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Thursday, August 30, 2012

New Beer Friday - August 31 Edition

By Chris Siciliano

In all the years I worked the floor at Siciliano's there was one beer-related question that was asked exponentially more than any other: "Do you guys have that beer from Colorado, Fat Tire I think it's called?" Used to be we could only say, "Sorry, no, it's not available east of the Mississippi." As of Monday we can finally say, "Actually, yes, we have plenty."

That feels pretty good and tastes even better. It also leaves a void to be filled by another question. My guess is it will be this one: "Do you guys have that beer from California, Pliny the Younger I think it's called?"

Not yet we don't. But judging from the current trend, maybe it's only a matter of time.

New (and Returning) Beer

  • New Belgium Fat Tire, $3.99/22oz - "Named in honor of our co-founder's bike trip through Europe, Fat Tire Amber Ale marks a turning point in the young electrical engineer's home brewing. Belgian beers use a far broader palette of ingredients (fruits, spices, esoteric yeast strains) than German or English styles. Together with co-founder, Kim Jordan, they traveled around sampling their homebrews to the public. Fat Tire won fans with its sense of balance: toasty, biscuit-like malt flavors coasting in equilibrium with hoppy freshness" (source).
  • New Belgium Red Hoptober, $3.99/22oz - "Fall is here and with it our seasonal ale, Red Hoptober. Shining like autumn leaves in a globe glass this beer pours a dark and lovely garnet as it builds a bright, inviting head. The Eldorado hops are bold and present with a distinct, piney flavor while the caramel malt and roasted barley provide a backbone to stand Red Hoptober upright. Centennial and Cascade hops offer hints of citrus, tickling the nose, while the tongue carries a subtle, roasty tone that pairs pleasantly with the warming bite of bitter. Red Hoptober is perfect for shortening days and campfire nights" (source).
  • New Belgium Ranger IPA, $3.99/22oz - "Bring out the hops! This clear amber beauty bursts at the starting gate with an abundance of hops: Cascade (citrus), Chinook (floral/citrus), and Simcoe (fruity) lead off the beer, with Cascade added again for an intense dry hop flavor. Brewed with pale and dark caramel malts that harmonize the hop flavor from start to finish, Ranger is a sessionable splendor for all you hopinistas" (source).
  • New Belgium Trippel, $3.99/22oz - "Our Trippel Belgian Style Ale (pronounced triple) opens with a bold blast of hops that slowly gives way to the fruity esters implied by our Belgian yeast strain. In the Belgian tradition of brewing singles, doubles and triples, Trippel is the strongest with the longest fermentation. Remarkably smooth and complex, our bottle-conditioned Trippel is spiced with a trace of coriander" (source).
  • New Belgium Shift Pale Lager, $2.29/16oz can - "New Belgium employee-owners work in shifts to brew to life world-class beers. Those efforts are rewarded daily with a shared end-of-shift beer. We’re passing that welcomed occasion onto consumers in this lightly-hopped Shift Pale Lager. From work to play, from bottle to can, from bold and heavy to refreshing and sessionable; Shift salutes the shift in occasion, package and beer. So, go ahead and get your Shift beer, you’ve earned it" (source).
  • Kuhnhenn Braggot, $9.69/12oz - "Gold to amber color. Strong earthy honey aroma, medium sweetness, honey dominates over the malt character. Pours a nice head. This mead is made from Michigan Star Thistle honey. Braggot is made from 2/3 honey and 1/3 malt. It required 1 year of aging for this mead to reach maturity. This Braggot will handle age beautifully. We recommend you try a bottle today and an aged one in a few more years. This mead is carbonated naturally in the bottle, so there will be a yeast sediment int he bottom. Recommended serving temperature is 50 F. This example is one of just a few Braggots available in the world" (source).
  • Dogfish Head Punkin, $2.59/12oz - "A full-bodied brown ale with smooth hints of pumpkin and brown sugar. We brew our Punkin Ale with pumpkin meat, organic brown sugar and spices. As the season cools, this is the perfect beer to warm up with" (source).
  • Harpoon Pumpkin UFO, $1.69/12oz - "Imagine a pumpkin vine wound its way in a field of barley, and a brewer harvested it all to make a beer. Add Northwestern hops and a blend of spices, and you’ve got UFO Pumpkin. The malt combination provides a smooth body and slightly sweet flavor, which balances perfectly with the earthy notes derived from the pure pumpkin. And like all of our UFO beers, UFO Pumpkin is unfiltered so all the wonderful flavors are right there in your glass" (source).
  • Breckenridge Autumn Ale, $1.79/12oz - "Our fall seasonal combines the malty goodness of a German lager with the clean crispness of an American ale. Brewed with Munich malts and a delicate blend of Bavarian hops, it's a full-bodied treat with a nutty-sweet middle, a warming alcohol level and notes of toasted grains. A pre-winter winner" (source).
  • Arcadia Jaw Jacker Ale, $1.79/12oz - "Jaw-Jacker balances our finest malted barley with a bit-o-wheat and is complimented with a citrus hop kick and just the right amount of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice for a nice marriage of pumpkin pie and beer. Made in the fall to celebrate the changing of the season" (source).
  • Jolly Pumpkin De Viento, $15.79/25oz - "A dark and smoky sour Saison full of rich aromatic coffee and the spicy heat of a secret Algerian spice blend. Proceeds go to the Dexter Relief Fund" (source).
  • Sierra Nevada Tumbler, $1.59/12oz - "As the nights grow cool, the leaves on the valley oaks begin to turn and fall. In honor of this yearly dance, we bring you Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale and invite you to enjoy the show. We use malt within days of roasting at the peak of its flavor to give Tumbler a gracefully smooth malt character. So pour a glass, and grab a window seat to watch as the leaves come tumbling down" (source).
  • St. Ambroise Pumpkin, $2.59/12oz - "Brewed with victory malt and has a less pronounced hop profile that allows the spices to come to the fore and contributes to a harmonious, balanced brew. September to December" (source).
Picture of the Week

Sierra Nevada Brewery brass kettles
(Read the account of the Boss' trip to SN by clicking here)


Greetings from Beer Camp

By Steve Siciliano

Last week Barb and I accompanied Siciliano’s Homebrew Contest 2012 Best-of-Show winner Russ Smith on a three-day visit to the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico, California. Russ and fellow Muskegon Ottawa Brewers (MOB) member Tim Borreson participated in Sierra Nevada’s 87th Beer Camp during which they and fellow campers designed and brewed a beer that they named “On The Rocks Scotch Ale.” (Hot rocks were immersed in the boiling kettle.) We should be seeing a few kegs of this creation in our market within the coming months. While Barb and I did not attend Beer Camp we were given a tour the brewery’s state of the art facilities and were treated to exceptional food and outstanding beer in Sierra Nevada’s taproom and restaurant.

