Regional Traditions and a Giveaway

By Jane/Susannah/Sadie, who’s still not sick of turkey on the last day of November…

Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway: I’m giving away a copy of Yarned and Dangerous, book 1 of the Tangled Web Mysteries. Leave a comment below for a chance to win.

Sunset view from my cabin

I spent this past Thanksgiving, as I have most every Thanksgiving for the last twenty years, in Northern New York State , where I have rustic (don’t get jealous–I mean it when I say rustic) but comfortable cabin on a lake. On Thanksgiving day, my husband, son, and I trek out through the woods to, well, Grandmother’s house. Or at least my son’s grandmother, my mom.

Like most families, we have our traditional foods to go with the turkey (not all of which everyone actually enjoys): winter squash (usually Hubbard), sage dressing, green bean casserole, cranberry relish (click here for a recipe), crumb-topped apple pie, and of course pumpkin pie. I will leave it to you to figure out which thing on this list is almost universally disliked in the family, but which we have every year anyway because that’s the way it’s done.

But there are certain regional delicacies we have at every gathering, not just Thanksgiving: cheese curds and Croghan bologna (pronounce that “cro-gun bull-o-nee,” please). I would venture to say that most every family, and certainly any with roots deeper than three generations, in the North Country also has these items as appetizers before the main meal on special days.

So what’s a cheese curd? The North Country has a lot of cows and a lot of dairy farms, which means we make cheese. The curds are a byproduct of cheesemaking, and have a flavor somewhere between mozzarella and a mild cheddar, depending on what cheese they’re a byproduct of. When fresh, which is really the best way to eat them, these little misshapen lumps squeak when you chew them. They are usually eaten cold, but they can also occasionally be breaded and deep fried, or made into the French-Canadian, becoming-sorta-trendy treat poutine–french fries and cheese curds covered in hot gravy. Although most people don’t make poutine at home. It’s easier to order out.

Curds and Croghan on a Grinch-colored plate

Now, for the Croghan bologna. This is a type of ring bologna–more of a sausage, really–which has been manufactured in the tiny town of Croghan, NY at the Croghan Meat Market (click here for more information and for photos) for more than a hundred years. The recipe, which came with the market’s founder, Fred Hunziker, from Switzerland, is a closely guarded secret. This is always eaten cold, sliced into rounds about a quarter of an inch thick, sometimes on a cracker (it fits perfectly on a Ritz), or sometimes topped with a cheese curd or a bit of mustard. I suppose some people might heat it up for breakfast, or make it into a sandwich, but in general that’s a no-no.

If it’s Grade B, it’s for me!

The breakfast of choice for the day after Thanksgiving, or Christmas or Easter morning, is pancakes with local maple syrup. In the North Country, most of us like the dark syrup rather than the lighter, more-desirable-other-places amber. I don’t know that I have a particularly discriminating palate, but I can tell the difference between North Country syrup and Vermont. Sorry, Vermont, but I likes what I knows, and my syrup of choice will always be from New York.

For a chance to win a copy of YARNED AND DANGEROUS, leave a comment below, telling us about your favorite regional foods. If you don’t have any, tell us what you think that hated food item is that I reference in paragraph 4, above. You don’t have to be right to win, LOL!

 

Cover Reveal – Biscuits and Slashed Browns

Edith, with some delightful news, and a giveaway!

I have, that is, Maddie Day has, a cover for Book Four in the Country Store Mysteries. The book is called Biscuits and Slashed Browns, and it takes place during maple sap season in Brown County, Indiana. The book releases January 30, 2018. It is, of course, available for preorder wherever books are sold, and preorders really help the author. I’m giving away an apron and a signed cover flat to one lucky commenter today (US aprononly)!

Here’s the cover blurb:

For country-store owner Robbie Jordan, the National Maple Syrup Festival is a sweet escape from late-winter in South Lick, Indiana—until murder saps the life out of the celebration . . .

