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Month: November 2008

The Stripers Are Here

THE STRIPERS ARE HERE !!! The American Striper Association ran their annual Fall Tournament, hosted by South Jersey Marina. There were 47 boats entered and many, many fish were caught and many were also released during the event. Each boat was only allowed to weigh two of their heaviest qualifying fish. The winning boat, “Oh Well” had two real nice fish (45 and 35 pounds). That total weight of 80 pounds enabled him to take top honors.

On the same day, our Charter Boat “Big Game” was in the bay and he too had a great day. He weighed in a 42.8
lb. Striper. He also reported many releases of qualifying fish.

This is prime time for Striped Bass fishing. If you want to share in the excitement and the pleasure of catching these beautiful species, contact our marina for a charter reservation on 609-884-3800.


Fall in Pictures

So what do the locals do once Labor Day is over and October has set in? Like those hobbit creatures of mythological lure, we creep out when few eyes are upon us to take advantage of a deserted beach, a quiet country road and take note of the scenes of fall that locals and tourists alike will relish as the days grow shorter.


Art of the Island Craftsman

There is art and there is craftsmanship. Once in a while the two magically come together. This occurs when the craftsman has so mastered his or her medium that it transforms into art, functional art. The craftsmen featured have each achieved a standard of excellence in their medium which has garnered them a reputation for excellence and enabled them to earn their living doing what they love.

Mary Stewart

By day she is Chief Outreach Officer at the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts (MAC). Part of her duties involve sewing – making and mending Victorian costumes for the interpreters to wear when leading the tours through the Emlen Physick Estate. By night she works with fabric of a different nature – turning all kinds of different fabrics and beads into all kinds of useful products. Hand-knitted scarves, shawls and beaded tapestry bags are her specialty. Although we did not peek into her closets at her North Cape May home, we took her at her word that they are chock full of fabrics which she has collected over the years.

It all started with the measles. “My mom taught us all how to knit,” she said, as we photographed her sewing room. “I was six years old and we all had the measles at the same time. This was in the early days of the television age. The television was downstairs and we were [confined] to the upstairs and our bed. She lined all four of us up on the bed and taught us all how to knit. I didn’t take it up again until after she had died and I [inherited] all her needles and pattern books.”

 

Sewing, however, was another matter. Mary started sewing at ten years old and has never stopped. “As soon as my mom saw I had interest and aptitude,” she recalled, “she let me go with the sewing machine and I [later] made my wedding dress, my bridesmaid dresses and my sister’s wedding dress.”

Her love of functional art soon led her into designing period costumes for MAC and, not one stay idle, during the few hours of off-time she has, she began experimenting with tapestry fabric and beading for purses. Her hands are always busy, but her handiwork can be seen at any of the MAC-sponsored craft shows at Convention Hall. “I’m kind of auditioning for retirement,” she said. “I’m not planning on retiring for a long time, but I was wondering if this was a viable pastime. It keeps me busy. It satisfies me because I have a product. And, it would be a nice way to make some extra money.”

Canyon Allen

His degree is in jewelry design but as Canyon Allen says, “When they kick you out the door, you don’t have that million dollars worth of equipment to make the jewelry and it’s really hard to get into that field.” So he decided to make pretzels. As part-owner of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels in Carpenter’s Square Mall, Canyon one day decided he needed to be doing something a little more creative. So, he went to the library and discovered a book on soap making – the old fashioned way. The way your grandmother, make that great-grandmother, made it. In the “olden days” the women gathered up all the fat, be it bacon or other cooking fats, added lye and made one large chunk of soap which the family used the rest of the year.

 

“I thought that was really cool,” said Canyon just as he was about to start the big mixer – a prelude to pouring the soap into the plastic molds. “So I tried it, but used olive oil instead, which is really great for your face. It was right around Christmas time, and I made about $1,000 off my friends for Christmas, so I thought ‘I got something going on here.’”

Nine years later A Place on Earth has relocated from its original Park Boulevard location to the downstairs level at Winterwood Gift and Christmas Shoppe on the corner of the Washington Street Mall and Ocean Street, and Canyon has successfully achieved his goal of “bringing soapmaking into the 21st century and reviving an art form.”

