Maine Roots

A blog about all things Maine

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Buy Local: Maine Farmers’ Markets

As mentioned at the tail end of my most recent post, over the last several years, I’ve become increasingly interested in where the food I buy comes from.  There are multiple and varying reasons for this, although the most influential one for me is the health factor, followed closely by supporting the local economy and small business farmers, who have struggled in recent decades.  Although I think it’s positive to buy locally sourced food because it travels a shorter distance, that opinion is related to the quality of the produce and the long term viability of sourcing food that way, and not to other potential implications.

Living in Macon, Georgia, I typically go to the downtown farmers’ market, called the Mulberry Street Market, held every Wednesday afternoon  / evening.  I enjoy living in a state with such respect for its agricultural heritage, although its farmers face the same struggle as other states – competition with massive distributors that drive down prices and increase competition for store awareness and shelf space.

Maine also has a strong agricultural heritage and awareness of local farms is on the rise.  Below, I’ve highlighted a few farmers’ markets and other considerations for buying food locally.  The Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets website is a great resource for shoppers and farmers alike.  From this site, I learned that Maine has more than 130 farmers’ markets and 25 of these are year-round (click here to see the winter’s farmers’ markets).

If you live in the greater Portland area, check out the Portland Farmers’ Market at one of its alternating locations.  The great thing about this market, given the cold winter climate, is that it is year round.  In mid-November, they move to an indoor location.  From April – November, they are in Deering Oaks Park on Saturdays (7am – 1pm) and Monument Square on Wednesdays (7am – 1pm).

Just outside Portland, you can visit the Greater Gorham Farmers’ Market, held on Saturdays from 8:30am – 12:30pm between May and October.  The market is located on Route 114 between Baxter Memorial Library (where I spent a lot of time as a young adult) and the Gorham Times.

If you’re based in Bangor, the Bangor Farmers’ Market has a lot to offer, running on Sundays from 11am – 2pm during the summer months.

The Cumberland and Falmouth Markets sound pretty intriguing.  In addition to your anticipated farmers’ market booths of fruits, veggies, and meats, they also offer arts and crafts.  The Cumberland Market is on Saturdays from 9am – 12pm at the Town Hall on Tuttle Road, while the Falmouth Market is Wednesdays from noon -4pm at Legion Field on Depot Road.

Going further north, you can find the Houlton Community Market (open Memorial Day – October on Saturdays from 9am – 1pm) and the Presque Isle Farmers’ Market, also running May – October on Saturdays from 9am – 1pm.

There are many, many markets I didn’t mention here.  Please do check out the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets site for more information if you live in another area.

Lastly, just the other day, I began following Casco Bay Organics on Twitter (@CascoBayOrganic).  Finding this organization seemed serendipitous as this post was already slowly forming in my mind, and in its way, it is even better (easier) than a farmers’ market.  You sign up for a small, medium, or large box, which will be delivered to you on Thursdays filled with local, organic produce.  Sounds like a great service!  Their website offers much more specific information and insight about the farms they source from.


Here’s to happy, healthy eating!

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Garden to Table (with Recipes)

Today is a good day.  The New England Patriots won, and by a comfortable margin.  Like any good fan, my superstitions are now taking over.  As I contemplate the Sundays (and Mondays and Thursdays) to come, I’m giving serious consideration to wearing the exact same outfit, sitting in the same spot on the couch, drinking the same beer, and cooking the same meal.

Now, while I might like to mix up the outfit and viewing atmosphere, making the same meal wouldn’t be much of a hardship.  After all, who can complain about roasted brisket, jalapeno mac and cheese, and sweet potato wedges?  Although this isn’t a weekly recipe entry, I’ll point you to the recipes I used – both the husband and I agreed this entire meal was delicious (and except for the macaroni and cheese, it’s pretty good for you, too).

To begin at the beginning, Nick and I had been planning for most of the week to buy and smoke a brisket for our Sunday dinner.  It’s something we do from time to time, and more often during football season.  The side dishes remained a bit up in the air, but I picked up a few sweet potatoes at the Mulberry Street Farmers Market in Macon on Wednesday, and yesterday, I harvested a bunch of jalapenos and green peppers from our home garden.