As Robbie arranges a breakfast-themed cook-off at Pans ‘N Pancakes, visitors pour into Brown County for the annual maple extravaganza. Unfortunately, that includes Professor Connolly, a know-it-all academic from Boston who makes enemies everywhere he goes—and this time, bad manners prove deadly. Soon after clashing with several scientists at a maple tree panel, the professor is found dead outside a sugar shack, stabbed to death by a local restaurateur’s knife. When an innocent woman gets dragged into the investigation and a biologist mysteriously disappears, Robbie drops her winning maple biscuits to search for answers. But can she help police crack the case before another victim is caught in a sticky situation with a killer?

So, without further ado, I present the cover:

Biscuits and Slashed Browns

Don’t you love it? We have the bottles of syrup, the sugaring-off shack, the sap buckets, pancakes, biscuits, a little March snow left on the ground, even the slashing knife.

And on the bench sits Robbie’s cat Birdy. For those of you who didn’t hear, this Birdy is modeled on my real-life cat Birdy, and he died on June 6, just a few weeks ago. I miss him terribly, and am comforted that he’ll live on in this series.

BirdywithFLIPPED

Birdy, the cat in the Country Store Mysteries – literally, in this case!

Readers: To win one of my Edith Maxwell/Maddie Day aprons–which I save for extra-special giveaways–and a signed cover flat, tell me in the comments section what’s your favorite thing to eat using maple syrup. Pancakes? Maple sugar candy? A mapletini? Oatmeal? Maple bars? Dish, gang.

 

Wicked New England – Favorite Foods

Because there are five Wednesdays in March this year, let’s combine Wicked Wednesday with Wicked New England today.

Wickeds (and readers in the Comments section): What are your favorite New England foods? And which have you already included in one of your books?

Liz:  So much good New England food! I do love lobster rolls and French fries, but since I don’t eat real bread anymore  I’ve had to get creative. If I’m out, I’ll get the lobster on a salad (with the fries, of course!). At home, I found a fun vegan recipe reminiscent of the IMG_9169 traditional New England lobstah roll, but using tofu. It’s actually really good, and looks almost like the real thing! Since my books have food for pets, this, naturally, has not appeared. But maybe Stan will find a nice vegan cafe and try one…

Edith: Because of our long winters, when the growing season starts up it’s a huge treat to eat fresh local produce again in the spring. I suppose asparagus in May and local strawberries in June aren’t particular to New England, but I can never get asparagusmarinatedenough of them. The first thing I did when I moved three years ago was prepare a wide bed for asparagus crowns. Breaking off a stalk and eating it in the garden is just the best, and I included Cam’s Marinated Asparagus in A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die. And then there are sun-warmed heirloom tomatoes a little later in the summer…

 

Jessie: One of my favorites is Anadama Bread. It’s a yeast bread made with cornmeal, oatmeal  and molasses. We used to eat it often when I was a child and every now and again I bake a couple of loaves. I included a version of it in my book Maple Mayhem, which is a speciality of the protagonist’s grandmother, named Grandmadama Bread. Since that series features a sugarmaker I substituted maple syrup for the molasses and was pretty pleased with the results.

IMG_3801_2Sherry: I’ve live a lot of places since my husband was in the Air Force. You end up finding different favorite things for different parts of the country. Moving to Massachusetts opened up a whole new food world for me! My very favorite which I’d never had before is a lobster roll — heaven on a bun, a New England style bun, of course. Next comes pizza — I don’t know why they taste different and oh, so yummy there but they do. And one slice is the size of your head. Then I discovered Italian pastries — cannoli and lobster tails, perfection!

Julie: I love clambake foods–lobster, clams, corn, potatoes. YUM. But to top it off, the real New England food–ice cream. We love our ice cream here. Coffee ice cream is a special favorite. I used to love frappes (shakes to most of you) , but now I’m wicked happy with a dish of delish ice cream. One of my favorites comes from Somerset Creamery in Cataumet (down the Cape). Cranberry Bog ice cream has craisins, cranberries, walnuts, and white chocolate. So, so good. There is some food mentioned in Just Killing Time, but the food talk gets ramped up in Clock and Dagger.

