My fascination with jelly (or, as you may know it, gelatin dessert) began as a child. My mother made wobbly sweet jellies for dessert. They were fruit flavored and came from a package; it was one of the only packaged foods we ate. Jelly is glimmering, transparent, and fleeting—perfect out of the mold, then resembling a train wreck the moment it’s cut.
When I started to cook I eschewed the packaged jellies. I jellied coffee, Champagne, and even milk using sheets of gelatin that looked like old glass windows. Then I went one step further (or one step too far, depending on your opinion) and made my gelatin from scratch, using calf’s feet and a lot of patience. Still, despite making everything from fruit jelly to headcheese, I had never thought of jellying beer.
This beer jelly isn’t dessert; it’s distinctively savory, and that’s what makes it interesting. I discovered it at Semilla restaurant in Paris, where it accompanies their house-smoked salmon. The salmon was delicious, but the beer jelly grabbed my attention. I serve it with fatty smoked fish, beer-poached shrimp, country ham, or a plate of Cheddar cheese, smoked sausage, and pickles. Or serve it as a palate cleanser between courses. You only need a small amount of this jelly, 1 or 2 cubes; set it in ice cube trays so you can avoid cutting it. Each ice cube mold in a tray usually holds about 1 tablespoon, so you’ll need two trays. The jelly will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator.
Pour 1/4 cup / 60 ml of the beer into a small saucepan, sprinkle over the gelatin, and let stand for 5 minutes. Add the salt.
Pour the remaining beer into a bowl and add the sugar and lemon juice, then stir to mix. Stir the beer a few times to get rid of the foam. Rinse the ice cube trays with water; it will make the jelly cubes easier to unmold.
Place the saucepan over low heat and stir to dissolve the gelatin. When it is dissolved, pour it into the beer-sugar-lemon mixture, stirring to mix, then pour into the rinsed trays and refrigerate until set.
When ready to serve, turn out the jelly cubes onto a damp surface. Wet your hands and a thin spatula to make it easy to transfer them to a serving plate.
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Reprinted with permission from Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor, with Recipes by Jennifer McLagan, copyright © 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.
Jennifer McLagan has presented at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Master Class Series and the Epicurean Classic in Michigan. Her writing has appeared in Fine Cooking, Food & Drink, The Country Grapevine and The Niagara Grapevine. She is the author of Bones, which won the James Beard award for Best Single Subject Cookbook; Fat, which won the James Beard award for Best Single Subject Cookbook and was named Cookbook of the Year by the Beard Foundation; and Odd Bits.