Marinating pork in whiskey before cooking it is a true power move. But what if you could skip a step and raise pigs that already taste like the brown spirit?
Iowa’s Templeton Rye Distillery is attempting to do just that with its Templeton Rye Heritage Pork Project. The distillery will attempt to make whiskey-flavored pork by feeding 25 purebred Duroc pigs spent grain left over from the distilling process.
The pigs, born in January, should be ready to eat in June. And the whiskey pork already has fans. Top Chef winner and owner of Chicago’s Girl and the Goat, Stephanie Izard, is ready to jump on the whiskey-flavored hog bandwagon.
Whiskey-flavored bacon sounds like something out of a carnivore’s wet dream, we get it. But before you get too excited, know that making pork that tastes like whiskey might actually be impossible.
According to Vox, it is true that you can change the flavor and texture of pork substantially based on what you feed the animals, thanks to the animals’ biology. Vox reports, “Fat-soluble substances, like hot peppers, might change a pig’s flavor, says Chad Stahl, swine nutrition specialist at North Carolina State University.” Also, some of the fat you feed a pig will be deposited into its subcutaneous fat.
However, Stahl adds that pigs won’t automatically taste like a particular food just because they’re fed that food. He says,
“Feeding a pig butter wouldn’t yield delicious, buttery bacon, because the short-chain fatty acids that give butter its flavor wouldn’t make it into the meat.”
Additionally, since part of whiskey’s flavor comes from the wooden barrel its aged in, none of this flavor would transfer from the spent grain to the pigs. Stahl says,
“[Distillers’ grain] will not make them taste like whiskey. It has been a fairly popular ingredient in all pig diets for the last 10 years. It’s pretty likely for pigs to have up to 10 percent of their diet being distiller dry grain. That does nothing to make the meat taste like whiskey.”
This project has never been attempted before, so whether or not the distillery will do it again depends entirely on how this first batch of whiskey pork turns out, says Templeton Rye Distillery co-founder Keith Kerkhoff.
If you’re still hopeful about eating whiskey-flavored pork, you can email a request for one of Templeton’s whiskey pigs to HeritagePorkProject@templetonrye.com.
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