We have become the kind of people who go to gardening expos.

Please excuse the cell phone photos–I forgot my camera.

It all started when Graeme texted me from work the other night with the message: “there’s a plant sale at the botanical gardens tomorrow if you’re interested”. I was. I very much was.  It turned out that his colleague’s mom was going to be in town, and he had found out about the event while searching for interesting activities to do with her. He mentioned it to Graeme, who immediately relayed the info to me, thinking this would be an awesome way to spend a Saturday afternoon. It was.

I turned 30 just a few months ago, and thus age has been a somewhat touchy topic for me as of late; as Graeme and I strolled through the myriad of vendors at the Rendez-vous horticole this weekend at the Jardin botanique, we reflected on the reality that we were now super into going to the kind of events that you take your mom to. I am pretty much ok with all of this, but my recent interest in things like gardening expos is definitely one of the subtle ways I realize that I have, begrudgingly, become an “adult”. How odd.

The expo itself was lovely, and drew a good crowd despite the rainy weather. We wandered through various stalls selling a myriad of different kinds of plants as well as various gardening accessories, and took in the smells and colours. It was a welcome meditative activity after what had been a long week for both of us.

Our principal interest at the expo, though, was to buy some heirloom vegetable seeds and seedlings to plant in the garden this year; we had already planted most of our veggies for the season, but we wanted to add a little variety to the usual mix of tomatoes and leaves that our garden produces each summer. On this front, we were not disappointed at all, and we scored many new-to-us varieties of edible goodies that we fawned excitedly during our drive home (surely another sign that we may be getting old). Our scores included:


A San Marzano tomato plant, which grows the infamously delicious tomatoes that make for the richest, loveliest pasta sauces, which we purchased in the horticultural students’ tent.


A Paul Robeson tomato plant from the friendly people at Ferme du Zephyr, which Graeme insisted on getting as he was excited about a tomato variety named after the famous singer and socialist and civil rights activist (yes, this is how we choose what varieties of tomatoes to plant).


Tomatillos also from Ferme du Zephyr, which we could not be more excited about since it is so difficult to find fresh ones in Montreal.


Poona Khera cucumbers from Ferme du Zephyr, which are also very exciting because: 1) they’re YELLOW! and 2) they have a funny name. We were assured that they make for delicious salads as well, but really, their colour is what sealed the deal.

We also bought some lovely organic seeds from La Ferme Cooperative Tourne-Sol. These nice folks were very helpful in advising us on which seeds to choose, and explained how they cultivate their heirloom seed varieties to be diverse, as opposed to uniform, like most seed people prefer. We bought some:


Red Cored Chantenay carrots


Bloomsdale Longstanding Spinach


Rainbow Lacinato Kale

I look forward to seeing how these seeds grow and am glad the farm does seed orders online too–they have a great selection and we are all about supporting coops in this house! I planted all of this potentially tasty stuff as soon as we got home, and will be psychotically monitoring its progress. These veggies are in good company, as we’ve already planted quite a few new-to-us plants and varieties this season, such as: Brussels sprouts; Lebanese cucumbers; horseradish; bok choy; fava beans; chamomile; echinacea; and a few other goodies. We look forward to seeing how the new guys, as well as our usual crop of cherry tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce, etc., do.

A post about the gardening expo would not be complete, however, without mentioning Graeme’s fixation on the little corner of the event that focused on these guys:

Oh yes. Bonsais. One tent displayed some old and truly stunning bonsais that awakened in Graeme an apparently long-held desire to become a bonsai whisperer; an ambition which he continually returned to as we strolled through the rest of the expo. He could not let go of the idea and so we eventually found ourselves picking through various young bonsais that were for sale, until my husband, who it should be pointed out rarely even waters our regular uncomplicated houseplants, purchased this tiny beauty:

I remarked to Graeme, continuing our reflections on how we were starting to show our age, that bonsais are a true old person’s hobby. He agreed, but decided that this was ok. A Boxwood or “Morris Dwarf” bonsai, this little thing has Graeme pouring over bonsai growing books he fetched from the library as I type this out. He is apparently very attracted to the idea of having a plant that is likely to outlive him. I am not sure what that says about him, but we’ll see how this goes.


The Quest for the Perfect Veggie Burger

Let’s make this absolutely clear: nothing is better than a good hamburger.  When I make burgers I go to the butcher and buy beef shortribs, bone and grind them, and make the most delicious and meaty burgers with them.  They are a delight to behold and to eat and are truly one of the finest burgers you have never had the privilege of trying.

