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Six of the Best Beers for Thanksgiving

Intro

This Thursday, as a newly minted US Citizen, I will join my fellow Americans in celebrating the unique US festival of Thanksgiving

For those of our readers who have never been in the USA on the last Thursday in November, this week generally involves everyone (attempting to) travel vast distances to visit their family. Then, on arrival (if they made it) over indulging in a multi course festive meal. It’s traditional to eat a monster size turkey (for which Lindsey has just posted a recipe on taste2taste) drowned in cranberry sauce and then to crown the dinner with huge slices of sweet Potato, Pumpkin and Pecan Pies. This all must be washed down with a gallon or two of wine (or so guides to New England suggest)

We feel the craft brew industry is now so sophisticated in the US and beyond that you need no longer turn to the fruit of the grape for your Thanksgiving drinks as the fruit of the hop will do just as nicely!

To prove the point, last week, I sat down with my good friend, Brendon O’Brien, the Beer Guru at DeCicco & Sons in Armonk, NY, to discuss 6 of the best beers one’s hard earned dollars can buy. These brews are so fine, complex, subtle in flavor and nose, we think they would easily grace one’s Thanksgiving table in place of your regular go to festive wine

The Beers

Cambridge Brewing Company – Hendrix Sour Ale, 6% Vol, Cambridge MA

1. Hendrix 2

‘Hendrix Sour Ale’ by Cambridge Brewing Company

 

We start our beertastic wine replacing journey with a trip down memory lane for me to a little corner of Massachusetts that’s famous for schools like Harvard and MIT

Cambridge brewery was an early player in the East Coast, New England beer industry founded in 1989 with the aim to have a lot of fun with creating interesting beers with names and aesthetics to match

Hendrix Sour, named after Brendon’s hero, the famous Jimi Hendrix of course, is a sour ale with a high acidity.  The ale it is dosed with cucumbers and then aged in used Gin barrels (perhaps Hendricks Gin? That’s a trade secret however)

On pouring it is light in color. The taste is very refreshing and cleansing. There are strong hints in its flavor of floral rose petal, citrus, juniper and of course cucumber too

This beer is what I would call the true trend master, as cucumbers and gin have been trendy throughout the past year

Brendon believes it’s the perfect aperitif to be served at your Thanksgiving Meal strongly mimicking a cocktail like a Gin & Tonic, as it’s tart flavor works in perfect synergy with canapes and finger food. It is a great beer to welcome your guests to Thanksgiving and to revive them after their travels

A steal at just under $11 a bottle!

plan Bee Farm Brewery – Tiny acorn, Poughkeepsie, New York 

2. Plan Bee 2

‘Tiny acorn’ by plan Bee

From tiny acorns, great big oak trees grow. Our next beer is a tour de force straight from the New York countryside and comes with an interesting story.

Evan Watson, the talented brewer of this fabulous beer is also a touring musician from the Television talent show ‘The Voice’ who toured with Meatloaf. Around 5 years ago he set up his own brewery in the Hudson Valley growing most of the ingredients on his farm and locally sourced the rest. What’s more, the yeast strain of all his brews is derived from Honey harvested from his own apiary.  Evan’s Plan Bee is the kind of brewery that loves making beer as a labor of love and this is shown in the beer we have selected

The plain manila labeling on Plan Bee’s Tiny Acorn brown beer bottle with it’s wax seal stamped with an image of a bee are all about the farm. Down to earth. However, don’t be fooled, Tiny Acorn is a splendid adaptable drink for your festive meal. Like Thanksgiving, which was historically the celebration of the harvest in the US, this beer is all about the fruit of the harvest

In style it is a farmhouse ale (Plan Bee call it a ‘Wild Ale’) with a rustic earthy flavor with a nice bright acidity – lively but not too heavy. The dominant flavors derive from coriander, lemongrass, local acorn squash. The coriander and the lemongrass give it a citrus quality making it refreshing and this in turn will make your thanksgiving meal come alive. Meanwhile, the local squash, adds a texture and weight that reinforce that rustic earthy quality

