My second son, James, is a biologist/ecologist, a recent grad of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is at home right now, teaching biology and environmental science at Hebron Academy. He also serves on the board of the Center for an Ecology Based Economy in Norway, Maine. He is here until his Canadian girlfriend, Beth, graduates also this spring. Then he’ll be gone to Canada to start his life with her. But…for the time being, he’s home, and we have learned a LOT from him about nature, plants, soil science, composting, climate change, birds and animals, and more.
As a result, we were not surprised when he announced he was going to try to make a bread meal out of acorns, which is something native peoples did prior to the arrival of Europeans on this continent, and which people who like to try this sort of thing still do today. It’s a long process. The primary issue is that the tannins need to be removed from the acorns before they are fit for human consumption. Tannins are found in every day beverages, like tea and coffee, but acorns are extremely loaded with them. This makes them not only bitter, but prone to causing the types of gastrointestinal upset not spoken of in polite company or professional blog posts.
To get the tannins out, James needed to soak the acorn meal for an extended period of time and change the water frequently. He told me that some people will even put their bundle of acorns in to a running stream to let the tannins be leached out over time in the moving water. Before he could do the leaching process, he had to crack the acorns open, pull the meat out of the shell, and then grind it all up in the food processor. When he reached the point where he needed, “a cotton dish towel, or cheese cloth, or something” to hold the meal, I had what I thought was a brilliant idea. I said to him, “How about if we wrap it in white wool and see if it will dye it?” Fortunately, he was game. And I knew that the water would be changed so frequently (several times a day in the beginning) that the wool would not get weird or stinky on us.
So the process began. The water was changed frequently over the course of weeks. Every once in a while we tasted the meal. Sure enough, the bitterness was dissipating, and the wool was getting more and more nut colored. I knew that at the end of the process, when the meal was ready for drying and baking, I’d have to mordant the wool, but this could obviously not be done while the acorn meal was still wrapped in it.
Finally, one day, James declared the meal ready for baking. He took it out of the water, and the wool, and dried it on sheets in the oven. The dried meal was then frozen in jars until he baked a bread with it at Christmas time. It’s…an acquired taste. There was some residual bitterness, but it also had an earthy, nutty quality that I very much liked. The reviews were mixed with the visiting brothers, girlfriends, cousins, and grandparents. If you’d like to try processing acorn meal and baking with it yourself, there are many resources on the web that can guide you.
I took the wool, mordanted it as best I knew how in a hot bath of white vinegar (I know there are better mordants for a natural dye like this, but this is what I had on hand), rinsed it, and dried it.
I like the color. It’s a soft, nutty, slightly mottled tan, a little darker and yellower where the meal actually sat all that time, and I have a half yard piece – or I can put it in to fat quarters if you prefer – to sell. I will be pricing them at $14/fat quarter. (Contact me if interested!) This wool is truly one of a kind as I don’t think I’ll be processing acorns again anytime soon. Or maybe I will. Maybe I will find a process more suitable to dyeing specifically and give it another try. This was serendipitous, kind of akin to the Thai iced tea dye I did a while back after noticing how brilliant the color of the tea was when it spilled on my counter top.
Natural dyeing is not my area of expertise. I do not currently teach it, because I feel that I don’t know enough about it. I do plan to invite someone wonderful who does, however, to the Parris House in the summer or fall, so keep an eye on “Classes & Events” for when I can get that scheduled.
I haven’t posted anything on the blog since May of this year, after being reasonably consistent about popping something new up for you at least a couple of times a month. May was around the time small and a few big things started to go wrong around here, starting with my Corgi Tru being diagnosed with terminal liver disease and cancer. Tru was my steadfast companion for the past eleven years and the dog our four sons were raised with. To watch her sicken, with one capability after another taken from her by the cancer, was both heartbreaking and demoralizing. On June 13th, it was clear that prolonging her life was not in her best interest, and I had promised, from the day she arrived to our home, that she would know nothing but love and care for all of her days. Our amazing friend and veterinarian came over that evening, and Tru passed away very peacefully outside on the grass with many of her loved ones holding and surrounding her. I didn’t really get off the sofa for about three days – not for any length of time anyway – and from there it’s been a summer of more minor mishaps, from the annoying to the comical. I will spare you most of those, but if you’ve been following the Facebook page you know that it’s included one of my bee hives swarming, having a lot of my inventory damaged in a microburst at a show in Portland, and then coming home that same night to find my favorite witness-tree birch on fire from a lightning strike, necessitating its felling. A friend of mine said, “Girlfriend, burn some sage at your house!”
