Mar 11, 2014
Varieties: A few of Ken Cook’s hand-picked favorites
Anna Russian: (This is Cook’s favorite.) The heart-shaped tomato is large and juicy and has a great flavor. The pinkish-red tomato grows to between 10 and 14 ounces.
Eva Purple Ball: Often called the most beautiful tomato, it is easy to grow. The tomato is perfectly round, deep pink and grows to 6 to 8 ounces. It has a sweet flavor.
Virginia Sweets: Big tomatoes usually growing to about 1 pound each, these tomatoes typically are golden-yellow with red stripes. The flavor is sweet and rich.
Kosovo: Another heart-shaped, pink tomato, the Kosovo has a sweet flavor and can grow to 10 to 18 ounces. It came from a former U.N. worker in Kosovo, according to Cook.
Brandy Sweet Plum: This tomato is an accidental cross between a Brandywine and a Sweet 100 Cherry. The result is a combination of the Brandywine’s rich flavor and the sweetness of the Sweet 100. Tomatoes grow to about 2 ounces.
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What’s an heirloom? What’s a hybrid?
It’s complicated, but it seems the term “heirloom tomato” originally was intended to mean purebred and non-commercial, the direct descendent of someone’s great-great-grandmother’s prized tomato plant. Heirloom seeds get passed down from year to year. They’re often bred for flavor.
In contrast, a “hybrid tomato” is a tomato whose genetic profile was deliberately made, by crossbreeding, for large-scale commercial purposes. Hybrids typically produce sterile seeds. They’re grown for durability, looks and uniformity.
The term “heirloom” has gotten a little soft around the edges — some tomatoes are given honorary “heirloom” status by connoisseurs after they’ve been around long enough; some mass-produced tomatoes are labeled “heirloom” for marketing purposes.
Heirloom tomatoes come in four categories:
Family heirlooms are the type most people think of when they think of heirloom tomatoes; they typically have a history and they’ve been handed down through generations in a family.
Commercial heirlooms are tomatoes introduced by commercial companies prior to about 1950; when applied to newer commercial varieties, the term “heirloom” can be a little fuzzy.
Created heirlooms are the result of the crossing of two heirlooms or an heirloom and a hybrid (a typical grocery-store tomato).
Mystery heirlooms are new varieties created by cross-pollination.
Hot or cold
There are two basic types of lobster roll: hot with butter, and chilled in mayo. What’s the difference? Online research reveals that this debate is extensive and long-lasting. It would appear that the chilled-in-mayo version is found significantly more often in Maine, the state most people associate with the classic New England sandwich. Hot with butter is harder to find but still crops up at restaurants like Robert’s Maine Grill in Kittery. Some have called the hot version “Connecticut-style” and the chilled version “Maine-style.”
Setting aside the debate over knuckle meat vs. claw meat vs. tail meat, the two styles are typically the same size and served on similar buns, with variations depending on the restaurant and location. Debbie Tsoronis, manager at the Beach Plum in North Hampton, said people often go for the chilled-in-mayo version instead of hot-with-butter because whole-shell lobsters are better with butter than just meat on rolls. She also said that oftentimes, soft-shell lobster meat can be too rubbery in the chilled rolls, which can turn some people off.
“I love a toasted bun but cold lobster meat inside,” said Jude David, chairman of the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival. “It’s the perfect combination of a hot bun and cold meat. But it’s a matter of personal taste. We have a restaurant here that serves an incredible lobster roll and it has sherry sauce on it and it is to die for. That’s my second favorite.”
It would seem the biggest differences are in the three T’s: texture, temperature and taste. In the end, it’s all a matter of personal preference. Tsoronis said she doesn’t even like seafood; she just makes it on a daily basis.
Summertime Blueberry Pie
Recipe from food blogger Julia Mestas at Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body.
For the pie crust:
2½ cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cold
½ to 1 cup ice water
For the filling:
6 cups (or 2 pints) fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¼ cup flour
¾ cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold
Egg wash: 1 egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons water
To make the crust: Stir flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Cut cold butter into small pieces, and add to the mixture. Using a food processor, blend the ingredients, or use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into small pieces. Add ½ cup of ice cold water, and mix into the dough. Add 1 tablespoon of cold water at a time until the dough has a thicker consistency. Give the dough a quick knead, and divide it into two pieces. Wrap separately in plastic wrap. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or leave it refrigerated for up to a week.