Barb: Since we’ve just passed St. Patrick’s Day, I have to go with a New England Boiled Dinner. That’s corned beef, cabbage and other vegetable such as potatoes, carrots, and onion. It sounds disgusting, but cooked properly it ends up being a smoky, salty delight with a little crunch left in the cabbage.

Readers: Favorite New England food? Please dish! (The groan heard round the world – hey, it’s been a long month…)

You Don’t Need a Sweet Tooth to Love Sugar Grove

On Wicked Wednesdays, we all chime in on a topic. This week, we’re celebrating the release of Jessie Crockett’s second Sugar Grove Mystery, Maple Mayhem. So Wickeds, and readers, what do you love most about this series (besides the maple syrup, maple candy and all the other sweets)?

maplemayhem

Liz: I just love Dani’s voice. She’s a fun, fearless heroine who has such an interesting take on her small town and its quirky happenings. The setting is fabulous too – the small town-ness oozes out on every page, just like the yummy maple syrup.

Barb: I love the way, in Drizzled with Death, Jessie told us so much about the Greene family, but kept so much back. Why do three generations live in the same house? Why are they all named after shades of green–and what shade does Dani’s name represent. (Is it incredibly obvious? Am I just being dense about I?)

Sherry: I haven’t figured out her name either, Barb. Dani Greene is short and Jessie turns that lack of height into a very funny part of the book. I always love some romance with my mysteries and Dani’s love life is a mess. I wonder if it will go more smoothly in Maple Mayhem but I’m guessing it won’t.

Julie: There is a lot to love with this series. First of all, as the other Wickeds mentioned, Dani is a wonderful protagonist. Second, there is a real sense of place, and family, that I love. And third? Jessie always surprises me. In Drizzled with Death, I still remember the animals, and laugh. Where did she even come up with that? I can’t wait to see what Maple Mayhem has in store for me.

Edith: Agree with all of the above! It must be said that Dani and Jessie have a lot in common, in their funny fearlessness, energy for life, and devotion to family. I can’t wait to see what trouble Jessie has put her alter ego in this time.

Readers: What’s your favorite part of Sugar Grove and its residents? Got a question for the author?

Presidents Day — If the Wickeds Were President

By Sherry Harris

Surrounded by snow in Northern Virginia

Happy Presidents Day. I decided to take this opportunity to think about what the country would be like if the Wickeds and their characters were combined into one person to serve as President.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABarb/Julia:

clambake1.  Morrow Island will become the Camp David of the North and open to the public when President Barbia isn’t there. (Does Barbia sound like the name Mattel would make up for a president?)
2.  State dinners will be clambakes complete with heads of states wearing bibs with lobsters on them. Amid the claw cracking and dripping butter they will realize their differences are few and we will have world peace.

Edith/Cameron:

gardens21.  President Camerith (sounds like the name of a fair maiden) will make sure everyone has access to locally grown, sustainable, organic food.
2.  We will all have gardens from tiny ones on windowsills to backyard beauties to entire urban parks transformed into organic farms (the Canadians are way ahead of us in this regard). People will live longer and world hunger will be eradicated.

Jessie/Dani:

maple_syrup1.  Maple syrup on every table. President Jessni (sounds like a teen Disney star) will share maple syrup recipes with their antioxidant properties.
2.  She’ll make sure we drink plenty of water, set goals, and have us tapping to relieve stress. Everyone will be so healthy the World Health Organization will have little to do.

Julie/Ruth:
clocktowers1.  President Rulie (a good name for a monarch?) will want every town to have a beautiful clock tower and a local playhouse.
2.  President Rulie will teach us all to accessorize. Arts will be required at every school. The world will become more beautiful and tolerant.

Liz/Stan:
dogsandcats_1109096582_n1.  President Lizstan (Lizstan sounds like a country) will make sure our pets will have good organic food to eat.
2.  There will be no more animal kill shelters. Dogs and cats will be loved and placed in forever homes. Feral animals will be neutered and live in safe colonies. Respect and love for animals will spread to people around the world.

