The Bluegrass State: 7 Delicious Reasons to Love Kentucky

The Bluegrass State: 7 Delicious Reasons to Love Kentucky

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We have a tendency to judge a place by what little we know or have heard about it. You wouldn’t be wrong to think of bluegrass, basketball, and bourbon. If you lean at all to the left politically, you might even be inclined to prejudge it more harshly based on its incumbent senators. Yet there is so much more to it than all of that. Kentucky has plenty to offer visitors, starting with warm and gracious residents who are justifiably proud of their great state — especially when it comes to classic Kentucky food and drink. There’s much to like about “my old Kentucky home.”

First Stop: Bourbon

The Kentucky Distillers’ Association estimates that about 95 percent of the world’s supply is produced in Kentucky. And what it makes it so good is that the state is blessed with limestone-rich aquifers that deliver the product’s most essential ingredient: extraordinary water. If you haven’t noticed, bourbon is back in a big way. And its resurgence has led to expansion by both the big boys and a growing cadre of craft distilleries. You can see many of them in action on what is called the “Bourbon Trail.” Guided tours take visitors through the production process and culminate with tastings.

Get Schooled

If you’ve ever had aspirations or visions of making your own whiskey, here’s your chance. At Moonshine University you can learn how to become an expert distiller in just five days. Check out their curriculum at moonshineuniversity.com.

Speaking of Moonshine…

It’s back, and it’s not your father’s “shine.” Moonshine may still conjure up images of illegal, backwoods, rot gut, but that is certainly no longer the case. Moonshine has gone mainstream. You can visit a micro distillery for a tour and tasting of a libation that has come a long way from its humble beginnings.

Attention Mixologists

If you can get your hands on Limestone Branch Distillery’s Sugar Shine, both the jalapeño and strawberry flavors would make for a killer cocktail. So too would their sweet Moon Pie moonshine in either chocolate, vanilla, or banana. As they say, it’s “like a Moonpie with kick!”

Over A Barrel

Tour the Brown-Forman Cooperage facility to get a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the true craft that goes into making the oak barrels that will soon be holding over 50 gallons of bourbon, infusing the spirit with unique flavor. Watch up close as skilled coopers build each barrel from about 100 pounds of American white oak with the help of mid-twentieth-century machinery. Catch this proudly American production before it goes the eventual way of automation.

Bites and Sips

Get your game on at a restaurant called, fittingly, Game. Exactly the type of place you’d expect to see on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, they have an ambitious menu and the talent in the kitchen to pull it off. Their bone marrow with parmesan, poblano, and rosemary is a beast; a huge and exceptionally luscious hunk of meat jelly that you spread on toasted bread. You can then proceed to meatballs or burgers made with every kind of animal imaginable, from bison, boar, and antelope to elk, duck, and kangaroo. (Also available in beef, lamb, salmon and veggie varieties.) The kangaroo burger with Cheddar and tomato jam on a pretzel bun was tasty, but the fun part is assembling your own with extras such as foie gras, pork belly, or soft shell crab, and sauces like roasted habanero ranch, sesame wasabi ketchup, and smoked truffle mayo. The duck fat fries will not hurt you either. If you have the opportunity, taste Kentucky’s soft drink, Ale-8-One. It’s an excellent citrus-flavored ginger ale made locally since 1926.

Ship yourself some serious lobster.

What does lobster have to do with Louisville, you ask? It turns out that Kentucky’s borders are within 600 miles of over 65 percent of the nation’s population and manufacturing facilities, making it the distribution capital of the USA. That’s why UPS is headquartered here, and so is Clear Water Fine Foods, a shipper of lobster that’s flown in daily from Nova Scotia and then sent back out to some of the finest steakhouses and seafood restaurants in the land.

Just a Few Miles South

For twenty years, diners in the Bluegrass have been able to satisfy their cravings for Ouita Michel's sustainable, farm-to-table cuisine at her many acclaimed restaurants. Each restaurant -- from Wallace Station to Holly Hill Inn -- features dishes that combine Kentucky's bounty with Michel's celebrated vision. Diners can enjoy traditional southern staples like buttermilk biscuits, country ham, and Po-Boy sandwiches, or opt for unique variations on international favorites and American classics. Now, readers around the country can experience what makes Ouita Michel a culinary and cultural treasure. Just a Few Miles South serves up the recipes that patrons of Michel's restaurants have come to know and love, including the Bluegrass Benedict breakfast sandwich, Ouita's Sardou Panini, Wallace Station's Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup, and Honeywood's Hoecake Burger. Some dishes offer creative twists on classics, like the Inside Out Hot Brown, the Wallace Cubano, or the Bourbon Banh Mi. Throughout, the chefs responsible for these delicious creations share the rich traditions and stories behind the recipes. When you can't get down to your favorite place, this book will help you bring home the aroma, the flavors, and the love of fresh foods made with locally sourced ingredients -- and share it all with friends and family.

