Milwaukee cookbook author Jeanette Hurt keeps pace


All-in. Prolific cookery author Jeanette Hurt is that kind of girl.

We met 18 years ago, as we were preparing to represent Wisconsin on a 10 women’s goodwill trip to Chiba, our sister state in Japan. Most of us have taken the time to practice basic sentences – konnichiwa, arigato gozaimasu, sumimasen (hello, thank you, excuse me) – before leaving the US, Hurt took two months of Berlitz lessons and at a group dinner spoke to our hosts in their native language.

Most of the delegation returned to the United States at the end of the official itinerary. Hurt, then an aqua aerobics instructor, arranged – through the YMCA – to give a class to Japanese students before returning home.

Its a story. There is more. The Bay View resident is passionate about food and spirits, writing 15 books – 14 with her name and a ghost – since 2008.

It is not uncommon for her to work on two books at the same time. Cheese, cauliflower, tapas, gluten-free dishes, hard ciders and specialty cocktails caught his attention. The most recent is a cookbook that highlights the products of Aldi, the Germany-based grocer, as Hurt is a longtime fan (and agrees that Ali has a cult following – “like Trader Joe’s”) .

Up now: search for a book on sour whiskey, for University Press of Kentucky. After that comes a book on sour cocktails.

“I’ve always wanted to know ‘why’,” she says, to explain her motivation, and Hurt finds a thrill in the hunt to develop a perfect recipe or find a definitive answer to the obscure history of cooking or drinking. .

His new quest is to verify the origin, evolution and untapped possibilities of sour whiskey. We chat while Hurt cooks up a Blackberry Sage Smash, a recipe she developed as a composite of the others.

From the freezer comes a jumble of storage bags with simple syrups made from scratch, each unique because of the fruits or spices. (In its most basic form, simple syrup is made with boiled water and sugar.) A copper shaker mixes simple syrup, ice, and a jigger of Great Lakes Still & Oak Straight Bourbon (the liqueur in small lots, made in Milwaukee, is a subset of whiskey).

Hurt rubs a single sage leaf around the rim of a glass of cordial, fills it, and sips. Then she adds a little egg white to the rest of the unpoured mixture, shakes and regains. Nicely frothy but a little tart, Hurt decides, so she can modify the simple syrup recipe another day and try, try again.

Why an egg white?

“It tempers the other ingredients and adds a luxurious texture,” Hurt says, noting that old-fashioned recipes for simple syrup sometimes contained egg whites.

Distillers and bartenders also contribute whiskey sour cocktail recipes, which Hurt will all test out. Work can start in the morning as well as traditional cocktail hours, but for her “It’s always just a taste – I never finish a cocktail while testing”, although visitors can.

What’s in the perfect sour whiskey? Hurt reserves the right to change his mind but says that 2 ounces of bourbon, 3/4 ounce of lemon juice, and 3/4 ounce of simple syrup are a good start. Add a pinch or two of bitters because “bitters in cocktails are what spices are in cooking.”

Jeanette Hurt shows off the Blackberry Sage Smash she did on June 30.

From police report to food writing

Yes, she took cooking classes (and hired a certified bartender trainer to give her mixology classes), but the core training of her job is journalism. She was a police reporter (who brought homemade brownies to the morgue) at the now defunct City News Bureau in Chicago. Then came work in the Milwaukee Sentinel and Journal Sentinel newsrooms.

Hurt switched to full-time freelance writing in 2002, first as a travel writer. It turned into culinary writing after the birth of her son Quinn 11 years ago. Her husband Kyle is an architect and Quinn recently qualified for the national gymnastics competition.

Her mother begins the book search by gathering relevant material from the library (“you are only allowed to view 30 books at a time”), typically looking for both recipes and a historical angle. She scans microfilms from old newspapers and other publications. Of particular interest are the 1800s “household management” guides, collections which she says reflect ordinary life in the era and are the equivalent of Victorian bestsellers.

The work of challenging presumptions is tedious but rewarding.

“You have to go into databases,” says Hurt, and not rely on stories published from generation to generation.

What fuels a food and alcohol writer this way? Childhood heroines were aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, Underground Railroad driver Harriet Tubman, and 19th-century journalist Nellie Bly (who faked mental illness to expose inhumane asylum conditions).

Jeanette Hurt poses for a portrait on June 30 in Milwaukee.  Hurt grew up in Chicago but has lived most of his life here in Milwaukee.  She wrote 15 books, 14 with her name and a ghost.

It all starts with cheese

Hurt says the deal was sealed for his first book, Wisconsin Cheese, after tempting the East Coast publisher with $ 50 of exquisite quarters from Larry’s Brown Deer Market.

“I had worked on seven or eight proposals, which I sent about 40 different times,” she recalls. “None of them had sold.”

