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From a fine craft beer and artisan cheese to dime-store chocolate chip cookies and an American Pilsner.

Tales From “Beer & Food: An American History”

Posted by Bob Skilnik on December 28, 2008

     In the last decade or so, there has been an explosion of new beer-themed cookbooks that have either attempted to pair up food with various styles of beer or use beer as an ingredient in its preparation. The craft beer movement and its impact in reawakening the brewing of styles of beer that had long been forgotten in the United States seems to have had a strong influence on the authors of these cookbooks. Though many of the recipes that have been created in the last few years have ambitiously tried to match these forgotten beer styles with various foods, the efforts often seem too esoteric for my taste, too demanding of my time and certainly not of common everyday fare.

A cedar-planked wild salmon matched with a highly-hopped pale ale sounds delicious on a restaurant menu but way beyond the sort of entrée one might whip-up at home. Let’s face it, there are few home cooks who have a supply of untreated cedar boards stored away or have ready access to wild salmon for this sort of a dish. And what would be a proposed vegetable accompaniment to such an entrée? Suggestions in the latest beer cookbooks might include the steamed, young tender shoots of the hop vine, similar, so we’re told, to the springtime harvest of asparagus. My local supermarket doesn’t carry young hop shoots. Does yours? Since supermarket asparagus continues to be flown in from God-knows-where and priced at $3.99 to $4.99 per pound in late December, imagine what a price of hop shoots would cost, if they could even be found.

As we look at the evolution of the use of beer in American food recipes, I hope to convince readers that beer, the drink of the common man, might be more appropriate and more user-friendly in less esoteric culinary excursions. After reading through a number of contemporary beer & food cookbooks, I couldn’t stop from thinking, “What ever happened to the old simple recipe of soaking bratwurst overnight in beer and then throwing them on the grill?”

        Initially in a search for simpler recipes of food using beer, I decided instead to begin by looking back at the roots of American cookery and its use of beer as an ingredient, to discover when the marriage of food and beer really took hold in our country’ s colonial kitchens. Using food recipes from some of the earliest American cookbooks through an assortment of recipes from the publications of pre and post-Prohibition breweries that have long past into oblivion, I have gathered, edited and tested a generous collection of old tried-and-true attempts at bringing together American food and beer.

American Food Meets American Beer

A number of well intentioned individuals have sent me scores of purported recipes using beer in food from Medieval times and earlier during my early research efforts, but I have chosen instead to use nothing more than published recipes from American sources. My avoidance of European cookbooks is deliberate, an acknowledgment of the chasm that developed in the late 1790s between cookbooks using English-styled recipes and ingredients and the first publication of a true American cookbook in 1796, written by an American using ingredients indigenous to the New World. With the beginnings of a uniquely American cuisine (actually a fusion of the best and most practical recipes from English cuisine) runs the parallel development of the United States brewing industry.

Like early American cooking efforts, early brewers also utilized indigenous ingredients for their brews. Amelia Simmons’ ground-breaking American Cookery, or The Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry and Vegetables, and the Best Modes of Making Pastes, Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards and Preserves, and All Kinds of Cakes….Adapted to this Country and All Grades of Life, makes no mention of beer or ale using the customary malted barley in any of her food recipes but does give instructions for the brewing of “spruce beer” and the use of “emptins” to leaven bread, a fermenting mixture of wild hops and starch. The lactic but leavening quality of this mixture was usually aided with the addition of saleratus, a naturally forming white crystalline substance having a sweetening alkaline quality, used like today’s baking soda. With the chemical reaction of the alkaline saleratus and the sour or lactic quality of a home made yeast, a leavening effect was assured. This homemade yeast starter, more a staple of forced necessity than choice, was a virtual cauldron of unpredictability, an aspect of fermentation that also plagued early commercial brewing efforts.

The preparation of spruce beer and the use of emptins in the kitchen hint at the widespread lack of high grade English malt or reliable brewing yeasts in many parts of the colonies, at least before the Revolutionary War. To a degree, this regression in brewing is startling. During the 1600s, settlements in the New Netherland and New England colonies had actually developed more than the semblance of a brewing industry in the Americas. Excessive taxation by local politicians of commercial beer and the abundance of cheap imported West Indies rum had caused the young American brewing industry to retreat to colonial households.

G. Thomman, in his 1909 book, American Beer, Glimpses of Its History and Description of Its Manufacture notes that good quality ingredients for brewing in the colonies were often difficult to attain during this era.

“…at one time the importation of malt was forbidden, in order to stimulate domestic malting; yet, within a short time thereafter, the malting of domestic wheat, rye and barley was prohibited on account of the scarcity of these cereals. At another time, a desire to encourage the exportation of wheat led to the enactment of a law imposing upon a brewers a fine of ten shillings for every bushel of wheat used in brewing. Ordinances encouraging brewing by exempting beer from taxation were counteracted in their contemplated effects by regulations prescribing the quality and fixing the price of malt liquors without regard to the increased cost of materials and production.”

 

By the late 1600s, even New York and Pennsylvania, where the brewing industry had flourished, fell into disrepair, though a few breweries continued to operate in Philadelphia, brewing quality porters and other ales. The widespread result of excessive taxation of beer and the lack of good quality brewing materials brought about not only a hodgepodge of unpalatable home brews using indigenous American ingredients such as corn, ginger, molasses or sassafras, but also a lack of readily available sources of good quality “barm,” or brewer’s yeast. Without this catalyst for fermentation, it often became difficult to make either a palatable home brew or a consistent supply of commercial malt beverages for those few breweries that still attempted to ply their trade.

The use of brewer’s yeast in households to leaven bread would eventually become a practice that would establish itself in the early 1800s of American home and commercial baking when, not coincidentally, the brewing industry began to regroup and expand.

Small Beer

            This is not to say that beer was completely lacking in the colonies during the Revolutionary War era. Victor S. Clark in his History of Manufactures in the United States talks of the humble retreat of the American brewing industry.