Chapter 1: Breakfast
Chapter 2: Building Blocks for our Sandwiches
Chapter 3: Wallace Station's Famous Sandwiches
Chapter 4: Windy Corner's Famous Po-Boys
Chapter 5: Burgers
Chapter 6: Soups and Salads
Chapter 7: Our Famous Brownies, Bars and Cookies
Chapter 8: Pie Supper

Ouita Michel is a six-time James Beard Foundation Award nominee, including nominations for Outstanding Restaurateur and Best Chef Southeast. Michel and her restaurants are regularly featured in local and national media, such as the New York Times, Southern Living, Garden & Gun, Food Network, and the Cooking Channel. She was a guest judge on Bravo's Top Chef series. She lives in Midway, Kentucky.

Sara Gibbs is a chef as well as a recipe writer and editor. She lives in Central Florida.

Genie Graf is the special projects director at the Ouita Michel Family of Restaurants. She lives in Midway, Kentucky.

"Ouita is quintessential Kentucky, reflecting our treasured culinary culture. Her respect for the Bluegrass blends perfectly with her incredible and innovative journey with food. A presentation as delightful as Ouita's authentic hospitality. Food is love, and Ouita delivers this beautiful message on a silver tray." -- Peggy Noe Stevens, founder of the Bourbon Women Association and coauthor of Which Fork Do I Use with My Bourbon?

" Just a Few Miles South's traditional Kentucky recipes take me back to my grandmother's table. And I'm delighted that among so many treasures, the recipes for the peerless soup beans and cornbread I've devoured on so many visits to Wallace Station are included. Throughout her restaurants and this book, the use of locally sourced ingredients combined with expert preparations become edible love letters to Kentuckians. Thank you, Ouita!" -- Susan Reigler, coauthor of Which Fork Do I Use with My Bourbon? and a former restaurant critic for the Louisville Courier-Journal

"Chef Ouita is the undisputed queen of Kentucky cooking. Her understated yet elegant cooking has done more for the region than anyone else I can think of. She is a mentor, an activist, and a force! With Just a Few Miles South, she shares her love for her home and shows us what makes that place and her so special!" -- Vishwesh Bhatt, winner of the 2019 James Beard Award for Best Chef in the South

" Just a Few Miles South is a brilliant field guide to the food and culture of the Bluegrass, as embodied by Ouita's family of restaurants. It's a cookbook that feels as dear to me as a family heirloom, packed with the recipes I've treasured most from my time at Wallace Station and the Holly Hill Inn (as both a patron and a chef), scaled down and simplified for the home cook." -- Stella Parks, pastry chef and New York Times-bestselling author of BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts

"The boundless beauty of Kentucky cuisine is joyfully captured in these pages by a chef who has defined this region with her cooking. She is a custodian of tradition, a magician of flavor, and her restaurants are the narratives that tell us who we are in Kentucky. This book will be a treasure for generations to come." -- Edward Lee, chef and author of Buttermilk Graffiti (winner of James Beard Award for Best Book of the Year in Writing) and Smoke & Pickles

"Ouita champions many of the good things we associate with old and new Kentucky, from lard can burgoo to banh mi with bourbon mayonnaise. In this love letter to her state and her people, her cooking and advocacy entwine, making a strong case for the power of food to make a difference in our daily lives." -- John T. Edge, author of The Potlikker Papers

"Michel, the chef and restaurateur behind [seven] Kentucky restaurants, shares simple and satisfying recipes from each of her eateries in this charming cookbook. Home cooks will enjoy the simplicity and heartiness jam-packed into this collection." -- Publishers Weekly

"This new compendium of recipes from across her empire celebrates the region's historic dishes while lovingly casting a spotlight on the people who are making dishes like Bourbon Banh Mi and a Wallace Cubano into new Kentucky classics." -- Food & Wine

"With the challenges facing dine-in restaraunts this past year, this cookbook will offer a springtime solution for Kentucky food lovers who want to re-create the same flavors from Chef Ouita restaraunts at home." -- Ace Magazine

"A one-stop-shop for the dishes that all Southern home cooks need to know." -- Garden & Gun

Kentucky Benedictine Sandwiches

The Bluegrass State has given us plenty of delicious dishes, and benedictine sandwiches are one of our favorites. These eight-ingredient tea sandwiches are a lovely addition to lunches, brunches, and teas. Kentucky Benedictines pair with anything and everything thanks to their flavor&mdasha wonderful mix of fresh crunch and smooth creaminess. A base of white bread plays host to the Benedictine spread, which is a blend of cream cheese, chopped cucumber, green onions, a sprinkling of dill, mayo, and a healthy dose of salt and pepper. This is our best-ever tea sandwich recipe, partly because it&rsquos so easy, and partly because it&rsquos so delicious. Even if you&rsquore low on time, this recipe will leave you with a platter of bite-sized apps that you&rsquoll be proud to share with all your friends and family. They&rsquore a must-make for your next ladies&rsquo luncheon. Scale the recipe up or down depending on how many people you&rsquore feeding. It doubles&mdasheven triples!&mdashjust beautifully.