I feel like I’m starting to recover now. Things are going a bit better and my spirits are always lifted as fall approaches. It’s my favorite season here in Maine by far. For a variety of reasons, summer is my least favorite season, plus, for me, fall is like my new year. Instead of spring, or January, my new beginnings often happen in the fall. This year especially, I am feeling the need to get back to learning, growing, changing, and moving forward.
So, let’s do a little catching up first.
One good thing that happened this summer was that we bottled our first batch of Tovookan’s honey from the Parris House beehives. We had about sixty pounds altogether and while I have sold quite a lot of it, I do still have some jars left. If anyone is interested in a one pound jar, they are $10 and available at the Maine studio, OR they can be shipped. Be aware, however, that shipping is running around $7 – $9, so I leave it to your discretion as to whether or not you’d like a jar from a distance.
I have also had the privilege of working with three publishers who I have long admired. Down East Magazine currently has some of my rug hooking kits and finished pillows in their Summer Pop Up Shop at their headquarters in Rockport, Maine. If you are traveling along the beautiful Maine Midcoast for the remainder of this summer and in to September, please stop in to the shop right on Route 1 to peruse not only my things, but a great selection of Maine Made products.
The holiday issue of Rug Hooking Magazine will also feature my pattern and project article as the centerfold pull out. I remember when I first started hooking thinking it was a really big deal to have that role in an RHM issue, and now here I am. As always, linen patterns and kits will be available for purchase through RHM when the magazine comes out.
Finally, I have a really lovely and fun project coming out in the fall issue of Making Magazine, assembled and edited by the talented and hard working Carrie Hoge, a fellow Mainer. I don’t want to put any spoilers here, but the theme of the magazine this fall is “Lines” and my project was designed accordingly. I loved making it and loved working the Carrie, whose outstanding photography truly captures the beauty of any project she’s shooting.
My work is also on display in the Maine Made kiosk at Bangor International Airport. It’s so fun to know that busy travelers going in and out of the airport can take a moment to see my bee pillow in the kiosk. It’s my hope that it brightens someone’s day.
I also just launched two new hooked pillows for Beekman 1802, a bee and a pink pig, continuing with the theme of animals you might find on the farm. My Instagram post of the bee is the most liked post ever in the history of my IG account, so I’m expecting it to do well in the Mercantile. It was also “liked” by one of my hooking heroines, who I will not name here. 🙂
So, let’s look forward to what’s coming up the last few weeks of the summer and in to the fall…
I have a beginner rug hooking class coming up at The Stitchery in Portsmouth, RI, this Sunday, August 27th that you can still sign up for! We will be doing a double heart scented buckwheat pillow; this is the prototype, to the left. For more information and to sign up, click HERE.
On September 2nd we will have another of our SUPER FUN beginner dye classes here at the Parris House. To sign up, click HERE.
Once again, I will be participating in the Sharon Springs Harvest Festival on September 9th and 10th in beautiful Sharon Springs, NY! I will not be down in the vendor area this year, but rather I will be at Beekman Farm demonstrating and teaching rug hooking for our Beekman Neighbors who come to the farm tours. I hope to have some of my exclusive-to-Beekman 1802 pillows for sale in the Mercantile, however, for any neighbors who want to shop for them on the spot at Harvest Festival. Normally they are made to order and purchased online with a 2 week completion time.
I will also be having a beginner class at Scarborough Adult Ed (Maine) starting at the end of September. Follow the website and FB page for more information on that as it becomes available. We will be doing Maine forest/camp themed projects, so this is not to be missed!
On October 7th, we will have a soap making class again here at the Parris House. To sign up for that, click HERE.
The Hampden Hook-In, sponsored by The Keeping Room, will take place on October 21st this year and I will be there again vending. Hope to see many of you there!
