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Dec 23, 2009 07:20 AM

The right beer for chulent

Has anyone ever used beer instead of or in combination with water in a chulent? If so, what type of beer? I'm thinking of either a brown ale or a winter spice style, like Harpoon Winter Warmer, Weyerbacher Winter Ale... If this helps, I'm using flanken and sweet potato (which is why I think winter spice beer would work). I've braised short ribs before with brown ale and loved it, so I think it would work too, although short ribs and flanken are not the same...
For that matter, I have a sierra nevada honey mustard that I might throw in--
Any thoughts?

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  1. I use beer all the time. In general I opt for a brighter ale since the nuttiness can become overwhelming when it's cooked for 20 hours. A brown ale might be ok, but I would avoid a porter or stout. In terms of a winter spice ale, ask yourself if you'd add cinnamon and nutmeg to the dish. If you would then experiment with the ale, if you wouldn't then you don't want the spices in the ale either.

    6 Replies
    1. re: avitrek

      That's the question--would the sweet potato harmonize with the winter spice ale? I find that Weyerbacher is not overwhelmingly spicy and I happen to have some in the fridge. I also have Smuttynose IPA, which is very hoppy.
      Funny, I was thinking of swapping the regular potato for butternut squash, in which case I would definitely go with the winter ale, but at what point is chulent no longer chulent?
      Do you use beer + water? What ratio? Do you reduce the beer first?

      1. re: abu applesauce

        I've done 100% beer, 2 beers + water and 1 beer + water to fill. If you're being aggressive on the beer flavoring(stronger beers) I might go with 1 beer + water as a first experiment. With a basic pale ale there is nothing wrong going 100% beer. I've never tried an IPA since I don't tend to have it sitting around, but it's probably worth an experiment.

        When I was experimenting with funkier flavorings in cholent I've done cinnamon, so I wouldn't be too scared about trying. I liked it, but I found friends preferred more traditional spices so my current recipe is more like a classic beef braise/stew. Have fun, experiment, and report back your findings. I've been meaning to try and Indian cholent one of these days, maybe this will push me to try.

        1. re: avitrek

          I'm in the same boat--don't want to disappoint a crowd expecting a traditional chulent, but desiring to mix it up...
          I'll report back.

        2. re: abu applesauce

          I don't put beer in my chulent (I tried once and found that my apartment smelled like a brewery, without much flavor improvement in the chulent, but I'm not a beer fan.) That said, I routinely put in cinnamon, and find that it works well. I'd think that butternut would fall apart completely rather than staying in chunks, which may or may not be what you're looking for.

          1. re: GilaB

            what spices do you use with cinnamon?

            1. re: abu applesauce

              It's a cheesecloth bag with 2-3 inches of cinnamon stick, about 4 cloves, a bay leaf, and a star anise.

      2. I've used Millers Draft, Samule Addams Ocktoberfest and Heineken.

        I actually like the Millers Draft chulent the best (it's also the cheapest) use 2 bottles for best results

        2 Replies
        1. re: berel

          What didn't you like about the Oktoberfest?

          1. re: abu applesauce

            I didn't dislike the Octoberfest (it's actually my favorite drinking beer), I just liked the chulent better with the MGD

        2. I always add a bottle of beer. Since beer has a limited shelf life and for drinking, the fresher the better usually, I choose the oldest bottle in my refrigerator and add it to the cholent. I prefer a dark beer, don't really know why, just seems the thing to do with such a hearty dish.

          After the cholent is cooking 20 hours, I didn't think the choice of beer makes that much of a difference. But, I'm impressed with the more subtle choices other posters have mentioned. One problem is that if I'm adding one bottle of beer on a Friday afternoon and it's a good brew, I'll have to taste it as I pour, and I may not get to add as much into the cholent...

          1 Reply
          1. re: texnosh

            I'm with you- after 20 hours I don't see the type of beer making much of a difference, but apparently, there are some people who take this way more seriously than I do. I should add that I absolutely hate the taste of beer- can't drink even a sip, yet I love cooking with it. I mostly use Yeungling (sp?) but have used anything sitting in the fridge including wine (red, white, old, cooking) half used cans of tomato juice, sauce, paste, aging marinara sauce, grape juice, boxed broth (beef, chicken, veggie). I treat my chulent like a "stone soup"- whatever you put in, after 20+ hours it's gonna taste good!

          2. Imho the best beer for Chulent is the cold one in the glass that your washing the chloent down with. If you use smoked meat in the cholent try a Belgian White like Hoegaarden

            1 Reply
            1. re: Yachabibi

              I went with Weyerbacher Winter Ale, ditched the beans, used flanken, onion/shallot/garlic, red potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash and of course kishka and it came out very good (at least I think so). I did add water initially, which was a mistake, as I ended up scooping out liquid and reducing it in a pot, pouring it back in...until my briiliant wife suggested I just leave the chulent on high and take the lid off and let it reduce that way. The result is that it basically cooked on high for 12 hours and the consitency was great--liquid was thick--and I cut the sweet potato/potato and squash very thick, so they held up. Thanks for the suggestions everyone!