Friday, September 26, 2014

NOW Is The Time!

The perfect time of year for me is the Fall. Although wintertime runs a close second, Autumnal air simply harkens the past to the present. I think this time of year was so special to us Yankees because it was a time of gratitude and abundance. The animals were slaughtered and put up for the coming winter, the crop was taken in and strung to dry, eaten with abandon and stored for that cold winters dinner and the apples were being pressed for cider, sliced for pies and pastries that lasted for the next 6 months and eaten as is. I once read a passage from an old Maine farmer from the 19th century that when asked what his last meal would be before crossing that gate to everlasting life, he quickly(and without mincing his words) retorted "Mothers Biled applesawce". It was during the month of September that many of our ancestors put up cider first then sliced the remaining apples to string up over the fireplace to dry. It was at that time that apples were taken, peeled, cored and thrown into a large pot that was only used for homemade apple sauce. It would be half filled with cut up apples, some apple cider mixed in and let to boil over a 'slow fire' to reduce. When it was ready, more apples were added and the cycle continued until this large pot was filled with "Biled Apple sawce". It was then taken from the fire, placed in either crock pots or barrels and kept in the cellar to freeze(of course after a few days of everyone getting their fill). When a family wanted apple sauce, they went down, cut off a chunk and brought it upstairs to thaw and heat in a pot over the fire.

That same kind of memory instantly came to mind when I parked, exited my vehicle and started strolling through the paths between Cortlands and MacIntosh apple trees at Treworgy Orchards, in Levant, Maine. You could literally smell the dark red apples even before you could see them. And yes, even the Macs were dark red! I walked amongst the trees, on my way to the main stand. Think I could wait until I got to the register to take a big ol' bite of a freshly picked apple? Nope! And when I got to the main stand, I was truly blown away by another variety they had this year.
Although they didn't grow it, someone had supplied them with Wolf's River apples. These softball-sized apples aren't known to be overly pretty, but one bite and you will see why our ancestors almost entirely grew Wolf's River's. In fact, in the middle of nowhere, on top of my ancestor Josiah Baileys(1778-1869) hill, called Bailey Hill in Topsfield, Maine, there is a Wolf's River apple tree.

Anyway I am getting off track. After getting an ice cream cone for my youngest, grabbing the best apple cider I have ever tasted, Patty Treworgy greeted me with some of her own Apple Cider Donuts, made right there. How could I even think about passing these up? I couldn't, obviously. Just like everything else, I ate two of them before exiting the door. I just wanted to try all the candy, spreads and all manner of their own foodstuffs, but again, obviously I couldn't. Anyway I was there for one apple only, the new Liberty apple. This is the sweetest, eating apple I have ever had. I am a convert from the perennial favorite Mac to the Liberty now. Absolutely delicious.

Treworgy's FAMILY Orchards is truly a family gathering spot. They have a different corn maze every year that the kids, and many adults, find both fun and frustrating. The kids have the fun while the adults find the frustration at not immediately being able to determine how to exit this winding maze. Stubborn Yankees we are!!! The owners, and their entire family, are always on the grounds and every single one of them will take a minute just to chat with you. That is truly the Maine spirit, the Yankee disposition and neighborly cordiality very rarely seen today. Even the teenage kids and grandkids of the owners don't balk or shun the older generation. Being old enough to be their parents, I struck up a conversation with one of them and with a smile not often gleaned by their teen counterparts at other businesses. They were naturally pleasant, talkative and kind to me and everyone I saw them interact with.

If you want a great time for very little money, decorate your home with dozens of varieties of pumpkins and squash for the season, grab some apples for your kitchen bowl or just simply want to see the smile on your children's faces when a horse or goat gently nuzzles his backside against the fence for your "youngin' " to pet, this is the place and NOW is the time. Only wish fall lasted longer. Good job my friends and thank you for the natural kindness you show to everyone that walks onto your property.

