Archive for September, 2009

It’s Almost Pudding Time!

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009
Pudding Festival poster web copy 
As many readers know, one of my favorite fall activities is the Pudding Hollow Pudding Festival. This yearly homage to small-town life and food blends many of my passions–food, music, humor, and hammy acting.
The poster above (designed by Leon Peters of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts–thanks, Lee!) should give you some idea of the colorful yet homey nature of this event.
This year’s festival will take place on Saturday, October 31 (yes, Halloween!), at the Federated Church on Route 2 in Charlemont, Massachusetts.
Entries to the contest portion of the day are due by 11 am that morning so PLEASE START THINKING ABOUT MAKING A PUDDING. And tell your friends about this event.
(Those who have entered in past years may wonder why we’re not having a pre-contest to narrow down finalists. The Sons & Daughters of Hawley have gotten so darn busy lately that we couldn’t find a date on which our volunteers could schedule it. Think how much more exciting this will be!)
If you enter, you will have fun, contribute to a great cause (the $12 entry fee goes to our historical-society building project), and probably get at least a very small prize (we have quite a few!).
Entries need not be elaborate. As you can see from our contest information pages, our definition of the word “pudding” is highly flexible.
Non-cooks may shop, eat a yummy lunch, and watch the free fabulous entertainment.
We’ll get everyone home in time for trick-or-treating!
If you have questions about the day or if you’d like to volunteer to help, please use the contact form on this blog to get in touch with me, Tinky.
The contest web site includes a list of prizes and pictures of last year’s festivities.
Here’s the winning recipe from 2006 to get you in a pudding mood. The winner, Leigh Bullard of Virginia, blended two of my favorite flavors, chocolate and mint. (Obviously, the combination appealed to the judges as well.)
Chocolate Mint Pudding for web
Michael’s Almost Famous Chocolate Mint Pudding
1 cup white sugar
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 square (1 ounce) unsweetened chocolate, preferably a good brand
2 tablespoons sweet butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup boiling water
whipped cream and crushed peppermint (if desired) as needed for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Into a bowl sift 3/4 cup of the sugar with the flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat in the milk, vanilla, and peppermint extract.
Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler. Add them to the other mixture. Pour this batter into a greased small 1-1/2- to 2-quart casserole dish.
Blend the brown sugar, the remaining white sugar, and the cocoa, and sprinkle them on top of the batter. Pour the water over all. Bake for 40 minutes. Serve with whipped cream (or ice cream) and peppermint if desired. Serves 6 to 8.
The 2006 Pudding Head samples her entry.

The 2006 Pudding Head samples her entry.

Messy But Good Birthday Cake

Monday, September 28th, 2009

apple chocolate cake web

I may have mentioned before that presentation is NOT my forte.
Most of the things I make taste pretty good. Quite a few look … well, I guess the polite way to put it would be “homemade.”
The cake I baked for my mother’s birthday on Saturday was a case in point.
First I made a teensy (okay, a big) error in not making sure the pan was balanced in the oven. It tipped a bit as the cake baked, rendering the whole creation a little lopsided and not incidentally spilling batter onto the floor of the oven. My dog Truffle was NOT happy when the smoke alarm went off!
Next, I rushed through icing the thing. As a result, my lopsided cake was messier than ever.
Luckily, I had some gel and sprinkle to cover up at least some of the mess. Even more luckily, the birthday girl and her guests were nice enough not to mention the way the cake looked. And of course it did taste fantastic–moist from the apples yet very cakelike.
I thought of taking a photo of Jan on her 91st birthday. Unfortunately, the idea didn’t enter my mind until nine o’clock that night. She had gone to bed at 8:30. This doesn’t mean she didn’t have a great birthday–only that she is indeed 91.
I do have pictures of her 90th birthday party on the blog post for THAT event.
Meanwhile, here’s the recipe. Do watch your placement of the pan in the oven. (To be extra sure, put a cookie sheet under it!) Read this article from Tony at Appliance Hunter for more oven tips.

