Hops are the magical cone that is used to give beer much of it’s flavour and overall “Badassery”. Used for centuries in the brewing process a lot has changed in the types of hops and how they are used. Cooking with hops is one area that other than a few brewpubs and experimental kitchens hasn’t made its appearance in the mainstream kitchen. In an attempt to bring hop flavour to the masses, author Marie Porter who is a self proclaimed “Aspergian Polymath” has written a book called Hedonistic Hops: The HopHeads’ Guide to Kitchen Badassery.
This may come across as a cookbook but when described as a Guide to Kitchen Badassery there is a reason behind it. Taking a Joy of Cooking approach to the subject, opeing this book you will find that the first 35 pages are intended to educate and inspire you. From the basics of what hops are, to the chemical fundamentals of what makes a hop a hop and onward to the different formats in which a hop can be used there is a strong education component to the book. After reading through you too may consider yourself a bit of a polymath.
Once you dig in and make it through the educational exposition the meat and potatoes of this book comes down to the recipes. The first thing that you will notice is that there is no Hop-Casserole or Cascadian Stew. The hop plays a supportive role when cooking and is not usually the centre of attention. In the spirit of playing a supportive role the hop is primarily an ingredient that is used to add a unique element to a traditional meal. From BBQ sauces to chilies, hop butters and chicken wings Hedonistic Hops gives a multitude of ways to infuse your favourite meals with delicious hop flavour. The recipes are not way out there in style but rather takes somewhat familiar foods and incorporates hops for an added twist.
Digging into the recipes you will need to find hops in at least one of a few forms. The recipes include a combination of using your favourite IPA along with fresh hops, dried leaf hops, hop pellets and hop shoots. The fresh and shoot variety can be sourced each year in August through September but outside of that window you will need to stick to dried versions which are available through your local home brew retailer. If you can do fresh that is great, but there are year-round options that will keep you cooking all year round.
Thumbing through this book the wing recipe was particularly intriguing and we took a stab at the recipe.
The first thing to note about the way this book is written is that it isn’t about the recipe. The wings recipe spans two full pages. This is roughly 1/3 background and testimonials, 1/3 recipe and 1/3 photo. The second thing to note is that there is some knowledge of cooking required to follow these recipes. This recipe for instance calls for making a beer reduction and deep frying which may not be in everyone’s knowledge set. That said, in making these wings we didn’t fully follow the directions anyway.
The Recipe uses fresh hops and calls out that if you use dried hops, half the quantity. It doesn’t say whether this is leaf or pellet though. In hind sight, it is referring to dried leaf hops. If you use pellets (like we did) you should probably only use 1/4 of what the recipe calls for. In testing out this recipe we also didn’t deep fry the wings. Without a a few litres of frying oil on hand we did a light flouring of the wings and baked them instead. This is also a slightly healthier option.
The recipe calls for making a reduction of your favourite IPA and boiling it down with the hops. After the reduction comes through you will add orange juice, zest, jalapeno pepper, garlic, some more hops and what seems like way too much honey. Much like a GPS though, don’t think you know better than the recipe. The quantity of honey is required to help thicken the sauce and the sweetness will balance the intense bitterness that comes from the hops and the IPA. You may want to half the recipe but don’t stray too far from the proportions.
One of the common issues with cooking with beer is that the end result doesn’t portray the ingredients. Well, this is an exception to that rule. The hop flavour comes through in great strength from the IPA base and the hop additions. In this case, using pellet hops the intensity of the hops was almost too much. This is why we suggest using 1/4 of the recommendation if you take this route. Using pellet hops as well you will need a reasonably fin strainer in order to filter out the particulate from the sauce.
This cook book may not be the simplest out there and will make you work for your reward but it is a great means of learning some great ways to integrate hop into your cooking. From Chicken Wings to Pickles, cheesecake to hot (or Hop) Chocolate there is a broad range of recipes which are sure to spark your creativity.
Purchase Hedonistic Hops – By Marie & Michael Porter Today (Available Sept. 15, 2016)