Now about those Apple Cider Donuts. Those, too, were fantastic. And that, in turn, brings me to making my own within an hour of getting home,




Apple Cider-Spice Donuts

This is one donut(yeah, I spell it DONUT) that you will be making from here to Christmas and beyond. Undoubtedly the most flavorful donut you will make this year. The essence of New England not only hits your tongue but brings you back to your childhood, at the same time wishing those who are no longer with us could share in this purely Yankee treat. When using the pot method, make sure you give yourself a few minutes in between cooking donuts with the saucepan method, so the oil has time to heat back to 350-degrees F.


2  Liberty apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
2 cups apple cider
2/3 cup sugar
3 3/4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, room temperature
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup maple syrup

Vegetable oil, for frying

Apple Drizzle
1 1/2 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Sugar Topping
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger

Place the apples, cider and sugar into the bowl of a food processor, or blender, and pulse on high for 10-15 seconds, or until the apples are pulp-like in size, about 10-12 minutes. . Transfer to a saucepan and cook over medium high heat until reduced to 1 cup. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.*

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients for the donut dough. In another bowl, beat the butter until fluffy, on high speed, about a minute. Reduce speed to low and beat in the eggs, milk and maple syrup until well incorporated. Add to the flour mixture, along with the cooled cider reduction and butter mixture, slowly, and continue beating on low just until combined. It will be sticky. Cover with film wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.

While cooling, make the Apple Drizzle and Sugar Topping. In a small saucepan, heat apple cider over medium high heat until reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup brown sugar. Set aside. For coating, mix together sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Heat 2-3 inches of vegetable oil in a sturdy pot over medium heat until it reaches 350-degrees F, or use a deep fryer, heating according to manufacturer's instructions. Remove dough from refrigerator and turn out onto a well floured work surface. Knead, with extra flour, until it isn't sticky any longer, about 2 minutes. With a rolling pin, roll to about an inch thick. Cut out donuts with a donut cutter or a round cookie cutter. If you don't have anything to cut out the centers, just eyeball it with a sharp knife. Gather up dough, re-knead and cut more donuts. Cook 2-3 donuts at a time in hot oil for about 2 minutes per side. Remove carefully to a paper towel-lined platter, pan or rack. Continue with remainder of dough. Of course, cook the donut holes as well.

Dip the cooled donuts into the Apple Drizzle, coating both sides quickly. Immediately dip in sugar mixture, coating both sides. Set aside to cool to at least room temperature.

Makes about a Yankee dozen


*By boiling the apple cider until it reduces, this resulting liquid is so intense with apple flavor, yiou could use it in many other desserts tht call for vanilla as well, and intesnse is an understatement.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Getting Outta Debt, the Colonial Way

I just wanted to see how many people would visit this blog with the most popular subject line on the net, Getting Out Of Debt, hahaha. Sorry folks for the laughter at your expense, I truly didn't mean it. But this blog IS about a woman getting out of debt, just a little dated is all.

I am quite certain this wouldn't work today but many generations ago, from the Puritan era to the late colonial era(ca. 1790), some types of women could get out of debt easy enough if they had "daring-do".

A Colonial smock-Courtesy of
It started in Old England with the custom of Smock marriages brought over by the English settlers of New England. Widows were often the women who chose to enter into a Smock Marriage, sometime called Shift Marriages. By todays standards, they would be considered overly dressed, but during the early days of New England immigration, women wouldn't be seen without their caps on their heads, let along a ragged, loose-fitting over-garment called a smock and nothing else. A smock was worn by all women during this period, much like a summer dress, protecting her clothes from her everyday work such as cooking, cleaning and oftentimes, butchering. At times, a shift was worn, which essentially was an undergarment of the same material and coverage.

