like legume growing in the fynbos (shrubland) of the Western Cape of South Africa. The leaves of the plant are used to make a bush tea, which has been popular there for generations. Rooibos leaves are oxidized (“fermented” in tea parlance) to create their red color and complex flavor. They are high in Vitamin C and antioxidant flavonoids. Cinnamic acid gives them a honey-like aroma. Rooibos has a bitter/sweet taste that has been described as slightly pungent and “warm.”

These three ingredients combine in Tamazcal Opotunia with citrus juice and zest to create a potent tonic, cleansing indeed but also a refreshingly cool end to a steamy session in a tamazcal, a hammam, or just a hot August night.

Robert Rivelle George Reveals Secret to Creating Full-Flavored Beverages

Umami-filled Nut Brown Ale

Umami-filled Nut Brown Ale

Have you noticed the proliferation of enticing labels in the craft beverage section of your grocery store or liquor outlet? Perhaps you’ve also noticed the breathtaking prices commanded by these handcrafted drinks. Fermentation master and author Robert Rivelle George certainly did, and decided to share his knowledge with those who enjoy craft drinks but balk at their cost.

His new book The Umami Factor: Full-spectrum Fermentation for the 21st Century, takes on the task of instructing the aspiring or seasoned craftsperson in the secret to creating full-flavored, satisfying beverages at home, the way it was done for centuries.

Umami is the fifth taste, existing alongside the better-known sensations of sweet, sour, salty and bitter. It is the savory taste of amino acids ubiquitous in foods such as yeast, grains, fruit, and roasted meat and vegetables. By exploiting the taste sensation of Umami, a craft-beverage enthusiast can create savory, mouth-watering drinks of all types, hard or soft.

Released this May by Schiffer Publishing, Robert’s book The Umami Factor features a foreword by brew master Norm Chapman of Spencer Hill Cottage Brewery in Grand Forks, and more than 100 color illustrations. These accompany 75 original recipes for beverages spanning the gamut of soft drinks, beer, wine, sake, cider, mead, and even hard liquor. Mr. George explores ancient to modern techniques for producing these beverages, while offering a philosophical perspective to their creation and enjoyment.

“Robert’s philosophic approach to brewing in The Umami Factor is more of a lifestyle than a hobby,” says Maarten Lammers, owner of Nelson’s Art of Brewing. “He has a sense of humor that leaves you laughing out loud. I read with the eyes of a novice, and the eyes of a scientist, and I’ll certainly use the recipes, which are delicious.” Harry Davidson of HD Ventures adds “Like any good book there is drama, intrigue, inebriation, and sex. A complete reference guide to brewing, rich with recipes, menus, instructions and photographs, it leaves no stone unturned.”

The Umami Factor available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

The Umami Factor available from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

History includes a long tradition of brewing, vintning and craft pursuits of all types. The Umami Factor presents a unique way to follow those crafty impulses, and amaze and impress your friends. Robert’s recipes are complex, for you can’t create a complex flavor sensation without a complex recipe. But the book also suggests easy ways to improve even the most prosaic of concoctions. Beginner and expert alike can find very many ways to challenge themselves.

“These are the creations of a man who is a master of his craft. Read this book carefully and keep it by you. You will be a better brewer as a result.” — Norm Chapman, Brew Master, Spencer Hill Cottage Brewery

FAQ: AKA The Umami Factor Elevator Pitch

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WHAT IS THE UMAMI FACTOR?

It’s two things. It’s the title of my new book, and it is the principle for making fermented beverages that provide a complex, mouth-filling, satisfying flavor sensation by balancing multiple aromas with the five tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami.

WHAT IS UMAMI?

Umami is the taste sensation of savory foods. The word is Japanese for “delicious” taste. It’s provided by receptors in your mouth, throat, esophagus, and even stomach that detect the presence of glutamates, which are derived from amino acids. The umami sensation is pleasant for the same reason that “sweet” is pleasant.

The body is cued to detect vital, high-engergy nutrients: carbohydrates with sweet taste, and proteins with umami taste. Natural, unfiltered fermented beverages are packed with umami-producing compounds from the fruits, grains, and yeast they are made of.

WHAT IS FULL SPECTRUM FERMENTATION?

Full-spectrum fermentation describes a process of techniques combined with intricate ingredient formulas that create complex flavor arrangements evoking the response “There’s so much going on there! How did you do that?”

Full-spectrum beverages are complex and improbable, but ultimately well-balanced drinks.

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WHY IS THIS BOOK DIFFERENT?

It takes a full-spectrum look at beverages from soft drinks to hard liquor. It thoroughly discusses the components necessary for flavor balancing. It examines related spectra, such as the inebriation spectrum and the commitment spectrum. It has a textbook approach to data, with a multitude of tables for ingredients and supplies. It provides recipes and detailed instructions, but more importantly it is a call to chefdom for aspiring fermentation artists. Tally Ho!

Buy The Umami Factor now for a substantial pre-release discount here.

Announcing! UMAMI Factor–The Book!

Now available for pre-ordering at a substantial discount!

Now available for pre-ordering at a substantial discount!

