Vermont Cheddar Cheese Soup + Beer Bread = Yum Yum Yum

Vermont Cheddar Cheese and Beer Soup

I should just rename my blog “Liza’s Daughter’s Blog.” These days, it seems, I only make dishes that my mother has fed me or told me about. When I was home in CT for my sister’s wedding last month, I was welcomed with a steaming bowl of this Vermont cheddar cheese soup, a slice of spanakopita, warm homemade bread, and yogurt cake for dessert. I devoured every morsel then fell into a several-hour-long food coma. It was heaven.

It’s hard to find fault in lots of extra sharp cheddar cheese, tons of fresh thyme, and vegetables sautéed in rendered pancetta fat, but several unexpected ingredients — beer, mustard, worcestershire and Tabasco — make this soup truly special. Oh, it is just wonderful!

I find the method for making this soup interesting. Now, I have never made a cheesy soup before, so perhaps this method is standard, but in this recipe, the grated cheese is tossed with flour before being stirred into the hot milk. This mixture thickens in its own pot before being added to the pot of sautéed vegetables, beer, stock and sauces. And while I wouldn’t think to err from my mother’s detailed instructions, my auntie Marcy reported that this step cannot be omitted — if the cheese and milk (with or without the four) are added directly to the vegetable stock pot, the soup will never come together — it will just curdle and separate into a mess. So, be warned.

And while any bread would go well with this soup, I have been enjoying beer bread with it for the past week. I used to make beer bread all the time. Not sure why I stopped because it is the SIMPLEST bread to prepare. No kneading or rising is required. If ever you want homemade bread with dinner and fear you have no time, consider this recipe — it literally takes five minutes to assemble and 40 minutes to bake. Simps.
 
For a light but comforting meal, serve this soup with bread (perhaps beer bread) and a wintery salad of arugula, candied pecans, diced pear and blue cheese. Yum yum.

beer bread

beer bread mise en place

soup mise en place

crispy pancetta

Vermont Cheddar Cheese Soup

Source: Mother Liza and Auntie Marcy
Yield= a ton (about 14 cups)

½ cup small-diced pancetta (about 4 oz.)
1 T. olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced (to yield about a cup)
2 ribs celery, diced (to yield about a cup)
1 large red bell pepper, diced
2 T. fresh thyme
1 large red potato, peeled and diced
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade*
12 oz. beer such as Otter Creek Copper Ale or Nut Brown Ale (I used an Amber ale)
3½ cups whole milk
3 T. Dijon mustard
3 dashes Worcestershire
2 dashes (or more) hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (about a pound)
2/3 cup flour
fresh Italian parsley, optional
*only homemade if you ask Liza and Marcy

1. In a large soup pot, sauté pancetta in olive oil until crisp and brown. (Alternatively, place the pancetta in the pan without any oil, cover the pan, and turn the heat to low. Cook for about 5 minutes. This should render out some of the fat . Remove the lid, turn the heat up to medium and cook until the pancetta is crisp.) Remove pancetta with slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.

2. In the rendered fat, sweat the onions, carrots, celery and pepper over medium heat for 15 minutes until soft.

3. Add thyme, potato and chicken broth and simmer until potato is soft, about 10 minutes. Add beer.

4. Heat the milk in a separate pot until it just barely boils. Meanwhile, grate the cheese on the large-holed side of a grater and place it in a large Ziploc bag. Shake with the 2/3 cup flour. Add this cheese-flour mixture to the hot milk and stir until the cheese has melted and the mixture has thickened slightly.

5. Add the milk mixture to the pot with veggies and stock. Add mustard, sauces and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk for a few minutes to avoid curdling.

6. When serving, sprinkle some reserved pancetta in each bowl. Add more hot sauce to taste. Serve with bread.

Note: Soup is even better the next day.

beer bread

Beer Bread

Yield = 1 standard loaf pan or 3 mini pans

butter for greasing the pan
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 beer, I like Magic Hat #9 or any amber ale or Bass or whatever
4 tablespoons butter

1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

2. Grease a 9X5X3-inch loaf pan (a standard loaf pan) with softened butter.

3. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add beer, stir until combined and place in prepared pan.

4. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375ºF and bake for 30 minutes longer (or less) or until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and place pan on a cooling rack. Let bread sit in pan.

5. Meanwhile, melt butter. Pour the butter over bread. Let sit for five minutes then turn bread out onto a cutting board and serve immediately with more softened butter.

50 Comments

  1. Hey Ali, Happy new year!
    Even though you’ve been gone for quite a bit again, all is forgiven with this heavenly meal (and looking at the prep only reinforces its heavenliness :) (pancettaaaa!)

    Reply
  2. That looks so wonderful! I love cheese soup and have been trying to find one that I can eat on par with my new years resolutions. Well, this looks to be about 290 calories a cup! Exciting!

    I too used to make beer bread all the time but haven’t made it in years, thanks for the perfect excuse to make it again.