Derby Party Hosting Tips

Send invites (either paper or email) with an equestrian theme. Be sure to specify attire: Your best Derby dresses and hats encouraged!

Add horsey touches to your table — think bits, leather, vintage riding helmets or even boots turned into vases. Easy tip: Buy plastic horses from the dollar or toy store and spray-paint them gold, then tuck them amongst your bar offerings or around the buffet.

Set up a betting board or have a prize for the best hat or best dressed. Let the winners take home the centerpiece.

Not the betting kind? Turn rosette ribbons from Amazon into name badges bearing the name of each horse set to run. Pass out to your guests upon arrival to wear on their lapel, and that will be their horse for the race. Assign prizes for win, place and show.

  • Amy McDonald, Kelly Calderone, Cammie Adams and Ashley Holmes are the epitome of spring in the South.
  • Geoff Cochran, Rick Olsen, Matt McDonald and Stuart Holmes get in on the betting pool.

Every Derby begins at Churchill Downs with the crowd on their feet singing “My Old Kentucky Home.” Those of us in south Alabama, however, would be hard-pressed to chime in. Print the lyrics on small cards, and share with all your guests so they can join in on the chorus with gusto.

The sun shines bright
in the old Kentucky home,
‘Tis summer,
The People are gay

the corn-top’s ripe
And the meadow’s in the bloom
While the birds make music

All the day.

Just like Amy McDonald, we looked to Louisville to inspire our Derby menu, including Benedictine spread, Kentucky hot brown sandwiches and plenty of the Bluegrass State’s famous bourbon. Some chocolate and pecans nicely finish the day.

With smart TVs, bluetooth speakers and even projectors and outdoor screens, there is no reason you can’t easily take the Derby outside. Just test your setup ahead of post time to avoid tech glitches.

Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

The mint julep has been an official part of the Kentucky Derby since the 1930s, but it is said that Churchill Downs planted mint outside the clubhouse for their juleps as far back as 1875. Juleps were certainly an important part of race day when Prohibition began in 1920, as the newspapers at the time lamented their absence. Start collecting vintage julep cups from local antique stores to elevate your bar, or pick up a sleeve of plastic ones online in a pinch.

Mint Julep

2 ounces Kentucky straight whiskey
1/4 ounce mint simple syrup
crushed ice
sprig fresh mint, for garnish

Pour whiskey and simple syrup over crushed ice in silver julep cup and garnish with fresh mint sprig. Makes 1

Mint Simple Syrup
Combine 1 cup sugar with 1 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Stir in 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves. Boil for one minute, then remove from heat and let cool. Strain the mint leaves out and discard. Store syrup in a glass jar in the fridge until use.

Hot Brown Sliders

Louisville’s Brown Hotel drew over 1,200 guests each evening throughout the 1920s for its famous dinner dances. By the wee hours of the morning, guests would grow weary of dancing and make their way to the restaurant for a bite to eat. Chef Fred Schmidt created an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and a delicate Mornay sauce to tempt tired partygoers, and hot brown history was made!

2 ounces unsalted butter
2 ounces all-purpose flour
8 ounces heavy cream
8 ounces whole milk
1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
pinch of ground nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste
12 slices thick-sliced brioche bread
14 ounces sliced roasted turkey breast
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced
8 slices crispy bacon, cut into three pieces
paprika and diced parsley, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a two‑quart saucepan, melt butter over medium‑low heat and slowly whisk in flour until well combined. Cook for two minutes, stirring frequently. Add cream and milk to the mixture and whisk over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2 ‑ 3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and slowly whisk in Pecorino Romano cheese until the Mornay sauce is smooth. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

2. Remove crusts from bread and slice in half to form 2 rectangles. (There will be 24 rectangles in all). Arrange bread on a cookie sheet and toast until slightly golden and crisp. Remove from oven and set aside.