 

Shortly after his wholesale/retail business took off, his mother, Rose lost her lease on her retail Ocean City, NJ store. “So we thought this was perfect timing,” he said. “We put our heads together and thought we could do a mom-and-son shop.” They now have wholesale customers across the country, including Alaska. QVC has featured their soaps, and A Place on Earth’s new location has doubled their retail sales.

A typical day? “If I’m making product, we make the lye first. It heats up [in five gallon buckets] to 250°. Then I wait for it to cool to 100° degrees. There’s really more work in getting it ready than in actually mixing the soap. The oil tank has coconut, palm and olive oil which is kept at room temperature.” The oil mixture eventually heats up to 110° when combined with the lye. Then Canyon starts making the soap and adding the herbs and essences of oil. He works with about three or four perfumeries to help him get the right concoction of oils to create the scents people love.

“I have a Cape May scent – it has bergamot, rosewood, lavender, and apple martini. We make it pink. People love it.”

Other bars of soap people love? Sex on the Beach, Lemon Poppy Seed Bar and Wildwoods – all cut individually, weighed and wrapped in deli paper or, in the case of the bath salts, Chinese food containers. Sugar scrub? That’s packaged in pint-sized plastic deli containers. But if it’s for a special gift – glass containers and pretty wraps are available as well.

This article originally appeared in Cape May Magazine‘s Winter 2007 issue. For the full article featuring all five craftsmen, please buy a back copy.


The Pumpkin: Thanksgiving’s Centerpiece

In a historic town like Cape May, seasonal decorations that are quaint and natural are often seen in autumn! I know that some folks begin to decorate for Christmas in mid-November, but others hold out until after Thanksgiving.

Pumpkins are often scattered here and there in doorways and along paths in the spirit of an abundant harvest rather than as a remnant of Halloween. These Early American native vegetables come in many sizes from mini-pumpkins to the traditional round pumpkins – so loved for jack o’lanterns – to great, big, huge pumpkins used as decorative focal points.Cooks also associate pumpkins with Thanksgiving using them in making soups, pies, cookies and cakes. As the leaves fall, pumpkins often seem to pop up like mushrooms along walks, next to mailboxes, on porches, on hearths and even on the kitchen table.

They are so bright and pretty that they are a natural for autumn decorating. A typical fall dinner party could have a fresh pumpkin as a soup tureen, one from which to serve hot cider, another one for the centerpiece and decorated mini-pumpkins as favors. All can be gaily trimmed with or filled with fall leaves, berries, pods, grasses and brightly colored mums.

Choose hard, firm pumpkins that have good sturdy stems. Wash the outside of a pumpkin with a strong bleach solution to prevent mold. Usually it is best to hollow out a pumpkin as close to when it will be used as possible (i.e. night before or morning of). Save all seeds to roast or to feed the birds. Some folks tell me that they also spray straight bleach on a pumpkin that sits on a porch or steps to help prevent animals from eating it. The hot pepper spray used to repel rabbits from the garden might also keep squirrels away.

Thanksgiving Pumpkin centerpiece

To make a pretty centerpiece in a pumpkin, first cut the top from the pumpkin, remove the seeds and place a wet piece of floral foam (oasis) in the opening of the pumpkin with at least one inch of the foam above the opening. This is so you can hang leaves, berries and other materials over the edge. Precut blooms and allow them to sit in water and drink for several hours before placing in the foam if possible. Grasses, pods, colorful leaves and other natural foliages found in the garden work well.

Arrange the grasses or other tall materials in the center for a centerpiece or in the back if it is to be a one-sided arrangement. Place brightly colored mums in a pleasing pattern. Add berries, leaves, and other fall pods or blooms in an eye-catching manner. I like to add some extra long cinnamon sticks, a gingerbread man or two, an apple and even an artificial monarch butterfly. The arrangement will last for days, longer if you are careful to add water to the foam daily. To prolong life, store in a refrigerator in between uses.

