Photo | williams-sonoma.com
Last year I gifted Gabe a beer-making kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop. It included pretty much everything you need to brew an IPA at home: grains, hops, yeast, fermentation jug, thermometer, racking cane, tubing, tubing clamp, stopper, airlock and sanitizer. What a fun and useful gift! I thought. Most of this stuff is reusable, so brewing beer will be our new thing!
Of course, the kit just sat on a shelf for six months. Sat there until our quarantine-induced boredom and financial fears drove us to seek out entertainment from what we already had in our house. One afternoon we watched some YouTube videos and turned into instant experts on mash, worts and all. We cooked everything up, did some rigging and funneling and then left our 1-gallon creation to ferment in a cool, dark cabinet.
What a delight! How fun! I’m such a good gift-giver! But also, what a mess. To my surprise, brewing beer leaves quite a bit of waste behind in the form of spent grains. This byproduct is basically a big soggy pile of malted barley husks. But there’s a lot of value left in those wet husks, as the leftover grain is low in gluten and high in fiber and protein.
In commercial brewing and distilling facilities, these spent grains are sometimes repurposed as animal feed, compost or even fuel to reduce food waste. Some (human) food companies have popped up in the last decade too, like Brewer’s Crackers out of Massachusetts, which cook nutritious and nutty spent grains into snacks like flatbreads and pita chips.
Being the frugal gourmand that I am (I have refilled a single TexasPete pepper sauce jar with vinegar about 35 times), I decided to try some spent grain recipes out on my own. I tried spent grain crackers. Awful. Spent grain pizza dough. Even worse. It was almost as if the people writing these recipes were more adept at brewing beer than baking confections.
So, I adapted some of my own recipes, ignoring the specialized spent grain versions and swapping in spent grains when something called for buckwheat, millet or breadcrumbs. What a revelation! I settled on two quick-and-easy recipes, one spicy and savory and another salty and sweet, that put our spent IPA grains to delicious use.
For these recipes, you’ll first want to either freeze the wet spent grain for later or dry it out now. To dry it, spread it about 1/4-inch thick on a rimmed baking sheet. Pop it into an oven set at a low temperature, like 200 degrees F, and cook it for up to — gulp — seven hours. Toss the grains around about halfway through. The grain is ready when you can no longer feel moisture in it. Break it up and use it in a recipe just as it is, grind it into a spent grain flour or store it in a glass jar for later use.
Spicy-Garlicky Spent Grain Croutons
2 cups dried spent grain (or dried bread crumbs)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring until fragrant but not brown, about 2 minutes. Add the spent grain and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring until the grains are fried and golden brown, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Serve warm over grilled vegetables or soup, or refrigerate and toss with chilled salad.
Salty-Sweet Spent Grain Granola
1 1/2 cups oats
1 1/2 cups dried spent grain (or buckwheat, millet or whatever grain you have on hand)
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup flaxseeds
3 egg whites
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sweetener (like honey or maple syrup)
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. Spread the granola on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake, stirring every 15 minutes, until everything is toasted and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool completely. Store in glass jars. Serve with milk or yogurt and fresh or dried fruit.
For Christmas this year, I gifted my brother-in-law a moonshine still I found on Amazon. Stay tuned to see if I figured out how to repurpose spent flaked maize and find out whether or not we ended up in jail for distilling corn whiskey at home. (Is moonshining illegal? I have no idea!)
Alyson Sheppard is Lagniappe’s resident hangover specialist and Boozie’s most unreliable Midtown spy. Find her on Twitter: @amshep.
This page is available to our local subscribers. Click here to join us today and get the latest local news from local reporters written for local readers. The best deal is found by clicking here. Check it out now.