What home-made items benefit from aging?
August 4, 2014 3:59 AM   Subscribe

If all goes well, I'll be away from home for up to 20 months, beginning this winter. What home-made foods, etc., could I make before leaving that would be super-awesome after aging for a year or two?

We already make our own miso, so we'll do that. And I brew, so I'm interested in any thoughts on aging beer or maybe sake. But what else could I start now and rest while I'm gone?

We live in the Midwest and have a cellar space that can be dark and stays about 65-70F unless it gets super hot outside.

No-maintenance or very-low-maintanence is best (house will be rented). We're adventurous about food. I have crocks and carboys and I'm willing to invest a bit if need be.
posted by Mngo to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You could get started on this chocolate mead recipe that recommends aging for 3 years for...um...passionate results.
posted by lharmon at 4:15 AM on August 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Vanilla extract. Maybe other extracts.
posted by RoadScholar at 4:30 AM on August 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

Blackberry Whisky

I've linked the recipe, but it's basically, pick blackberries & put in jar with a spoonful of sugar. Fill jar with whisky, doesn't have to be good whisky. Leave for one year. Sup, like a fucking sir.

I made this last year and I swear, even if you're not a whisky fan, you will like this. It is autumn, distilled.
posted by greenish at 4:50 AM on August 4, 2014 [8 favorites]

Question - will you be leaving your electricity on and keeping a refrigerator/freezer for storage? If so, that would seem to expand your options. I would check out this website for a broad overview of what those options are:


If you are not vegetarian/vegan, the smoked/cured meats seem like an interesting if more advanced option.

I also agree with everyone above who have suggested infused alcohols (I haven't done blackberry whiskey, but did improve a bottom-shelf bottle of whiskey once with blueberries) and extracts. Vanilla extract is easily made by slicing vanilla beans down the middle (leave one end intact) and setting them inside a container of vodka - keep in a dark place at least 3 months.

Also, if you make any vodka infusions for drinking, it pays to buy a Brita water pitcher and run your vodka (something midshelf like Smirnoff) through it six or seven times. It WILL improve the smoothness of the vodka - I picked this trick up from Cook's Illustrated.

One last note - whatever you do, don't make kombucha one of your fermentation projects while you're away. That stuff has to be consumed quickly after it's ready or it turns to vinegar.
posted by nightrecordings at 4:57 AM on August 4, 2014

If you brew, I would make a sour beer, in the style of a lambic or a flemish brown. They need a lot of good aging time, and they are easy to make. It's just a base beer recipe with cultures added. The cultures are available commercially, or you can drink some good sours and pitch the dregs. The one caveat is that you need to make sure that the airlock doesn't run dry, or acetorbactor will go to town and you'll have vinegar when you return. There are some stoppers that can vent gas but won't allow O2 back inside.

Check out The Mad Fermentationist for inspiration.
posted by OmieWise at 5:32 AM on August 4, 2014

I agree with the vodka-infusion suggestions. Just make sure all bottles are full to reduce oxidation while you're gone.

Also, what about fruit-based wine? It's not my jam, personally, but I know people who've apparently managed some very drinkable stuff, and aging would only help.

Properly canned tomatoes, jams, etc. will certainly last for over a year, but in my experience they won't really get better, just mushier. Alas. (With the possible exception of pickles, but most canned pickles get to their best flavor point after six months max and start losing texture thereafter.)

65-70 probably isn't low enough for charcuterie, unfortunately, especially if you aren't around to monitor the temperature and it might get higher in the summer. Here's a good safety source on home meat curing that recommends no higher than 60F. You could invest in a curing chamber, but that's a whole separate thing and you'd ideally need to have someone around to look at it every month or two.

Do you know who will be renting the place? If you're renting to a friend who's willing to check out your curing fridge/bottles every so often, it'll really expand your options.
posted by pie ninja at 5:34 AM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another vote for mead or cider. Both are super easy even if you have no home brewing experience (though mead is the trickier of the two - cider can be as easy as buying commercial apple cider and adding yeast) and age does wonders for both. Mead isn't even drinkable for six months or so (and it gets better as it goes from there), and while cider can be good after a few weeks it really hits it's stride after a year (Ben Franklin once supposedly said "give me today's meat, yesterday's bread, and last year's cider").
posted by Itaxpica at 5:51 AM on August 4, 2014

confirming cider, as the stuff i made last fall is starting to get really good.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:51 AM on August 4, 2014

Kimchi, mead (I have a halfassed plan to try making mead from maple syrup instead of honey, similar to sortilege), cider. You could, if you're feeling really sassy, try making your own balsamic vinegar (I'm not actually sure you can privately buy strains of the relevant bacteria).

But yeah really, if you can control temperature and humidity, cured meats are absolutely the way to go. If you want to roll your own prosciutto you may want to start very soon, the salting process takes a while (and a LOT of salt).
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:55 AM on August 4, 2014

Once you get your homebrew into the bottle, the yeasts carbonate in 2 weeks or so, but then the long slow yeast action changes the flavor. It's a different beer at 2 weeks, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years. Some beers, especially high ABV, heavy-malt flavors show significant improvement (mellowing, subtlety) from long rest times in the bottle; other beers (IPAs, blondes, hoppy things) also change but not so much in a positive direction. Gruits (non-hopped herbed sour beers) also improve with time. (basic reference)
posted by aimedwander at 7:58 AM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

a consistent 65-70 is too warm for curing.
posted by JPD at 8:21 AM on August 4, 2014

Oh! Again if you can control temperature and humidity, make cheese! I don't think you'd be able to do a washed-rind because AFAIK they need regular maintenance, but I'm sure there must be a cheese somewhere that you can make and just leave and come back to deliciousness.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:21 AM on August 4, 2014

Make hot sauce. Pureed hot peppers of any type + white vinegar will age very nicely over a year or more in a sealed glass jar.
posted by lstanley at 10:07 AM on August 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I just made a batch of this but I can't personally vouch for it getting better in a year because it doesn't last that long around here.
posted by kattyann at 11:22 AM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've personally got a quart of eggnog in my fridge that's been aging 10 months. Google aged eggnog.
posted by vespabelle at 1:54 PM on August 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Christmas pudding
posted by KateViolet at 1:55 PM on August 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:53 PM on August 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

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