girl + pickled onions

I like pickles. I like beer. Now I can bring them together!

I really like pickled onions. Actually I like pretty much anything pickled. If there’s are a jar of pickled onions in the fridge I will randomly snack on them like they are bowl of chips in the middle of the table.

Pickle Club – make pickles, bring everyone together, trade pickles, laugh and eat. Repeat. Highly recommended with beer and wine. Set one up with your friends!

Naturally it was only inevitable before I tried pickling onions. Being the proud member of a little pickle club here in Perth also encourages me to play with pickles.

Wait, that sounded wrong. Let’s move on.

So I tried this recipe for Stout Pickled Onions that I found at a fun food blog called One Tomato, Two Tomato and followed almost all the directions, I excluded juniper berries because I didn’t have any. I only made one little jar and gave it away at pickle club so I never tasted it but apparently it was quite good.

My second attempt had a few more changes – apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar and I threw in some fennel seeds too, it seemed like a good idea. The fennel came out stronger than I had thought given the smaller amount compared to the other spices but it didn’t dominate the flavours. I used Coopers Best Extra Stout as the beer in the recipe because:
a) it is seriously tasty – black coffee and chocolate, with a silky mouth feel and just a little bit feisty,
b) easily found in most bottle shops, and
c) I can buy a big bottle and have plenty left over to keep me company as I pickle.

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This recipe was enough for a 700g jar –
8 small brown pickling onions
330ml Coopers Best Extra Stout
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon salt, sugar, black mustard seeds, coriander seeds
1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds

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Slice the ends off the onions and peel skin off. Put beer and cider into saucepan and bring to boil. Stir in sugar and salt until it dissolves. Remove from heat, add onions and all your spices. Stir occasionally until onions start to feel a little softer.

Remove onions and place in jar, pour liquid over the top to cover. I had a little leftover liquid so I made sure to strain all the spices and pack those into the jar as a priority! Screw lid on tight, leave to cool before putting in fridge. These were good to go after about 3 days.

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Please note I don’t have a lot of pickling experience so I haven’t mentioned anything about sterilising jars or how long these will keep. I don’t think these will last long in my house anyway cause I’ll eat them all in two weeks so I figure I’m safe.

Next time I think I’ll throw in some fresh Thai chillies …

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Stout -v- Stout: Round 3 – Chocolate Cake

The cold winter nights have left me craving stouts so my boyfriend and I decided to conduct a little beer battle – Stout versus Stout. One night after dinner we sat down to a table of three desserts, two stouts, a notepad and a pen (this is what normal people do, right?). This post sees the stouts matching with homemade chocolate cake!

To briefly recap …

The cold winter nights have left me craving stouts so my boyfriend and I decided to conduct a little beer battle – Stout versus Stout.

One night after dinner we sat down to a table of three desserts, two stouts, a notepad and a pen (this is what normal people do, right?)

The Stouts: Coopers Best Extra and 4 Pines Stout

Coopers Best Extra Stout                                        4 Pines Stout
              Coopers Brewing (SA)                                        4 Pines Brewing (NSW)          
        6.3% abv | Foreign Extra Stout Style            5.1% abv | Irish Dry Stout Style

Round 1: Homemade Creme Brulee – the best match was Coopers Best Extra, read all about it here

Round 2: Chocolate Brownie – the best match was 4 Pines Stout, read all about it here

Now it is time for Round 3 – Chocolate Cake.

The chocolate cake was a belated birthday cake from a friend and was homemade – happy days! Now it seems that there are varying degrees of chocolate cake, from the light chocolatey all the way to the extreme “death by chocolate” approach where you might as well have just bitten into a kilo bag of sugar. This cake was more on the lighter side and definitely delicious!

Judging from the lightness of the cake I would have initially picked 4 Pines for my favourite match but when the two came together what most jumped out was the coffee bitterness, it was kinda sharp and unexpected. Perhaps there wasn’t enough chocolate in the body of the 4 Pines to lift those flavours from the cake. The Coopers Best Extra seemed a superior match, mostly in texture as it has a more creamy body which went nicely with the light fluffiness from the cake. There was much more milk chocolate notes in this matching, perhaps the creamy texture of the beer washed over the cake and brought out those flavours. I’m not really much for technical bits and bobs so I’m really just guessing here! Whether I’m way off track with the reason, it tasted good me to!

