Go! – Julfest at Spiran Lodge, December 13th

December 9th, 2014




Spiran Lodge flags


A few rich veins of authenticity still marble Cape Ann. One vein is the traditions behind Spiran Lodge, the local chapter of the Swedish order “Vasa,” an active preservation of the Scandinavian culture that brought song, dance and the haunting aroma of wafting cardamon to this granite promontory.

This Saturday is Spiran Lodge’s Julfest. On Friday, the Nisu team will work all day in shifts, lead by Claire Franklin, mixing, allowing to rise, pounding down, braiding, letting rise again, and finally baking the 120 glorious shining loaves of Cardamom Braid, or Pulla, or Coffee Bread; to each Scandinavian culture a different name for this delicious-with-coffee sweet bread mostly known on Cape Ann as Nisu. A pair of members (Peg Lecco and me) will drive to Crown Bakery in Worcester to pick up a brimming order of other Swedish breads and pastries to be sold at the festival, along with many Rockport-made Scandinavian treats.


rising Spiran Nisu


Nisu for sale



There will be pickled herring and the Swedish sausage, Korv. This year, for the first time, Karl’s Sausage Kitchen, a venerable source of Scandinavian and Germanic foods, will help to sponsor Rockport’s Julfest, thus offering an even wider selection of hard-to-find foods, the rich, hearty dishes meant to warm hearts through long, bleak winters, both in Sweden, Finland and Cape Ann.




Coffee and Nisu will be served for breakfast, and for lunch there will be traditional open-faced Scandinavian sandwiches along with choices of fish chowder, pea soup, fruit soup, and rice pudding.

Tables of freshly picked and arranged greens will be for sale, along with Scandinavian linens.  Serenaded by “Silent Night,” the chosen St. Lucia will walk the upstairs hall crowned by a wreath of candles. The enormous orange Dala horse will stand cheerfully on the Broadway Ave, sidewalk announcing “god jul!”

At Spiran Lodge Swedish and Finnish phrases still spring up in a sentence here and there. The members are earnest – and work incredibly hard – at keeping the traditions of their parents and grandparents alive. Matthew Rask describes Spiran Lodge as in transition from an aid society to a cultural center.

“Whereas in the past members looked to Vasa to help them learn the ways of the new country and provide them a means to share problems and solutions with their countrymen, today Vasa provides members a means to share their rich heritage with fellow Americans, and helps them to learn or remember the meaningful ways and values of the “Old Country.”

Julfest is a holiday visit like no other. Rare in a landscape sprawled with shopping malls and chain restaurants, authenticity is a commodity worth hoarding when you find it. Visit next weekend for the St. Lucia, the fluffiest of rice puddings, and the authenticity.

Here is a recipe from the Spiran Lodge newsletter. Cardamom, the cinnamon of Scandinavia, is a brilliant addition to the densely chocolate flour-less cake we’ve been making for years.



Dala horse



Spiran Lodge Flour-less Chocolate Cardamom Torte


11 ounces dark chocolate

2/3 cup unsalted butter

6 eggs, room temperature, separated

1/4 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons ground cardamom, divided

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2.  Line a spring form pan with parchment paper and butter generously.

3.  In 30 second increments, melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave. Stir until completely smooth and melted. Alternately, melt the chocolate and butter gently over a double boiler. Set aside.

4.  Combine the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of a mixer and beat on high until very pale and fluffy – about five minutes.

5.  Mix the vanilla, salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom into the melted chocolate. Then fold the chocolate into the egg yolks.

6.  In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites on high until they hold stiff peaks. Fold carefully into the chocolate mixture. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.

7.  When the torte has cooled, heat the heavy cream until near boiling. Add the chocolate chips and let sit for two minutes. Stir until completely smooth. Ad 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, and either serve immediately with the cake or pour over the cake and let set one hour.

Give “Cape Ann”

December 9th, 2014

Cape Ann is riddled with talented bakers, cooks, crafts people, and earnest organizations. Here is a list of wonderful ways to make your gift giving local, supporting our community, and promising delighted recipients.

1.  Atlantic Saltworks.  Everyone should be giving salt this year.  Atlantic Saltworks, started by friends Heather Ahearn and Alison Darnell, is based in Salem, MA, but the salt is hand harvested in Gloucester.  Not only are you giving a handful of natural Cape Ann, but Atlantic Saltworks is the ideal gift for cooks who loves a flakey finishing salt, Gloucester’s version of the famous Maldon.  Isn’t a salty, crusty finish the perfect symbol for this city?  Atltantic Saltworks are available at The Cave and Lula’s Pantry, among other venues.

2.  Af Klinteberg Nisu.  Grandaughter Carson Af Klinteberg has returned to Cape Ann to continue the Af Klinteberg nisu tradition begun by her grandmother fifty years ago.  Nisu, the cardamom-scented Finnish sweet bread meant to look like a young Scandinavian girl’s braid, represents the still active community of Finns who arrived here one hundred plus years ago to work in the quarries.  Sweet, tender, delicious with coffee, nisu is an easy way to take one’s history.  Call (978) 281-0928 to inquire about where Af Klinteberg loaves are available, or to order full batches.

Af Klinteberg



3.  Alexandra’s “Peace Bread.”  Extend an olive branch to a friend for Christmas.  Olives, the international symbol of peace, riddle a crusty Alexandra’s Olive Branch.  The ratio of salt to black kalamata richness to crusty baguette is so perfect it’s hard to know which is a vehicle for the other, bread for olive or the reverse.  Smear with fresh unsalted butter and the story ends not just peacefully, but happily ever after.  Alexandra’s Bread, 265 Main St., Gloucester.