To make the pie: Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and stir together blueberries, cornstarch, flour, sugar, salt and lemon juice gently. Roll out half the dough to make the crust. Place the dough in the pie plate, and trim the edges. Pour the filling into the crust, and discard remaining liquid. Add little bits of butter to the top of the filling. Roll out the rest of the dough and slice into 1 inch strips, and weave over the filling. Crimp the pie edges, and brush pastry with egg wash. Bake the pie for 25 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees, and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the blueberries are bubbling. Let the pie cool on a rack, and chill until ready to be served.
Who’s making ice cream
Here are a few local spots making their own ice cream. If you know of other places offering their own variation of the sweet and creamy treat, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Arnie’s Place, 164 Loudon Road, Concord, 228-3225
• Axel’s Food & Ice Cream, 608 DW Hwy, Merrimack, 429-2229
• Blake’s Creamery & Restaurant, 53 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 627-1110; 353 South Main St., Manchester, 669-0220
• Central Square Ice Cream Shoppe, 5 W. Main St., Hillsborough, 464-3881
• Connolly Brothers Dairy Farm, 140 Webster Highway, Temple, 942-5002
• Cremeland, 250 Valley St., Manchester, 669-4430
• Granite State Candy Shoppe, 13 Warren St., Concord; 832 Elm St., Manchester, 225-2531
• Hayward’s Ice Cream, 383 Elm St., Milford, 672-8383; 7 DW Highway, Nashua, 888-4663
• Jake’s Old Fashion Ice Cream and Sweet Shoppe, 135 State Route 101a # 4, Amherst, 594-2424
• Jim’s Ice Cream Barn, 1 Duffy Ave., Salem, 890-3500
• Liliuokalani’s, 956 Weirs Blvd., Laconia, 366-9323
• King Kone, 336 DW Highway, Merrimack, 424-6848 (soft serve)
• Moo’s Homemade Ice Cream, 27 Crystal Ave., Derry, 425-0100
• Puritan Backroom Restaurant, 245 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 669-6890
• Richardson’s Farm, 170 Water St., Boscawen, 796-2788
• Roselynn’s Ice Cream, 153 Exeter Road, Epping, 765-9615
• Summer Freeze Whipple Twist, 74 Fisherville Road, Concord, 228-0579
• Swan Chocolates, 436 DW Highway, Merrimack, 423-5950 (gelato)
You say tomato
by Jeff Mucciarone
Rows and rows of raised beds fill Ken Cook’s vegetable garden in Dunbarton, which is really more like a farm than a garden. There are snap peas, lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers and squash. But Cook’s real calling card is the tomatoes.
An engineer by trade, Cook is constantly experimenting with heirloom tomato varieties and ways to cultivate them, aiming to get best possible flavor. He carefully documents his tomatoes and their seeds. And he finds surprises all the time.
As he walked down a row last week, he pointed out four tomato plants grown from the same seeds. Three looked identical, while the fourth was shorter and had different leaves. He’ll be paying attention to the fruit of that plant.
“You’ve got to grow it out to see,” Cook said. He means growing four or five generations to get some stability in characteristics.
Cook has been growing heirloom tomatoes for about 40 years. Today he grows them under the name of “Rusty’s Heirloom Tomatoes” — named after his cat.
Cook grows some well-known varieties, such as Brandywine and Purple Zebra, and some that he created or that were created by chance, nature running its course. He is growing 140 varieties this year. He grows small cherry tomatoes, big hefty tomatoes and everything in between. He grows blue tomatoes, purple tomatoes, yellow tomatoes and green tomatoes. He grows tomatoes with stripes and tomatoes with purple shoulders.
Most people familiar with heirloom tomatoes know names like Brandywine and Cherokee Purple. But that’s not even the tip of the iceberg for Cook. His list includes names like Dark Chocolate Stripes, Kazakhstan Heart, Vernissage Yellow, and Rufus Carrigan’s Mexican Pink. In each bed, Cook has planted about 50 plants. He has memorized the plants from front to back in each bed.