Last, but not least, for events, the Fifth Annual Paris Hill HookIn is set to take place on Saturday, November 4th. If you have not signed up already, please do soon. I have reduced the number of participants this year to fifty. That’s a reduction of about a dozen spots because I am hearing so very many complaints at hook-ins about inadequate space. If the majority of hookers feel that more space is needed at these events but still want to enjoy the more down-home and charming venues, then the sacrifice has to be made in the number of attendees. Therefore, I only have a limited number of spaces left. For all of the information on this event, click HERE.
The Parris House gardens were not their best this season. In speaking to a friend of mine who is literally a professional farmer about how relatively poorly I think my tomatoes are doing, she said right away that the nights have been too cold and the days of high heat too few. I will say, though, that the Parris House apple trees are absolutely loaded, so let’s keep our fingers crossed for those!
And so we move forward. Not every year is our best year, but in looking back over just what I’ve written here, I realize that some very good things have happened. And just about two weeks ago, one other very good thing happened…
Meet Wyeth, our new five month old Rough Collie. (Yes, he’s named for NC, Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth – I’m an art geek.) My husband grew up with Collies and loves them, and since we have had the good fortune to live with my favorite breed for the past eleven years, I thought it was his turn to live with his. Wyeth was born in Georgia right around the time his breeder family (Morris Oaks Farm) was making a move to Maine, and that’s why he came to us so relatively late for a puppy. But this is perfect for me as he is already so well trained and socialized and best of all, housebroken! He already loves the attention of our Tuesday group hookers, although I do my best to keep him both out of their hooking bags and away from their lunches. Dog lovers everywhere will know the complexity of my feelings as I fall in love with this new puppy. I still shed tears for Tru, and at the same time find joy in getting to know Wyeth.
I will be getting back on the regular-blogging wagon. Tell me in the comment thread any topics you would like to see covered on the blog (can be fiber art, travel, gardening, beekeeping, whatever!), and if I choose yours I will give you an online or in person coupon for $5 off any purchase of $25 or more. Also, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, which I will also be getting back to, by using the sign up box at the bottom of the web page.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandmother lately. I often think of her in challenging times for so many reasons. At the moment I am realizing that I can no longer realistically run Parris House Wool Works as alone as I have been, because I am running myself ragged (no, threadbare) keeping up with all of the wonderful opportunities I’ve been given. I have one fantastic helper, a virtual assistant, already started, and two other people waiting for me to get my act and timing together in a smart enough way to hand them some work. So really, not catastrophic, but the overwhelm is a bit much right now. Additionally, and more actually truly sad, the canine love of my life, Corgi Tru, was diagnosed with cancer last week and is not expected to live the summer. She is twelve and she’s had a fantastic life, but I wasn’t ready to face letting her go so soon.
I think about my grandmother in stressful times because I loved her so much and she was such an enormous influence on who I am today. The very best times of my childhood were spent at her summer cottage on Little Sebago Lake in Gray, Maine. I was a stressed out child, mostly due to circumstances at home but also because, well, I seem to have been born Type A (I’m working on it). The summer cottage time in Maine with my grandmother was the antidote to that stress. There were no crazy expectations at the cottage. I was always good enough. In fact, I was great, or so my grandmother told me. We played cards, swam in the lake, climbed hills to find wild blueberries, hiked to an abandoned cellar hole and cemetery, and ate. We ate ice cream every night at 8 o’clock on the dot. My grandmother didn’t scoop it out like most people do. Nope. She took the paper wrapping off the half gallon – a true half gallon back in the ’70s – and then cut the ice cream in to perfectly even bricks. I will never know whether she did this just to have nice equal servings or because she had been a Depression era mom and this was the most efficient way to divvy up a box of ice cream.
As I said, my grandmother had been a Depression era mother to three children, my Uncle Courtland, my Aunt Dorothy, and my mother, Elizabeth, all born between 1920 and 1928. She knew what difficulty really meant. She lost both of her parents before she was forty herself, and she survived the indescribable worry that must have come with having a son and son-in-law serving in combat during World War II. As a child I never gave any of these things a thought. I just knew that this was the sunny grandmother who made my life a dream in the summers and had introduced me to Rudyard Kipling, Lewis Carroll, Grape Nut ice cream, daily diary keeping, Canasta, and, perhaps most pivotally, Maine.
