Even if you've never seen a horse race, Fern Upshaw thinks you'll love a taste of the Little Brown Jug.

Even if you've never seen a horse race, Fern Upshaw thinks you'll love a taste of the Little Brown Jug.

"A Taste of the Jug" is the name of the new culinary creation crafted by Upshaw's home business, Muffins Plus More, in honor of the annual leg of harness racing's triple crown held during the Delaware County Fair.

Upshaw said she began tinkering in early August with recipes for a signature dessert for the race before perfecting the recipe for a chocolate muffin infused with toasted walnuts and honey bourbon.

She said the flavor combination can cause consternation among potential customers, but that changes when they sample the treat.

"What my experience has been is, if I can get someone to taste the muffins, 99 percent of the time they will buy it," she said.

Upshaw said she hopes her muffin inspires a fan-following similar to Derby Pie, the chocolate and nut pie baked by Kern's Kitchen of Louisville, Ky., that Kentucky Derby fans go crazy for. She said she thought it was time the Jug had its own signature dish.

Upshaw admits that when she moved to Delaware in 1999, she didn't know just how much the Little Brown Jug meant to the area.

She remembers forcing one of her three sons to get ready for school on the first Jug Day after the family arrived in the city, despite his insistence school was canceled for the race.

"I didn't believe him because he really wasn't wild about school," she said. "I thought it was a joke."

Upshaw, a New York City native, moved to central Ohio 26 years ago after deciding Columbus would be a good place to raise her family. She built a home in Delaware in 1999 because she liked the city's small-town feel and rural charm.

When Upshaw lost her job at a health insurance firm following a merger earlier this year, she remembered advice her friends and family had given her throughout the years at cookouts, parties and other events.

"(They'd) eat a cookie and say, 'Wow. You should sell that.' "

She finally took that advice, launching Muffins Plus More out of her home earlier this summer. Along with muffins, the business sells breads, cakes and cookies online and at the Main Street Delaware Farmers Market.

Upshaw said she always has had a passion for baking and cooking, but it took unemployment to push her into it as a full-time job.

"It actually was a blessing in disguise," she said.

Upshaw had dabbled in professional baking before. She said she sold muffins, scones and other treats to Trotters Coffee Co. in downtown Delaware to help pay for her son's private school tuition in the early 2000s.

Upshaw traces her love of baking to her mother, Marian Peterson, who died when Upshaw was young. All these years later, Upshaw said, baking still reminds her of her mother's love.

"One of the things I remember about my mom was smelling all of those wonderful baked goods, especially on Sundays," she said.

Customers should expect to see her baked goods popping up at local coffee shops and businesses soon. Upshaw said her strategy is to build a fan base for her muffins at local shops before pitching her product to a major retailer.

Amish Heritage Country Market in Marysville began selling Muffins Plus More's blueberry, chocolate chip and snickerdoodle muffins in August.

Upshaw said she unfortunately will not be able to sell "A Taste of the Jug" at the fair this year because she missed the cutoff date to become a vendor. The muffins will be available at the Muffins Plus More booth at the biweekly Main Street Delaware Farmers Market and through the bakery's website.

"A Taste of the Jug" is a seasonal treat, and Upshaw said she doesn't expect the muffins to be around long past the Jug's running Thursday, Sept. 18.

For more information, visit muffinsplusmore.com.