“Most of them have a story,” he said. The Cherokee Purple, for example, has been around since 1880. It is a big, fat tomato with a purple top.
Of course, Cook is growing not for looks but for flavor. He personally likes to eat sweet tomatoes rather than acidic ones; his favorite is the Anna Russian, plants of which are available at stores in New Hampshire. Later this summer, you’ll be able to buy Anna Russian tomatoes from Cook’s home, at 240 Stark Highway North in Dunbarton.
Cook distributes his tomatoes to Sunny’s Table in Concord, as well as the Concord Co-op. He said the produce manager at the Co-op has been asking him when his tomatoes are going to be ready. A few other restaurants in Concord and Manchester have shown interest, he said.
Conditions have been ideal for tomatoes this year. Last year, the weather was too cool, wet and humid. This year’s hotter, drier weather has been good, Cook said.
In his work as an engineer, Cook traveled worldwide, and he kept an eye out for tomatoes.
“I was always looking for seeds,” Cook said. He pointed to a shelf in his kitchen where, he estimates, he has about one million tomato seeds.
Sure, you could toss some hybrid seeds in a hole with some commercial fertilizer, water them, and you’ll get tomatoes. They might even be pretty good. But if you want grade-A tomatoes, Cook suggests a different path.
“It all boils down to healthy, fertile, nutrient-rich soil,” Cook said. He layers his tomato beds with grass clippings and heat-treated straw. He dumps earthworm castings (that’s the technical term for worm poop) into each tomato plant hole. He monitors the soil pH and makes sure to feed the soil, not the plant.
“If you want to be highly successful, you’ve got to study your ground,” Cook said.
Some say hybrid tomatoes are more productive than heirloom, and though Cook doesn’t necessarily agree with that, he said there are some benefits to having fewer tomatoes on a given plant. Let’s say a hybrid plant produces 50 tomatoes; all the nutrients in the soil are spread among the 50 tomatoes. Let’s say an heirloom plant in the same soil produces 25 tomatoes; sure, that’s half the tomatoes, but those 25 tomatoes are absorbing the same amount of nutrients as the 50 on the hybrid plant. That generates a more nutrient-rich, more flavorful tomato. And particularly for the home gardener, that’s what matters, Cook says.
People say heirloom tomatoes have a tendency to crack and they say the plants aren’t as productive as hybrids. Cook said those things could be true, though by looking at his 7-foot tomato plants, it’s a little difficult to spot any lack of productivity.
“Look at those roots,” Cook said pointing to a picture of a tomato plant with a rather impressive root system. He says his plants grow 2- to 3-foot roots. “People see these roots and they don’t believe it.”
Cook concedes that his isn’t a huge operation. He likes it that way. Larger operations would have difficulty paying as close attention to the tomatoes as he does. It’s hard to argue with his results.
Hot dogging it
by Angel Roy
“Here they come,” Peter Stillman said, as a handful of men walked down the stone steps toward his food cart on a recent afternoon. “What’s for lunch?” he asked them.
Stillman recently decided to make a living selling an all-American cookout staple: hot dogs. His cart, Dube Dogs N More, soon to be Lunch with the Mill Girl, sits at the intersection of Commercial and Stark streets in Manchester on weekdays. He plans to open a second cart on Elm Street in front of Ted Herbert’s Music & Arts, called Stinky’s.
“Why hot dogs?” Stillman asked. “Why not?”
Stillman thinks one reason people like hot dogs is that they’re easy to customize. When he took over the popular Millyard lunch spot, he noticed customers preferred to top their own dogs.
“The consensus is that people are distinct in the way they want [toppings] on their dog,” said Stillman, who owns the hotdog stand with Karen Baker and Terry Casey.
Stillman himself is a mustard guy. Hoping his customers feel the same, he carries a wide variety of mustards at his cart — Dijon, yellow, spicy brown and, for extra kick, wasabi.
