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By Tassie Mardikes . . . write Tassie
September is upon us and it is during this time of year I find myself particularly aroused by the aroma and flavor of hops. It’s as if the hops’ brisk bitterness is carried in on the chap wind that now blows through Chimacum, and their tang filtered from the fading light that steeps through the multicolored decay of leaves. While I am usually content to saunter over to the Valley Tavern for a pint of Hop Diggity, or swill some FinnRiver dry hopped cider while shuffling my feet amongst fallen leaves, there are times (even during these shorter days) that the consumption of said beverages can be unseemly. This is where you come in…any suggestions on how to sate this autumnal craving for Humulus lupulus without a visit to the bar or beverage shelf at the Cornerstore? Do hops even grow out here in Jefferson County?
All Hopped Up
Dear All Hopped Up,
Hops do indeed grow in Jefferson County (see above!), and almost anywhere in the North Temperate Zone. They love deep, rich, moist soils and plenty of air circulation. Just the other day, I found an abundance of hops creeping up the side of a trailer. I pillaged the tendrils as quickly as my fingers could pick and after half an hour, I had a gallon bag bounty of strobiles (flower cones). This inspired me to stick my entire face into the bag. O, brisk bitterness! Beer is my most beloved vehicle for appreciating the Humulus lupulus (mmmmmmmmmmmmm Hop Diggity!) but I am not equipped for brewing, so I set out to answer the very same question that you are now asking me. What was I to do with so many antimicrobial flower cones?
The first answer I arrived at is the same answer I always arrive at when I have too much of a fruit or leaf in my hands: Turn it into ice cream! And make cookies to go with it! Whereupon a resident of said trailer and I conspired to craft a scrumptious recipe. Now it is available for you to enjoy. When using hops for ice cream, be sure to pick them apart and remove the center stem and the Lupulin. This yellow glandular residue will be recognizable as minute yellow dots inside the cones. The Lupulin is the most potent part of the hop and while perfect for beers and medicinal purposes, its bitterness would be overwhelming in an ice cream. The leaves alone should suffice for the flavoring.
The second use I found, was as a medicinal infusion to promote appetite and rest. Mrs. M. Grieve of A Modern Herbal claims that 1/2 ounce of hops combined with 1 pint of water has “proved of great service” in “heart disease, fits, neuralgia and nervous disorders, besides being a useful tonic in indigestion, jaundice, and stomach and liver affections generally. It gives prompt ease to an irritable bladder, and is said to be an excellent drink in cases of delirium tremens.” If you really steer clear from the Corner Store shelf and find yourself giving that invisible man a handshake, may I suggest you try her advice.
And should you find yourself as lucky as I, and happen upon a hop plant, make a mental note to return in the spring and make like a Roman. They harvested the tender shoots and dressed them in butter or cream!
HOP AND HONEY ICE CREAM
In a medium saucepan, bring the milk just to a boil and remove from heat. Steep the hops and vanilla in the hot milk for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the honey and salt into the egg yolks. Strain the hot milk into a bowl or pitcher and very slowly pour it into the egg mixture. Be sure to pour gradually in a thin stream and beat the eggs constantly, or ALL WILL BE RUINED!!!! Add 1/2 C heavy cream and return this mixture to the saucepan. Heat slowly over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens to a custard consistency and coats the back of the spoon. Remove from heat and mix in the rest of the cream. Refrigerate this mixture until it is very cold, then freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. This recipe will make approximately 1 quart of ice cream. Serve with Salty Brown Sugar Cookies!
SALTY BROWN SUGAR COOKIES
Beat together the butters and sugars. Add vanilla and salt. Beat. Add flour and mix until just incorporated. Transfer dough to a sheet of wax or parchment paper and form a log 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap and chill thoroughly. Heat oven to 350. Roll log in coarse sugar. Cut into 1/3 inch thick rounds. Arrange cookies 1 1/2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet and bake until just firming up and shiny on top. (approximately 10-12 min) This recipe makes about 23 cookies.