After flying into Sacramento, we set off on the hour and a half car ride up to Chico. We had time to kill so Tim used his phone to search for a brew pub and we found one in Yuba City. Sutter Buttes Brewing takes its name from the Sutter Buttes, a range of eroded volcanic lava domes that abruptly rise above the flat plains of the northern Sacramento Valley just west of Yuba City. We were all impressed with this little brewery’s solid beers and excellent sandwiches.

When we arrived in Chico, we checked into our hotel then immediately made the short drive to Sierra Nevada where we met up with Russ and Tim’s fellow brewers and the SN employees who run the two-day camp. While sipping a pint of Kellerweis in the pub portion of the taproom/restaurant I surveyed the large, high-ceilinged room. Elegant may be a word that seems incongruous when describing a brewery’s taproom; nevertheless it appropriately depicts the atmosphere created by the beveled stained glass, polished copper and dark oak.

But while the taproom and restaurant are indeed elegantly appointed the atmosphere is anything but stuffy. The casually dressed, eclectic crowd was a mix of tourists and locals and among the folks enjoying a pint in the pub were Sierran Nevada owner Ken Grossman, his brother Steve, and head brewer Steve Dresler. Later that evening we all gathered in the adjoining restaurant where we were treated to more Sierra Nevada taproom offerings and an excellent dinner.

The next day after lunch in the restaurant Barb and I along with Kent Beverage sales rep Jim Paauwe and his wife Vickie were given a tour of the brewery. Sierra Nevada is currently the sixth largest brewing company in the United Sates, a fact that was underscored by the two hours it took us to walk through the extensive facilities (stopping occasionally, of course, to sample from the bright tanks). Everything about the state of the art brewery was impressive—the huge mash tuns and the gleaming copper kettles, the immense stainless steel fermenters, the seemingly endless rows of bright tanks and the high-tech bottling and packaging lines. That evening we attended a concert in The Big Room, the brewery’s onsite live music venue, where we enjoyed another delicious meal and, of course, more pints of Sierra Nevada beer.

On Friday, while Russ and Tim were brewing with their fellow campers, we took a day trip with the Paauwes to LaRocca Vineyards, a family-run, totally organic winery (no chemicals, no added sulphites) located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. We were warmly greeted by patriarch Phil LaRocca who gave us a brief tour of his small facility and then brought us out to a high-sloping vineyard planted with cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir. It is indeed a wonderful experience for a home winemaker to taste varietal grapes you pluck from the vine while listening to the winemaking philosophy of a twenty-five year professional. Afterwards we sat on Phil’s wooden front porch, looked out at the vineyards and tasted his excellent wines. Three hours later we were still looking, and still tasting the wine.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Local Group Protests Beer Labels, Names

In this photo from Buzz archives
people wait in line for KBS, NOT to protest.
By Joseph P. Sprinklehead, roving Buzz reporter and resident satirist. In other words, the dude who makes stuff up.

Grand Rapids, Michigan - A spokesperson for The Association Dedicated to the Eradication of Naughty Words from Craft Beer Labels (ADENWCBL) has announced that members of the national organization will be holding a demonstration this Saturday outside a popular Grand Rapids brewery.

Maurice Potter, head of the West Michigan chapter of the ADENWCBL, said yesterday that members from chapters from all across the country will be gathering outside Founders Brewing's Grandville Avenue location to protest the brewery’s use of “highly objectionable words” on one of its bestselling beer labels.

“There’s absolutely no reason why they have to use dirty words to market their product,” Potter said in a phone interview, noting that companies such as Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors have enjoyed great success with their portfolios of inoffensively named brands. “Look at Bud, Miller, Coors, Keystone and Natural Light. Those are all clean, wholesome names. I could go on and on.”

Potter said he understands why a brewery would want to use a unique name to draw attention to a product but believes there are plenty of non-offensive words in the English language with which to do this. “I get the whole marketing thing,” he said. “In fact I took a couple of courses at an online university.” He suggested that Founders could change Dirty Bastard to “Grubby Person Born of Unmarried Parents” and Raging Bitch, a beer produced by Maryland’s Flying Dog Brewery, could be changed to “Seething Female Canine” with no adverse effects.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday Review: Glenkinchie 12 & Isle of Jura Superstition

By John Barecki

Before getting into specifics, I would first like to touch on some facts about the general regions where Scotch whisky comes from. There are five distinct areas (as well as Campbeltown, which is hard to get) where whisky is made: the Highlands, Lowlands, Speyside, Islands and Islay. Each individual place adds different characteristics presented by the terroir, or land features, usually in the way of air, water, ground, plant life and so on. I will start with my favorite at the moment, Islay.

Situated off the mainland, this island of Islay hosts eight different distilleries that create for the most part a high octane flavourful whisky that usually has a medicinally, peat-smoke-filled palate accompanied by a balanced malt note and a bit of brininess brought on by aging by the sea in open-air facilities (ex. Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Lagauvulin).

Next we have the Highlands, which encompass the north, west and east of the mainland. Whisky from here can have a wide variety of tastes that include dry to sweet as well as a touch of smoke and peat. A few good distilleries in this area include Glenmorangie, Dalmore and Edradour. Moving on, Speyside is the largest in the way of sheer numbers, holding half of all Scotland's distilleries. This area produces a mellow, sweet, and particularly fruity malt and is home to the Macallan and Glenfiddich. The Islands and Lowlands are the final two of the bunch and are both part of my Scotch review this week.

The Islands are similar to the Highlands in that they can range from light and sweet to malty and peat smoked, but predominately balanced (ex. Highland Park, Isle of Jura). The Lowlands are interesting in that they employ a triple distillation method used only by a handful of whisky makers in the world, Jameson and Woodford Reserve to name a couple. The malts produced are light and smooth, usually having a floral, grassy taste with subtle delicate aromas (ex. Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie). The two malts I will be touching on in this review are the Glenkinchie 12 year and the Isle of Jura Superstition. Both superb examples from their separate regions, and both very enjoyable.