Sherry/Sarah:

yard-sale-day21.  President Sherah (sounds like a blend of wines) will make sure garage and tag sales are held in every community.
2.  She will teach people to barter and will require all dumps and landfills to have thrift shops to sell things that shouldn’t have been thrown away (Monterey, California has one and it has amazing stuff). She is sure somehow, this will make the world a better place.

Wicked Wednesday: Recipes with Maple Syrup

To celebrate Drizzled with Death by Jessie Crockett we are sharing recipes that call for or need to be topped with maple syrup!

Original File Name: 4126-Driscole-Pancakes-032.tif

(Picture from http://www.babble.com. Missing the yogurt, obviously!)

Edith: Cool, I’m first, so I can claim pancakes! Or at least my version of them. To me, since about 1971, pancakes are whole wheat. Preferably with either bananas and walnuts in them, or in recent decades, with a handful of hand-picked (for a while also home-grown) blueberries, either fresh or frozen, added to each. Top with a dollop of plain yogurt and the best maple syrup you can afford, and you have a Sunday morning breakfast that will sustain you for a good while. The core of the recipe comes from the Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown. I now can’t abide white pancakes!

Whole Wheat-Blueberry Pancakes

Mix 2 c whole wheat flour, 1 T baking powder, 1 T brown sugar, 1 tsp salt in a mixing bowl. Make an indent in the middle and add three eggs, then stir with a fork. Add 1/4 c vegetable oil and 2 c milk (can be non-fat). Mix with same fork or a mixer until blended. Spoon batter into a nice medium-hot skillet with a little oil in it. Add a handful of blueberries, fresh or frozen, to the middle of each pancake as soon as you have spooned it into the pan. Cook until the bubbles pop, turn, cook some more — come on, you know how to cook pancakes — and eat with yogurt and great maple syrup.

Sherry: I have had Edith’s pancakes and they are amazing! But I also love my mom’s buttermilk pancakes. They are easy to make and easier to eat! 2 eggs beaten, 2 cups buttermilk, 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon vanilla. Combine beaten eggs and buttermilk. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Cook and drizzled with lots of hot maple syrup.

Last weekend while visiting the Boston area we stopped in the bar at the Commons at Hanscom Air Force Base. I ran into Gina Pacheco who shared this inspired use of maple syrup. She wets the rim of a beer glass with maple syrup, dips it in cinnamon and sugar, and then fills the glass with her favorite pumpkin ale! I can’t wait to try this!

Liz: Since going wheat and gluten-free, my house has gotten creative with breakfast. After a lot of experimentation and sampling, the best gluten-free French toast goes like this:
Either make your own bread (which is time consuming and messy) or find a healthy alternative. I’m lucky enough to live near a great natural store that makes their own gluten-free bread that’s perfect for French toast. Thanks, Nature’s Grocer! Then you combine one large egg, 1/4 cup of vanilla-flavored almond milk, 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 2 tablespoons butter (I use Earth Balance vegan, soy free butter). Dip the bread in the mixture and coat both sides, place in skillet and cook for about 5 minutes, making sure both sides are golden. Douse with your favorite maple syrup and enjoy!

Julie: While maple syrup is amazing for breakfast, it also works well when roasting butternut squash. Preheat oven to 400. Cut the squash in half, take out the seeds and guts. Fill up the cavity with butter and maple syrup, sprinkle some nutmeg and roast for about an hour. Really delish, and makes a lot.

While we are talking maple syrup, can I just say that using the real thing matters? I use grade B for cooking, and only have the real thing in the house. More expensive, but a little goes a long way, and it makes such a difference.

Barb: While researching my second Maine Clambake Mystery, Boiled Over, I was looking for camp-style recipes for authentic Mi’kmaq dishes. One of the recipes is for Baked Camp Beans.

Here’s a bit of dialogue from the book.

