People’s Brewing Company

People’s Brewing Company Taproom

“How’s your beer?” It’s a question that takes a little thought before answering. In the last twenty or so years there has been a proliferation in the number of beers to consider, both in the US, and in the state of Indiana. According to the Brewers of Indiana Guild, over 150 craft breweries are in operation in the state. That averages out to a bit more than 1.5 breweries per county. They are not dispersed evenly across the counties of course, but small, local craft breweries, brewpubs, and tap rooms are pretty well distributed from north to south. (Hear the People’s Brewing Company story on the IHC podcast here.)

And more are coming online each year. In the “Greater Lafayette” area, where I live, 2017 ended with three craft breweries going full steam, and one more just beginning operations. A fifth is in the works, projected to start brewing later this year, and it seems there is no end in sight. That’s great news for Hoosiers who enjoy beer and trying new brews! And it seems to be the trend nationwide. According to the Brewers Association for Small & Independent Craft Brewers, overall beer sales in the U.S. stayed level from 2015 to 2016. But for the small and independent brews, sales increased by 6.2 percent. Small and independent craft breweries make up almost 22 percent of the overall beer market in the US, as of the end of 2016, the latest year for which numbers are available.

Downtown Lafayette is home to the second-oldest operating brewery in the state, the Lafayette Brewing Company, established in 1993. LBC is a brewpub, featuring a full menu with family friendly dining in addition to the bar with many LBC beers in tap. People’s Brewing Company, also a Lafayette fixture, is newer on the scene, opening in 2009, as a production brewery. It’s beers are available all around the state in package stores and other retailers, at pubs, bars, and restaurants, as well as the People’s taproom at the brewery, 2006 North 9th Street, Lafayette. People’s opened the Revel Room a couple years ago in Lebanon, Indiana, as a taproom featuring People’s beers and family-friendly dining. A brewery will be added to the People’s Revel Room soon.

You can track the Indiana craft beer scene at the Brewers of Indiana Guild. The group’s 10th Annual Winterfest takes place Saturday, February 3, at the Indiana State Fairgrounds West Pavilion. Over 100 Hoosier breweries and food vendors will be on hand to help you taste the newest brews and old favorites. I’ll be there. Hope to see you there too!

So, “how’s your beer?” How about…Hoosier beer?

…or Boiler Beer!

Chex Mix–My way

Is there an American anywhere not familiar with Chex “Party Mix?” It is arguably the highest and best use of Chex cereal. And for me, Chex Mix is the ultimate comfort snack. I grew up eating the stuff. My mom made it not only for parties and family get-togethers, but sometimes just for fun because we loved it. I learned early on that she did not follow the recipe exactly, and adjusted the ingredients to her liking–extra Worcestershire sauce, trading out some of the seasoned salt for celery salt, no Wheat Chex, etc.

When I started making it for my family, I had already altered the traditional recipe considerably, and it’s continued to evolve over the years.  Can you really improve on a classic? I’ll bet most of us who make Chex Mix change it up to suit our own preferences, and for me, that starts with the Wheat Chex. I would rather eat Wheat Chex straight out of the box than in my party mix. Some might argue Wheat Chex taste like the box, but I wouldn’t go that far. They just don’t belong in my mix. Leave them out and increase the Corn and Rice Chex, to 9 cups total.

Mixed nuts? Does anyone really eat all the nuts in that weird assortment? I never have, and therefore they do not make the cut for my party mix. Nix the mixed nuts, and go for PEANUTS ONLY. And not a cup, like the original recipe. Just put in half the can. That might be about a cup anyway, and it’s about the right amount of peanuts only!

Then we come to pretzels. Everybody loves pretzels. A sorry one cup of pretzels I will not abide. Half a bag does the trick for me. And that’s it for the components of Chex Party Mix. No bagel chips, Cheez-It crackers, Cheerios or other add-ins. Just Rice & Corn Chex, peanuts, and pretzels.

The seasonings of course need tweaking. The original recipe in my file calls for six tablespoons of butter. Six tablespoons. It’s much easier and more streamlined to use one stick of butter. That’s eight tablespoons. Big deal.

The original two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce are doubled in my version. And it’s a sloppy four tablespoons at that. Probably closer to five. The remaining seasonings, you can see for yourself here:

These seasonings reflect my personal taste preferences and go above and beyond the original (ho hum) seasoned salt, garlic powder, and onion powder. If you would like hold fast to the original, it’s printed on every box of Chex cereal on the grocery store shelf. It’s also here.
So if you’ve never made Chex Party Mix, here’s how it goes:
In a large baking pan (I use a roasting pan), melt the butter and stir in the w’shire sauce and all remaining seasonings. Stir the Chex cereal, peanuts, and pretzels into the seasoning mixture to coat everything. Put in a 250 degree oven, for one hour. Every 15 minutes, give the mix a stir. Otherwise it will brown on the bottom. You don’t want a lot of browning, but rather a nice even toasting of everything. When done, let it cool and enjoy. If you can wait that long.
No matter how you make your Chex Party Mix, I’m sure we can all agree that once you starting eating it, it’s hard to stop.

