Monday, December 10, 2012

Edible Gifts

It's that time of year again, and I'm thinking what can go from the kitchen to under the Christmas tree.  This year it is going to be Dilly Beans (I planned ahead this fall), Maple WalnutsCaramelized Pecans and Roasted Almonds.

During the year I save attractive jars (especially red topped jam jars) to use as holiday containers for my various gifts. I've done almonds for years, pecans recently and walnuts are new this year. Most of the maple walnut gifts are maple walnut pieces for ice cream and salad topping.  I've included a recipe for Maple Mustard Dressing with some of the jars. I separate out the whole walnuts and package them separately, as "nibbling walnuts."

Fruit Cake was one of my Dad's favorites.  I used to make at least 3 fruit cakes for Christmas; one to share, one to go under the tree for Dad and one to save as his February birthday gift. The rest of the family is not really that keen on fruit cake, so since Dad died I have scaled back and occasionally make one cake for the holidays. This is still a good present, however, especially if made in the smaller mini-gift size pans.

Cranberry Bread (photo left) was always the "teacher's gift". For a few years I made it, and then Alex and Chris helped me or really made it themselves for their favorite teachers.  This is always a most appreciated item for holiday fairs.

Cookies, especially Mexican Meringues, Molasses Cookies/Ginger Snaps, particularly in the form of gingerbread men/ladies, and holiday stars and trees, and Nut Puffs also make nice gifts. And sometimes I have made a Cranberry Pudding, our traditional Christmas night dessert, for special friends/absent family members.


Many years ago when "Grandmother" (Ed's Mom) summered on Chappaquiddick Island we gathered beach plums in August.  Old photo at left shows ripe beach plums in foreground and Pogue Pond in the background. I would then make Beach Plum Jelly, the majority of it eventually filling Grandmother's Christmas stocking. Ed's Mom died in 1997 but even for several years prior to then I had no source of beach plums.  However, since this blog is is in part "historical",  I include this well tested recipe, for "Standard Beach Plum Jelly"* adapted from Plum Crazy, by Elizabeth Post Mirel for the "archives".

Make beach plum juice:

Simmer for 30 minutes

10 c beach plums
2 c water

Strain through cheese cloth. Do not squeeze.

Make the jelly:

Bring to a boil and boil hard for one minute

3 1/2 c beach plum juice [I use 4 cups]
6 c sugar
3 oz (1/2 bottle)liquid pectin such as Certo

Skim off foam. Put in sterile jelly jars and seal.

*  In the preface to the jelly recipes, Ms. Mirel writes: "Before producing jelly, you must decide whether you want Natural Beach Plum Jelly, made with fruit, sugar and water only, or Standard Beach Plum Jelly, made with fruit, sugar, water and added pectin. The adherents of Natural Beach Plum Jelly claim that the pectin is an unnecessary adulterant. The advocates of Standard Beach Plum Jelly state that making jelly without added pectin is risky." (page 31) She then devotes several paragraphs to the pros and cons of each method.  As I recall, when I tired to go the natural route, my batch did not jell properly.

Reviewed 9/22/2017

Sunday, December 2, 2012


© 2012 Edward C Kern, Jr.
When cruising, Ed and I usually eat on board. One of the few exceptions is when were are near Little Cranberry Island in Maine.  Then, often with other sailing friends, we make a special effort to have dinner at Isleford Dock. * For the past few years our favorite entree has been "Gulf of Maine Halibut white beans, fennel, spring onions", but this past summer a new offering caught my eye: "Gallimaufry of Steamed Maine shellfish whole lobster, clams, mussels, and crab claws in slightly spicy seafood broth (corn and fingerling potatoes)".  The catch, it was served for two.  It took a bit of persuading to get Ed to give up the known halibut for the unknown, but he finally agreed to give it a try (photo left).  While Ed was not enthralled with the whole lobster (cut in half) or some of the other in-shell creatures, he did like the spicy sauce/broth, spicy in part due to the rings of jalapeno in the mix.

I decided to try a version of this at home.  My first step was to define "gallimaufry", maybe it would reveal some key ingredient(s) or technique. Sadly not,  "gallimaufry" is defined as a confused jumble or medley of things; hodgepodge.  So this is one of those anything (almost) goes dishes.  The variety of seafood in this dish works if cooking for a large crowd or shopping at a fish market that sells in small quantities.  Cooking for just two and starting with a whole bag (smallest quantity available) of Moosabec mahogany clams, I decided this would be enough seafood and focused on the sauce.

In a large pan heated to ~350 degrees add:

1 T olive oil 
4 cloves garlic (about 1 T), finely minced
1  jalapeno chili, in small slices (or more to taste; Isleford Dock cuts in rings)
10 - 12 "creamer" size or fingerling potatoes

Sautee a few minutes until garlic and potatoes are slightly browned, then add

1/3 c white wine

Stir for a couple of minutes and then add:

14.5 ounces diced tomatoes (I used Muir Organic Fire Roasted with Green Chilies)
1/2 c corn kernels**

Bring mixture to a boil and then add

2 # Moosabec mahogany little neck clams, previously washed and scrubbed*** 

Check every few minutes to see if the clams have opened; continue to cook over medium high heat until most/all of the clams have opened. Discard any unopened clams. Add:

2 T  fresh minced cilantro
Pepper to taste

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves. (Didn't have any garnish for photo, 2nd from top, and color is definitely missing.  Tasty, but does not compare photographically with the inspiration-dish in Ed's color saturated cell phone photo at top.)

Note:  This recipe makes a lot of sauce/broth but the quantity seems consistent with the amount in the Isleford Dock dish.  Serve in shallow bowls or on plates with higher rims.

* Isleford Dock is special not only because of its excellent food but also for its magnificent views across Eastern Way to Mount Desert Island.  Vacationers from Mount Desert come to Little Cranberry Island by private boats and a small public ferry to dine, visit the few galleries on the dock and take in the awesome views, especially the sunset over Mount Desert.  The Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson, recommended to us by a  kayaker we met on a nearby island, is a good read while visiting this part of the world. This book,  which among many other things provides a good description of life on Little Cranberry and the role Isleford Dock plays in the small lobstering community, provides an excellent overview of the scientific and commercial aspects of lobsters and lobstering.

** Isleford Dock used ~ 1 1/2 slices of fresh corn on the cob; I would do the same when corn is in season.

*** Made with just clams, this is almost a spicy tomato based rendition of Linguine with Clams. But, remember this is really meant to be a  jumble or medley. Improvise and add a mix of seafood based on availability and/or personal taste.  While Isleford Dock used lobster, clams, mussels and crab claws,  shrimp, scallops,  and/or chunks of white fish, even chunks of sausage and/or chicken (as in Seafood Gumbo) would work. Adjust final cooking time accordingly.

Reviewed 7/9/2017