Friday, March 7, 2014
Every November families crowd around the dinner table to clink glasses, say thanks, and to eat a lot of (hopefully) delicious food. Serving the big meal to me, means sourcing as many ingredients as possible locally to honor those first settlers in Plymouth, Massachusetts who in 1621 you know were not cruising down the aisle of a big box store in search of Stouffers. It is far more likely the Pilgrims were eating game acquired by Native Americans and dishes made of crops harvested from nearby fields.
This holiday is about more than just eating, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to say thank you to Maine’s extraordinarily hard working and efficient agricultural community and to share one’s abundance with those who are less fortunate (e.g. those affected by natural disasters in the last couple years).
With these sentiments in mind, following are sources for locally produced food and drink as well as suggestions for what to do with leftovers and extra ingredients. For fun I have also included an expert's tips on cooking a turkey, and a few recipes from Maine sources.
The Big Meal
Setting the Table:
Table setting pieces - Small pumpkins or gourds from a local farm or try The Merchant Company at 656 Congress Street in Portland (207) 772 - 8525
Table linens - Madder Root for napkins and tea towels and Erin Flett for table runners, place mats, and napkins
Candles - Overland Apiaries makes beeswax candles they sell them at the Honey Exchange, Rosemont Market in Portland, and at their farm stand at 131 Bunker Hill Road in Jefferson.
Maine cranberries at Rosemont Market and Bakery's Munjoy Hill location in Portland.
Oysters and other fresh shellfish – Salt and Sea, LLC, Harbor Fish Market or Browne’s Trading Company in Portland
Cranberries, squash, potatoes, root veggies, and greens – Rosemont Market and Bakery locations, Jordan’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth, and farmers’ markets (e.g. Portland at Deering Oaks Park and in Monument Square is open thru November)
Salt – Maine Sea Salt can be found in specialty markets throughout Maine and at Whole Foods Market in Portland.
Flour – Aurora Mills and Maine Grains products can be found in some specialty stores and coops.
Maple syrup – Whole Foods Market and Rosemont carry Maine made maple syrup, and it is worth checking to see if there is a maple producer located near you and giving them a call (check out this list of producers).
Breads and pastries – Rosemont Market and Bakery (Sourdough Cranberry Walnut bread, Foccacia, a variety of flavored croissants and more), Standard Bakery in Portland (Anadama pull-apart rolls, Sage Onion Biscuits, Pumpkin Caramel Tart, Rustic Apple Galette, their own stuffing made with their Foccacia and Pain de mie, and more) to place your order call the bakery at (207) 773-2112, Scratch Bakery in South Portland (pies, cakes, and breads). Thompson’s Orchard in New Gloucester will have apple and pumpkin pies.
Wolfe’s Neck Farm in Freeport has sustainably pastured raises Broad-breasted Bronze turkeys, which are processed locally without additives and are available fresh for pick-up at the farm. They are available for preorder now through their website and will be available until sold out. They have two pick-up dates to choose from: Friday, November 22 or Wednesday, November 27. Size options range between 12 and 30 lbs. Price is $4.50/lb
Rosemont Market and Bakery has two options for turkeys (1) from Mainely Poultry in Warren (free-ranging and all-natural, no hormones or antibiotics) for $3.99/lb. (2) MOFGA-certified-organic pasture raised turkeys from Serendipity Acres in North Yarmouth, Maine at $4.99/lb. Turkey orders can be placed in any of their stores, in person or by phone.
Turkeys at Wolfe's Neck Farm in Freeport.
Let’s Talk Turkey
Brad Messier, Rosemont Market and Bakery chef, offers some professional advice on how to make the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving table a more delicious, less challenging affair.
Brad’s bottom line: If you do some work ahead of time, these will be amazing. If you leave it until too late: disaster. Thanksgiving can be busy and hectic, but a little work ahead of time pays off 1,000 times over. Sweat the following details to get yourself well set up.
Turkey: The most important thing is to buy a fresh turkey raised without preservatives, antibiotics or other weird anti-bird, anti-flavor junk. Ask your butcher enough questions about the turkey to be sure you're getting one of those. Then, decide whether you and your guests like to eat the skin. If the answer is Yes (and it should be!), then don't brine your bird (brining will prevent the skin from getting crispy). If it's No, then you do brine. Brine will keep your turkey juicier and impart more flavor (including the flavor you lost by forgoing eating the skin!).
The key to crispy, delicious turkey (other than starting with a flavorful one) is to start with a dry bird. If you don't brine, dry the skin, by putting the turkey in the refrigerator overnight, uncovered.
No butter or other additional fat necessary on a well-raised, fresh turkey. Just rub generously with salt and pepper.
Gravy: The key is to have a good stock, prepared ahead of time. Ask your local butcher for chicken bones and wings (for body). Roast the bones first, to increase flavor depth. Don't use stock from a can or Tetra-Pak! This is crucial. Buy a fresh or frozen stock from a butcher or some other producer of fresh stock, if you can't do it yourself. (But making stock yourself is so easy!) Great gravy uses roux. Roux is a kitchen basic that too many people are unfamiliar with. You can make it in advance, instead of browning/burning flour in the roasting pan at the last minute. (Surely, incorporate your pan juices. Just have a roux already made. This will help avoid the burning and lumping of your gravy.)