4. Mortillaro’s Lobsters and Gift Certificates.  Send someone a lobster, or freshly packed lobster meat, and they will hear the boats chugging out of a foggy harbor at dawn, such is the relationship between Gloucester and these marine crustaceans.  Mortillaro Lobster is a Gloucester institution; their holding and processing practices are so well respected their lobster meat earned a place in the Lobster Mac and Cheese served backstage to Neal Young and Willie Nelson at the Farm Aid concert last year.  The caterers at Farm Aid are fussy.  They want local, organic, sustainable foods, or at least as close to those adjectives as possible. Mortillaro uses no chemicals in its tanks, and its meat is the freshest there is.  Mortillaro Lobster, located at 60 Commercial St. (on The Fort), looks like an imposing wholesale business, but they welcome retail shoppers.  Walk in the metal door to purchase live lobster, fresh meat, or gift certificates, all Willie Nelson approved.

Mortillaro Lobsters

5. Woodmans of Essex; five generations of stories, 100 years of recipes, by Winslow Pettingell. Give fried clams, or at least the recipe for famous Woodman’s Fried Clams, the ones for which flip-flopped crowds wait hours in a line.   Part cookbook, part nostalgia, Pettingell’s book covers one hundred years of Woodman’s fun and history, starting when Chubby Woodman first dropped a clam in hot oil.  “Woodman’s of Essex” is filled with old photos and stories that would make anyone affectionate with the Essex River’s unique clam-digging culture a little misty-eyed.  Available at Woodman’s in Essex and online.

Woodman's Cookbook

6.  Rockport Farmers’ Market T-shirt, tote bag, and coffee mug, designed by Darren Mason.  These goods are “good.”  The purchase any or all three of these cool Darren Mason designed provisions help keep local food in Rockport, supporting the weekly Saturday morning Rockport Farmers Market in Harvey Park July through October.   Also, these purchases support The Rockport Exchange, a non-profit group that organizes, along with the farmers market, Motif #1 Day and HarvestFest.  Orders can be placed online at RockportFestivals The Store or  http://www.rockportartfestivals.com/the-store.

Rockport Exchange goods



7.  Appleton Farms Gift Box.  Those cows.  Thirty-eight registered Jersey’s will be lined up blinking their doey eyes at you if you arrive at Appleton Farms in Ipswich around 2:30 in the afternoon, milking time.  You can give this Appleton Farms herd as a gift in the form of a rustic wooden box packed with Appleton Farms cheeses:  Broad Meadow – “an earthy nutty semi-hard cheese,” Sunset Hill Triple Cream – “a silky-smooth, brie-style cheese,” and Pinnacle – “a classic farmhouse table, tomme-style cheese.”  Appleton Farms has been working hard at building their cheese repertoire.  After good bread, a good local cheese is the foundation of a good local food culture.  We applaud them and thank the Jerseys.  To learn more about Appleton Farms’ Holiday Cheese Sampler and to order yours today, visit online: www.thetrustees.org/saycheese or  stop by or call the dairy store: 978.356.3825, located at 219 County Road, Ipswich , open Monday–Friday, 11AM–6PM, Saturday & Sunday, 10AM–4PM.

Appleton Farms Gift box

8. Jen’s Twisted Sauce.  Three jars of this thai-inspired peanut sauce from Bonne Bouche caterer Jen Sanford of Wenham should be in one’s pantry at all times.  You’re home from soccer practice at 7:30; you couldn’t bear one more stop at the grocery store, or another empty pizza box in your recycling.  Toss hot noodles in Jen’s Twisted Sauce.  Top it with some chopped mango, avocado, red onion and cilantro, and you have a fast, flavorful dinner that would please a both fussy pre-schooler and a foodie.  Jen’s Twisted Sauce is the magic that makes grilled chicken breast instantly delicious satay.   Jen’s Twisted Sauce is available at Willowrest and The Cave, among others.

Jen's sauce


Jen's noodles


9. Fudge Everything Caramel Sauce.  Last year we lost our chocolate hearts to the Fudge Everything Fudge Sauce; this year it’s caramel.  The local ladies (from Rockport and Manchester by the sea) of Fudge Everything can now say Caramel Everything.  I say, who wouldn’t? – on ice cream, on baked apples, on fresh pears, on shortbread cookies; caramel everything.

Fudge Everything



10. Brie Baker.  Lula’s Pantry is always great local giving, but this Brie Baker is $22 gift perfection.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to bake and transport that warm gooey brie to the party in one attractive, perfectly sized, dairy-farm-ceramic-evocative dish?  This is brilliant.  Include a jar of Wasik’s Chutney, the perfect oozing brie topping, and make it a Baked Brie Kit.   Lula’s Pantry 5 Dock Square, Rockport.

