Well Spent

The many lives of mash, from bacon cure to baker's oven

In Mississippi, it's rubbed on bacon. In New York, it's fed to pigs. In D.C., it's powdered and sprinkled on fish.

Mash, the solids left after fermenting spirits, beers or sauces, is one brewer's trash–and a chef's inspiration.

At Big Bad Breakfast in Oxford, Mississippi, John Currence's brown sugar-Tabasco bacon hits with a wallop of smoky heat courtesy of a 10-day cure in pepper mash (call Tabasco to order your own for $6.50 a gallon). He also turns leftover fermented soybeans from Bluegrass Soy Company, "soybeans with a twang," he says, into soy-pickled collard kimchi.

Chef Peter Smith collects spent gin botanicals from Blue Coat and Cacoctin Creek distilleries and turns them into a powder and an oil at his restaurant PS7 in Washington, D.C. Currently, each is featured in gin-cured lomo and arugula salad dressed in gin-oil vinaigrette.

In Brooklyn, Kings County Distillery gives its spent mash to Arcadian Pastures, where pigs allegedly prefer the corn-barley blend to regular feed. But no mash-recycling program is more comprehensive than the one at The Plant, Chicago's in-the-works sustainable food center (click here to see the slide show).

There, leftover mash from an on-premises brewery will have at least four lives: fish food for the building's two aquaculture outfits, fuel for a baker's oven, soil for mushrooms grown by the resident mycologist and fodder for an anaerobic digester (a machine that breaks down biodegradable material and turns it into energy).

Editor's note: PS7 has closed.