by Margaret Mendel
The first time I tasted Guinness we were traveling through Ireland with a friend and were about to meet up with our friend’s cousin, Adeline, in a pub not far from our hotel. We walked into the darkly lit place that wasn’t much larger than a living room with wooden benches lined against the full length of one wall. The place smelled strongly of beer, whisky and the pungent odor of hardworking men.
When Adeline arrived she wasted no time in ordering her drink, a Purple Meany, a glass of Guinness with a splash of black current cordial poured through the head. Unlike the unmolested heads on our pints of Guinness, hers had a purple splotch in the middle of the creamy colored froth at the top of her brew. She said it took away the bitter taste of the Guinness and gave it a slight sweetness.
We’d only been in Ireland a little more than a day. Still jet lagged, we sat in the pub listening to Adeline’s delightful Irish brogue as she told us about some of the less touristy spots to put on our list of things to see and do. We each had another Guinness before we decided to head over to a local restaurant for dinner. We were about to leave the pub when a jolly little guy with a full head of ruffled hair burst through the door.
“Hey, Mickey,” several guys standing at the bar called out. He was obviously a regular at this pub and he wasted no time in taking off his red plaid wool jacket and slipping some coins in the jukebox. When a rollicking Irish tune began to play, Mickey stood in the middle of the limited floor space and danced a jig until sweat poured down from his temples. The music stopped, the bar tender handed Mickey a pint of Guinness and the dancer downed nearly half of the brew in only a few swallows. He wiped away the foam from his upper lip with the cuff of his shirtsleeve, gave us a wink. When we got outside Adeline was grinning and said, “Entertainment for the tourists.”
Guinness originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness in the mid 1700’s. It is a strong, somewhat bitter-flavored, dry stout that the Irish prefer slightly warm rather than fully chilled like American beers. This Irish brew gets it flavor from roasted unmalted barley. The thick creamy head that is characteristic of Guinness is the result of the beer being mixed with nitrogen when poured into a glass. It is the best-selling alcoholic drink in Ireland and for years the Irish have claimed that Guinness has medicinal qualities. Recently researchers have discovered that this brew contains antioxidant compounds similar to those found in certain fruits and vegetables that slow down the deposit of harmful cholesterol on the artery walls.
Guinness does not contain wheat but the brew is made from barley, which contains hordein, a protein similar to gluten. Strict vegetarians might have a problem with Guinness because the production process uses isinglass, which is made from fish, as a fining agent for settling suspended matter in the vat. The isinglass is retained in the floor of the vat but it is possible that minute quantities might be carried over into the beer.
This heavy stout is often used as an ingredient in preparing food and these Guinness infused recipes are more plentiful around St. Patrick’s Day. I’d like to present to you a Guinness meal from appetizer to dessert.
GUINNESS THREE-CHEESE SPREAD
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
3 ounces cream cheese
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
½ teaspoon paprika
¾ cup Guinness
Combine three cheeses in food processor or blender. Add the caraway seeds, paprika and Guinness and blend until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl; serve at room temperature with tortilla chips or sliced crusty sour dough bread. Makes two cups.
GUINNESS POTATO SALAD
2 pounds fingerling potatoes, unpeeled, cut into chunky potato salad size
2 slices bacon (optional)
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons unbleached flour
½ teaspoon of dry mustard
1 tablespoon honey
8 fluid ounces Guinness
½ teaspoon hot sauce of choice (to taste and/or optional)
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Boil scrubbed, unpeeled potatoes in salted water and cook until a fork easily pierces the vegetable. In the meantime, fry bacon until crisp, drain and set aside. Sauté diced onion in unsalted butter until translucent and the onions start to turn an amber color. Add the 2 tablespoons of flour to onion butter mixture and stir until flour is well incorporated into the butter and makes a pasty mixture. Combine dry mustard and sugar and then add to flour. Slowly add the Guinness and hot pepper (to taste) into the flour, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, continuing to stir constantly, until a thick sauce is produced. Remove potatoes from stove, drain and put into a serving bowl. Pour sauce over potatoes, sprinkle with parsley and toss lightly, let stand for at least an hour. Before serving, add bacon and toss carefully.
RIBS AND GUINNESS
4 pounds of short ribs of beef
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons vinegar
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup Guinness
Place short ribs of beef in a roasting pan. Thoroughly combine soy sauce, honey, vinegar, and garlic in a bowl; then add the Guinness and mix well. Pour sauce over the meat and cook in the oven at the lowest temperature possible, basting frequently, about every half hour. Cook for at least three hours until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender.
GUINNESS ICE CREAM FLOAT
1 glass of Guinness
1 scoop of vanilla ice cream
Pour Guinness three quarters of the way into a tall glass. Wait a minute or two allowing for a head to form on the brew and then drop a scoop of vanilla ice cream onto the frothy top. Garnish with a long ice cream spoon.