3. Fold one slice of turkey in half and then in half again to form a rectangle about the size of the toast. Lay on top of one toast and repeat until all toasts have a folded slice of turkey. Add a tomato slice to each and then 1 tablespoon Mornay sauce. Sprinkle additional cheese on top of Mornay and then top with one piece of bacon. Return to oven and bake for 10 minutes, or just until the sauce is slightly bubbly. Remove from oven and sprinkle with paprika, top with parsley and serve immediately. Makes 24 mini sandwiches

Benedictine Tea Sandwiches

Louisville caterer Jennie Carter Benedict invented this cucumber spread in the late 1800s and served it on sandwiches in the restaurant she opened in 1893. She catered all the best parties and weddings in Louisville, and her Derby menus were a must. Benedictine spread is also delicious served as a dip with raw vegetables and makes an elegant presentation when served on a leaf of endive.

1 large cucumber
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons grated onion
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
pinch of cayenne pepper
green food coloring (optional)
loaf of miniature pumpernickel bread
optional garnishes: sliced cucumber or radish, chopped parsley

1. Peel and grate cucumber and then squeeze out excess moisture. Add to a food processor with remaining ingredients (except the bread and garnishes) and combine until food coloring is evenly distributed. Refrigerate until use.

2. Use a small round cookie cutter to make circles out of bread slices. Top each slice with a small amount of cucumber spread and garnish as desired. Serves 12

Pecan Chocolate Chip Bars

1 cup chopped pecans
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread pecans in a pie plate and toast for a few minutes, until golden. Set aside to cool.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and oil with the granulated sugar and brown sugar until creamy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and then add to the mixer at low speed. Add the chocolate chips and pecans and mix on low just until incorporated.

3. Line bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Turn dough out into pan and press into an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool completely before slicing. Makes 24 bars

Chances are you can afford to buy a home or rent a property in Kentucky, even in the state’s more densely populated cities. The median home price in Kentucky is $123,200, which is significantly lower than what you’ll find in other states, and according to the Department of Numbers, median gross rent in Kentucky was a respectable $702 in 2015.

Ever tried a hot brown? This delicious concoction – an open-faced sandwich comprising turkey, bacon and sometimes a tomato slice, slathered in Mornay sauce over Texas Toast – was created by Fred K. Schmidt of the Brown Hotel in Louisville in 1926, and you can still order it there today. However, because the dish is considered a Kentucky staple, you can also find it across the state, so you’re never far from your next hot brown.

Burgoo Recipes

So many questions with so few answers. What is known is that shortly after the Civil War, Frankfort&aposs Buffalo Trace distillery hired Jaubert to cook for its employees. (Two of his big iron burgoo kettles are still on view at the distillery&aposs Burgoo House.) Before long Jaubert, now called "the Father of Burgoo," was catering events of one sort or another across the state. On November 7, 1897, The New York Times reprinted a Louisville Courier-Journal account of a Jaubert feast that included the serving of both burgoo and barbecue𠅊 culinary tradition that lingers to this day.

"The making of good burgoo," the article declared, "is even more difficult than the roasting of the meat and requires more time.…Its ingredients are 400 pounds of beef, six dozen chickens, four dozen rabbits, thirty cans of tomatoes, twenty dozen cans of corn, fifteen bushels of potatoes, and five bushels of onions." With ten cooks assisting him, Jaubert slow-simmered 1,000 gallons of burgoo, the story notes. Piece of cake compared to the 6,000 gallons he&aposd reportedly bubbled up two years earlier for the Grand Army Veterans in Louisville.

"Colonel Thomas H. Sherley thought it would be impossible for me to cook on such an immense scale," Jaubert said of that event, "but I told him if he would furnish the provisions I would prepare a meal for one million people. I got through without any trouble." Little wonder that Jaubert, though never officially crowned, is considered Kentucky&aposs first "Burgoo King," a title now reserved for the rock-star chefs that headline burgoo cook-offs and festivals in Kentucky as well as in Illinois, Indiana, and West Virginia.

No two burgoo meisters— indeed, no two cooks—make burgoo the same way, and all are fiercely protective of their recipes. Some like it hot (no stinting on chile peppers in their renditions), others prefer a burgoo so thick a spoon will stand straight up in the pot, and still others fire up their burgoos at dusk and keep them at a gentle simmer for 24 hours. What most burgoos do have in common, however, are platoon-size proportions as well as some secret something𠅊 hefty splash of bourbon, maybe some innards (kidney or liver, say) for enrichment, or a few trotters, perhaps𠅊nd invariably some unexpected, unidentifiable mix of herbs and spices.

Ever since Jaubert, burgoos have been de rigueur at political rallies, church suppers, and family reunions in Kentucky. More important, they&aposre as integral to the Kentucky Derby as the singing of "My Old Kentucky Home" and a parade of Thoroughbreds. In 1932, a Bluegrass colt named Burgoo King—yes, Burgoo King—won both the Derby and Preakness, two of the three legs that make up Thoroughbred racing&aposs Triple Crown.

