Posts Tagged ‘baseball food’

Ballpark Food III: Cracker Jack

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Today’s tribute to baseball food falls on the 85th birthday of Yogi Berra, the colorful player and manager whose propensity for malapropisms has made him the Sam Goldwyn of Baseball.
My favorite, of course, is food related: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Happy Birthday, Mr. Berra!
As a chanteuse I can’t do a series on ballpark food without alluding to baseball’s signature song, the 1908 hit “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I never get back.
Historians make much of the fact that neither the lyricist, Jack Norworth, nor the composer, Albert Von Tilzer, had ever attended a baseball game when they came up with the song.
I’ve never seen a professional baseball game in person, but I still understand the place of the sport in American culture—and clearly so did Norworth and Von Tilzer.

Nowadays few Americans recall that the song has verses. Here they are as they appeared in the 1908 sheet music (along with the more famous chorus, of course!) in an early Edison cylinder recording.

Cracker Jack predated the song and this recording, making its mass-market debut in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. (It was then called “Candied Popcorn and Peanuts,” not receiving its name for a few more years.)
I love caramel corn—and CJ is nothing but caramel corn with a hint of molasses.
I’m afraid you’ll have to provide your own prizes……..
2 quarts freshly popped popcorn
1 cup roasted shelled peanuts
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, VERY firmly packed
5 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 generous tablespoon molasses
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Mix together the popcorn and peanuts and place them on a large jelly-roll pan (a cookie sheet with sides) in the preheated oven.
In a small saucepan combine the remaining ingredients. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring. Cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid reaches about 260 degrees. It should form a definite but pliable ball when inserted into cold water.
Remove the popcorn and peanuts from the oven. Quickly but gently pour the caramel mixture over them and stir. Return the pan to the oven.

Cook for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes and making sure that all of the solid material is covered with the coating. If it starts to stick to the pan earlier, remove it from the oven; you’re aiming for Cracker Jack, not peanut/popcorn brittle!
When you remove the pan from the oven, transfer the Cracker Jack to sheets covered with waxed paper to cool. Store in an airtight container.
Makes about 2 quarts of candy-coated popcorn with peanuts. Don’t forget to add a prize or two!

This 1907 Cracker Jack postcard featured President Teddy Roosevelt (Courtesy of Yellowstone National Park)

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Ballpark Food II: Fenway Franks

Monday, May 10th, 2010

I mentioned in my last post that hot dogs are the top-selling concession item at Fenway Park in Boston. I suspect that they dominate the menu in ballparks all over the country.
I’m still enough of a kid to love hot dogs, and I have a feeling I’ll never outgrow my fondness for these warm, portable meals.
Fenway Park is pretty specific about what it calls the Fenway Frank. The offical Red Sox hot dog features brown mustard–not yellow!–with a little relish on a New England-style bun. Feel free to vary this recipe by using your own favorite condiments.
I didn’t make relish for this post since the ingredients aren’t yet in season. I did bake hot-dog buns, however, with the help of my mother and sister-in-law. A New England-style hot-dog bun has soft sides. If you’d like your sides more crispy, just place your rising buns a little farther apart.
As you can see from the photo above, my family’s own baseball player is now a convert to home-made hot-dog buns………
Fenway Franks
1 New England-style hot-dog bun (see recipe below)
1 hot dog (Fenway Park serves Kayem franks, which are made in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and steams them. I like to grill them.)
brown mustard and relish (preferably homemade) to taste
Split the bun in the middle. Insert the hot dog into the bun, and cover it with mustard and relish. Makes 1 frank. Be sure to spill mustard and relish all over yourself as you cheer for your favorite team! 

