Standing before a group of “culinary Shark Tank” judges, Kathleen Hanover reflected for a moment about what it took for her to get here. She was competing as a finalist in the Ohio Signature Food Contest sponsored by the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) and Ohio Farm Bureau. Her husband, Kaden Harris, had helped create their whiskey mustard recipe but was stuck at home overseeing the contractors fixing up their property after an arson fire.
Looking back on that day, Hanover laughs at how she and her husband scrambled to make samples of their mustard for the judges. They had been staying in an extended stay hotel and couldn’t use the kitchen at their house because it had been heavily damaged in the fire. Instead they cooked up their recipe in a “Barbie size” hotel kitchenette.
Hanover is still in awe that their Indian Creek Corn Whiskey Mustard was a co-winner in the contest, which will help the Dayton couple fulfill their dream of commercially producing their mustard.
“I’m amazed at the complete irony that people without a kitchen were a winner in this contest,” she said.
The story of how they created the contest-winning recipe is full of history, humor and challenges. It all started with Hanover surprising her husband with a special Valentine’s Day gift – a tour of Indian Creek Distillery in New Carlisle. They were fascinated by how the farmstead’s owners, Miami County Farm Bureau members Missy and Joe Duer, were inspired to start making whiskey after finding copper stills hidden on their property. The Duers cleaned up the stills, dusted off an old family recipe and started producing rye whiskey just like Missy’s ancestors had done for nearly 100 years before Prohibition shut down the industry.
While standing in line waiting to sample Indian Creek’s whiskeys, Hanover and Harris chatted about spicing up their homemade condiments with the whiskey.
“My husband said (the whiskey) would be crazy good in mustard and somebody overheard us on the tour and he happened to be a line cook at (Ollie’s Place), a whiskey bar and restaurant in town,” Hanover said. “He said ‘If you ever come out with anything, we’d love to hear it.’”
Shortly after that, the couple started experimenting with their recipes by adding a splash of whiskey. Sure enough, it was the mustard that embraced the flavors of Andy’s Old No. 5, Indian Creek’s whiskey distilled from a bourbon mash. They took their concoction to Ollie’s Place in Centerville where the cooks marveled at the mustard’s flavor on hamburgers.
“They loved it and asked when it would be commercially available. We just laughed but after that feedback we thought we might be onto something and started looking into what it takes to produce condiments and mustard,” Hanover said.
Turns out it’s not so easy. The couple started to feel overwhelmed by all the regulations and registration fees required to make and sell mustard. And doing it on a small scale wasn’t possible. About this time, Missy Duer spotted an article in Our Ohio magazine about the Ohio Signature Food Contest and encouraged the couple to apply. Winning the contest would give them access to CIFT’s commercially licensed production kitchen as well as business and technical development assistance.
But thoughts about entering the contest quickly disappeared after someone set their garage on fire and it spread to the house. Preoccupied by dealing with the aftermath of the fire, Hanover forgot about the contest until two days before the deadline. Why not, she thought as she filled out the application. A few days later came the good news: they were a contest finalist. The couple’s excitement soon turned to alarm – they didn’t have any mustard samples for the judges. Bumping elbows as they worked in their tiny hotel kitchenette, the duo whipped up a batch of mustard and had just enough time for the flavors to develop before their presentation.
“I think what set us apart (from other competitors) was that we were supporting not only Ohio products but craft distillers. The Duers and other craft distillers can’t survive on a bottle of spirits; they have to sell T-shirts and hold events,” said Hanover, a marketing and public relations consultant. “This is where we can provide a fantastic service to these craft distillers – working with them to create condiments and other products that feature their spirits and increase their marketing.”
For the Duers, they’re thrilled to work with another local family. The corn and rye used in their whiskey comes from Darke County Farm Bureau member Greg McGlinch, and the maple syrup they age in used whiskey barrels and sell in stores as Stillhouse Maple Syrup is from nearby Dohner’s Maple Camp.
“Winning this contest is good for them and also will help get our name and whiskey in food areas,” Joe said. “We love the mustard – it really helps show the versatility of whiskey. It’s a great partnership.”
The co-winners of the Ohio Signature Food Contest, Adam Fried and Merrie Casteel, will be featured in the next issue of Our Ohio on their efforts to bring their Garlic Scape Pesto to market.
Originally published in the September/October 2016 issue of Our Ohio Magazine.