Kathleen Hanover admits she’s not a mustard person. And, to be honest, she’s not much of a whiskey person either.

So how is it that she and her husband, Kaden Harris, developed a whiskey-infused, whole-grain mustard that won the 2016 Ohio Signature Food Contest sponsored by the Center for Innovative Food Technology and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation?

They did it with a lot of love. And tenacity.

Hanover says she and Harris love to cook together. “That’s kind of our recreational activity that we do together,” she says. “We’ve always kind of made our own ketchup, we make our own mayonnaise, pickles, mustard, jelly and jam and all kinds of stuff. So we’re very kind of artsy and crafty in the kitchen,” says Hanover.

But it was a tour through Indian Creek Distillery in New Carlisle that Hanover gave to her husband as a surprise Valentine’s Day gift that really got the mustard ball rolling, she says. At the end of the tour they sampled the various whiskeys in the distillery’s tasting room.

Then came the “ah-ha” moment. “We were just kind of looking around and tasting the whiskey and we both kind of said to each other, ‘Oh my God, this would be so good in our condiments,’” says Hanover.

Harris, who is a mustard person, has “chef’s papers” from a community college in Ontario, Canada. “I’m actually, kind of officially, a cook,” he says. As soon as he tasted the corn whiskey from Indian Creek Distillery he knew it would work well in his mustard recipes. “Call it part serendipity, part actually understanding how flavor notes go together, but yeah, it was gonna work and it was gonna work well. I had no doubt whatsoever.”

After a couple of test batches, with some slight tweaks, Harris had developed the perfect recipe for delicious mustard. The key ingredient, of course, is the whiskey, he says. “It was just a question of OK let’s go with the strength of the hooch,” says Harris.

They took one of those mustard samples back to Indian Creek Distillery and had the owners, Joe and Melissa Duer, taste it, says Hanover. So what did they think of the mustard? “Oh, it’s very good,” says Joe Duer. “Its great stuff.”

They also took a batch of mustard to Ollie’s Place. That’s because a line cook from Ollie’s, who had also taken the distillery tour, had overheard themtalking about making mustard with the Indian Creek Distillery’s whiskey in the tasting room. He told them to let him know if they ever developed any products with the whiskey, Hanover says.

After making a burger using the mustard and sharing it with Ollie’s general manager and a few others the reviews were glowing. “They’re like, ‘This is amazing,’” says Hanover. “And they told us, ‘You know, as soon as this is available commercially we want to sell it. And we want to use it in our kitchen.’”

So Hanover and Harris began seriously looking into commercially producing the mustard. The endeavor would be complicated, but doable.

And then their home was damaged by fire from an arsonist. “All of our plans went up in smoke, so to speak, along with our kitchen,” says Hanover. They were forced to move into an extended-stay hotel.

“We had totally forgotten about the whole mustard thing just because we were trying to just survive day to day,” she says. A few days before the fire Hanover says she read an article about the 2016 Ohio Signature Food Contest sponsored by the Center for Innovative Food Technology and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation that Melissa Duer had shared with her.

“I had never heard about it before but it seemed like they were looking for exactly the product that we were making,” says Hanover. She rediscovered that article two days before the contest deadline. “I yelled at my husband and I’m like, ‘Honey, I need a recipe!’” says Hanover.

Harris says he reached up to his bulletin board and grabbed the first recipe that was there. “I said, ‘Here, use this one,’” says Harris. It was the mustard recipe.

Hanover submitted an application to the contest and 10 days later officials called and told them they were one of the finalists. There was just one problem—wait, make that 12 problems. “The guy says we’ll need 12 samples of mustard,” she says. “I just laughed at the guy and I said, ‘I don’t even have a kitchen. I don’t have ingredients. I have nothing,’” she says. Determined to succeed, they rushed to buy the ingredients and then cranked out the 12 samples of mustard from their tiny motel kitchen.

The mustard’s flavors, and Hanover’s story about the fire and making the mustard from a tiny motel kitchen, earned Hanover and Harris a victory in the contest and some much needed help in bringing the product to market.

“To be in a situation where, against ridiculous adversity, we end up with the amount of technical and logistical support that we won with this competition, it’s invaluable,” says Harris. “It’s priceless.”

Their journey, however, is not over. They are still trying to raise enough money to produce their first batch of mustard that they can sell commercially. “It turns out it’s very expensive,” says Hanover. “We had no idea how expensive this was going to be.” Just the ingredients alone will cost about $2,000, she says, money they don’t have after using up their savings for living expenses because of the fire.

Despite all the pitfalls, Hanover and Harris are determined to bring their Indian Creek Corn Whiskey Mustard to the market. Why? “We’re in a situation where we can make people smile when they stick a hot dog in their mouth,” says Harris. “And to be able to bring this to market, hell yes, why not?”

For information about how to help bring their mustard to market, or to find out more about the mustard’s story, go online to daytoncomestibles.com.



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