In a nutshell, a woman would don her smock, wait until nightfall, usually around midnight, and cross a major "highway" a few times and be wedded by a minister. It was best for this ceremony to occur at the intersection of three roads, but because here in New England, settlements were few and far between, a two road intersection was appropriate. And if your settlement didn't have but one road, then that was deemed sufficient. The best possible scenario for a shift/smock marriage was at the crossroads of four major thoroughfares. Such was the case in Rhode Island, at the intersection of Slocum and Stony Fort Roads where three towns met, Exeter, North Kingstown and South Kingstown. This intersection was referred to for many generations as Shift corners.
this practice began, as mentioned, in early Mother England. Some have speculated that by having a woman show up in nothing but her shift/smock, she brings nothing to the marriage, no money or debt. If a wealthy widow had inherited some money from her previous marriage, she would still agree to a smock marriage, having the groom agree that he would accept her the way she was before her inheritance and/or she was willing to give up claim to her property for this marriage. During this time, husbands automatically took claim to a woman's property at marriage. This type of marriage also absolved the groom to be of nay debts from a previous husband as well.
                                                   A colonial shift- Courtesy of

From the Vital Records of Barnstable, Massachusetts:
"Nathan Noyes & Mehitable Bangs wid: Sept 20 1750 ye Bride Setting
in ye Bed ye Bridegroom Declared before ye witnesses present that
he took her in her Shift as She was, having never Received
anything of her former Husbands Estate nor expecting to Receive
Any and that he would not pay any of ye debts of it - This
Returned on ye Back of ye Certificate Pr Mr Green Attest David
Crocker Town Clerk."

Here are but a few more examples of just such marriages:


"On March 11, 1717, did Phillip Shearman Take the Widow Hannah Clarke in her Shift, without any other Apparel, and let her across the Highway, as the Law directs in such Cases and was then married according to law by me. William Hall, Justice"

"There is an ancient registration book of births, deaths, and marriages at the handsome new town Thomas Calverwell was joyned in marriage to Abigail Claverwell his wife the 22, February, 1719-20. Hi took her in marriage after she had gone four times across the highway in only her shift and hairlace and no other clothing, Joyned together in marriage by me. Geo. Hazard, Justice."

" In 1780, David Lewis married at Hopkinton, Widow Jemima Hill, "where four roads meet," at midnight, she being dressed only in her shift. This was to avoid payment of Husband Hill's debts. Ten years later, in a neighboring town, Richmond, still in the South county, Widow Sarah Collins appeared in the twilight in a long shift, a special wedding shift covering her to her feet, and was then and thus married to Thomas Kenyon at Hopkinton."


"To all People whom It May Concern. This Certifies that Nathanell Bundy of Westerly took ye Widow Mary Parmenter of sd. town on ye highway with no other clothing but shifting or smock on ye Evening of ye 20 day of April, 1724, and was joined together in that honorable Estate of matrimony in ye presence of John Sander, justice."



Now if the bride to be was riddled with debt, the reason for her to cross the road at least three times was to ensure that any debt collector that may have been hiding, only to pounce on the groom and bride at the right moment, were around, he would surely show himself the first or second time. If she crossed the road three times and nobody showed up to collect, she was ready to marry.

There are many documented circumstances of this type of marriage being undertaken throughout New England as well as New York, even in the daytime. In order to preserve the meaning of this type of debt absolution, and nightfall couldn't wait, then another type of smock marriage was performed.

A bride to be simply hide in a closet and extended her hard through a curtain for the marriage ceremony. After, she was handed her wedding attire, dressed herself in this closet and joined in the festivities. This practice was used in the winter as well, although not all the time.

In the "History of Wells and Kennebunkport", there is recorded a smock married of widow Mary Bradley. She and the groom decided instead of a smock marriage in the home during a winter storm, they decided to do it the old fashioned way, outside. The minister felt so sorry for the bride that he removed his own coat and draped it around her


In the book "History of Eastern Vermont", there is a passage written of a marriage in Westminster, Vermont, in which the widow Lovejoy, nude and hiding in a chimney recess married Asa Averill.


Here is a rather odd example from 1784 Manhattan:

"One day a malefactor was to be executed on a gallows; but with a condition that if any woman, having nothing on but her shift, married the man under the gallows, his life was to be saved. This extraordinary privilege was claimed; a woman presented herself, and the marriage ceremony was performed."

Hannah Ward married Major Moses(b. 1741 in MA) Joy as she was sitting in her closet completely naked, with her hand stuck out a hole.

