I used to eat a lot of jelly; a huge bowl made with half a bottle of vodka and as little water as we could get away with to make it set. That was as good as dessert got when I was at university and we’d sit around tucking into it between cans of lager and shots of Tesco Value gin (we lived like kings in those days).
I’ve wanted to make beer jelly for too-long. I’ve wanted to make it with beer ice cream to be a boozy twist on the kids classic. I wanted to serve it in a beer glass so it looked like a pint. I also wanted it to be a play on a black and tan, with IPA jelly and stout ice cream.
It’s a simple recipe. The ice cream is a pot of good vanilla custard and about 100ml of Guinness FES (any stout will do) – you can make your own custard if you want but I cheated. The jelly starts by softening gelatine sheets in about 100ml of the beer – I used a can of Punk IPA. Then make a sugar syrup – you want it to be very sweet (four tablespoons of sugar in about 100ml of water) so that it balances the bitterness (if you used a different beer then you could use less sugar). When the syrup is ready, take it off the heat for a few seconds and then stir in the gelatine with the beer it’s been soaking in. Let the gelatine dissolve and then pour this into a jug along with the rest of the beer. Put it into glasses or serving dishes and leave to set in the fridge.
And the taste? It’s really interesting... It’s jelly and ice cream but not like we know it, far from the bright red wobble of Rowntree’s with white rectangles of ice cream cut from a box. It’s fruity, a little fizzy and there’s some bitterness at the end. Put it with the ice cream and it dulls that bitterness, giving the flavour of beer in both, which is great, really interesting and unusual – it’s not over-sweet and there’s a savoury depth to it.
I used Punk IPA to see if the tropical fruit aroma and flavour stayed with it and it does, just. The trouble is that the bitterness is harsh on its own and that’s not something you want in a dessert. Some pieces of fruit, mango or mandarin (tinned, of course), would balance this and most other beer jelly recipes I’ve seen come with fruit in them (they are also made with fruit beer).
I now want to try it with kriek (a proper sour one) or a sweetened fruit beer. I’d also be interested in a Budweiser jelly or one made with wheat beer. Or maybe black tea jelly with milk ice cream and a biscuit on the side... I’d like to try ice cream and jelly made from the same beer as well – I think it’d make a playful dinner party pre-dessert, especially if served in shot glasses so it looks like beer. Or taken to the next logical stage it’s a full-on beer trifle (beer cake used as sponge, beer jelly, beer-soaked fruit, beer custard, BEER!).
My kitchen experiments continue and I’ve got lots more things I still want to try! Anyone got any cool ideas for using beer in food that I can steal and try out?