“Hot mustards are the ones that really seem to be taking off,” he said. Many aficionados opt to spice up the hot dog with hot chili sauce or Tabasco. On Fridays, Dube Dogs customers can get theirs topped with jambalaya.
Up in Concord, at the Puppy Love hot dog cart on Main Street, purveyor Gretchen Peters said this summer’s most popular dog has been one topped with barbecue sauce, cheese and onions. Peters’ personal favorite is a dog with chili, cheese and onions.
Peters’ parents opened Puppy Love 35 years ago. They chose to sell franks in the state capital because of its attractive downtown and pedestrian traffic, Peters said. Peters chose to man the cart 15 years ago after earning a degree in psychology, living as a ski bum and dabbling in the corporate world. “I’m much happier being my own boss, running the family business, and being outside every day with such great customers,” she said. She figures hot dogs are comfort food for all ages, popular because they’re inexpensive, quick to prepare and easy to eat on the run.
Good hot dogs are high-quality hot dogs, Peters said. She uses Kayem brand hot dogs, which she said are made with only five ingredients — beef, pork, sugar, salt and water — and do not contain fillers.
“My family and I never get tired of our hot dogs, and we still enjoy them on a regular basis,” she said.
Stillman serves natural-casing dogs, steamed and then grilled — “char adds the crunch, the texture,” he said.
Some cities and states boast an official hot dog — perhaps one of the most recognizable is the Chicago-style frankfurter, topped with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, bright green sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, tomato slices or wedges, pickled peppers and a dash of celery salt, Peters said a traditional New England hot dog is piled high with mustard, relish, onions and celery salt. Asked how she would design a hot dog for the Granite State, Peters said she would incorporate the official state fruit — pumpkin — likely roasted and topped with a maple syrup chutney.
Stillman said he would like to see the official state hot dog wrapped in bacon. He noted hot dogs are served deep-friend in New Jersey: “They fry them until they basically explode.”
For hot dog lovers looking to break away from the traditional bun-and-topping routine at cookouts, Peters talked of a hot dog stew that was a dinnertime staple for her husband’s family when he was a child. The stew was a blend of chopped hot dogs, potatoes, onions and a ketchup sauce, cooked in a skillet.
“I’m still waiting for him to make it for me,” Peters said.
Lobster rolls rock
by Samantha Pearson
Lobster rolls are a quintessential New England summertime food. Whether the lobster meat is chilled in mayo and served on a toasted, buttered top-split hot dog bun or prepared hot and buttery on a light, airy roll, lobster rolls taste like the ocean. Of course, they seem especially good on the seacoast, where lobsters are caught and cooked fresh every day.
The lobster in lobster rolls is typically boiled or steamed, and the meat used most often comes from tails, claws and knuckles. Lobster rolls are served in dozens of variations with every manner of side dish, but most commonly with french fries or coleslaw.
“First of all, there’s no better lobster than New England lobster. Nothing compares,” said Jude David, chairman of the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival. “Secondly, there are … so many different ways to make a lobster roll. It is amazing.”
More than a dozen types of lobster roll from various local restaurants and vendors can be found at the annual Hampton Beach Seafood Festival. The 23rd annual festival will take place Friday, Sept. 7, through Sunday, Sept. 9. This year, for the third year in a row, a lobster roll eating competition will be featured — watch for it on Saturday, Sept. 8, at 2 p.m. The qualifying round takes place Tuesday, Aug. 7, at 6 p.m. at the 401 Tavern in Hampton. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three contestants. Last year’s winner devoured 12 lobster rolls in just 10 minutes.
The price of a lobster roll can be anywhere from $13 to $40, depending on the amount of lobster it contains, among other factors. At the Beach Plum in North Hampton, the smallest roll is priced about $17 and the largest about $37. At Robert’s Maine Grill in Kittery, Maine, rolls are $22 or $30. Despite reports of soft-shell lobster prices dropping as low as $2 per pound in some areas of coastal Maine due to a boom in lobster population brought on by the warm winter, the price of lobster rolls likely won’t go down, because the lobster tail industry is severely depressed. With the selling price low and the price of gas high, some fishermen find it cost-prohibitive to go out and get lobster.
