Once upon a time, I kept a lot of my brewing ingredients in the same refrigerator as my food. Which is how, one fine afternoon, I pulled out some cheese I was serving to some guests and found out that you can add hop flavor and aroma to cheese, completely by accident.
The Hop Flavor Invasion
There was no real technique or process here. I had some plastic-wrapped cheese in the drawer. Said drawer also contained two ounces of pellet hops in small zip-locked (not heat sealed/nitrogen flushed) bags. I made literally no attempt to merge their flavors.
Total exposure time was about two days, during which time nothing else in the fridge tasted like hops, and in fact there wasn't much in the way of aroma coming from the zip-lock sealed hop bags. And yet, there it was in the cheese: hop flavor.
And you know what? It was excellent! The cheddar had picked up a great earthy/floral flavor, and the gouda (already a bit more piquant) showed off some hoppy herbal notes.
There's potential in this for your next party.
Recreating the Accident - On Purpose
Just for fun, I tried it again, deliberately this time (though I admit to feeling a bit like Fleming discovering penicillin). It's pretty easy, as you might imagine in a process that I noticed accidentally.
This time I unwrapped the cheese and put it in a larger zip-lock bag. I then dumped hops into a smaller (and zipped) zip-lock bag and put that bag into the cheese bag and sealed it all up together.
Back into the fridge. One day is all it took. You can go longer, but I wouldn't do that unless we're talking about a medium-to-intense cheese. I would also note that the flavor/aroma fades after the cheese's exposure to the hops ends, so if doing this for a party I'd combine the hops and cheese overnight and pull it just before serving.
Your beer geek friends are going to love it, and your foodie friends probably will, too.
My initial accidental/natural experiment was with noble hops, but this seems to work really well with any variety. Certainly it's a fun way to add some herbal flavors. You could even match the hops to the beer you're serving.
The best reactions seem to be from the "big citrus" hops. Just like people seem to like bright, fruity beers, they seem to like the same in their hopped cheeses.
I'd also recommend sticking with fairly neutral cheeses, at least to start. Cheddar, Gouda, Havarti, and Mozzarella have all done well for me! Once you've dialed in your process, timing, and matched this stuff to your own palate, then by all means, go crazy.
Beer Ingredients and Food
I've read some interesting things about using beer ingredients (malt extract, crushed grain, etc.) in food, but they usually entail some precise steps and a good understanding of cooking.
This, on the other hand, is idiot-proof. Right up our alley here at BS.
Keep it simple.
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