British Columbia has a booming craft beer industry which boasts well over 100 craft breweries operating in our province (119 as of this moment with more to come). There’s all kinds of locally crafted beer out there and many places to enjoy it, however you rarely hear much about how to cook with it. In this segment, and more posts to come, I want to explore ideas and recipes combining locally made beer with meat supplied by Urban Digs Farm. Below, I’ll be showcasing a dish I recently made with the ground bison they sell and their own heritage back bacon. I’ve been subscribing to their brunch and farmers choice beasty boxes for a little while now and I really enjoy their more ethically raised heritage meats and other products.
Before we get started, let me introduce myself. My name is Terry and I am a beer blogger (www.westcoastbeergeek.com) who enjoys drinking different craft beers, cellar aging beer and cooking with beer to explore all kinds of different tastes and flavours offered by our growing craft beer industry. Cooking with craft beer is so exciting due to the vastly different varieties and styles of beer readily available now. On any given day you can experiment with a clean tasting Pilsner, a heavy bodied Stout or even a Sour beer to add flavour to your favourite recipes and concoctions. I encourage you to explore the local scene and whenever possible combine local products together like beer and cheese, beer and food and especially beer and meat!
For this recipe I used a beer called Longboat Chocolate Porter by Phillips Brewing in Victoria, BC. This beer is readily available across the province, but if for some reason you can’t find it almost any porter will perform in a similar fashion since most feature some variety of roasted chocolate flavours. I wanted to combine the chocolate roasted malt flavours of the beer into the meaty bison meatloaf as well as use the beer as a moisture agent during the cooking process, so this one was a perfect choice for the desired results. Anytime you cook with beer, be sure to remember that the core flavours of the ingredients will tend to intensify as the liquid reduces, so keep that in mind when choosing a particular beer to cook with (be sure to smell the beer, that will give you a good hint as to the flavour you will end up tasting in the final product).
A few notes about how I like to cook meatloaves before we get to the recipe. First off, I prefer to cook it on a baking sheet versus a loaf pan, because I find a loaf pan tends to dry out the meat as the juices will often simmer in the deeper loaf pan and draw out too much moisture from the meat. Second, I like to top it off with bacon to slowly braise the meat with the bacon fat, which imparts a bit of added flavour and tastes amazing when served together. Third, the best meatloaves have eggs, veggies and bread in them, which keeps them formed together, adds flavour and helps give a bit of volume to the loaf without taking away from the meat itself. Finally, if you pick a good meat base you don’t need to over spice or smother the meat with condiments to make it taste good, if you let the meat and other ingredients do the work you only need some simple seasoning and can avoid putting things like ketchup into it. Since bison is typically a little leaner than ground beef, the beer in this recipe also really helps keep it moist and flavourful while cooking for a long period of time in the oven.
Recipe (Total time 60 min. 10 min prep, 50 minutes cooking time):
1 lb of ground bison
¼ lb of heritage back bacon (or try their jowl bacon)
1 tsp crushed or diced garlic
1 diced onion
1 diced apple
1 diced bell red/orange/yellow bell pepper
2 eggs (preferably local farm pastured)
12 oz chocolate porter (or any porter or dark beer you desire)
4 slices of brown seedy bread, cut into small strips
1 tsp olive oil
Salt, pepper and desired seasoning
Step 1 – Preheat oven to 350F and preheat a frying pan to medium heat.
Step 2 – Place the strips of bread into a shallow baking dish and soak them in the beer for about 3-4 minutes. You want them wet, but not overly soaked to the point where all the pieces fall apart. Many recipes use milk for this, but trust me beer is way better!
Step 3 – While the bread soaks, briefly sauté diced apple, garlic, onion and pepper in a pan for 3-4 minutes and splash them with any remaining beer from the bottom of the bread pan.
Step 4 – Place ground bison, soaked bread, sautéed veggies, and eggs into a large bowl and mix them until well distributed. Add salt, pepper and any other desired seasoning (I put just a hint of smoked chili spice in mine) and redistribute.
Step 5 – Hand form a loaf shape on a baking sheet lined with tinfoil
Step 6 - Layer the top with back bacon (or jowl bacon) and splash with beer
Step 7 – Cook uncovered for approximately 45-50 minutes, aiming for a final internal temperature of about 160 F after the meat rests. Basically eliminate any pink color like you would a hamburger and start monitoring your meatloaf at the 30 minute point to ensure it doesn’t dry out. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing into it and serving.
The final product from the top:
The final product when served:
The nice thing about meat loaves is that you can make them with many different combinations of vegetables, meats and other additions so feel free to have some fun with this recipe and mix it up a little. For leaner meats be sure to keep it moist with vegetables or even a bit more soaked bread and amp up the seasoning just a little bit. As a general rule the alcohol will typically cook off as the meat cooks and as the liquid evaporates the flavours of the beer will intensify so be sure not to use too much of it in your dish and even more important be sure to save some to enjoy with your meal like I did. If you are feeling extra adventurous seek out a smoked beer and try that one next time!