    Reply
  3. Oh yum! Now, far be it for me to tell your aunty Marcy she’s wrong BUT another method that works is to add a little slaked cornflour to the mixture just before the end. It brings it together fine!

    Reply
  4. I’ll be making the soup, at least, this weekend for sure. I like the flour shaken up with the cheese idea — but of course a standard roux mixed into the heated milk, with cheese melted into that, would work as well. But this is so easy, as long as it does not taste “floury” it’s a great way to do it.

    Beer bread — how well do you think whole wheat pastry or bread flour would work for this? I have a very hard time justifying white flour for most things (it’s such a specialty-treat kind of super-processing .. for something as simple as bread it seems a shame to lose all the goodness of the grain).

    Reply
  5. I made the bread with 2 and 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (Gold Medal) and it is great! I can’t believe it worked. Thank you for the recipe.

    Reply
  6. Ellen – really good to hear about he whole wheat flour. You said 2 3/4 cups — does that mean you also used a 1/4 cup of white, or does whole wheat for some reason just need less total volume of flour?

    Reply
  7. There have been recipes for beer and cheese bread that sounded perfect, but maybe it’s better to separate those flavors out between two different foods. Easier to taste how well they enhance whatever dish they are in.

    Reply
  8. interesting soup recipe–i’ve never seen that particular method before either, but it appears to create a masterful bowl of food! and that bread–come on! it looks so hearty and dense and perfect for soaking up the soup–bravo!

    Reply
  9. Just made both of these recipes and they were awesome together. Left out the pancetta and used (homemade) vegetable stock as I’m a vegetarian. My fiance totally loved this and the smell of the bread baking was intoxicating!

    Reply
  10. The Vermont Cheddar Cheese Soup + Beer Bread lived up to your descriptions! Just lovely!! 2 questions – maybe I mis-read the recipe but do you add all the pancetta except enough to decorate? That’s what I ended up doing.
    Do I need to worry about how to reheat?
    Thank you for your wonderful cooking and pictures.
    Diana

    Reply
  11. Has anybody tried the bread recipe with dark beers? It’s the only thing I ever have in the house and I wonder how it would affect the recipe. Hopefully for the better!

    Reply
  12. I am in love with beer bread and can’t wait to try this!

    FYI, Kirstin, the darker beers I’ve tried (and I used Guiness once) just made the bread darker in color and taste. If you like dark beer, why not? What could possibly go wrong?

    Reply
  13. I made the soup last night for dinner and it was soooo good and easy to make with two little ones running around. It is a definite make again in my house!

    Reply
  14. Oh, my favourite condiments/sauces in the world are dijon, worcestershire and tabasco!! This soup is, therefore, bound to be heaven. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe!

    Reply
  15. I made this soup yesterday and was very pleased. I am a huge fan of Dijon mustard and could not believe how much flavor such a small amount added to this recipe. Living in a less than cosmopoliton area, however, I had to make do with bacon because I could not find pancetta.

    It was a cold, snowy night and this soup really hit the spot. And yes, I did use home-made stock.

    Reply
  16. Made both tonight (of COURSE with homemade stock). I didn’t have quite enough milk and had to substitute some Straus Family cream. A tragedy. ;)

    I’m not really sure the loaf needs all that extra butter? I used much less and thought it was great. I plan on using the leftovers for grilled cheese sandwiches, since I only made a 1/3 of the soup recipe.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  17. Just discovered your blog, and I love it! Made this bread tonight, and it was really easy and delicious. I was a little worried at first because the batter was denser than most quick breads, but it turned out beautifully! We’re taking a hunk to work with cheese and fruit for lunch tomorrow. Can’t wait to try the soup/bread combo.

    Reply
    • Amanda C — So glad to hear this. I haven’t made this beer bread recipe in ages, but it is so good and so easy and you’ve reminded me how much I love it. Need to make it again soon. Have a great weekend!

      Reply
  18. I’m eating my first bowl of this soup (and the bread!) and it is wonderful and tasty. Not as heavy or cheesy as I imagined, which could be due to my only having skim milk at hand and not letting the milk base thicken enough before adding the cheese. Very enjoyable though. Other than skim milk, the only change I made was to make a rue instead of flouring the cheese shreds (4T butter and 4T). I tempered the cheese sauce with several ladles of soup before adding it in. It went swimmingly and I had no issues with separation. The bread is simple, and goes wonderfully with the soup.

    Reply
  19. Hi there – Silly question, do you use a 12 oz beer for the beer bread? Just one from a six pack? I’m surrounded by different size beers at the store. Sorry!

    Reply
  20. Uhg! I wrecked it! I added the beer after the cheese mixture because I had a dizzy moment. Now the soup tastes so strong of beer. Too strong. Dang it! I’m going to have to try this again.

    Reply
  21. Thanks! This is a beautiful post. I am so excited I found your blog through a Pinterest post! I am about to check out your Breads section…My weakness!

    Reply

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