Whilst it wasn’t a match that set hearts and palates racing it was Coopers Best Extra that tasted like it had the upper hand.

Best Match … Coopers Best Extra Stout. I think the next stop will be cheese!

Stout -v- Stout + Chocolate Cake

Stout -v- Stout: Round 2 – Chocolate Brownie

Cold nights means STOUT and what better way to explore this great style by diving head first into some good ol’ head to head tastings. Going all Aussie, the stouts doing battle are 4 Pines Stout versus Coopers Best Extra. The first round was against homemade Creme Brulee with Coopers Best Extra proving the more exciting match … now it’s round two … bring on the Chocolate Brownies!

The first round of Stout -v- Stout saw 4 Pines Stout match head to head with Coopers Best Extra to see what would be the superior match with my homemade Creme Brulee. I’m not the greatest at desserts, except banana bread – my banana bread kicks ass – but the result was pretty damn good. To read the match ups and see which was the favourite pair, read on here.

Coopers Best Extra Stout                                        4 Pines Stout
              Coopers Brewing (SA)                                        4 Pines Brewing (NSW)          
        6.3% abv | Foreign Extra Stout Style            5.1% abv | Irish Dry Stout Style

Now it is time for Round 2 – Chocolate Brownies.

Normally we don’t have a lot of dessert in the house but winter has been damn cold so we are looking for any excuse to turn on the oven; as a result my boyfriend frequently disappears down the cake mix aisle at the shops.

Baking is always fun and usually a little messy in the mixing process. Like a true gentlemen my boyfriend gave me the wooden spoon to lick; I don’t care how old you are, it is always fun to eat the mix straight off the spoon!

Coopers Best Extra got a little overrun by the chocolate brownie. There was indeed great chocolatey notes from the beer and brownie but it seemed the bitterness and almost liquorice flavours stood out like an awkward pimply teenage at a school dance. The difference was a little jarring on the palate.

The 4 Pines Stout proved to be more complimentary; the sweet dark chocolate flavours from the beer and brownie was nicely balanced. There was still an element of coffee bitterness as in the Coopers but the 4 Pines was a more subtle and delicate touch. The more we tasted these two together, the more delightful the combination. Smooth, balanced and just lovely – perfect for a winter night and the fact the house warmed up whilst the oven was on made it even better!

Best Match with Chocolate Brownies … 4 Pines Stout!

Next Time: The third and final round between 4 Pines and Coopers … good old trusty chocolate cake!

Stout -v- Stout + Choc Brownies

Bread + Beer

Coopers Pale Ale Damper and trying their 150th celebration ale, funnily enough named Thomas Cooper’s Celebration Ale

Whilst writing up my post for Coopers Pale Ale I stumbled across a recipe from the Coopers website for Damper. Bread beer, huh? Yeah, I’d like that.

First I had a couple of hurdles to overcome. One was not having any beer after a rather indulgent weekend so a trip to the local bottleshop soon fixed that. The second was a little more difficult – we don’t have a sieve in the house and neither did our local IGA. Damn. Whilst I was staring at a large tea strainer and wondering just how much patience I possessed (as a female only child the answer was unflatteringly clear); my boyfriend was juggling a packet of paper cups. It seemed like a decent solution – poke some holes and Bob’s your uncle! (and I do have an Uncle Bob).

After stabbing several paper cups with a variety of instruments – corkscrew, screwdriver, pen and sewing needle – it became glaringly apparently it wasn’t such a good idea after all. I continued on with the ingredients list and threw in rosemary picked fresh from our backyard and thickly sliced Spanish olives and, of course, a generous bit of Coopers Pale Ale. It was a strange thing to pour beer into a measuring glass so, for good measure I poured the rest of the 750ml bottle into two glasses for myself and my boyfriend.

As I write this the damper has another ten minutes in the oven so I thought I’d look into the origins of damper since I don’t much except some association with Australian Aborigines; I think I remember doing some sort of damper cooking thing as a kid at primary school. Wikipedia describes damper as “Australian soda bread” by mixing flour, water and milk (if available) and shoving it into the ashes of the camp fire. I figure since mine is in the oven it’s gotta have a fighting chance of being half decent .. surely.

