Sunday, August 2, 2009

you better start from the start

August 2nd. Still no tomatoes. Crew fears all is lost, but we sail on.

There is fresh local corn, so that's something. My favorite corn dish is succotash, which you see various interpretations of but for me must have corn and lima beans.  It can have plenty of other things, sure, but corn and limas, those are the key.  Unfortunately we don't have lima beans here yet.  So I took the few shell beans my garden has produced - a mix of Burkina Faso beans and limelight beans (which are supposed to be like limas but more amenable to the north) - and tossed in some of that purslane.

Corn and purslane

Add a little salt and a little Louisiana hot sauce, and there you go, breakfast.  ... well, lunch, now.  I don't know where the day's going.

Last night I made a little working-all-weekend-dammit snack: Peppadews stuffed with beer cheese.


Peppadews are a brand name for a particular type of South African pepper and a particular way of processing it. The result is a pickled pepper that's crisp, well-suited to stuffing, and slightly sweet.  The hot ones are pretty reasonably hot, the mild have a little bite to them, the golden ("sweet and sour") ones go nicely with sharp cheeses.  I'm a big fan of Peppadews.  I grew up with pickled peppers as part of the local cuisine -- you get them on steak bombs, you may put them on your Italian subs, or stuff them with cheese and salami -- and Peppadews are the first that I like more than straight-up pickled cherry peppers.

Beer cheese, on the other hand, I didn't grow up with at all.  In fact, until discovering pimento cheese as an adult, I associated cheese spreads with jars of generic paste studded with who-cares-what.  

But pimento cheese ... aw man.  I'll post about that when/if my pimiento peppers come ripe.

There's a lot of overlap between my pimento cheese and my beer cheese -- most of the ingredients are the same, and I sometimes splash a little beer in the pimento cheese.  The main difference is that pimento cheese always has pimiento peppers and mayonnaise; beer cheese always doesn't.  So there you go.

Kentucky beer cheese is usually made with cream cheese as well as cheddar, but I skip that, which makes mine beerier.  You start with some sharp cheddar cheese -- and you can use amazing cheese here, but you don't need to, and I typically go with Cabot or Heluva, which are both about $5/lb.  Put chunks of cheese into the Cuisinart -- you don't really need to grate it -- with a little hot sauce, a little Worcestershire, and a fair bit of pickled ramp bulbs.  If you haven't got ramp bulbs, you can use pickled garlic.  Maybe a little pickled or raw onion, especially spring onion.  

Turn the Cuisinart on.  You'll probably have to scrape it down a couple times.  While it's whirring, add beer a little bit at a time.  You're thinning the cheese with beer until it's spreadable.  Check the cheese BEFORE you think it's had enough, because it'll go weird if you add too much beer.

Now, for this particular beer cheese, I used Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hops.  It's just what happened to be in my hand when I thought "hey, I should make beer cheese."  I've used Dogfish Head's IPAs, I've used various Stone beers.  I don't think I'd use a stout or a spiced beer, and definitely nothing sour, but there are few enough ingredients here that it's not too complicated to find a beer that'll work nicely.

Best as a spreading cheese -- on sandwiches, on burgers, etc.  If you go to melt in on or in anything, keep in mind that you've added a significant amount of liquid to it.  If you're going to use it in macaroni and cheese, for instance, or even in a grilled cheese sandwich, it's best to use it in combination with some normal cheese.

Once in a great while, if you misjudge the amount of beer to use and don't use up the cheese in a few days, you'll find some beer leaking out of the cheese.  This isn't a big deal.

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