We recommend this wonderful beer to start your meal but it is so versatile in its flavor and weight that Brendon is convinced it will see you through your whole meal. In his opinion it is simply perfection as an accompaniment with Turkey and stuffing and worth every cent at around $16 a bottle

Oud Beersel Brewery – bzart Kreiken Lambic 8% Vol, Beersel, Belgium

3.bzart 1.jpg

bzart – Kreiken Lambic from Oud Beersel Brewery

Every list of beers for Thanksgiving must contain something truly out of this world and this exceptional offering from Belgium fulfills its remit in our selection and to let you into a secret, it’s also Brendon’s pick of the bunch

According to Brendon, Oud Beersel – bzart are a traditional brewer dating back to the 19th Century but with a modern twist in their style. Their Kreiken Lambic, which we highly recommend is a lambic base blended with kreiken, (cherry beer) in an elegant champagne style bottle dressed with a label of a  crisp white open neck shirt, foil wrapped with a cage and cork like champagne

You might ask, why choose a Belgian cherry beer and not your go to wine for Thanksgiving? Well, in the USA one of the wines of choice for Thanksgiving is Beaujolais Nouveau, a young unstructured fruity clumsy wine. Like fruit juice it will successfully accompany your Thanksgiving food for the festival BUT why not drink something truly exceptional? bZart’s Kreiken Lambic is the antithesis. Round and decadent, it retains those saturated fruit flavors but instead of the clumsiness inherent in Beaujolais, it has near perfect structure and finesse. It is the connoisseurs’ beer

In flavor and texture it’s like a cross between the best of Champagne and Cherry Pie all mixed together in a glass, sweet round fruit with a lively acidity, balance with a refreshing carbonation. It is beautiful to consume with every stage of your festive meal, but if there is anything it goes with to perfection is accompanying your fresh cranberry sauce. The ultimate Thanksgiving side

To put it very simply this is an outstanding drink. So perfect it is a true wine replacement and at the very sharp edge of high end beer. Naturally there’s a price to pay for all this goodness. A somewhat steep circa $62 a bottle. However, worth every Dollar or Euro!

The Bruery – White Oak 12.5% Vol, Placentia, Orange County, California

4. White Oak 1

‘White Oak’ by The Bruery

When we first ventured into investigating beers for Thanksgiving a couple of years ago, we voted it’s Autumn Maple brew as perhaps the perfect beer for the festive meal. This year we selected their ‘White Oak’ named after the barrels it’s partially aged in

This inventive brewery is the brainchild of Patrick Rue, who has the knack for brewing heavily flavored beers with a beautiful balance. Bold in flavor multi-faceted and excellent barrel aged brews. According to Brendon, The Bruery is one of the few breweries creating high alcohol heavy beers that really work, it’s a testament to Patrick Rue that he makes such quaff-able brews with extreme complexity that remain drinkable at such strength

White Oak with it’s 12.5% volume is a ‘wheat wine’ based strong ale, half of which is aged in bourbon barrels. In color it is pale golden amber due to its sojourn in those whiskey barrels. Due to it’s creamy heaviness there is less carbonation apparent

In tasting one gets luscious whiskey, coconut and vanilla flavors with an accompanying syrupy viscosity. It is notably creamy on the tongue (a side effect from the wheat according to Brendon)

White Oak works well with your whole Thanksgiving meal but with its nuttiness and vanilla hints it is ideally combined with your sweet potato pie and you can just as easily have it with pecan pie for dessert

Though I find the Belgian offerings impressive, it’s this beer that I chose for my Thanksgiving Meal. Totally reasonable at around $17 a bottle

Pipeworks Brewing Company – Cinnamon Abduction 10.5% from Chicago, Illinois 

This brewery is at the forefront of the new and exciting wave of US beer introducing non traditional beer ingredients into the mix

On picking up the bottle I was amazed to see one of the most wacky labeling themes I’ve yet to experience in my forays into US craft brewing. Pipeworks artwork for this brew is totally Sci Fi. A cartoon of an Alien stuffing a human with a spoon of cinnamon aka in the style of the Cinnamon challenge!