According to Charles Patteson&aposs Kentucky Cooking (1988, HarperCollins), "Burgoo…midway between a hearty soup and a stew…succeeds the juleps in the guests&apos cups as a first course." At the Kentucky Colonels&apos barbecue the day after the Derby, those would be silver Mint Julep cups, a far cry from the battered tin mugs used to scoop up burgoo back in work-camp days.

And a final word about the pronunciation of burgoo: The country club and horse-y sets, I&aposm told, favor BUR-goo, while almost everyone else accents the last syllable.

An award-winning food and travel journalist now living in North Carolina, Jean Anderson is a member of the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame. Her latest cookbook is Falling off the Bone.

Made in Kentucky

You drink it, eat it, play it, deal it and post it—and it’s all made right here in Kentucky.

Manufactured in Erlanger by Perfetti Van Melle USA, Airheads are known for their unique chewy texture and awesome stretch-ability. You can shape them, pull them and roll them up. The candy comes as bars, belts and small bites in a variety of fruity, sweet and sour flavors. Each day, the factory produces 3 million Airheads. That’s about 50 tons—every day!

“If you took all the Airheads we make in a year, and put them end to end, they would reach to the moon and back 2 1/2 times,” says Communications Manager Stephanie Creech.

Legions of loyal fans keep Big Red among the top-selling soft drinks. The recipe was concocted in Texas, but the fizzy red soda has a connection to Kentucky that goes all the way back to 1937 when it was first invented.

Back then, a guy named R.H. Roark, who happened to own the R.C. Cola Bottling Company in Louisville, combined his know-how with a chemist, Grover C. Thomsen. The result? Big Red, which was sold in Louisville. In fact, Kentucky was the first state to ever sell the soda.

To mark the 80th anniversary of Big Red being sold in Louisville, Mayor Greg Fischer issued a proclamation declaring May 16, 2018, Big Red Day.

Bottled in Winchester since 1926, Ale-8-One is the only soft drink invented in Kentucky still in existence. Founder and inventor G.L. Wainscott hit upon the formula after experimenting with ginger-blended recipes acquired during travels in northern Europe.

Not only is Ale-8 one of the last soft drink bottlers left in the United States, it is also the only one in Kentucky continuing to receive and refill returnable long-neck, green glass bottles.

“Many fans say the best-tasting Ale-8 is contained in these bottles, full of memories,” says DeAnne Elmore, field marketing and public relations manager. “They are thicker and heavier than today’s bottles.”

The company gives 1 percent of sales from these returnable bottles to environmental non-profits in Kentucky through its partnership with 1% For The Planet.

Hot Pockets, Mount Sterling
More Hot Pockets are eaten every day than there are people in West Virginia.

True fact. On average, 1,851,510 Hot Pockets are eaten every single day in the U.S. The estimated population of West Virginia in 2017: 1,815,857.

That’s a whole lotta microwaves dinging across the country. Thirty years ago, Nestlé Prepared Foods created a frozen, hand-held sandwich for America’s on-the-go lifestyle. According to Sarah Factor, manager–corporate and brand affairs, Hot Pockets has evolved into an iconic American brand that is today firmly sandwiched in American pop culture.

Not just handy and affordable, Hot Pockets tout their tastiness, with buttery seasoned crusts enrobing hickory ham, 100 percent Angus beef, and a new and improved pepperoni pizza recipe.

Everyone knows what choosy moms choose: Jif. One of the most recognized taglines in history debuted over 50 years ago in 1966, eight years after the company was founded in 1958.

Owned by the J.M. Smucker Company, Jif has a manufacturing facility in Lexington—the largest peanut butter-producing facility in the world.

The plant has a lot of demand to keep up with, as approximately 270 million pounds of Jif Peanut Butter are consumed in the U.S. each year. That’s enough to make 2 billion peanut butter sandwiches or to spread a 55-foot-thick layer over a football field.

Dixie, Lexington, Bowling Green

They show up in droves at every picnic: Dixie paper products. Made by Georgia-Pacific, a variety of Dixie plates, bowls and platters are made at the Bowling Green plant (served by Warren RECC) and Dixie Everyday bath cups and To Go cups are manufactured at the plant in Lexington.

You know how packable and stackable, mobile and disposable they are. But did you know that the company cooks approximately 200 pounds of bacon and approximately 400 pounds of eggs annually to test the quality of their plates and bowls? They are the buffet’s best friend for a reason.