            “When the Constitution was adopted many housewives still brewed small beer for their families, and for fifty years thereafter numerous village breweries continued in operation with an equipment and a volume of business hardly exceeding those of a village bakery…”

 

            This “small beer” that Clark speaks of was a weak brew, meant to be consumed almost immediately after it was brewed. Its lower alcoholic strength, and oftentimes lack in the brew of hops with their preservative qualities, necessitated quick consumption since the proper sanitation of brewing equipment and storage vessels and the chemistry involved in making a proper beer were sorely lacking. The unpredictability of a successful batch of beer was based on an all too common reliance on wild yeasts to activate the fermentation. Most household yeast starters were filled with the wild yeast qualities of Saccharomyces exiguus and Lactobacillus bacteria. More often than not, these two critters would win the battle for survival in the young brew even if the beer-making Saccaromyces cerevisae yeast was present. This unpredictable blending of yeasts was just the right mixture of mischievous fungi for setting off the leavening of sourdough bread, the deliberate (though more often than not, accidental) making of vinegar and the occasional batch of good-quality beer.

The result was often a spoiled batch of beer or one that could turn quickly, whether brewed at home or in the few commercial breweries of the era. If consumed quickly, however, there was the chance that the wild yeasts that had caused the fermentation to occur did not have time enough to completely spoil the brew, fended off, perhaps, by the valiant efforts of a particularly determined colony of Saccaromyces cerevisaeyeast. In other words, early brewing efforts were often a crapshoot, an example of brewing being more of an art then a science.

American cookbooks of this era and beyond occasionally used “sour beer” as an ingredient in recipes, also described as stale beer. Lydia Maria Francis Child in The Frugal Housewife: Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy, Boston: Carter and Hendee, 1830, suggested the addition of soured beer as a substitution for wine in stew-like dishes, either liquid ingredient having the necessary acidity to tenderize meat. Another mention of what to do with sour beer can be found in another recipe in her book for making batter for fritters or pancakes. Many contemporary batter recipes using beer still call for flat beer, a reflection of its earliest use when beer soured and was often left devoid of any natural carbonation. The call for flat beer for batters in today’s cookbooks serve no purpose different than the usage of carbonated beer; it merely is a holdover from the days of an abundance of flat beer. Waste not, want not — but contemporary recipe book authors merely reflect a centuries-old practice, unaware of why flat beer is called for.

If the household supply of beer had soured beyond all hope, Child’s book also suggested a mixture of the beer, molasses, water and a vinegar starter, all of which could be added to the family’s never-ending barrel of homemade vinegar. Not only did this practice illustrate the reality of beer turning bad on a regular basis but also Ms. Child’s and the early American settlers’ frugal philosophy of “waste not, want not.” It’s no wonder that some early American breweries also sidelined as vinegar purveyors. What better way to profit from a failed batch of beer!

            A manuscript of George Washington’s writings includes this recipe for small beer.

 

“Take a large Siffer [Sifter] of Bran…Hops to your Taste—Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Gall[ons] into a Cooler  put in 3 Gall[ons] Molasses while the Beer is Scalding hot or rather draw the Molasses into the Cooler & St[r]ain the Beer on it while boiling Hot.  Let this stand till it is a little more than Blood warm then put in a quart of Yea[s]t  if the Weather is very Cold cover it over with a Blank[et] & let it Work in the Cooler 24 hours then put it into the Cask—leave the Bung [Stopper] open till it almost don[e] Working—Bottle it that day Week it was brewed.”

 

            The unknown variables in this recipe for beer by President Washington would be frightening for any modern-day brewer, a mention of sanitation procedures and the quality of the yeast strain lacking in Washington’s brewing instructions. It’s a wonder whether the father of our country was a better brewer or maker of vinegar!

 

Don’t Go Near the Water

            If the brewing of beer was such a crapshoot, with the final product often destined to succumb to spoilage, why did early Americans even bother to brew? More than likely, the reason was poor quality water, or more accurately, the perception of bad, unpotable water. Now this might seem an odd notion considering the pristine rivers, babbling streams and crystal clear bodies of water that the early settlers surely came upon in the New World. Immigrants, however, had seen what polluted water could do to a once healthy person in the Old World. Diseases like typhoid and dysentery were common in built up areas such as established European cities and large villages. Though the concept of bacteria and its connection to hygiene were yet unknown, there was an almost inherent knowledge, shared from the educated lawmaker to the lowly peasant that the consumption of water seemed to foster disease.

Little wonder why. By the 1700s, many European waters were already polluted with human waste. Add to that the run off from tanneries and slaughterhouses and other industries that found the local rivers and lakes to be ideal dumping grounds for the unwanted by-products of their industrial efforts.

            When settlers arrived in the New World, their wariness of drinking any water was understandable. However, by boiling water and getting an infusion of fermentables from ingredients such as spruce, corn, barley or bran, as Washington’s beer recipe shows, the people of the Colonists era sensed that boiling was critical in insuring a healthy drink. It’s no wonder that beer, hot cocoa drinks, tea, and later coffee, all had the common element of using boiled water. Even potions such as rum toddies, oftentimes diluted with water, were finalized before consumption with the insertion of a glowing red poker to stir the concoction and heat the drink to a frothy boil.

 

Strong Beer

            There are recorded instances, however, of the higher-strength “strong beer” or “ship’s beer” also being used in some early American food recipes. In the these instances, the brew could be used in the place of a fortified Madeira, but for the most part, the strongest beers were sought out by the landed gentry who could afford them and stored away with the household’s supply of expensive wines. In other words, they were meant to be savored by beer drinkers as intended and not necessarily as a cooking ingredient. These beers were typically imported from England and brewed using quality malts and more reliable yeast strains and astringently hopped for a preservative effect. Strong beer’s use in early recipes, however, does occasionally show up in cookbooks of this era.

 

To Stew Brisket of Beef

Having rubbed the brisket with common salt and saltpetre, let it lie four days. Then lard the skin with fat bacon, and put it into a stew pan with a quart of water; a pint of red wine, or strong beer, half a pound of butter, a bunch of sweet herbs, three or four shallot, some pepper and half a nutmeg grated. Covet the pan very close. Stew it over a gentle fire for six hours. Then fry some square pieces of boiled turnips very brown. Strain the liquor the beef was stewed in, thicken it with burnt butter, and having mixed the turnips with it, pour all together over the beef in a large dish. Serve it up hot, and garnish with lemon sliced.

