Maine Seafood Chowder

Often times when I make chowder, I’m standing next to my hot cast iron wood stove (on our Maine windjammer) stirring at least a couple of pots, turning bread baking in the oven and prepping yet another baked good slatted for a future meal.  I think of how many pots of chowder have been made on wood stoves just like mine and the people these potages have nourished.

It’s a traditional meal that pulls musings of times past and almost demands the ritual of following in the footsteps of cooks that have gone before.

All sorts of chowder recipes abound in these parts, but most of them, while delicious, are not chowder in the book of old-time Mainers.  True chowder is milky, not thick, and is slightly thickened with either day old biscuits or oyster crackers (or saltines), not a roux (a flour and butter mixture).  In addition, true chowder contains salt pork, not bacon.  Always.  If either of these things are not in existence, then, I’ve been told, it’s not true Maine chowder, however yummy.

This recipe begins with the required salt pork, something fairly easy to come by in our local Maine butchers or even in the grocery store.  This salted, but not smoked, pig belly is the backbone of flavor for every traditional chowder one might concoct.  In addition, once the vegetables have sauteed and become soft, day-old biscuits are added – fairly early in the soup making process so they have ample time to soften and disintegrate, becoming indistinguishable and thickening the soup slightly.

Lastly, because I’m often making my chowder on the Riggin where I could be called away from the stove at any moment to drive the yawl boat, take the wheel, or tend to a guest, I use evaporated milk.  Evaporated milk doesn’t separate nearly as easily as straight milk when the heat is on for too long.  It’s a safety net for me and does add a bit of body and flavor to the soup as well.

Enjoy this nod to the food traditions of the past.  Who knows, maybe one of your ancestors made chowder for their people.

Maine Seafood Chowder Photo by Rocky Coast Photography

Maine Seafood Chowder
6 ounces salt pork
2 cups diced celery; about 3 stalks
2 cups diced onion; about 1 large onion
6 cups potatoes, peeled if need and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 day old biscuits or 6 saltines
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups clam juice
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cans evaporated milk
1 pound haddock
1/4 pound 40-60 shrimp, shells removed and sliced in half
1 pound fresh clams, well-cleaned or 2 cups canned clams

Score the salt pork and place it scored side down in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. When the salt pork has rendered for 5 to 10 minutes, add the celery and the onions and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the potatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the biscuits, salt, pepper, clam juice and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the biscuits have disintegrated and the potatoes are cooked through. Add the evaporated milk and bring to a simmer again. Lastly add the seafood and just cook through, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let the haddock finish cooking.

Serves 6 to 8

Annie
Headed off to make biscuits to go with AND into the chowder!

Knitting Retreat – Sheep to Shawl

We are sailing away to knit and laugh together and you should come!  Heather Kinne of Highland Handmades and I already got a good start on the laughing part when we filmed The Fiberista Files podcast together recently.

Hanging out on deck and knitting. Let's retreat together!
Hanging out on deck and knitting. Let’s retreat together!
Highland Handmade yarn by the fabulous Heather Kinne.
Highland Handmade yarn by the fabulous Heather Kinne.
Mim
Mim onboard the Riggin.

The Knitting Getaway is 4 days and 4 nights of a fiber experience with Mim Bird of Over the Rainbow Yarn (Rockland Maine’s LYS), Dyan Redick of Bittersweet Heritage Farm, and Heather Monroe Kinne of Highland Handmades as we follow the start-to-finish yarn process of shearing to spinning to knitting with handspun yarn.

We begin with a sheep shearing and skirting demonstration at Bittersweet Heritage Farm and wind up back at the Riggin for dinner at anchor.  Heather from Highland Handmades will also be joining the trip to lead a spinning demonstration where you’ll be able to spin your own fiber (roving and combtop provided) on a drop spindle. Mim Bird will be with us as well to help assess the yarn we’ve created and figure out how and what to knit with it.

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I mean could these wee ones be any cuter? Photo credit Bittersweet Heritage Farm
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Friends at Bittersweet Heritage Farm. Photo credit Bittersweet Heritage Farm

Your yarn and your project will be individual… and as relaxing or as type-A as you’d like.  This is a pretty special trip and all of the details are on the Riggin site.

Check out The Fiberista Files podcast with Heather and me! The knitting cruise part starts around 22:30.