On pouring it is jet black in color as one would expect, as the base is an Imperial Stout brewed with cinnamon, cocoa nibs and vanilla

In taste it has a strong chocolate theme in its flavor working with the cinnamon and a syrupy quality slightly thick on the tongue. All of which combine well with Thanksgiving food

Brendon recommends Cinnamon Abduction be served as the gap bridge between dinner and dessert, as the cinnamon and marshmallow hints in the beer marry immaculately with both turkey, gravy and sweet potato pie (candied yams) and serves well as the guide onward to dessert!

A bargain worthy of the late Filene’s Basement at around $11 a bottle

De Struise Brewers – Mocha Bomb Black Damnation Two, 13% Vol, O-Vleteren Belgium

6. Beer

Mocha Bomb Damnation 2 by DeStruise Brewers

As one’s Thanksgiving meal moves onto dessert, we think this spin on a classic Belgian brew from the highly regarded Belgian brewery,  DeStruise is the perfect drink

DeStruise claim to fame is a beer called ‘Black Albert,’ a rich viscose Imperial Stout. Mocha Bomb Black Damnation Two is what Brendon calls their challenge to add something new to Black Albert.  To create this awesome brew, De Struise partnered with De Molen of The Netherlands, another historic brewery

DeStruise and De Molen  took half the beer and allowed it to mature with whole coffee beans from a craft plantation in Columbia. The other half is a combination of a two other stouts aged in whisky barrels. Thus, a blend not quite from hell of three beers in one

In taste it is dominated by coffee roast, chocolate and nuts with a hint of licorice. Super rich and heavy jet black in color

What I would call the tasty Dr Frankenstein of the beer world at a rather interesting $50 a bottle, if you care to make it your Thanksgiving treat. We certainly would as it’s a shot of espresso in beer form to end your Thanksgiving meal. A truly epic dessert beer!

Happy Thanksgiving, beer drinking and Turkey chomping to all our readers in the USA and beyond

The Poll

Do you agree with Brendon and our favorites, bZart’s Kreiken Lambic and White Oak? Why not have your say in our Thanksgiving Poll below or let us know on instagram or twitter @taste2taste

 

The Weblinks to the Brewers

http://www.cambridgebrewingcompany.com/cbc-beer-year/

http://www.planbeefarmbrewery.com/

http://www.oudbeersel.com/en/

http://www.thebruery.com/

http://pdubs.net/home-1

https://struise.com/bieren-beers/

 

 

 

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Roast Turkey for Thanksgiving & other Holidays

Sage & rosemary in the garden

Cooking for family and friends is very satisfying however there is a certain degree of pressure to ensure everything is perfectly cooked  & tastes fab. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah and other holidays require precision planning and none more so the star of the main course- the turkey.  After lots of research – reading, chatting with chef friends & experimenting I have settled on this recipe with a few key steps & tips using a steam roasting method. Easy to prepare & always resulting  in slices of succulent turkey that taste terrific, according to my guests!

Ingredients:

Serves 10 plus leftovers

•Turkey around 6 kg/ 13.2lb, cleaned,  giblets removed, weigh & make a note (very important) .

•2 red onions peeled and roughly chopped

• 2 carrots peeled & chopped into discs

• 2 celery sticks, washed & roughly chopped

• 1 leek, washed & roughly chopped

• 6 cloves of garlic, left in the papery skins

• fresh herbs: rosemary ( 5 stalks), fresh thyme ( 6 stalks), fresh sage ( 5 leaves), 4 bay leaves, small handful of flat leaf parsley,  washed

•30g unsalted butter or non dairy spread at room temperature

• 1 unwaxed lemon , cut into half, rind removed from 1 half

•1 teasp sweet smoked paprika

• sea salt & black pepper

• 250 ml/ 9 fl oz cold water

Method:

Ensure the turkey is at room temperature so remove from the fridge about 1.5 hours before preparing & cooking.

