then and now

December 28th, 2010

Great-great-great uncle Everett Stetson would have written a farm blog were it not the year 1885, but a judicious diarist he was nevertheless.  Sometimes I check to see what he was up to 125 years ago.  Yesterday’s elegant handwriting indicated a day spent “chopping and hauling two cords of wood”.  Later “it snowed three feet” and he sold a sheep pelt for twenty-four cents.

I often wonder what they ate on that rural Maine farm, especially in the dead of winter, when harnessing the horse to the sleigh would be necessary in order to visit a local shop for flour, coffee and sugar.  No doubt Everett’s wife spent the whole of summer canning fruits and vegetables and by fall the root cellar would be chock full of root vegetables.

Plenty of chickens and certainly a cow or two would keep them in fresh dairy products throughout the year and dried beans, salted fish and cured meats could easily round out a winter meal.  Some type of baked good, no doubt, would be prepared each day in a wood-burning stove and probably included yeast breads and biscuits and sundry varieties of corn meal products.

As little as our modern day meals resemble those of the 1800’s, there’s one thing I’m certain we enjoy/enjoyed in common and that would be Popovers with sweet butter and homemade jam.  So I tip my potholder to great-great-great aunt what’s-her-name.

Jumbo Popovers

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Important note:  Never open the oven door while popovers are baking or they will deflate or never inflate.

For eight popovers:

  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • additional melted butter for coating popover cups or pan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Liberally paint insides of eight custard cups or a non-stick popover pan with melted butter.  Set aside.

Beat eggs until frothy.  Mix in milk and butter.  Add flour and salt and blend until combined.  Pour batter into prepared cups or pan, about 5/8’s full.  Place in oven and bake for 50 minutes.  Remove from oven and slide a small sharp knife into the crown of each popover to let steam escape.  Return to oven for an additional ten minutes.

Copyright © Katherine Stetson, all rights reserved.