Particulars:  June 8th – June 11th, $779 per person, all inclusive, 5% discount until Jan. 31st (10% for returning guests)

Annie
Getting my needles ready

Maine Food Cruises – Veggies and Greens, Oh My!

One of the many questions I get from folks in the cooking realm is what to do with all the veggies that come for their CSAs.  Now that Community Supported Agriculture has taken parts of our country by storm, the questions keep coming.  Among them are… What else can I do with my kale?  How do I use up that ugly kohlrabi that keeps turning up in my box?  Is there a way to combine all of these veggies in a meal or dish?

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On our Maine Gourmet Food Cruises we talk about how to combine veggies, what to do to make them interesting, and how to preserve them if you just have too darn much to use in a week’s time.

Vegetable Tip:  To keep lettuce and greens longer in the refrigerator, wash the lettuce and remove every bit of water that you can and then layer the leaves with a dish towel or paper towel.  Store in a large tub with a lid or in a resealable plastic bag.  I’ve used this technique on long, at sea adventures, on the Riggin and in my home kitchen to great effect.  Another way to preserve hearty greens is to clean and dry them, ribs removed.  Once they are dry, coat them in a thin layer of olive oil.  They will last for at least a week and a half in the refrigerator.

Annie
Thinking about greens galore and our next Maine Food Cruise, July 6 to 9!

 

Knitting Vacation – Dyeing to Knit

On a sunny day in June, our Maine Knitting Cruise crowd took to the island armed with indigo dye and yarn.  The process was magical, beautiful, creative, and a complete blast.

Below is the best of the process start to finish.  Ending with the yarn hanging over the wood stove for a final dry.  Of course the day wouldn’t have been complete without an all you can eat Maine lobster bake too!

Lobster time!  Photo by: Margie Ariano
Lobster time! Photo by: Margie Ariano
A happy camper who's had her fill. Photo by: Margie Ariano
A happy camper who’s had her fill.  You go, Nancy! Photo by: Margie Ariano

But before lobster’s were had in plenty…

The kettles of water coming up to temperature over the fire. Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
The kettles of water coming up to temperature over the fire. Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
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Jackie passing out yarn for dyeing.
Checking for temperature.
Checking for temperature.
Happy knitters taking a break while the water heats up.
Happy knitters taking a break while the water heats up.
Yarn twisted, tied and loose, ready for dyeing. Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
Yarn twisted, tied and loose, ready for dyeing. Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
At first it's green! Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
At first it’s green! Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
Then it oxidizes and turns blue.  Magic right before our eyes! Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
Then it oxidizes and turns blue. Magic right before our eyes! Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
Hanging to let the dye oxidize and set. Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
Hanging to let the dye oxidize and set. Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
A rinse in the ocean to remove excess (organic) dye.  (No oceans were harmed in this process - promise.) Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
A rinse in the ocean to remove excess (organic) dye. (No oceans were harmed in this process – promise.) Photo by: Jackie Ottino Graf
Before and after our island time... Photo by: Margie Ariano
Before and after our island time… Photo by: Margie Ariano

Annie
Can’t wait to do this again

P.S.  Our next knitting cruise is August 31 to September 5. If knitting is not your thing, try out the Maine Food Cruise – Cooking with Annie, July 6 to 9.

A Knitting Retreat to Dye For

The first of our Maine knitting cruises has come and gone with great success and many highlights to share!

The trip began with a visit to the Swan’s Island Company north of where the Riggin is docked.  Jackie Ottino Graf, the resident dye-master and social media maven of the company, took us through the dyeing process, handed out complementary patterns with yarn, and shared her extensive knowledge.

Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Damp, undyed yarn waiting for the dye vat. Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Indigo-dyed yarn hanging to dry.  Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Indigo-dyed yarn hanging to dry. Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Jackie displaying limited edition, indigo-dyed throw, "Whitecaps". Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Jackie displaying a limited edition, indigo-dyed throw, “Whitecaps”. Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Each blanket is created by hand, each “whitecap” is added by hand. Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Swan’s Island Blankets hanging in the show room. Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Gorgeousness! Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Our hosts!  Thank you Jackie, Bill and Swan's Island Company.  Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
Our hosts! Thank you Jackie, Bill and Swan’s Island Company. Photo by: Elizabeth Poisson
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Mim instructing on the first day.
Hanging out in the galley, knitting away.

The next day found us in the Rockland yarn shop, Over the Rainbow Yarn, owned by Mim Bird, resident knitting instructor extraordinaire, for last minute items and extra yarn (because who doesn’t need EXTRA yarn)?  We left the dock shortly after for our 4-day adventure armed with more yarn than we could possible knit in as many days.