Memories of Home

The first Indiana Home Cooks podcast of 2018 features reminiscences of my mom, Barbara Mercer. She sat down with me some months ago to record the first interview for a podcast venture that was still in the “concept” phase. In the intervening months I couldn’t find a good spot for it on the podcast. But with the winter winds blowing, snow falling, and the thermometer making its home in the single digits above and below zero, I thought it was the perfect time for the warm comforts of home.

In the episode, Memories of Home, Mom reminisces about “butchering day” on the farm when she was a young girl in Clay County. As I listened to her descriptions, I couldn’t help thinking about the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  These were some of my very favorite books when I was a girl, and the charming illustrations by Garth Williams brought them even more to life than the vivid prose. I pulled out my copy of Little House in the Big Woods, and sure enough, in chapter one, there it was–Wilder’s account of butchering day when she was a little girl. And not much had changed from 1870’s frontier Wisconsin to mid-20th century Indiana when it came to butchering a hog.

In a wrap up of the holidays, this episode also includes the step-by-step preparation of our Fluffy Yeast Rolls. These rolls have been a staple of family dinners all my life. Special occasions, mind you, not everyday meals. It’s not that the rolls are difficult or time consuming, but they do require a little advance planning, and they are pretty rich for everyday consumption. We make them at least once a year, at Thanksgiving, and sometimes at Christmas or Easter. The recipe (with photos) is included below.

Katy Eberle and I discussed bread baking also, since I was on a little bread baking jag. I brought her a baguette I had made the day before. One of my favorite homemade bread recipes is Crusty Italian Bread from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion. Here is the recipe from my King Arthur book…

If you prefer a copy without spilled coffee stains, notes, and other jottings, check it out online here.

Fluffy Yeast Rolls
From the kitchen of Barbara Mercer, from Margaret Balder
Makes 18 rolls

Dissolve 1 pkg. active dry yeast in 3 T. lukewarm water in a small bowl or measuring cup. While that is dissolving, whisk together the following ingredients in a large mixing bowl:

1/2 C. (one stick) unsalted butter or margarine, melted
1 tsp. salt
1 C. lukewarm water
1/4 C. sugar
2 eggs, room temperature

Add yeast mixture and whisk again. To this mixture, add 3 C. all-purpose flour. Mix with electric mixer until fairly smooth. Stir in 1 C. flour by hand. (Total of 4 cups of flour) Dough will be sticky. DO NOT KNEAD. Leave dough in bowl, cover with a plate or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Three hours before baking:
Remove dough from refrigerator. It should’ve doubled overnight. Grease muffin pans for 18 rolls. Melt 1/4 C. butter.

Punch down dough and pull off pieces of dough roughly the size of large walnuts and shape into balls (2 dough balls for each roll). Dip each ball into melted butter before placing in pan. Cover rolls with tea towels and let rise until double. Bake in preheated 450 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, until golden brown.* After baking, while still hot and in the pans, brush tops with more melted butter. Serve warm.

*If using dark baking pans, reduce oven temp to 425 degrees.

 

 

 

Soup’s On! With Katy

We are talking soup on this edition of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast. Please check it out and hear how much fun Katy and I had in the kitchen! She showed me her family’s favorite Italian Sausage Minestrone. It’s from the Taste of Home website. Remember, substitute your favorite beans if you don’t like the white beans called for. Katy uses dark red kidney beans. They look much prettier, in our opinion!

Katy’s Italian Sausage Minestrone

Many years ago, I subscribed to the Taste of Home magazine. My recipe file has several recipes clipped from that publication. I no longer subscribe to any food magazines, although I have considered signing up for Bon Appetit or Food & Wine. For now, my food magazine browsing is confined to the waiting room at the doctor or dentist office. If I see something that looks good, I whip out my phone and take a picture of it.

It really steams me when someone rips out the recipe!

Here is the process for my chicken stock, using bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. First I browned the thighs for a few minutes in a little oil in a heated stockpot. Here they are after browning:

Here is the bottom of the pot after browning the thighs, before and after de-glazing. That is, deglaze the pan by adding a little water, allow to cook a few minutes while scrapping up the bits from the bottom of the pot. :

 

That is the beginning of your chicken stock. Add everything else back to the pot–onion, celery, and half a lemon (if you have one), an extra chicken breast, salt & pepper, oh, and there’s a bay leaf in there! Cover this with more water and bring to a simmer:

After about an hour of simmering, turn off the heat, remove the meat to a cutting board and let it cool until you can handle it. Remove all the meat, throw away the bones & skin, drain the broth and use for soup, gravy, sauce, or freeze it for later. By browning the thighs first, you give your broth extra flavor and a little extra richness. Enjoy!