It’s tough—like anything with “gorilla” in its name should be. It’s also scratch- and damage-resistant and provides outstanding optical clarity. Chances are, you come into contact with it dozens and dozens of times every day.

Corning Gorilla Glass makes glass covers or screens for smartphones and other electronic devices. Lots of devices. Enough to cover more than 30,000 football fields. Some 5 billion and counting.

Chemically strengthened through an ion-exchange process that, according to the explanation on the Corning website, “creates a deep compression layer on the surface of the glass substrate,” Gorilla Glass is to your smartphone what chain mail is to a knight—armor that deflects the slings and arrows of everyday life.

No need to cut the crusts off these PB&Js—Uncrustables has trimmed the work out of fixing one of America’s classic sandwiches. Made by the J.M. Smucker Company in Scottsville (served by Tri-County Electric), Uncrustables are a quick two-step operation from freezer to pleaser: 1) Thaw. 2) Unwrap.

Besides peanut butter and grape jelly, Uncrustables are filled with chocolate-flavored hazelnut, among other flavors, and are offered on whole wheat and with reduced sugar. They are fun to eat and even more fun to play with. Cut and arrange various fruits on and around an Uncrustable sandwich to create a bunny, fish, bear and more.

At the Scottsville manufacturing facility alone, approximately 1.2 million Uncrustables are made every day. That is enough sandwiches to feed every child in New York City.

The first cheese spread to be individually served in foil-sealed portions, The Laughing Cow is one of Bel Brands USA’s most popular brands. More than 350 million wedges are made each year in Leitchfield, with hundreds of employees working round the clock to produce nine varieties (with eight lip-smacking wedges per pack) of this savory snack.

Why “laughing cow?” you may ask. The origin of the name is found on the French front lines of World War I, where trucks conveyed meat that carried a logo of a cow. Following the war, Léon Bel used a version of this very cow to embellish boxes of cheese in a round box, naming it La Vache qui rit, or The Laughing Cow.

The first company to embrace the three-fingered grip. Strike.

The company with the largest contract in sports history when it signed “Bowler of the Century” Don Carter in 1964. Strike.

Ebonite International, the company that introduces 35 to 40 new made-in-the-USA bowling balls into the marketplace each year has firsts to spare.

Originally located in New England, it has been based in Hopkinsville since 1967—the former tobacco warehouse site was selected, according to company lore, because Hopkinsville was where the site consultant’s girlfriend lived.

Last year, to celebrate Hopkinsville being the epicenter of the 2017 solar eclipse, Ebonite partnered with KR Strikeforce to produce a limited-run solar eclipse bowling ball. The ball also highlighted Ebonite’s 50th anniversary in Hopkinsville.

There always seems to be a deck of playing cards in the kitchen junk drawer or tucked away in a table in the family room. But where do they come from and why are they so ubiquitous? The answer is found in Erlanger at the United States Playing Card Company, which has churned out an estimated 4 billion to 5 billion decks of playing cards, the well-known Bicycle brand among them.

“Because of our long history, number of decks we have produced and the fact our product is used in more than 113 countries, there’s a good chance our product has reached more people than any other product made in Kentucky,” says Elaine Sheaks, product manager.

Include special decks among those that have reached a card-crazed populace. The company has made decks commemorating various presidents, Apollo 13, World War II and other auspicious reasons.

Duct Tape, Bowling Green, Franklin and Danville

It’s the do-it-yourselfer’s cure-all: Duct tape. It patches, seals, repairs, wraps—it’s pretty much up for any challenge. The quality is consistent and the product perfect for a wide range of jobs, including maintenance and general repair. There are even high-performance, code-approved duct tapes for heating and air conditioning duct sealing.

Berry Global makes enough tape each year to wrap around the equator of the Earth more than twice. For perspective, one lap around the equator is 24,900 miles.

Owned by The Clorox Company, Kingsford Manufacturing converts more than 1 million tons of wood scraps into charcoal briquets every year at its plants—and one of those plants, served by Tri-County Electric, is located in Summer Shade in Metcalfe County.

Even more interesting is the name behind the briquets: Henry Ford. In the 1920s, Ford discovered the process for turning wood scraps into charcoal briquets during production of his Model Ts. It was because of this discovery that he built a charcoal plant and invented Kingsford charcoal.

The Kingsford Company was formed when E.G. Kingsford, a relative of Ford’s, brokered the site selection for the new plant. The company was originally called Ford Charcoal, but then renamed in E.G.’s honor.

Since 1947, Reynolds Wrap has been the go-to kitchen tool for covering food, lining trays, customizing meals, storing leftovers—even making a soufflé pan. Invented after World War II, when aluminum was no longer needed for military use, Reynolds Wrap today is a staple of the American pantry.