Early America saw more than a few of these, too. The most famous is Hannah Ward Taft, who married Major Moses Joy in 1790 at Vermont while completely naked. She stood in a closet with a hole cut in the door through which she could stick out her hand and take his. At least nobody saw her particular parts.


Here is a link to a story on Smock marriages from the Tryon Daily Bulletin of North Carolina, 1922.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Simple! Simple! Simple!

Real New England Clam Chowder

Want real Chowder from a real New England, third generation, chef and without "fancified" herbs and seasoning? Want a chowder that screams crackers and napkins? This is it! Enough already with trying to prove that a Yankee Chowder needs 20 ingredients. There is a reason this dish has withstood generations here on the East coast and will continue to for many more to come. Hot, milky, highly flavorful and simply prepared. To me, and many other Downeast families, this is the epitome of comfort food. So make it as is and eat it, will ya'?



1 pound baking(russet) potatoes, peeled and diced

2 strips bacon, diced

1/2 small onion, minced

1 bay leaf

1 can chopped clams, drained

1 bottle clam juice

2 cups half-and-half or light cream


In a large saucepan, add the diced bacon and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until just starting to crisp. Add the onions and continue cooking and stirring until the onions are softened but still firm. Drain the fat from the pan and add the diced potatoes. Add clam juice and enough water to cover by 2-inches. And don't forget the bay leaf. Boil for 5-6 minutes, or until potatoes are fork soft, but not mushy. Add half-and-half and the clams, stir to combine and heat to scalding. Remove from heat, stir gently once again and serve immediately. But to be honest, I love my chowder made a day ahead of time and reheated the following day. You can remove the bay leaf if desired, but you won't get kissed.


Simple and Creamy Maine Corn Chowder

Some people may say "Jim, your recipes are too simple!". I am proud of that because I have noticed more and more of the younger generation can't make even gravy and chowders, let alone a full meal. So here is another New England classic that I hope you enjoy in the simplicity of it, but with the flavor that will warm your insides in the upcoming winter. This is the second recipe for corn chowder I have given you. The first involved more bacon and onion, so choose for yourself which you would like to prepare, both are equally delicious. As for the name chowder? Many food historians have alluded to the word chowder as being a derivative of 'chaudiere", a pot used on fishing vessels by the French during the 17th century. I believe it is a dialectical result of Jowter, which was an old English fish peddler. Hence the first chowders made here in New England was fish chowder.

1 pound baking(russet) potatoes, peeled and diced

2 strips bacon, diced

1/2 small onion, minced

1(15-ounce) can cream-style corn

1 cup carrot juice

2 cups half-and-half or light crea1 tablespoon butter or margarine


In a large saucepan, add the diced bacon and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until just starting to crisp. Add the onions ad continue cooking and stirring until the onions are softened but still firm. Drain the fat from the pan and add the diced potatoes. Add enough water to cover by 2-inches. Boil for 5-6 minutes, or until potatoes are fork soft, but not mushy. Add half-and-half, creamed corn, carrot juice and butter, stir to combine and heat to scalding. Remove from heat, stir gently once again and serve immediately.




Common Crackers

You don't find Common Crackers much anymore and that is a shame. When making chowder at home, take a few(very few) minutes and make these original crackers that our fore-mothers made only for the chowder-laden table. In essence, they are a very thin biscuit that has been cooked until crisp. Many old cookbooks say to soak your Common Crackers in milk before adding them to your chowder. Kind of defeats the purpose, don't you think? Regardless, They absorb chowder at just the right speed without becoming soggy before you finish.

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup cold butter or margarine

1/2-3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425-degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the butter and work it in with the tips of your fingers until the bits are half the size of peas. Add 1/2 cup milk, blending together to form a soft dough. Add more milk if needed.

Turn out onto a floured work surface. With plenty of flour, knead for a minute and flatten out with the palms of your hands. With a floured rolling pin, roll out to about 1/4-inch thickness. Using the rim of a water glass, your preference in size, dip the glass in flour and cut out rounds of the dough. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Keep cutting and gathering up pieces of dough leftover from your cuttings until dough is used completely. Brush off excess flour from the tops of each cracker. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until well browned. Remove from oven and transfer onto wire racks or a paper towel-lined platter to cool.

