photo - Chef Victor Matthews used his own Irish Whisky in preparing whisky glazed pork chops. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
Chef Victor Matthews used his own Irish Whisky in preparing whisky glazed pork chops. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

Whether sipped or used as an ingredient, Irish whiskey is the beverage of choice on St. Patrick's Day. Here's a primer on all things whiskey.

First, about the spelling - is it "whiskey" or "whisky"? For an answer, we turned to Victor Matthews, owner of Black Bear Distillery in Green Mountain Falls, where he makes moonshine, whiskey and rum.

"The Irish spell it with the 'e' and the Scottish do not," he said. "Most American whiskey derives from Irish sources and is therefore spelled with the 'e'. I am Irish so I use the 'e'."

Now let's look beyond the letters. According to Whiskey Advocate, whiskey is a distilled spirit that is made from grain; all other distilled liquors are made from other sources (brandy, for example, comes from grapes).

Whiskey producers use malted barley or other grains to make the spirit. They soak the grains in hot water to release the sugars and then add yeast to ferment the sugar into alcohol. Finally, they distill the liquor and age it in barrels.

The result is bourbon, scotch or rye. What makes it Irish, according to Matthews, is that it has no saltwater flavors and no peat smoke flavors - all things he hates in whiskey.

"It takes years to do everything right," he said.

Matthews, chef and dean of his Paragon Culinary School, uses whiskey in cocktails and various recipes.

"I have used Irish whiskey in marinades and sauces, especially my Irish bacon and bourbon demi-glace. It's good over pork chops or steak," he said. "I usually serve that meat over colcannon, which is Irish mashed potatoes with greens in them. So my fine-dining entree would be grilled, double-cut pork chop with whiskey bacon demi and colcannon."

Matthews also makes an Irish jerk using Irish whiskey (instead of rum as is done for Jamaican jerk) and suggests adding the spirit to any corned beef recipe to create a St. Patty's Day meal.

For a sweet ending to your Emerald Isle feast, Irish coffee is a no-brainer. But Matthews has one more dessert suggestion: combine Irish whiskey with molasses and reduce it to cook off some of the alcohol. When it's cool, add it to the creme anglaise base in a homemade honey ice cream recipe.

Freeze, wait and prepare to be rewarded.

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Colcannon

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Yield: 6 to 8 servings

2 1⁄2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for serving 1⁄4 medium head green cabbage, cored and thinly shredded 1 cup milk 1⁄3 cup heavy cream 4 scallions, green parts only, finely chopped Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Procedure:

Place potatoes in a 6-quart saucepan and cover with water by 1 inch; bring to a boil over high heat, and cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Drain, quarter, and set aside.

Return pan to medium-high heat, and add butter; when melted, add cabbage, and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add milk, cream and scallions, and bring to a boil; add potatoes and, using a potato masher, mash and stir potatoes until smooth and evenly incorporated. Season with salt and pepper, and transfer to a bowl.

Serve hot with large pats of butter on top.

Source: saveur.com

Smoky Apple Pork Chops with

Apple Bacon Whiskey Glaze

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Yield: 4 servings

2 cups whiskey 2 cups apple juice 1/2 cup packed brown sugar 6 slices apple-smoked bacon, crisply cooked, chopped 4 bone-in pork chops Salt and pepper

Procedure:

To make apple bacon whiskey glaze, in a small sauce pan, combine apple juice and brown sugar. Cook over low heat until reduced by half.

Add whiskey and continue to cook until reduced again by half and the glaze has thickened. Fold in bacon. Set aside.

Lightly salt and pepper pork chops. Grill over medium-high heat until chops reach 145 degrees, turning chops once.

Remove from grill to a warm platter. Top with apple bacon whiskey glaze.

Source: applegate.com

Irish Coffee

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Yield: 1 serving

1 1/2 ounces Irish whiskey 6 ounces hot, strong coffee Whipped cream 3/4 ounce Irish cream, or a teaspoon of brown sugar, optional Coffee beans, coffee grinds or brown sugar sprinkles, optional

Procedure:

Pour whiskey into an Irish coffee mug. Put a spoon in the mug and pour in the hot coffee - the spoon somehow magically keeps the glass from breaking due to the hot liquid.

Add optional Irish cream or sugar, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add the whipped cream on top. Garnish with optional coffee beans, coffee grinds or brown sugar sprinkles.

Source: mixthatdrink.com

Local whiskey

distilleries

- Black Bear Distillery, 10375 Ute Pass Ave., Green Mountain Falls, 964-2990, blackbear distillery.com

- Axe and the Oak Distillery and Whiskey House, Ivywild School, 1604 S. Cascade Ave., 660-1624, axeandtheoak.com

- Distillery 291, 1647 S. Tejon St., 323-8010, distillery291.com