Apple Chocolate Cake
If you want to increase the apple presence in this recipe, use the powdered buttermilk manufactured by SACO, available in many grocery stores. Add 2 tablespoons of buttermilk powder to the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; then stir in 1/2 cup sweet cider when the recipe calls for the liquid buttermilk.
2-1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup canola oil
1-3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups grated apple (about 2 medium apples)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, and set aside. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, cream together the butter, oil, and sugar in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, and beat in the vanilla. Next, add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, blending well after each addition. Stir in the apple.
Pour the batter into a greased, 10-inch bundt pan. Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake for ten minutes; then remove it from the pan, and let it cool completely before frosting with cream-cheese frosting. Topping the whole with seasonal sprinkles and/or candy corn is a plus. Makes 12 servings.
piece of apple cake web

Canning Camp

Thursday, September 24th, 2009
Canning jars web
My neighbor Mary Kay Hoffman likes to organize a “canning camp” in the late summer for her children and grandchildren. Putting food by with her offspring helps her manage the output of her vast garden and store food for the coming winter. It also enables her to pass along useful skills.
A few years ago it seemed as though the art of home food preservation was dying. With most fruits and vegetables available year round in grocery stores (albeit not in super-fresh form) not everyone saw the need to can, freeze, dry, or prepare a root cellar at this time of year. As a result, fewer and fewer people had the basic skills needed to put food by.
Now two factors are reversing this trend. First, Americans’ increasing interest in living sustainably makes growing (or locally buying) one’s own food more appealing. This is particularly true here in New England. In Florida, Texas, or California local produce is available year round. Here we know the snow drifts will cover gardens and farms within a few months.
Second, the poor economy has helped drive up the sales of canning jars and other home-preserving paraphernalia. Since labor is donated home preserved food is often more affordable than its store-bought competition. It is also given a boost by the fact that one knows exactly what ingredients went into it–and that it is generally made with love.
Not everyone knows how to put food by, of course, even in the country where I live. One organization here in the hilltowns of western Massachusetts recently took it upon itself to help local cooks gain preserving skills by running a public canning camp.
Share the Warmth is an Ashfield group that grew out of last year’s oil crisis. Through it town residents have helped their neighbors stay warm in a number of ways. They have aided individuals in performing basic home weatherization. Last year members rounded up winter coats for those who needed them–and organized a shelter during the ice storm that devastated much of New England in December.
Share the Warmth has also created a woodpile for people who run out of wood, and its members are planning a community garden for next year. Its most recent project was led by Mary Link, a notable canner. Mary has now organized two canning workshops to help her neighbors share summer’s sunshine all year round.
She taught neighbors to make strawberry jam in early July. Her second canning camp, which helped participants put up dilly beans, took place in early September.
Dilly bean ingredients await canning. Dilly bean ingredients await canning.
Mary Link has many skills in addition to canning. She works as an administrator in the Greenfield school system and also teaches textile arts in the high school there. “I’m involved with the Ashfield Community Theater, I sing in Greenfield Harmony, I keep track of my wonderful 13-year-old daughter, and I swim across the lake,” she told me.
Clearly, canning is an important part of that busy life. I watched Mary set up for the dilly-bean workshop and was impressed with her cheerfulness and competent demeanor. When it was over I asked her how she felt about both workshops.
She replied happily that she had run into a number of participants from the first workshop who boasted of their newfound success in home canning. “It’s one of those things you feel more comfortable about if you see it done than reading about it in a book,” she explained. She hopes the program will expand next year.
Meanwhile, she has shared her recipe with my readers. Mary went into great detail about the process of sterilizing and processing jars. For that information, I refer readers to a couple of great web sites. The United States Department of Agriculture offers a PDF version of its home-canning guide. The University of Georgia also offers helpful facts and publications for the home canner.
Happy canning………
Mary Link gets ready to make dilly beans.