But sometimes it’s nice to have a vegetarian alternative to the classic burger.  I’m not interested in commercially-available soy protein based burgers.  They offer very little in terms of flavour, and from an environmental and ethical perspective, I’d much rather eat well-raised beef than a highly-processed food reliant on a byproduct of the petroleum industry.  When I want a veggie burger, I want something flavourful that gives me something that I wouldn’t normally get from a beef burger.

Making veggie burgers is surprisingly difficult though.  The ones I’ve made in the past have generally tasted good but it’s been really tough to get the texture right: a meat burger has that great firm bite, but my experiments in bean-based veggie burgers have been mushy.  When you bite into them, the patty flattens and squeezes from the side of the bun.  It’s not great.

The best veggie burger recipe I’ve tried to date comes from Mille Petrozza of my favorite Teutonic thrash band, Kreator, and can be found in Annick “Morbid Chef” Giroux’s suberb cookbook Hellbent for Cooking.  Mille’s burgers are oat-based and have this wonderful firm texture that is pleasant to bite into.  They also seemed like the perfect base from which to explore different veggie burger flavours.

I went for the classic flavour of black beans for this veggie burger experiment, and used Tex-Mex inspired spices to season it.  We topped the burgers with sour cream, some homemade mango salsa that needed more heat, sliced avocado, red onion, and cilantro to keep with the Tex-Mex theme, but you could really use any toppings for this.

It was a fairly successful experiment.  The flavours were all solid and while I never set out to replicate the taste of a beef burger, this burger did have a nice earthiness that didn’t bring beef to mind, but did recall the sort of taste that makes a burger so great.  It was decent texturally, though it perhaps could have used more oats in proportion to the beans.  Though it could just be that I tend to make my burgers wide and flat, because Anna had one of these for leftovers the next day but she made hers thicker and said that the texture was better on that one.  In the meantime, the quest will continue until I have made the perfect veggie burger.

Black Bean Burgers
makes 4 decent sized burgers

1 cup dried black beans, soaked overnight
1 cup oats
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1 tsp cumin, toasted and ground
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano (more if using fresh)
A handful of chopped cilantro
4 cups vegetable stock
Salt and pepper

Soak the beans overnight.  Chop the onion and cook it in a medium-sized saucepan with your choice of oil until the onion is translucent.  Add the beans, throw in the veggie stock and your spices, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a vigorous simmer.  Simmer until the beans are nice and tender, probably close to an hour, then add the oats and boil until the whole mixture is thick and gooey.  Let this cool for a bit then transfer it to a food processor, add the cilantro, and process it until the whole thing is a nice uniform mixture.  Form into burger-sized patties and fry in a skillet until they’re nicely browned and crispy on the outside.  Serve with your favorite toppings.

Satisfying Salads

Lame as it may sound, Graeme and I both get a little bit over-excited about big, hearty salads–the kind that come in huge bowls and are a meal unto themselves. As the weather warms up, especially, big meal salads start showing up in our dinner plans more and more frequently, especially once we can make them using greens from our garden. I think my love of an enormous salad comes from my more general love of dishes that allow me to combine a million of my favourite ingredients on one plate; I go through over-the-top sandwich phases for the same reason. Also, a big salad begs for some kind of special bread-y accompaniment, which means that these sorts of dinners usually give me an excuse to either pick up something fancy at the neighbourhood bakery, or to experiment with some baking myself.

The other evening I decided to throw together one such giant salad, using lettuce, asparagus, avocado, goat cheese, grapes, shrimp and other bits that were hanging out in the vicinity of our fridge in a vaguely Asian-style gingery dressing. I whipped up some of these biscuits  to accompany the meal; they come together shockingly easily and have never failed me. It all tasted fresh and delicious. This was a really satisfying meal even after a long afternoon of slaving away in the garden, getting it all set up for the season. I share the recipe with you as an example of the kind of thing we often make at this time of year, but obviously it is barely a “recipe” and should not require one. For me, big salads are generally about combining lots of different textures and tastes to make each forkful an exciting prospect, and about including enough protein/fat so that they will be good and filling as main dishes. And I would love to hear from you, too, regarding the sorts of big meal salads you like to make; we are always on the lookout for ideas and for more creative possibilities!

Gingery Shrimp and Asparagus Salad
Serves 2.