New England Hot Dog Buns (from King Arthur Flour)
King Arthur Flour notes that this dough should be very relaxed so the buns will be soft and tender. When you’re adding the flour, don’t overdo it; just add enough after the first 3 cups to make the bread kneadable and to keep it from sticking to you or the board.
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees—slightly warmer than lukewarm but not hot)
1 cup warm milk (ditto)
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 3-3/4 cups flour
In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar and then the yeast in the warm water. Add the milk, the butter, the salt, and 1-1/2 cups of flour to the yeast mixture. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.
Gradually add more flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface.
Knead until you have a smooth, elastic dough.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl. Turn once to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly-woven dampened towel and let rise until doubled. King Arthur Flour says this will take about an hour; in my house it took quite a bit longer.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface. Divide it into thirds, and divide each of those into thirds again so that you have nine pieces. Roll them into little balls.
Roll the balls into cylinders, 4 1/2-inches long. Flatten the cylinders slightly and place them on a well-seasoned baking sheet 1/2 inch apart so they’ll grow together as they rise.
Cover with a towel and let rise until almost doubled—an hour or so. Keep an eye on the buns; if they rise too fast, they’ll stick to the towel and make a mess. (Can you tell I’m writing from experience?) If you can find a way to lightly cover the buns with a box or something do that instead to avoid the danger of sticking.
Fifteen minutes before you want to bake your buns, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Bake the buns for 20 minutes or until they are a nice golden brown.
When the buns are done, remove them from the baking sheet to cool on a wire rack.
Makes 9 buns. This recipe may be doubled.

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Take Me Out to the Ball Game (but don’t forget to feed me!)

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Fenway Park (Courtesy of the Boston Red Sox)

My nephew is in love with his Little League team and has started to watch grownup baseball on TV. For a non-sports fan like me this is trying: I’m only just now recovering from being subjected to hockey and basketball games!
I can always cook, however.
In honor of baseball season, then, my next few recipes will be for foods that are popular at ballparks—particularly at my state’s own Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.
I called the publicity folks at Fenway, who were nice enough to provide me with a little information about their current menu.
Not surprisingly, the most popular food item sold at the ballpark is the hot dog. On Opening Day alone this year the concessionaires estimated that they sold more than 23,000 Fenway Franks.
Other popular items include pizza, hamburgers, nachos, soft pretzels, and funnel cakes.
In keeping with trends across the country, Fenway has begun to feature more healthy foods on its menu—vegetarian sandwiches and salads, yogurt, hummus with crackers, and fresh fruit.
I asked Fenway’s historian, Dick Bresciani, whether he had any information about what was served during the park’s first season in 1912. In that year the Red Sox beat the New York Giants to win the tenth World Series. 

Courtesy of the Boston Public Library Print Department

Unfortunately, Dick had no documentation about food from that year. He did share with me the earliest material he could find, from the official 1927 Fenway program.
In it Fenway advertised Neapolitan Ice Cream, “sold exclusively within Fenway Park.” “Always fresh and wholesome,” read the advertisement. “Order from the boy.”
Other treats included Oh Henry Bars (ten cents), White Rock Mineral Water and Ginger Ale, and Wrigley’s Double Mint Chewing Gum. “The real peppermint flavor is deliciously cooling to parched throats!” the program boasted.
I almost made Neapolitan ice cream but decided that the challenge of lining up separate ice-cream makers for the three flavors was beyond me.
Instead, I’m helping readers make a refreshing glass of freshly squeezed lemonade—the perfect drink throughout baseball season.
I promise you’ll hit a home run with it!
This recipe is quite flexible. Taste the lemonade before you serve it and see what suits you best.
Some of my family members like it with more lemon; some (Michael!), with a little more sugar syrup. You may also make it a little stronger or a little weaker.
I like it just the way it is here.
Ballpark Lemonade
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, more or less to taste
3 tablespoons simple syrup (equal parts of water and sugar, brought to a boil and heated until the sugar dissolves), more or less to taste
water as needed
mint for garnish (optional)
Place ice in a 12-ounce glass. Add the lemon juice, sugar, and water, and stir gently to blend. Taste and adjust flavors. Garnish with mint if desired.
Makes 1 glass.

Psyche, the White Rock Logo, in the 1920s

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