Mary Link gets ready to make dilly beans.

Mary’s Dilly Beans
Mary Link is the expert here so I’m simply reprinting the recipe she handed to participants at her workshop (and very kindly shared with me).
The “I” here is therefore not Tinky but Mary. I appreciate her thoroughness in including equipment as well as ingredients in her list of necessities for canning.
I made a batch of these myself, and I can’t wait to try them in a few weeks!
for the brine:
6 cups water
4 cups apple cider vinegar
1/6 cup non-iodized salt (Morton’s calls it plain; pickling or Kosher salt may also be used)
for the beans:
2 to 3 pounds fresh string beans
1 full bunch dill (or more–I like the leaves best, but umbels in flower or seed can be used, too)
2 to 3 heads garlic (I put in about 2 to 3 cloves garlic per jar, depending on how big the cloves are. If you love garlic, you may want to put in more. The pickled cloves are delicious.)
1 cup mustard seeds
slices of hot pepper or other vegetable (optional)
Materials and Equipment:
7 to 8 pint canning jars and lids (I use the wide mouth–easier to get beans into and out of). They come with lids if you buy them new. A canner can hold 7 jars.
paper towels or dishtowels for setting the sterilized jars on; a cookie sheet may also be helpful
a canner for sterilizing the jars and canning bath
1 6-to-8-quart pot (stainless steel or enamel–not aluminum) for cooking the brine
a colander to wash the beans
bowls, cutting board, and knives for de-stemming the beans and skinning and cutting the garlic
long-handled spoon to stir brine
canning-jar tongs
Sterilize the jars. While they are boiling, mix and start heating the brine ingredients in their pot. Do not boil for long to avoid water loss.
Prepare the beans. (You can do this while you’re sterilizing the jars!) Wash the beans, and cut off the stem ends. Cut them to a length that leaves about a 3/4-inch space above them in the jar when standing on end. Save the shorter beans and pieces to fill in with at the end. (If you are entering them into a fair, you will want to cut them all perfectly evenly and pack the jars so they all line up and look perfect.)
Prepare the garlic (also while waiting for the water to boil, or you can do it ahead). Remove the skins from 14 to 20 cloves of garlic. Cut the cloves in half or in three so you have big chunks.
Prepare the dill. Rinse and separate the dill sprigs, remove any bad bits.
Pack the jars. Once the jars are sterilized, first pour mustard seeds in so that they barely cover the bottom of the jar (there will be more on the sides and less or none in the center as it is higher). Then throw in about 4 to 5 pieces of the garlic; then a sprig or two of the fresh dill (dividing the total among the 7 jars).
Add any other vegetables you are using. Then start filling the jar with the beans. It helps to tilt the jar to the side.
Pack the beans in as tightly as you can easily, using the longer beans first and filling in the spaces at the top with shorter pieces at the end. I like to add another sprig of dill on the top at the end, pressed down into the beans so that it will get covered by the brine. Pack all the jars before adding the brine.
Pour boiling brine over the beans in the jars. I use a measuring cup to make the pouring easy. Fill to about 1/2 inch of the top of the jar. Leaving the air space at the top is necessary for the canning process.
Cover the jars with the two-piece jar lids as you go along. Screw the bands tightly (finger tight). Place the jars on the elevated rack in the canner. Lower the rack into the canner. Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches; add boiling water if needed.
Cover the pot. Bring the water just to a boil. This will take a while because the raw beans will have reduced the temperature of the boiled brine. Once the water boils, turn it off. You do not want the beans to cook. Remove the jars from the hot water and place them upright on a towel to cool completely.
As the jars cool the lids should make a satisfying “pop” sound, indicating that they have sealed. When sealed, the “button” in the middle of the lid should be indented. After the jars cool you can check the seals by pressing the middle of the lids with a finger. (If the lid springs back, it is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)
It is best to let the jars stand at room temperature 24 hours before moving them.
Then –this is the hardest part–you need to let the beans pickle for about 6 weeks before eating. I put a note on my calendar and by the beans to remind me when they will be ready. Store unopened jars in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 1 year. Refrigerate opened jars– if there are any beans left once you open them. In my house they get gobbled up fast!
Joanne Ostrowski and Sue Craft at the dilly-bean workshop (courtesy of Mary Link)

Joanne Ostrowski and Sue Craft at the dilly-bean workshop (courtesy of Mary Link)

Local Peach Ice Cream (Read It and Crave!)

