Ever since I got sober, I’ve been a little confused about booze-infused foods. I’m pretty sure beer-battered fish tacos are safe if an eight-year-old can order them at Rubio’s. On the other hand, those Jameson-filled truffles are definitely off limits, especially since stopping at one chocolate, whiskey or no whiskey, is not going to happen in my world. What about creamy vodka pasta sauce? Murcia al vino? Jack Daniel’s barbecue sauce? Some sober folks have strong opinions on this matter while others don’t think about it at all.
Now, the folks at Iowa’s Templeton Rye distillery are trying to bypass cooking with alcohol entirely. This week WQAD reported that Templeton hopes to create pigs that taste like their signature whiskey. For science. The 25 purebred Duroc pigs were born in January in Woodward, Iowa and are tended by animal science Ph.D. Nick Berry. Don’t worry about the little guys—or envy them. Instead of drinking whiskey, they’re receiving a special diet that includes the spent grain “mash” leftover from the distilling process.
Wild About Hogs
The timing couldn’t be better. Pork is undergoing something of a renaissance in the foodie world. It seems like everybody who hasn’t gone vegan or kosher has become completely obsessed with bacon, and pork belly has become a staple of hip appetizers, topping everything from sliders to tacos. So it’s no surprise that top chefs like Stephanie Izard are already priming their cutlery and their taste buds for the pork’s June debut.
The Templeton Rye Heritage Pork Project is marketed as a celebration of rural Iowans’ roots, and distillery founder Keith Kerkhoff cites “giving back to the community” and “economic development” as part of the project’s mission. But all the do-goodery is fairly transparent; clearly, this is mainly about being the first people to make whiskey-flavored pork. It’s one of those harebrained, late-night ideas that either end in brilliance or disaster, like the time I tried to fry Cheerios. Kerkhoff even insinuated that the inspiration for the project might have been found at the bottom of a bottle: “My dad always told me, ‘Nothing good happens after 12 p.m.’ So, it seems like that’s when this idea was probably thought of—after we had a few drinks.” We think he may have meant 12 a.m., but then again, these guys are in the whiskey business after all.
The pigs will be “processed”—there’s a juicy euphemism— next month. Templeton is currently considering inquiries from restaurant owners as well as from members of their “Bootleggers Society” who want to get in on some backyard action.
Taste The Difference?
Of course, since this is the first time this diet has been tested, the pigs may not taste like whiskey at all. Come to think of it, I can’t recall ever eating grass-fed beef that tasted like grass. But if it does work, will sober gourmets have a guilt-free way to experience that classic flavor combo? Or would chowing down on some whiskified bacon just make us miss “the good stuff?”