By Cat, Dec 2010 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
When I was a kid in elementary school, we were often served sticks of cheddar cheese from government surplus, but I didn’t like it. Mamma told me it was OK, children often cannot digest cheese, but they grow up to love it. So I waited….
Some friends from England owned a small deli in Portland, and one day they served cheddar soup for lunch. I decided to give it a try as I liked all their other lunch items. It was delicious, and thus began my love of cheddar soup. I soon discovered the beer-cheddar soup at Jake’s Restaurant in Portland, which became my standard for this type of soup, and a reference for my own recipe, below.
I had a great recipe for Beer-Cheddar Soup when I was still living in Portland, but now I cannot find it. However, I do have a good recipe for Cheese & Onion Soup (from Soup by Coralie Castle (1)), to which beer could be added, and also the recipe for Beer Cheddar Soup from Jake’s Restaurant in Portland (2). I have melded these into one (which is how I got my original recipe that is now lost).
I usually use Tillamook® Extra Sharp Cheddar; Kerry Gold Irish Cheddar is also very good. But any sharp cheddar can be used. I also use Tillamook® butter when I can’t find Organic butter, because Tillamook dairies mostly feed their cows in pasture, and they are not treated with hormones. Tillamook is a small town on the Oregon coast, and is known world-wide for their dairy. If you’re ever there, take their tour of the cheese factory.
Gouda is another cheese that is good in this type of soup. Or you could try a mix of cheddar and gouda. One of these times, I’ll try this recipe with English Stilton (but so far I’ve not been able to find it where I live in Bigfork MT).
Worcestershire is a commonly used seasoning in many recipes; Jake’s recipe does not use it, and I’m not fond of it so add it in drops, tasting after each, as a little goes a long way. Another seasoning often used in cheddar soup is dry mustard, which I use sometimes – its flavor is good with beer; I’ve added it as an optional ingredient. I love the addition of sage, but also include it as an optional ingredient.
Jake’s recipe calls for dark beer, but I prefer an amber ale – dark is just too rich and sweet for my taste. Stout would also be good.
Serves 6 (see below for half-recipe to serve 2 – 3)
Ingredients & Equipment (serves 6):
- Flour & Seasoning Mix:
- 3 Tbsp unbleached white flour or tapioca starch
- ½ tsp unrefined sea salt
- ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp paprika
- ¼ tsp crushed dried sage (optional)
- ½ – 1 tsp dry mustard (optional)
- 1 ½ cups minced onion
- 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (I use 8 oz Tillamook Sharp Cheddar)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup real butter
- 3 cups milk (or 2½ cups milk, ½ cup light cream)
- ¾ cup beer or ale
- ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- 4 small bowls (for prepped onion, cheese, garlic and flour/seasoning mix)
- 3 quart saucepan
Ingredients to serve 2 – 3:
- Flour & Seasoning Mix:
- 1½ Tbsp unbleached white flour or tapioca starch
- ¼ tsp unrefined sea salt
- pinch tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
- ⅛ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp paprika
- ⅛ tsp crushed dried sage (optional)
- ¼ – ½ tsp dry mustard (optional)
- ¾ cups minced onion
- 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (I use 4 oz Tillamook Sharp Cheddar)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2½ Tbsp butter
- 1½ cups milk (or 1¼ cup milk, ¼ cup light cream)
- ⅓ cup beer or ale
- ¼ tsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- 2 – 3 small bowls (for prepped onion, cheese, garlic and flour/seasoning mix)
- 2 quart saucepan
- Prep: mix flour & seasonings in a small bowl. Mince onion; shred cheese; mince garlic; place each of these in a separate small bowl or pile.
- Soup: Melt butter in sauce pan, then saute onion until soft. Add flour & seasonings, and whisk to make a roux. Cook and stir 3 minutes.
- Gradually add milk/cream with minced garlic, stirring well to mix and avoid lumps. OR, an alternate method: make onion roux and set aside. Warm milk/cream with garlic in separate saucepan, then add roux while whisking to avoid lumps.
- Bring to scalding point (about 180° F, when steam begins to hover over pan, but do not let it bubble), about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring, until thickened. DO NOT BOIL.
- Add cheese and beer; stir until melted. Season to taste with Worcestershire, and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Testing 1/1/11: I made a half recipe (serves 2 – 3) as written, including all herbs/spices; except I didn’t use the Worcestershire sauce. I used whole milk from our local Kalispell Kreamery (3); their milk is pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized, and the cream floats to the top. For the flour, I used 1 Tbsp unbleached white spelt and ½ Tbsp whole oat flour. The roux thickened well, and blended well with the added milk. I used between ⅓ and ½ cup ale. Result: Excellent! Very tasty and satisfying. 2015 note: I have learned that I have a food sensitivity to oat (similar to gluten intolerance), so I will just use unbleached white flour in the roux.
Testing 11/28/19 – for lunch on Thanksgiving: Made a half recipe (2-3 servings) as written, using all unbleached white flour in the roux and Worcestershire sauce at the end. Used 4 oz grated Tillamook sharp cheddar (1 cup, grated), and Pale Ale. Result: as before, excellent.
Testing 9/13/20: Made half recipe as before, using all the suggested herbs/spices in the unbleached white flour, and ¼ cup pale ale. However used only 3 oz sharp cheddar, which is all I had; it made little more than 1 cup when grated. Result: as before, excellent.
- Soup by Coralie Castle, copyright 1971 and published by 101 Productions. My book is from the 6th printing, 1976
- Jakes Restaurant’s recipe: Beer Cheddar Soup (tillamookcheese.com/Recipes/Detail/Beer_Cheddar_Soup.aspx Tillamook link no longer valid, but I found it on Big Oven: bigoven.com/recipe/tillamook-cheddar-beer-soup/160127)
- Kalispell Kreamery (kalispellkreamery.com)
- Jakes Restaurant mccormickandschmicks.com/locations/portland-oregon/portland-oregon/sw12thave.aspx (they don’t have recipes on this website)