I would often awake in the summer time to the delicious aromas of whatever my grandmother was already baking in the kitchen. Sometimes it was homemade fried donuts, or cookies, or the recipe I’m going to share with you now, Poor Man’s Cake. Poor Man’s Cake was a Great Depression recipe and I’d bet there are variations of it, if not this same recipe, in your family too. It may even be older because my copy of the recipe from my grandmother says, “Poor Man’s Cake, World War,” which may indicate World War I. Her brother, my great uncle Winfield Martin, had fought in France during the Great War and nearly died. Thankfully, he recovered in a hospital in France, came home and lived a long and good life. You will notice that this recipe has no milk, no butter, no eggs. But don’t be put off. Either this cake is the most delicious and addictive old recipe ever, or…it just is to me because so many memories are attached to it.
Here it is for you to try.
1 pound raisins in 2 cups water, boiled 15 minutes
Add to the raisins…
3/4 cup shortening and mix together
2 cups sugar
1 cup cold water
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp salt
4 cups flour
1 cup chopped nuts
1/2 jar candied fruit (I don’t know what 1/2 jar measures out to, but feel free to wing it)
Mix all ingredients together. Bake at 275 degrees for one hour in 3 greased and floured loaf pans.
I know that sounds like a very low oven temperature, but that’s what my grandmother did. What you end up with is a very soft, very dark raisin/fruitcake, very unlike those doorstop fruitcakes often found in the supermarket during the holidays. Sometimes she left out the candied fruit and it was more of a raisin spice cake/bread.
This week (May 22nd to May 29th) I’ll offer coupon code POORMANSCAKE in the Etsy and Shopify shops for 10% off your order of $25 or more, and let me know if you try the recipe!
One of our Parris House hookers, Edna Olmstead, is already harvesting and pressure canning green beans for the fall and winter. Another said yesterday at Tuesday group that her tomatoes were in. And, of course, the local farm stands, run by professional growers and farmers, are overflowing with produce.
Here at the Parris House our garden more resembles the tortoise, from the fable, The Tortoise and the Hare. I’m not at all saying that my tortoise is going to win the gardening race. It’s not. But it will, save for some unforeseen early withering frost, come through in the end.
This was my first year teaching at the Squam Art Workshops in June. I was in a bit of a tizzy preparing for it and I could not face putting the garden in before I got back, which was the second week of June. Additionally, I had really wanted raised beds this year, and my husband and sons had not yet built them. When I returned from Squam, like magic, the beds were in place. The menfolk had built them in my absence. We took a trip to Shaker Hill Landscape & Nursery in Poland Spring, Maine for a bit more soil and compost and I was ready to roll. Very late, even by Maine standards, but ready.
The following pictures were taken on Monday, August 3rd. I think what they show is promise. Itty bitty beans on the vine, harvestable salad greens (we’ve had some; they’re delicious), modestly sized basil, pumpkin and squash blossoms, and more. I think the biggest race against time out there is the corn, which is only past knee high at this juncture, but we all need a little suspense in our gardening, don’t we?
I will be teaching at Squam again next year, but will probably be more relaxed in my preparations. The garden will go in earlier. Five years ago I would have been beside myself with this year’s tortoise garden. I know better now. A lesson learned at Squam and in a million different ways in the steady growth of Parris House Wool Works: it’s the process that matters most, one day at a time, doing everything you know how to do with heart and commitment and as much love as you can muster. Those are the conditions for growth, even if you’re starting late in your season.
And now, some pictures…hope you all like green!
Just yesterday in the Maine studio a relatively new hooker was lamenting on how slow she is in finishing projects (actually, she isn’t…but…you know…). Another hooker immediately came to her defense, telling her to be patient, that this was normal in the beginning, and praising the work that she had done. I also assured her that her future work would start to go more quickly. Sometimes, we just have to be ok with the pace of things. So it is with our late blooming garden.
I will post another story in about six weeks on how the harvest has gone, taking pics as we pull things in. By then my favorite time of year will be in full swing!
Happy gardening, don’t worry if you’re a tortoise, and happy hooking! – Beth
It’s been uncharacteristically hot and humid here in Paris, Maine for the past several days. Today, thanks to a cold front passing through, we have much cooler, drier conditions. I’d enjoy the recipe I’m about to give you any day of the year, but it’s proven especially good when you’re trying to survive a dog day of summer.