Susannah Carter, The Frugal Housewife: Or, Complete Woman Cook; Wherein the Art of Dressing All Sorts of Liands is Explained in Upwards of Five Hundred Approved Receipts New York, Printed and sold by G. & R. Waite, no. 64, Maidenlane, 1803

 

           

Expansion of the Brewing Industry

As the country continued to develop and expand, a number of things occurred that reinstigated the brewing of beer on a commercial scale, limiting the need for home brewing and even the necessity of small rural taverns to simultaneously act as boarding rooms, eateries, stables and ersatz breweries. Although normal trade relations with Englandwere interrupted again with the War of 1812, and with it, the importation of good quality English malt, the growing of native barley as a cash crop had increased substantially in the states to fill the void of imported brewing grains. This indigenous grain of six-row barley, along with the deliberate cultivation of the wild hops that could be found in the rural areas of much of the East Coast, brought together the necessary ingredients to make a qualffable beer.

One of the first brewers’ of note during the expansion of the early American brewing industry was Matthew Vassar. This brewer shrugged off the destruction by fire of his brewery in 1811 and restarted his brewing business soon after. Although his initial efforts amounted to no more than the brewing of three barrels of beer at a time, the reputation of his products gave him enough capital to open up a saloon in the basement of the Poughkeepsie, New York courthouse to sell his products. Vassar is more well-known for his later founding of Vassar College, but for our purposes, it is interesting to note that he also was responsible for introducing oysters to the beer drinkers of Poughkeepsie, years before the philanthropist provided the capital for the institution of an all-womans’ college. I’m still amazed at beer enthusiasts today who gush over the notion of pairing a dark beer with oysters when the practice had bee commonplace for centuries. An absolutely delightful book about the importance of the American oyster trade, centered around New York City, is Mark Kurlansky’s “The Big Oyster,” History of the Half Shell. Stopping in the many “oyster saloons” in New York for a dozen freshly-schucked oysters and washing them down with beer was a common indulgence.

His father, James, also a brewer, had a reputation years earlier for brewing quality ales, milds, porters and small beers, as well as the selling of “skimmings” or yeasty barm to families for the use in baking products. Those families that had access to brewery yeast found that it helped to make a good quality leavened bread.

This bread recipe below also takes advantage of corn meal, often called “Indian meal” or simply “Indian” in early American cookbooks.

 

Rye and Indian Bread

Sift two quarts of rye, and two quarts of Indian meal, and mix them well together. Boil three pints of milk; pour in boiling hot upon the meal; add two teaspoonfuls of salt, and stir the whole very hard. Let it stand till it becomes of only a lukewarm heat, and then stir in half a pint of good fresh yeast; if from the brewery and quite fresh, a smaller quantity will suffice. Knead the mixture into stiff dough, and set it to rise in a pan. Cover it with a thick cloth that has been previously warmed, and set it near the fire. When it is quite light, and has cracked all over the top, make it into two loaves, put them into a moderate oven, and bake them two hours and a half.

Esther Allen Howland, The New England Economical Housekeeper, and Family Receipt Book, Cincinnati: H.W. Derby, 1845

 

By the early 1800s, however, the brewing of good quality ale had once again become more common place, especially in regions where German immigrants had settled. Pennsylvania was particularly noted as the leading brewing center of the United States during the first few decades of the nineteenth century, with New York, Massachusetts and Maryland adding to the beginnings of large scale brewing in America. By 1850, four hundred and thirty-one breweries accounted for 23,267,730 gallons of beer, and with it, a more common source of brewer’s yeast for baking.

 

The Temperance Effect on Cooking

Part of this expansion of the American brewing trade was a result of the inadvertent influence of the early temperance movement to steer imbibers to the lower-strength malted beverages. This movement was a reaction to the free-wheeling countryside bootlegging of whiskey and the importation of cheap rum into the U.S. At the time, drunkenness was a problem in the states, especially in the rural areas where a bumper crop of bulky corn could be easily mashed and distilled into the more portable and potent American whiskey. Though whiskey could be used as a bartering tool in the back woods and farm lands where money was scarce, it was also subject to abuse by settlers during the downtime of the winter months. Various government efforts were made to convert whiskey drinkers to the less inebriating enjoyment of malted beverages. By the 1880s, beer, or more specifically, lager beer, would indeed take over in popularity as the drink of the common man. Unfortunately, decades later, U.S. brewers, boastful creators of the resultant “drink of moderation,” would also find themselves targeted by both advocates of temperance and the more forceful prohibition movement.

In a reflection of the times, this first wave of American temperance in the 1830s was not only exhibited in the development of “dry” organizations such as the Washingtonian Movement and its Total Abstinence Society, ironically conceived in a Baltimore tippling house by a group of repentant drunks, but also in some cookbooks of the era. The dedication page of Ann Allen’s The Housekeeper’s Assistant, Composed Upon Temperance Principles: With Instructions In The Art of Making Plain And Fancy Cakes, Puddings, Pastry, Confectionery, Ice Creams, Jellies, Blanc Mange: Also, For The Cooking Of All The Various Kinds of Meats…, Boston, J. Munroe, 1845, preaches to readers that the “authoress” has dedicated the book to the temperance movement and hints of the apparent use of liquor [most likely including beer] in everyday cooking. In the dedication, Allen vows that she does not use alcoholic drinks “…as a beverage or in cookery.”

By the 1840s, as some states started to wrestle with the gradual move from the softer-stanced temperance movement and towards the harsher prohibition of the manufacture and consumption of all alcoholic drinks, a new type of beer would come on to the American scene, one that would change the history of the United States brewing industry and begin to seal the relationship between food and beer.

 

Food Recipes of the pre-Lager Era

There are various example of yeast recipes for home baking during the years before lager beer, some using the very American pumpkin as a fermentable yeast starter, bran, indigenous white potatoes and the chancy emptins concoction, as described earlier. The following recipe for a yeast starter utilized malt from a local brewery and, though it’s not explicitly stated here, probably also utilized a sample of good quality yeast from the same brewery. The publication of this cookbook in 1840 by Eliza Leslie reflected the growing, and for many, the more familiar sight of a local brewery in the immediate area. Yeast starter recipes for the next few decades usually recommend picking up either malt or yeast barm from a brewery, a luxury the household cook couldn’t envision from the colonial era until the early to mid-1830s or so.

