Along the Grapevine


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Hops and Cheese Biscuits

DSC03604A few years ago I planted some hops with the idea that I would get back into making beer. That hasn’t happened but I felt I should do something with this year’s harvest of flowers. Hops, or humulus lupulus, are mostly used for flavouring and as a stabilising agent in beer, and I wasn’t too sure if there was anything else they could be used apart from their shoots which in the spring make a delicious vegetable. It turns out that the bitter flavour  of the green cone-like flowers are often used as a herb. Each variety has a slightly different flavour, but to get an idea of how it will taste, just take a ripe flower and rub it between your hands and take a whiff.

The ripe flowers are dry and very light, and to store them I simply let them dry out on the counter. Alternatively, they can be frozen. Begin by using very sparingly as the flavour is strong and bitter, and will probably only appeal to those who appreciate the flavour of beer. I chopped a few to sprinkle on a vegetable quinoa salad, a tomato sauce on pasta, and allowed myself to be more generous in cooked dishes like stir fry and stew. In each case the hoppiness lent a distinctive flavour, not too different from adding beer to a recipe. I also used some of the flowers to make a tea which turned out surprisingly red. To that I added sugar and let it ferment with some kombucha – the closest I will get this year to making my own beer.

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The next test was to use it in baking, and hence these cheesy hop biscuits. I made two versions as I prefer anything with sourdough but made another version for those who don’t normally have excesses of starter on hand.

Hops and Cheese Biscuits

  Ingredients for Sourdough Biscuit
1 cup flour
1 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 hop flowers, finely chopped
1/4 cup butter
3 Tbsp grated cheddar cheese
1 egg
3/4 cups sourdough starter

Ingredients without sourdough
The same as above, except add 5 Tbsp flour and instead of sourdough use 1/2 cup milk mixed with 1 Tbsp lemon juice.

Method
Combine the dry ingredients and cut in the butter using a knife or pastry cutter. Add the other ingredients, combine thoroughly and knead it a few times. Roll out and cut into whatever shape you prefer. If you like you can brush them with some beaten egg and sprinkle extra grated cheese on top. Bake at 375 F. for 20 minutes, or until they are golden in colour.

DSC03612.JPGThis recipe makes 6 biscuits, but the it could be doubled. I started gingerly at first with only 2 hop flowers, but found it required 4 to give enough flavour to be noticed, but not overly bitter either. And there’s no reason not to add other beer friendly flavours such as olives or nuts.

At any rate, I am pleased to add another local dried herb to my pantry, and one at that which is not commonly found in conventional recipes. If you don’t have space to grow your own hops, some of the farmers’ markets might carry them at this time of year. Otherwise they can be bought in some specialty shops.

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #240, Deb @ The Pantry Portfolio, and Laurena @ Life Diet Health


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More on Queen Anne’s Lace and Kombucha

DSC03429Last year I experimented with Queen Anne’s lace (daucus carota) for the first time and posted a recipe for a flower cordial, which I now usually make without adding any other flowers. The rosy pink colour never fails, and the flavour is exquisite on its own. I use it mixed with sodas, in cocktails, sometimes just with water, and occasionally in tea.

I have altered the recipe slightly. I measure by volume, covering the blossoms with equal parts of boiling water. In fact, I use a little less water sometimes, barely covering the flowers with water and then press them down with a plate. Then I mix the strained liquid with half as much organic sugar, heat and stir just to dissolve. That’s all there is to it.

Since then, I have been determined to find other ways to use this beautiful flower, and especially this year when they are in such profusion, I want to share as many ideas as possible.

I did make a very nice jelly with it last summer but failed to post my recipe.  However, I recently came across another blogger’s recipe which is much the same, so I will take the lazy way out and direct you to it here at Forged Mettle Farm.

Apart from the jelly and the syrup, I have had difficulty coming up with recipes. I used it to flavour rice pudding, but found that the flavour and colour were both overwhelmed with so much cooking and the other ingredients. I remedied that to some extent by making a thick pudding without sugar, once with coconut milk and once with milk and cream, then thinning and sweetening it with the syrup as it was cooling, thus avoiding long exposure to heat. The colour was not there, but there was enough flavour to make a delicious dessert, although not as strongly flavoured as I would have liked.  Experiment will continue.DSC03574.JPG

Having recently acquired some scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) I have been experimenting with making kombucha. If you are not familiar with this super healthful drink, you might be interested to read this article I found which will give you the necessary info, and then some. It is so easy to make, and can be mixed with just about anything – fruits, berries, herbs, and even vegetables, in short, all the wild things I write about. And so I have Queen Anne’s Lace kombucha, made by mixing the syrup with prepared kombucha in equal parts, and then allowing it to ferment a couple of days or so. If left longer than a couple of days, remember to open the bottle to let any built up gas escape. You may want to add or subtract the amount of syrup, augment, reduce or even eliminate the final fermentation to get the flavour and sweetness you like best.DSC03588

If you are frustrated by not having access to a scoby, and you live in this area, I would be happy to provide you with one plus the necessary amount of ready made kombucha to get you started.

And this is what I bring to this week’s Fiesta Friday which I will be co-hosting with Mara from Put on Your Cake Pants.  Do drop by and see what our guests have for you. If you would like to contribute a recipe of yours, you are most welcome. Just check out the guidelines and join the party.