improving the quality of life with grain

Archive for January, 2015

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder

Before reaching the market, grain – like all consumables – must pass inspection by the US Department of Agriculture.  The process takes place in order to stabilize fair and competitive trade practices by ensuring standards for the type and quality of the grains bought and sold.

Uniform standard bearing is nearly as old as trade itself, and while we’ve dramatically sharpened our ability to measure over time, it may come as a surprise to learn that, in the age of high technology, federal grain inspection still boils down human sight.  Much like every brewery and distillery still employs an official taste-tester, the USDA knows it must trust it’s own eyes above all else.

The Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) is the specific branch within the USDA that is tasked with this carrying out this oversight.  While their process relies on good old fashioned expert knowledge – a well trained eye, an encyclopedic knowledge of grains in their healthy and unhealthy states – they haven’t completely ignored modern technology.

In fact, they’ve done quite a bit to share their knowledge with the general public by publishing their library of more than 200 printed “Visual Reference Images (VRI).”  The images represent grading delineations for grains, oil seeds, pulses and rice, and serve as the foundation for the National Inspection System’s Subjective Quality Control Program.

They also serve as a useful tool for the many (and growing) craft whisky distillers around the country.  As grains come in, you don’t have to rely on anyone else’s word to judge the quality and health of the product you’re purchasing.  If something looks amiss, you can cross-reference GIPSA’s library and see for yourself.

Trusting your own senses and handling every last detail – these are the signs of a true artisan.  It should come as no surprise to see this level of care taken by our craft distilleries.

OK, you can never know too much about whisk(e)y.

Now if you are confused as to why we have the dual spelling, there is a reason for this. In America, Japan and Ireland it is spelled Whiskey. In Canada and Scotland is spelled Whisky.

Understanding Whisk(e)y and distilling is a life journey…and a great road to travel with a companion with an appreciation for a tasting adventure.

Here are a couple of  books worth a look.

  • Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible 2015
  • Whisk(e)y Distilled – A populist guide to the water of life by Heather Greene

Murray’s book is an excellent reference to have on hand. Deep with distilleries and selection along with a thoughtful introduction on how to properly sample it. He is NOT a fan of placing a cube in the glass, preferring it neat and warmed to the hand.

Heather Greene is a spirits sommelier and does an excellent job of taking you from farm to glass. It is a great tour, told in a great conversational style and she clearly knows what she is talking about. The actual process can be difficult to get your head around and she does an excellent job  explaining this.

Great bourbon based food found at a recent NBA game. Here we found a basket of chicken soaked in a bourbon sauce and it was delicious.

Bourbon really does make everything taste great but we recommend using a fork.

Need a good recipe to try. Check this one out on All Recipes dot com

This one makes 4 servings
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 ounces soy sauce
2 tablespoons dried minced onion
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/8 cup bourbon
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Give it a try…things taste better with bourbon.

A traditional Manhattan…not exactly.

  • 5 year old bourbon reserve
  • Italian vermouth
  • Cherry bark vanilla bitters

The vanilla really makes it.

What is better than drinking a whisky neat without having the ice melt it down…yep, it’s a frozen wedge of ice. Pretty cool.

Social media is becoming an important part of every business today.  This holds true also for Grain Inspectors for the USDA.

Check this out from the Department of Agriculture:

Most consumers may not realize it, but in many ways grain inspection has not changed much over the years. Even though there are sophisticated scientific tests today to measure moisture, oil, protein and several other intrinsic qualities of grain, the human eye still carries the most weight when judging a grain sample for classification and grade.

To ensure consistency and uniformity throughout the grading process, individual graders need lasting references. Digital media is an important tool used to reduce variability and maintain consistency.

Source: USDA
Image from the USDA article
Link to full article


Orange Manhattan

Christmas Burwell Manhattan

These are great…actually one of the house fav’s.

Here is what you will need

  • cocktail shaker
  • ice
  • dash of sweet vermouth
  • 1.5 oz bourbon whiskey
  • 1.5 oz Cointreau
  • dash orange bitters
  • dash maraschino cherry juice
  • 1 maraschino cherry, to garnish – well, make it 2

Mitch Morgan


The Mitch Morgan

-One shot of bourbon;

-One-half slice of cooked bacon;

-Combine ingredients, enjoy.

Yep.  That’s it.  The smoky bacon pairs wonderfully with the wood in the bourbon and makes a delicious garnish, and its fat cuts the bite of the alcohol with ease.  Put them together and you’ve found the perfect way to stay warm this winter.

