Bumpercrop’s canning team needed a new pickling project. And what better way to make veggies palatable than by adding a bunch of beer?
Only a year after launching their canning company, Bumpercrop, Joanna Sable and her business partner, Lisa Taerk, found themselves a little bored. “The chef-y part of me always wants to move on to the next thing, so we started experimenting,” Sable says. “We used beets with a Middle Eastern spice mix and put cherries in sambuca. Lisa loves artisanal beer, so we played around pickling vegetables with that.” The beer was a winner, adding a distinctive ale flavour without overwhelming the veggies.
To pickle with beer, they begin with a kind of simple syrup. Their Ontario-only mantra doesn’t just cover the produce they buy from farmers, but also the liquid, so Sable puts Reinhart’s apple-cider vinegar, made in Stayner, in every product. “It’s so sweet and smooth, you could almost drink it,” she says.
In order to balance that sweetness, Bumpercrop required a bitter brew, so the two drank their way through Ontario’s craft breweries. They settled on Cameron’s Brewing Company’s Auburn Ale. “It has a forcefulness that says, ‘Here I am, drink me, enjoy me.’” But the first time they dumped a bunch of beer into a stockpot, Sable recalls, “there were so many bubbles, it was like foam on the ocean.” The lesson? They needed flat beer.
Bill Coleman, Cameron’s president, is even more bubbly than his beer—and Sable, who shares his non-stop energy, liked that. “I said to him, ‘How many beer companies can say they have an edible beer product? It’s a pretty neat thing.’” Coleman agreed to send her his Auburn Ale directly from the fermentation tank, when it’s the freshest, in its unfiltered, uncarbonated form (no more ocean-foam disasters).
Then Sable perfected the recipe. Forget mushy pickled greens: Keeping the vegetables raw gives them a terrific crunchy texture. Sable’s beer beets come spiced with caraway, garlic, mustard seed, and chilies, lending them a peppery, rye-bread bite. Her beer onions work beautifully because the onion’s punchiness is softened by the Auburn Ale’s toasty caramel profile, while the garlic’s heat complements the beer’s floral hops.
For all the success beer has brought her, Sable’s not a fan of the stuff. “Golden liquids like beer or whiskey don’t agree with me,” she admits. “But reds or whites—now that’s a different story.”
Bumpercrop’s beer pickles are available at stores like Pusateri’s and Scheffler’s Delicatessen & Cheese, as well as beer-nerd hangouts like Bar Volo. $9.99 a jar.