Kentucky bourbon balls and public history

Jenny Holly, public historian, and proud Kentuckian!

Jenny Holly is a public historian and proud Kentuckian,  who chats with us today about her interesting project into the medical history of Lexington, Kentucky. The healthcare industry in Lexington goes back to the late 1700s and is still an important part of the local economy. We learn about this history and about the various individuals who over the years created this medical landscape of Lexington. By the way, she is doing this all in her spare time!

What is a public historian you ask?  Jenny answers that question by enlightening us about the important function and the role public historians have in our communities. Public historians are the individuals bringing their love and passion for history straight to the public. They educate and connect us to the places we know and call home.

Jenny Holly dropping some knowledge!

How does this relate to archaeology? Well, archaeologists aren’t always digging in the ground. A lot of the time we are excavating through archives and dusty old documents searching for clues. And a lot of the time we will do this in collaboration with historians. It makes sense since we both like old things and we like to tell stories of those who’s stories have yet to be told!

Finally, Jenny introduces us to her Kentucky bourbon balls. This sound absolutely amazing! Even though it’s summer for some of us winter is coming so it is best to be prepared!

The finished product!

Jenny’s Kentucky Bourbon Balls

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

5 Tablespoons bourbon (start with 5 tablespoons, but add in extra if need be. Different bourbons will have different strength)**

1. Be born in Kentucky and already know how to make bourbon filled desserts. Or if that fails…

2. Combine softened butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Mixture will be very dry with almost a sand like quality. Sugar blends better if you run it through a sifter first, but that’s not necessary.

2. Add bourbon and mix until incorporated. Use a hand mixer and mix until it has a creamy, fluffy texture (usually a couple of minutes of mixing)

3. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 1 hour.

4. Form the buttercream into 1 inch balls and place on waxed paper. Refrigerate until firm. At this point you can either dip them in the chocolate, or place them in a plastic bag and freeze to dip them in the morning.

5. Dip in chocolate coating and place a pecan on top. (See Below)
Chocolate Coating

4 to 6 ounces semisweet chocolate or a dark chocolate/semisweet chocolate mixture

Whole pecan halves or crushed pecans, for garnish


Place a toothpick in each bourbon ball, sticking the toothpick into the center.

Melt chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave or a double boiler. Mix and heat until smooth. To make the chocolate smoother, add in Crisco as you melt it. I’ve also found that plugging in a heating pad on the counter and setting your chocolate on there helps keep it smooth while you’re working.

Working quickly, dip the bourbon ball centers into the chocolate one at a time. Set the coated bourbon ball on waxed paper covering a baking sheet or pizza pan. Cover the top with pecans. You’ll want to alternate between dipping a few and placing pecans.

When all bourbon balls have been dipped allow them to rest until set. (To speed the process the pan of bourbon balls can be placed in the refrigerator.)

**Note on bourbon: nicer bourbon is not always best for bourbon balls because it’s too smooth. Pick something mid-range. I usually use Wild Turkey. If you use Jack Daniels, we can no longer be friends.

Link to Jenny’s webpage!

Check out this episode!

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