Also note the addition of pearl ash in the yeast to counteract the inevitable souring of the starter that sat around a little bit too long. Potash, as it’s more commonly known today, was originally obtained from wood ashes and used to counteract the eventual lactic qualities of a yeast starter with its alkaline properties. Its usage was similar to that of saleratus.

Also note that by the time of this recipe book’s publication in 1840, molasses had become an everyday-cooking ingredient, this New World sweetener having replaced the once traditional English treacle in U.S. cooking usage.

 

Baker’s Yeast

To a gallon of soft water, put two quarts of wheat bran, one quart of ground malt (which may be obtained from a brewery), and two handfuls of hops. Boil them together for half an hour. Then strain it through a sieve, and let it stand till it is cold; after which put in two large tea-cups of molasses, and half a pint of strong yeast. Pour it into a stone jug, and let it stand uncorked till next morning. Then pour off the thin liquid from the top, and cork the jug tightly. When you are going to use this yeast, if it has been made two or three days, stir in a little pearl-ash dissolved in warm water, allowing a lump the size of a hickory-nut to a pint of yeast. This will correct any tendency to sourness, and make the yeast more brisk.

 

Eliza Leslie, Directions for Cookery, in its Various Branches. Philadelphia: E.L. Carey & Hart, 1840

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Though many of the soup/stew-type recipes of the late 1700s and early 1800s call for the addition of Madiera, red wine or, as a last resort, sour beer, as a tenderizing ingredient, this soup is an example of the much rarer use of ale, simply as a flavoring component.

Asparagus Soup

Take five or six pounds of lean beef, cut into lumps and rolled in flour; put into your stew-pan, with two or three slices of fat bacon at the bottom; then put over a slow fire, and cover it close, stirring it now and then till the gravy is drawn: then put in it two quarts of water and half a pint of ale. Cover it close, and let it stew gently for an hour with some whole pepper, and salt to your mind; then strain off the liquor, and take off the fat; put in the leaves of white beets, some spinach, some cabbage, lettuce, a little mint, some sorrel, and a little sweet marjoram powdered; [after removing fat from the gravy, pour back into the stew] let these boil up in your liquor, then put in the green tops of asparagus cut small, and let them boil till all is tender. Serve it up hot, with a French roll in the middle.

 

Susannah Carter. The Frugal Housewife: Or, Complete Woman Cook; Wherein the Art of Dressing All Sorts of Viands is Explained in Upwards of Five Hundred Approved Receipts… New York, Printed and sold by G. & R. Waite, no. 64, Maidenlane, 1803

 

 

            Below is another example of ale being used for flavoring, not as a tenderizer. Note that this recipe specifically calls for “…good table beer.”

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To Make a Craw Fish Soup

 

Cleanse them [the crawfish], and boil them in water, salt and spice: pull off their feet and tails, and fry them [the crawfish, not the feet and tails]; break the rest of them [the feet and tails] in a stone mortar, season them with savory spice, and an onion, a hard egg, grated bread, and sweet herbs boiled in good table beer; strain it, and put to it scalded chopped parsley, and French rolls; then put in the fried craw fish, with a few mushrooms. Garnish the dish with sliced lemon, and the feet and tail of a craw fish.

 

Susannah Carter. The Frugal Housewife: Or, Complete Woman Cook; Wherein the Art of Dressing All Sorts of Viands is Explained in Upwards of Five Hundred Approved Receipts… New York, Printed and sold by G. & R. Waite, no. 64, Maidenlane, 1803

 

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            Though we’ll see numerous interpretations of stew using beer as an ingredient throughout the book, this early recipe holds up well throughout the scores of stew recipes of the next two centuries. Note, however, that red wine is the first choice as an ingredient, not beer.

Burnt or dried bread is often called for in early gravy-based dishes to thicken the sauce.

 

To Stew Beef

Take four pounds of stewing beef, with the hard fat of brisket beef cut in pieces; put these into a stew-pan with three pints of water, a little salt, pepper, dried marjorum powdered and three cloves. Cover the pan very close and let it stew four hours over a slow fire. Then throw into it as much turnips and carrots cut into square pieces, as you think convenient; and the white part of a large leek, two heads of celery shred fine, a crust of bread burnt, and half a pint of red wine (or good small beer will do as well). Then pour it all into a soup-dish and serve it up hot, garnish with boiled and slice carrot.

 

Susannah Carter. The Frugal Housewife: Or, Complete Woman Cook; Wherein the Art of Dressing All Sorts of Viands is Explained in Upwards of Five Hundred Approved Receipts… New York, Printed and sold by G. & R. Waite, no. 64, Maidenlane, 1803

 

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Dutch Cakes

 

Take five pounds of flour, two ounces of caraway seeds, half a pound of sugar, and something more than a pint of milk, put into it three quarters of a pound of butter, then make a hole in the middle of the flour, and put in a full pint of good ale-yeast: pour in the butter and milk, and make these into a paste, letting it stand a quarter of an hour before the fire to rise; then mould it, and roll into cakes pretty thin; prick them all over pretty much, or they will blister, and bake them a quarter of an hour.

 

Susannah Carter. The Frugal Housewife: Or, Complete Woman Cook; Wherein the Art of Dressing All Sorts of Viands is Explained in Upwards of Five Hundred Approved Receipts… New York, Printed and sold by G. & R. Waite, no. 64, Maidenlane, 1803

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Read More In Beer & Food: An American History

Review

“The first book that gives a historical look at why beer and food are truly partners in today’s kitchens.”  —John R. Hall, president, Goose Island Beer Company
“Kudos to Bob Skilnik for creating this absorbing and informative resource.”  —Keith Lemcke, marketing manager, World Brewing Academy
“This enjoyable read merits a pint of your favorite ale by your side, so you may sip and browse throughout!”  —Lucy Saunders, editor, Beercook.com, and author, Grilling with Beer
“A tasty history, from beer soup to Beer Nuts, with pickled pigs’ feet in between.”  —Don Russell, a.k.a. “Joe Sixpack,” beer reporter, Philadelphia Daily News

 

 

 

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A Beer Drinker’s Disappointment–Hamburger No Longer America’s #1 Sandwich

Posted by Bob Skilnik on March 18, 2008

italian-beef.jpgYeah, I know. Everyone’s worried about their health, their heart, balancing their HDL vs. their LDL and all that rot. But me, I’m a beef man; give me steak, or on a warm summer night, a hamburger off the grill.