Mini-pumpkin Thanksgiving favors

Matching favors can be made with small pumpkins for each guest. Wash them in a bleach solution. Let them dry and then glue small pieces of dried materials around stem. Hot glue works best, but any tacky white glue may be used, especially if young children are doing this project. Tiny acorns, rose hips, spikes of basil seeds, purple statice or salvia, strawflowers, yarrow, bits of leaves, and any other colorful everlasting may be used. These last for months, but can be used for the Thanksgiving table. Sometimes they will even dry and can be used for years. This is really a fun project for scouts, 4-H members and students of all ages.

Enjoying Pumpkins in the Kitchen

A delicious, creamy pumpkin soup can be made to serve from a pumpkin. Hollow out a pumpkin, keeping the top for a lid. Pour hot water in before serving the soup to make the container warm. Drain and fill with pumpkin soup.

To make this look really festive, first place the pumpkin in the center of the table or on a serving tray. Surround it with boxwood or arborvitae, then add heads of mums, berries, tiny gourds, persimmons, nuts, berries from pyracantha, deciduous holly berries, cones, pods and any other colorful plant. I love to tuck in some bright leaves here and there to make this look like a lushbotanical wreath. Serve the soup from this and top each bowl with a bright orange nasturtium if you still have them! If time permits mini-pumpkins can even be hollowed out for soup bowls for each guest!

These can also be used to bake small soufflé or pies. Hollow out small pumpkin shells to bake individual little mini-pies, sans the fattening crust. Just partially precook your favorite pie filling in a glass bowl in the microwave or double boiler and pour the hot filling into the small pumpkins and sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon. (Partially cooking the filling makes baking time shorter so the pumpkins don’t cook into mush. Then pop a tray of theses mini-pies into a hot oven (375°-400°) for about 30 minutes. WATCH them so they do not over cook, as all ovens are different. Allow to cool somewhat, but serve the same day, warm or at room temp. Some like a dollop of whip cream on them.

Think about the early people in this area appreciating the vitamins and taste of fresh pumpkin each autumn.

Huge Pumpkin Cake

Your favorite Bundt pound cake can be made two times. Frost with an orange-colored frosting. For the stem, frost a small cupcake green. To make an extra large pumpkin cake, bake two Bundt cakes and attach the flat sides together, then frost with orange to resemble a pumpkin.

This is how I cook pumpkins the easy way

Cooking pumpkins is easy if you cook with the skin on. This is the healthiest way to use pumpkin as the fiber and many vitamins are in the skin. First scrub and cut out large hard blemishes. Then cut into medium size pieces. Put a little water on the bottom of a large heavy soup pot or Dutch oven and steam until the pumpkin is soft. Drain most of water when cooked, but allow some to help the blender or food processor pulverize the pumpkin, skin and all. The skin is full of vitamins and fibers and should be used. Some people put the pumpkin through an old fashion food mill with a crank handle; this works well and takes out some of the skin, but still retains a bright color and good flavor. For an old fashion pie, reserve a couple of cubes of cooked pumpkin cube and add to the pie. Measure the pumpkin into two-cup portions and freeze in zip bags.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Don’t waste the seeds after cooking your pie or making jack-o’-lanterns. Instead, roast and salt the seeds for a delicious and nutritious snack. Let the children slosh through the fibers in pursuit of the slippery seeds, it is so much fun.

  • 1 Quart water
  • 2 Tablespoons salt
  • 2 Cups pumpkin seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil or melted, unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 250°F. 2. Pick through seeds and remove as much of the stringy fibers as possible. Bring the water and salt to a boil. Add the seeds and boil for 10 minutes. Drain, spread on kitchen towel or paper towel and pat dry.

