apples for charity, delicious musings, Thompson's Orchard New Gloucester

Paying It Forward: Picking Apples for Charity

The lovely Sharon, of Delicious Musings, is organizing a charitable event for The Good Shepherd Food Bank and asked a few people to help spread the word.

Want to help feed Maine’s hungry without spending a dime? Thompson’s Orchard will host “It’s Time to Pick Apples for Charity” on Saturday, October 22 from 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m., during which time the orchard is waiving the picking fee for up to 18 people picking apples for Good Shepherd Food Bank.

The family-owned orchard is located at 276 Gloucester Hill Road in New Gloucester. All ages welcome. Fresh made donuts and apple cider will be for sale and anyone is welcome to stay after 10:00 a.m. to pick apples for personal use at .98 pound.

“This has been a good growing season for apples,” said Mike Thompson, owner of Thompson’s Orchard. “This is an opportunity to have a good time while doing something charitable for others.”

“Many of us know that an increasing number of Mainers are having a hard time meeting the needs of their families and providing nutritious food for their children,” said Rick Small, president and CEO of Good Shepherd Food Bank. “But there is always something you can do to help. This apple picking event is a fun way to give back and make sure more kids will get the healthy food they need.”

Among the nearly 49 million Americans facing hunger more than 16 million are children. In Maine 200,000 residents are living at risk of hunger, including 1 in every 4 children.

Despite the good efforts of governments, private-sector institutions and everyday Americans, these children still don’t have daily access to the nutritious meals they need to live active, healthy lives.

The largest hunger relief organization in Maine, Good Shepherd Food-Bank provides for those at risk of hunger by soliciting and distributing surplus food to more than 600 partner agencies. Since 1981, the Food-Bank has partnered with individuals, businesses and farmers to alleviate hunger and build community relationships. In 2010 the Food-Bank distributed 12 million pounds of food to families and individuals throughout Maine. More information on Good Shepherd Food Bank can be found at

Anyone who wishes to volunteer to pick fruit should contact 207.542.3723.

american cheese society, charcutepalooza, charcuterie, jasper hill farms, pork, science experiments in the house

Guanciale: Phase 1

I love the women of Dandelion Spring Farm, pure and simple. Not only are they extremely friendly and grow some of the most beautiful produce, they have also bestowed upon me my first whole pig jowl.


The deeply blushed red and porcelin white lobe is sitting in the refrigerator now, coated with salt, sugar, pepper and thyme.

It will live there for nearly a week before its wrapped in cheesecloth, strung up and hung in the Missus’ office. The cooler temperatures will ease it into a cured state and turn the jowl into the Italian bacon, Guanciale.

When it’s ready, in about 3 to 4 weeks, it will be cut down, sliced and paired with my new cheese obsession: Harbison from The Cellars at Jasper Hill.

The newest addition to the Jasper Hill family of cheeses, this is one of the most complex cheeses I’ve had in a very long time. It starts out smokey, akin to a young Winnimere, then a wash of butter and cream hits, ending with a distinct mustard finish. French’s Yellow Mustard to be exact.

That beginning and end makes it a perfect pairing for cured meats. The worst part about the whole thing is the month long wait I’ll have to endure before I can savor these two together. I’ll let you know how it all goes down when the time comes.

breakfast on the go, donuts, o-rama, on the run, the holy donut

O-Rama On The Run: Breakfast

This round of ‘O-Rama‘ has us on the run. For breakfast. My meals are almost always the same: bananas, yogurt or a chocolate croissant, chosen more out of convenience than care. Occasionally there will be a danish, bagel or breakfast sandwhich but that’s about where it stops. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that donuts have never really been part of my breakfast ritual and think that’s because I’m pretty ambivalent about whats available around town. Tony’s Donuts are too dense and sweet and Dunkin’ Donuts is just boring and make my teeth hurt. Though, I will cop to picking up one or two of their Pumpkin variety in the Fall.

So, for me, Portland has been seriously lacking a good donut. We had it for a brief and sparkly moment, with Westbrook’s indulgent French Press Eatery, but now they are relegated to a smattering of brunch menus in the area, like District and The Frog and Turtle. But, not too long ago, these little fried cakes started showing up around a few coffee houses in Portland. On the counter was a simple business card that said, “The Holy Donut. Leigh Kellis, Owner.” Sadly, I always seemed too late to the party to manage to snag one, so I went on wondering.

Wonder no more, I guess, as procuring one doesn’t have to be the task that it was as Leigh Kellis has opened up a donut bar on the first floor of the East Ender, located on Middle Street in Portland. There, she’s offering at least six different flavor varieties.

I was there for over an hour and she had a steady stream of customers and spent most of that time back in kitchen frying up fresh batches. By 8:30, because sales had been so swift, Leigh began to worry aloud that she might run out of dough. This was only her second day open and it seemed the word was already out. Luckily, she had friends Mitch Gerow and Megan Schroeter, both of East Ender, lending her a hand with boxing up orders, ringing out customers and keeping the coffee flowing. Her father helped with deliveries to shops and acted as quality control in the kitchen. It was truly a family affair.

The donuts, whether the Bacon and Sharp Cheddar combination–which are shaped like half moons–or her basic Maine Potato Flour, are addictive. They remind me of the apple cider variety I was obsessed with for a good stretch in my twenties from Indian Ladder Farms, back in New York. The cakes are light, moist and fried to a perfect golden brown.

