Ingredient of the Week: Beer

Homebrewed beer in a pint glass courtesy of St. Arnold
Homebrewed beer in a pint glass courtesy of St. Arnold
Photo by John Suh

We recently attempted our first homebrew, which gave us more than 40 bottles of pale ale, all taking up space in our garage fridge. We can only drink so much of the same beer, so what to do with the rest? Cook with it, of course.

What is it?

Made by brewing and fermenting malted cereal grains, beer is one of the oldest alcoholic beverages in the world. The main ingredients are water, starch (usually malted barley or wheat), and yeast. It is flavored with hops, the flowering part of the hop plant, which give beer its bitterness and/or floral taste. Beer can also be flavored using herbs, spices, and fruit. Most beers contain 4 to 6 percent alcohol, although some are as little as less than 2 percent and others can be as high as 20.

How do I use it?

Aside from the usual imbibing, you can also cook with beer in a similar way you'd cook with wine. Beer is good in marinades or for braising meats such as beef, pork, and sausage; it is especially complementary with game like venison and rabbit. The hops in beer lend to the food a mildly bitter flavor which is counterbalanced by the sweetness of the malted grains. Darker beers tend to add a hint of roast to the food. Pale ales and lagers are good for cooking since they aren't too bitter or strong in taste.

Where can I find it?

At grocery stores or Spec's. You can also be adventurous and try brewing your own beer at home -- just be sure to read up on the 5 lessons we learned from our first homebrew.

Recipes

This week, we bring you not one but two recipes. What else are you going to do with those five gallons of homebrew?

Wisconsin Beer Brats When I think of Wisconsin, I think of four things: cheese, Cheeseheads, That '70s Show, and bratwurst. This recipe from The Bratwurst Pages, where you can learn more than you ever wanted to know about Wisconsin brats, will help you cook up a mean beer brat Wisconsin-style, complete with sauerkraut and brown mustard.

Braised Pork Belly Hop on the pork belly bandwagon and braise your very own. I made sliders by cutting up the pork belly and serving them on sliced Hawaiian rolls with pickled jalapeños. They were a hit at a potluck.

How do you cook with your beer?



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