Strawberry Cream Sparkler

Since we are now in the Dog Days of summer, I wanted to create another cool beverage for this sultry time of year. Strawberries seemed to be the perfect choice.

Strawberry Cream Sparkler

3-4 organic strawberries
3 oz. Strictly Strawberry Tisane from SerendipiTea
2 teaspoons of rich simple syrup
1 – 2 tablespoons of vanilla ice cream
Cold seltzer water

Brew Strickly Strawberry from SerendipiTea double strength, 2 teaspoons of tisane to 6 ounces of water. Steep for 5 minutes. Strain. Chill.

Wash and remove green stems from strawberries and cut into pieces. Put the strawberries in a blender with 2 teaspoons of rich simple syrup and 3 ounces of brewed and chilled Simply Strawberry. Puree until smooth.

Pour strawberry/tisane puree in a tall glass that has several ice cubes. Add the ice cream. Top with 1- 2 ounces of cold seltzer water. Sip slowly and savor.

Rich Simple Syrup – Two parts white granulated sugar to one-part water. Combine in sauce pan over medium/low heat. Sir occasionally until sugar melts. Cool.

Original recipe by Judith Krall-Russo


Brandied Cherries

I enjoy preserving the “fruits” of the season…drying, canning, freezing. My favorite is canning. There is something so special about preparing the fruits and  vegetables, the hot water steaming, filling the jars, and knowing in the middle of winter you have saved some of the summer. Here is a recipe for Brandied Cherries.

4 pounds of dark sweet cherries (about 9 cups after pitting)
2 ¼ cups of sugar
¼ cup of lemon juice
¾ cup of seven year old apple brandy

1. Stem rinse and pit the cherries
2. Combine cherries and their juice with the sugar and lemon juice in a nonreactive large pot. Heat the mixture over medium heat, occasionally stirring until the sugar is dissolved into a smooth syrup and the cherries are hot throughout. Do not boil the mixture. Remove from heat and stir in brandy.
3. Pack cherries in hot sterilized jars with a slotted spoon. Ladle hot syrup over cherries leaving about ¼” headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece cap. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. Let set 12 hours then check the seal.
4. Cool and label. Store in a cool cupboard for at least 2 weeks before opening.


Adapted from: “Ball Blue Book of Preserving” First published in 1909 and “The Good Stuff Cookbook” by Helen Witty, 1997.




Unusual Tea Cup #1

Several months ago I was visiting a friend in South Jersey.  We always end up in at least one antique store and that day we discovered a new large store with many vendors – the kind of store you can wander around for hours looking at antiques. As I walked passed a glass showcase I noticed two small pottery tea cups both in the shape of a cow. They were so delicate and unusual….I had to own them!! The signature on the bottom is …eilene’88.   The cups were made by Eileen Sky who makes wonderful whimsical pieces. Unfortunately, I have found very little about her and her work. Maybe I will be lucky enough to find another one of her creations tucked away on some store shelf!


More unusual tea cups or tea pots to be posted!

Farmers’ Museum – Part 2

Part two has me taken longer than I anticipated. I was involved in doing so much research that I had to say to myself, “Stop!”  So I stopped researching and now will tell you about the exhibit at the Farmers’ Museum. The renovated barn houses a changing exhibit on the main floor and a permanent display of historic farm equipment on the second floor.

When Paul and I were in Cooperstown, NY earlier in the summer we had the opportunity to visit the main floor exhibit, “New York’s Good Eats – Our Fabulous Foods”. It is an insightful exhibit showing many of the foods that were developed, grown, harvested or made in New York State.

Since it will be impossible to talk about all the foods that make up the exhibit, I planned a “mini-tour” for my readers. Let’s begin with the Brooklyn Egg Cream. This fountain beverage was created in the late 19th century when soda fountains were popular social centers. Much credit is given to Louis Auster, a candy shop owner from Brooklyn. The beloved beverage is a combination of chocolate syrup, milk, and seltzer…no eggs…no cream!! The question among Egg Cream aficionados is…was the Egg Cream created in Brooklyn or the Lower East Side? Who really knows!!!