But I just ran across this article and it makes me wonder what has happened to American cuisine? As this article in Restaurants and Institutions notes, the grilled chicken-breast sandwich now is the most-often menued item.

In the same sense, the article also points out that what’s old is new again.

Club sandwich: The classic layered look is back in vogue. Among commercial operators that menu sandwiches, the venerable club trails only hamburgers and cheeseburgers as a top seller and also is No. 3 on the list of sandwiches commercial operations say are increasing in sales.

Turkey sandwich: As I like to think of it…a Club Sandwich without the bacon. Simple yet elegant, turkey sandwiches appear among the top sellers for both commercial and noncommercial operations. Turkey reappears on the list of sandwiches that are increasing in sales for both industry segments as well.

Dismissing culinary globalism (paninis, focaccias, wraps, etc.), the Philly cheesesteak sandwich is also hot, and since it’s beef, I’m on it. The chopped-beef-and-cheese concoction is among the top 10 on both the top-seller and thinking-about-adding lists for commercial operators.

My only objection with a cheesesteak is…the cheese. Who the hell puts cheese goo on beef?

Come to Chicago. We’ll show you how to make a beef sandwich, a hot Italian beef sandwich, the Italian bread dipped in a jus (“gravy”) and topped with giardiniera, a condiment made with serrano peppers (called “sport” peppers in Chicago), with other assorted vegetables, such as bell peppers, olives, celery, pimentos, carrots and cauliflower and sometimes crushed red pepper flakes, all marinated in vegetable oil, olive oil, soybean oil or any combination of the three oils.

Since there’s so much going on in your mouth with this delight, a simple American pilsner works just fine as a wash. Anything else would distract from the mess of one of these monsters.

Grilled chicken sandwiches? You’re gonna die anyway. I’d rather go with a belly full of beef than a scraggly “range chicken” sandwich.

I went through dozens of pages looking for an “authentic” Chicago-style beef sandwich recipe and discarded everyone of them that used something other than a top inside round. You could get away with a top round too, but anything else means the recipe preparer doesn’t know what he/she is talking about. This one, supposedly from Buona Beef looks pretty good and if your last name is Buonavolanto, who am I to argue?

Three tips;

1. If you or a friend or neighbor has an electric meat slicer, like at a deli, make a deal with them to slice the beef as thin as possible and then give them some of the action. Like most Chicagoans, I don’t have one of these slicers laying around the house…but I gotta guy.

2. Warm the juice (“the gravy”) and add just enough of the sliced beef for the serving. Don’t dump all the beef into the gravy or overheat the beef, otherwise it’ll curl up and get tough. If somebody wants another sandwich, heat up some more gravy and add a single serving of beef.

3. Slice 8 to 10 green peppers and 2 red peppers (for color contrast) into 1/4 inch slices, longways. In a frying pan, pour in 1/4 cup of olive oil and heat until shimmering. Throw in the sliced peppers and cook until somewhat soft, but still with a little crispness in them. Add 2 tablespoons of dried oregano and 2 tablespoons of dried basil and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Stir, add 1/4 cup of water, place a lid on the frying pan and slow simmer for 10 minutes, taking the lid off after 5 minutes or until the water cooks off.

How do you put this all together? Open up a crisp bun, like a French roll, or cut a 6 inch wedge from a long piece of Italian bread, either dip one side in the gravy or spoon some gravy over the inside of the bread until it’s wet, take some tongs and throw on too many slices of beef, add some cooked sweet peppers and top it all off with giardiniera, the hotter, the better.

Chicago Style Italian Beef Sandwich, provided by Joe Buonavolanto Jr., co-owner of Buona Beef Restaurants.

* 9-10 lbs top inside beef round
* 3 garlic cloves, crushed
* 2 qt. water
* 1/2 cup chopped oregano
* 1/4 C. salt
* 1/4 C. black pepper
* 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
* 35 freshly baked French rolls (for smaller portions reduce ingredients portionally)

For roasting times, figure on 10-12 minutes per pound for medium. Check with a meat thermometer for an internal temperature of 130 degree Fahrenheit for rare, 140 degrees Fahrenheit for medium

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place sirloin in roasting pan and dry roast for 15-20 minutes.

2. Remove pan from oven and add water, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper and pepper flakes. Return to oven and roast at 350 degrees for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

3. Remove from oven. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Internal temperature will rise 5-10 degrees.

4. Slice the beef as thinly as possible.

5. Pour juice from the roasting pan into a smaller pot and heat, but don’t boil. If you have to stretch the juice a bit, add some ready-made beef broth. I like Wolfgang Puck’s beef stock. Add a pinch or two of dried oregano and basil to the juice. You should have about a good-sized quart, maybe a quart-and-a-half of beef gravy ready.

6. Add thinly sliced beef to some heated juice and warm meat through, but don’t let the meat sit long.

7. Dip bread in juice and pile beef high on freshly baked French rolls or Italian bread.

8. Garnish with sliced sweet bell peppers and hot giardinara. Makes 30-40 sandwiches depending on portion size. If you make them right, you’ll be lucky to get 25 sandwiches.

9. Grab a beer. Rinse; repeat.

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There’s Nothing Shy About Blue Dawg Brewing’s Bold Blueberry Lager – Wild Blue

Posted by Bob Skilnik on March 10, 2008

wild-blue-web-res.jpgWEBWIRE – Monday, March 10, 2008

Tart and Tangy Beer Arrives this Spring to Refresh Palates Nationwide

ST. LOUIS . — Not suited for timid or reserved beer drinkers, Wild Blue’s defining taste characteristic is its kick of natural blueberry flavor. The Blue Dawg Brewing team carefully selected a blend of hops and barley malt to ensure they complemented and balanced Wild Blue’s dominant blueberry notes, resulting in a robust and aromatic beer with a refreshing, palate-cleansing finish.

Wild Blue is brewed with a blend of German hops from the Hallertau region in Bavaria and classic Aroma hops from the Willamette Valley in the Pacific Northwest. A combination of two- and six-row barley malt also was chosen specifically for this recipe. Beer lovers will appreciate this specialty fruit-infused lager’s striking burgundy color, ripe blueberry aroma and its ability to stand up to the strongest of foods.

