From the desk of Christopher Kimball
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Dear Home Cook,
Sugaring has come early this year. Boiling started in late February, and by the first weekend in March, some sugarhouses had made more than 1,000 gallons of finished syrup. I stopped by Axel’s on March 3 and he was up to 600 gallons; he runs an oil-fired rig, and friends help him collect sap from collection tanks around town. Our own operation has 4,800 taps this year and we are up to 430 gallons but, now that the warm weather has come early, we are pretty much done for the season. (Click here for photos of sugaring in Vermont.) If you would like to be notified when the syrup goes on sale, please click here.
Tom’s daughter Jocelyn and her two-year-old son, Trip, were up from South Carolina. She cooked “venison tips” for lunch at the saphouse on the portable gas grill for Tom, Nancy, and her brother Nate. Trip wasn’t too sure about the snow and cold so he walked around saying, “Home!”
Recently I ran across this bit of humor recounted by a Mrs. Malone. On her father’s twenty-first birthday, Grandpa gave him a beautiful gold pocket watch. His presentation speech, in full, ran as follows: “Son, we’d always planned to give you a watch when you reached the age of wisdom. We’ve decided it’s better not to wait.”
Emily and I went rabbit hunting and her job was to sit in for Bernadette, Tom’s beagle, since the dog was taking the day off. Our plan was to position me about a hundred yards away and then she would walk toward me through the brush, hoping to push out a rabbit. Instead of Bugs Bunny, we found a weasel that was making a beeline for a neighbor’s chicken coop. (We had stopped at the farmhouse to ask permission to hunt.) I dispatched it quickly since we had lost half of our chickens to a wily weasel last year. They look like large ferrets—long and sleek—with dark-brown hair and well-developed teeth and claws. It is rare to see one, although when you start losing chickens, it’s a good bet that either a fox or a weasel is living nearby. (I have also seen a large hawk swoop down and attack our chickens.)
Emily and I had dinner in Brattleboro, Vermont, and Matt, a local chef, told me they have had a run of bad luck. Last fall’s hurricane flooded part of downtown; a fire destroyed much of the Brooks House, a historic hotel; and an employee at the co-op was shot and killed by a disgruntled colleague. Brattleboro is the only town I know of to have an ordinance that states that one is allowed to walk through downtown naked but only if one leaves one’s house starkers. Guess they don’t want nudists traveling from out of state and stripping down in the parking lot! (If anyone can verify this bit of urban legend, please let me know. An anti-nudity petition was tried a few years back but defeated.) Try one of the blueberry scones at Mocha Joe’s if you are traveling through town, and also order a plate of Portuguese Spaghetti at Matt’s place, Fireworks. Clothing is, I guess, optional.
The bees have had a good winter. All of the hives have made it through this year since we made a deal with a local beekeeper, Claude Horde. He looks after them and, in return, keeps half of the honey. In May, we are going to clear a larger area around the hives to give them more sun that will keep the hives warmer and drier. According to Claude, one has to be very careful not to disturb the hives during the winter since any vibrations are apt to make the bees swarm.
Finally, a few ways to tell if you are a Vermonter. You have 10 favorite recipes for venison. You design Halloween costumes that fit over a snowsuit. You owe more money on your snowmobile than on your car. You frequently clean grease off of your barbecue so the bears won’t prowl on your deck. The trunk of your car doubles as a freezer. Your town buys a Zamboni before it buys a bus. Driving in winter is better since the potholes fill with snow. You have more miles on your snowblower than on your car.
That’s about it. Keep an eye out for weasels!
Publisher and Founder
America’s Test Kitchen