When The Bruery first contacted me about cooking up some delicious food with their equally delicious beer, my mind started racing. A complex and flavorful beer like Autumn Maple has so many possibilities to be transformed into a great breakfast, lunch or dinner. I knew I wanted to try multiple recipes, and before I knew it I had a list 20+ ideas deep on what to make. There was one recipe I was dead-set on making from the start, however: Autumn Maple braised pulled pork. I used the same technique in the past to make a porter braised pulled pork that was a key ingredient in my award winning grilled cheese sandwich “The Beer Baron”. The sweetness of the yam and maple syrup combined with the spicy notes of nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon in the beer sounded like a fantastic braising liquid for pork. That alone would make a great meal and is really easy to make, but I didn’t stop there! I wanted to create a fall inspired sandwich to highlight this fall inspired beer.
My final creation ended up being a grilled sandwich on sourdough with the Autumn Maple braised pulled pork, gruyere cheese, and Autumn Maple cranberry relish. I paired the pork with a Carolina style BBQ sauce (mustard and vinegar as opposed to the more traditional red BBQ sauce) as I am a big fan of the maple syrup/mustard combo. The flavor of the beer came through really well in the pork. The spices complimented the meat and it had just the right amount of sweetness. The beer flavors didn’t come through as strong in the cranberry relish, but it was addicting none the less. I found myself dipping crackers in it as a snack for days after making it.
The pork and cranberry recipes below are fantastic on their own and could be put them to good use in countless ways. But, together the pork/cranberry/cheese combo is fantastic. Once the components are made, these sandwiches come together for a quick and filling meal. I served them with a roasted fig, red onion and walnut salad and had a table full of satisfied and happy customers. Now bust out those slow cookers and get to work!
Autumn Maple Braised Pulled Pork
1.5 pounds pork shoulder or pork butt
Spice rub (pick your favorite kind. I used Rub with Love)
1 750ml bottle of The Bruery’s Autumn Maple
½ bottle mustard based BBQ sauce
What you need to do
This pork is super easy to make. First, coat the pork with a moderate layer of the rub on all sides. Place the pork into a slow cooker and pour about ½ of the bottle of Autumn Maple over the pork. It should be a little more than half submerged in the beer. Cover the slow cooker and let it do its thing on low for 8-10 hours. I like to do this part before I leave for work in the morning, so that I can come home to an amazing smelling house, and a near-ready meal.
Once the pork is finished cooking in the slow cooker, remove it and flake it apart with a fork – it should be tender and fall off easily. Move the pork into a large skillet with high sides. Pour the rest of the beer over the pork and add about ½ the bottle of the BBQ sauce. Mix the pork to combine and turn the heat on high to bring to a boil. When the liquid starts to boil, lower the heat to simmer the pork for about 15 – 20 minutes or until most of the liquid is gone.
When most of the liquid is gone, you are left with super tender and flavorful pulled pork that is ready to eat.
Autumn Maple Cranberry Relish
1.5 cups of The Bruery’s Autumn Maple
¼ cup sugar
10 oz bag of whole frozen cranberries thawed or fresh cranberries if you can get them (do not use canned)
1 granny smith apple, cored, peeled and cut into pieces
What you need to do
This is also an easy recipe to make and can be used with many dishes (and might even find a home on your Thanksgiving table). I made this the day before I wanted to make my sandwiches as it needs to set in the fridge for at least 6 hours before eating.
To make the relish, heat the Autumn Maple in a sauce pan over medium heat until it begins to boil. I would advise paying close attention to the beer for the first few minutes of the reduction as messy boilovers can happen quickly (not to mention you are wasting beer). If (when) the beer starts to foam up and threatens to boilover, just remove the pan from the stove for a minute and let it settle down. Then put it back and continue.
Once the beer boils, lower the heat to low and simmer until it is reduced to ½ cup. This took about 30 minutes for me, but everyone’s stove is different, so keep an eye on it. It can be hard to tell how much the beer has reduced sometimes, so I am not above periodically pouring the beer into a measuring cup to see where I am at, then adding it back if I need to keep reducing. Reducing beer concentrates the flavor and is often a key step when cooking with beer.
Once the beer is reduced, turn off the heat and add in the ¼ cup of sugar. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved and set aside to cool.
When the beer reduction has cooled, place the cranberries and apple in a food processor and pulse to coarsely chop. Add the beer reduction to the food processor and pulse a few more times to create a relish-like consistency. Transfer the relish to a bowl, cover and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.
Finally, it’s sandwich making time!
Good quality bread
Autumn Maple pulled pork
Autumn Maple cranberry relish
A big appetite
What you need to do
Lay 2 pieces of whatever type of bread you feel like using on a work surface (I used sourdough – extra points if you make your own bread using White Labs WLP655 sour mix yeast). Butter one side of one of the pieces of bread. On the other, put down a layer of cheese (I like to use grated), a layer of pork, a generous layer of cranberry relish and then a little more cheese. Top with the other piece of bread (butter side up) and get ready to grill.
Heat a pan that is large enough to fit your sandwich over medium heat. Add about ½ tablespoon of butter to the pan and let it melt. Swirl the pan to evenly distribute the melted butter, then slide your sandwich in. The non-buttered side goes down into the pan.
Press the top of the sandwich with a spatula, or use a sandwich press if you have one. Grill for about 3 minutes or until the cheese is melting and the bread is golden brown, then flip. Grill on the other side until the same result is achieved, then transfer to a cutting board. Let the sandwich rest for a minute or two if you can wait, then cut in half. Triangle or rectangles both work great. Lastly, but most importantly, get to work eating this fall inspired, beer soaked beauty of a sandwich.