books, tools and appliances

Single Cup Coffee Makers (Pod Type)

Are they an Eek of the Week or are they too old hat? I just discovered them yesterday, in a flyer I was leafing though after lunch to avoid going back to work. THERE’S an eek, sez I, a little plastic cup in the landfill for every cup of home brewed coffee. So much for greener than takeout. 

My George H.W. Oh boy is he ever out of it Bush moment. I did know disposable pods were part of the espresso boom, but until I went to Amazon to check how common these things might be…

OMG. Double eek. But there in the list was an oddity that almost defies imagination: ” The Java Wand is a portable, single serve, miniaturized French Press filter attached to a durable, hand blown, glass straw that brews and filters coffee and tea leaves in your cup.” 

If any of you have ever used one of these things, please send us a review. I burn to know, I really do.

A Love Letter to the Freezer, with choosing and care tips

The thermometer hit 1 below this morning, but it’s not the weather that brings freezing to mind; it’s the seed orders. That and the pre-surgery maps I made so Bill could understand my filing system. He puts up a lot of the food we freeze but I’m the one who moves it around so the tomatoes and corn are on the right in the big chest freezer and the soup assortment is on the 2rd shelf down in the upright.

that's venison on top

that’s venison on top

Somewhere on that shelf are, according to Bill: ” 2 cream of tomato, 3 curried corn, 1 squash and tomato, 1 cream of wild mushroom, 2 wild mushroom and duck, 2 summer squash and corn, 1 cream of morel.”  The minestrone is behind the first row of packets, so he didn’t count it.

Two freezers for two people who don’t entertain very often might seem a bit excessive, and the truth is we could get along with one. But we couldn’t get along without one. It’s our ticket to eating magnificently – and locally – all year. Read More…

Oven Hot Spots

Every cookie recipe in creation, right? “…reverse the pans halfway through baking for even browning.” One of those little niceties that does make a difference, and I don’t know about you, but I’m very faithful about this – with cookies.

Never noticed it mattering too much with bread, however, until the big pre-surgery flurry of stocking up. (Bill’s a good cook; but he doesn’t bake.) Lesson learned: if you’re trying to find your oven’s hot spot, just pave the whole rack with pans of sticky buns.

sticky buns as hotspot finder

sticky buns as hotspot finder

Putting Food By


(so you can eat locally all year long)

Upstairs: Food Historian Sandy Oliver keeps winter squash under the bed. Bottom of the linen closet is also good; just don’t forget they’re there.

Downstairs: An unheated basement ( 35 to 45 degrees) , a second refrigerator ( or the back of the one in the kitchen) is almost a root cellar. Things to keep in it from harvest to spring: Beets, Carrots, Cabbages, Onions, Wine, Beer, Cheese.

In a cool back bedroom or similar: Potatoes. They like to be cold, but not quite as cold as other roots.

In the pantry/ food cupboard:

Dried: Wild bolete mushrooms, wild or cultivated agaricus mushrooms, tomatoes, shell beans.
Canned: Applesauce, fruit spreads, ketchup, tomatoes, roasted tomatoes for instant sauce.

In the garden: lightly mulched Parsley and Kale will survive until a very hard freeze (@ 26 degrees); the more slowly it gets cold, the more cold they can take. Chard, Brussels sprouts and Broccoli raab aren’t quite as hardy but still can stand – indeed benefit from – repeated light freezes. Many gardening and country food books, including some of mine, suggest leaving beets and carrots in the ground under a heavy mulch and then harvesting as needed. It works fine if you don’t have voles.

In the freezer: Wild mushrooms (morel, chanterelle, sulfur shelf, blewit, hen of the woods) sautéed in enough butter to be a sauce for the pasta, baked potato, winter squash or other starch that is then dinner; Toasted almond pesto or other pesto to use like the mushrooms ; Berries; Whole tomatoes for soup and sauce; Full-meal soups like Minestrone and Corn chowder, Harvest Vegetable Stews like corn, squash and pepper/ tomato, pepper and onion/ snap and shell beans with summer squash. Chickens. Your quarter of a local lamb, pig or steer, divided into the cuts you’ve ordered. Make an inventory and keep it near the freezer!( along with a pen on a string for crossing off)

Setting Up For Strawberry Shortcake

The recipe for historically and gastronomically correct strawberry shortcake IS coming, I swear, and in plenty of time for the 4th of July ( I also swear). But in the meantime this is a heads-up that you will need 3 things that may take some looking to find.