If the lines outside of the Beach Plum or Bob’s Clam Hut in Kittery are anything to go by, the price doesn’t matter to people who really want their lobster roll fix. At the Beach Plum, customers can choose from six different lobster rolls in both styles: hot and buttery or chilled and tossed with mayo. The restaurant, which also has a location in Portsmouth, offers a 7-ounce roll and a 10-ounce roll, both of which are also offered as foot-long sandwiches, as well as a lobster sub and a lobster club sandwich. Manager Debbie Tsoronis said the most popular choice among her customers is the chilled-in-mayo version, partially because the mayo that the Beach Plum uses does not contain eggs, making it more accessible for customers with allergies. She also said the quality of the lobster roll depends less on the style and more on the type of meat used. The Beach Plum is famous for its lobster rolls, which feature only hard-shell lobsters imported from Canada, rather than soft-shell lobsters. Tsoronis said soft-shell lobsters often end up being too rubbery for rolls.
“Today we had a guy say [our lobster roll] was the best one he’s ever had,” Tsoronis said. “We’ve had people fly in on jets just for lobster rolls…. We get people from all over, and we’ve even shipped our lobster rolls to Maryland and other places…. The shipping was more expensive than the lobster rolls.”
For those who are a little farther from the coast and can’t or don’t want to make the drive, there are some more local options. Newick’s Lobster House in Concord (888-579-7576) has jumbo, original and petite lobster rolls served with homemade chips. Hooked Seafood Restaurant in Manchester (606-1189) has a New England Lobster Roll served with coleslaw and fresh potato chips. Cremeland in Manchester (669-4430) also offers a lobster roll.
“When you think of New England and you think of summertime, [the lobster roll] really is the staple roll of New England. Where Maryland is crab, we’re lobster,” David said. “There’s no better place to get a lobster roll than right here.”
Easy as pie
by Emelia Attridge
Perhaps the underdog of hot-weather seasonal treats, pie tends not to get as much summer love as its delicious partner in crime, ice cream. On the other hand, fruit-filled pies are a great way to celebrate summertime in New Hampshire, where there is a plethora of delicious fresh fruit growing all season long.
“It’s berry season, that’s for sure!” said Kris Mossey, president of the New Hampshire Farmers Market Association. “Strawberry season is over by and large right now. It looks like a great blueberry and raspberry crop.”
Strawberries were ripe in early summer; blueberries and blackberries become available midsummer, and raspberries are the fruit of late summer and fall, although some can be found earlier. Other local fruits that are great for pie fillings include peaches, rhubarb and apples.
Fruit pies can also be diet- and health-friendly as long as you keep an eye on how much sugar is included in the filling. Blueberries, for example, are a good source of antioxidants and fiber.
“When people shop at a farmers market, and they see the abundance of what we grow in New Hampshire, they’re often surprised at the variety,” Mossey said. “When the taste is better, people are more likely to eat it. ... It will encourage a healthier lifestyle.”
Farms like Apple Hill Farm, on Route 132 in Concord, allow patrons to pick their own berries. Apple Hill also shares recipes for treats such as strawberry cream pie.
“I think because summertime [is] hot, people don’t like to bake pies,” said Diane Souther, who owns Apple Hill Farm with her husband. But, as she once demonstrated during a guest turn on WMUR’s “Cook’s Corner,” it’s possible to make a pie without having to bake — “That’s a nice alternative when it’s hot.”
Those interested in picking their own berries can visit Apple Hill Farm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon and Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m.
“That way, the patch always has a chance to ripen up in between,” Souther said. “We’ve been very fortunate. We’ve had just a little bit of rain, which a lot of farmers haven’t had in the state. … We have a huge crop of blueberries. … The raspberries have been the same, [and] because we haven’t had a lot of heavy rain, the quality has been kept nice.”
Apple Hill Farm grows a lot of berries — strawberries, blueberries, black currants, blackberries, and a wide variety of raspberries. The warm weather and mild winter allowed crops to come out earlier in the season this year — “We started picking peaches last week,” Souther said, whereas in the past they haven’t picked peaches in July.