The Glenkinchie 12 Year ($59.95) is made in the outlying farmland around Edinburgh and is the replacement for the original 10 Year. Bringing a more mature whisky to the palate, it's a typical Lowland whisky in that it is fresh and light in character. The nose is full of grist and fresh grain character with some subtle sweetness. On the palate it is quite smooth which is typical to most triple distilled whiskies: a nice light pear with notes of lemon, some cereal grain and a bit of grassy taste (in a good way). The finish has just the slightest hint of peat and is followed by an absolutely lovely apple brandy taste that lingers until you wash it back with another sip. This is a great before and after dinner dram and a great introduction to the world of single malts.

Isle of Jura Superstition ($56.98) has an Egyptian ankh symbol on the bottle which roughly translated means eternal life. The superstition goes that if you pour your dram with the ankh in the center of your palm you will be granted good health and fortune. The whisky itself is a blend of single malts of various ages all three to eight years old, but they throw in a touch of 20 plus year old to create depth and complexity. The whisky pours a golden amber, floating a dessert-like aroma full of caramel and sweet cereal notes with cinnamon and just a slight smoke peeking through at the end. On the palate it is well rounded, frosted spice cake with dark fruit and a light underlying white pepper. With water added it subsides into the young bare bones reflected in the barley flavors reminiscent of a wee heavy or young barley wine. The finish holds on just enough to make you go back for more.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Michigan Beer Cup, Recap

The Michigan Beer Cup & Homebrew Festival took place August 16-19, 2012. Here's our official recap of events.

Photo courtesy of the
MI Homebrew Fest Facebook page
By Greg 'Swig' Johnson

To fill the void left by the Michigan State Fair, several Michigan homebrew clubs and businesses have stepped in and stepped up to create the Michigan Beer Cup. Now in its third year, this is a great competition for homebrewers across the state to bring forth their best efforts and to get them in front of judges. 

Siciliano's is proud to be a part of the sponsorship for this contest as well as the resulting homebrew festival, which, speaking from experience, is a blast to attend. Think Siciliano's Annual Homebrew Party and then multiply by ten since this festival spans several days with camping and more beer from more people and even more homebrew clubs.

Generally speaking, it's an exciting time in the Michigan craft beer world. Grand Rapids is tied with Ashville, NC for Beer City USA, seemingly countless breweries are opening all around the peninsulas, and every day brings more homebrewers to the hobby all of whom are helping to advance the craft. We are extremely proud to be a part of the homebrewing and craft beer movement and look forward to even grander events to be hosted in Michigan.

With all that said, I would love point out the winners and honorable mentions from the West Michigan area. I hope I spotted them all. (For the complete list, go to this website.) But first we will honor the overall awards.

Michigan Beer Cup - Overall Award Winners

MBC Club of the Year 
Kuhnhenn Guild of Brewers 

Best of Show, Beer 
Tom Lebel
Miss the Buss Common, 07-B California Common 

Best of Show, Ciders 
Jeff Carlson
Westside New England Cider, 28-A New England Cider 

Best of Show, Meads 
Mike Winnie
Beam Mead, 26-C Open Category Mead 

West Michigan Honorees (Club affiliation in parentheses)

Jeff Carlson (Primetime Brewers) 
Peach Ridge Cider, 27-A Common Cider - 2nd Siver 
Westside New England Cider, 8-A New England Cider - 1st Gold 
Westside Cherry Cider, 28-B Fruit Cider - 2nd Silver 
Sweet Heat Jalapano Cider, 28-D Other Specialty Cider or Perry – Honorable Mention 
Westside Atomic Cider, 28-D Other Specialty Cider or Perry – Honorable Mention 

John Applegarth (Primetime Brewers) 
Common Perry – 27-D Common Perry - 1st Gold 

Joel Kamp & Chris Carr (Muskegon Ottawa Brewers) 
Berlin Burb, 23-A Specialty Beer - 3rd Bronze 

Brent Zomerlei (Primetime Brewers) 
London Calling, 08-C Extra/Special Strong Bitter – Honorable Mention 

Ross Ziegenthaler (Muskegon Ottawa Brewers): 
Willows Old Nessy, 09-C Scottish Export 80/- – Honorable Mention 

Chad Zomerlei (Primetime Brewers) 
60 Shilling Ale, 09-A Scottish Light 60/- – Honorable Mention 
Stoned Porter, 12-B Robust Porter – Honorable Mention 

Jason Warnes (Brewsquitos) 
10-A American Pale Ale – Honorable Mention 
23-A Specialty Beer - 1st Gold 

Dave Secord & Kevin Christensen (Yeast Coasters) 
14-C Imperial IPA – Honorable Mention 
14-B American IPA – Honorable Mention 

Joel Kamp (Muskegon Ottawa Brewers) 
Wild Chunky Monkey, 16-E Belgian Specialty Ale – Honorable Mention 
Super Freak Stout, 23-A Specialty Beer – Honorable Mention 

Troy Redder (Muskegon Ottawa Brewers) 
Squirrel Killer Saison, 16-C Saison – Honorable Mention 

Kevin Christensen & Trevor Delabare (Yeast Coasters) 
B3, 18-C Belgian Tripel – Honorable Mention 

I would like to take this moment to congratulate all who participated. Awards or no, your participation helps to ensure that events like this continue to to happen in the future. I especially would like to commend those who received medals: your diligence and due process has proven fruitful. I tried to list all who were mentioned from West Michigan. However, if I have missed someone from our region, please inform me and we'll update the list.

For more information on these awesome events, please check out the links below:

Finally, a big thanks to all the organizers for putting this even together. Thank you for your continuing and relentless commitment to homebrewing in the state of Michigan.

Friday, August 24, 2012

New Beer Friday - August 24 Edition

iPod, Siciliano's style
By Chris Siciliano

Anybody who's been by the store lately will have maybe noticed the Pod sitting pretty in the back parking lot. We'll leave it up to you our loyal readers to devine the Pod's true purpose at Siciliano's, though the least we can do is give you some options from which to choose. See below for your list of choices, all eminently believable, but only one of which is true.

The Pod is there because (a) we need more room to store all that extra product we intend to sell during our annual homebrew sale; (b) Siciliano's is moving to the small town of Rye, PA, where the streets are awash with the slightly spicy, hoppy brew after which (we believe) the town is named; (c) in an effort to devote himself completely to the pursuit of homebrew, one obsessive homebrewer has set up camp in the back parking lot; or (d) the Pod is empty, an elaborate ruse set-up only for the purpose of this New Beer Friday.

Any guesses which (if any) is true?

