Beer and kielbasa are perennial fare on restaurant menus and an easy meal for home chefs. Kielbasa slow-cooked in beer has a large quotient for personalization. Toss in vegetables like potatoes, onions or carrots, mustard greens, sauerkraut and herbs such as parsley for your own take on this dish. Because kielbasa is precooked, the time it spends in a slow cooker merely infuses it with other flavors you add.
Sweet and Earthy
Variations on brown sugar, kielbasa and beer abound. Something about the contrast between brown sugar and beer augments kielbasa's meaty flavor. Since kielbasa is made of either pork, beef, lamb, turkey, chicken or veal or mixtures thereof, it in turn complements just about any beer. Counteract the sweetness of brown sugar and kielbasa with a stout such as imperial, oatmeal or rye. Any beer you would drink with kielbasa you can use to slow-cook kielbasa. Whatever you use, make sure it's good-quality craft beer.
A Touch of Sour
Similar to cooking with wine, the beer you choose to slow-cook your kielbasa in should reflect the flavors you're hoping to convey. If you're going for dry and bright, cook your kielbasa in a pale ale, either American or Indian. Pale ales are typically more sour and higher in alcohol by volume (ABV) than other ales, so their flavor is a little sharp. Toss in a sweet ingredient like honey mustard to counteract the sharpness.
An Even Keel
Not every crowd longs for spicy fare, and you don't always want a peppery or acidic pick-me-up from your lunch or supper. For a toned-down kielbasa and beer, go for a wheat beer such as hefeweizen, a German wheat beer. These smooth, milky, golden to light brown beers are made from a mixture mostly of fermented wheat and malted barley. There are also wheat pale ales that are essentially a wheat ale with added hops; these are fairly light and smooth and work well with kielbasa, too.
Kielbasa is generally sweet and slightly sour, flavors that blend well with spice. For slow-cooked kielbasa that is atypical and a bit edgy, mix your favorite white ale with a rye whiskey and add this broth up to an hour before the end of cooking to flavor your kielbasa. Mix and taste the beer and whiskey beforehand to gauge the ratio of beer to whiskey. There are no perfect ratios -- only the amount of rye whiskey or beer flavor you want to come through. Add more or less of one depending on your palate. Toss in hot peppers or onions, brown sugar or ketchup to give the broth more dimension.
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