By Ian Lloyd, Certified Cicerone®️
Most emerging beer connoisseurs know the role that hops play in the flavour of beer. Bitter hops balance the malt sweetness and act as a natural preservative. But hops in cooking — is that really a thing? In the gastronomic culture that is Victoria, the answer is yes. Let’s look at some of the ways that the dedicated home chef can use hops in their cooking.
Who better to ask than experienced chef, Andrew Paumier? Detailing his 35 year experience would be too lengthy. Mentioning his highlights as a chef at the Malahat Chalet and instructor for the Professional Cook Training Program in BC should be sufficient. These days Andrew is serving up a tasty Arancini from his food truck called Indecent Risotto. Arancini are stuffed rice balls that are breaded then deep fried. Yummy!
Perhaps a bit of background about hops would be useful. Hops are the green, cone shaped flowers of the Humulus lupulus bine. Of culinary concern hops contain acids (Alpha and Beta) which impart bitterness, while essential oils with provide aroma and flavour. When you say that a beer has earthy and citrus notes you are tasting the essential oils, most likely myrcene oil. Hops are categorized into two general styles, aroma or bittering. Aroma hops would impart more flavours into your dishes. Examples include Citra, Hallertauer, Saaz, Amarillo or Goldings.
Think of hops in cooking similar to bay leaves, not too much and don’t boil it. If you boil hops, you will activate the bittering qualities and cause the essential oils to evaporate. As with brewing, if you add your hops towards the end of the cooking time you will retain the essential oils.
There are two options for cooking: whole hops and pellets. Whole hops are just like it sounds, whole hops flowers. Hops pellets are created when the extra fibrous parts of the hop flower are removed and the leftover powder is pressed into a compact form. Each form have their advantages and drawbacks. Whole hops are more flavourful, but can absorb moisture and break apart. This will make them hard to remove at the end of cooking, but they could add desirable colours and textures. Hop pellets are easy to work with, but they will absorb moisture and dissolve completely into your dish. This might not be an issue with very green, herby dishes like pesto or breads. An easy way to add hop flavours without extra green bits is too make hop tea, then add the liquid to your dish. Brew like regular herbal tea, then strain the liquid through a fine colander or cheese cloth.
The next logical question is where does one obtain hops for cooking? When you visit any home brew shop you will find a vast array of fresh hops and hop pellets. However, you might not need 2 oz of hops for a small batch of pesto or salsa (recipe to follow). Your perfect source might be a homebrewer. A homebrewer is a great friend to have. Not only do they have an abundance of good beer on hand, many might be willing to spare a small amount of hops. It might help to offer a portion of your cooking with them. Their knowledge of hop flavours could be a great resource to suggest which hops could work well in your recipe.
Andrew has a special approach with hop use in cooking. Unlike hop use in local India Pale Ales, Andrew feels that fewer hops are better. He provides wise advice, “More hops can always be added but once they are incorporated into a recipe you can’t take them out.” In most dishes he recommends you use only 2 to 4 hop flowers or 1 to 2 hop pellets. And he is a fan of the Citra hop: “In a fresh herb pesto, it plays well with the citrus-forward tastes of this hop.”
Hopped Salsa Verde
Yield 1 Litre – Prep Time: 15 Minutes
- 2 to 4 fresh hops flowers or 1 to 2 hops pellets
- 2 bunches fresh flat leaf parsley including stems roughly chopped
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 15ml chili flakes toasted
- 30 ml fennel seeds toasted
- 15ml coriander seeds toasted
- 5 cloves garlic crushed
- 250 ml olive oil
- 500ml canola oil
Combine toasted seeds and garlic in blender with olive oil and blitz into a paste. In small batches alternate adding parsley and canola oil until all incorporated. Make sure verde is blended smooth between each addition. Stir in lemon juice and zest. Add salt and pepper to taste. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days