Our first day had us romping across the bay to feisty winds and feistier seas with a promise of sunnier days to come.  Mim started everyone off with information on how to knit with multi-colored yarn, the difference between a tonal yarn and variegated yarn, plus many more tidbits and facts.

As with any knitting retreat, some dug right in to their project and managed to knit furiously, finishing on the last night.  Others meandered their way through the day, working on the official project some and their pet projects as well.

I’ll post photos of the actual dyeing process next, because that cool event deserves it’s own post.

Annie
My hands are blue (from indigo), but my spirit is sunny

P.S. When you go to the Swan’s Island Company website, check out what schooner is the setting for some of the photos!  And,yes, the model and the yarn are pretty too.

P.P.S.  Our next two knitting cruises are June 19 to 22 and August 31 to September 5.  You should come!

Eco-Friendly, Green and Local – What’s Next?

As a food writer and business owner I’m constantly challenged by what the next new idea is. It used to be that we were on the leading edge of things. We were one of the first 50 businesses in Maine to receive the Leadership in Hospitality award from the Department of Environmental Protection. Our “It’s All About the Food Cruises,” where 90% of our food came from within 100 miles of us, were the first of their kind in our area. Even composting and recycling on the boat — which trust me, took some effort to figure out — are places where we led the way.

But now that everyone and every business is “green” — or at least they say they are — where do we go from here to be a leader? Likewise, everyone is talking about how local they are. Now that we buy entire sides of local beef and pork, raise nearly half of our veggies in the garden and buy almost all the rest from a CSA, what’s next? Raising our own animals? On 0.6 acres of land? That’s “zero point six” acres, not 6 acres. Not likely. Perhaps we should have hens on the boat like they used to do on the ships that sailed around the world; from the beginning of the voyage those early sailors carried many of the animals that would become their sustenance.

Then my mind wanders to what prompted us to go green, local and sustainable to begin with. At the core, it was about providing a clean environment and healthy food for our family. In the end, the business received the benefit as well, but initially, all I wanted was to avoid hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, and chemicals in our food.

We began with the goal of healthy food for our family and in the process created a healthy food experience for our guests and for our schooner business.  Do we relish being a leader? Definitely. And will we keep looking for the next new good things for our family…AND for our schooner?  Absolutely.  And, in the meantime, we can also bask in the enjoyment of what we’ve created.  To love walking in the gardens early in the morning with a cup of coffee and deciding what is to be harvested for the next trip.  To know that the bulk of what we are serving and eating is full of that which is good for us.  And to enjoy the literal and figurative fruits of our creations.

I can be satisfied with that.  Absolutely.

 

Chloe Harvesting Sailing Morning

Gardening Duo 1

Gardening Duo 2

Maine – A Place to Stop and Smell the Sea Air

The state of Maine is a place of unrivaled beauty in so many ways, but none more eye-popping than the day when, after a hard spring rain, the sun emerges and suddenly, the grass turns a shocking green and the flowers all open to show off their finery.

Such was the day I drove back from Portland after doing a 207 shoot.  I had Sugar & Salt books to sell and ended up winding my way down and around the peninsulas around Boothbay Harbor.  It’s so rare for me to be exploring our state this time of year what with a schooner to get ready to sail, a household to pack up, girls to organize and crew to train.  However, the day was just too much of a gift to not enjoy.  And so I stopped, several times, to enjoy and to sell a lot of books too!

Thanks to Southport General Store and Gift Barn (Janet, De and Maria you made my day!  I hope we end up getting to enjoy each other more on one of our knitting cruises.), Oak Street Provisions, The Village Store, Sherman’s Books and Stationary and Maine Coast Book Shop for your purchases.

Other than the fantastic stores that I visited, some all ready for the summer season, and some with shelves just being dusted and stocked as I walked in the door, this is what I saw that day:

Cozy Harbor, Maine
Cozy Harbor, Maine
Cozy Harbor, Maine
Lobster buoys in Cozy Harbor, Maine
Nature path – Boothbay Harbor, Maine
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Sun on bright green moss
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More sun on more bright green moss
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Southport, Maine

SAMSUNG

Sherman Zwicker in Boothbay, Maine
Sherman Zwicker in Boothbay, Maine

Annie
Lovin’ my state