Heat the oven to 200C / 392F fan.

Put the chopped veggies, garlic, 3 bay leaves, 4 rosemary  & 4 thyme stalks in the bottom of your roasting dish. These will act as trivet both protecting & adding flavour to the turkey.  They will be used to make the gravy too.

Prepare the herb butter for the turkey breast. Finely chop the sage & mix with the softened butter, paprika, lemon rind , few grinds of sea salt & black pepper. Divide into 2 & flatten.

Season the turkey with sea salt & black pepper around the outside & in the cavity.

With the breast side up push your fingers carefully between the skin & each breast to create a pocket. Add the herbed butter and massage to cover each breast ( see video).

Put remaining  bayleaf, rosemary & thyme, 1/2 lemon ( rind still on) &  flat leaf parsley into the cavity.

Turkey prepared & ready to roast

Put the turkey on its side, add the water to the dish then cover with foil ensuring wrapped but with some room to allow for the steam to circulate.

Cook for 30 minutes at 200C / 392F then turn the oven down to 180C/356F fan.

Calculate the roasting time which will be 20 minutes per 500g/ 17.6 oz.  E.g. a 6kg turkey will require 4 hours roasting time.

The key to a moist succulent turkey is to regularly baste the turkey, ideally every 30 minutes using a baster or  spoon ( see video).

After 1 1/2 hours cooking remove the turkey and carefully turn over onto its other side using thick rubber gloves or meat prongs. Be careful as it will be hot! Re-cover with foil and continue roasting, basting every 30 minutes.

For the last 30 minutes roasting, take the turkey out and turn so it’s breast side up, remove the foil and put back into the oven to brown the skin to a golden bronze colour.

Remove from the oven & re-cover with foil, then a hand towel to rest for at least 1-1.5 hours. This  tip is important to allow the juices back into the meat & ensures for easier carving. With a blanket of foil plus towel the turkey will keep warm.

Roasted, rested & ready to carve

After resting carefully remove the turkey onto a meat board. I then separate the turkey juices  from any fat in the roasting dish & push the roasted veg through a sieve. Combine in a pan adjust seasoning if needed and simmer to concentrate slightly. I add a desertspoon of redcurrent jelly & mix for a tasty turkey gravy.

Carve and enjoy along with chestnut, apple & thyme stuffing & roast potatoes (see recipes in our blog archives) and the home made gravy. I serve with braised red cabbage, carrots, roast parsnips, & roast brussel sprouts with pomegranates.

My super succulent turkey- happy thanksgiving!

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H Forman & Son – London’s Finest Smoked Salmon

Food often evokes memories of family celebrations and none more so than Smoked Scottish Salmon

Growing up it was always served as part of our family and community gatherings, whether on bagels or mini bridge rolls (with or without cream cheese) alongside such delicacies as chopped herring and egg salad.  It was a symbol that effort had been put into preparing something luxurious for everyone to enjoy

Today, Smoked Salmon (whether Scottish or other origin) has become a staple on the brunch menus of diners, cafes and restaurants in New York, London and beyond and is very easy to find in supermarkets

However, not all Smoked Salmon is born equal

The fact it has become such a common product means the art of creating a high quality, hand made, naturally preserved product has become lost, as mass production in large scale factory processes with artificial enhancements and additives have been introduced in the race to supply it to the expanding marketplace

7. View of Olympic Stadium from the Roof of Formans

The London Stadium (home of West Ham United) viewed from H Forman & Son’s Factory

In search of the origins of Smoked Salmon, we recently had the opportunity to visit H Forman & Son to meet with Lance Forman, the head of this famous London based Smoked Salmon dynasty.  Early one overcast London morning, we arrived at his family’s modern factory on the rather aptly named ‘Fish Island’ which boasts fantastic views of the 2012 Olympic Stadium and skyline

