From Scratch: Single-bottle beer sales a boon for home cooks


I cheered last month when Pennsylvania changed its beer sales laws to allow customers to buy a 12-pack rather than a case. I was even happier when I discovered that my local Weis market sells single bottles.

No, I'm not a hop head or beer geek. I will have an occasional bottle during the summer, but I love the taste of beer in food, specifically Welsh rabbit.

The name of the dish has an interesting origin. Though the Welsh have always had a great fondness for cheese, there is no evidence that they invented the dish.

A more probable explanation for the name is that in the 17th and 18th centuries the word "Welsh," combined with another word, meant something of inferior quality. To comb your hair with a "Welsh comb" meant to use your fingers. Since Welsh rabbit contains no rabbit or any other kind of meat, it referred to a dish when meat was not available.

Later, in an attempt to make the dish sound more genteel, the name was changed to "Welsh rarebit."

I like to think of it as an adult toasted-cheese sandwich. The two main ingredients of the dish are cheese and beer, so it's important that they are both of the best quality.

Since I am not a beer aficionado, I will leave that choice to you. As for the cheese, I recommend Weaver's (available at their stand in Eastern Market) seven-year aged cheddar. An aged supermarket cheddar would work well, too.

Try to avoid bags of pre-shredded cheese, as they contain added cellulose that gives the cheese an off flavor and strange texture. Grating your own may be a little more work, but it is both cheaper and tastier.

To begin, have the following ingredients at room temperature.

Welsh rabbit (rarebit)

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 12-ounce bottle beer or ale

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

a few drops of Tabasco sauce or a dash of cayenne pepper

In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter over a low flame. Add the flour and dry mustard and stir until smooth.

Raise the flame a little and add the beer, cheese and Tabasco sauce. Cook until smooth and thick, stirring constantly.

Serve over toasted whole wheat bread or other hearty-style bread.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.