Dressing: [Note: this was too much dressing for 2 people.]
1/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce
1/8 cup rice vinegar
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger

Big bunch of mixed salad greens
50g nice crumbly goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 an avocado, chopped
1/4 of a red onion, chopped
1 tbsp butter
12 shrimp (we used frozen precooked, but this would be even nicer with some fresh shrimp)
8 or so asparagus stalks, chopped into 1″ or so pieces
A dozen or so green grapes halved
A handful of slivered almonds

Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk thoroughly. Season and adjust the dressing to your liking.

Divide the greens, avocado, onion and goat cheese between two large plates or bowls. Melt 1 tbsp butter on medium-high heat in a frying pan/skillet and when it’s nice and bubbly, throw in your asparagus. Saute for a couple of minutes, then throw in the slivered almonds, to toast them. After about 5 minutes total the asparagus should be getting tender and the almonds should smell amazing; now throw in the shrimp (which, if you have thawed them from frozen, you have patted as dry as possible), and the grapes, season the whole thing and saute for one more minute or two, just until the shrimp get nice and browned and crispy. Divide the asparagus/almond/shrimp/grape mixture evenly on the two plates, pour some of the dressing on each, and serve.

The First BBQ of the Year, Soul Food-Style

Montrealers may remember that last summer was one of the hottest, stuffiest summers in recent memory. We don’t have air conditioning in our apartment, and so for much of the summer, cooking in our kitchen was pretty much unbearable. Luckily, we had just purchased a new BBQ, as well as the awesome veggie grilling basket pictured above, and so we spent months eating perfect dinners of grilled proteins with vegetables–whatever we had in the fridge just thrown on a the grill with a little bit of seasoning and oil–and loving it. It was about as much as we could handle “cooking” in that heat. And it ruled. As the weather has been warming up in recent weeks, I am looking forward to another summer of simple, tasty, hearty BBQ-ing.

This weekend we fired up the BBQ for the first time this year, and we were instantly nostalgic for last summer, and excited for this one. We kicked off the first BBQ of the season with a soul food-style feast. I have, in the past couple of years, become obsessed with soul food, which is a problem since this is a pretty much nonexistent cuisine in Montreal. Whenever we go to the U.S. I gorge myself and discover what I can, while back home, I have relied on a couple of cookbooks to show me the ropes. It is a pretty strange thing to cook dishes at home that you’ve never actually eaten before, so that you’re not quite sure if you’re getting them right. Last winter, for example, I was fixated on trying to make chicken and dumplings, and scoured a million websites to find the perfect recipe to introduce me to this traditional dish; the result was absolutely delicious, but who knows how it compared to the real thing!

One book that has been teaching me about soul food is Sheila Ferguson’s Soul Food: Classic Cuisine from the Deep South:


Sheila Ferguson wrote Soul Food when she moved to the UK with her British husband and felt cut off from her community and access to traditional recipes. She is a fantastic writer who takes great pains to introduce the reader to the origins of the food, its cultural significance, and why she loves it. She manages to be funny and colloquial without coming off as kitschy. Chapters of the book include, for example, “The High and Mighty Breakfast”; “Fine Feathered Fowl”; “The Almighty Pig”; “If You See It, Shoot It”; and “The Glorious Sweet Potato”; among others. I had been pouring over this book since I bought it months ago, savouring her writing on the evolution of this style of cooking, but it was not until this weekend that I finally tried a recipe. Many reviews online mentioned that Ferguson’s BBQ sauce recipes were amazing, so I thought that a fitting place to start. Often, when we BBQ, we use the Smoked Chipotle BBQ Sauce from Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie cookbook, which is seriously so ridiculously flavourful that it surprises us every time, but I thought it  might be nice to add another sauce to our repertoire. And Ferguson did not disappoint. For whatever reason, I was especially drawn to the BBQ sauce in her recipe for spareribs, so I stole that and used it for a couple of chicken legs. We grilled some new potatoes, asparagus and nectarines alongside the chicken, and as a further accompaniment I decided to try my hand at another soul food perennial that I had never actually tried (or even seen) in real life: spoonbread.

