If you know me at all, you probably wouldn’t be surprised if I told you that I’ve been staying up late, unable to pull myself away from talks with friends about life. As a society, we have a lot to talk about these days. Let’s have a couple beers and unwind. Do some listening. More often than not, I neglect my beer for so long that it just warms up and isn’t as crisp and fizzy anymore. So I set it aside and crack a new one.
A couple weeks ago, I used those leftover beers to make a barbecue sauce. Like most sauces, I accidentally made a lot more of it than we could possibly use at home. The next day, I could smell my neighbor grilling over the fence, which immediately turned into, “Hey, you want some barbecue sauce?” Another jar went to family. At first I thought I made too much, but after sharing a couple jars, I wished I had made more. Even with people feeling separated and isolated these days, nothing brings people together like sharing food. In a strange way, the COVID-19 sheltering has given us an opportunity to get to know our neighbors in a new way.
Those leftover beers lose their zing after they go flat, but I like to consolidate them and keep them around. When I was 21 and moved to Minnesota, I was shocked to see people dumping beer down the drain. I thought there were laws against that, at least in Iowa. Sadly, I was wrong. Honestly, I don’t like to throw anything edible away. Beer is one of my favorite ingredients to cook with, especially flat beer.
Wine has always been the go-to item for chefs. I remember watching Jaques Pepin cooking with Julia Childs, and every recipe got some wine in it. More often than not, Jacques got some wine into himself as well. Summertime is beer season. Few things are as satisfying as an ice cold golden lager, after a few hours of sweating over some yardwork or remodeling the house.
So, just like saving scraps to make broth, I’d recommend you save your beer scraps. Honestly, given the choice between canned broth, bouillon cubes or water in a recipe, I’d take flat beer any day. There’s a lot of easy things you can do with beer that don’t take a lot of effort but get spectacular results. The list goes on and on, but summer is here and I’ve got grilling on my mind.
For most cooking applications, I like simple beers. Clean and crisp American lagers. Strong flavored or intensely hopped beers don’t get along very well with other ingredients. I don’t need a beer mustard to taste like super awesome beer. I want it to taste like mustard with some subtle beer notes in it. If I want intense beer flavor, I’ll just drink a strong beer. Thanks for asking. Also, when you are cooking a sauce down, you intensify the flavor. Sweetness is the first thing to go. So I prefer to start with a sweeter, maltier beer and then cook it down. Cooking down a hoppy beer like an IPA or a porter just concentrates the bitterness. Cooking down a sweet beer brings balance. Basic American lager is on the menu here.
Beer glaze and beer mustard are a couple of my favorites: great for grilling season and easy to make in large batches. I’ve been doing “soup clubs” with friends for many winters, where everyone makes a couple gallons of homemade soup and shares a quart with seven other people. Summer is the season for sharing grilling sauces and pickles. Easy to pass over the fence or leave on your neighbor’s doorstep.
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Chef Tibbs, also known as Joshua “Tibbs” Tibbetts, is a Cedar Rapids native who has been cooking as a professional chef for 28 years. He now is in the banquet kitchen at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cedar Rapids Convention Complex.
2/3 cup yellow mustard seeds, whole
1/3 cup brown mustard seeds
Pint size Mason jar
12 to 16 ounces beer
2 ounces apple cider vinegar
Sugar to taste
Salt to taste
The best mustards have both yellow and brown mustard seeds mixed together. The brown seeds are more spicy, but an only-yellow mustard has an unpleasant harshness to it. A two to one ratio of yellow to brown seeds usually works pretty well.
Scoop both types of seed into a pint sized Mason jar and add the vinegar. Add some beer. Go easy at first, it will want to foam up. A lot. The mustard seeds will start to dance around in the beer, that’s a good sign. When it stops foaming, add a little more beer. Keep doing this until the jar is full.
Seal up the jar and let those seeds soak up the juices. I leave it to rest on the counter, but if you want to rest it in the fridge, you might want to let it soak for a few days. Don’t worry, it’s no work for you. Just let it do it’s thing — letting it soak. Those mustard seeds have a pretty firm shell and need to soak for a good while to soften up.
When the mustard seeds have expanded and fill up most of the jar, they’re ready to go.
Put a half cup into a blender, and get it going. Medium low speed. Add a teaspoon or two of sugar. As the seeds blend they will start to thicken quite a lot. Add more beer or water periodically to keep it blending. You want just enough liquid in it to keep it blending. When it seems pretty smooth, transfer it to a bowl or a larger jar. Keep doing this with the rest of your mustard seeds, blending up small batches and adding it all to the bowl.
Add a half teaspoon of salt to the mustard. Stir it up and taste it. It will be very sharp at first, a hot zing like horseradish. Add a little sugar or vinegar to balance that hotness. Beer mustard keeps incredibly well in the fridge, and the flavor mellows out as it sits in the fridge.
Source: Joshua Tibbetts
Beer caramel glaze
12 ounces flat leftover beer
10 ounces sugar
2 ounces cornstarch
Put the sugar and 10 ounces of the beer in a saucepan. Stir it up a bit to get all the sugar mixed in with the beer. Save the other 2 ounces beer to mix with the cornstarch later. We’re saving the cornstarch until the very end.
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Bring it up until it’s almost at a boil. Do not stir the pot, just let it simmer in peace. Let it cook for a few minutes. If you stir the caramel when it’s already agitated, you run the risk of crystallizing the sugars. Stirring will turn it into a solid lump of rock candy that will be impossible to clean up. Just let it do it’s thing and be patient.
If you have a candy/fryer thermometer or a laser thermometer, you want to be careful not to let it get hotter than 350 degrees. At that point, it will take on a burned flavor. Sugar doesn’t start to actually caramelize and take on a dark color until it hits 338 degrees. So if you want the caramel to actually caramelize, you have to pay attention to it: 338 degrees, browning caramel; 351 degrees, burned. That’s a small window.
Thankfully, your target is a matter of personal taste. You don’t have to perfectly caramelize the sugar. Some folks prefer a more pure, sweeter glaze. Some people like a deeper, darker taste. Trust your nose. When it smells good to you, turn the heat off and let it rest and cool down a bit. Stay close and keep your nose on it. When it smells as caramelized as you want it, turn off the heat and let it cool down on the stovetop.
Stir cornstarch with that extra 2 ounces of cold beer together into a slurry. Put a low fire under the beer/sugar caramel. When it gets warm again, but isn’t quite boiling, that’s when you add the slurry. Cornstarch works it’s thickening magic at 203 degrees. At that temperature, it will thicken instantly. Give it a gentle stir and turn the heat off. The thickening happens very quickly.
That’s it. It’s ready to glaze a bratwurst, burgers, steaks, you name it.
Source: Joshua Tibbets