With seven different foil products, including recycled and wrappers, one question always crops up: Why is one side of Reynolds Wrap shiny and the other side dull, and does it matter?

“The difference in appearance is simply a result of manufacturing and serves no real purpose,” says Brienne Neisewander, senior marketing director, “unless you’re using Non-Stick Reynolds Wrap. With Non-Stick, use the dull side facing toward the food for non-stick properties.”

Altec Industries, Elizabethtown

Elizabethtown is home to two side-by-side Altec plants, one being powered by Nolin RECC and both combined making this Altec’s highest-volume manufacturing plant. Altec Elizabethtown manufactures aerial devices, or bucket trucks as they are more commonly known, for the electric utility, telecommunications and lights and signs markets.

“Precise” and “efficient” are Altec watchwords. The equipment line is stability tested to industry standards and each piece of equipment is tested for quality and endurance through real-world simulations. The result? The safest, most reliable pieces of aerial equipment in the industry.

Oh, and Altec E’town uses 11,110 miles of weld wire in the process—each year.

(Yes, that is really its name.)

Got some immense space to cool? Headquartered in Lexington, the innovative company began by another name when founded in 1999: HVLS, meaning High Volume, Low Speed. But customers who learned about the ceiling fans insisted on inquiring about “those big, er, ‘backside’ fans.”

With industrial, commercial and residential models, these massive fans are designed to move colossal amounts of air. Several are available for home use—both indoors and out: Essence, Isis and Haiku, a smart fan that has been recognized as the “World’s Quietest Fan.” All are workhorses as well as pieces of art.

They’ve caught on in a big way, with more than 141 million people cooled by them every day.

Who wouldn’t love playing with bicycles every day? At Capitol Bicycle Company in London, served by Jackson Energy, the craftsmen behind the customization love bicycles with a capital “L.”

“It’s what gets us up and out of bed early every morning,” says partner Peter Mitchell.

Capitol Bicycles understands that every individual’s anatomy is unique and that bicycle frames should be customized to fit each cyclist perfectly. The shop’s specialty is steel and titanium bicycle frames. Three gifted local artisans provide the welding, coating and painting. All frame materials and products are sourced in the United States.

“We pride ourselves on having the ‘Made in the USA’ tag,” says Mitchell.

Champion Petfoods USA makes ORIJEN and ACANA for pet lovers who insist on giving the biologically best for their dogs and cats. The company’s mission is to provide Biologically Appropriate foods—mirroring dogs and cats evolutionary diet—made from fresh regional ingredients supplied by nearby farmers, ranchers and fishermen. The food is never outsourced, but made in their custom-built kitchens.

Situated on 85 acres of Kentucky farmland in Auburn (Warren RECC), this facility is called DogStar Kitchens after the brightest star in the night sky. Considered the most advanced pet food kitchens on earth—with standards that rival the human food processing industry—the state-of-the-art DogStar Kitchens are the first pet food facility in the world to receive a prestigious Design-Build Institute of America Award.

Champion is committed to enriching and supporting the community where they live, serve, and work. In 2017, Champion’s DogStar Kitchens donated 11,580kg of pet foods to local rescue organizations. Champion also supported many other local events and initiatives.

Guess who’s all grown up? Dippin’ Dots turns 30 in 2018 and is celebrating the auspicious occasion by inviting everyone to “taste the fun” with the launch of Frozeti Confetti.

Named after company mascot, Frozeti the Yeti, this delightfully festive birthday flavor features a blast of lemon and blue raspberry ices with confetti popping candy. Like all Dippin’ Dots’ delectable flash frozen tiny beads of ice cream, yogurt, sherbet and flavored ice products, Frozeti Confetti is made at the company’s production facility in Paducah.

From the beginning, Dippin’ Dots have been a hit and today, some 90 billion dots are consumed annually. (That’s enough to fill about four Olympic size pools.) Ever wonder how many dots you can dip from a small cup of Dippin’ Dots? Try 2,000.

Powers Paper Co., Brandenburg

Powers Paper Co., better known as PPC, provides a wide range of paper-based products to the automotive aftermarket, construction industry, and the retail, manufacturing, industrial, and food service industry. In a word, this company is diversified.

With a facility located in Brandenburg (Meade County RECC), products include masking paper, builders brown paper, point of sale (POS) paper, freezer paper and heavy weight kraft paper.

All paper used is converted with shear cut equipment that trims, removes dust and helps eliminate fibers during the cutting process. And it is a lot of paper: PPC converts enough paper in one year to wrap around the world six times.

Sixty years ago, C.B. and Imogene Robinson started a family-owned business in southeastern Kentucky. Today the Robinson Stave-East Bernstadt Cooperage (Jackson Energy) makes oak bourbon barrels that are sold all over the region. Why oak? Because it is ONLY bourbon if it is in a new charred oak container.