The result was a literally finger-licking plate of food that could not have made a more beautiful kick-off to our summer cookery. The BBQ sauce was really simple but full of flavour: a little bit sweet, a little bit spicy, a little bit acidic, it complemented the char of the BBQ perfectly. I will absolutely be making it again; it strikes me as the perfect base sauce to experiment with, or just to use as is because it is so solid. The spoonbread was like a perfect cross between cornbread and bread pudding. We often do some kind of corn-based accompaniment when we grill–cornbread, grilled polenta, corn on the cob–and this is a great addition to our repertoire. Light and fluffy, and nice and moist, it really added to the succulence of the BBQ-ed chicken and also made for awesome leftovers; we had some for breakfast the next morning with butter and a fried egg.

What a lovely way to kick of BBQ season; I hope we will have many more such meals to share with you over the coming months. In the meantime, here are Sheila Ferguson’s recipes for Spoonbread and BBQ Sauce, slightly adapted by me.

Adapted from Sheila Ferguson’s Soul Food: Classic Cuisine from the Deep South. Serves 6.

Spoonbread is to my mind a gourmet’s delight. You should be able to spoon it out onto your plate and eat it with a fork. To ensure this, I treat spoonbread with the respect it deserves and separate the eggs and beat the whites. Some people don’t and it comes out just fine, but I like that extra little bit of fluffiness that beaten egg whites give.

1 cup yellow or white cornmeal
2 cups water
1 tsp salt [I would add a little more]
1 cup milk or buttermilk
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp baking powder
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites

Preheat your over to 375F. Pour your cornmeal into boiling salted water. Cook, over medium heat, for 5 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly.
When the consistency is just about right, remove the pan from the heat and slowly stir in the milk. Let it cool down a bit before beating in your butter, baking powder and egg yolks. Beat vigorously for a couple of minutes then fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites (stiff but not dry, that is).

Pour the batter into a well buttered 2 quart baking dish and bake for 35-40 minutes [it took me about 45] or until golden brown. It’s done when a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

You can serve spoonbread with just about any kind of meat — ham, pork loin or chops, spareribs, roast chicken or seafood dishes. It is also terrific for breakfast!

Spare Rib BBQ Sauce
Adapted from Sheila Ferguson’s Soul Food: Classic Cuisine from the Deep South. Again, I used this to BBQ chicken and it worked out beautifully; I am sure it would also be awesome for ribs too.
Serves 6.

2 tbsp melted pork fat or bacon grease (or melted butter)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp mustard dry or prepared (not too strong though or it will take over the taste)
1 tbsp celery salt or 1 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper [I put closer to a tsp and it gave it a nice kick]
1 cup tomato ketchup
3 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup water or meat stock
1/2 cup beer
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional) [I skipped this]

Heat the bacon grease or butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Brown the onion, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or so. Add in all the remaining ingredients. Bring them to a boil, then simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes or so, uncovered.

Taste and adjust seasoning, and then slather all over your chosen protein!

Sometimes Hipsters Get it Right

In this post, I will begrudgingly admit that there is some awesome food to be had in Toronto. Obviously as a stereotypical Montrealer, it pains me to say this, but there you go. (I am just kidding, folks, please do not take my Toronto ribbing too seriously.)

We all know that charcuterie is very hip right now, which is both awesome, because charcuterie is awesome, and makes me suspicious that it will lead to a lot of mediocre sausages out there in the world. It is without a doubt a wonderful thing that so many people are embracing previously marginalized ways of preparing often difficult cuts of meat; charcuterie is truly an art form at its best, while retaining a certain rustic humility that makes it simultaneously transcendent and comforting. It is also at the heart of current discussions of food ethics, particularly because charcuterie makes use of a lot of offal, which allows us to be thrifty in our meat consumption, and less wasteful. So we are big, big fans, but as I have expressed previously, I do worry about the fancification (if I may be allowed to invent a word) of what is, effectively, “peasant food”. I have found, though, that my dividing line between what “works” and what doesn’t seems to be how good a job people are actually doing with these foods and methods. Make it tasty, and I will have a lot less anxiety about it.