Lance is the 4th generation of his family business, which is now the only company preparing the style of smoked Salmon known as the ‘London Cure’ in East London In recognition of it’s uniqueness of production and region, in July 2017, H Forman & Son became the first London food company to be awarded European PGI (Protected status of Origin) for their London Cure Smoked Salmon.  This is the same status as that held by luxury products like Champagne

5. Salting the salmon

Salting the Salmon – one of the stages of the London Cure

According to Lance, the original business was set up by his great grandfather, Harry, in Stepney, East London in 1905 to provide traditional preserved salmon to Jewish refugees who had fled the pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th Century

At first, Harry followed the original Jewish method of preserving salmon by salting it and transporting it in wooden barrels shipped from the Baltic but then he made a discovery in Billingsgate Fish Market that would change everything. What he found was a fantastic quality salmon from a source much closer to home, i.e. Scotland. The taste was far superior to the imported salmon and the famous London cure Scottish Smoked salmon was born. The new product’s popularity grew and eventually led to Smoked Salmon becoming the global hit we are familiar with today

4. Salmon before smoking

Salmon ready for Smoking

Lance takes great pride in his family tradition of producing the finest Smoked Scottish salmon and he gave us a fascinating explanation of the London cure process, as he took us on a tour of his factory:

The first step in the process involves the fish being inspected. It is then cut in half and nicks are expertly cut to help draw out the moisture as part of the dry curing process. The sides are then laid on a bed of rock salt for a set period of time. They are then skewered and roped up to hang in the kiln for the cold smoking process.

Lance showed us the whole oak logs that are friction burned with accurate precision ensuring a consistently high quality method of providing smoke. Lance explained that other brands of ‘heavily smoked salmon’ are often brine injected and use the smoking process to mask the inferior quality of the salmon used. At H Forman & Son, the London cure and mild smoke just enhances the delicate taste and texture of the fish. Once cold smoking is finished the team remove the pin bones and expertly carve the product ready for packing

6. Birds eye view of salmon factory

Bird’s eye view of H Forman & Son’s Smoked Salmon Process with the Smoker in the background

None of the fish goes to waste. ‘Off cuts’ are used to make pâté and the more heavily smoked outer layer or pellicle is used to make  smoked salmon jerky

Whilst on site, we had the opportunity to watch a team of chefs at work at Forman & Field (the sister business) make a huge range of fish, seafood and  meat premium foods and prepared dishes, perfect for entertaining and supplying food service, retail and online. These included a diverse range from pates and terrines to salmon coulibiac, dressed lobster and specialty cheeses to Beef Wellington

2. Lance explains the samples to Lindsey

Lance explains to Lindsey the sample platter of London Cure Smoked Salmon

At the conclusion of our tour, Lance laid on a fantastic platter to showcase Formans wide range of cured salmon product. We tasted the Grade 1 standard Smoked Salmon product, wild Smoked Salmon (sourced by rod and line fishing from just one river in Scotland), gin & tonic cured salmon, gravadlax with dill, the  royal filet ‘sashimi cut’ and last but not least, some salmon jerky.  Our taste2taste favorite was the wild Smoked Salmon with its subtle flavor and amazing velvety texture that just ‘melted in the mouth’- simply delicious. Perhaps a tad expensive but we think well worth every penny!

The superb Smoked Salmon we sampled are all available online from the Forman & Field website (http://www.formanandfield.com) and in store at good supermarkets in the UK.  The London cure smoked salmon is also available for online order in the USA at http://www.formansusa.com/ and for the information of our Jewish readers worldwide, it is a Kosher product, under the supervision of the London Beth Din

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Exterior of H Forman & Sons factory

We had a great time meeting Lance and hearing about his family heritage of quality Smoked Salmon curing in East London and cannot wait to sample more of that wonderful London Cure at our future family and community celebrations as well as for brunch both in London and New York!