The drink originates from Telluride, Colorado, specifically a BBQ and Bourbon joint called “Oak…The New Fat Alley.”  Telluride makes sense for this cocktails’ birthplace: know for cold, snow and mountains, the one-time silver mining camp has emerged as a destination ski resort town.  The Mitch Morgan speaks to the town’s hardscrabble roots (it’s easy to see a drink like this counting as breakfast for a miner) and it’s foodie/ski resort present.

One thing, however, is certain: The Mitch Morgan will warm your belly and put a smile on your face at the same time.  Time to stock up on ingredients before the snow cuts you off from the store.

Mint Julep

Mint julep

4 cups bourbon
2 bunches fresh spearmint
1 cup distilled water
1 cup granulated sugar
Powdered sugar

To prepare mint extract, remove about 40 small mint leaves. Wash and place in a small bowl. Cover with 3 ounces bourbon. Allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes. Then gather the leaves in paper toweling. Thoroughly wring the mint over the bowl of whisky. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times.

To prepare simple syrup, mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of distilled water in a small saucepan. Heat to dissolve sugar. Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.

To prepare mint julep mixture, pour 3 1/2 cups of bourbon into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher. Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the bourbon.

Now begin adding the mint extract 1 tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste-generally about 3 tablespoons. When you think it’s right, pour the whole mixture back into the empty liter bottle and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to “marry” the flavors.

To serve the julep, fill each glass (preferably a silver mint julep cup) 1/2 full with shaved ice. Insert a spring of mint and then pack in more ice to about 1-inch over the top of the cup. Then, insert a straw that has been cut to 1-inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.

When frost forms on the cup, pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice and add a sprinkle of powdered sugar to the top of the ice.

Serve immediately.

Manhattan Italiano

Manhattan Italiano

2 ounces bourbon reserve
1/2 once Tuaca
1/2 ounce triple sec
6 dashes of Orange bitters
1/2 ounce of white sweet vermouth


Dark and Bloody Bourbon Mary

Bloody Mary

Dark and Bloody Bourbon Mary

1 teaspoon salt / pepper / paprika mix
2 ounces Kentucky Bourbon
2 large lemon wedges
1 tablespoon Bourbon Barrel Aged Worcestershire Sauce
1 can (6 ounces) campbell’s tomato juice

Blackberry Soda


Blackberry Soda

1.5 oz Ole Smokey Blackberry Moonshine
top off with soda water on ice

Rye Rocks

Rye Rocks

Locate your favorite whiskey glass
add ice
pour Rye


Bourbon Iced Tea

Rye Iced Tea
  • 3 cups fresh blackberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, plus mint sprigs for garnish
  • 6 good-quality black tea bags

Good-quality bourbon

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Bourbon Burger

Rye Burger

Burger Patties and Cheese:
30 ounces ground chuck (20 percent fat)
2 1/2 tablespoons bourbon (recommended: Bulleit brand)
1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
30 grinds fresh black pepper
6 ounces Dubliner cheese (Kerrygold brand), thinly sliced and divided into 6 (1-ounce) servings

Sauteed Onions:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (European style)
1 large Vidalia onion, halved (through the core) and thinly sliced (1/4-inch)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
8 grinds fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup bourbon (recommended: Bulleit brand)

Brioche hamburger-sized buns, halved
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (European style), at room temperature

Rye Sour

Bourbon Sour

2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 oz lemon juice
1/2 tsp superfine sugar
1 slice orange
1 maraschino cherry

Bourbon on the Rocks


The Plan

Find a good bourbon
Select your favorite glass from your bar
Drop in a couple of cubes
Pour over ice



Classic Manhattan


3/4 oz sweet vermouth
2 1/2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 dash  bitters
1 maraschino cherry
1 twist orange peel

Combine the vermouth, bourbon whiskey, and bitters with 2 – 3 ice cubes in a mixing glass. Stir or shake gently so you won’t cloud the drink. Place the cherry in a chilled cocktail glass and strain the whiskey mixture over the cherry.

Perfect Manhattan


2 oz blended whiskey
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1 dash bitters

Shake with ice to chill, pour into a low ball cocktail glass, and garnish with a maraschino cherry.


Cara’s Feature


750 JB White
1 can Concentrated OJ (Do not add water)
1 can Concentrated Limeade or Lemonade (Do not add water)
1 jar Maraschino Cherries. (I use DK Michigan Cherry since I don’t care for the Cherries)
2 Ltr Lemon-Lime Soda

Blend all ingredients together-place in freezer minimum 24 hrs.

**Once you remove from freezer, stir mixture from the bottom. Slight separation may have occurred during the freezing**