Place the seeds in a bowl and toss with oil or melted butter. Spread evenly on a large cookie sheet or roasting pan. Place pan in a preheated oven and roast the seeds for 30 to 40 minutes. Stir about every 10 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. Cool the seeds, then shell and eat or pack in airtight containers or zip closure bags and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Yield: about 2 cups

Easy Pumpkin Soup

Be sure to serve in a hollowed out pumpkin, a favorite for fall events at our house

  • 6 Cups chicken broth into which 3 tablespoons of flour has been whisked
  • 3 Large potatoes, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 4 Sliced carrots
  • 2 Peeled turnips
  • 1 Medium onion, chopped
  • 8 Tablespoons butter (1 stick) No substitutes
  • 2 Cups pumpkin (cooked or canned) or butternut squash
  • 1 Tablespoon salt (less optional)
  • Parsley, a generous handful chopped
  • 1 Teaspoon nutmeg
  • Dash of white pepper
  • 2 Cups light cream or half and half

Sauté onion, carrots and potato in butter until light golden. Add chicken broth. Simmer until soft. Add pumpkin. Stir. Put in food processor. If you like cream soup, add rest of ingredients and simmer. Serve in a hollowed-out pumpkin that has been warmed with hot water.

Place the pumpkin on a large round tray and surround it with freshly picked sage, fall leaves, bits of boxwood, arborvitae berries, small gourds, tiny apples, cones or any other color fall botanicals.

Sprinkle the soup with nutmeg, toasted pumpkin seed hearts or sunflower seeds and finely chopped parsley.

*Serve piping hot! This has become a holiday tradition in our house

Delicious Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Cake

  • 3 Cups flour
  • 2 Cups sugar
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Sticks melted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons water, juice or molasses, depending on taste
  • 1 Can pumpkin (about 2 cups of fresh)
  • 2 Teaspoons pumpkin spice
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 2 Teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 Teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 Cup nuts
  • ½ Cup raisins
  • ½ Cup chopped apples or coconut optional

Beat together sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Add pumpkin, oil, and butter. Beat until fluffy. Gently stir in dry ingredients. Fold in nuts, apples or coconut. Bake at 350° in greased, floured Bundt pan for 1 hour or until test shows cake is done.

Frosting

  • 8 Ounces cream cheese
  • 4 Ounces very soft butter
  • 1 Pound powdered sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons orange juice or milk.

Beat until fluffy. Ice the cake.


Let’s Talk Turkey

This month’s column tackles a subject matter that rears its ugly head each November. This topic has been known to cause rifts in families and stir deep-seeded emotions. No, I am not talking politics. I am talking about the proper way to cook your Thanksgiving turkey. An improperly cooked turkey can ruin the whole day that no amount of window dressing can save. In other words, you can’t put lipstick on a dry turkey.

Everyone has the perfect foolproof way to prepare their Thanksgiving bird. After relentless polling among fellow chefs and home cooks, three cooking methods are the front-runners in Turkey Decision ’08. Each candidate has strong advocates as well as detractors. The candidates in Turkey Decision ’08 are Oven Roasting PlainBrined Roasted Turkey and Deep Fried.

First, is the Traditionalist Party candidate – Old-fashioned Oven Roasting. This candidate may lack the flash of the more contemporary candidates, but has a proven track record and broad popular support. When oven roasting, it is necessary to provide some extra fat, but no pork, under the skin. This will create a self-basting turkey and the trickle down effect of the extra fat will ensure a juicy turkey. Traditional roasting takes the most time 4-5 hours for a 20-pound turkey at 325 degrees. This veteran method should be seasoned with salt pepper and fresh sage and thyme. All turkeys should be cooked to 165 degrees internal temperature, and should be allowed to rest 20 minutes to let the juices settle. In years past this candidate was stuffed with extras, but this is now considered unsafe and may have an ill effect on the constituents.

Candidate number two – Brined Oven-Roasted Turkey – is prepared much like its conservative cousin oven roasted turkey. This candidate’s appeal is enhanced by a spread the flavor approach. Brining requires advanced planning preparation and space to work successfully. Brining is a mix of salt, sugar and water. Balance is important; otherwise the result can be unpalatable. Additional spices or seasonings can be added to create a unique personal result. This candidate yields the most flavorable turkey but may have limited appeal to a broad-based constituency.