“This beer is the real deal,” said Jill Vaughn, Wild Blue brewmaster. “With a distinct color and flavor, we’ve crafted a beer that truly stands out. I think it will surprise people, especially those who like to experiment when it comes to new drinks.”

To showcase Wild Blue’s reddish-purple color and slight pink head of foam and to allow its field-fresh blueberry aroma to escape to the nose, pour the beer into a glass with a larger rim. A traditional pilsner will do the trick; or for special occasions Vaughn suggests enjoying Wild Blue in a tulip-shaped glass. “A beer as distinct and unusual as Wild Blue deserves to be enjoyed in a special type of glass,” said Vaughn.

Brewers have been using fruit in beer for years, from Belgian lambics brewed with raspberries, cherries and peaches to fruit-flavored beer mixers like shandys and radlers – popular concoctions in Britain and Germany created to bring more refreshment to beer during the spring and summer months.

The unconventional spirit of this beer is conveyed in every aspect, from its taste to its label that features a cheeky, playful bulldog kicking a blueberry, which visually represents Blue Dawg Brewing – a group within Anheuser-Busch, Inc. that is responsible for the beer’s marketing, selling and advertising.

“We’re focusing our efforts on getting Wild Blue in adults’ hands at local food and film festivals and even fun events like pet parades, where dog lovers can get to know Wild Blue, with its feisty bulldog label,” said Jeff Pierson, innovation manager, Wild Blue. “We aren’t taking this beer down the traditional path. Wild Blue is going places we haven’t been before, and we know having the beer at places where adults like to get together, socialize and try new things will be key.”

Already a popular beer in Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Missouri, adults nationwide can now find this brew at select grocery and convenience stores. Craft beer enthusiasts also have given Wild Blue their stamp of approval with a gold medal in the fruit beer category at the North American Brewers Association’s 2006 North American Beer Awards, a competition that recognizes top beers by style.

When it comes to food pairings, it’s a common belief that heavier, darker drinks pair with meat and lighter, crisper drinks pair with fish. So it’s only natural that a full-flavored beer such as Wild Blue needs to be paired with a dish brimming with robust and intense flavors. Vaughn recommends matching Wild Blue with meat dishes, such as pork rib roast with fig and pistachio stuffing or pork tenderloin with apricot mustard. “There’s nothing shy about this beer, so don’t be afraid to match it with strong foods. You want foods with snap and punch, so they won’t get lost or be overpowered,” said Vaughn. “Or if you’re craving a salad, use a combination of greens like mesclun, arugula, escarole or romaine with some fresh herbs.”

Not only does Wild Blue complement full-flavored dishes, it makes an excellent recipe ingredient, like in one of Anheuser-Busch Executive Chef Sam Niemann’s favorites:

Wild Blue Vinaigrette Dressing

Blend 6-8 fresh hulled strawberries, ½ cup fresh raspberries, ½ cup fresh blueberries and 2 tablespoons white vinegar in a blender until smooth. Add ¼ cup red wine vinegar, ¼ cup balsamic vinegar, ¼ cup granulated sugar and ¼ cup Wild Blue; blend briefly until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill.

Wild Blue is brewed in Baldwinsville, N.Y., and contains 8 percent alcohol by volume.
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Nutritional info for Wild Blue here

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History of St. Pat’s Corned Beef Recipes

Posted by Bob Skilnik on March 10, 2008

As you read through the early recipes in Beer & Food: An American History thatcorned-beef.jpg include beer or ale as an ingredient, consider the suggestion that many of today’s beer-themed food dishes might not have been recently “invented,” but are rather the results of an evolution in their preparation. It doesn’t take a huge leap of the imagination to see that a homemade pot roast with an added

can of Miller High Life or your mother’s rib-sticking stew with a dose of Guinness, could all stem from earlier recipes.

Londoner Susannah Carter and her later edition of The Frugal Housewife, or, Complete woman cook; wherein the art of dressing all sorts of viands is explained in upwards of five hundred approved receipts, in gravies, sauces, roasting [etc.]…also the making of English wines. To which is added an appendix, containing several new receipts adapted to the American mode of cooking, offers a number of good examples of early American food recipes, especially derived from English cookery.

 

This recipe book, originally published in England around 1765, was quite popular in British-America, with a later printing in Boston in 1772. The book’s engraved plates are attributed to Paul Revere. In 1803, Carter added new recipes for her American audience that listed very American dishes such as pumpkin pie, recipes for maple syrup and buckwheat pancakes, and even methods of raising turkeys.  

 

Carter also makes an interesting observation that too many contemporary household cooks gloss over when using beer in food. Highly-hopped beers, with their accompanying bitterness, are the last thing you want to add to a dish whose broth will be reduced. If a highly-hopped twelve-ounce beer makes your lips pucker and curls your toes with just one sip, imagine what it will do to your taste buds if concentrated down to a four-ounce reduction!

The following recipe for beef brisket might be viewed as an early step in the evolutionary path of the contemporary brisket and beer dish. Every St. Patrick’s day, innumerable slow-cooked beef brisket or corned beef recipes, usually adding Guinness or Harp to the pot for “authenticity” (while overlooking the fact that that the “Irish” corned beef and cabbage dish is really an American blarney-inspired culinary creation), are rolled out by food writers in the food sections of U.S. newspapers and magazines.

The pre-cooking rub of salt and saltpeter [saltpetre] on the brisket, and a rest time of four days, probably resulted somewhat in the reddish color of the corned beef we enjoy today, although the use of saltpeter in any of today’s food recipes is not recommended. The boiled New England meal of corned beef might have actually stemmed from this very British beef brisket recipe of the late 1700s or early 1800s:

TO STEW BRISKET OF BEEF

Having rubbed the brisket with common salt and saltpetre, let it lie four days. Then lard the skin with fat bacon, and put it into a stew pan with a quart of water; a pint of red wine, or strong beer, half a pound of butter, a bunch of sweet herbs, three or four shallots, some pepper and half a nutmeg grated. Cover the pan very close. Stew it over a gentle fire for six hours.

 

Then fry some square pieces of boiled turnips very brown. Strain the liquor the beef was stewed in, thicken it with burnt butter, and having mixed the turnips with it, pour all together over the beef in a large dish. Serve it up hot, and garnish with lemon sliced.

