Chef Peter Smith’s Revolutionary Idea

Via Press release:

One bright brainwave, two remarkable results:  Washington’s Peter Smith is making culinary use of the botanical byproduct of gin production known as ‘mash,’ and in doing so, is providing the gin industry for the first time ever with a sustainable market for its waste.  He is the first chef in the country to cook with gin mash.

Distilleries typically throw away 30-40 pounds of spent botanicals for every batch of gin produced, a wet compound that looks like old brewed tea and tastes like super concentrated gin: an intense combination of juniper, orris root, lemon, coriander, and other flavors that is so highly alcoholic Smith says “it’s nearly a biohazard.”  Working with the mash from two different gin distilleries, Blue Coat of Philadelphia, whose product is 95% organic, and Catoctin Creek of West Virginia, the first distillery in the area since Prohibition, Smith gives new life to the erstwhile waste product by converting it to aromatic oils and powders at his hip downtown restaurant, PS 7’s.

He has figured out that by using the original, but ‘reclaimed,’ botanicals from the distillation process, he captures the flavor value that would otherwise require two full bottles of gin to achieve. At the distillery, the fresh, non homogenized botanical spices are boiled down and melded together into a balance of flavors that is mellow but intense. Peter mixes this leftover, tea-like compost, with oil, leaving it to sit for a month. Then, he strains it through three times to get it pure, clear, and compressed. This use of cast-off material saves the chef the expense of purchasing new product, and gives the distillery a productive use for its waste, redefining the restaurant-distillery relationship.  While distilleries normally dispose of their mash as trash, and many regard the byproduct as a potential source of proprietary information, these two companies have been delighted by Smith’s creative developments.

And how exactly is he using this gin mash?  He has created a “Ginola,” a play off breseola, by rubbing his beef with the spent botanicals and hanging it to dry and cure for about a month.  The beef develops a gin-like taste and is included on his tasting menu.  He has been curing “GinBelly,” similar to pancetta, a cured pork belly covered with the gin mash botanical and then rolled and dried for two-five months.  PS 7’s also now features a halibut dish in which the fish has been treated with his gin-mash powder, giving it a light and unexpected gin flavor.  He has also worked with Catoctin Creek to develop a gin salt.

Smith debuted his remarkable ‘wasted gin’ techniques at the 2011 Aspen Food & Wine Festival.

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