1. Good strawberries. After giving fairly detailed directions about getting good strawberries I had to buy some ( recipe research!). Went to two farmers’ markets in search of a variety as fragrant as Karen’s. Should have gone to three; but the berries I bought were really quite good and by then market hours were almost over. Also bought supermarket plastic clamshell California ones, just for comparison and without any hope they would actually be edible. They were certainly cheap: $2.79 per quart , as opposed to $4.50 and $5.00 from the farmers – though if you costed it out per fruit they were about 30 cents each. And honesty compels me to report they were a bit sweeter than one of the local offerings. But they were far less strawberry tasting, so I’m guessing there are now “supersweet” strawberries analogous to supersweet corn, in which high sugar content develops early and does not fade but the flavor of corn is faint. And they made a substantial noise when sliced that reminded me of the sound of a good apple.

2. A genuine biscuit cutter – this shortcake is of course made with biscuits, and biscuits do not rise high and flaky unless the thick dough is cut with a tall, sharp cutter designed for the job.


Jamie MacMillan

This cutter belongs to food historian Sandy Oliver, of Islesboro, Maine, about whom there will be more one of these days. For now suffice it to say this is your model, though there is no reason to buy an antique one – a new one would really be better if it were sharper which you would think would be a no-brainer but given the quality of some modern tools…

3. Heavy Cream. Pasteurized is fine but ultra-pasteurized is not. Even I who feel strongly about this cannot say the stuff is truly dreadful but it sure as hell is second rate, and the mono and diglycerides, vegetable gums and other substances added to disguise the cooked flavor and diminished whipping power certainly don’t help. “Organic” may be marginally more healthful but usually isn’t any better otherwise; all the industrial-organic national brands are ultra-pasteurized too. Try calling around to co-ops, natural food stores, and the office of a dairy itself should there be one near you. Chefs often have access to food products not routinely retailed and old fashioned heavy cream is one of them.

Bill Bakaitis

This is raw organic cream from White Orchard Farm, in Frankfort, Maine. I asked Bill to take the picture when I went to pour some and realized it was too thick to come out of the bottle until prodded.

Vintage Baking Pans

Once more, the adage is proven: complain that something doesn’t exist and whammo! It appears. No sooner did I announce – at the end of last week’s Honey Bar recipe – that 11 ¼ x7 ½ x 1 ½ inch baking pans seemed to be pans from the past than there they were in the new supermarket (our neighborhood’s first Hannaford’s), in the not terribly well stocked housewares aisle. Not exactly, but 11 x 7 x 2, which is close enough.

Now the question is what inspired the manufacturer; very few modern recipes specify a pan of this size: google offers a paltry 1,760 hits when asked for the for roll-the-dice size, versus 102,000 for an 8 inch square.

So evidently the pans are out there, but why buy new when it’s so much fun ( and so environmentally preservational) to collect and use pre-owned models – the ones that are “vintage” in age and attractiveness but not yet “vintage” in price. There’s a ton of terrific tin out there; glass that’s not jadeite is still inexpensive, and yard sale season will be starting soon (if it ever stops raining).


The tasty meal casserole (roughly 6 1/2x 4 ½ ) is, I just learned by looking on e-bay, a Planters peanut collectible… shoulda known from the hat. Ignorance has been useful, though, because I’ve been using them for years for things like custards and potpies. Had their serving-dish nature been known they’d probably never have gone in the oven, even though they’re thick as Pyrex. The popover pan is Griswold cast iron but not the kind collectors chase, so examples can still be found for no more than new pans that aren’t nearly as good. It’s HEAVY, as a popover pan should be; and because there are air spaces between cups the popovers can do just that and still stay crisp and separate.