Follow the trails for Cheddar cheese and craft beer, and you’ll be treated to some of the best flavors of Vermont (yes, we have maps!). In this soup, we throw in a few wild mushrooms for good measure.
Any where you land in Vermont, there are several things you will never be far from – maple everything, Cheddar cheese, and craft beers! We even have maps of “Cheese Trails” and “Craft Beer Trails” for visitors to follow around the green mountains to sample some of our specialties. It’s fun, informative, and can be quite filling (for the beer trail, you may need a designated driver).
Beyond the pub
Cheddar and ale or beer soups are a fixture in Vermont, especially in the pubs, but frequently at fine dining establishments as well. They are hearty, filled with flavor, and they are unique. The creaminess of the cheddar combines beautifully with the sharpness of the beer with its bitter notes, and the resulting flavor is unlike anything else, except perhaps the flavor of a hearty Welsh Rabbit which also combines beer and cheese!
Let’s add some mushrooms, too!
I had a lovely haul of local mushrooms from the farmers market this week, so I actually had some extra to use in the soup. My assortment included hen-of-the-woods (maitake), oyster, and shiitake. I have never used mushrooms in my cheese/ale soup before, but their earthiness added a lovely flavor and texture to the mix, and I’ll be doing this again!
For the beer, I had some dark Vermont Long Trail ale on hand, so in it went. If you use their Harvest Brown Ale, there is added maple syrup, so you’ll have a bit of that Vermont flavor as well. The Hibernator would be a good choice here as well, but use what you like to drink, just like when you are cooking with wine.
Serious about cheddar
The cheese here was Cabot Hunters Seriously Sharp Cheddar, our basic house cheddar, but any Vermont white cheddar will work. The Hunters melts beautifully, and has just the right intense sharpness we like. Proportionally, I used a little less cheese than some recipes out there which can be a little on the too-thick side, almost a cheese sauce, but I keep it sharp to hold its own against the beer.
I used a homemade vegetable/mushroom stock here, but use whatever you like: vegetable, chicken, etc. I used half-and-half, which is half milk and half light cream, but use any cream or milk that you prefer. You can even use evaporated skim milk. I would not use heavy cream since the sauce will be thickened and have a lot of cheese in it.
This makes eight cups.
Vermont Cheddar, Beer, and Mushroom Soup
2 cups half-and half, light cream, or any % milk
2 cups stock of choice
1/2 stick butter
1 sweet onion, minced
1 large carrot, minced
2 ribs celery, minced
8 ounces wild mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp. Coleman’s mustard
1 tsp. sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
A few grates of nutmeg
1/4 cup unbleached flour
1 bottle dark ale, local craft
12 ounces Vermont white sharp cheddar
Salt and pepper
Warm the cream and stock over low heat.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high and add onions, carrot, celery, and sauté for a few minutes, then add the mushrooms to the pot. Cook until the vegetables are tender and have released their moisture.
Add the mustard, the paprika, cayenne, bay leaf, and a few grates of nutmeg. Combine well, and let these spices bloom for a few minutes, stirring.
Add the flour, and cook for three or four minutes, until it is thick and any glaze on the pan is now part of the pasty looking concoction on the bottom of the pot.
Add the ale, and cook until the mixture is thick. Simmer for about 10 minutes, then pour in the heated stock/cream mixture, along with salt and a lot of fresh black pepper. Taste, but fair warning, until the cheese is in the pot, you probably won’t like it much!
Add the cheese, reduce the heat to low, and simmer just until the cheese is melted.
Plate and garnish with whatever you like: fresh parsley, some croutons, a few slices of the mushroom, or maybe a slice or two of hot peppers. Serve with crusty bread, and perhaps a glass of something crafty.
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