Brie Baker 2


11. Maple Paddle Knife from Lee & Co.  Lee & Company began when Vanessa Hobbs, 25, of Lanesville, wanted to start a project with her carpenter father, Russell Hobbs.  At a yard sale, father and daughter had found a box of old wooden tools made by a man named Lee.  The Hobbs’ first project thus began with a piece of maple and one of the yard sale tools as a prototype.  They made the tool a little larger, and graced it with curves so that it fit in one’s palm like another hand.  They sanded, and rubbed the tool with coconut oil until it gleamed; behold the Lee & Company Maple Paddle Knife.  Now Vanessa (whose middle name is also Lee) produces beautiful wood kitchen products, all rubbed only with coconut oil, including custom cutting boards.  For more information or to place an order go to www.leeandcodesign.net.

paddle knife


12.  Twelfth Night Riesling.  We don’t have a local winemaker, but we have a great local wine store always ready to educate.  Kathleen Erickson, owner of Savour Wine & Cheese, is a genius at walking someone through a wine crisis:  “What kind of wine do I bring to a potluck dinner party?!”  “I’m serving sole and my guests only drink red wine!”  “I don’t know anything about wine!”  You will leave her store calm without spending a fortune, and feeling a little more wine confident.   When I asked Erickson about a “local” recommendation, she suggested Twelfth Night wines from New Zealand; the couple who own Twelfth Night live in Arlington and chose to be married in Gloucester; that’s the local part.  Twelfth Night wines, from the southern portion of the South Island of New Zealand – almost in Antarctica! – are sustainably grown and hand-harvested.  Erickson taught me to appreciate the strengths and flexibility of a dry riesling, so I am suggesting you give Twelfth Night Dry Riesling, which Erickson describes as “spectacular with food, from seafood to turkey to roast pork and all spicy or salty dishes.” Savour Wine & Cheese, 76 Prospect St., Gloucester

This is a different giving category, but an important one.  A $25 Open Door Meal Basket provides a holiday meal that includes a 14-16 pound turkey, potatoes, stuffing mix, cranberries, gravy mix, dinner rolls, apples, carrots and squash for a struggling family in Gloucester, Rockport, Essex, Manchester-by-the-sea or Ipswich.  Download the gift certificate here:  http://www.foodpantry.org/03_How_To_Help/holiday_meal_basket.html or pick one up at the Open Door offices.  The Open Door 28 Emerson Ave, Gloucester.

Girls Rule Gravlax

December 4th, 2014



Jason Grow Photography

Maisie Grow, as photographed by her professional photographer-father Jason, is one of three Grow daughters – Matilda, Jemima and Maisie. They are a talented bunch, who have never for one day not lived up to the words on the twins’ birth announcement – “Girls rule.”

Maisie recently brought a shining platter of gravlax to my home; (Jemima often helps make the gravlax, I’m told, but was not around that day.) This is basically Ina Garten’s recipe, and, like so many of her recipes, worth sharing as much as possible. This one should be “required” – not elective – on holiday menus.  About presentation, Maisie is ready for her own cooking show.

For more information on Jason Grow Photography, or just for a gorgeous tour of great portraiture, from Norman Mailer to Doris Kearns Goodwin, go to:  http://www.jasongrow.com/


Garten Gravlax





3 pounds fresh salmon, center cut

1 large bunch of dill, plus 1/4 cup chopped dill for serving

1/2 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons white peppercorns, crushed

1 tablespoon whole fennel seeds

Pumpernickel bread, for serving

Mustard Sauce, recipe follows


1.  Cut the salmon in half crosswise and place half the fish skin side down in a deep dish.

2.  Wash and shake dry the dill and place it on the fish. Combine the salt, sugar, crushed peppercorns, and fennel seeds in a small bowl and sprinkle it evenly over the piece of fish.

3.  Place the other half of salmon over the dill, skin side up. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.

4.  Place a smaller pan on top of the foil and weight it with some heavy cans. Refrigerate the salmon for at least 2 and up to 3 days, turning it every 12 hours and basting it with the liquid that collects.

5.  Lay each piece of salmon flat on a cutting board, remove the bunch of dill, and sprinkle the top with chopped dill. With a long thin slicing knife, slice the salmon in long thin slices as you would for smoked salmon.

6.  Serve with dark pumpernickel bread and mustard sauce. You can also serve with chopped red onion and capers, if desired.

Mustard Sauce


1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon ground dry mustard

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill


1.  Combine the mustards, sugar, and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil and stir in the chopped dill. Serve with the gravlax.

Still Lives & Thanks

November 27th, 2014


Still Life, oil on canvas, 30 x 34


With everyone’s pies baked, I’m stepping briefly out of the kitchen and into an art gallery.  Janet Rickus’s meticulous still lives offer just the right elements of stillness, fecundity, and grace that many of us will be considering today.

Represented by The Clark Gallery in Lincoln, MA, Rickus will be part of the Clark Gallery December Salon Show from November 25 – December 30th, with a celebratory reception at the gallery Saturday, December 6th. For more information go to: www.clarkgallery.com

Thanks to my friends and blog readers – and both! – for your support, humor, and recipes throughout the year; I wish for you all a joyful Thanksgiving, full of winter squash and pie.




One Year Old Pumpkin, oil on canvas, 16 x 16

Houle Family Meat Pie

November 25th, 2014

Pork Pie


Karen Houle Hunter is the dental hygienist at Rockport Family Dental. In between the “open wides,” we talk about food. Karen is from Rhode Island, and knows the best places there for clam fritters and clam chowder, not the Rhode Island brothy version but a Manhattan-style clam chowder with honest briny freshness. Beneath the glare of the hygienist’s lamp we talk about family recipes, what she’s making for dinner, or bringing to a school potluck. (A good potluck recipe is as valuable as a good pair of black pants.)

Karen’s first question on my last visit was “how’s the cookbook coming?” I gave her the update, including my regret that, although the manuscript is turned in, I never was able to find a Fall River meat pie, or an authentic recipe for it. Authentic meat pies apparently know no state lines; Karen’s Rhode Island family, living a crow’s flight across the Taunton River from Massachusetts, also call meat pie a family tradition.

