A good friend and I were discussing the wonders of beer in foods. According to my friend, IPA beers usually cannot be used in recipes because they tend to overpower whatever they are in. I disagree, because it can be done. I will never admit he was right.
Except, he was right, the bugger.
Well, mostly anyway. And, okay, so it wasn't an argument per se but I needed a little alliteration for title. Sue me.
Let us start at the beginning, shall we?
What is an IPA? IPA stands for India Pale Ale. This will involve a history lesson, so feel free to skip down to the recipe if you don't want to listen to my anglophile ass tell you about them.
During the years of attempted British world domination, otherwise known as imperialism, India was a colony of Britain. This and many more countries were subjected to all sorts of take over by the English. There was a saying at the time that the sun never set on the British Empire. As the turn of the 19th to the 20th century got closer, Britain began to lose it's colonies and the shine of imperialism was exposed for what it was; a subjugation of cultures on a grand scale in the quest for domination of markets and resources.
All that aside, during that time, there was no Suez canal outside Egypt. To get to India, you had to take a boat all the way around Africa, which is why South Africa was (half of it anyway) a British colony, so they could make a pit stop. Many beers at the time had little or no hops in them. Deep, rich porters and brown ales were common. Lagers really weren't around yet, and I will explain the difference some other time. These beers would be brewed in England and then shipped in barrels to the colonies. When a trip from England to India was six months or more without any refrigeration, many of the beers would spoil. This made for some very unhappy military men.
Right about this time, it was discovered that hops had an antimicrobial property to them when used in certain concentrations. Highly hopped beer will keep longer than lightly hopped beer, especially in warm climates. As a result the brewers started putting large quantities of hops in the beers before shipping them to the troops in India. The result was a very specific taste profile. When the troops would come home to England they had become accustomed to the highly hopped beers and wanted them again. So a style was born and named India Pale Ale or IPA.
Today, this is a real movement in the beer world. There are people out there that call themselves Hop-Heads and can never get enough of this little cone-shaped bittering agent. The rest of us who like this style appreciate it's more astringent nature that brings flavors like citrus, bitters, and floral profiles to our beer. Personally, I never liked IPAs until I got into some of the really great things that have come out of the craft brew world over the last 10 years or so. Now I love them, and when it is warm out, this is what I drink.
Back to the cooking thing, 'cause its what I do. My friend is correct in that due to the nature of IPAs, using them in foods is a challenge. Hops can really overpower flavors in a dish if you don't deal with their strength in an appropriate way. Other types of beers are very versatile where IPAs can be more limited in this arena. What I know about IPAs, is that you need a good one if you are going to cook with it. It can't be too over the top with bitterness. You are looking for floral or citrus notes, not bitter ones.
I decided to use a beer called Super Fuzz, brewed by the Elysian brewery. This is a blood orange Pale Ale, that actually is best served just chilled, and not too cold or you miss the flavors. It is a lovely example of a well balanced IPA. The orange flavor is slight but it was my starting point. Although technically not an IPA, it has many of the same properties. I discovered this faux pas after I had written this blog post and had another beer nerd tell me that it was, in fact not an IPA. Derp.
Since I did a dessert first (which, lets be honest, is the best thing about being a grown up; eating dessert first) I decided to go with a main dish appropriate for the season. POOOOOOORRRRKKKKKK!!!!!
I thought about ribs but given their unique needs, I didn't think this would be practical. I went with a pulled pork for this one, partially due to its versatility but also because it is good for self serve and I am taking this shit with me.
You have several different ways to do this; crockpot or slow cook on the grill. I wanted to avoid the smoke flavor, as I don't think in this case it would add anything to the flavor profile I was going for. So I went crockpot on this one, with a few exceptions. Here we go, my fellow beer junkies.
Super Fuzz Pulled Pork
1 pork shoulder roast
1-12oz bottle of Elysian Super Fuzz
1 Stick salted Butter, divided
1 Sweet Mayan Onion
1-20 oz can crushed pineapple
1-6 oz can pineapple juice (cocktail sized)
3 tbsp worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp minced garlic
2ish tbsp chopped roasted red pepper (I used deli style in a jar)
2 tbsp red pepper flake
You want to procure a pork shoulder or butt roast that is proportional to the apparatus you are seeking to cook it in. In other words, don't be a nimrod like me and get one too big for your crockpot. I plan appropriately now.
I started by browning each of the sides of the roast in a hot pan with a little olive oil in the bottom. This is not technically searing and it is not about creating a "seal for juices" or any such asinine thing like that. That is a myth. What I am doing is creating a little thing called the Maillard Reaction which changes the amino acids and surface sugars of the meat creating a completely different result than if I hadn't done it. It isn't mandatory but this plays into the flavor layering magic I am creating. Click here for more information on this. Basic kitchen chemistry at work, folks.
This part is really simple, as far as I am concerned. Put the pork in the crockpot, cover it, turn it on low and walk the hell away for 6-8 hours. For whatever reason I have friends that cannot manage this. We humor them and then call for pizza.
Anywho, in about 6 hours you should have something that resembles this:
Take out the roast, put on a cutting board to rest for a while. No worries if it breaks apart. That is what you want. If the roast is not very easy to pull apart with a fork, put it back in the crockpot. You want the fibrils in the meat to completely break down. This can happen anywhere between 170 and 190 degrees depending on how fatty your meat is. You can't really over cook this, so don't sweat it too much.
Now for the beer.
In the same pan you used to brown the meat add 1/2 stick of salted butter and sweat down the onion and minced garlic. To that add the crushed pineapple, pineapple juice, worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, the bottle of Super Fuzz and the roasted red pepper. Cook this down a bit so it begins to look more like a sauce. Add the red pepper flakes now.
Turn off the heat and let it stand for a minute, and then add the other half stick of butter to this and let it melt into the sauce.
Now taste it. Is it spicy enough for you? If not add some more red pepper flake. Not rich enough? Add a little more butter. Don't like pineapple? Well, then you're shit out of luck. In all seriousness, the pineapple flavor is there, but it isn't in your face.
Now assemble how you wish. You could just straight up eat the pork with the sauce on it out of a bowl. We put it on sandwich rolls. It can be served hot, cold, or room temperature which is what I did. Like the beer, room temp seems to make things bloom.
Best things about this recipe, aside from the fact that it is made with beer is that there are no added sugars in this. All the sweetness comes from the pineapple and onions. It is also not too sweet. This could be made and frozen for a quick meal, assuming it doesn't disappear right away. The flavors are subtle but blend together so well.
So IPAs can not only be drunk, but eaten too. Point, set, match. ;)