Monday, September 21st, 2009
The mixing room at Bart’s Homemade Ice Cream in Greenfield, Massachusetts, isn’t large–just spacious enough for machinery and a few people. Three of them were manning the machines on September 10. All eyes were on “Little Tommy Snow,” the silver-and-blue cylinder that mixes the ice cream for both Bart’s and Snow’s ice cream.
On this special day Tommy was blending a new flavor. Into the creamy basic ice-cream formula “he” was whipping air and an orangey-yellow mixture made with peaches from Apex Orchards in nearby Shelburne.

Little Tommy Snow web

The other people in the room were Barbara Fingold and Gary Schaefer, the mom-and-pop owners of Bart’s and Snow’s ice cream; their Flavor Maven, Bob Jaros of Shelburne; and yours truly, a longtime fan of both ice cream and peaches (with the hips to prove it!). All eagerly awaited the first taste of Bart’s new CISA Local Peach Ice Cream.
Barbara is the president of Bart’s so it was only fitting that she was given the first creamy spoonful. As she sampled the still soft custard she widened her eyes and then smiled. Gary, Bob, and I tasted the next cups. The judges’ unanimous verdict came swiftly: the new flavor was peachy keen.
The ice cream’s intense peach flavor hits the tongue right away. The little chunks of peach distributed throughout complement the custard–and reinforce the taste of peaches and cream in every mouthful.
After our initial tasting we repaired to Gary’s office with a pint of ice cream. There we discussed the genesis of Bart’s latest product as we noshed.
Barbara and Gary explained that both the peach ice cream and the CISA Berry Local Blueberry Ice Cream that debuted this summer stemmed from Gary’s involvement in the board of CISA, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture.
Gary celebrated the peach ice cream as “a collaborative community event.” The peaches came from Apex. The Franklin County Community Development Corporation food processing center blanched, skinned, pitted, and pureed the peaches.
Barbara and Gary try some peach ice cream. Barbara and Gary try some peach ice cream.
And of course the ice cream was mixed right in Barbara and Gary’s small factory on School Street.
The pair have been involved with CISA for most of the nonprofit entity’s existence. “We’re crazy, passionate about local food,” said Gary. If all goes well, he added, Bart’s is “going to think about an apple [ice cream] and then whatever other crazy fruits grow around here.”
I asked Bob Jaros about his role at the ice-cream plant. A retired physician, he works on quality-assurance programs for a number of companies. It was clear from his contented demeanor that Bart’s and its products have a special place in his heart and mouth. “You need a palate for ice cream,” he told me. “I’ve learned with the tutelage of my friends.”
Gary explained that Bob’s work is important to Bart’s quality and reputation. “If you work in your kitchen and you mess up your cake, you mess up A cake,” he told me. “If we mess up our formula, we mess up a whole batch of ice cream.”
“Everything is tested,” Bob Jaros added, “and if it’s not right we find out before it’s sent out.”
Bob Janos

