Cooking with booze

Let’s face it, booze, at its best, is really just great food, fermented, blended and bottled.

Depending on the menu we’re tackling, there’s typically a bottle or red or white wine on hand, to add richness to meat, complexity to sauces or joy to the cook’s life.

There are a few booze-based family recipes that have proven to be favourites among the lushes we call family and friends: peach-mango barbecue pulled pork; herb-and-honey beer bread and, for dessert, brandied pear tarts.

(For those worried about driving, or feeding the little ones, I’m assured that cooking removes the actual alcohol while leaving great flavours behind.)

Pulled pork with peach-mango barbecue sauce


  • pulled-pork2 pork loins
  • 1 bottle ale-style beer
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 cups ground tomatoes
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tbsp. ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp. ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 3 large peaches, peeled and minced (or about 2 cups of frozen slices)
  • ½ cup bourbon whiskey


  • For meat:
    • Place pork loins in a resealable freezer bag with beer and apple juice. Marinate overnight in refrigerator
    • Approximately 5-6 hours ahead of meal time, rub pork loins with your favourite spice blend (we like a combination of garlic, paprika, salt, raw sugar, black pepper, thyme and celery seed)
    • Place pork loins and enough beer or apple juice to cover the bottom of the pan about 1/2-inch deep in an oven-safe pot (a cast-iron enamelled Dutch over works great for this)
    • Heat oven to 300 F
    • Cook meat on low, checking after three hours. Meat should be showing no pink at the centre, and be fork-tender
    • Working with two forks, or your fingers, shred pork while still warm
    • Cover shredded pork with approx.. 2 cups of sauce, mix well, and return to oven for 30 minutes
  • For sauce:
    • In a large pot, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil
    • Sauté garlic, shallots and peaches until softened (about five minutes)
    • Stir in 2 tbsp. of bourbon and continue cooking about two minutes longer
    • Add remaining ingredients and mix well
    • Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat until thickened
    • NOTE – taste the sauce as you go, and adjust the sweet/ sour balance to suit your tastebuds

Honey-herb beer bread


  • honey-herb-breadPre-heat over to 350 F
  • Line a loaf pan with parchment paper
  • In a large bowl, mix:
    • 3 cups flour
    • 2 tbsp. white sugar
    • 1 tbsp. baking powder
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • ¼ cup of your favourite herbs (we like a herbs-de-Provence blend with added rosemary)
  • Add:
    • 1 bottle of dark ale
    • 2 tbsp. honey
  • Mix well
  • In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup of melted butter and 1 tbsp. honey
  • Pour half of butter mixture into bottom of loaf pan
  • Place dough in pan, and pour remaining butter mixture over top
  • Sprinkle lightly with herbs and coarse salt
  • Bake at 350 F for 50-60 minutes, until knife stuck in the centre comes out clean

Brandied pear tarts


  • 1 package frozen puff pastry (if you’ve got a great recipe for homemade, send it along!)
  • 4 fresh pears
  • ¾ cup brandy
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. cloves
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup dulce du leche


  • Pre-heat 350 F
  • Core and peel pears and cut into thin slices
  • Mix brandy and spices together and pour over pears. Let marinate 20-30 minutes
  • Remove pears from brandy mixture.
  • Pour brandy mixture into small pot, whisk in sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat until thickened into syrup. Cool
  • Butter 6 ramekins
  • Thaw puff pastry and roll into a log. Slice into 6 rounds and press into a cup to line each ramekin
  • Place 1 tsp. dulce du leche in the bottom of each tart shell
  • Fill each shell with pear slices and top with 1 tsp. dulce du leche
  • Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon, nutmeg
  • Bake for 30 minutes, until puff pastry is crispy
  • Serve warm, topped with vanilla ice cream.
  • Drizzle with brandy syrup

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