To make this dish “authentic,” grab a Guinness Stout.

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Superbowl Savory Herb & Wheat Cheese Cake

Posted by Bob Skilnik on February 1, 2008

savoryherbcheesecake.jpgFrom the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA)    Alexandra, Virginia

The N.B.W.A. was founded in 1938 as a trade association for the nation’s beer distributors. It also, however, has assumed an educational role with the public, bringing attention to the problems of alcohol abuse, drunk driving, and underage purchasing and consumption of beer. The site also provides plenty of food recipes using beer. Make sure to stop by their site for recipes, beer terms, and further information on promoting responsibility while enjoying a beer or two.

Savory Herb and Wheat Beer Cheesecake  30 servings 

1 ¼ cups flour, divided
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
6 tablespoons butter, very cold and cut into 6 pieces
3 tablespoons plus ¾ cup wheat beer
3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 package (5 ounces) goat cheese, softened
½ teaspoon black pepper
5 large eggs½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3 tablespoons fresh dill
3 tablespoons prepared pesto
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice 

Spray an 8-inch springform pan with cooking spray. In a food processor, combine 1 cup flour, ½ teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons tarragon and lemon zest; pulse to combine. Add butter; pulse until butter is the size of small peas. In small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons wheat beer with yolk of one of the eggs; add to food processor. Pulse until mixture is crumbly.  Press mixture in the bottom and halfway up the sides of prepared pan.

Place pan in freezer. Preheat oven to 425º F. 

In large bowl with electric mixer, beat cream cheese, goat cheese, ¼ cup flour, 1½ teaspoons salt and black pepper until smooth. Beat in 4 remaining eggs, then Parmesan cheese, dill, pesto and chives. Stir in remaining ¾ cup Wheat beer and lemon juice. Remove pan from freezer; pour filling into crust.

Bake cheesecake 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325º F.; bake an additional 40 to 45 minutes until top is lightly golden and filling is set. Remove cheesecake from oven; cool on wire rack.

Refrigerate cheesecake for several hours. Remove from pan; transfer to serving plate. Garnish top with dill sprigs. Cheesecake may be made up to one week ahead and refrigerated. Serve with favorite crackers, or as slices on plate.

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Beer Cheese Fondue, Sausage Swirls and more

Posted by Bob Skilnik on January 4, 2008

The Philadelphia Journal’s latest contribution to beer in food, via the Kansas City Star. 

The Kansas City Star newspaper shared this recipe as part of a package on New Year’s Eve appetizers. Enjoy the Beer Cheese Fondue.

BEER CHEESE FONDUE

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Crumble A Jays Snack On The Curb For Another Former Homey Of Chicago Cuisine

Posted by Bob Skilnik on October 30, 2007

jays_animation_chips01.gifIf you’ve ever lived in or visited Chicago, there are quintessential foods and drinks that you have to experience while you’re here, tasty treats that are part of Chicago’s cuisine. Vienna hot dogs (Chicago-style, and please, NO catsup—or Mr. Burns, is that ketchup?), Italian beef sandwiches, Old Style beer (although this is an illusion since Pabst contracts the brewing of the beer out to Miller, but more importantly, nobody drinks Old Style except out-of-towners who stop at Wrigley Field, say stupid things like “Go Cubbies” (aargh!), and throw down a few Old Styles as the Cubs lose, because they heard that it’s “Chicago’s Beer,” maybe a chunk of deep-dish pizza (even though most Chicagoans eat thin crust), and a bag of Jays Potato Chips.

Long story short on the history of Jays, but the company used to be named for its original owner, Leonard Japp, Sr., who started his bar snack business during Prohibition in Chicago. Since 8,000 licensed saloons were replaced with 10,000 to 15,000 speakeasies, Leonard did OK. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, however, the name “Japp” didn’t play too well with Chicagoans. The family was going to change the name to “Jax,” but there was a brewery in New Orleans with the same name, so “Jays” became the new name of the Chicago snack food business, more or less by default.

Jeffrey Dunn, president and CEO of Ubiquity Brands, the contemporary owner of Jays and Select Snacks has announced that the business has filed for Chapter 11. Reported more than $20 million in debt to unsecured non-bank creditors (how the hell this happens in “Big Business” is always beyond my comprehension. Go to your bank and ask for a $10,000 unsecured loan and watch how fast they show you the door), the rumor is that Synder, another snack food company, might reach into the bag of crumbs of what will be left of Jays after the owners scramble to pick up some quick cash from bits and pieces of the operation. The bankruptcy follows by three weeks the company’s sale of its Lincoln Snacks division to ConAgra Foods.

So, for the hell of it, why not pick up a sixer of Old Style and a big bag of Jays (“Can’t Stop Eatin’ Em!) this weekend and spill a sip of beer and a greasy chip or two on the curb for all the homeys of Chicago’s former food and drink businesses who are no longer with us…

Or maybe try this recipe for Jays Potato Chip Cookies and wash them down with a cold Old Style.

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Kugelis—Break Out A Baltic Porter And Eat Like A Lithuanian

Posted by Bob Skilnik on October 5, 2007

For Your Kugelis Kravings

For Your Kugelis Kravings

UPDATE:  I totally forgot about posting this info until I saw that there has been a recent run on hits to this particular  post. Some of you wanted info on purchasing a mechanized potato grinder, a “Kugelis machine,” to quicken the time needed for grinding 5, 10 or more pounds of peeled potatoes. When grinding, time is of the essence if you want to retain nice, white ground potatoes. They’ll oxidize after being ground and will turn greyish. This won’t change the taste; it just looks funky.

Here’s the info:   http://www.granddukesrestaurant.com/

They have a Lithuanian store/deli down the road from the restaurant. The restaurant site is  http://www.granddukesrestaurant.com/ .  The link to the store/deli is on the restaurant website, it’s Lietuvele    http://lietuvele.com/

That’s where you can definitely get the machine with links at the site in English and Lithunian, with some Lugan songs playing (too loudly) in the background on the index page.  You should call before making the trip  (Phone 1-773-788 1362 or e-mail lietuvele@sbcglobal.net  ). Here’s a direct link to the potato grater  http://www.lietuvele.com/osc/index.php?cPath=17

Check to see if it comes with a 120v motor or a 220v. If it’s a 220v, you’ll need a stepdown transformer too.
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thumb_the_session_beer_food.gifI think I was about 18 years old, too young to legally enjoy a beer in my hometown of Chicago, but already trying my damndest to try to get used to the taste of beer.