Bob Jaros

Like Gary and Barbara, he is a firm believer in local production and supports the idea as well as the flavor of the new ice cream. “In essence the whole circle is one that supports the community in local products and local manufacturing,” he said.
Gary interrupted Bob to remind him that the milk in Bart’s and Snow’s is not yet completely local: it is processed in a small farming cooperative in New York State. He said that one of his dreams is to establish a local dairy-processing plant. “It’s this winter’s project … along with our roof,” he remarked with a wry smile.
Bob declared that one of the reasons he likes Bart’s and Snow’s ice cream so much is the high quality of the product.
“We make it the same way we did 15 years ago, which is not the case with big multinational ice creams,” explained Gary Schaefer. “They’ve all change their formula to make it less expensive.
“We didn’t have to do anything to get better,” he said. “We simply had to not change. That’s kind of a symbol of what’s going on in the whole industry. All that corporatizing of America has been really good for us.”
Bart’s CISA Local Peach ice cream is available at local stores now–until this year’s crop runs out!
Bart’s lists all the locations that sell Bart’s ice-cream pints on its web site.
“Not all [of these] will have the peach,” Barbara Fingold told me, “but most will since we’re mentioning it to all our customers and everyone seems very excited about it.”
Happy scooping………….


Rosh Hashanah Honey Chicken

Friday, September 18th, 2009


The Jewish New Year arrives at sunset tonight. I have warm memories of going to Temple with my grandmother on Rosh Hashanah every September when I was little.
With a Jewish father and a Protestant mother, I was actually brought up Unitarian. By and large Unitarianism worked for me. It encouraged both humanism and skepticism.
Nevertheless, as a religion (rather than a school of thought) it had its frustrating moments. I remember asking once in Sunday school what I should believe, theologically speaking. I was presented with statistics about what percentage of Unitarians believed in God, Jesus, and so forth.
It was interesting information but not very helpful to a nine year old.
The Jewish New Year always satisfied the young Tinky. Going to Temple gave me all the religious ritual and certainty the Unitarians lacked. 
Even better, it was a social event as well as a religious one. My grandmother sat upstairs in the balcony with an entire community of women. They kept one ear focused on the service and the other on each others’ news.
Rosh Hashanah also appealed and appeals to me because it falls at a time of year that feels a lot newer than that of the Christian New Year.
We start school years in September. We start diets in September. (I usually do, anyway). Fall is a time of balance, of transition, of summing up and thinking ahead–in short, a perfect time to celebrate and calibrate the New Year.
Honey is a traditional addition to meals at Rosh Hashanah. It helps cooks wish everyone at the table a sweet year.
Last year at this time I made a tasty honey cake. This year I wanted to try something savory. A girl can have too much cake in her life.
I got a little help from the folks at, a web site that offers more than 15,000 different kosher products for home delivery. publicized itself and celebrated the New Year earlier this week by distributing apples, honey, and recipes at various New York City locations by means of a giant motorized shopping cart. I wasn’t able to go to New York so its publicist kindly sent me a few recipes. They were devised by Jamie Geller,’s “chief foodie officer.”
I made this chicken dish last night. It couldn’t have been easier to prepare–and the soy sauce kept the honey from over-sweetening the chicken.
If I made it at another time of year, I’d probably raise the proportion of soy sauce to honey to make the sweetness even more subtle. I’d also try substituting maple syrup for the honey since I love maple syrup.
God did NOT promise the Israelites a land of milk and maple, however, so for Rosh Hashanah I’ll stick with the honey.
I wish you all a sweet New Year! Here are links to a couple of my other recipes to sweeten it, by the way: a honey chicken with soy (oh, yum!) and a VERY simple harvest honey and corn dish.
Jamie Geller’s Honey Chicken
1 chicken (about 3-1/2 pounds), cut into eight pieces
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely minced (Jamie actually suggested 1 tablespoon garlic powder, but I didn’t have any in the house so I used fresh instead)
1 teaspoon black pepper (I just turned the pepper grinder several times)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch pan.
Rinse the chicken pieces, pat them dry, and place them in the baking dish.
In a small bowl combine the honey, soy sauce, oil, garlic, and pepper. Pour this mixture over the chicken.
Bake the chicken in the preheated oven until it is golden brown (about an hour–maybe a little less for some of the smaller pieces), basting from time to time. Serves 4 generously.
Jamie Geller (Courtesy of

Jamie Geller (Courtesy of

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