Fresh from the garden!

Fresh from the garden!

While I don’t enjoy certain elements of home vegetable garden care (the pests, the constant weeding, etc.), I do love having one and the end result is worth the time and effort.  Given how strongly I remember resisting any type of work in our family garden as a child, I do find this somewhat ironic, but there it is.  It may have taken years to emerge, but those rural Maine roots have come through.

The dilemma really began as I took this image.  While I can pretty easily find uses for that many green peppers – there are an awful lot of ripe jalapenos, too.  Ultimately, I’ll be pickling most of them early this week, but I was also inspired to try a jalapeno mac and cheese.  Since it’s hard to go wrong with Martha, I used Martha Stewart’s recipe as a starting point and modified from there.  You can see the full recipe on her site at the link above, but here’s what I did differently:

I didn’t have scallions, but I did have a shallot.  I’m sure either would be good.  Also, instead of Monterey Jack and white cheddar, I stumbled across a smoked bacon white cheddar, and a sharp yellow cheddar, and used about 2 1/2 cups of sharp cheddar and 1 1/2 cups of the smoked bacon cheddar.  I skipped the corn.

Mmmm jalapenos!

Mmmm jalapenos!

Ready for the bread crumb topping...

Ready for the bread crumb topping…

This was really yummy, and the recipe made enough for me to freeze half for a future meal – and tonight’s half had leftovers.

This afternoon, we changed our brisket plan from using our smoker (outside) to an oven roast, inside, due to rain.  I did some internet searching and selected this Texas Oven-Roasted Beef Brisket recipe, but instead of making the rub with the ingredients they list, I used a rub we already had – happily, the Stonewall Kitchen Texas Rub.  Really good!  The brisket was tender and flavorful.

Sunday dinner!

Sunday dinner!

Having a home garden has taught me to think more about where my food comes from for many reasons.  Key among them is simply that the peppers and tomatoes I’ve grown taste better than anything from the grocery store.  The ‘why’ is simple: I’m eating them the day, or close to, I pick them – so they don’t have to travel for days or a week to reach me.  They ripen on the vine, increasing flavor and nutrients, and, best of all, I know exactly what they’ve been treated with and exposed to while growing.  There’s also satisfaction in eating something you grew yourself.  For all of these reasons, I also try to shop at local farmers’ markets as much as possible – it supports the local industry and it really is better for you.  I’ll follow this with a post soon on Maine farmers markets and on cookbooks that specialize in meals by the season.

Have a good week!


Weekly Recipe: Maine Party Chicken

Truly, the title of this recipe says it all.  It just sounds exciting… not to mention intriguing.  What exactly makes it “party” chicken?  And, really, who doesn’t love a good party? 

I suppose what makes this dish “party” chicken is simply that it’s one of those convenient-for-entertaining meals that slow cooks in the oven and comes out smelling spectacular.  It certainly feels like a perfect fall party dish.  Its meaty nature will make it a win with any man (Nick certainly enjoyed it), it’s easy with a short ingredient list, and the long, slow cooking makes it an ideal fall Sunday dinner (so as not to distract from watching football).  Although it’s still regularly 90+ degrees in Georgia, September calls to mind those first crisp, chilly days in Maine, and the rich, smoky flavor of this hearty meal complements the fall weather nicely (and would be excellent in winter, too).

I’ll admit – I was a little skeptical about how these ingredients would come together, but I shouldn’t have been.  This meal was really delicious, if not particularly healthy.  The recipe comes from a cookbook titled “Keep Cooking – The Maine Way” by Marjorie Standish, which I love because it’s a little bit old school and sometimes calls for ingredients I have to look up (or may vaguely recall from visits at my grandparents’ home).  It is a beautiful testament to the tradition of home cooking in Maine specifically.

