How to make an Airlock Cap

start

This was the start of my first airlock cap attempt.

I new that I was not satisfied with our fermenting set up.  Not the antique 2 gallon crock nor the one gallon glass jar with glass lid.  The mold and scum, while expected, was not acceptable.  Internet research had turned up fermenting systems that used an airlock but I was unwilling to spend what they where asking.  So we set out to make our own airlock system.

I started by buying a half dozen, half gallon, wide mouth, Ball mason jars.   3capsThen I found a local beer making supply house that sold airlocks.   So my first airlocks where constructed using the standard wide mouth two piece canning lids,  a couple of varieties of airlocks and some tight fitting o-rings to seal the airlock to the lids.   I also used one piece metal lids saved from grocery store products that fit standard Ball canning jars.

From these first tries I found that the o-rings did not seal well enough by themselves.  And the 2 piece canning lids where not convenient to use during fermentation.   All the metal lids tended to develop rust spots after repeated usage.   And the one piece “S” shape airlocks where too difficult to clean.

 

final

That brings me to my present, and very acceptable, airlock cap system.   The o-rings have been replaced with 100% silicone sealant.   This needs to be food grade silicone,  no kitchen and bathroom silicones with mildewcides.   Most, easily found, aquarium 100% silicone sealants are food grade.  But check the ingredient list.

 

ballcapThen there was the rusty metal lids.  These have been replaced with plastic lids made by Ball.

They come in wide mouth and standard mouth sizes.  I found them at my local grocery store along with the other canning supplies for about $3 per box of 8 caps.   These are also very handy to use to cap the fermentation jars after they are done fermenting and need to be stored in the refrigerator.  If not found locally, they are available on EBay.

airlockAnd for the airlock itself, I have settled on the 3 piece design made by Buon Vino Mfg.- Canada.   It is inexpensive and the unit comes apart for cleaning.   These cylinder airlock units are carried by most beer and wine making supply stores.   I have also seen them for sale on EBay, just search for “airlock”.   Locally they cost me $1 each.

 

 

 

The actual construction of the cap system involves drilling a hole in the center of the plastic cap.  The three piece airlock shaft has a slight tapper, so the hole is sized such that the airlock fits snuggly when inserted to a depth of about half an inch.

outsidebeadinsidebead

A bead of silicone is then applied around the shaft both on top of the cap and then on the underside as well.   Wait a couple of days for the silicone to completely cure before using the cap.

And that is the airlock cap design I am presently using.

Future design changes:  grommetMy next version will incorporate a grommet seal instead of the silicone sealant.   I hadn’t already gone this route because of the cost of the grommets in small quantities and the fact that I could not find the correct size locally.   I’ll post pictures when that design change is made, but until then I’m satisfied with the performance of my current airlock caps.

 

Final design upgrade using rubber grommet.

UPDATE:  

 I just made my final design change incorporating a rubber grommet to hold and seal the air-lock into the plastic cap.  Picture shows completed design with an extra grommet on edge. 

Found an online site that sells them in small quantities for a reasonable price.

Love this design.

 

Hearty Beef and UnBarley Soup and Oat Groat Giveaway

Beef Un-Barley Soup

Beef and Oat Groat Soup photo by vsimon

Hum? Doesn’t barely have gluten? Yes, you are right.

But certified gluten free oat groats don’t. Please let me introduce you. Oat groats make a fantastic gluten free stand-in for glutinous barely. 

Cream Hill Estates grows and produces certified gluten free oats. They are not cross contaminated with glutinous grains during growing, milling, package, or transport. Cream Hill Estates is offering a package of their certified gluten free oat groats to one random winner who comments below. 

Oat whole grain nutrition.

Oat groats are truly whole grains. And no doubt about it, they are tasty, filling and nutritious. Two new pilot studies from Scandinavia show oats increase vitamin B1, magnesium, zinc, fiber, and antioxidants in the gluten-free diet.

Oats are a rich source of a unique fiber called beta-glucan. It lowers cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. It also enhances the immune response to bacterial infections. Beta-glucan helps stabilize blood glucose levels in people with Type 2 diabetes. And, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows a low glycemic diet, including oats, resulted in greater weight loss than a conventionally balanced diet.

Are oats right for me?

Only you will be able to decide. Please visit my Nourish column in the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness newsletter for more info. Scroll down a bit for the Oh Boy, Oats! article.

Hearty, and super simple in a slow cooker.

You can dump everything raw into the slow cooker. But you’ll get better brown color and flavor if you brown the beef in a separate pan first. This extra step isn’t difficult and immediately fills the house with beefy aroma.

Round steak is a flavorful, inexpensive cut of meat. And tough if cooked quick. Cooking low and slow magically makes it tooth tender.

Oat groats take a long time to cook too. Perfect for a slow cooker. They ooze body into the soup broth. And also add tender, not too chewy, not mushy texture to the chunks. I think even fans of beef barely soup wouldn’t recognize these are oats, not barely.

Of course, the onions are optional if you don’t tolerant them.