Whilst at the bottleshop, reaching for a king brown size bottle of Coopers Pale Ale, I noticed the Thomas Cooper’s Selection Celebration Ale and just had to grab a 6 pack. Released in celebration of their 150th year, the Celebration Ale uses hops from Australia, New Zealand and United States and local malt. I hadn’t read a great deal about the ale but in my head I was expecting some sort of hybrid of their pale and vintage ale, instead it’s more of a hopped, sweeter and earthier pale ale with a nice deep red colour. As it warmed up in the glass all the flavours came together with really nice balance and medium body. A nice drop.

Just over an hour and 2 Cooper’s Celebrations Ales later …

Not a resounding success, it was still a bit doughy in the middle and perhaps being in a cake tin didn’t help it much either. I went a little overboard in the rosemary department but the olives were delightful. Looking at other recipes I think I can easily improve on the Coopers one by actually making a dough rather than a goo and do the whole kneading thing. We ate it anyway in a platter of marinated octopus, grilled chorizo, camembert and red capsicum dip.  Oh well, it means I will have to get some more Coopers Pale and try it again sometime …

Coopers + Busselton Jetty

But there are beers that you happily return to time and time again, that you’ll take a 6 pack to dinner at a friend’s house, that you’ll reach for in the bottleshop safe in the knowledge you’ll get something you will really enjoy. Coopers Pale Ale most certainly falls into that category for me.

A clear and beautiful winter day at The Jetty

I love the Busselton Jetty, it’s intriguing, romantic and historic all at the same time.

It’s a lovely stroll along 1.8km of timber which apparently makes it the longest timber piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere; apparently you can’t have a major tourist attraction unless it’s the biggest, longest, tallest, something-est etc. Whether record breaking or not, the walk will take you past people casting lines out into the ocean; there’s significant black splotches on the timber to indicate it’s a good spot for catching squid. There’s a fair few tired looking kids with parents full of encouragement who just want to convince the kid it’s worth getting to the end of the Jetty; always funny to see a temper tantrum in full action. Outside of the great people watching there is, of course, the Jetty itself with the walk taking you along beautiful blue water and the Underwater Observatory going 8 metres below sea level to reveal hundreds of species of marine life. As you walk the Jetty there are stories to be found, bits of history to take in and sections of the old jetty linger as more tangible reminder of what used to be there.

One of two weather vanes on Busselton Jetty

Every visit is a little different. Sometimes I will do the Underwater Observatory, sometimes it’s just a walk to the end and back and sometimes it’s just a quick look before heading into The Goose for some breakfast. I can go and visit the Jetty time and time again and it’s always enjoyable … just like your favourite beer.

Now I should probably scratch those words “favourite beer” because they don’t mean much, I can’t pick a single favourite beer. Hell, I can’t even pick a single favourite beer style. It depends on mood, time of day, the people you’re with, what you’re eating, what music you’re listening too …

But there are beers you happily return to time and time again, that you’ll take a 6 pack to dinner at a friend’s house, that you’ll reach for in the bottleshop safe in the knowledge you’ll get something you will really enjoy. Coopers Pale Ale most certainly falls into that category for me.

Coopers Pale Ale is brewed without any artificial preservatives or anything nasty like that and it’s bottle conditioned, meaning yeast will go through a secondary fermentation in the bottle after it’s been capped. This processes creates carbon dioxide for natural carbonation rather than using an injection of CO2 to force carbonation. This mean lots of great things for the beer such as longer shelf life, more complex flavours, finer carbonation and better head retention and, all in all, a happier beer.

I might not have spent the weekend trying to cook up some sort of Masterchef inspired dish to match it and it’s not a limited release or a collaboration brew. What it is, however, is a damn fine beer that is fruity with light malt and a pleasantly bitter finish; it is consistently good quality, all Australian owned and with a rich history and all of this for a good price. It’s the beer my boyfriend and I have been enjoying this weekend and it’s nice to remember that great beer isn’t just the one-off cross country collaboration brews but also the home grown, well crafted beers you’ve been drinking for years.