New (and Returning) Beer

  • Lagunitas Imperial Stout, $4.79/22oz - "Dark and thick like your favorite dessert with a Bonus. Highly roasted malted barley, and plenty of it, gives the beer uncommon richness and smoky, roasty depth… kinda like a hydraulic sandwich in a glass" (source).
  • Harpoon 100 Barrel Series #43 - White IPA, $6.69/22oz - "Citrus and floral hop notes complement this refreshing, slightly spicy beer" (source).
  • Harpoon Octoberfest, $1.49/12oz - "Several malts, including Munich and chocolate, deliver the malty character. The delicate hop aroma is not overpowering and the Willamette hops provide a gentle bitterness which balance well with the residual sweetness" (source).
  • Avery The Kaiser Imperial Octoberfest Lager, $8.19/12oz - "The Kaiser once said, 'Give me a woman who loves beer and I will conquer the world.' If the Kaiser and his significant other had tipped this bottle, we’d all be 'sprechenden Deutsch!' We took all that is good in a traditional Oktoberfest – gorgeous, deep copper sheen, massive malty backbone and spicy, floral, pungent noble hops – then intensified each into this, an Imperial Oktoberfest" (source).
  • Southern Tier Harvest, $1.69/12oz - "Harvest Ale is our celebration of the changing weather and the sowing of hops and barley that will be used in our upcoming brews. We usher in the fall with a classic English style Extra Special Bitter of the highest order. Deep ruby in color with an even deeper hop flavor… in fact, we throw fresh English hops into every brewing vessel, then dry hop after fermentation to impart a zesty kick. This beer has real hop character that mingles with fresh malted barley for an experience that will make you wish it were fall year ‘round" (source).
  • Southern Tier Phin & Matt Extraordinary Ale, 1.69/12oz - "A beer so fresh and tasty the duo put their names on it" (source).
  • New Holland Ichabod Pumpkin, $1.79/12oz - "Ichabod combines malted barley and real pumpkin with cinnamon and nutmeg in a delicious and inviting brew. A rewarding complement to many dishes, Ichabod pairs well with autumnal foods such as poultry and root vegetables. After dinner, try it with your favorite dessert!" (source).
  • Atwater Blocktoberfest, $1.69/12oz - "Brewed with 100% German malt for a rich taste and amber color" (source).
  • Point Oktoberfest, $1.19/12oz - "Originally brewed a couple hundred years ago to celebrate the betrothal of the Crown Prince of Bavaria, we’re helping keep the tradition alive by brewing it every fall for all of our royal/loyal followers. We continue the celebration by traditionally brewing this special malty amber lager in August and September. Blue Point Brewing’s Oktoberfest lager is stored cold for two months to ensure its distinct smooth flavor" (source).
Picture of the Week

Beer Camp, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co,
Chico, CA 


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Learning Tradition at Great Lakes Traditional Arts Gathering

By John Barecki

Two weeks ago my now-fiance and I experienced the Great Lakes Traditional Arts Gathering (GLTAG) on Drummond Island on the east side of the upper peninsula. This program has been going on for close to 20 years in the hopes of keeping traditional teachings alive. In past years, the event was held on Bois Blanc Island just east of the Mackinaw bridge. Just this year they have acquired the land on Drummond and will be there for at least five years.

If you go to the event's website, it reads "Celebrating our Region’s Rich Heritage through Meaningful Learning Experiences," and if you truly immerse yourself in this world you will come away with an adventure of a lifetime. Besides being on one of our beautiful islands of the Great Lakes, you have your pick of classes specializing in one of the following: finding and identifying food and medicine in the plants around you; historic technology and crafts; metal, fiber and textile arts; language and oral traditions (this year's native tongue was of the Anishinaabe people). There are also classes in using nature as your building materials (for birch bark canoes, for example), wilderness navigation and weather prediction, and an introduction to falconry, just to name a few.

The program lasts four days and they pack in a lot information. Each class could easily take up the entire day, but the instructors take in the allotted people and allow anyone to sit in and listen. The island itself is gorgeous and very easy to navigate, with a portion of Alvar landscape to the north. Alvar is a type of landscape made up of limestone plains and is only found in four other areas on the planet; it supports a handful of plant species that only exists there. While in the area, we tracked down the fossil ledges on the lakeshore which do in fact hold fossils of corals and other lifeforms from another time a breathtaking sight. This is where I proposed. [Editor's note: Congratulations, John and Rachael!]

Overall the things we experienced, the people we met, and the new friends we made are enough to make us participants for life. I can fully recommend this to anyone that has any interest in where we came from as a people and how we can better ourselves in something meaningful.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Convenience Store Stories: The Natural Order

Fiction by Steve Siciliano

There was a time when the Creston Heights neighborhood was known as “the bloody fifth,” a moniker it acquired because of its location in the city’s fifth ward and because of a rather gruesome murder/suicide involving an ax and a shotgun that dominated the headlines of the Grand Rapids Herald for weeks. It was predominately a German neighborhood back then, a solid neighborhood despite the pejorative sobriquet, inhabited for the most part by first generation immigrants who had come to the city to work in the gypsum mines and furniture factories.

After the war (the first war), a group of area merchants formed an association, threw fifty dollars in a pot and held a contest to give the neighborhood an official name. Helen Kaufman, a day-dreaming sixteen year old who loved roaming the northeast side’s still undeveloped, pine-forested hills, was awarded the prize money for her winning submission of Creston Heights.

Michael Adams met Helen on an April morning years later, when she came into his store for the weekly lottery. That day she told him she was eighty-five, that she had lived in the Creston neighborhood her entire life, and that the site of the store he recently purchased, C’s Liquors, was once a butcher shop owned by her uncle and grandfather. Through the spring, summer and fall of that year Helen walked the two blocks to C’s every Wednesday. When Michael saw her walking to the store one day on icy sidewalks after the season’s first snow, he volunteered to bring the tickets to her. During those weekly visits Michael sat at the dining room table with a cup of tea and listened to Helen reminisce about the neighborhood.

He heard about the splendid streetcars that used to run up and down Plainfield Avenue and about the day a frightened-to-death bear cub climbed up a telephone pole. She told him about the magnificent Fourth of July celebrations, the marvelous Labor Day parades and how she would go to the Creston Theater for glorious Saturday afternoon matinees. She told him that the ghastly tattoo shop was once a bakery, the horrible pawn shop a hardware, and that the drug store that was in the now abandoned building next to his store had a wonderful soda fountain. She numbered off all the businesses that had closed—the bank, the florist and the grocery, the shoe repair shop, the barber shop, the candy store—and lamented the neighborhood’s once-tidy houses, beautiful flower gardens and well-kept lawns.

One day Helen brought out some old photo albums that she and Michael leafed through while they sipped their tea. “How long were you married, Helen?” he asked.

