Let’s welcome October and the second week of Oktoberfest with a chat about lagers and ales. When I hear the word lager, a light golden beer usually comes to mind. Likewise, I think of an ale as an amber or brown beer. But that does not have to be the case. The true difference between the two styles of beer is the yeast used in the brewing process. Because the grain is not the issue, someone could very well brew a lager or ale of any color.
The yeast used in the lagers requires colder temperatures to ferment than does the yeast used in ales. Lagers also age longer than ales, so their taste is much less robust than that of an ale. So lagers require cold temperatures and more time which result in a milder taste. Ales require warmer temperatures and less time which results in a heftier taste.
I am an expert in exactly zero things, so my goal here is not to pretend I can school you in these beers. I do however hope you now know enough to get a trivia question on the subject right. To watch an actual brewer speak on the subject of ales and lagers, just click here. If you would like to watch a little cartoon about how beer is made, click here.
Since there two beer types discussed in this post, I decided to double up on the beer usage in this huevos rancheros recipe as well. The eggs soaked in a beer solution for a week, and the beer tortillas came from The Beeroness. For all the loveliest beer-meets-food recipes you could ever hope to imagine, you need to check out that blog!
I soaked the eggs for a full week in a solution of white ale, apple cider vinegar, and spices. They were tart! You can always soak them for less time to impart a milder taste. And if you want to keep the eggs as white as possible, use white vinegar. The point to using a white ale is to keep the eggs light, but since I didn’t have white vinegar when I felt like mixing the soaking solution up, I used apple cider vinegar.
I can’t say enough about how good the beer tortillas tasted! I attribute this to the mixture of reserved bacon fat I added to the shortening as well as the beer. Unlike the first time I made homemade tortillas, this time things went a lot better. I was able to roll the dough out thin enough and cook it just long enough so the tortillas remained pliable instead of crisping up.
That said, I still ended up with some very goofy looking tortillas; it took me about half a dozen before I really got the hang of the rolling-cutting-cooking. To keep the tortillas as round as possible, try not to handle the dough but to lift it from the counter and into the skillet. And remember, there is no need to worry if your tortillas are not perfectly round. The goal here isn’t to impress the President, just to get dinner on the table.
As I was assembling the huevos rancheros, I had the wonderful luck of having two separate friends ask if they could stop by. I encouraged their visits, luring in unsuspecting taste testers. My first reaction was, “Hmm, these are sweet.” Both of my friends said the same thing! The cherry salsa I used lent an unexpected sweetness that really countered the tartness of the eggs.
By no means do you need to use a fruit-based salsa for this recipe. It’s simply something to keep in mind. I should also point out huevos rancheros are typically made with eggs cooked over easy or sunny side up. If that is your preference, you can still use the beer tortillas. Or if you are simply interested in the hard boiled eggs, the cookbook they came from suggested serving them with a slice of cheese and tomato. I myself plan to use the remaining eggs in salads or egg salad.
If you are looking to make a complete Oktoberfest dinner, Saveur has an entire menu from soup to dessert available here. Whole Foods also has a number of cooking with beer recipes available at this blog post.
As a reminder, I am basing the beers used in this series off of my experiences at Charlotte’s World of Beer. Any errors, omissions or out-right butcherings of the information our knowledgeable and patient teacher provided and I have re-shared are most definitely my own. Happy October, and happy Oktoberfest!
- For the Eggs
- 6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
- 2 cups pale ale
- 2 cups vinegar
- 1½ tablespoons salt
- 1 teaspoon dill seed
- ½ teaspoon mustard seed
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- For the Tortillas
- 2½ cups flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup fat (shortening, etc.)
- ¾ cup beer, room temperature
- For the Huevos Rancheros
- Black Beans
- Shredded Cheese
- Sour Cream
- To make the eggs, combine all ingredients except the eggs in a saucepan.
- Bring to a boil for 5 minutes.
- While the beer solution boils, place the peeled and hard-boiled eggs in a glass or plastic (not metal) container.
- Pour the hot liquid over the eggs until they are fully submerged.
- Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate and allow to soak for three to seven days.
- To make the tortillas, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.
- Add the fat and use your hands to rub it into the flour until it is fully distributed and forms course crumbs.
- Slowly pour ¾ of a cup of beer into the flour mixture, mixing with a fork until all of the flour has been moistened. Add additional beer one tablespoon at a time if needed.
- Knead until the dough becomes shiny and slightly stiff, about 3-5 minutes. The dough should remain soft; do not overwork.
- Return the dough to the bowl and cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap, and allow to rest for 30-60 minutes.
- After resting, pull off pieces of the dough about the size of a golf ball.
- Form into balls, then roll out very thin on a lightly floured surface.
- One at a time, heat the tortillas in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat for about one minute per side. The tortillas should lightly brown, but do not overcook to a crisp.
- To assemble the huevos rancheros, mash two tablespoons of beans with a bit of their liquid (or broth) and a sprinkle of cumin.
- Spread over a tortilla, then top with cheese and a sliced beer egg.
- Place in the skillet, and when the cheese has melted, remove.
- Add more beans, salsa, sour cream, and cilantro as desired.
- Top with a second tortilla and enjoy.