The proof is in the barrel

I’ve had a few chances to play around with the Gueuze barrel chips now and thought I’d share my findings (on both grilling use and beer use).

The Beer side: When I first opened the bag of chips I immediately threw some into starter wort to try and grow up the critters living on the chips. Not surprising, the bugs did get going pretty quickly. Also not surprising it developed some green mold. It looked and smelled decent for about 4 or 5 days and I thought that it might end up being usable. Then the aroma really went down hill and the green monster started growing. Oh well. I still haven’t dumped it out (too afraid) and I was thinking that I could possibly pull some of the beer out from under the mold and try to culture that up… but really, I’m too lazy for all that. Plus I like the reliability of buying pure strains and mixing them myself, or culturing up dregs from bottled beers.

The Fire side: The chips have been used to add some smoke to pork, fish, and numerous chickens. Result… Shocker, the smoke flavor is just like oak! Well, to be fair I think there may be a slight difference that I haven’t yet been able to nail down, but unless you are going to do a side by side oak vs gueuze barrel (made from oak) smoke test, I don’t think anyone would pick up on a difference. I actually do plan on doing that some time though (Bourbon barrel chips vs Gueuze barrel chips).

That being said I do actually like using these chips. In general, they are chipped quite small and don’t need to be soaked too long before throwing on your fire. That makes them ideal for quickly adding smoke to items that aren’t slow-cooked for 60 hours. Also handy if you are “planning-challenged” like me and realize that you forgot to soak your chips as you’re about to throw the meat on the grill.

Conclusion:

  • Gueuze Barrel chips are great for a quick burst of smoke when grilling
  • Don’t bother using them for long smokes
  • Keep them out of your homebrew (just culture up dregs from a bottle if you must)

I wonder if barrel chips from a good kriek would offer anything extra? Hey,Peter De Clercq,  how about that? I’ll help test them out for you.!

stick your wood in it

Belgium can be a bit of an outdoor-cooking wasteland. When the sun comes out everyone does love to run out in the back yard and blacken some meat, but it is rarely taken seriously and is never combined with the idea of high quality food. Often if I talk about cooking a very nice cut of meat on the grill I get the response “Aww, thats a shame.” Because of this attitude it is rare that Belgium offers something unique to the outdoor-cooking world. Perhaps it was born from a pure marketing idea or perhaps it came from a genuine search for new flavors, but never the less, woodchips made from Gueuze-barrels is an interesting and uniquely Belgian product.

I was surprised to find these wood-chips but I was flabbergasted that they were at my local grocery store, not some obscure online barbecue specialty store. Peter De Clercq, Belgiums one and only outdoor-chef, has been trying to bring grilling to a higher level here and is the man behind this new idea. Thanks Peter! Now I just need to see if they are any good. Hmmm, what would go well with Gueuze smoke?

Not only am I excited to throw these chips onto the fire but I am also wondering if I can inoculate some beer with them. According to the package the chips come from barrels at Timmermans that were either at the end of their life, or broken. I am not sure of the conditions in which the wood was “chipped” but I tossed a handfull into some starter wort to see what happens. The chips should be full of brettanomyces, pediococcus, kloekera and hopefully saccharomyces (among many other critters). I flushed the starter with CO2 to try to prevent any acetobacter from taking hold. As long as I don’t get any black or green mold I should be able to start up a useable culture, or at least make some interesting vinegar. Of course it would be a lot easier, and probably more fruitful, just to use the dregs from a bottle of Gueuze… but then I couldn’t say that I stuck my wood in it.

get stuffed

P6060021A couple weeks of illness, and then being busy after that means that I have not posted anything in a long time.  I do have all kinds of beer geekery to report but for now I want to share the latest recipe off the grill.

Last night I decided to try my hand at stuffing a pork loin. Its always been something thats intrigued me. After reading a bunch of recipes on the interweb I decided that I would just wing it. I did steal the idea of using dried cherries with bell peppers from one of the recipes.

 

the stuffing (with precise measurements)
– half a medium/small red onion (diced)
– half a yellow pepper (diced)
– small handful of pecans (crushed)
– large handful of Michigan dried cherries
– dash of salt pepper
– larger dash of ground ginger

First saute the onions in some butter. The add everything else and cook until the peppers are tender. The stuffing is ready! The hard part is putting everything together. I had a pork loin that was about 650g which I butterflied. I think if you can master the art of roll-cutting, or whatever they call it, that would be able to hold the stuffing better. If you choose just to butterfly it then you should have a mother-in-law on hand who can artfully tie the loin closed. Four hands are a minimum. There was also a second smaller pork loin that was simply marinated in Boon Kriek.

The two hunks of meat were cooked indirectly over coconut briquettes. The results were very good! The cherries, yellow pepper, and pecans were a nice combination that sparked all kind of ideas for future recipes. This is definitely a recipe I will be playing with more in the future. Many people say that stuffing is also a good way to keep a pork loin from drying out on the grill; that is something I have never had a problem with, but the stuffed loin that I made was drier than my usual ones so I don’t buy the idea that it makes a moister end product. Perhaps if you add something with a higher fat content that would be true.

The 2005 Cantillon kriek that I served with the pork was a fantastic partner. The dried cherries in the meat helped pull out the sour cherries in the lambic and the sourness and tartness of the beer gave the pork a nice freshness.

click on the photo for a couple more pictures.

Toer de Geuze 2009

barrels TDG2009Sunday was the Toer de Geuze. a wonderful event that I have missed every year since I moved to Belgium. I had planned on joining one of the official tour busses but due to my laziness I was too late. All available seats on the buses I preferred were taken (each bus had a different route). Another year without being able to enjoy this event. Or so I thought. As I mentioned on here before, “Beery people are good people” Don S (from the Babblebelt and Celebrator Beer news) and his wife offered to let me join them in their rental car. Great people! While the buses are nice, I think that this may be the way to go. We were able to see more breweries and do them as quickly or as slowly as we wanted. My day started at 6am so I could hop on the train and try to get to Lembeek just before 10am. There I met my two fellow travelers for the day. From the station in Lembeek you could literally fall into Brouwerij Boon. You know its going to be a good day when you start your first brewery tour at 10am! I won’t go into a ton of detail about each brewery, I’ll let the badly taken photos do that, all I need to say is that all these breweries have something great to offer. Us beergeeks sometimes passover some of these breweries because of some of the products they put out. While those products may be lack lustre, the breweries can also make a pretty mean jonge lambic and oude geuze. After Boon we headed up to Hanssens. Then to 3 Fonteinen, Oud Beersel, Lindemans, De Troch and finally Mort Subite. The day ended with a quick Girardin jonge lambic at De Koekoek before being dropped off at the train station in Ternat. It was a quite fantastic day full of tasty surprises! I really can’t complain about any of the beer I had. Of course I only stuck to the traditional products. It was also nice because this event reminded me that there are great events like this that do put better beer into the eyes of the Belgian public. So its not all doom and gloom like in my rant “Beer in the gutter” … but its still partly true 😉

oh, and by the way, the Mega Blend that all the participating breweries helped in creating… really awesome!

click on the photo to see more.