In Fall River the meat pie is said to have arrived over a hundred years with French and English mill workers, a lunch that both nourishes a hungry cotton spinner, and is easy to carry.

Karen, bless her Rhode Island heart, brought me not only her family’s recipe, but, on a busy Saturday morning, she baked me an authentic Houle Family Pork Pie, which fed a bunch of hungry kids and their parents in my own home that Saturday night.

Everyone declared the pie delicious, and me incredibly lucky to have a friend who made such things. Thanks, Karen!



serving pork pie



Houle Family Pork Pie

Ingredients 1 pound lean lamb

1/2 pound ground pork

2 medium onions, chopped

5 celery stalks, chopped

salt and pepper

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

dash of clove

1 large baking potato, cooked and mashed

1 recipe double pie crust


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  In a large skillet saute the meat, adding water if the mixture gets too dry.  Simmer for a half hour, or until the meat is cooked through.  Drain off the fat carefully.

3.  In a separate skillet sauté the celery and onion with the salt and pepper to taste, the poultry seasoning and the clove.  Add to the meat mixture.

4.  Add the mashed potato to the mixture and stir carefully.

5.  Roll out half the pie dough, and line a 11” pie pan. Turn meat mixture into the dish. Roll out the second dough, and cover the pie. Crimp edges and cut vents in the top. Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown. Karen says this is especially good served with gravy.



slice of karen's pork pie

photo by Jemima Grow

Bisq Brussels Sprouts – baked with Pears and Manchego

November 18th, 2014


Bisq Sprouts


Keith Pooler may be the chef/owner of Bergamot, the eminent Somerville restaurant, but his heart still beats unequivocally for Gloucester, where he grew up. In fact, when Pooler began scheming a dinner previewing his new restaurant (named “Bisq,” which means something like “Bergamot in Inman Square”), he imagined a long table set on Gloucester granite, Folly Cove waves breaking over the conversations of the Boston food press.

Well, that didn’t happen. If you think it’s hard for Cape Ann residents to drive over the A. Piatt Andrew bridge, it’s even harder to get the Boston food press to cross the Tobin.

But, Pooler did have a “we can’t wait for Bisq to open!” dinner for a few scribblers of cuisine – this time at Bergamot – framing the new restaurant’s alchemical wine menu and small plate versions of the parent restaurant’s “progressive American” cuisine. Dan Bazzinotti, currently sous-chef at Bergamot, will be retitled “chef de cuisine” at Bisq.

For the writers’ dinner Bazzinotti showed off his flare with house-created charcuterie – from sanquinaccio to homemade kielbasa to a deconstructed pig’s head. We also tasted house-smoked mussels in a yam and pear potage.and roasted skate wing with sunchokes, and pearl onion rissole.

This was dining to wow, lush combinations of local surprises like apple mostarda draping the sanginaccio and chicken liver-filled flatbread, but I also left with a recipe to recreate at home: Bazzinotti’s Brussels sprouts tossed with quince, pancetta, and almonds, just warm enough to soften the small cubes of manchego cheese tucked within.

I’ve adapted Bazzinotti’s recipe only because, while I adore quince, I know that I’m the only person on Cape Ann (along with the owners of my former house) who has access to them. I made the dish with Bosc pears, and nothing suffers.

This “peared” down version of Bisq Brussels sprouts would be a noble addition to the Thanksgiving table. But don’t stop the Bisq story there.  Watch the website to find out when Bisq officially opens. Be stronger than the Boston food press, and drive over the bridge. Visit native son Keith Pooler there or at Bergamot; Keith loves to talk Gloucester, particularly the best swimming spots. You will have an amazing meal, and Keith will feel a little closer to home.


Bisq Brussels Sprouts



Bisq Brussel Sprouts, adapted 

serves 6, easily doubled


2 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed of stems and halved

3 bosc pears, unpeeled, cut into 1/2” pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

generous grinding of fresh pepper

1 tablespoon butter

3 shallots, diced

1/4 pound pancetta or bacon, diced

1/3 pound Manchego cheese, diced

1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped and toasted

1/2 cup light cream


1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2.  In a large bowl toss together the Brussels sprouts, chopped pears, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour into an oven proof dish or roasting pan, and roast for 25 minutes, or until sprouts are browned and just cooked through, but not soft.

3.  Heat a large skillet to medium high, and add pancetta or bacon, and cook until crisp, about 15 minutes.

4.  In a separate pan, cook shallots in butter until softened.

5.  When the parts are cooked, in a large bowl toss all – Brussels sprouts, pears, pancetta, shallots, manchego, almonds and cream – together lightly. Pour into a ceramic baking dish, and bake just to warm and melt the cheese, about 10-15 minutes.  Serve warm.

The Hale Family Marlborough Pie

November 11th, 2014


Marlborough Pie 2


In the late 20th century, when church was the week’s best entertainment, when ministers were rock stars, Edward Everett Hale, a Bostonian Unitarian and later Congregational minister, was Bono. He filled churches and sold books. His biggest hit was a work of fiction, “Man Without a Country,” which tells the story of Philip Nolan, found guilty of treason, and sentenced to spend the rest of his life on a ship, forbidden from setting foot ever again on United States’ soil, of learning any news of his former country, from even saying the nation’s name. He dies on the ship, desolate, the most loyal patriot of all as one who has known what is it to be without a country. “Man Without a Country” successfully advertised the Union defense of unity, and remained required school reading well into the 20th century.