In that vein, there is a running theme on this blog where some “next hot foodie thing” is super hyped and I am skeptical of it, until I actually taste said source of hype and come around. See my post on the Au Pied de Cochon Cabane à Sucre , for example. This probably says a lot more about me, and my grumpiness, than anything else. In any case, this weekend I had a similar experience in the great Canadian metropolis of Toronto, where I spent a little over 24 hours on a work trip. Most of my time in the city was therefore spent in a windowless room staring at powerpoint slides, but I found the time to venture into the city first to meet up with my sister and her family, and then to meet up with my college roommate, the inimitable Kevin. Kevin is a dear friend who lived with me back when I was still a vegetarian, and who looks a lot like Captain Highliner these days. For real. Check it:

Apparently Captain Highliner was wringing his hands for weeks as to where to take me for dinner during my one evening in Toronto, because he thinks I’m scary. I’m not really scary, I’m just kind of a jerk to Kevin. He finally took me to The Black Hoof, a new-ish restaurant specializing in offal and charcuterie, which he loves, but he was worried that I would dismiss it as overly trendy. Indeed, The Black Hoof is, as far as I can tell, a current hotspot in the T-Dot, full of well-dressed young things with perfectly tousled hair and expensive clothes meant to look cheap. The Black Hoof folks make all of their own charctuerie and serve it in a”small plates” format, which is also very trendy right now, but like with charcuterie, I kind of love it because I love family style meals, for all their sociability and because they allow you to try lots of different things. (I have a problem with indecisive ordering.) So I was down with some small plates gluttony.

So here you had a place that seemed to have every current food trend all rolled in to one. Of course I wanted to hate it. And of course, I actually loved it. Say what you will about the “hipness” of the restaurant, they make some damn good food, and that overshadows any pretentiousness. To be fair, the actual space felt far less pretentious than what I had expected given their website, which is a little bit precious for my tastes. The service was excellent, friendly, and not too “quirky”, and the portions were perfect (enough but not too much) for a small plates menu. The space is very cool, but not so cool that it will look dated in six months. The whole restaurant felt much more effortless than I had expected, which was nice.

And then there was the food. We had a very hard time deciding, but eventually we shared, while sipping pints of Beau’s Lager (which was good, but not nearly as good, in my opinion, as their ales that we’ve tried):

A plate of pickled vegetables, and their insanely velvety and perfect duck liver mousse, which you can see here just under Kevin’s smiling mug, served with an applesauce that complemented the mousse so awesomely that it made me really reflect on the possibilities of food pairings. I love eating stuff that makes me feel like I’m learning in a way that will enhance my own cooking at home. My only complaint about this mousse is that, as you can see in the photo, the presentation, in my opinion, looked a bit like a turd. The presentation on the rest of the dishes we tried was beautiful, so I am not sure what was up with this one. We seriously ate every bite of this mousse despite a fairly generous portion. It was silky and delicious, as was the bone marrow that we ate next, which was served with a sort of gremolata (I don’t think that’s what they called it), toast and Maldon sea salt, which is pictured at the start of this post. The marrow was melt-in your mouth and addictive as soon as you added a couple of flakes of salt to it. I have never eaten marrow like that and I feel like I could seriously eat it every day. We even mopped up its juices with our bread.

We then shared a pig’s tail pozole, which was a much meatier soup than I expected from, you know, a pig’s tail. With cilantro and lime it was really lovely, although probably the least memorable part of the meal (which is hardly a diss, the rest of it was just so good.)

And finally, we ended the meal with two smoky dishes: the smoked sweetbreads, with fiddleheads and other veggies (left) and beef tartare, with toast, egg yolk, parmesan, horseradish, and other goodness (right, and I have to admit that while the presentation of that dish is lovely, I wish it didn’t hide the meat!). Kevin had warned me that the sweetbreads had been controversial the last time he’d eaten there, as some folks found them too smoky, but we both agreed that while the smoky flavour is certainly strong in them, we love that kind of thing and it was delicious. This is probably one of the only times I’ve met a fiddlehead that I adored as well; generally I find them pretty underwhelming. My only complaint about the sweetbreads was that they could have been fried better; they were not as crispy as one might have hoped, and that would have really knocked them out of the park. But they were otherwise delicious, and had that awesome complex texture that I love so much from sweetbreads and that have made them an obsession for me as of late. The tartare was possibly my favourite dish of the evening; all the elements on the plate worked perfectly together, and I loved the gooeyness of the yolk with the crunch of the bread with the subtle spiciness of the horseradish. It really highlighted how great tartare can be. I was only sorry that it was the last thing we ate because I was so full already by that point. We still managed to devour the whole damn thing though.

Beyond some minor quibbles, my only real complaint came at the end of our meal, when the waiter asked us if we wanted a dessert or drink. I tried to order a mint tea (seriously, after a meal like that one needs to digest!) and was informed that they did not serve tea or coffee. What? It was not explained to me if this was a temporary state of affairs or not, but I hope that it is, because it is pretty unacceptable for a restaurant not to serve such standard drinks, and if it is a deliberate decision then this is the kind of “different for the sake of being different” that I find so irritating about trendy restaurants. Please, hipsters, put some tea and coffee on your menu and I will be loyal to you forever. Don’t try to mix things up when it comes to these sorts of dining expectations. Please.