The two that I had, Bacon and Sharp Cheddar and Sweet Potato and Ginger, were vastly different. The bacon had a smokey back note, with a bite of salt and mild acidic sharpness from the cheddar. Her father noted that they could use more filling but I thought they were perfect. It was so good, I had to have two. Now, if she could just figure out how to get some scrambled eggs in the pocket, she will have made the perfect breakfast item. And I would marry her.

The Sweet Potato and Ginger was a little more subdued then the bacon was. The ginger added just the slightest bit of pepper to the sweet dough but I didn’t notice a huge flavor difference from her Maine Potato Flour. It was obvious in color, and a slightly sweeter profile, that the base was made with sweet potatoes, but I felt it could have used more ginger, or maybe some cardamon, to spice it up a bit more. But, after two bacon donuts, did the Sweet Potato ever have a chance?

And did I mention the varieties?

Did I also mention that I forgot to photograph the 70% Dark Chocolate and her Maine Potato Flour? Because, apparently, I did.

So, put the yogurt back in the fridge. Save yourself the time that you would have spent toasting a bagel and get in your car and drive down to 47 Middle Street ( from 7:30-10am, Weekdays only, kids) for a half dozen or so before you head into work or class. Just be smart and don’t tell your friends or co-workers that you have them because they’ll plot against you and try to steal your precious… err, I mean breakfast. If you do make the mistake and actually share with other people and find yourself out before you were ready to be, you can hunt down more donuts at nine different locations in and around Portland–from Bard to Lois’ Natural Marketplace.

The Holy Donut on Urbanspoon

You can read about the other O-Rama bloggers and their breakfast rituals, here, here, here, here, here and here.

lots of pork, pig fat, pig jowl, pork, pork goodness, rendering lard

How To Render Lard

I have been searching for a pig jowl for over a year now. I have dreams of making guanciale. I’ve asked at butcher counters, farmers markets and friends who said they were buying in on a pig and I’ve come up empty on every front. That was until recently when Beth, from Dandelion Spring Farm, came through for me. She had jowl, she said, but it was sliced like bacon. Fine enough for me as I was happy to get the raw product. Pig jowl is very similar to an uberfatty pork belly, with streaks of meat almost like an after thought cutting through the stark white fat. I thought that maybe I could still work with it, cure it some how, until a friend told me that it wouldn’t work. So, what to do with nearly a pound of pig fat, I pondered.

Lard, I thought. Pure, beautiful, crust enhancing lard. Make it now and use it to make a pie crust when the Missus’ family comes up for Thanksgiving. Genius.

I didn’t realize, though I should have asked, that when she said it was sliced like bacon, that it was also smoked. Mistake on my part. It wasn’t, however, going to stop me from spending an hour or so after work tending to the task over my dutch oven. The only thing that would change would be what I eventually use the lard for. Now it gives me two months to figure out a plan for that. But, they’re Lithuanian, so anything pork based and fatty, is fine enough for them.

The crackling, which was munched on while the lard cooled, reminded me of the skin of some of the best fried chicken I’ve had in my life–which, of course, had been cooked in lard. It was easy, hardly time consuming and now I have a pint of liquid gold and some time to think of a really good use for it.

How to Render Lard–from The Homesick Texan.

What you need:
A pound or so of pig fat, either leaf lard or fat back. Leaf lard is the best grade of lard and is preferred for pastry, while fat back is the next-best grade of lard and is appropriate for frying. Each pound of fat will yield about a pint of lard.
A big pot
A lard stick (though a wooden spoon will suffice)
Some water
Some containers—Mason jars work nicely.
What to do:
1. Open your kitchen window.

2. After buying your fat, preferably from a farmer or butcher that treats its hogs humanely, chop it up into little pieces.
3. In a Dutch oven or heavy, large pot, add about a half of a cup of water to the pot, and then add the cubed fat.

4. On the stove, heat the pot on medium low, stirring occasionally (every 10 minutes).
5. After the fat starts melting (about an hour), you’ll hear some very loud pops. Do not be alarmed—that is just the last gasp of air and moisture leaving what will soon become cracklings (little fried pieces of pork). Now is the time to start stirring more often.
6. Soon after, the cracklings will start floating on the surface. Keep stirring frequently, but be careful—you don’t want the fat popping out of the pot and burning you.
7. When the cracklings sink to the bottom, the lard has been rendered.

8. Let it cool, and then pour it into containers through a colander or strainer lined with cheesecloth. The cracklings will be left behind in the cheesecloth and these make for a fine, fine snack, especially sprinkled over salad if that’s not too perverse for you.
9. The lard will be a yellowish liquid. This is what it’s supposed to look like.
10. Refrigerate it overnight and when it solidifies it will turn white. It will keep in the refrigerator for about three months, and the freezer for up to a year.

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How to Buy Cheddar Cheese

Long before I moved up to Portland, I worked at a medical college library back home and would spend the slower nights diagnosing my ex-girlfriends with the DSM-IV (and I completely NAILED the diagnosis of one ex having BPD). Other nights I would look through emergency medical texts and books on trauma, which only prepared me for marathons of Bones, Wire in the Blood and Shark Week.

Now, I use the library’s unlimited resources for good and less morbid things. Like cheese. Wonderful, joyful cheese. One little gem that I recently found at the Portland Public Library was this USDA published guide, from 1967, on buying cheddar cheese.