Edward Everett Hale’s relatives are responsible for much of New England’s moral landscape; his great great uncle, the revolutionary martyr Nathan Hale, famously said, “I only regret I have but one life to give for my country.” Hale’s uncle, Edward Everett, an energetic scholar known all his life as “Ever-at-it,” taught German and Greek at Harvard; Ralph Waldo Emerson was his student; he ultimately became Harvard’s president, and a serious Union supporter. Hale’s mother-in-law was Harriet Beecher Stowe’s sister. He is even distantly related to Helen Keller. Almost every town from Rhode Island to Maine has a maple-lined Hale Street running through it.

But it’s Thanksgiving on Cape Ann; what do the Hales have to do with anything?

Edward Everett Hale’s daughter, Ellen Day Hale, a Boston painter educated in Paris at the end of the 20th century, built a summer home in Folly Cove. (Her self-portrait, painted for the Salon show in Paris’ Grand Palais, hangs in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.)  Readers here will know this as my house now!



Ellen Day Hale self-portrait



Ellen Day Hale’s brother Philip Hale, and his wife Lillian, all painted together summers in this Folly Cove granite home; they made the start of a rich artistic community that would discover what light does with water and granite at the far northern tip of Gloucester.


Ellen Day Hale's home



About Thanksgiving, Edward Everett Hale, in his 1893 book “A New England Boyhood,” declares this Marlborough Pie a Hale family Thanksgiving requirement.

“To this hour, in any old and well-regulated family in New England, you will find there is a traditional method of making the Marlborough pie, which is sort of lemon pie, and each good housekeeper thinks that her grandmother left a better receipt for Marlborough pie than anybody else did.”

Here is the Hale family recipe; their pie is light and lemony, with just enough character from the applesauce. The 1/4 cup of sherry adds a little New England parlor to the taste.

Although their summer home was probably closed up by November, I would like to imagine that at some point the Hales, unable to wait for Thanksgiving, enjoyed this Marlborough pie on their Folly Cove porch, their eyes scanning Ipswich Bay for sailboats. Maybe the taste of the pie made them reminisce about Hale Thanksgivings past – “Remember the time Dad made us….”


slice of Marlborough Pie



Hale Family Marlborough Pie


Pastry for 1 crust

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce (preferably homemade with drops from a local tree)

1/2 cup sugar

2/3 cup light cream

grated rind and juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup sherry

3 eggs, well beaten


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1.  Line a 8” pie plate with pastry.  Refrigerate while you make the filling.

2.  Combine applesauce, sugar, cream, and sherry. Stir in the eggs, and pour into chilled pastry shell.

3.  Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven to 325 degrees F. Bake for 45 minutes longer. Filling will not become firm until the pie cools.

The HarvestFest Preserve and Pickle Contest

November 8th, 2014



On October 18th, a group of jam, relish and pickle authorities, who also happen to work at Rockport’s Ace Hardware, judged the “preserve and pickle” contest at Rockport’s HarvestFest.





Jud Wilson, the self-declared Lead Jam Taster, critiqued spoonfuls of  submitted jams and relishes with an expert voice, as did each of the judges. Texture, viscosity, brightness, and ultimately flavor were analyzed in the jam category. Relish and pickle priorities were crispness, spice, and interest.  Wilson referenced his own backyard garden and a long personal history of stirring jams and relishes; we understand he makes an excellent mincemeat.

Rebecca Borden, sales staff at Ace, is described by Wilson as “a serious homecook.” Borden lives and cooks in E. Gloucester with her mother, Dot Batchelder, author of the “Fishmonger Cookbook,” and once owner of the Cambridge fish market by that name.  (The cookbook is still available in used copies on Amazon; buy it.)

Rebecca Borden and Jud Wilson

Rebecca Borden and Jud Wilson


Judge Timothy McTigue, the “steel man” at Ace, fixer of chainsaws, (sadly, unavailable the day I took the photo) judged with the certain authority of a person who knows what goes best on a warm slice of Anadama toast, or beside a ham sandwich. Fairly and firmly McTigue judged, our own steel man of preserves and pickles.

At first the participants seemed to be just part of the Harvey Park crowd, where the HarvestFest Preserve Contest, a nice agricultural component of the day’s farmer’s market, was held. But as the tasting began the shy jammer and picklers came out from behind tree and tent to where they could hear the judges’ every word. When the first jar was opened, the nervous participants leaned in. When the judges arrived at Grace Schrafft’s hot pepper jam submission, she waved her hands, and said, “Oh, I can’t take it!” and ran to the edge of Harvey Park where she couldn’t hear a word.

Stephanie Smith’s cherry vanilla preserves won first place in the jam category. (All submissions were unmarked; the judges had no idea they were declaring their boss’s wife’s jam the winner.)

Schrafft took first place in the relish category, and Myron Lapine’s Bread and Butter – “Ma and Pa’s Pickles” – won first place for pickles.

While it didn’t win –  its taste just slightly wild – like currant jelly with that “mossy” feel of concord grapes – the “Autumn Olive Jam” and “Autumn Olive Chutney” submitted by Lydia Sands, I would like to commend for its character and interest.

autumn olive

Autumn Olive, Elaeagnus umbellata, is that pale, succulent red berry that grows on long branches covered with pale green oval leaves. It’s invasive, and found all over Cape Ann. Lidia told me she harvests great bunches of them right along Blackburn Circle. Autumn olive is so vitamin-heavy her husband, owner of Annisquam Landcare, makes smoothies with them.