Stuffing: Use some of your stock. Don't use breadcrumbs from a can! Use real bread, from a loaf that you'd like to eat. You might as well buy it now and dry it out in a low oven. Use fresh sausage, from a butcher you trust.
Old Port Wine Merchants in Portland recommends uncorking this holiday season with mead from Maine Mead Works and any of Bartlett Maine Estate Winery’s whites or reds. Want to support a local store, but travel abroad? The downtown shop recommends these wines from the Italian winery Vietti: for red Vietti’s Barbera at $14.99 or white Vietti’s Arneis at $17.99. The shop also carries several excellent white and red wines from the Rhone region of France in the $10.99 range.
Gifting Part of Your Bounty
Good Shepherd Food Bank needs canned items, cereal, pasta and rice, beans, peanut butter and toiletry items. For more information about donating go here.
Donate your time or food to Wayside Food Programs, a hunger relief organization based in Portland, Maine. They have a turkey drive going on right now (frozen turkeys can be dropped off at their warehouse at 135 Walton Street in Portland between 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday thru Thursday. For more information contact Don Morrison at 207.775.4939.)
Send guests home with a container of leftovers. Talk about a nice party gift! Get crafty with a custom (or holiday themed) rubber stamp made by a local Maine artist (maybe try Pickwick Independent Press for suggestions) and White Chinese take-out boxes or just use brown paper lunch bags.
Sandwiches – get creative with the mayo, mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Maybe melt some cheese toss in a few sautéed onions, or chop up some bacon.
Jamie Golden’s Onion Soup – Version 1 from the Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association cookbook A Bountiful Year: Cooking Through the Seasons in Maine (compiled by Roberta Rae Bailey, edited by Jean English)
Cook 1 cup yellow split peas and one large, finely diced carrot in 6 to 8 cups water for about 1 hour. Turn off heat.
Add 4 large, sliced Stuttgart onions that have been sautéed till golden in butter, and a large pinch of tarragon or savory and chervil, and salt to taste.
Let set 1 hour before serving to blend flavors.
Apple Gingerbread from the Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association cookbook A Bountiful Year: Cooking Through the Seasons in Maine (compiled by Roberta Rae Bailey, edited by Jean English)
½ cup Butter, melted
1 Egg, beaten
¾ cup Honey
¼ cup Molasses
1 cup Hot water
2 ½ c Whole wheat pastry flour
1 ½ tsp Baking soda
1 tsp each Cinnamon and Ginger
½ tsp Salt
Apples, butter, honey
Beat honey, molasses, egg and water together. Add melted butter. Combine the dry ingredients and sift into liquid mixture. Mix until blended.
Melt some butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet (or 9-inch by 9-inch pan). Cover the bottom with a layer of sliced apples; drizzle some honey over the apples and sprinkle with cinnamon if desired. Pour the batter over the apples and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes or until done.
Brandied Pumpkin Pie with Cajeta from the Cantina at El Rayo, where they use pumpkins from local farms and make their own cajeta with goats milk from Mainely Poultry.
1 cup Cooked pumpkin pulp
½ cup Brown sugar
3 Eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup Heavy Cream
¼ tsp Salt
½ tsp Ground cinnamon
¼ tsp Ground cloves
1/8 tsp Ground allspice
3 Tbsp Brandy
¾ cup goats milk cajeta
1 9” pie shell
Line a 9” pie tin with pastry and crimp the edges. Spread the cajeta in the pie shell and freeze for about 20 minutes.
Combine the pumpkin with the sugar, eggs, cream, seasonings and brandy in a food processor and blend well until very smooth. Pour filling into the frozen pie shell. Bake in a 375° oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the pumpkin is set and a knife comes out clean. Cool to room temperature.
Goat’s Milk Cajeta (recipe from the Cantina at El Rayo. Keeps for a month refrigerated.)
1 qt Maine goat’s milk
1 qt Whole milk
2 cups Sugar
4” piece Cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp. Baking soda
1 Tbsp Water
In a large pot, combine the milk, sugar and cinnamon stick and set over medium heat. Stir regularly until the milk comes to a simmer (all the sugar should have dissolved by this point). Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the dissolved baking soda-it’ll foam up if the goat’s milk is too acidic. When the bubbles subside, return the pot to the heat. Adjust the heat to maintain the mixture at a brisk simmer (too high, and the mixture will boil over; too low, and the cooking time will seem interminable). Cook, stirring regularly until the mixture turns pale golden, more or less an hour.
Now, begin stirring frequently as the mixture colors to caramel-brown and thickens to the consistency of maple syrup-you’ll notice the bubbles becoming larger and glassier. Stir regularly so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Test a couple of drops on a cold plate. When cool, the cajeta should be the consistency of a medium-thick caramel sauce. If the cooled cajeta is thicker (almost like caramel candy), stir in a tablespoon or so of water and remove from the heat; if too runny, keep cooking.
Pour the cajeta through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl or wide-mouthed storage jar. When cool, cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to use.
Sharon Kitchens is a neo-homesteader learning the ins and outs of country living by luck and pluck and a lot of expert advice. She writes about bees for The Huffington Post and stuff she loves on her personal blog, deliciousmusings.com.
When she is not writing, she enjoys edible gardening, reading books on food and/or thinking about food, hanging out by her beehives and patiently tracking down her chickens in the woods behind her old farmhouse.
In her blog, Sharon profiles farm families, reports on farm-based education and internships, conducts Q&A's with master beekeepers, offers tips on picking a CSA, and much more.