I spent last weekend mostly at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester, Maine. On Saturday, my husband and I taught a beginner soap making workshop, and then on Sunday I participated in Open Farm Day, demonstrating rug hooking in the historic Shaker barn. After our workshop on Saturday, we stopped in to the Shaker store and picked up the Society of Shakers Fruit Blend Tea. You can purchase it HERE in the on-line Shaker store, but if you are local or anywhere near local, better yet to go visit the community and take advantage of their wonderful farm and garden tours, two beautiful shops, educational programs, and inviting and peaceful atmosphere. Lots of things in the Shaker stores would make amazing holiday gifts, so start your shopping early.
The Fruit Blend Tea is unbelievably delicious and refreshing. In the fall, you’ll want their mulling spices, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
This is how I make iced tea with it…
Put three heaping teaspoons of Society of Shakers Fruit Blend Tea in a 1 quart Ball jar. I brew mine loose and then strain it, but you can use a tea ball that will fit through the opening. A wide mouth jar is best for this.
Add almost boiling water to the 3 cup marker on the side. Let brew at least 8 – 10 minutes; you want it to be strong.
If you need to strain the tea, now is the time to do it, but put it in to another quart sized Ball jar.
Add a heaping teaspoon of local honey or to taste. I do believe at certain times of year you can purchase Shaker honey as well. I get mine from a self serve stand on Mount Mica Road in Paris, Maine. See the label in the pic! Next year, fingers crossed, we will be offering Parris House Honey from our own hives.
Now add ice until the tea level comes to just the bottom of the jar lid threads.
When the ice melts it’s ready to drink! Pour it over ice or put it in the fridge to chill.
I have been making one of these jars every morning and just about finishing it over the course of the day. You could add lemon or lime to it, but honestly, the flavors in this tea are so perfectly blended I have found that adding fresh citrus takes a bit away from it. Nor does it really need fresh mint as it already has some mint incorporated.
I support the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community as a Friend of the Shakers and through teaching and volunteer work at the village. I hope you will consider doing so as well. The Sabbathday Lake community is the home of three living Shakers, Brother Arnold, Sister June, and Sister Frances. There is no other Shaker site in the nation inhabited by Shakers. You may read about them in this Downeast Magazine article, aptly titled, Unshaken. The Shakers are very engaged with the outside world lest anyone think they are cloistered, and yet they are examples of love, faith, hard work, and devotion, qualities we could all aspire to just a little more in this world of ours.
What goes together better than hooking and homemade apple pie!? Here’s Jen’s recipe…
Put on your pink 1950s apron and get ready to impress your friends! It’s homemade apple pie.
For the crust:
Make ahead of time and let it cool in the refrigerator.
2 2/3 cups of all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon of kosher salt
¾ teaspoon of sugar
½ cup of chilled butter, cut into pieces
½ cup of chilled shortening, cut in to pieces
Place the first three ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine.
Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until crumbly. Transfer to a bowl.
Working quickly, stir mixture with a fork, gradually adding ¼ to ½ cup ofvery cold water until dough begins to form. Roll into a ball and divide into two equal portions and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill at least one hour.
6 cups (1 ½ lbs) of peeled, sliced apples (I use Golden Delicious)
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
½ cup of sugar
½ firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
½ ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons of butter or margarine (Come on, you know you want to use real butter.)
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten (I use it sparingly)
2 teaspoons of sugar
1/8 of a teaspoon ground cinnamon
On a lightly floured surface, roll ½ of your pastry to about 1/8 inch thick and place into a 9-inch pie plate. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine apple and lemon juice. Ina seperate bowl, add 1/2 cup of sugar and next four ingredients. Mix well. Pour over apples mixture, tossing gently. Spoon the mixture evenly in pastry shell and dot with butter.
Roll the remaining pastry shell to 1/8 inch thickness and transfer to the top of pie. Form a pretty crust by pinching the edges or if you have extra pastry, use a cookie cutter to form maple leaves or other cute design and add to top of pie for decoration. Cut slits in the top of crust. Brush with beaten egg (I never use the whole egg yolk as I think it tends to brown too much).
2 teaspoons of sugar and 1/8 of a teaspoon of cinnamon and sprinkle over the pie. Cover the edges of crust with foil to prevent too much browning and place in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 50 more minutes. I take off the foil during the last ten or fifteen minutes to brown the edges.