Starting in August, Apple Hill Farm bakes pies — blueberry, strawberry rhubarb, peach blueberry, and peach apple pies, to name a few — and sells them at the farmers market.
In Merrimack, pie lovers can dive into a “mile-high” apple pie at New England Country Pies. Owner Joe Lannan said the bakery sells about 25 types of pies at a time.
“Blueberry is popular,” Lannan said. “We’re coming into season now for those.” Among other varieties, his bakery makes a four-berry pie of raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and blueberries. New England Country Pies has been in the pie business for more than 30 years.
In Weare, Karen Car, owner of Just Like Mom’s Pastries, has been making pies for 25 years. Pie-making is clearly not a new pursuit, nor is pie-eating.
“You think way back to your grandmother or your mother,” Car said. Just Like Mom’s typically has 35 to 40 pie varieties, and Car says any flavor is possible “as long as you have an imagination.”
Whatever your flavor choice, “hopefully, it’s the ending to a good meal,” Lannan said, “the part that everybody anticipates.”
“I don’t think it’s an underdog at all,” Souther said. “You put fresh ice cream on the top, of course, and it makes it even better.”
Dairy, New Hampshire
by Kelly Sennott
Unless you’re lactose intolerant, don’t even try to argue. Ice cream is not only the ultimate summer food, but the best food there is. Period.
Especially in New England. New Englanders eat more ice cream per capita than anyone in the United States. There are more ice cream shops per capita in New England than anywhere else, too.
“It’s one of those things that offers entertainment,” said Ann Mirageas, co-owner of Blake’s Creamery in Manchester. “Here, we’re selling happiness. People go out for ice cream for a break, for a treat, to celebrate a good report card, getting braces off.”
Where and when exactly ice cream became an essential food of summer and a universal sign of happiness is up for debate. The Farmer’s Almanac 2012 suggests that the Chinese were the inventors of ice cream, but the Emperor Nero of Rome is recorded as the first to serve the frozen dessert to guests — teams of runners carried fresh snow from the mountains, and it was flavored with honey, juices and fruits.
Ice cream has been updated since then, but since 1900 or so, not much has changed, at least not in New Hampshire. The Puritan Backroom has been making ice cream almost the same way for the past 95 years, using machinery today that’s similar to the equipment they had when they began in 1917, said Chris Pappas, a fourth-generation ice cream maker at the Puritan.
First the ice cream base goes into a big metal tub. The machine whips it, which adds air. While it’s being mixed (typically for about 10 minutes, Pappas said, depending on the flavor), any extra ingredients are added: the chocolate chips, the pretzel chunks, the walnuts — whatever makes the flavor the flavor.
It goes into the deep freezer (-10 degrees), overnight, and then to the temperate freezer (about 10 degrees) for storage. Batches are kept in metal cans from the 1920s and ’30, which gives them a real, old-fashioned feel.
Seasonal flavors are always popular at longstanding community ice cream businesses, such as the Puritan Backroom’s seasonal pumpkin and eggnog flavors for fall and winter. Over the years, flavors have evolved to match the tastes of customers.
Mirageas has noticed that these days people tend to like more “stuff” in their ice cream — fudge, swirls, chocolate chunks or peanut butter cups. Each year, Blake’s add a few new flavors. This year, there’s Big Bang Oreo (chocolate ice cream with chocolate cookie crumb swirl and Oreos), Cinnamon Coffee Cake (cinnamon yellow cake ice cream with a cinnamon graham swirl), Mocha Carmela by the Sea (mocha ice cream with waves of caramel sea salt and white chips) and Fool’s Gold (caramel ice cream with chocolate cookie crumb swirl and Swiss chocolate flakes). They all feature crunchy swirls, which are big now, Mirageas said. The Mocha Carmela flavor combines sweetness and saltiness, not unlike a chocolate-covered pretzel. The Cinnamon Coffee Cake is thick, sweet and full of flavor, not at all unlike, well, cinnamon coffee cake.
Machinery changes, the names change, but when it comes to homemade ice cream, these businesses are in it for the long haul. Ice cream will continue to be made the way it is, until humans lose their taste buds.
|®2014 Hippo Press.