Moving on…the Ice Cream Sundae is said to have had its beginning in Ithaca on Sunday, April 3, 1892. After religious service, the Reverend John M. Scott stopped at the Platt and Colt Pharmacy for his usual dish of ice cream.  Mr. Platt added cherry syrup and a dark candied cherry to the dish of ice cream…inventing the Cherry Sundae! It was a smash hit. However, the city of  Two Rivers in Wisconsin claims that the ice cream sundae was invented there…the “fight” continues this day.

Next…in 1891 The Imperial Packing Company in Canajoharie, New York sold Beech-Nut smoked ham and bacon as their main products.  Then, in 1899 the company changed its name to the Beech-Nut Packing Company and expanded their product line to include products such as ketchup, mustard, mints, fruit drops and Beech-Nut Chewing Gum. There were various flavors including spearmint, peppermint, and pepsin. The town of Canajoharie was referred to as “Flavor-Town” in magazine ads for Beech-Nut Gum.

Continuing the tour, Pearle Wait, a carpenter from Le Roy, New York, was known for putting up cough medicines and laxative teas in his home. On day in 1897 he decided to experiment with gelatin and soon developed and patented a fruit flavored dessert.  Wait and his wife, Mary, named the dessert Jell-O.  In 1899 Wait sold his business, including the formula and the name Jell-O to Frank Woodward for $450.  Woodward was not successful in selling the gelatin product and sold the business including the name for $35. In 1900 the Jell-O name was first used in advertising by Genesee Pure Food Company. It became a family favorite dessert and by 1902 the sales were $250, 000.

Our next stop is the Moon Lake House in Saratoga Springswhere in 1853 a chef named George Crumm created the first Potato Chip. Originally the potato dish, known as French-Fried potatoes, was served as thick slices  that were eaten with a folk and knife. One day a customer complained that the potatoes were too thick and soggy.  Crumm, the chef, agitated with the customer cut the potatoes very, very thin then fried them very crispy and showered them with a generous amount of salt. They were an instant success!

There are many more food stories in the exhibit, New York Good Eats but I will stop with celeryyes, Celery.  New York State in the 1800’s was a leading grower of celery. Celery along with other vegetables was grown in the mucklands located in the central part of the state.  Muck is a very dark brown soil which is mostly organic matter; it is very rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, a very fertile soil that promotes high plant yields.

Celery is native to the Mediterranean region. It was usually eaten cooked, not raw as the vegetable was bitter and stringy. By the 19th century a new cultivar was developed with a milder and sweeter taste. Celery was a labor intensive plant to grow. It needed to be covered with soil to keep the plant light green and tender. The soil also needed to be kept damp but too much moisture would destroy the plant. Since celery was so difficult to grow it was regarded as a very expensive delicacy. In the 19thcentury celery was a status symbol on the dinner table. The raw vegetable, leaves and ribs, was put in a beautiful celery vase (see photo below) and then placed in the center of the table to impress guests. Celery vases were produced in blown glass, sandwich glass, crystal and etched glass. As newer and easier to grow varietals became available celery began to loose its status position in society and celery started to be offered on the table on flat plates, the era of the celery vase vanished.

The exhibit, “New York’s Good Eats – Our Fabulous Foods” at the Farmers’ Museum,Cooperstown, NY  closes on October 31, 2012.   The Farmer’s Museum


The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, NY – Part 1

A Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown??…Isn’t Cooperstown the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame? If you are like most people Cooperstown means only one thing…a shrine to the all American sport…baseball. I admit even I, who know little about baseball, enjoyed the Hall of Fame. However one of my reasons to make the journey to Upstate New York was the Farmers’ Museum also in Cooperstown.

Many friends told us, there is nothing happening in Cooperstown except baseball…the museum, the Doubleday Stadium, many many, many souvenir shops…wrong!