Making the barrels is an intense, multistep process that begins with stave workers de-barking and quarter-sawing raw lumber that comes from the Appalachian Mountains and then cutting the logs into staves. Staves are seasoned for six months to two years, depending on customer specifications. After the staves are kiln-dried for about a month, they move onto getting planed, shaped, and jointed.

Not finished yet. Moisture is added to make the staves flexible for assembly then the moisture is taken back out. A trip through a char flame-licks the barrels’ insides to give whiskey its distinctive color and flavor. See? Intense.

Tiny Dunville, population 1,671, is home to the largest manufacturer of farm gates and animal management equipment in North America.

Tarter Gate began in 1945 building wooden gates. In 2008, this Casey County company (Taylor County RECC) changed its name to Tarter Farm & Ranch Equipment to show the breadth and scope of products they manufacture: cattle squeeze chutes, horse stalls, small animal transporters, galvanized tanks, rodeo and arena equipment, tractor implements including subsoilers, plows, and cultivators, and yes, farm gates, too.

Privately owned, the fourth generation of the Tarter family currently oversees operations.


Kentucky is a state of refined culture, vast rural farmland, and a robust economy that generated 165 billion in 2011 and has only grown. As well as being one of the cheapest states to live in the U.S., Kentucky is also a center of innovation with yearly job growth. The Bluegrass State has some of the most beautiful national parks such as Mammoth Cave and Red River Gorge. With so many job opportunities and a median home price of $123,200, Kentucky might just be the perfect place for a new home.

Sean Pavone / Getty Images

Ohio is understated and misunderstood. It's actually one of the best states to start up a new business. Offering residents a low cost of living and many manufacturing opportunities when it comes to employment. Midwesterners are also as charming and courteous as Southerners it's just not nearly as talked about. When you're looking for a place where everybody knows your name, where you can chat to others in the grocery store, the Buckeye State is right there waiting with a median home price of just $129,900.

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The Five Biggest Bourbon Myths

Bourbon is undeniably on a major roll. Over the last few years, sales of the whiskey have shot up around the world. While we love that bars and stores now boast big selections of the spirit, we still hear plenty of misinformation about the liquor. So to set the record straight, we’ve debunked some of the most common bourbon myths. Cheers!

Jack Daniel’s is bourbon.

An easy bar bet to win is to ask your friends to find the word “bourbon” on a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. You’ll stump them every time, since the spirit is a Tennessee whiskey, not a bourbon. What’s the difference? Jack Daniel’s goes through a special charcoal-filtering process before it’s put into barrels.

All bourbon is made in Kentucky.

While most bourbon comes from the Bluegrass State (according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, 95 percent of the planet’s supply is born there), by law the alcohol can be distilled anywhere in the United States. And we’ve tasted bourbons from across the country, like those from Upstate New York’s Tuthilltown Spirits and Chicago’s Few Spirits.

Older bourbon is better.

Nearly every week, we’re asked about super-premium and super-old bourbons such as Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 23 Years Old and Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old. Though these bottlings are beloved by bartenders and drinkers, they are really the exception and not the norm. Older bourbon isn’t necessarily better: If the spirit spends too long in a barrel, all you’ll taste is the wood.

You can’t add ice & mixers.

Don’t let anybody tell you how to drink your whiskey. You should enjoy it any way you want. And in fact, a bit of water helps open up the bourbon just as it does Scotch. If you want to add ice, use a jumbo cube that chills thoroughly but melts slowly. Bourbon is also, of course, delicious in cocktails. We particularly like it in a simple and refreshing Presbyterian and the classic Mint Julep.

Bourbon is made from a secret recipe.

While there are many bourbons on store shelves, there are just three basic formulas for making the liquor. Knowing which ones your favorites employ will help you discover new brands that you’ll also like. Check out our list of recipes and corresponding whiskies, which we compiled with bourbon expert Bernie Lubbers.


ERIE® insurance products and services are provided by one or more of the following insurers: Erie Insurance Exchange, Erie Insurance Company, Erie Insurance Property & Casualty Company, Flagship City Insurance Company and Erie Family Life Insurance Company (home offices: Erie, Pennsylvania) or Erie Insurance Company of New York (home office: Rochester, New York). The companies within the Erie Insurance Group are not licensed to operate in all states. Refer to the company licensure and states of operation information.

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Insurance products are subject to terms, conditions and exclusions not described in this blog. The policy contains the specific details of the coverages, terms, conditions and exclusions.

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Watch the video: Kentucky Moments: Taste of the Bluegrass (August 2022).