During a busy week filled with foodie adventures, I was interrupted by a delightful gesture.
As I turned the corner into the restaurant, a new friend greeted me with a pleasant surprise. It was not a bottle of lemoncello or a bottle of fine wine. Instead, it was a bottle of grappa — Missouri grappa.
Grappa is a fragrant, grape-based pomace brandy of Italian origin that contains 35 to 60 percent alcohol by volume.
If you’re out and about in Ray County, stop by Of The Earth Farm, which is on the gently rolling hills of northwest Missouri, and see for yourself the distiller that produces Missouri grappa. It’s made from the grape seeds, leaves and other solids left from the wine production process.
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On the farm, an orchard produces apples, Asian pears and peaches. Spent mash from the production of premium spirits is fed to Berkshire hogs to produce flavorful pork. Apple Eau de vie brandy from Of The Earth apples, Ray County Rye Whisky made with rye grown in Ray County and grappa created from Missouri Norton grapes were released in 2013.
The story for Of The Earth Farm started more than two decades ago with Patricia Sappington Pierce, who was then living in Buckner, Mo., according to the farm’s website.
“Pierce began combining her love of herbs and her love of art in the creation of clay garden markers,” according to the website. “These were so popular with family and friends that she began selling them at local farmers markets. Since clay and herbs both come from the earth she named her enterprise Of The Earth.
“In the early 1990s, Jim C. and Patricia Pierce moved to a small acreage north of Rayville, Mo. As they built their new home and developed surrounding herb, vegetable and flower gardens they received a gift. Their oldest son, Jim D., gave them an assortment of heirloom apple trees.”
Of the Earth Farm now has an assortment of 26 apple varieties in a seven-acre orchard. It also grows two varieties of Asian pears and two varieties of peaches.
In 2008, their oldest son began looking into ways to add value to the annual fruit crop. He encountered Eau de Vie, translated from French as “Water of Life.” As a home winemaker, he was drawn to this segment of the spirits industry and another passion was ignited. Since that discovery, he has pursued ways to bring fresh, locally made spirits to the Ray County area.
The still arrived from Portugal in January 2012. Apple brandy from an assortment of local apples on the farm was the first product off of the still. The first batch of apple Eau de Vie was released in December 2013.
Grappa, made from Baltimore Bend Winery pomace, was next and is the first grappa in Missouri.
This fall Blackberry Liqueur will be on the market, made with blackberries sourced from the Mule Barn Berry Patch in Lathrop, Mo.
The story does not end there. The farm has a Katahdin sheep flock that was started in the fall of 2012. The 18 ewes and their bodyguard, Alfred the llama, rotationally graze the pastures. After the apple harvest, the flock is moved to the orchard to feast on the stockpiled vegetation under the trees. Lamb will be offered for sale in this winter. Berkshire pork was added to the farm in 2013.
“The spent fruit and grain mash are fed as a supplement to the hogs,” according to the farm’s website. “This provides a sustainable way to dispose of the mash while making for extra-happy hogs.”
You need to discover the orchards and farm yourself. You can find Of The Earth Farm products at Willow Springs Mercantile in Excelsior Springs; George’s Liquor in Richmond, Mo.; Hy-Vee in Liberty; 13 Stripes Liquor Store, Cellar Rat Wine Merchants, Gomer’s Midtown and Jasper’s Ristorante in Kansas City; Hometown Pizza in Richmond, Justus Drugstore in Smithville and Mi Pueblito in Belton.
Of the Earth Farm offers u-pick by appointment. Please call for a list of ripe varieties. Their fruit is excellent for juicing, making pies, canning or eating fresh.
I hope you enjoy the recipe using local Missouri grappa. Who knows, you might want to add a little chocolate.
Peanut Butter & Grappa Milkshake
2 ounces grappa
1/2 ounce maple syrup
1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup vanilla ice cream
1/4 cup milk
Mix maple syrup, peanut butter, ice cream and milk in blender until frothy. Add grappa and pulse four times. Pour into tall glass and enjoy.
Of The Earth Farm’s orchard and distillery is located at 38391 W. 176th St. in Rayville.
Source: Of the Earth Farm’s website.
Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s commands the helm of his family’s 59-year-old restaurant, consistently rated one of Kansas City’s best Italian restaurants. In addition to running the restaurant with his brother, Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He is host to many famous chefs on his weekly radio show “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM. He also sells a line of dressings and sauces.