The Farmers’ Museum is about two miles from the Baseball Hall of Fame and is located on 120 acres overlooking the Otsego Lake. The museum features various “Step Back in Time Weekends” and to my delight we arrived for “Treating Our Ills and Curing Our Chills: Medicine Now and Then”. I had the opportunity and pleasure to attend the “Know Your Mints” tour in the herb garden with John Henry Aborn.

It was slightly raining during the tour but who cared. Mint was brought to America by European settlers. There are very few mints that are indigenous to our county. The many mint varietals were used extensively in Early America as a flavoring and a medicine. Peppermint was used to relax the stomach and clear the nose, catnip (for humans) soothes and calms, horse-mint was considered a heal-all and spearmint was a primary flavoring agent. Most medicines at the time had a vile taste and mints especially spearmint was used to mask the bad flavor. Lamb’s Ear with its large fuzzy leaves was applied to the wound as a bandage. The leaf was tied with a string to the injury and since it is high in tannic acid it helped to clot the blood. It was a surprise to me that Lamb’s Ear is a mint but like all mints it has the identifying square stem. After the tour Paul, my husband, and I walked around the Village, visited the print shop and the Lippet Farmstead.

In the afternoon, we attended two sessions of “Making Medicines” held at Dr. Thrall’s Pharmacy. One was on “Identification, Uses, and History of Medicinal Herbs” and “Pill Making, Lozenges, Gel Capsules, Salves, and Emulsions”. Making medicines took a great deal of time – the herbs needed to be harvested, dried, ground and shifted. As mentioned before mints were used to flavor medicines and licorice root which is ten times sweeter than sugar was used to sweeten medicines. Capsules were made from gelatin which is derived from cooking down calves’ hooves. The process to make capsules is time-consuming. A series of wooden sticks the size of a pencil with a rounded metal tip is hand dipped into the gelatin. It must thoroughly dry before being dipped again as it was customary to dip at least three times. Lozenges which are always diamond shaped were made for various ailments.  During our session, Mr. Aborn made clove based lozenges that were traditionally consumed after a large meal to stimulate digestion.  These types of medicines were expensive costing between $1.00 and $1.50. This may not seem expensive to use today but  the daily wage at the time was twenty-five to fifty cents a day!

We finished our day by viewing the exhibit in the renovated barn-,“New York’s Good Eats – Our Fabulous Finds”. In my next blog I will talk about this very interesting exhibit.

Until next time, may you savor all you eat and drink.


Peachy Keen in New Jersey

The juicy sun-kissed peach captures the flavor of summer and is one of the most popular fruits of the season.

A native of China, the peach was first introduced to the New World by Spanish explorers in 1571.

By the 1600’s peaches had become an important crop in New Jersey. Learn the history and folklore of this New Jersey summertime favorite.

History of English Tea

History of English Tea Discover the fascinating history of this much–loved beverage! Tea was first introduced to England in the 17th century. At first it was used for medicinal purposes and sold in London’s early coffee houses. Only when Catherine of Braganza (an avid tea drinker) of Portugal married England’s Charles II did tea become a social beverage. In 1840, Anna the 7th Duchess of Bedford is credited with inventing the custom of Afternoon Tea, a tradition that was embraced by Queen Victoria. Understand the difference between High Tea and Afternoon Tea and learn proper tea etiquette and customs.

Victorian Parlor Games

The Victorians loved to entertain, and the best way to entertain was to play games. In the 19th century, before electronics changed our habits, people gathered in homes for entertainment and played parlor or board games for recreation. The host or hostess might plan seven or eight games to be played throughout the evening with perhaps a light refreshment between games. Learn some old-fashioned games such as, Lookabout, Change Seats! and Pass the Slipper. Be prepared to play and have fun!

The Harvest Season

Autumn was a season of hard work for early Americans. Neighbors joined together to help each other during harvest time. Numerous hands were needed to butcher, preserve, and prepare many foods. School was canceled for days so children could help their parents with the harvest chores. The fruits of spring and summer labor were enjoyed during this season, which was also a time of feasting and recreation. Learn how our forefathers prepared for the long winter ahead while celebrating the harvest season.