You’ll need:

  • 4 good sized chicken breasts (you divide in half, so this makes 8 servings)
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 1 package dried beef (or 1 small jar)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 pint sour cream

Divide each chicken breast in half, giving you eight servings.  Wrap each half with a piece of bacon.  Using a buttered, shallow 9×13 baking pan, cover the bottom with thin slices of dried beef (I used beef jerky, which appeared to be dried beef or similar based on my google search).  Arrange the chicken breasts on the dried beef. 

Who doesn't love bacon?

Who doesn’t love bacon?

Mix the soup and sour cream, and spoon over all.  Cover pan and refrigerate for 24 hours.  (Please take note of this instruction, and that it takes three hours to bake.  I did not… and had to revise my meal plan for the week when I realized at 7pm on the night I planned to make this that I needed to plan ahead.)

Smothered in sour cream and cream of mushroom soup...

Smothered in sour cream and cream of mushroom soup…

The next day, bring to room temperature before placing in oven (I forgot to do this, and it still turned out well).  Bake uncovered at 275 degrees for 3 hours.

This recipe made our house smell delicious.  Our mouths were watering long before it was time to eat, and we weren’t disappointed when we did.

Yum! I served this with roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts, and the chicken nearly falls apart from the slow cooking.

Yum! I served this with roasted potatoes and brussel sprouts, and the chicken nearly falls apart from the slow cooking.

On a follow up note, we had some leftovers (I love leftovers), and the following night, I made a chicken soup with them.  It really ended up being more of a “stoup,” with the sour cream and mushroom soup creating a thicker, creamier broth.  I threw in onion, potatoes, kale, and the chicken breast (with beef and bacon), diced up.  I added about a cup and a half of water, and the better part of a carton of chicken broth.  This was a great mix of flavors as well – hearty and smoky, not much like a typical chicken soup.

Happy Fall!

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Wife Carrying, anyone?

In my search for fall events and activities to share, I was reminded of the North American Wife Carrying Championship, hosted by Sunday River in Bethel, ME, and scheduled for October 11, 2014.  Now in its 15th year, this event offers both terrific entertainment and pretty appealing prizes.

I was most curious about the origins of this physical event, and Sunday River’s event listing provided the history I was looking for.  I did anticipate that it would be somewhat archaic.  Here’s what they have to say:

The legend behind the North American Wife Carrying Championship is based on 19th century Finnish legend “Ronkainen the Robber” who had high qualifications for the men he accepted into his band. To prove their worth, men had to compete through a difficult course with a heavy sack (or woman grabbed from neighboring villages) on their back.

Ah, the joys of womanhood.

Other sources of information such as Wikipedia and offer variations on this tale, but they all share the same root.

In 1991, Finland hosted their first modern-day wife carrying event, and admitted foreign contestants in 1995.  One of the “prizes” of winning the North American Wife Carrying Championship is entry into Finland’s World Championships held the following summer.  In addition, the lucky winning couple will take home the wife’s weight in beer and five times her weight in cold hard US dollars.

In summary, if I were in Maine, I’d want to check this event out, and even participate in it (don’t worry, Nick, I’m not volunteering you to carry me over obstacles at a run….yet).  I’m also pleased to report that my research revealed that I actually know one of the recent winners, who is a family friend.  Go Rocky!

Although this is the event title that caught my eye and intrigued me most, the charming town of Bethel, Maine, is a perfect example of what Maine has to offer in all four seasons.  October in this part of the state will be full of the vibrant colors of fall foliage, fall scents and activities (apple picking, fatty, delicious fair foods, and more), and all the busy preparations for winter’s rapidly-approaching ski season.

It’s worth noting that this wife-carrying event is just one component of the Fall Festival in Bethel, running on both October 11th and 12th.  Other events include outdoor concerts, the 31st annual Blue Mountain Arts & Crafts festival, Sunday River Sports pre-season sale, pony rides and games for kids, and a wine tent, among others.  This makes a great weekend trip to the mountains for the entire family!

Stay tuned for a forthcoming recipe entitled “Maine Party Chicken.”  It strikes me as a perfect football Sunday meal.  Perhaps if we all make it next Sunday, the Pats will win…