“Forty years,” she said. “He died from a bad heart.”

“Do you have children?”

Helen fingered a small gold crucifix hanging on a delicate chain around her neck. “We had three. Danny was killed on Iwo Jima. He was only twenty. Marie. Marie died in a car crash when she was thirty-three. I still have Laura, but…”


“She’s dying. I pray every day that I go before her. I’ve already buried two. I don’t want to bury another.” She touched a black and white photograph of three smiling children sitting on a porch stoop. “All my friends are dead. You learn how to accept that. But parents should always go before their children. Of course that’s the way it should be. It’s the natural order, Michael.”

The following Monday a frail, middle-aged woman wearing a stocking cap came into C’s and walked up to the sales counter. “I’m looking for Michael,” she said.

“I’m Michael.”

“My mother wanted you to have this.”

“Your mother?”

“Helen Kaufman,” the lady said. “She wanted you to have this.”

Michael looked at the black and white photograph and then back at the lady. “Is Helen alright?” Helen Kaufman’s last surviving child looked out the store’s plate glass windows, wiped at her eyes, and shook her head no.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Tuesday Review: Barski

IMG_3474 By Steve Siciliano

I had heard a lot of good things about the food at Barski, so on a recent weekend trip with my father to his cabin in Lake County I made it a point to stop at this M-37 tavern just north of Baldwin, Michigan for a Friday evening supper.

Barski’s is a relatively new business that opened in a vacant building that was once the site of another watering hole called Ski’s. Perhaps the new name is the new proprietor’s way of paying homage to the former incarnation.

I was in the mood for a burger so I focused on that part of the extensive menu that also includes appetizers, sandwiches, steaks, fish, pasta and Mexican. I chose the Barski’s Burger; my dad Sam opted for the all-you-can-eat fish dinner, and to whet our appetites I ordered a plate of sweet and sour pork cutlets.

The cutlets were superb. The large slices of pork, coated in a tempura batter and deep fried, were accompanied by a tasty, made-from-scratch dipping sauce that had chunks of fresh pineapple. The large burger came with a generous slice of ham, a fried egg and a relish of chopped dill pickles. After two bites I decided that the only way to attack the juicy mélange was with a knife and fork. Sam’s fish dinner was also very good. The filets were coated with the same tempura batter and then deep fried to a golden brown. Both meals were accompanied by generous sides of fries and slaw.

Barski’s is building a solid reputation as being a roadside diner that offers fresh ingredients and friendly service. It is a winning combination. I have a feeling that if you stop by this M-37 tavern for lunch or dinner you won’t be disappointed.

Barski’s 4016 S. M37, Baldwin, MI 49304. Hours of business: Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 12 a.m., and Sunday noon to midnight.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

New Beer Friday, August 17 Edition

IMG_3460 By Chris Siciliano

Richard, Duke of York. Davy Crockett. Mae West. Robert DeNiro. Sean Penn. Jon Gruden. Christian Laettner. Donnie Wahlberg. Antwaan Randle El. Dustin Pedroia.

Each of the individuals named above has something very special in common with Siciliano's big bossman, Steve Siciliano. Any guesses?

Here's a hint. Just bringing it up is liable to get this blog writer fired. So, in case you don't hear from me next week, enjoy this week's list of new arrivals!

New (and Returning) Beer

  • Vivant Brewer's Reserve Contemplation, $3.39/16oz - "An ale brewed with Michigan honey & locally grown hops" (source).
  • Sixpoint Brownstone, $2.59/12oz - "Sixpoint Brownstone is based upon one of my favorite and most popular homebrew recipes; an instant classic that I’ve been brewing since my college days. The most distinguishing characteristic of the Brownstone is its aroma of fresh-baked bread, which is accomplished by using generous portions of classic Belgian specialty malt. In addition, I use a very small portion of the same malt you would find in a stout, which lends a roasted quality in addition to the usual chocolate and nutty qualities you might find in a typical brown ale. Although brown ales typically emphasize malty sweetness, I find a balance must remain if the hop bitterness is diminished. As a result, I carefully blend ten different malt varieties and keep the Brownstone only mildly hopped. Instead of hop bitterness providing the balance, I achieve a balance among the flavors of malt: the deep caramel and malt flavors are balanced by notes of rich toffee, chocolate, a slight nuttiness and a roasted tang. It is a true session ale" (source).
  • O'Fallons Pumpkin Beer, $1.69/12oz - "Brewed with Pumpkin and Spices (Cinnamon Sticks, Nutmeg and Cloves)" (source).
  • Schmaltz & Terrapin Collaboration Reunion Ale 2012, $7.19/22oz - "Reunion Ale and the great cause the comes with it is back for another year. Terrapin and Shmaltz Brewing have teamed back on up on another edition. The 2012 collaborative effort is much like last years release, except that chili peppers didn’t make the cut. A small cast change – cinnamon (the spice, not the stripper) joins the group" (source).
  • Hofbrau Oktoberfest, $1.79/12oz - "The Munich Beer Festival, or Oktoberfest, is an event of superlatives - it’s the largest popular festival in the world, staging in the beer metropolis of Munich. Millions of visitors from all over the world flock along every year to enjoy its very special atmosphere. For this occasion, Hofbräu brews a rich, full-bodied beer which goes down ideally with traditional Bavarian cuisine. With its deliciously bitter taste and alcoholic content of 6.3% volume, Hofbräu Oktoberfestbier is as special as the Beer Festival itself" (source).
  • Buffalo Bill's Pumpkin Ale, $1.59/12oz - "An amber style ale, originally brewed by George Washington, brewed with fresh roasted pumpkins, malted barley. Cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg are added. Bottled form is brewed under contract by Portland Brewing Co." (source).
  • Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Sumpin', $1.99/12oz - "Way smooth and silky with a nice wheaty-esque-ish-ness. Just the little sumpin’ sumpin’ we all need to kick Summer into full swing! Ingredients: Hops, Malt, Hops, Hops, Yeast, Hops, Water, and Hops" (source).
  • Pyramid Apricot Ale, $1.59/12oz - "Apricot Ale perfectly combines the taste and aroma of fresh apricot with the smooth finish of a traditional wheat beer. It’s refreshingly unfiltered character and fruit flavor make it an ale worth savoring" (source).
  • Sam Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale, $1.59/12oz - "A perennial favorite at our brewery Halloween party, Samuel AdamsHarvest Pumpkin Ale is brewed with over 17 pounds of real pumpkin per barrel, adding a full body and sweetness to this dark reddish amber brew. Deep roasted malts, including a smoked malt, lend a distinct roasted character while traditional pumpkin pie spices give the beer a subtle spice note" (source).
  • Leinenkugel Big Eddy Imperial IPA, $2.99/12oz - "Bright golden orange color, big citrus hop nose, immediate hop bitter upfront that leads to a nice malt balance and finishes long and dry, made with Warrior, Cascade, Simcoe and Amarillo hops backed by Munich Caramel and Pale Ale malts" (source).
  • Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen, $3.79/500ml - "Ayinger Oktober Fest Märzen has a deep golden color tinted with amber. It is lightly sweet with a malty nose balanced with floral hops. Its medium to big body and alcohol is not overpowering. The soft dryness comes from long maturation" (source).
  • Thirsty Dog Barktoberfest, $1.99/12oz - "A traditional old world German Oktoberfest made with German grains, yeast and hops" (source).
  • Victory Festbier, $1.99/12oz - See video below.