Two weeks later, his book agent rattled DK – the UK publisher of the Complete Idiot’s Guide series – with Hurt’s manuscript on the cheeses of the world. Since then, “my next book has generally been a tangent” of something that arises and intrigues during research. Or it’s a publisher’s call for help because another writer’s job has failed. Or he sprouts from networking with other authors.

Tangents become ideas

Why chase the spirits? Hurt says she continued to write about Great Lakes Distillery distiller Guy Rehorst as her business grew. The more she wrote, the more the subject piqued her curiosity about cocktails and their origins.

When an idea arises, it finds a different approach. Example: His quest for a book “United Drinks of America” ​​turned into a book on Wisconsin cocktails, as Hurt realized during early research that very few states have a cocktail culture. unique.

The author also learned to reuse anything that might be left in the edit. When the text for a book on food dehydration was short (“a lot of these recipes are short”), she added a chapter on pet food.

Hurt is a lifelong dog lover whose pets have also served as taste testers in culinary experiences. Sandy, a terrier mix, ate canned dog food that teenager Hurt added spices to – garlic powder, Italian seasonings – and, while mom wasn’t looking, seven raw eggs .

Olivia, who starred in Hurt’s contribution to the 2012 book “Chicken Soup for the Soul of Dog Lovers,” ate her owner’s baked dog cookies. Now Lyra – a mix of Chihuahua and Great Pyrenees – enjoys the same treat, especially when Hurt adds bacon fat.

Here is the formula. All but the kitchen sink cookies (for 2 dozen to 3 dozen) 1 ½ cup whole wheat flour, 1 ½ cup leftover cheese, meat, cooked vegetables, canned tuna (or any combination), 1 scoop tablespoons of canola or olive oil, ½ cup of water. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, leftovers and oil. Gradually add water; the amount you need will depend on the type of leftovers. The dough should be pliable but not too wet. Wet your hands and roll the mixture into small balls, about the size of a quarter or half a dollar, depending on your dog’s size.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until hardened. Cool.


Jeanette Hurt author of events

Upcoming Jeanette Hurt Author Events include:

An online Wisconsin cocktail talk and demos, via Zoom, 6:30 p.m. Aug. 5, Middleton Public Library. Mandatory pre-registration at

In-person food and non-alcoholic beverage demonstrations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. August 29 at the Greenfield Farmers Market in Konkel Park, 5151 W. Layton Ave.

The Real Truth About Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned, Nov. 20 at TedxOshkosh, an independent TED event.


Ten quick cooking tips

  • Jeanette Hurt adds 2 tablespoons of brandy, whiskey or rum to her favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. Cooking cooks the alcohol but leaves a great flavor, she says.
  • What else? Start with good ingredients. You can’t make bad ingredients taste better.
  • When mixing the ingredients for the cocktail, be gentle with the herbs so that their flavor does not turn bitter.
  • Real spices don’t last forever, so buy them in quantities you’ll use. Old spices taste like sawdust: if you can’t smell the spice anymore, throw it out.
  • Read a recipe before trying to prepare it. Can you follow it?
  • If you forget a spice or don’t have it, don’t worry. The recipe will probably turn out again.
  • Heat some oil in a skillet before trying to caramelize or almost caramelize Brussels sprouts to avoid scorching anything that is sautéed or braised. Bacon is an exception.
  • For pastry and bartender, it is best to measure the amounts of ingredients in the eyeball.
  • If you are single, cook well for yourself and your friends.
  • For writers, ddon’t be afraid of rejection. Just keep working on your craft and don’t take the rejection personally.


Jeanette Hurt shows two of the 15 books she has written, 14 under her name and a ghost.

According to the rules

Jeanette Hurt has written 15 books since 2008. One was written by Ghosts, a cookbook for a dietitian in Canada.

His 14 other titles are:

Aldi’s unofficial cookbook: delicious recipes made with fan favorites from the award-winning grocery store, 2021 (Ulysse Presse)

Wisconsin Cocktails, 2020 (University of Wisconsin Press)

Cauliflower Comfort Food: Delicious Low Carb Recipes For Your Favorite Classics, 2020 (Ulysse Presse)

The joy of cider: everything you always wanted to know about drinking and making hard cider, 2019 (Skyhorse)

The Passive Writer: 3 Steps to Making Money While You Sleep, 2018, with Bec Loss, Damon Brown (CreateSpace Publishing)

Drink like a woman: Shake. Stir. To conquer. Repeat, 2016 (Basic books)

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Gluten Free, 2014, with Elizabeth King Humphrey (DK)

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Dehydrating Foods, 2013 (DK)

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Sausage Making, 2012, with Jeff King (DK)

The complete idiot’s guide to food and wine pairing, 2010, with Jaclyn Stuart (DK)

California Cheeses: A Culinary Travel Guide, 2009 (Alpha)

The complete guide for tapas idiots, 2008 (DK)

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Cheeses of the World, 2008, with Steve Ehlers (DK)

Wisconsin Cheeses: A Culinary Travel Guide, 2008, (The Countryman Press).

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