Don’t leave in the windowsill to cool as some pesky neighborhood child might run off with it. Sit down and enjoy with a large glass of milk!
We all have THAT cook book, especially if we’ve been around the kitchen for a while. It’s the cook book with the dog ears, the stained pages, and a history. For me, THAT cook book is the old 1980s version of the Betty Crocker Cook Book. I received it as a gift for my bridal shower in 1987 and have used it faithfully ever since. It has the best mac and cheese recipe ever in it, and the recipe for quiche which wins me accolades. In fact, I served that quiche at our Maine studio opening event in 2013 and a couple of people still talk to me about that quiche. Really. But aside from using the recipes just as they stand, following this classic cook book also taught me a lot about cooking, and how to make my own recipes. I even have a four leaf clover pressed in to the pages of this cook book. I think that makes it extra lucky.
For a lot of years I used the basic bread recipe in this cook book when baking bread, but gradually over time I started diverging from the recipe, and then I started just winging bread recipes entirely. It became like soup; you just do it. The recipe for the Parris House Savory Easter Bread is a combo. The basic bread recipe in this cook book was the jumping off point, but I changed it considerably. And the traditional Italian Easter bread, which is actually a very sweet bread with lots of sugar in the dough and sprinkles on top, also inspired this bread in form and appearance. My mother made Italian Easter Bread every year, and so I hesitated before so radically changing the recipe for our Easter dinner, but I wanted something savory with a rustic farmhouse look. Here’s what I came up with…
1 package dry yeast (or 1 TBSP)
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
1 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP olive oil
1-1/2 TSP sea salt
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3-1/2 cups bread flour (add more if you need to but be careful not to make the dough tough)
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
Just before baking:
Six RAW eggs, colored or not (your preference)
3 TBSP melted butter
2 TBSP sea salt
OK! Combine the yeast and all the wet ingredients, the sea salt, and the sugar in a large mixing bowl and whisk them well. Gradually mix in the flours until you have a wet dough, then add the chopped dill, mix some more. Add the rest of the flour and when you have a knead-able consistency turn the dough out on to a floured surface and knead it for several minutes until it starts to become nice and smooth.
Use a little cooking spray or oil in a large bowl and plop the dough down in to it. Cover with a tea towel and place in a warm location to rise.
While the dough is rising, choose your decorative eggs. I chose to use the eggs just as they are straight from the Parris House Hens. These girls lay pretty eggs.
However, you could certainly use any eggs you wanted, and in traditional Easter breads, dyed eggs are used. I chose these six:
After about an hour your dough should be at least double in size. See the before and after pics here…
Now it’s time to punch the dough down, and create the circular braid. Divide the dough in to three equal sized balls, then roll them out in to equal length and width ropes. From there it’s just like braiding hair. Braid the dough and then form it in to a circle, molding together the two ends. Don’t worry that the connection doesn’t look braided; you’re going to just put an egg in there. Space the other eggs evenly tucking them in the nooks in the braid. These eggs should be RAW because they bake in the oven as the bread bakes, so be careful about pushing on them too hard at this stage lest they break.
Now you need to let the bread rise again, about 45 minutes. It will again almost double in size and puff up around the eggs.
Now it’s time to prepare the bread for baking. Melt a little butter and brush it on to the bread, avoiding the eggs so that they do not discolor during baking. Sprinkle a bit of sea salt on the buttered areas, again avoiding getting it on the eggs. I actually did get a bit of sea salt on my eggs and they speckled from it.
Heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (I’m sorry, my Canadian friends, I don’t know what that translates to in Celsius) and bake on the top rack for about 15 minutes, then move to the bottom rack for another 15 minutes. I do this in my oven because I find that way it doesn’t get too brown on the top or the bottom. However, I would caution you to check the bread frequently because ovens differ. For example, the electric oven at my lake cottage will burn things like this in a heartbeat if I’m not carefully watching them.
When the bread it finished it will be golden top and bottom but not too dark.
That’s it! It’s a very easy bread to make and would go nicely with a variety of dishes. The eggs are hard boiled (or really, hard baked) when the bread is finished and can be eaten along with it.
Tomorrow my husband Bill will be making his family’s homemade French vanilla ice cream recipe. Stay tuned for that as well.
Happy Easter, happy Spring, and happy hooking! – Beth
I’m pretty sure many of you will recognize this plastic tub, especially if you live in New England.
