Every time I make my way to Ottawa – which occurs often enough as I have family there – I treat myself to a stop in Vankleek Hill, where there resides a fantastic brewery called Beau’s All Natural Brewing company. On my previous visit I acquired several beers, one of them being a Hefeweizen, called “Weiss-O-Lantern,” brewed with… pumpkin? Now at first this seems like an odd combination, as the usual pumpkin beers are generally traditional ales brewed with pumpkin spices and, well, pumpkin. But after giving it some thought I realized that it makes total sense. You see, Hefe-Weizen is literally German for Yeast-Wheat, and the yeast used in these types of wheat beers have a spicy character all on its own; usually giving off aromas and flavors of bananas, cloves, citrus fruit, and some general yeast earthy funkiness. The wheat portion of the name means that the beer is made with the addition of wheat. Generally they are never entirely made from Wheat, as there always needs to be some barley in there, for reasons I won’t get into here. So yes, it actually makes a lot of sense to make a hefeweizen/pumpkin ale hybrid because a lot of the natural yeast flavor/aroma profile has similarities to “pumpkin spices,” like cloves, cinnamon, cardamon, all spice, etc…
When I went to purchase the family Jack-O-Lantern I decided to grab another one for cooking. I didn’t have much going on that weekend so I figured I could dedicate most of the day to cooking. It had been quite some time since I’d made pasta from scratch, so why not make pumpkin ravioli to eat alongside this pumpkin Hefeweizen!? I wanted to have a bit of a variety, so I picked up some Ricotta as well, in order to have two different kinds going on. For a sauce, I’ve done brown butter and sage in the past – which is fantastic – but this time I decided to do a white wine cream sauce with thyme and black pepper in order to lend a nice richness to the dish.
So to start off I needed to roast the Pumpkin. I had also picked up some buttercup squash to mix into the ravioli filling . For those not familiar, buttercup squash is quite similar to butternut, acorn, and pumpkin squash, but is dryer and creamier. This helps with how wet the pumpkin will be once roasted. I cut up both squashes and threw them on some baking sheets. What I really wanted to accomplish here – as apposed to merely steaming or boiling them – is to get some nice carmelization. If done well, you can get this natural nutty and roasted flavor imbedded into the flesh. So after some time in the over, and some heat adjustments, they turned out quite nice!
Now that the squash was ready, I mashed it all together with some butter and gave it a taste. It was fantastic, and didn’t need anything else. However, I did mince some fresh Parmesan to give it a nice ganular texture, and well, Parmesan is awesome, so yeah. For the ricotta, I mixed in an egg, salt, black pepper, and some fresh thyme from my garden. The egg helps fluff up the cheese when it cooks.
Alright then, on to the hard part – making pasta. I have a kitchenaid mixer with the pasta rolling attachment, which is a big help, but still ends up taking a big part of my day. I usually do a double batch because if you are already doing the leg work, you might as well get a lot out of it. To make a simple double batch of pasta, you don’t need many ingredients; just 6 eggs, 4 cups of flour, a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of water, and a dash of olive oil. I started by sifting the flour into the the Kitchenaid bowl. Then I cracked the 6 eggs into a separate bowl, adding the water, oil and salt, and whisked it together, as if making a big scramble. Next I attached the mixing tool to the mixer, set the speed on the lowest level and slowly poured the egg mixture into the bowl until both the dry and wet ingredients mixed together and got all sticky. At that point I switched to the “kneading” tool and let it go for a about 30 seconds. Once I had a good piece of dough going, I removed it form the bowl and hand kneaded it for about five minutes or so. At that point I sprinkled flour on it, covered it with a big bowl and let it sit for 30 minutes – this allows the gluten to bind properly.
If you want to mess around with flavors and add other ingredients, you can, but just make sure it makes sense. For instance, if you want to add dried herbs or powders, add it to the floor mixture. If you want to add liquid type ingredients, like ground frozen spinach, or wine, add it to the egg (liquid) mixture. However, if you are going to do so, make sure the final volumes are more or less the same once the ingredients are added, otherwise your dough may be too moist or too dry.
Once the 30 minutes have passed, it’s now time to roll out the pasta. This can take quite some time, but it’s also a lot of fun if you’re not in a rush. Considering I did a double batch here, I needed to cut the dough into about eight pieces and then roll out each one separately. A couple year ago, in a frustrated attempt to find a device to hold all the rolled pasta, I discovered that using my laundry drying rack works quite brilliantly, and have been using it ever since.
I’ll often form the ravioli by hand, that way I can make them to the exact size I’d like for that particular situation. However, I was at it for way to long, so I decided to use a pretty handy tool that received as a gift which helps form them for you. Basically, you just need to lay one sheet down on this metal plate with groves in it, add your filling, place a second sheet on top, press down all around it, and you have 12 pieces finished. This action, of course, needed to be done several times in this case.
On to the sauce. I started by sauteing some onions, and once they started getting a bit translucent, I tossed in some chopped garlic and fresh thyme. After letting that go for a few minutes, I added about three quarters of a bottle of white wine and brought it to a boil. Once it came to a boil, I lowered the heat to a simmer and reduced the wine down to about a 4th of it’s original volume (about 20 minutes or so). At this point I removed the pan from the heat and whisked in about a cup and half of heavy cream. When that was properly combined, I brought it back to a very gentle boil, and let it simmer for a few minutes; again allowing it to reduce. I found it a little on the watery side, so I added a touch of flour to thicken it slightly. And tossed in a bunch of grated Parmesan (this has become a theme).
As I was working on the sauce and boiling some water for the pasta, I realized it was now time to drink some beer! I popped the cap on this 600ml bottle of Weiss-O-Lantern and poured it into my Beau’s stein glass – which was quite fitting. It poured out a foggy yellow/orange color with a small one finger head that sticks around a little while; it looks quite nice. On the nose I get a lot of familiar Hefeweizen aromas, like banana, cloves, and yeasty earthy smells. I’m also getting some cardamon, mixed with a lemon citrus zestiness lingering in there.
In taste, I first got hit with the usual and wonderful hefeweizen yeastiness – tangy, earthy with undertones of banana and cloves. But I also got more on the spice front, with what I can presume is the addition of allspice & Cinnamon; this compliments the other flavors quite well. There was also a nice citrus tang that lingers on the back of the tongue after each sip. The body is nice and big, which I believe is assisted from the pumpkin addition, which lent a creaminess that was quite nice.
The ravioli turned out quite well; they were delicate, flavorful, and quite rich when mixed with the cream sauce. I finished the plate with chopped chives and some black pepper which gave them a fresh and earthy taste. And of course I added some freshly grated Parmesan, because pasta isn’t pasta without it.
The beer complimented the dish nicely, it added a certain freshness to the meal, cutting through some of the richness of the sauce, while at the same time holding it’s own with it’s big body and intricate flavors. The autumn spices in the beer and the pumpkin itself in the dish married nicely, and helped bring it all together. The wine I used in the sauce was a Riesling which is quite sweet; this, paired with the fresh thyme, and the yeasty banana flavors in the beer, combined to provide quite a brilliant experience as well.
Overall, I was glad with my choice, and very happy to have another great beer from Beau’s line up. Stay tuned because I will certainly be reviewing a lot more from this fantastic brewery.
Review By Noah Forrest