“The Vermont Country Store Cookbook: Recipes, History and Lore from the Classic American General Store.” By Ellen Ecker Ogden and Andrea Diehl, with the Orton Family. Grand Central Life & Style. $30

I’ve never been to the Vermont Country Store, or even Vermont for that matter. But if books can transport a reader to any time and place, this cookbook whisks a reader to the humble beginnings of an iconic store that opened in 1946 and is still going strong today.

As much non-fiction narrative as a treasure trove of recipes, the cookbook is a lively read on the history of both the Orton family and the store – from a coffee advertisement sparking the idea of the store, to sending their first hand-printed catalog to everyone on their Christmas card list even before they opened a store.

Most striking in the hefty glossy pages is the spectacular photography, family lore and recollections, and stories explaining the history of certain foodstuffs or the rural way of life in Vermont. One, called “Hunting Tales,” begins, ” I recall waking up at four a.m., the earliest anyone has ever woken up in the entire history of the world ….” In another, a family member recalls grandmother Mildred struggling to explain her woodstove cooking method in an earlier cookbook, published in 1947: “You can’t quite write, ‘This is a one-log recipe and this is a two-log recipe,’ now can you?” she said.

The cookbook all but invites the reader to pull up a chair by the store’s potbellied stove (yes, they have one) and play checkers while they tell you about the store.

The recipes are tied to seasonal goods, and organized not by meal but by source: “The Kitchen Garden” chapter is about soups and salads, while “Wilds and Woods” includes recipes from game meats to wild rice cakes and blackberry cordial. All emphasize a whole-food approach: plenty of whole grains, in-season vegetables and fresh herbs are on the shopping list.

Some of the recipes lean toward the more complex, multi-step process; there is no effort to hurry up when you are on Vermont time, evidently. For a creamy sweet corn pudding souffle, I found myself surrounded by bowls and breaking out strainers and cloths and food processors and hand mixers to get to the satisfying end: a lovely, rich side dish but distinctly labor intensive. Another recipe, for blueberry-zucchini quick bread, was easy and a huge hit.

I tucked away several recipes for when our grass is greener. First up come spring is the Savory Fiddlehead Tart. For the high heat of the summer, there’s Chilled Blueberry Pie. Come autumn, I’ll be trying the Venison and Apple Chili.

Overall, I think I enjoyed the stories even more than the recipes, and I’ve started planning a long weekend trip to Vermont.


Serves 4 as main dish, 6-8 as a side

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish

6 ears fresh corn, husked

1 cup whole milk

4 scallions or 1 small onion, finely chopped (¾ cup)

3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon finely diced jalapeño

½ cup ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

½ teaspoon salt, more as needed

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter a 1-quart ovenproof baking or souffle dish.

Remove the kernels from the corncobs (you should have about 4 cups). In a food processor, puree 2 cups of the corn kernels with the milk until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Set a fine sieve over a large bowl and pour in the corn puree. Press on the solids with a rubber spatula to extract all the liquid. Set aside both the liquid and the corn puree left in the sieve.

In a medium saucepan, melt the 3 tablespoons butter over low heat. As soon as you see it start to brown, add the scallions and cook for 1 minute, stirring with the wooden spoon to keep the butter from browning. Stir in the flour, then whisk in the corn-milk liquid and cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, for 5 minutes, until it starts to thicken. Remove from the heat, stir in the remaining corn kernels, corn puree, jalapeño, ricotta, maple syrup, salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, slowly ladle a small amount of the hot liquid over the egg yolks while stirring vigorously. Once they are blended, pour everything back into the saucepan and briskly stir again. (This tempers the egg yolks and keeps them from curdling or cooking too quickly.) Continue stirring over low heat until well blended, then remove from the heat.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand-held mixer, whip the egg whites until they hold firm peaks. Using a rubber spatula, slowly fold the egg whites into the corn-milk base, gently stirring to fully incorporate. Transfer the batter to the prepared dish and set in a large roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the baking pan until it comes halfway up the side of the baking dish.

Bake for 55 minutes, or until the pudding is golden and puffy and is sturdy when jiggled, making sure that the center is firm. Bring to the table hot and serve warm.