You’re about to be introduced to the UMAMI factor, the secret to sensational homemade beverages, including spirits, wine, beer, soft drinks, kombucha, and more. Chances are you may not have heard of umami, the taste impression created by certain amino acids in a food or beverage. Now you know. Starting the novice off right with a thorough understanding of “full-spectrum” fermentation theory,the book dives into the various preparation techniques and shows how umami-producing ingredients create beverages with a sensation of balance and roundness on the palate, tongue, nose, and even throat. More than 75 recipes, including all the beverages here, plus sharp insight, and handy tips help the amateur fermentation chef conquer the next frontier in beverage science. Even the most experienced of fermentation aficionados will discover a philosophical yet practical approach to further exploration. Pre-order now from Amazon.com and save 21% over the cover price!

Germano-Bohemian Lager

GB PilsPWGermano-Bohemian Lager marries the idea of rich, full Bohemian Pilsner with the crisp bitterness and clean flavor characteristic of North German lager.

The recipe uses floor-malted Bohemian Pilsner malt, made from Bohemian spring barley. This malt shows a wider color range among individual grains than malt processed by modern pneumatic malting methods, with their tighter temperature control. The result is a fuller malty flavor, with a bit of residual sweetness. It is slightly under-modified however, and will benefit from an acid rest and protein rest.

The mash bill uses 3% acidulated malt to lower mash pH, in the German manner, which prohibits additives such as organic acids to do so. In soft water this is enough to bring the pH down to about 5.2 in a full-grain recipe.

Munich malt contributes a mild toasty bread flavor to the brew. Carapils is a high dextrin malt that provides foam stability and full body to the beer while adding very little flavor.

Because the starting gravity is a bit above the high-end of the range typical for North German Pilsner (which is around 13 Plato), the hopping rate is also a bit higher than the typical example (which is 35-45 IBU).

Malta Macho

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Malt-flavored soft drinks are popular in Latin America, where they go by the name Malta. The drink originated in Germany, where it was called malzbier. In that early version, the beverage was fermented to less than 2% ABV, then bottled and pasteurized, leaving considerable residual sugar. Modern commercial versions use corn syrup, malt extract and artificial carbonation.

This recipe calls for an all-malt approach with no fermentation, and adds a bit of herb tea to expand the flavor sensation. Easy to make, it is prepared as fully non-alcoholic syrup, and carbonated with club soda. The recipe is inexact with regard to herbs, so experiment with proportions to suit your taste.
The accompanying photo shows a malta made with two grams of whole Fuggle hops for every four liters of beverage. They have not been boiled with the malt, and so the flavor and aroma are prominent, but the bitterness is quite mild. The sweetness is there, but is subtly balanced by the hop addition.

To create a drink with even more complex flavor, with considerably more effort you can try an all-grain version. Mash base and specialty grains as you would for beer, collecting about 1.5 liters of liquid.

Heat water to 70 C, add cracked caramel malts in grain bag, steep 30 minutes and remove. Drain liquid from grains and add water to bring back to 1.2 L. Heat water to 100 C, remove from heat. Stir in malt extract and herbs. Cool one hour. Dispense 150 ml into each of eight 500 ml swing-top bottles.

Freeze syrup in bottles, top up with soda water, store in refrigerator. When the frozen syrup has thawed, gently agitate the bottles to suspend the ingredients. After 24 hours any grain flour or trub will again sink to the bottom, leaving the flavor and color components suspended. The liquid can be decanted off the sediment to serve a more clear drink.

Coachman’s Double Andover Stout

AndoverDstoutWIn 1973 an American with a taste for good beer and little money to buy expensive imports had few options. There were some widely scattered retail shops selling wine-making supplies. At that time brewing beer was illegal, but buying the makings was not. A look inside these shops revealed that they often sold the ingredients for beer too. In fact, since the ingredients were food items, there wasn’t even a tax on them.

Along with ingredients such as canned malt extract, and perhaps some crystal and black malt, there were dried ale yeasts by Edme, and Red Star. Vierka offered light and Munich dark lager yeast. There were also a couple of books available that were pretty simplistic by today’s standards, but were enough to get one started. With a bit of reading it was possible to brew a first batch that was excellent.

C.J.J. Berry’s Home Brewed Beers and Stouts was first published in 1963, shortly after the law changed in England making home brewing legal without a brewer’s licence or duty payment. This was the first book in modern times to deal with the process in sufficient detail to ensure a successful enterprise. An instant success, it sold more than 300,000 copies over four editions.

The recipe names in the book reflect the locale from which a beer example has been drawn. One of these is the town of Andover, Hampshire. A major stage coach stop on the Exeter-London road during the 18th and 19th centuries, it’s no surprise that Andover was known for its heavy, satisfying stout.
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In England, circa 1963, it was possible to find numerous bottle-conditioned beers containing yeast samples from their respective breweries. In that sphere at least, the home brewer was afforded a respectable range of possibilities, and Berry’s book suggests exploiting the situation. This recipe similarly takes advantage of the 21st Century’s availability of obscure English yeast strains by employing a Platinum English strain from White Labs’ yeast bank. East Midlands yeast, with its dry finish, low ester production and moderate alcolol tolerance, is comparable to the more familiar Nottingham strain.

This adaptation of Andover Stout, while inspired by the C. J. J. Berry book, also pays homage to William Black’s Brown Stout of 1849, a recipe discovered by the Durden Park Beer Club. That brew featured amber and brown malts, along with the black malt.
Coachman’s adds a full-spectrum touch by taking advantage of the even wider variety of ingredients now available.

A double stout, coming down the highway at 7.8% ABV, this is a monumental beer. A coach and six taking you to the coast.