The Rockport Festivals crew loved this little contest, and would like to thank all who participated – judges to jam-makers. We hope you all come back again next year – pies included next time!



Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry – un-dowdy recipes for preserving foods.

November 3rd, 2014

Mrs. Wheelbarrow


My personal canning fears began with a stepmother who, with vicious Yankee frugality, processed green beans into dreadful, watery mush. Bad fairy tales aside, who now can relate to the white-aproned matron surrounded by tall pyramids of sterilized mason jars, the image punctuated by one terrifying looking pressure cooker and a scary box of pectin?

But, Cathy Barrow, food columnist for the Washington Post, The New York Times, NPR and more, I understand. Barrow has written “Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry,” W.W. Norton & Co. a contemporary treatise on all kinds of preservation techniques, with elegant, seriously un-dowdy recipes. This is the preservation book for people who, like me, have come to food preservation detouring home-ec class, arriving instead via the local farmers’ market: when faced with an irresistible flat of fresh local strawberries, memories of winter’s tasteless fruit still close, in spite of ourselves we sterilize jars.

Barrow’s book is filled with real lessons on creating a working, creative pantry, from water-bath canning to the more intimidating “pressure cooker” method. By the way, I wasn’t wrong to be scared of the pressure cooker; Barrow says, “If the water-bath method is the general education curriculum in the school of preserving, pressure canning is graduate school.”

On pectin alone these pages offer much, including a recipe for a homemade pectin made from gooseberries or underripe apples. Barrow also explains why the image of the matron I described above included so many jars: commercial pectin activates only with “copious amounts” of sugar; you therefore need to make a lot of jelly to get it to work.

As I said, there are many things about canning that have scared me over the years, including strangely brick-like jelly. Barrow has a long, clear discussion on naturally building firmness in low-pectin fruits like berries and cherries – use 1/3 underripe fruit, add kiwi, add green apple – but she also affirms my preference for not so stiff preserves.

“This book is filled with recipes for preserves that slump,” she advises.


pears in caramel


Speaking of recipes, how could you not want to make ‘Nectarine, Rosemary and Honey Preserves?” Or “Figgy Marmalade with Macadamia Nuts?” Or “Apricot Jam with Ginger and Rosemary?” And the following winter, with that jam jar on your shelf, you will make “Focaccia with Apricot Jam, Caramelized Onion and Fennel.” Barrow has not just preservation recipes but what she calls “bonus recipes,” delicious things to do with your pantry treasures. Or, if you didn’t make your own ricotta, just go buy some really good local stuff so that you can make her “Ricotta and Egg Pasta Pillows” anyway. The book is a wonderful see-saw of sublime recipes that will build a heavy-hitting pantry and equally sublime recipes of things to do with that pantry. Her recipe for miso-brined pork chop, “Spiced Pork Chops with Galicky Bok Choy,” alone is worth the price of the book.

“Cocktail Cherries with Maraschino Liqueur?” Fanny Farmer didn’t sterilize mason jars with artisanal cocktails in mind. Barrow recommends adding a few of these cherries to a sauce pan to serve with duck or pork, or skewer them with fresh peaches and grill, or stir into soft ice cream, “ribbon with bittersweet chocolate,” and refreeze. This is the new horizon of food preservation.

Of course, not all preservation is in a jar: Chapter Three is about preserving meats and fish – salt-curing, brining, smoking and air-curing. Chapter Four covers curds and whey – from making cultured butter (my current addiction), to creme fraiche, to that homemade ricotta mentioned earlier, to the black diamond of cheese-making expertise, Camembert.

With all this milk culturing going on Barrow includes a list of places to put the buckets of residual whey that go with: drink it, wash your hair with it, supplement your pets’ diets with it – including the chickens, and feed your roses. Whey seems to be the new all-purpose household ingredient.

Barrow first experimented with preserving dairy when, left with an excess of cream which she had forgotten to whip for the dinner party dessert (my kind of woman), she made butter. See what I mean? This is a woman I understand. Cheese making – even yogurt making – when writ in the tomes of Mother Earth catalogues has felt as if I just didn’t have the proper back-to-nature pedigree that cheese cloth and curds require. Barrow comes at all these preservation efforts through her Washingtonian D.C. garage door, which is to say the recipes are accessible, spirited, and modern. Mrs. Wheellbarrow’s pantry is not your mother’s.

There is how to smoke bacon, but also a recipe for Smoked Spiced Almonds. There is how to smoke a whole chicken, but there is also a recipe for comfort food 2014 style: “Smoked Chicken, Porcini, and Peas.” There is a recipe for Hot Smoked Salmon and Hot Smoked Trout, but don’t miss the bonus recipe: “Pappardelle with Smoked Salmon and Spinach.” Even if you never smoke a thing, and source your smoked salmon from a package, (just make sure it’s the hot smoked version, not lox), make this. That said, Barrow’s Gravlax recipe, a shining slab of glistening salmon carefully pressed in a toasted anise, peppercorn, lemon verbena, brown sugar, sea salt, and gin rub, is certain to be served in my house this holiday season.

Barrow calls it “the power of the pantry” – fighting words in an age of box stores and industrialized foods. Barrow sees the pressure cooker’s ability to safely preserve soups, stocks, and meats as equalling less dependency on commercially processed foods, and more local eating.