Monday, September 8, 2014

And The Winners Are..............

First checkout!chili-chowder-challenge/cldl for the winners of the Chili-Chowder Challenge this past week in Boothbay, Maine. It was the past 10 days that they celebrated their 250th birthday but had many events were enjoyed but the multitudes of people. Not the least being, in my opinion, visiting all the businesses and meeting everyone. I couldn't believe how genuinely pleasant everyone was and the food?!?!...........Outrageously delicious.

And that brings us to the Chili/chowder Challenge. There really isn't anything I can say negative about any of the contestants. All put their best in order to be crowned the best in the region. Certainly there were some faux-pas's, but nothing that would have turned me away. I tasted a variety of chili's that reflected ones own personal touch, and taste, but to play the devils advocate, I needed to judge the best overall recipe that reflected the true taste and texture in which a particular dish represented. If the judging had a category for Most Original or Most Unique, than the choice would have been more difficult.

The method I used in both Chowder and Chili tastings was simple and I use it in every competition I judge that requires it. I wanted a chili that represented the basic and classic representation.

Chili Con Carne had to have the right amount of meat in proportion to other ingredients. The heat needed to be present, yet not ruin my taste buds for the other flavors that should be present in a all classic chilies. Now I know everyone has their own version of what is the appropriate heat level, and I will be honest in telling you that I sweat eating barbecue chips. Sure my resistance to heat in any form is low but I put my personal taste aside and judge on unbiased criteria. Although my heat tolerance may be low, I am easily able to distinguish between levels of spice and judge accordingly. I also didn't want to eat my chili with a fork, yet be thick enough for any of the ingredients to just barely hang on without falling off the spoon. 

For the chowder, since this was a New England chowder competition AND on the coast of Maine, I was more intent of a chowder that represented both in a classic sense. I wanted the perfect chowder, without any off-taste of old fish, rubbery clams or to taste milk that didn't have the taste of either. I wanted a chowder that was the perfect vehicle for crackers. Not the soft saltines but something that would have slowly soaked into the old Crown Pilots or Common Cracker.

Did I find a winner in either category that withstood my strict standards? You bet!! Not only did I find the winners but the general public who voted for their best in each category, and they were eerily close to mine.

                                                          Watershed Tavern

My choice of the best chowder went to the Watershed Tavern . I gave them a 9.9 out of a possible 10. See my review at I have let them know the one thing that would have propelled them to 10, but this will be between them and me. Regardless, I urge everyone and anyone that happens to be in the area to visit this remarkable pub and restaurant. Heck, make that special trip just to enjoy their chowder. Perfect in consistency, perfect fish flavor and reminiscent of what a true chowder should be here in New England.

At the same time, their chili was killer. The heat was at a level that hit me at the beginning of each bite and almost entirely left my tongue before scooping up that next, chunky bite. I gave them a 9 out of 10. Again, well worth the trip to this business just for either dish.


The best chili I judged went to Kalers . Hands down, the perfect chili with a rating of 10. Perfection with every mouthful, and I did take some mouthfuls. ordinarily, I take just small bites to judge because by the end of the 4th or 5th sampling, both my belly and mind need a break. I simply couldn't put the cup down so I polished it off post haste. Kalers, I commend you on a job well done.

For the peoples choice, they chose Whales Tale Restaurant for the winner, two years in a row. This restaurant was my second choice, giving them a 9 out of a possible 10 rating. I can see how they have ranked so high both years and thank them very much for a sincerely delicious chowder that was quite memorable.

The peoples choice for the best chili went to Capers Deli. They ranked a 9 out of 10 for me. Great flavor, great heat and a great job, that was ob\vious from the first spoonful to the last.


This was an enjoyable tasting and I can proudly proclaim that any of these chowders and chilies could have competed on a national level. I can also aver that the Watershed Taverns chowder was probably the best chowder I have eaten anywhere, when it comes to the original and classic presentation of this New England culinary cornerstone.