“My God, these are delicious. They taste a something like New England baked beans.”

“And who do you think invented those?” Phil smiled at me. “All the tribes in Maine, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick cooked beans mixed with maple syrup and bear fat in clay pots buried with hot coals.”

I loved that! In the Americas our cuisine is such a happy melding of heritages. The melting pot literally is a pot.

Jessie:  All these ideas sounds delicious! Maple syrup is a great substitute for honey. I recommend it in a sort of teriyaki glaze. I mix together soy sauce, some sweet rice wine, maple syrup, ginger and garlic. I pour it over chicken pieces and let it marinate for a couple of hours then grill or broil it.

Readers: What’s your favorite maple syrup recipe? And have you bought Jessie’s book yet?

Happy Book Birthday/Interview with Jessie

Happy Drizzled with Death launch day, Jessie! We are SO excited for you. The rest DrizzledCoverof your Wicked Cozies have some questions for you about this book and the Sugar Grove mysteries. Here’s the teaser first:

The annual pre-Thanksgiving pancake-eating contest is a big event in Sugar Grove, New Hampshire. It’s sponsored by the Sap Bucket Brigade, aka the firefighters auxiliary, and the Greene family farm provides the syrup. But when obnoxious outsider Alanza Speedwell flops face first into a stack of flapjacks during the contest, Greener Pastures’ syrup falls under suspicion.

Dani knows the police—including her ex-boyfriend—are barking up the wrong tree, and she’s determined to pull her loved ones out of a very sticky situation. The odds may be stacked against her, but she’s got to tap the real killer before some poor sap in her own family ends up trading the sugar house for the Big House…

Edith: First, what’s the capital of Belize? No, just kidding (and channeling Hank Phillippi Ryan at Bouchercon…).  Maple syrup and New Hampshire are pretty much joined at the hip. Tell us how you twist the stereotypes we all have, like “sturdy backwoodsman Jack, the dappled sunlight falling on his ruddy cheeks, trudges through knee-high March snow to check the taps on his maple trees.”

Jessie: My main character is a tiny young woman and the other sugar makers in the series run the gamut from gentleman farmers to self-sufficient older women. There is a man something like the one you describe in the second book but his name is Frank! One of the things I like to do is to create a character with a surface that looks familiar and then to create scenes in which other characters come to realize there is more to that person than he or she knew.

Sherry: How much did you know about maple syrup before you started Drizzled with Death?

Jessie: My sister has tapped trees for years and there are plenty of other sugar makers all around in my neck of the woods. I’ve been lucky to get to see the process from beginning to end. Writing this series has made me even more aware of the popularity of sugaring and the way it is a part of the rhythm of life in rural New Hampshire.

Barb: What is your favorite maple sugar fact or tidbit you discovered in your research?

Jessie: I was surprised and delighted to discover maple syrup contains more than fifty compounds which help the human body with everything from inflammation to diabetes. Not bad for something that tastes so delicious!

Liz: I’m so intrigued by the village life you describe, and I know you have plenty of real-life experience! What are some of the traits you’ve “borrowed” from real people to create your characters? Any scenes inspired by true encounters?

Jessie: I am certain I am influenced by the people all around me but I never set out to show anyone real. I think some of the people are more wishful thinking than anything else. On the  other hand,  I know some of the situations are real, like the way people stop and visit with each other at the post office or how much political campaigning gets done at the dump. That is all part of the ebb and flow of life in a small town and is part of what I love about living in one myself!

Julie: Jessie, I am so exicted to read your new series! And I look forward to learning more about sugar groves and the industry. So tell me, is it true that weather, tree locations, etc. affect tapping season? Is this going to be a good one?

Jessie: It is true that the weather and climate change have a lot to do with maple syrup production. In fact, the difference between day and night temperatures is what makes the sap start to flow in the trees and makes tapping possible. Maple syrup making is just one more reason to get serious about climate change.

Readers: Ask Jessie a question about her book, whether you’ve read it or not!