Picture of the Week

According to signs on the windows,
this place is scheduled for an August opening.


(Happy Birthday, Pop)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New Nano Brewery to Feature the Bizarre & Unusual

This week's contribution from Joseph P. Sprinklehead, roving Buzz reporter, comes with a complimentary grain of salt. Just an FYI.

File photo. Not for use in beer.
Grand Rapids, MI – A new brew pub slated to open this fall in the small West Michigan town of Lager (population 68) will serve beers made with adjuncts that can best be described as “bizarre” and “unusual.” This according to co-owner and head brewer Eugene Gunnison.

“Our beer certainly won’t fall within the standards of the Reinheitsgebot,” Gunnison said last week in the brewery’s downtown riverfront location. “We want to be a part of the craft beer craze that is erupting in West Michigan but we also want to do things that other local breweries aren’t doing.”

Gunnison said the nano brewery that he will operate with his wife Elaine will offer four standards and will feature two other beers that will rotate on a seasonal basis. The standard offerings will include Possum Pale, Raccoon Red Rye, BS River IPA and Pigs Feet Porter.

“We’re going to source as many of the adjuncts as we can locally,” Gunnison said. “There’s certainly no shortage of possums and raccoons in this area and we’re in the process of finalizing a deal with a slaughterhouse in Grand Rapids for the pigs feet.” Gunnison also said that he has received permission from state and local authorities to use water from the Baron-Shaw river for his IPA. “It’s got the perfect chemistry for a crisp, highly hopped ale,” he said.

Gunnison said that one of the brewery’s first seasonals will be an imperial stout that is currently aging on wood that he salvaged from local, one-hundred-year-old barns, explaining that the wood has just the right amount of dried bat guano to impart a subtle richness and distinct acidity to the beer. He also plans to brew a wormy mushroom infused Octoberfest in the fall.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Recipes Revisited: Four for the Summer Bounty

Here again is former staffer, current contributor Wes Eaton with a batch of great recipes (originally published last year). These are designed to coincide with the late summer bounty hitting gardens and farmers markets just about now.

By Wes Eaton

August begins to reveal the full possibility of fresh Michigan produce. Early summer’s kale, swiss chard, lettuce and collard greens are making way for tomatoes, carrots, beets, cucumbers, garlic and squash—a welcome transition, especially for seasonal eaters. Here I’ve put together four of my favorite summer recipes, complete with beverage partners. These recipes are simple and delicious, and most (if not all) of the ingredients can be found at your favorite farmers market. When seeking out these seasonal items, don't be shy, ask the farmer when they were harvested. We’re in the midst of the bounty here—if the veggies were picked over two days ago head to the next booth.


Homemade salsa recipes are often complex, but when you start with Romas ripened on the vine and cilantro clipped from the planter, little else is needed. Try this recipe as-is before doctoring it up.


    • 8 Roma tomatoes
    • two medium white or candy onions
    • one bunch cilantro
    • one lime
    • kosher salt to taste. 
Core and cube tomatoes in a large bowl. Chop cilantro, stem and all, leaving only the ends of the stems out of the bowl. Add along with chopped onion and juice from one lime, add salt to taste, chill and serve with lime-garnished Vienna Lagers—Great Lakes Elliot Ness, for example.


Like salsa, pesto too can be made complex, but start here. Complements to Stephen Gasteyer for this easy yet rich and decadent recipe. Use as a sauce for pastured chicken or make a summer lunch by serving over chilled angel hair with a simple lettuce, balsamic, oil, sea salt and black pepper salad. You’ll plant an entire row of basil next year.

Basil, and lots of it

    • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
    • 1 garlic clove
    • 1/3 cup olive oil
    • 1/4 cup pine nuts
    • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. 
If raw, toast the pine nuts ever so gently in a cast iron skillet. Layer ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend to desired consistency. Amazing how the individual parts become an entirely new whole. Freeze in baggies with air removed and amaze yourself in late March. This sauce pairs well with European-style pilsner, which cuts the richness of the pesto. Try Victory Prima PilsLagunitas Pils, or Pinkus Organic Ur Pils.

Tomato Salad

The simplest recipe here, inspired by my pal the Perch, this dish is the perfect way to feature the wealth of tomatoes and cukes on farm stands everywhere this month.

Ingredients: Roma tomatoes cut into large cubes, same portion of fresh picked cucumbers, halved and sliced, half as much coarse chopped basil, olive oil, sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper. Mix in a large bowl and serve with a draft cider, homebrewed if possible, but Magners Irish Cider or Michigan-made J.K.'s Scrumpy Cider will both do in a pinch.

Perch's note: for an acidic kick, try adding balsamic or red wine vinegar to taste; also, if you can't find Romas, any tomato will do, even heirloom tomatoes (pictured below).

Fermented Dill Pickles

Why fermented and not canned? Pickling cucumbers are at their peak in high summer, but through the process of fermentation--in this case with lactobacillus bacteria--you can inhibit spoilage and enjoy them all year. Once a staple farm food, fermented dills were usually a messy affair cellared in frothy crocks and barrels. Much easier is to simply ferment pickles in the quart jars you would later store them in anyway, which is how I recommend you make these delicacies.

Taste is another reason to go the fermentation route--these are the best pickles I’ve ever had. I admit, it's taken me more than a couple seasons to perfect this process. But like all forms of fermentation, producing these pickles yourself is as much an art as it is a science. What this means is that practice and patience play key roles in achieving success, much like in making beer and wine.

To introduce yourself to the science, first read up on fermentation here. (The art part you’ll have to find on your own.) Next, decide how many pickles you want to eat and hand out later this fall and over the holidays. Keep in mind that you can fit 3-4 large and 5-8 smaller pickling cukes in a one-quart jar.

