There is rye, and then there is rye. The chief difference is this: with one you bake with and the other you distill. The ingredients (not surprisingly) are remarkably similar, as is the process in many respects. And both finished products are equally capable of eliciting hurrahs!
This past weekend I was fortunate to be able to straddle both worlds.
My friends Scott and Becky decided a little over a year ago to pursue a dream - to open the first licensed (aka legal) distillery in Loudoun County, Virginia since Prohibition. The joint decision was reached after Becky, who is a chemical engineer, finally got fed up with Scott's verbalized longings and said in so many words, "ok, show me a business plan and we'll talk." Thus began a grand adventure for them that led, first to a custom built still from Germany. (Is that not just flat out beautiful!)
And that was followed this past Friday,with a Grand Opening of the Catoctin Creek Distilling Company.
It was a wonderful affair, full of bagpipes (Scott and Becky both claim Scottish heritage, including a fondness for Robert Burns that culminates yearly in a dinner in his honor accompanied with much fine Scotch and haggis - I myself draw the line at scrapple). And there were friends and governmental officieries to boot!
Now, what is interesting for us bakers, is that they are producing both rye and gin from organic rye flour courtesy of Heartland Mill in Kansas (are you there proth5?). Each batch of mash is made using 700 lbs. of rye flour (that's 14 bags of 50# flour) which is brought up to the mouth of the cooker using a forklift. In addition to water, various enzymes are added - amalyze being prominent - and then yeast which goes completely wild. The resulting 'porridge' after 12 hours is sweet and very reminiscent of gingerbread. From there the liquid is pumped into the still, while the leftover solids are given to local farmers who use it to produce 'happy' cows and 'happy' pigs.
Well, it was obvious to me that the only fitting present for the Grand Opening was a loaf of, what else, rye? So I baked flaxseed rye from Hamelman's Bread. I made two loaves and scored one with a straight cut and the other with a sausage cut.
As you can see, cutting isn't just decorative, but really impacts the shape and crumb of the finished loaf. (Scott and Becky got the straight cut loaf, so I can't include a crumb shot. However, here's what the sausage cut loaf yielded.)
The next day, Saturday, a bunch of us volunteers returned to bottle 360 bottles of Roundstone Rye in a little over 2 hours. For those of you interested in seeing how a micro-distillery works, you can watch this.
In an unabashed plug I'll note that Scott and Becky just a little over a week ago were awarded a bronze medal in a competition sponsored by the American Distilling Institute for their un-casked Mosby's Spirit Rye.
Rye and rye, bread and whiskey. Is it any wonder we celebrate these gifts of nature!