Some people, including Barrow, believe the apex of food preservation is duck confit, a recipe for which is here. Still, I am aiming at, and am willing to confront my pressure cooker fears for “Pressure Canned Tuna,” a recipe for preserving rosy slabs of line-caught wild tuna in olive oil, beauty that would make an Italian fisherman blush.

Here is a recipe from Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry that you can – and should – make right now. Then make vanilla ice cream.



caramel pear preserves



Caramel Pear Preserves

makes 5 or 6 half-pint jars


3 pounds firm slightly underripe Bosc or Seckel pears, peeled, cored, and cut into fine julienne

3 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon Quatre Epices

3/4 cup orange juice juice of 1 lemon


1.  Mix the pears, 2 cups of the sugar, the quartre epices, and orange and lemon juices in a bowl. Cover and let macerate while you make the caramel.

2.  Slowly melt the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar in your preserving pot over low heat, without stirring (you can shake the pan for even cooking), and cook until it becomes a caramel. Let it turn from golden to a deep amber color. Don’t rush the process, and watch it carefully. Do not walk away. Do not read your e-mail or fold laundry. Stand there and watch.

3.  Here’s the really scary part, the part that will make you think you’ve wrecked it all. pour in the pears and all their liquids. The caramel will seize and break. It will make you want to cry. It will look wrong. Don’t worry. just heat the whole mixture up again very slowly, stirring carefully and frequently to work the pieces of caramel off the bottom of the pot and incorporate them into the preserves. It’s a hellish moment. Then bring the preserves up to 220 degrees F., which will take at least 30 minutes, by which time will the caramel will have melted again and it will be heavenly. You’ll smell those spices. You’ll be happy again.

4.  Keep the preserves at a boil that will not stir down for about 5 minutes, then remove the heat and test the set, using the wrinkle test or sheeting test* to determine if the jam has set to a gentle slump. If not, heat it again and boil for 2 to 3 minutes, then test again.

5.  Ladle the hot preserves into the warm jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Clean the rims of the jars well with a damp paper towel. Place the lids and rings on the jars and finger-tighten the rings. Process in a boiling-water bath for 10 minutes. The preserves are shelf stable for 1 year.

*Sheeting Test: “When you believe the jam is ready, remove from the heat and let the boil settle down. Lift up the spatula or spoon you have been using to stir the jam, turn it sideways, and let the jam sheet off it. It should gather along the edge of the spatula and drop slowly back into the pot It should look like jam!

The Wrinkle Test: “Before starting to make the jam, put three small plates in the freezer. At the point in the recipe when the jam is set, or should be set, or you think it is set, remove from the burner. Take one plate from teh freezer, drop a bit of jam onto the plate, and let the cold take effect – a minute or two. The set you see on that plate is what you will get.”



The Most Important Food Blog You Could Read

October 6th, 2014


a green crab


The good news here is that for pennies we have an almost infinite local source for making crab risotto, etouffee, gumbo, soupe de poisson, cioppino, and bouilliabaisse, any number of wonderful fish dishes made especially delicious with local crab stock at a cost of almost nothing.

More good news: the crab risotto you serve your family does the ocean a world of good.

The bad news is that the source of all this goodness – green crabs, Carcinus maenas – are an invasive species that threaten – possibly on one hand’s number of years – to destroy shellfish beds from Cape Ann to Canada. No more white cardboard boxes brimming with fried clams. No more plump steamers bathed in butter. No more wild mussels shining in white wine, parsley, and garlic.

Carcinus maenas, native to central Norway, the Baltic Sea, and a small part of Iceland, arrived here most likely as ship ballast as early as 1810. DNA tracing reveals subsequent invasions, maybe as ship ballast, or nestled into seaweed used for packing, or shipped aquaculture. The green crab now makes appearances around the world. They own the Eastern seaboard as far south as South Carolina and as far north as Nova Scotia. They have infiltrated the Pacific coast from Baja, California to Alaska, and far as Australia, earning the dubious accolade as one of the hundred most invasive species in the world.

At a green crab summit last year in Orono, Maine, Dr. Brian Beal, professor of Marine Biology at the University of Maine at Machias, declared there would be no shipment of Maine clam stock for 2015, as green crabs had that much compromised Maine’s soft shell clam beds. Our local Massachusetts market depends on Maine shipments, as there are not enough soft shell clams dug here to supply the appetite for fried clams, clam fritters, and steamers.

One green crab can eat forty half-inch clams a day, or thirty small oysters. A half-acre wild mussel bed in Plum Island Sound, that locals considered an easy visit for a bushel of mussels, is gone, according to Rowley Shellfish Constable Jack Grundstrom. Green crabs also destroy native eel grass, a critical nursery for marine life, by burrowing into the mud, thus shredding the grasses at their base. Grundstrom actually points his 83-year-old finger right at green crabs for the collapse of the entire fishing industry, as these voracious beasts are devouring the food chain at its base.

“Most of the food for the entire ecosystem comes from the North Shore’s Great Marsh, (The Great Marsh is the largest continuous stretch of salt marsh in New England, extending from Cape Ann to New Hampshire, including over 20,000 acres of marsh, barrier beach, tidal river, estuary, mudflat, and upland islands extending from Gloucester to Salisbury.) Once that food is cut off, as green crabs are doing, all of our fishing culture is destroyed.”