Beef and UnBarley Soup

serves 6-8 metric measures
1 ½ pound beef round steak .7 kg
1 cup oat groats 100 gm
1 cup diced onion 130 gm
1 cup diced celery 130 gm
1 cup diced carrot 130 gm
8 cups gluten free beef broth
(or 8 cups water and 2 tablespoons Better than Bouillon Beef base)
2 liters

Cube beef into small pieces. Brown in a large sauté pan.

Put browned beef and everything else into a 12 cup crock-pot.

Cover and cook on high for 8 hours.

Enjoy your day, and your dinner. 🙂

Extras freeze well, so make a lot and save some for next month.

How to enter to win Cream Hill Certified Gluten Free Oat Groats.

1. Visit Cream Hill Estates recipe page and decide which recipe you would like to try first.

2. Tell us which recipe you chose in the comments below by February 10, 2010.

A winner will be selected by random number generator and notified by email February 11, 2010.

Full disclosure- Cream Hill Estates provided me with free oat products for recipe development. And I am happy to share simply, healthy dishes made with oats.

Update 2-11-10. The winner of the certified gluten free ot groats is Debora.

Hungarian Beef Stew

Hungarian beef stew with caraway

Hungarian beef stew with caraway seeds photo by vsimon

No, the caraway seeds are not negotiable.

This started as a recipe called Hungarian Goulash from Cooking Light. To me it is really more stew than goulash.

“Goulash” to Wisconsinites is a mishmash of ground beef, tomatoes (maybe canned tomato soup), and macaroni. Seasoning is limited to salt and pepper, possibly an onion. It showed up at every potluck supper, and was never very appealing to me.

This version is far superior. Big chunks of tender beef and potatoes, bathed in lively sauce. Yes there is caraway, and the very Hungarian paprika, finished with fresh lemon juice and zest. Your mouth will thank you!

It didn’t take much to make this original recipe gluten free. I simply used sweet rice flour in place of wheat flour to thicken the gravy.

Deceptively useful information

It is so useful, I want to repeat that ingredient information from above. Get yourself some sweet rice flour and swap it out in every recipe that thickens a sauce with wheat flour.

We use it all the time, for all clients. Even ones that do not need to be gluten free. It works better than wheat flour. And freezes (and thaws) better than cornstarch. No lumps, clumps, or weeping. Simply make a slurry with water or other liquid in the recipe and stir it in.

Sweet rice flour is sometimes called glutinous flour, because it is sticky when cooked. This is an unfortunate name, and it is gluten free.

I can get it in my regular grocery store in the ethnic aisle. Be sure to read the label though. I have grabbed plain white rice flour by mistake. It does not thicken like sweet rice flour.

And the brand in my grocery store comes in a plastic bag. Touching it gives me the same response as nails on a chalkboard. Watch, I’ll shutter. It is so dry, and some how sounds a bit crunchy in the bag.

I buy this in a pinch. But when I can plan ahead, I buy Mochiko brand sweet rice flour in a box. At a big ethic grocery three towns over. It doesn’t make me cringe when I grab the package. I buy 5 or 6 boxes at a time.

Now back to the recipe at hand.

Hungarian Beef Stew

adapted from Cooking Light’s Hungarian Beef Goulash

   
serves 6-8 metric measures
1 1/2 pounds boneless chuck roast,
trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
700 gm
4 cups chopped onion 500 gm
1 pound red potato, cut into large pieces 450 gm
1 1/2 cups cooked down crushed tomatoes 435 gm
2 tablespoons paprika 20 gm
1 tablespoon vinegar 15 ml
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 2 gm
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, more for garnish 2 gm
1/4 cup sweet rice flour flour 40 gm
Zest and juice of 1 fresh lemon 1 medium

Brown beef cubes. Put beef and onions in pressure cooker. (See unpressured directions below).

Add 1 cup of water. Lock on lid, bring to pressure, and cook for 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile put potatoes in a medium saucepan covered with water. Cover pan and cook until tender about 20 minutes. Do not drain.

Allow pressure cooker to cool, slowly or quickly. Remove lid when pressure drops. Beef cubes will be melt in your mouth tender.

Add the tomatoes, paprika, vinegar, garlic powder, and caraway seeds to the pressure cooker.

Mix sweet rice flour with about 1/4 cup water. Stir until no lumps remain.

Add sweet rice flour slurry to the liquid in the pressure cooker. Cook until the sauce thickens, just a few minutes. Stir while doing this.

Add cooked potatoes and some potato water if the sauce is thicker than you like.

Zest the lemon and reserve.

Add the juice of the lemon to the stew. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.  

Garnish with a fragrant whiff of whole caraway seeds and fresh lemon zest.

Haven’t made friends with a pressure cooker yet?

No problem

Brown meat, add onions, and 1-2 cups water to a stock pot. Simmer for about an hour. Add raw potatoes and cook another 1/2 hour. Finish as above, adding more water if needed.

Make ahead?

Sure! This freezes well, make a big batch. Put into small containers with lids (1-2 servings each). Cool completely in the fridge.

Label and date every container, I know you will.

Freeze.

Thaw overnight in the fridge.

Warm in the microwave for just a few minutes per serving.

Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free

Hungry for other international stew recipes? Check out this month’s Go Ahead Honey, it’s Gluten Free recipe roundup. Laura at Mouthgasmic hosts, thanks Laura!

What is your favorite winter stew?