Smittybread

Thank you to David Smith, baker and owner of Smittybread, for spending some time with me the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Although the bakery was closed that day, he and his staff were hard at work mixing doughs, shaping loaves and rolls, baking cookies and pressing out croissant dough. The bakery is open Wednesday through Saturday each week, and even with those limited days, it’s hard to imagine just how many loaves and pastries have to be prepared each week keep up with demand, and the hours necessary to do it.

My favorites so far are the baguettes and croissants. I’ll be back to try more breads in the future!

Don’t Be Alarmed–In the Kitchen with Stephanie

I had this idea for a podcast about food and cooking almost a year ago. I wanted to focus on Indiana cooks, especially home cooks, but also professional chefs, bakers, restauranteurs, retailers, and people who produce our food, brew beer, make wine, etc. I love learning about all things food-related, and having a lot of fun and laughs along the way. So sharing stories about food and cooking is where the fun really begins.

After a visit to Scotland this past summer, I wanted to reconnect with the Highlands and the delightful people there. I had put the BBC Scotland’s app on my phone for the trip so I looked into that one day after being home for a couple weeks, and I found a show called “The Kitchen Cafe.” It was a fun show that featured lively conversation with cooks and food experts from all over Scotland, and “live” cooking in real kitchens. Sometimes the results are a bit surprising, as when the smoke alarm went off during one cooking session. When I heard that, I knew that was the kind of show I wanted to attempt–lively, informative, friendly, relaxed, spontaneous, surprising, fun! The “Don’t Be Alarmed” episode of Indiana Home Cooks includes just about every one of those elements.

The dish Stephanie Hainje prepared for us on the show is a recipe from Emeril Lagasse–Pasta with Roasted Squash, Sausage, and Pecans. You can find it here. And here is how it turned out on Stephanie’s stove. Enjoy!

Farm to Table to Tailgate

My guest on the “Farm to Table to Tailgate” episode of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast is Mary Ann Haan, a friend I’ve known for about eight years, but I feel like we grew up together. We were both raised on Indiana farms and we know now, as we all come to understand, that farm life is experienced differently by children and adults. Mary Ann and her husband Jeff have spent their entire lives on the farm, raising their own family there.

I saw my future beyond the farm and took a different path. Still, living in Kansas for twenty years and the rest of my life here in the Hoosier state, I’ve had much contact with people in farming. And with those contacts there is also a connection, a bond perhaps, that we share. Call it rural, small-town, country…it infuses the fabric of our lives and is certainly a permanent mark on our being. Sitting in Mary Ann’s warm welcoming kitchen, I was reminded again we share that bond, and with it, many similar memories!

When everything’s in the pot.

The cooks Mary Ann and I grew up watching–our moms, grandmothers, aunts, neighbors–for the most part did things the old-fashioned way, which for them, wasn’t old-fashioned, it was simply the way. And some of their techniques have been rediscovered by home cooks today. Maybe rediscovered is not the right word. Perhaps acknowledged is a better description. One of my favorite cookbooks is Virginia Willis’ Bon Appétit, Ya’ll! Ms.Willis is a French-trained chef who grew up in Georgia, and she traces similarities between many classic cooking techniques and the down-home way her mother and grandmother cooked. Good is good, after all. We know that browning and braising are the best way to turn an economical cut of beef into something mouthwatering and sublime. Our grandmothers knew that too.

Here is my vegetable beef soup, as given to me by my mom. It’s simple and fairly quick, and an easy recipe to adjust to your preferences. You can hear how I prepared it “live” on the podcast here.

Susan’s Mom’s Vegetable Beef Soup
(About 6 servings)
1 lb ground beef
Chopped onion & celery (about 1/2 cup of each, or more if preferred)
Chopped carrots (2-3, depending on size)
Chopped cabbage (about 1/3 head)
1 15-oz can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinse
2 15-oz cans diced tomatoes
1 32-oz box beef broth plus 1 cup water
Basil oregano, dried, 1/2 tsp each
1 bay leaf
Salt & pepper to taste (generous amount of pepper is advised; taste before adding salt)

Brown hamburger in large stock pot or dutch oven. Add onions, celery, carrots as you get them chopped. Allow meat to cook undisturbed for several minutes so it sears and sticks to the pan somewhat. Be careful not to burn! Drain fat from mixture. Add about a cup of broth to pot and let it begin to cook and loosen the bits stuck to the pot. Scrap those up into to liquid. Put meat, vegetables, and all remaining ingredients in the pot and bring it up to a simmer.  Allow to simmer about an hour.

After cooking about an hour. Yum!! Get the ladle!

Note: It’s fine to add the chopped onion, celery, and carrots to the pot while the ground beef is browning. Those vegetables do not have to cook through during this step. But combining them with the meat at this stage helps build more flavor into the dish. So if those veggies are still firm when the beef is finished cooking, that’s fine. They’ll cook the rest of the way as the soup simmers.