Grocery store cracker packaging fuels one of my holiday entertaining hang-ups. All crackers on any cheese board I assemble must be interesting, super crisp and uniformly shaped.

I am the targeted buyer for unbroken crackers packed first in slotted plastic trays, then wrapped in airtight foil or cellophane pouches, and finally slid into cardboard boxes with polypropylene film peepholes. I’ve perpetually kept a selection of these unsustainably packaged crackers in the cupboard. What a waste, I know.

With the help of Kathy Heye and Deede Montgomery, I am breaking my over-packaged cracker habit. They own and operate Bessie’s Farm Goods, a charming general store on out-of-the-way Litchfield Road in Freeport where they sell an eclectic array of things they like. One of the things they really like – as do their families, friends and customers – are Heye’s handmade multi-grain crackers.

She’s been making them since pulling the recipe from Yankee Magazine about 35 years ago. It was originally published in 1967 in a community cookbook assembled by the Women’s Auxiliary to the Alumni Association of the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in Los Angeles.

Heye, who likes these crackers best crumbled into one of the many soups they also make and sell at Bessie’s, changed the recipe by adding brown sugar and pressing the dough into the sheet pans for a more rustic presentation. Montgomery, who makes these almost as often as Heye, prefers to use them as a carrier for soft local cheeses, adds more salt than her friend and rolls the dough for a tailored look. She was once given a handmade rolling pin that was cut and turned to fit just inside the edges of her baking sheets.

“The fact that even we make them slightly differently shows how resilient this recipe is,” said Heye, adding that cooks can change the ingredients to suit themselves by adding different flours, seeds and nuts.

Making crackers is an easy process. Put the ingredients in a bowl, flatten the dough in a pan, score it into cracker shapes and bake. The only tricky bit is making sure they cook evenly. That requires playing “musical crackers,” explains Heye. During the last 10 minutes of baking, start watching for the crackers around the edges of the pan to begin to brown. As the individual crackers brown, take them out of the oven to cool. Spread out the remaining crackers so they, too, will brown and crisp.

Fans say the fiddling is worth the efforts. But if you have neither the time nor inclination, you can buy a single-ply bag of 14 crackers from Bessie’s for $2 (


Makes 48 crackers, depending how you cut them.

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup wheat germ

¾ cup canola oil

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt, more for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine all ingredients plus 1 cup water in a bowl. Mix together to form a dough. Press the dough into 2 ungreased rimmed cookie sheets. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Cut dough into cracker-sized rectangles.

Bake for 30 minutes. At the 20-minute mark, start watching for the crackers around the edges of the pan to begin to brown. As the individual crackers brown, take them out of the oven and cool them on a rack. As you pull the crackers from around the edges, spread the remaining crackers around the pan so they too will brown and crisp.

Cool all crackers before storing them in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, recipe developer and tester, and cooking teacher in Brunswick. She writes about feeding her family Maine seafood at Contact her at [email protected]