Disclaimer here: I realize that this is not a health food. I’m one of those earthy crunchy organic gardening, home canning, whole foods, clean eating, hiker/runner types. Even with THIS on the tub, I realize that this is not a health food:
However…like Grandma’s Christmas cookies, birthday cake on birthdays, and my husband’s home made French vanilla ice cream, there is a time and a place for everything. At the Parris House, there’s a time and a place for this classic New England recipe:
At the Parris House, the times for this are Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Now, I don’t make this recipe. I do all the cutesy decorating, bake some kind of dessert, and buy conversation hearts and gifts. This year dessert was cherry pie. I got the idea for punching heart shaped holes in the crust from 1840 Farm, but, of course, my version looks more like a “nailed it” meme than a faithful replication of the beautiful job Jennifer Burcke did with her pie.
No, it is my husband Bill who always makes the Never Fail Fudge. And before we go any further, I’d like to say that the trademark Marshmallow Fluff and the recipe Never Fail Fudge are the intellectual property of the Durkee-Mower company in Lynn, Massachusetts. I have full permission to blog this recipe. Do you know why? Because I actually spoke to the super nice owner of this company on the phone this morning, and had the privilege of thanking him personally for this confection, which, I might mention, while not a health food is also not chock full of bizarre chemicals that no earthly mortal can recognize. The sole ingredients are corn syrup, sugar, dried egg white, and vanillin. Period. Straightforward and no nonsense, the New England way. And while the Fluffernutter sandwich is not really for me, it too is something most kids in this part of the country have packed in their lunchboxes more than a few times, a simple straightforward treat that they could make themselves.
It turns out, actually, that this straightforward New England confection has been manufactured since 1920 and the company is still in the same family. The history is actually very interesting and can be found here, on the company website. You can also “like” Marshmallow Fluff on Facebook, which is kind of fun. There are also many recipes on the website, so surf around.
Never Fail Fudge is a rich, deeply chocolate, soft fudge that is truly never fail. We have not ever had a batch go wrong. If you do have a batch go wrong, the company website has an FAQ for that, but really…just follow the directions on the bucket. Here we go.
Bill super greases a 9×13 ceramic cake pan with lots of butter. The directions on the tub suggest 2 – 9x9s, which would be fine also, of course. He gets all his ingredients together prior to starting the recipe so that he is free to stir the fudge and pay attention to the temperature of the mixture.
The ingredients are: 5 cups sugar, 2 small 5 oz. cans of evaporated milk, 1/4 pound butter or margarine (we always use real butter), 1 – 16 oz. tub Marshmallow Fluff, and 1 teaspoon salt. These are the initial ingredients. Toward the end you add 1.5 teaspoons vanilla, 1 cup walnut meats (if desired – Bill doesn’t like nuts so we never get this part), and 2 large 12 oz. bags of semi sweet chocolate chips. This recipe in full is on the Marshmallow Fluff tub and the website.
Bill combines the first 5 ingredients in a large stock pot. The recipe suggests a 5 quart saucepan. All of these ingredients are stirred until well blended over low heat.
Once combined you will bring the ingredients to a boil, and we recommend stirring continually so it does not stick to the bottom of the pan and/or burn. Boil the mixture slowly, continuing stirring, until it reaches the soft ball candy stage. The recipe says this will be about 5 minutes, and interestingly, we use a candy thermometer but, in my conversation this morning, the company owner said he does not. My husband is an accountant, and also our primary cold process soap blender in Maine, so you can imagine that he likes the precision of the thermometer. If I made this fudge I might just use the more subjective approach. Either way, remember, it’s never fail fudge.
You will notice, as this is combined, stirred and boiled, it gets a little darker over time. It’s almost as though it’s caramelizing a little bit, but I don’t know for sure.
Once you have achieved soft ball status with this mixture, it’s time to remove it from the heat and add the vanilla, the nuts, and the chocolate chips. Stir until everything is blended and melted together.
Now it’s just a matter of pouring it in to your waiting buttered pan or pans.
It will be very hot at this point, so be careful. Allow to cool completely and then you can cut it in to chunks of your preferred size. It yields about 5 pounds of fudge, so this is a great recipe – and very economical – for gift giving as well. We give a lot of it away, and it always seems to be welcomed with enthusiasm.