I had a friend at the time who’s parents were a bit understanding about teen-age boys and beer drinking and would allow us the occasional beer drinking party, as long as we spent the night and dropped our car keys into their hands before the beer came out.

My buddy’s parents were Lithuanian, having come “over on the boat” sometime after World War II. At the time, it was necessary for WW II refugees to get on a list and arrange sponsorship with a family here and prove that their was a job waiting for them before they could arrive in the U.S.                                                                   

Typically the sponsors here in the U.S. were second generation Lithuanian-Americans whose parents had been in the States since the Third Great Migration, anywhere between 1885 and before World War I.

They did it the right way, no sneaking over and demanding signs and voting ballots in English and Lithuanian, learned English as soon as possible once they arrived here, and practiced a frugality that most cradle-born Americans never learned. Work hard, pay cash and eat hearty, even if the food had its origins in farmer-like simplicities.

My friend’s mom would ensure that we kept somewhat sober by serving this weird dish called kugelis, a baked potato pudding that was loaded with bacon and all its drippings, butter, onions, and all kinds of different ingredients that each Lithuanian mother usually kept secret. It’s the kind of deceptive practice that prize-winning chili makers exercise; they give you (almost) all the ingredients of their prize-winning chili, but for some reason, yours never comes out quite as tasty as theirs. If you’ve ever seen the “Everybody Loves Raymond” episode where Marie relabels some of her spices so poor Deborah could never get the taste of some Italian specialty quite the same as Marie’s, you know what I’m talking about.

Lithuanian kugelis makers like to practice the same bit of deception, but no matter what the end result, as I learned many years ago, a piece of two of warm kugelis, maybe with a dollop of sour cream on top, goes so good with beer. Doesn’t really have to be a beer from the Baltic States; any beer will do with a hearty dish like this.

While kugelis is considered a unique Lithuanian food, there are European food similarities, including the Jewish potato kugel, and the somewhat similar potato pancake, potato-based recipes that a number of Central and Eastern European countries enjoy. While the small neighboring countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are lumped together as “the Baltic States,” this dish is truly indigenous to Lithuania. There is no regional influence in this recipe, but kugelis has developed into a very hearty peasant dish that took advantage of Lithuania’s abundant and perennial crop of potatoes and pork (bacon) as a meat staple.

So at the risk of having my mother-in-law—who’s also Lithuanian—banish me from her house, I’m going to give you her “secret” formula for one of the most satisfying things you could ever eat with a beer wash. And like chili, I play around with this recipe. Add a few more eggs and the dish will be fluffier or use one or two less and the kugelis will be heavier. Same with the bacon. I sometimes use 1 1/4 pounds (and all the bacon grease) and switch to a large onion rather than a medium-sized one.

Making kugelis is like making homebrew; there’s an artistry involved, so once you get the hang of this, improvise to your heart’s (and stomach’s) content!

One other tip. Don’t ever tell a Lithuanian woman that her kugelis is good, but that Mrs. Stankus down the block makes a tastier version. I once told my mother-in-law about an old girl friend’s mother (also Lithuanian—I’ve got a thing about Lithuanian girls, I guess) who used to make a fluffier—and I thought, tastier—version. That was 25 years ago, and now I understand why the Russians left Lithuania.

Sofija’s Kugelis (Potato Pudding)

Prep Time: 45 Minutes
Cooking Time: 2 Hours

 

5 pounds of Idaho white potatoes. Years of experience have proven that Idahos make the best kugelis.

6 eggs, beaten

1 pound bacon

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 stick butter

1 cup heated milk

1 tablespoon sour cream

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon ascorbic acid (or 4 vitamin C tablets, crushed)

Preheat oven to 425F.

 

Peel the potatoes into a large bowl. Cover with cold water. Finely grate potatoes and add the ascorbic acid to the potato mush keep the potatoes white. Don’t try to cheat and use a Cuisinart since the texture just won’t be the same. Without the inclusion of ascorbic acid or the vitamin C, the grated potatoes will turn grey before completion of the dish. We always like to think that the occasional grated skin from a finger or two also adds a flavor enhancement to the final product, so if you knick a knuckle or two, just think of how you’ll answer the question, “I can’t put my finger on it. What’s that delightful other meaty flavor in this?”

 

“My secret ingredient. Don’t worry about it. Did you watch the Cubs fold last night? Need another beer?”

 

Cut bacon into small pieces and add to a 12-14 inch frying pan. Cook on medium heat and stir occasionally. When the bacon is very lightly cooked, add the chopped onion. Although it can be a minor balancing act, the bacon should be almost cooked through while the onions become translucent. Remove pan from heat and add the stick of butter to the bacon, onions and grease and stir until the butter’s melted

 

Into the grated potatoes, pour the bacon and ALL the grease. Stir lightly and add the 6 beaten eggs. Add salt, pepper and sour cream. Mix thoroughly.

 

Liberally grease a 9” x 13″ x 2″ pan with butter. A Pyrex-type glass pan will help control any excess browning of the edges, but a metal pan will work fine. Pour in the potato mixture.

 

Place in preheated oven (425F) and cook ½ hour. When kugelis shows slight browning around the edges of the pan, bring oven temperature down to 350F and cook another 45-60 minutes until top is golden brown. Cover pan with aluminum foil and cook another 30 until pudding is firm. Give the pan a slight shake to test for firmness. Remove from oven and let sit ½ hour.

 

Serve as a stand alone entrée or as a side dish. Top off each individual serving with a generous dollop of sour cream.

If you need to double this recipe, it’s best to use two 9” x 13” x 2” pans rather than one large one. The cooking can be uneven with a larger pan.

 

If you have any kugelis left over, slice it thin the next morning—about the thickness of a slice of bread—and fry it on both sides in unsalted, sweet butter until heated through and golden brown. Look, the grease will probably kill you anyway, so have a breakfast beer with your kugelis and get over it.

 

babushkaswithcomputer.jpg

 

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