The Genius Behind the Backyard Sipper Revealed
Text by Mark Baune • Photography by Jim Wells
We are going to switch gears this issue. Instead of zeroing in on flavor, color and alcohol content, let’s explore the various uses of my good friend, beer! It’s a no-brainer that you can cook with it but, have you ever thought of making vinegar? I stumbled upon this tasty concoction when a batch of home brew went sour and I, being a frugal individual, didn’t throw it out but rather, made vinegar. I grabbed a gallon glass jar and added some organic vinegar to my messed up brew. (Be sure the vinegar is not distilled, filtered or pasteurized.) This will inoculate it with some good “bugs” or what the pros call acetobacter. Acetobacter is aerobic, meaning it needs oxygen to convert ethanol (alcohol) into acetic acid –which makes vinegar taste like vinegar.
I covered it with a cotton dish towel allowing the gas to vent while keeping out dust and any unwanted pests. Stirring it twice a week helps eliminate an unwanted film from developing on the top. It will eventually develop a “mother.” A mother is a colony of acetobacter cells that are bound together with secreted cellulose. In laymen’s terms, it looks like a gelatinous disk shape you can see through. After sitting for about a month, it’s time to taste test. When it is to your liking, strain it, bottle it and don’t forget to save the mother. It can be used over and over again. But, be sure to leave some of the vinegar with the mother and transfer it to a smaller glass jar. It will keep in the fridge for quite a while. Remember, just like a sour dough starter, you want to keep the mother well fed and happy, ‘cause, “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” said every man.
Different styles and types of beer will result in different vinegar flavor profiles. So, by all means, experiment! I have used over ripened fruit along with a little fruit juice to make vinegar –orange, strawberry, huckleberry, apple, and peach, to name a few. A little side note: If your newly bottled vinegar forms a smaller mother, just transfer it to the starter mother.
If you are like me, your favorite way to serve beer is straight up in a big, frosty glass. But, don’t confine your preferred brew to the mug — meat, including roasted deer, beef, elk, pork, chicken, duck, and goose, can be enhanced with beer and offer a whole range of flavor possibilities such as caramel-like flavors, earthy undertones or lively floral notes. Beer contains enzymes that help break down tough fibers in meat, making it more tender and flavorful at the same time. Use what you have on hand or try something new. The picture above captures me in my beer room. So, as you can see, I have a vast library to choose from. However, I prefer a darker beer. Stout is my favorite!
Beer Man Instructions: In a roasting pan, place your favorite meat selection. Open the beer, taste for quality assurance and pour over meat. Save a taste to verify quality before filling the bottle with water and adding it to the roasting pan. With some of the darker beers, make sure you get all the goodies that have settled to the bottom. Sprinkle a packet of dry onion soup mix on top, add mushrooms, if desired, and cook. Top it off with spuds and carrots half way through. Check the meat frequently to make sure there is plenty of moisture in the pan. The juices left over make the best gravy ever! Slice, plate and, of course, crack a beer and enjoy the feast of your labors. Until next time…