As you can see in this next photo, Bill cuts the chunks pretty large. He made that ceramic bowl they’re sitting in too, but that’s another blog post.
I know from posting about Never Fail Fudge on our Facebook page that many of you are familiar with it, make it, adapt the recipe for different flavors, etc. Hopefully some of our readers are new to it and will try this amazingly simple and delicious fudge recipe. Many thanks to the Durkee-Mower company for permission to share, and for answering my phone call so promptly in snow bound Lynn, Massachusetts.
Happy hooking, happy candy making, and happy eating! – Beth
As most of you know, we had a blizzard here last Tuesday. Jen was visiting from Tennessee (and took all the pics for this blog post) and we decided that clam chowder was the best defense against the elements. By the way, this is what a Southerner looks like braving a blizzard…not bad, actually…
I will be the first to admit that I was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in New Jersey, and went to college in Delaware, so maybe I should be making Manhattan Clam Chowder. We all know that would be wrong, though. I also fully expect some New England native to look at what follows and find at least half a dozen things I’m doing “wrong.” I’m fine with that. I’m also fine with the fact that everyone loves my clam chowder, including natives. 😉
People ask me a LOT for my clam chowder recipe. And I never have one. I’m not being coy or secretive. I literally don’t have one. I don’t measure, I don’t think the chowder is ever quite the same twice, and like all soups, it’s always even better the second day. I’m going to attempt to show you how I make my chowder, but please accept the fact that it’s ok to make soup without a precision recipe – in fact, sometimes it’s better to – and have fun making your own approximate chowder recipes.
First thing I do is put a little olive oil in to the bottom of a very heavy stock pot. This one belonged to my husband’s grandmother. You can also use butter (yay, butter!), or any oil of your choice, but I like the flavor of either olive oil or butter. I then cut up some bacon (or salt pork), and start cooking it in the oil in the pan. This adds a little bacon or salt pork fat to the soup as well for flavoring.
Next I chop up a good sized onion and put that in with the saute-ing bacon. You can also add carrots and celery, but I did not have those in the house on this occasion. I even put kale in to the finished soup, but a dear Maine native friend of mine (who loves kale in other contexts) says that is positively taboo.
Next I dice about half a dozen potatoes and add them to the pot. I then add chicken or vegetable stock in enough quantity to cover the potatoes, depending on what I have in the house. This is a great reason to make stocks out of your vegetable bits or poultry carcasses or ham bones or what have you and then freeze them so that you can use them on the fly in soups. I did not have any left in the freezer, so I had to use store bought. Let everything simmer in the stock until the potatoes are just fork tender.
When the potatoes are fork tender, it’s time to add enough milk or half & half or cream (this is entirely up to you and your cholesterol levels) to make the soup creamy, but not so much that it makes the soup too thin in terms of vegetable to broth ratio. If you go with milk, which is inherently less creamy, you can use a little corn starch to thicken the chowder. Add a bottle of clam juice, and the clams. I used both fresh frozen chopped clams and a can of whole clams. Do not boil the soup vigorously or cook it too long after this step because you do not want your nice tender clams to toughen.
You can season this soup in any way that makes you happy, although I would avoid really strong flavors that will overpower the delicate taste of the clams. I just use sea salt (when needed) and freshly ground black pepper (not too much). And, as I mentioned, I like garnishing with cooked kale, although this is anathema in some circles and perhaps a safer bet is garnishing with oyster crackers (especially if you have a native Mainer at the table).
So, this is what it looked like by the time we sat down to eat. (Please excuse the chipped bowl. These were my grandmother’s dishes from her camp on Little Sebago Lake – see our blog post about Maine lake culture – and I can’t part with them even when they chip.) We served the chowder with mussels marinara (perhaps another blog post?), Teriyaki steak strips left over from the night before, a green salad, and my son’s home brewed cinnamon vanilla porter (definitely will be another blog post on that).
This is old fashioned home cooking. I am not a chef. I have no formal training. One of the things I love about making soups is that it is analogous to rug hooking in some ways. Hooking is forgiving in ways that knitting, cross stitch, quilting, and other precision crafts are not. There is so much freedom in hooking, so much room for experimentation and expression. So it is with soups. So just see what you’ve got sitting about in your fridge and have fun with soup making.