For each quart of pickles you’ll need approximately two cups of brine. Here’s a good formula for about one quart of brine: 3 cups water, boiled and cooled, 3/4 cups white vinegar, 1/4 cup canning salt.

The other ingredients you need include fresh-picked and washed pickling cucumbers, fresh heads of dill, sliced hot peppers, fresh garlic cloves and pickling spice. The key to a good pickle is buying or picking them fresh and using them the same day. If you’re reading this in Grand Rapids, you’ve got about two weeks left of pickle season. I suggest getting over to the Fuller St. Farmers Market and talking with the folks at Visser Farms. A good pickle is firm and boxy. Avoid bloated pickles—they were picked too late. Pickling spice is widely available; however, Global Infusion in the East Hills neighborhood sells organic pickling spice in bulk for $0.95 an ounce, which is a great deal.

To get your pickles going, start by mixing the brine. Stuff everything else into the clean jar and top up with brine. For each jar, use at least three heads of dill, some dill greens, two cloves of sliced garlic and one tablespoon of pickling spice. Loosely seal the lid and store out of the light around 70F. In a few days the clear brine will turn cloudy as the fermentation process begins. In a couple weeks CO2 bubbles will cease. A finished pickle has a slight translucent color when sliced. The white sediment is the healthy bacteria. If the brine is still clear or the pickles turn to mush, compost them and try again next year. Either refrigerate or process in a gentle boiling bath for 15 minutes. Share with special people and serve with French- and Belgian-style farmhouse ales, like Vivant FarmhandNew Holland Golden Cap, or the classic Sasion Dupont.

Former Siciliano's staffer Weston Eaton is currently pursuing a PhD in Sociology at Michigan State University. He lives with his wife and dogs in Grand Rapids, MI, where pickling season is as much a state of mind as it is a time of year.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

New Beer Friday - August 10 Edition

IMG_3440 By Chris Siciliano

Good news this week for the do-it-yourself crowd. Yesterday we announced the dates for the 2012 Customer Appreciation Homebrew & Winemaking sale. Exact details are here, but you would do well to keep at least one day free for your homebrew hobby the week of September 10. Incidentally, that gives you about a month to save up clams for the sweet new mash tun you've been eyeing. Just don't do so at the expense of your weekly beer budget—this week's New Beer Friday is a doozy. Maple bacon doughnut ale, anyone?

New (and Returning) Beer

  • Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale, $13.99/22oz - "Rogue Ales has collided with Voodoo Doughnut to create Bacon Maple Ale! This unique artisan creation contains a baker’s dozen number of ingredients including bacon and maple syrup from one of Voodoo’s signature doughnuts" (source).
  • He'Brew Funky Jewbelation, $12.59/22oz - "Shmaltz Barrel Aged Release #6. A blend of 6 ales aged in 73% rye whiskey barrels and 27% in bourbon barrels. The blend consists of of 3-month Jewbelation 15, 9-month Vintage Jewbelation, 1-month Bittersweet Lenny’s RIPA, 14-month Origin, 7-month Reunion Ale ’11, and 14-month Messiah" (source).
  • Ommegang Biere D' Hougoumont, $16.49/750ml - "Brewed with traditional French ale yeast, eight malts, French Strisselspalt hops, and aged on white oak and hard maple wooden staves. A traditional Biere De Garde style, this malty French-style farmhouse ale is brewed to be aged. The name honors the Hougoumont farmstead at the pivotal center of the Waterloo battlefield. Napoleon repeatedly failed to take the fortification, he then lost the battle and met his Waterloo" (source).
  • Edelweiss Hefetrub Weissbier, $5.99/16.9oz - "Unfiltered, golden yellow and very fruity with a slight banana nose. Refreshingly this fine sparkling wheat beer offers spicy flavors on the palate" (source).
  • Petrus Blond Ale, $4.09/11.2oz - "A top-fermented beer brewed with pure spring water and carefully selected malts and hops. This blond beer is soft and full of flavor and preferably served cool" (source).
  • Spaten Oktoberfest, $1.79/12oz - "This medium bodied beer has achieved its impeccable taste by balancing the roasted malt flavor with the perfect amount of hops. Having a rich textured palate with an underlying sweetness true to tradition" (source).
  • Dupont Monk's Stout, $10.09/750ml - "This is a beer already brewed in the 1950’s by Dupont Brasseries. As Dupont has extra fermentation capacity now, Olivier has the luxury of crafting some new brews, or re-creating some old specialties.There were two test versions of Monk’s Stout, both at 5.2% abv. One was dry and roasty, and another is said to be a little more rounded. Monk’s Stout is available in 33cl bottles and 20 liter kegs in Belgium" (source).
  • Vanberg & DeWulf Lambrucha, $12.89/750ml - A mix of Lambic and Kambucha yeast. "Beautiful pale gold color with hints of rose. Aromas of sage, rosemary, cucumber and sea spray come bracingly forward. A lemony sourness greets the palate but is quickly replaced by even more refreshing flavors of pine, mint, rosemary and cedar. A tight, small bubble carbonation cleans the palate completely leaving a sense of tonic refreshment" (source).
  • Posca Rustina, $11.49/750ml - "Known as Cervesia in Belgium this beer is a throwback inspired by research into the drinks of the Gallo-Roman era. It is surely one of the brewery’s most exotic beers. It is a “Cervoise” beer spiced with a gruit (an old-fashioned herb mixture used to bitter and flavor beer, that was popular before hops came to predominate). Posca Rustica beer is highly, if delicately, spiced. Sweet woodruff (known as Galium odoratum or wild baby’s breath) and bog myrtle are but two of about a dozen spices used. Posca Rustica has a unique, odiferous and spicy character. Bottle conditioned. Beguiling and unusual. Discover what beer tasted like when Belgium was ruled by the Roman Empire" (source).
  • Lava Smoked Imperial Stout, $11.49/500ml - "Smoked imperial stout with a thick brown head. Sweet with chocolate and roasted malt in the flavour. The aftertaste is roasted malt, smoke and warming alcohol. Aroma of smoke chocolate and a bit of alcohol" (source).
  • Hop-Ruiter, $10.99/750ml - This beer "has a full, almost rustic malt body, and pairs Belgian yeast-driven flavors with American assertive hoppiness. It is dry hopped, with two noble varieties which add complexity, delicacy and a bit of funk" (source).
  • Big Sky Kriek 2010, $15.79/750ml - "Big Sky Kriek Ale is a unique creation that defines its own style. We start with a Belgian Style Golden Ale and then add a gererous amount of organic cherries from The Orchard at Flathead Lake. It is then aged with another addition of cherries for a minimum of 3 months in French oak wine barrels. Temperature controlled bottle conditioning provides a nice balanced finish. So kick off your hard soles and relax next to a Big Sky, Kriek" (source).
  • Unibroue Grand Reserve 17, $15.09/750ml - "In 2011, we proudly brought back this French Oak aged, bottle refermented dark ale, with the "Grande Réserve" appellation as a fitting endorsement of it’s exceptional quality for aging. Brewed only once a year, in limited quantities, and individually numbered "brasseur" bottles, this is truly a flavorful delight for the specialty beer enthusiast" (source).
  • New Holland Pilgrim's Dole, $3.99/12oz - "Pilgrim’s Dole is a barleywine-style ale made with fifty percent wheat malt, or what we at New Holland call a wheatwine. Pilgrim’s Dole blends warming and slightly sweet flavors with a unique caramelized character. It would be an excellent accent to nutty dishes, fruit crisps or creme brulee" (source).
Picture of the Week



