Ploughman's Lunch

"In...the West Country, in Somerset, Devon, and Hereford -- in fact all over rural England -- the pubs serve one of the finest lunches ever devised, incredibly simple, rustic and plain, yet a meal that can be memorable given the right conditions. Called a "ploughman's lunch," it consists of a cut of Cheddar, a home-baked bread roll, pickled onions and a pint of beer -- English beer, mind, not the light amber and insipid continental stuff, but the strong dark ale, full of malt and hops, beer that is the natural accompaniment to such a feast."

-- Adrian Bailey, The Cooking of the British Isles (NY: Time-Life Books, 1969).

Menu for Lunch:

All the above items were made by me at home, mostly from scratch (non-scratch ingredients: malt extract, cheese starter culture). Interestingly, three of the recipes require controlled culturing of micro-organisms; on the contrary, the pickles require inhibition of such cultures. The whole thing is a sort of exercise in culinary microbiology.


Banshee Bitter

6.5 lb Amber malt extract syrup
1 lb Crystal malt
2 oz Northern Brewer hops (bittering) (1 oz, 60 min; 1 oz 30 min)
½ oz Kent Goldings hops (aroma) (2 min)
1 packet dry Whitbread ale yeast
¾ c dextrose (priming sugar)

Pseudo-mash the crystal malt (add water to cover in a pan, heat to 150°, let stand 45 min, then strain and sparge into the brewpot with 130°-170° water). Add malt syrup to the brewpot, bring to boil, add hops according to schedule: half bittering hops at first boil, the rest of the bittering hops 30 mins later, and the aroma hops 28 minutes after that. Cool to 70, pitch yeast.

I do a two-stage ferment; primary until the foaming stops (my primary is a 6-gal food-safe plastic bucket covered with plastic wrap tied down with bungees); secondary until fermentation stops.

When it comes time to bottle, prime each bottle with dextrose according to the following table:

12 oz bottle 1 tsp
22 oz bottle 1½ tsp
champagne bottle 2 tsp

I wasn't doing OG and FG measurements back when I brewed this, and I actually haven't done another batch since 1994...


2 gal whole milk
2 oz mesophilic cheese starter culture
¼ rennet tablet
¼ c water
2 T coarse (kosher-style) salt

Heat milk to 90°F, thoroughly stir in starter culture, cover and maintain heat for 45 min. Dissolve the quarter-tab of rennet in the water, stir the solution gently into the warm milk for about a minute. Maintain heat at 90°for 45 minutes until the curd is firm and clean-breaking. Cut curds into (as uniform as possible) ¼ -inch cubes and let sit 15 minutes

Stirring curds very gently, raise the heat very slowly to 100°F over a space of 30 minutes, then maintain that temperature for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. At the end of that time, let the curds settle and pour off as much ofthe whey as you can without pouring curds with it (you can drink the whey, or make another cheese of it). Then pour the curds into a strainer lined with cheesecloth and stir the curds with your fingers to separate mats of curds and encourage them to give up more whey. Mix the salt in well, then put the curds back in the pot and set the pot in a sinkful of hot to keep warm for an hour. Stir the curds from time to time, and keep the water hot.

Line a 2lb cheese mold with a sterile, coarse cheesecloth, pour in the curds, fold the cheesecloth over, add a follower and press at 15lbs pressure for 10 min. Turn the whole mold over and press at 30 lbs for 10 min. Turn one last time and press at 50lb for 24 hours.

Remove the cheese from the press, gently peel off the cheesecloth, and set it on a clean cheese mat (I actually use a bamboo sushi-rolling mat). Turn the cheese several times a day until the surface is dry to the touch, about 2-5 days. Wax the cheese and store it at 45°-50° for 2-6 months in a fairly humid environment (you can put it in the fridge along with -- but not in -- a bowl of water).

If the cheese starts to grow white mold in the days while it's drying before you wax it, you can wipe the mold off with a cheesecloth dipped in vinegar -- which is actually a pretty good way to take mold off a commercial cheese as well (the white mold, at least; with the blue stuff, ye'r on yer own).


3 c whole wheat flour
2 c bread flour
2 c lukewarm water
1½ t salt
1 pkg active dry yeast

Dissolve yeast in a little of the water, then add that to the rest of the water mixed with the salt, in a bowl. Stir flour into the yeast a little at a time. Dust hands and counter with flour and knead the dough for 8-10 minutes, adding flour if it's too sticky, until it's silky and stretchy.

Grease a bowl, set the dough in it and turn the dough ball to grease it too. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place (I use my oven, turned off, with just the heat from the pilot light) until double in volume, ~2 hours. Punch down and let rise again until double. Turn the dough out and knead it again briefly, then cut it into two equal portions.

Make a loaf of each half, set the loaves on a greased bakesheet, let them rise until double (~40 min). Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake the loaves 50 minutes, until crusty.


1 doz hardboiled eggs, shelled
1/2 lb whole pearl onions, peeled
2.5 c cider vinegar
4 T honey
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 t salt
¼ t each: cinnamon, cloves, mace, dill, tarragon, grains of paradise
a pinch of turmeric

Put a mixture of eggs and onions in hot, sterilized canning jars. Bring all the other ingredients to a boil in a saucepan, simmer 5 mins. Pour the hot liquid over the eggs and onions, covering completely. Seal jars, cool, and store in a cool place.


Burch, Byron. Brewing Quality Beers. Fulton, CA: Joby Books, 1986.

Carroll, Ricki & Robert. Cheesemaking Made Easy. Pownal, VT: Garden Way Publishing (Storey Communications), 1982.

Katz, Pat. The Craft of the Country Cook. Point Roberts, WA: Hartley & Marks, Inc., 1988.

Reese, M.R. Better Beer & How to Brew It. Pownal, VT: Garden Way Publishing (Storey Communications), 1978.

Tarr, Yvonne Young. The New York Times Bread and Soup Cookbook. NY: Quadrangle / NY Times Book Co., 1972.