When I was in my late teens I went round my then girlfriend’s house for Christmas dinner. Her family lived in the better part of town, only ever shopped at Waitrose and had a hostess trolley for use at their evening soirees. My family were proudly working class and had never been to a soiree. I remember thinking that I was in for a taste sensation having a posh Christmas dinner. I was even permitted to forgo the rotten grape juice in favour of a selection of Belgian and British strong ales.
The homemade, slow-cooked, hand-reared, free-range organic squash and cream soup with herb croutons starter was good although my mum’s prawn cocktail urinated on it from a great height. I learned that one does not pronounce the s in croutons. The main course looked impressive with a huge, fresh rare-breed turkey and all the trimmings. All the trimmings is a singularly stupid phrase. Surely the trimmings are the crap you throw away? On my plate next to the slices of turkey breast, where the stuffing should have been, was a grey-brown lump of something. I politely enquired as to the identity of the grey-brown stuff and was told that it was homemade fig, walnut and honey stuffing from a recipe by Delia “sausage fingers” Smith. It was according to sausage fingers far superior to Paxo and kept the bird beautifully moist. I tasted some of the superior stuffing was horrified to discover that it tasted like something you would leave out for the birds in the depths of winter. I did not consider this stuff to be superior to anything apart from maybe leaving the guts in the turkey when roasting it. That day I learned something, well two things actually. One was that people’s taste is subject to influence beyond that of the biochemistry of the olfactory system and the other is calling your bird’s mum’s stuffing “rough” is not a viable social tactic.
Every year you see celebrity chef’s attempting to justify their existence by either telling you what you should already know about cooking Christmas dinner or subverting and bastardising classic combinations like turkey and sage and onion stuffing. I think, although you may not agree, that most of the time, the little extras and new twists just detract from a classic meal.
“All this from a bloke who makes beer out of pig’s insides!” I hear you say. It’s a good point and one with which I agree. Beer is best left as good quality water, malt, hops and yeast brought together by skilled processing to make a well-balanced, fresh and moreish drink. Playing around and pushing boundaries is fun but for me the art of brewing is subtlety, consistency and balance and what real brewers should excel at.
This brings me on nicely to today’s unsubtle and outlandish brew. Sage and onion saison is a saision spiced in the kettle with sage and dehydrated onion. For a complete explanation of what a saison is see Here or buy a book written by Zak Avery or Adrian Tierney-Jones.
Hops: Strisslespalt, Saaz
Yeast: Dupont yeast