Dr. Beal, sites green crabs’ almost amazing tolerance for temperature and salinity fluctuations. Adult crabs can even live out of water for up to ten days at summer temperatures. On the crustacean’s awesome vitality, Beal’s green crab paper presented at the Maine summit, states, “Gregarious behavior encourages sexual encounter rates.” Green crabs reproduce like mad.

Shellfish Constable Grundstrom explained a popular theory on why the green crabs, after making trouble for centuries, are now such a critical problem.

“There had been a theory circulating for years that clams did very well after a harsh winter, believing that those hard conditions took a “skim” off the mud flats, making it easier for the clams to burrow.”

Now people believe that the clams did better after harsh winters because the green crabs didn’t, giving the clams a break for a couple of years. The current theory is, Grundstrom says, that a new strain of green crabs can withstand even lower temperatures. The new strain is crossbreeding with the old crabs, and able to survive harsher conditions.

While some fisherman trapping crabs this year actually believe there really are fewer, because of last winter’s heavy toll, most people in the industry anticipate disaster ahead, and soon.

Green crabs are currently being fished for bait. Ann Molloy from Neptune’s Harvest, the branch of Ocean Crest in Gloucester that produces fertilizer from fish products, says that currently the green crabs have too much sand in them for them to process.

“We tried, but they clogged our screens too fast. At some point if we open a crab shell drying and grinding plant here, we could take them all. We applied for a Saltonstall-Kennedy Grant for that, but we didn’t get it. We haven’t given up hope yet, and at some point we’re hoping to still move forward with that project.”

Senator Bruce Tarr recently secured $133,000 from the federal government as an emergency stop gap measure for just this year, buying back green crabs from fishermen, thus assuring someone will be catching them. But these measures aren’t enough at this point to control the population. The industry is looking for a market, a need, a great recipe for which the main ingredient is green crabs, a recipe people will want to make often.

Ideally, it would be great to have restaurants regularly making stock with these crabs; (Legal Seafood, are you listening? There’s a regular local supply of shellfish ambrosia on the docks not far from any of your restaurants.) Until then, I’m sharing my crab stock recipe, with which I went on to make crab risotto with some great locally harvested celery, onions, and peppers. This was honestly the most delicious stock I’ve made – sweet and complex, and loaded with a pleasant seafood flavor. I have 4 quarts of it in my freezer and can’t wait to cook more with it.

The risotto made with the stock received eye-rolls of praise. “This is amazing,” seemed to be the general declaration. Indeed, the risotto tasted authentically fresh and full of honest shellfish flavor, the kind of taste – with no exaggeration – I can attribute only to seafood dishes in Venice. For the record, Italians have been cooking with a relative of this crab for years; they’re considered a delicacy. We need to get these crabs into our stock pots.

If you are interested I have a source that will supply you – and even deliver them – for free.  Let me know.


green crab broth




Green Crab Stock

makes 6 quarts


4 tablespoons olive oil

2 bunches celery, with the leaves, about 1 pound, roughly chopped

1 large red onion, roughly chopped

1 small head fennel, cut into 1/2” slices

12 corn cobs (optional)

2 bay leaves


1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning

approximately 3 quarts water

2 cups white wine

2 dozen green crabs


1.  Rinse crabs well in cold water. I recommend doing this outside in a large bucket; just fill the bucket with water and throw your crabs in. Stir well, and leave them in the bucket until your stock is boiling.

2.  In a large stock pot or lobster pot heat the olive oil to medium. Add the celery, onion, and fennel. Lower heat, and cook until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes. Add the corn cobs if using, the salt, bay leaves and Old Bay and stir well, tossing the vegetables well with the seasoning. Allow to cook for 5 more minutes, or until the onions just begin to darken.

3.  Add the water and wine, and bring to a boil. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes to integrate the flavors, particularly the corn cobs.

4.  Bring stock back to a hard boil. Bring the crabs into the kitchen, and scoop them into the boiling stock. Allow to cook at a strong simmer/low boil for 45 minutes. Let cool, and spoon out the cooked crabs and as much of the vegetables as you can. Strain the remaining cooled broth through cheesecloth. Pour into jars or plastic containers for storing or freezing.


green crab risotto



Green Crab Risotto

serves 6


6 cups green crab stock

1 T butter

1 T olive oil

1/2 red onion, chopped

3 small carrots, diced, about 4 ounces

1 small banana pepper, or 1/2 a green pepper, seeded and diced

1 small red cherry pepper, 1/2 ounce, diced (optional)

1 1/2 cups or 12 ounces Arborio rice

red pepper flakes

salt and pepper

3 small tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 pound crab meat (1/2 – 3/4 cup reserved for garnish if you like)

juice from 1-2 lemons or to taste

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

1/2 cup chopped fresh dill


1.  In a medium sauce pan bring the stock to a simmer.

2.  In a large saute pan heat butter and olive oil together on medium heat. When butter is melted and bubbling, add onion, carrots and peppers. Let cook for 8-10 minutes over medium heat until softened. Add rice, and stir well, cooking until the rice begins to crackle and just begin to turn lightly brown. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

3.  Ladle in 1 cup of the hot broth into the rice, and stir until it is all absorbed. Add the chopped tomato, and then ladle in another cup of stock. Stir until the stock is absorbed, and then continue to ladle in the stock, stirring each addition until it is absorbed. This usually takes 20-25 minutes.

4.  Taste the rice to make sure there is no “crunchiness” to it at all. You want it to be creamy, but not mushy. Stir in the fresh lemon juice. Serve in warm bowls garnished with the reserved crab, toasted almonds and chopped dill.