So there you go. The moral of this story is that I should perhaps learn to be more open-minded about trendiness than I  have been in the past; whatever the “hipster” factor at The Black Hoof, these are folks that clearly take their meat very seriously and do absolutely beautiful things with it. They are clearly very talented and are cooking thoughtful, precise food. It is a really lovely place to eat, both in terms of food and atmosphere, and it was a great space in which to catch up with an old friend. All of that stuff is more important than how cool a place is or isn’t, so good for them. And now I have to go learn how to cook me some bone marrow.

In Praise of Small Beer

My brewing assistant, Susan.

I really love what Anna wrote for this blog about “foodie culture” and the way that it fetishises eating and drinking seemingly without regard for social context. What is true for food is likewise true for beer.  It goes without saying that I love what is usually termed “craft beer”, i.e. distinctive, flavourful, and well-made beers that come from a place of genuine love and passion instead of the dictates of a marketing department. But there is a sense in which the culture surrounding craft beer is, well, too much about the beer itself.

Take, for example, ratebeer.com’s “Best Beers 2011” list, and note, along with Stephen Beaumont, that 39 of the top 50 beers are imperials. The beer writer and historian Martyn Cornell worries about how these lists will encourage brewers to focus on “extreme” beers to the “detriment of those of use who want nuance, subtlety and depth in our beers.”  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a beautifully complex 10% abv Russian Imperial Stout every now and again, but this isn’t an everyday kind of beer.  What we have here is craft beer’s “wine envy”: the idea that beer can and should be far more than the industrially-produced fizzy yellow stuff and can have a real depth and complexity that rivals the sophistication of wine. While this is not untrue, the problem with “wine envy” is that it only looks at the elite consumption and appreciation of wine for guidance. Sure, wine can be a perfectly aged bottle of Bordeaux from a good vintage, but it can also be a simple bottle of red table wine, enjoyed with friends over a long and comforting dinner, both of which can be great given the right context and company.  And so it should be with beer: a beer shouldn’t have to be mind-blowing and hammer your tastebuds into submission to be the right beer at the right time. Sometimes a less aggressive, thirst-quenching “session” beer is what you want, and it can be just as beautiful and flavourful as an imperial.

And so, partly because I was thinking of brewing one eventually, and partly because my coworker Julien was trying to push the homebrewers at work to brew milds inspired by CAMRA’s “Celebrate Mild in May” campaign, my latest brew is a mild.  With a couple of exceptions, such as Jester King Brewery’s hopefully not accurately named Commercial Suicide Oaked Dark Mild and some hard to find bottled imports like Moorhouse’s Black Cat, mild is a style of beer very rarely seen in North America.  It’s a traditional low gravity, light bodied, lightly-hopped British style of beer that was once favoured by the working classes because it could be drunk for lunch without interfering with work, but it almost disappeared as kegged lager became popular.  It’s now seeing a revival largely because of CAMRA’s tireless campaigning, but I think a large part of the appeal is that much like a lager, mild is fundamentally a refreshing and thirst quenching beer, though unlike lager it has a lot of depth and flavour.

I can’t claim that my version of a mild will be anything close to authentic.  There is a volume of the Classic Beer Style Series devoted to mild, but I haven’t read it.  My recipe is sort of based around my not very clear recollections of drinking Black Cat, though this is all interpretation with nothing solid to back it.  It will be hoppier than is strictly traditional, but this is because I find a nice hop aroma to add to the refreshing qualities of the beer–and hey, this is homebrew, so I have unlimited creative freedom here. I will let you know how it turns out.


May Day Mild

For a 3 gallon (11.5L) batch

1.25kg Maris Otter malt
0.25kg 40L Crystal malt
0.15kg Amber malt
0.15kg Chocolate malt

20g leaf Fuggles [5.2% AA] (60 min)
15g leaf Fuggles [5.2% AA] (5 min)

Whirlfloc tablet (Boil 15 min)

White Labs #WLP013 London Ale Yeast

Starting gravity: 1.038
Final gravity: 1.010
BU: 25.5
Colour: 22.0 SRM

Chilling wort