August 14, 2013 | Hops | Humulus americanus, H. lupulus

Today’s feature is Hops.  Hops is well known as an ingredient in brewing beer, but research shows that is has other uses as well.

Plant Family: Cannabinaceae (Hemp Family) 

Plant Type: Perennial 

Place of Origin: Britain, but grew wild in America and was used by the Pilgrims. 

First Jefferson Reference: 1780s (Notes)

Uses: 

Culinary 

Used for the brewing industry for the creation of ale, distinguished by its origins from beer by the Germans or the Dutch 

Medicinal 

Used as an oil (sedative, stomachic, tonic, improve the appetite, and promote sleep) 

The drug, Lupulin, comes from hops and is “mildly sedative, inducing sleep without causing headache” 

Used as a tincture (mixed with water, it helps with heart disease, fits, neuralgia, indigestion, jaundice, and stomach/liver problems) 

As Hop Tea, it is good for sluggish livers and cleansing the blood; externally, it helps in swelling or boils 

Here I’ll show you how I took the hops from the plant to a state where it could be used as an ingredient.  Many of the above uses require the hop to be dried.  There are many methods to drying, and as I only wanted to dry a small amount of hops, this is a very do-able, small scale method.  

First, I found hops that looked healthy (not brown or shriveled), and carefully plucked them from their stem.  These cones are actually the flower of the hops plant.

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Here, you can see my small collection of hops and their various sizes:

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My research indicated that the ideal place to dry the hops would be a warm, dry location.  For me, my basement storage room was an ideal spot.  It was warm and because we run a dehumidifier in the room, it is by far the driest room I have access to.  I set up a screen for the hops to be splayed on to.  I simply took screen material and draped it over two sawhorses, securing the screen to the legs with zip ties.  (This setup worked for me because I already had these materials and because it fit in my storage room.  I read that on a larger scale, you would have many screens set up so that the hops were spread out as a single layer on the screen, and therefore the drying area would be much larger: a garage, a greenhouse with fans, etc…)

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Next, I simply laid the hops on the screen, leaving enough room around each hop so that it would receive the flow of air that would dry it out.

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You can see here that each cone is still emerald green and the bracts (each pedal) are still hugged into the center of the flower.

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Four days later, the bracts of the hops flowers have dried away from the center of the cone and the color is a little lighter green than the freshly picked brilliant emerald green hops.

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Each bract feels papery and each flower is far lighter in weight than four days ago.  I plan to let the hops dry out for a few more days to ensure they have lost all their moisture.  Next, I will store them in an air-tight container and freeze them until I’m ready to use them in a recipe.  

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I have some experience with home-brewing, so eventually I would like to include these hops in my next batch of beer.  However, the recipes I have used before have called for hops pellets, which are little nuggets of dried hops that are easily measured and added during the brewing process.  It will take a little more research and planning to find a good recipe using freshly dried hops.  I’ll keep you posted on my process and results!

Meg

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