The third candidate – Deep Frying – is the newcomer to Thanksgiving and the most controversial. The mere mention of its name divides people immediately. Traditionalists say it’s greasy and even dangerous. More open-minded people like its short cooking time, excellent flavor and moist texture. Opponents and proponents both have valid points. First the negatives. Deep-frying requires a special infrastructure investment. You need to invest in a turkey fryer. You also need outdoor space. Dirt or a grassy knoll are recommended. Avoid wood decks. Oil will stain concrete. Good weather is another essential component. Rain and frying turkeys is a bad combination. Other resource investments include: oil (approximately five gallons), drill baby drill, canola or peanut work best due to high smoke point; an injector for marinades; a flavor stimulus package; and a thermometer and turkey fryer basket for safe removal of turkey are also necessary. All of the additional costs are long-term investments since they are renewable resources. Sadly, the oil is an expensive investment that is not renewable, but essential to the success of this candidate. Deep-frying is the trickiest technique, but its proponents swear by the results. Its positive points include a moist turkey that takes about 3 minutes per pound to cook. A 15 pound turkey can be cooked in 45-50 minutes. Another downside – no pan drippings for gravy – turns many constituents away from this candidate.

This column strives for a fair and balanced approach to each candidate. To make an informed decision, peruse the candidates’ profiles below and in Persnickety Thanksgiving style, cook early, cook often. Until next month, Bon Appétit.

Traditional Roast Turkey

  • 1 Turkey
  • 8-12 sage leaves
  • ½ Pound butter, softened
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • Fresh thyme

Chop herbs and mix half with softened butter. Place under skin of turkey and spread all over under breast. Season inside of turkey cavity with salt and pepper and place extra fresh herbs inside cavity with a couple pieces of celery carrots and ½ onion.

In roasting pan place large chopped mirepoix (celery, carrots and onions.) Place turkey breast side up roast at 325° for approximately 15 minutes per pound. Note always use a thermometer when cooking turkey. Turkey should be cooked to 165°. Failure to do so can result in food borne illnesses. Cover turkey with foil for first half of cooking process. Remove foil for second half to brown skin. Baste every twenty minutes with pan drippings.

Apple Cider Brined Turkey

  • ½ Gallon water
  • ½ Gallon cider not juice
  • ½ Cup kosher salt
  • ½ Cup Demerara sugar
  • 6 Crushed juniper berries
  • 1 Tablespoon cracked black pepper
  • 3 Bay leaves broken
  • 1 Teaspoon cracked allspice
  • 1 Teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1 Teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 Cloves
  • 1 Teaspoon dill seed
  • 1 Teaspoon coriander
  • 3 Cloves garlic

In large saucepan combine all ingredients, except cider. Bring to boil. Simmer 2 minutes. Chill. Add chilled cider.

In plastic roasting bag (Use only food safe bags, otherwise brine might leach chemicals into turkey.) place turkey pour brine over turkey. Tie tightly. Let brine 12-24 hours. Remove turkey from brine. Pat dry for crisp skin. Dry turkey for 6-8 hours in refrigerator. Roast at 350° until 165° is reached on thermometer.

Deep Fried Turkey

When deep-frying a turkey consult the directions of your turkey fryer to determine the amount of oil necessary. Use marinades only if you are using an injector.

• Pre heat oil to 375°
• Turn off burner before lowering turkey into hot oil
• Make sure turkey is very dry before frying
• Make sure you maintain frying temp of 350° throughout frying process
• Drain on paper towel and let rest 15 minutes before carving
• Never fry a stuffed turkey

I am the Persnickety Chef
and I approve of these cooking methods.


Editor’s Note:
The following restaurants will be open for Thanksgiving dinner, November 27, 2011:

Blue Pig Tavern at Congress Hall 
205 Beach Avenue
Seating 1 p.m. until 7 p.m.
For reservations call 609.884.8422

Ebbitt Room at the Virginia Hotel
25 Jackson Street
Seating from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m.
Kids half-portion and half-price
For reservation call 800.732.4236

Harbor View
954 Ocean Drive
Regular menu, plus special additions
Seating from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m.
For information call 609.884.5444

Peter Shields Inn & Restaurant
1301 Beach Avenue
Seating from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m.
4 course meal
For reservations call 800.355.6565

Union Park Dining Room
727 Beach Avenue
Seating from 3 pm until 8 pm
For reservations call 609.884.8811