Many people recognize the taste of Jack & Coke from a sip.
One bite will never let you forget Jack & Mary.
Since it first filtered the fresh spring water of local caves through a sour corn mash into barrels in 1866, the Jack Daniels Whiskey Distillery, always based in Lynchburg, Tennessee, has helped define the unmistakable cheer of the Volunteer State. In combination with that old classic Coca Cola, the Jack & Coke long ago entered American Pop Cocktail Culture.
But who knew Jack can be used in practically every course of an old-fashioned Old South supper, from cornbread, cole slaw, pork tenderloin, chicken in pastry, skillet steaks, cake, bread pudding? Or even in more contemporary dishes like hot wings, bean dip, grilled salmon and burgers?
In consulting the last word on all things Tennessean, that irrepressible author, farm equipment businesswoman, political activist, fundraiser and mostest hostess Libby Murphy (see her mouth-watering website https://www.twirlandtaste.com), it turns out that Jack Daniels is also the key ingredient in the Pie of the State.
No wonder, considering how long the famous whiskey has been part of the state’s unique culture.
Despite the fact that the Civil War was raging, Jasper Newton Daniel, grandson of Welsh and Scottish immigrants known as “Jack,” first began making his own unique brand of whiskey in 1866 at twenty years old, making it the oldest licensed distillery in the U.S.
He kept making it until falling ill in 1907 and then turned the distillery over to his nephew Lemuel Moltow. Jack Daniel died in 1911.
His grandnephews and grandnieces ran the distillery for nine years, following their father Lem’s 1947 death, before selling it to a corporation which now keeps the doors open to public tours.
But Jack’s only half the rich, smooth pie story. The other part is Mary.
Her story precedes her, in a sense, tied to an old Federal-style house, built in 1818 by one of Lynchburg’s founders, just off the town square. Just as the Jack Daniels Distillery was starting up, the house was bought by a doctor and his wife, who lived there and also took in boarders. In 1908, Lynchburg natives Jack and Mary Bobo took over the boarding house and put it on the map with an amazing array of country foods made even more delicious by the recipe adaptations and creations of “Miss Mary,” who cooked everything.
Although they overlapped in Lynchburg for just three years, Jack Daniels knew Miss Mary, frequenting the Bobo Boarding House with his nephew Lem as often as possible, unable to resist her cooking.
Exactly how the rich and extremely smooth fudge pie was concocted isn’t entirely clear, but it was a literal collaboration between Jack’s whiskey and Mary’s cooking. Not known to tipple what she always politely called “the product” Mary Bobo created any number of recipes using it, none more legendary than the whiskey fudge pie. And in Tennessee lore, Jack Daniels and Mary Bobo were forever linked.
The reputation of her fine cooking soon reaching across the globe, Miss Mary welcomed upwards of five hundred dinner guests a week, a vast majority of whom were in town on business with, or as guests of, the Jack Daniels Distillery.
For almost a half-century after she was widowed, Miss Mary kept the place going, running the entire show until she was 98 and continuing to help with the cooking right up until her death in 1983, just before her 102nd birthday.Just before her 99th birthday, however, Miss Mary made a bit of unexpected world news beyond her famous fudge pie when she became the oldest woman to ever appear in Playboy.
In an ad for Jack Daniels, that is.
Recognizing just how closely tied it was to Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House, it was not only Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey Distillery which came to the rescue and bought the property a year later, but one of Jack Daniel’s great-grandnieces, Lynne Tolley, who went to work as manager of the place – along with her second job as an “official taster” of Great-Great-Uncle Jack’s “product.” Expanded in recent years to accompany the high demand and long waiting lists of guests eager to partake of the two midday suppers still served there (it is no longer a hotel), Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House Restaurant.
This is one pie, however, where no whiskey but Jack’s will work. Although it is technically classified for trade purposes as a “Bourbon Whiskey,” Jack Daniels is adamant in describing its nectar as “Tennessee Whiskey,” because its aging process involves a sugar maple charcoal filtering not used in other bourbons.
And, in a not-entirely-unrelated note on another liquid classic of the South, if you ever find yourself thinking that the most famous Louisiana hot sauce brand, made by the McIllhenny Company, had some sort of extra kick, be assured its not just hot peppers. The hot sauce is made in second-hand barrels, first used to age Jack Daniels.
Since Jack Daniels is the best-selling whiskey on the globe, there’s no trouble spotting its familiar black label and square-base bottle anywhere in the world.
Almost anywhere in the world.
The great irony of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is that it is distilled in Moore County, one of the state’s dry counties, where prohibition of alcohol consumption remains firmly in place. Its okay to make the stuff there, but it’s illegal to buy and sell it in markets or serve it in restaurants.
But there’s no law about eating pie.
Miss Mary’s Jack Daniel’s Fudge Pie
¼ cup (½ stick) butter
1 ½ cups sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup evaporated milk
¼ cup Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey
1 (9-inch) graham cracker pie-crust
Whipped cream, spiked with Jack Daniels’ Tennessee Whiskey
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar and cocoa powder. Stir in eggs, evaporated milk, and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. Pour into the piecrust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until set. Cool completely. Serve slices with a dollop of whipped cream spiked with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.
Sprinkle cream with a dusting of cocoa powder. Makes 8 servings.
Unless otherwise noted, images are from the Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey website: https://www.jackdaniels.com
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- The Serious Eats Guide to Tennessee Whiskey (drinks.seriouseats.com)
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