Siciliano's Annual Homebrew Sale - Sept 10 thru Sept 16

Sale, sale, sale, sale!
By Steve Siciliano

Mark you calendars, folks. We are pleased to announce that Sicilliano's annual Beer & Wine Making Customer Appreciation Sale will start on Monday, September 10 and continue through the close of business on Sunday, September 16.

During the sale, most equipment, supplies, and ingredients will be 15% off the retail price. Items that are always already discounted—carboys, 50/55 lb. bags of grain, Blichmann Engineering products—will not be eligible for additional discount nor will the 15% be combined with other existing discounts (like the club discount). We will honor either one discount or the other, whichever is the greater. Equipment and supplies on the following list will have discounts deeper than 15%:

      • BEER EQUIPMENT KIT/GLASS: Reg. $105.00, Sale $85.00
      • 90 BOTTLE TREE: Reg. $36.69, Sale $29.00
      • 45 BOTTLE TREE: Reg. $25.39, Sale $19.00
      • BAYOU BURNER: Reg. $127.99, Sale $100.00
      • MASH/LAUTER TUN: Reg $125.00, Sale $102.00
      • REFRIGERATOR THERMOSTAT: Reg. $80.00, Sale $59.00
      • 30 QT STAINLESS STEEL POT: Reg. $75.00, Sale $55.00
      • 40 QT STAINLESS STEEL POT: Reg. $84.00, Sale $67.00
      • IMMERSION WORT CHILLER: Reg $70.00, Sale $56.00
      • WINEMAKING EQUIP KIT/GLASS: Reg. $95.00, Sale $79.00
      • KEGGING SYSTEM (NEW KEG): Reg. $275.00, Sale $225.00
      • KEGGING SYSTEM (USED KEG): Reg. $225.00, Sale $180.00
      • STAINLESS MIX STIR: Reg. $29.69 Sale $23.69
      • SUPER AGATA BENCH CAPPER: Reg. $44.69, Sale $35.69
      • CHAMPAGNE FLOOR CORKER: Reg. $152.00, Sale $119.00
      • ITALIAN FLOOR CORKER: Reg. $142.00, Sale $109.00
      • PORTUGUESE FLOOR CORKER: Reg. $63.00, Sale $50.00
      • MILWAUKEE PH METER: Reg. $85.00, Sale $64.00
      • REFRACTOMETER: Reg. $91.00, Sale $70.00
Finally, be sure to stop Siciliano's on Saturday, September 15. That day and that day only we'll have free German wieners from Frank’s Market, Grandpa Sam’s home-made sauerkraut, and draft root beer for all parties interested in delicious (and free!) vittles.

Recipes Revisited: The Mighty Bread & Butter Pickle

With the harvest coming in, we thought now would be a good time to revisit some recipes we published last summer. First up, a recipe for a hamburger's best friend, the bread & butter pickle.

By Wes Eaton

The bread & butter pickle is a tangy, crisp fall and late summer favorite, yellow from turmeric, with a nuanced tang from vinegar and mustard seed. Cured in the jar, these sandwich toppers will add a touch of rustic homeyness to your usual fare. I’m putting up a double batch right now and encourage you all to do the same. Keep reading to learn how!

Here's a list of things you'll need:

    • Canning supplies (canning jars, bands, lids, canner)
    • 4-6 pounds pickling cucumbers
    • 2 pounds medium white onions
    • 1/3 cup canning salt
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 2 tablespoons mustard seed
    • 2 teaspoons Tumeric
    • 2 teaspoons celery seed
    • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
    • 3 cups vinegar
    • 1 bag ice 
Start by planting a garden. Okay, a little late now, so start at the farmers market, or even the grocery store’s produce section. We're in the heart of August, so fresh pickles will only be around a few more weeks. Ask for and choose firm, dark green, ‘box’ shaped pickles, no longer than six inches. Slice chips to a width of less than a quarter inch with a serrated tomato knife for authentic ridging. Peel and slice the onions thin and mix all together in a large bowl with canning salt. Cover the veggies with ice. This quick cold brine extracts excess water from the pickle chips and contributes to lasting firmness and crunch. Place in the fridge for an hour at least and then drain and rinse.

Driving out excess water with salt
Meanwhile, wash your canning jars in hot sudsy water while bringing your canner bath to a subtle boil. As the time nears, place remaining ingredients in another large pot and bring to a boil. Add the rinsed pickle chips and onions and return to a boil. With everything heated up, its time to carefully pack your jars, wipe the lips, screw on the lids and process in the boiling canning bath for ten minutes.

A medley of flavors
Let your jars cool somewhere away from cool late summer breezes. Patiently listen for the lids to pop in, indicating a good seal; it may happen quick, but could take an hour or so. Those that don’t seal can be stored in the fridge. This should give you plenty of time to reflect on your efforts--good food you carefully prepared yourself, with ingredients of your own selecting and choosing. Satisfaction is what I’m talking about, with product to show for your efforts. Laying down preserved food, much like laying down wine or beer, affords you a sense of participation in the creation of your daily surroundings--the stuff that makes up your reality. An existential leap? I’ll leave that up to you. As for the flavor and snap, it's a no brainer for fans of the mighty bread and butter pickle.

Sealing the time capsules

Former Siciliano's staffer Weston Eaton is currently pursuing a PhD in Sociology at Michigan State University. He lives with his wife and dogs in Grand Rapids, MI, where pickles aren't his bread & butter, but bread & butter are among his favorite pickles.