Food & Drink

Charred oak from barrels can be added to the grill

Sweet fruit salsa, with apples, kiwi, grapes and strawberries, goes well with cinnamon chips.
Sweet fruit salsa, with apples, kiwi, grapes and strawberries, goes well with cinnamon chips.

If you like the aroma of bourbon while grilling, throw a handful of charred bourbon barrel pieces onto the briquets.

Tony Davis has recycled the charred barrels to make Bourbon Barrel Grillin Charr. When used on a charcoal grill or indoor/outdoor smoker, the natural flavors of the aged bourbon are absorbed by the food. Grillin Charr is available at all Liquor Barn stores for $6.99 a bag. Call Davis at (859) 621-5261 or go to Kentuckyknows.com.

Garden Day in Washington

The historic village of Washington is having Garden Day on May 12. Old Washington Inc. is offering garden tours, live entertainment and a tea.

The visitors center and museums will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and tours of eight gardens will be noon to 3:30 p.m. Carrie Taylor will demonstrate growing herbs at 10 a.m. in the Washington Meetinghouse. The Harriet Beecher Stowe Slavery to Freedom Museum, 2124 Old Main Street, will hold its grand reopening event, Tea at Key, at 3:30 p.m. Washington is 4 miles south of Maysville on U.S. 68. Go to Washingtonky.com.

A family favorite

You can't have a Derby party without a mint julep. The traditional drink is made with ice, bourbon, sugar and mint, but the trick is in preparing the mint extract.

Rob Samuels, an eighth- generation distiller and a grandson of Maker's Mark founder Bill Samuels Sr., is sharing his family's recipe for the mint julep.

The perfect mint julep

1 liter Maker's Mark bourbon

Fresh spearmint, about 40 small leaves

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup distilled water

Powdered sugar

To prepare mint extract, remove about 40 small mint leaves from plants, and wash and place in a small mixing bowl. Cover with 3 ounces of Maker's Mark. Allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes. Gather the leaves in a clean, soap-free piece of cotton cloth and vigorously wring the mint bundle over the bowl of whisky. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times. Set aside.

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

To prepare the mint julep mixture, pour 3½ cups of Maker's Mark into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher. (Pour the remaining whisky from the liter bottle into another container and save it for another purpose). Add 1 cup simple syrup to the Maker's Mark.

Begin adding the mint extract a 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 might have to leave the room a time or two to clear your nose. The tendency is to use too much mint. 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 mint julep, fill each glass (preferably a silver mint julep cup) half full with shaved ice. Insert a sprig of mint, then pack in more ice to about an inch over the top of the cup. Then, insert a straw that has been cut to one 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, add a sprinkle of powdered sugar to the top of the ice and serve.

Makes 14 to 16 servings.

Derby, Cinco de Mayo meet

Derby Day also is Cinco de Mayo. You can combine both celebrations by serving a couple of salsas at your Derby party. Here are recipes from Spice Islands.

Sweet fruit salsa with cinnamon chips

Fruit salsa:

2 tart green apples

1 kiwi fruit

1/2 cup red seedless grapes

1 cup fresh strawberries

1 small orange

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground Saigon cinnamon (see note)

1⁄8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (see note)

2 tablespoons apple jelly

Cinnamon chips:

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons ground Saigon cinnamon

10 (8-inch) flour tortillas

1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine

To prepare salsa: Finely chop apples, kiwi, grapes and strawberries, and place in medium bowl. Grate orange peel to measure 1 teaspoon. Squeeze juice from orange. Add juice and grated peel to chopped fruit.

Stir together brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and apple jelly in small bowl. Add to fruit; toss gently to mix. Refrigerate 1 hour to mix flavors.

To make cinnamon chips: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix sugar and cinnamon in small bowl. Brush one side of tortillas with melted butter. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture on tortillas. Cut each tortilla into 8 wedges (as you would a pie) and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, or until golden. Cool.

Note: You may substitute 11/4 teaspoons Jamaican jerk seasoning for cinnamon and nutmeg in the salsa.

Chipotle roasted salsa

4 large Roma tomatoes, halved, seeded and skinned (see note)

3 poblano or Anaheim peppers, quartered and seeded

1 red onion, quartered

4 tomatillos, halved

4 to 5 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon olive oil

Chipotle chile adjustable grinder

1 lime

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat grill to high heat. Toss tomatoes, peppers, onion, tomatillos and garlic with olive oil in a large bowl. Generously grind chipotle chile seasoning over vegetables. Place vegetables on grill pan. Grill on high heat, turning once, for 15 minutes, until vegetables are tender and blackened. Remove from grill and cool 5 minutes.

Process vegetables in food processor until coarsely chopped. Add fresh squeezed lime juice and cilantro. Grind additional chipotle chile seasoning to taste. Chill for at least an hour.

Note: To skin tomatoes easily, place whole tomato in boiling water for 15 to 30 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon. Skin will peel off easily.

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