Category: Recipes

Recipe: Handmade Cranberry Sauce

Preserving fruit in any manner can take quite a bit of time and generate a lot of dirty quipment for cleanup. And while I’d made jams and jellies many times over the years, making cranberry sauce for the holidays had never really come to mind. Now, I love cranberries, particularly the more pure juices for drinking and whole cranberry sauce for eating. At one time Ocean Spray had a cranberry museum near Plymouth, Massachusetts, which I visited in May of 1991. It wasn’t until then that I really understood why only certain cranberries could be labeled as “fresh”.

In the fall of 2018 Mary and I were visiting the hard cider taproom at Ricker Hill Farms in Tucker, Maine, when I found myself really looking at a bag of their own fresh cranberries. The berries looked better than most so, curious, I flipped the bag over. Looking at the recipe on the back of the bag, I finally realized how simple making the sauce would be.

While the recipe calls for 1 to 2 cups of sugar I elected to use the lower amount as I’d rather taste the cranberries, not the sugar. I also elected to use a raw cane sugar to fall in line more with the fresh cranberries. In places such Michigan where sugar made from sugar beets is available, that would also be an excellent choice.

This process is so simple that, as long as you’re paying attention while the sauce is boiling, this recipe should work correctly every time. And the flavor is far better than any canned cranberries I’ve had. Be sure to use local cranberies when they’re available, but really any cranberries labeled correctly as “fresh” should be alright.

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is so simple and inexpensive to make, there is no reason to buy it canned besides convenience.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time9 mins
Total Time14 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Christmas, cranberry, holiday, sauce, side, Thanksgiving
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 12 oz Cranberries, whole
  • 1 cup Sugar Raw cane sugar or sugar made from sugar beets will work best
  • 1 cup Water

Instructions

  • Combine the ingredients in a 2 quart sauce pan and stir.
  • Bring to a boil, and start a 9-minute timer.
  • Stir every minute or so to prevent sticking, reducing heat to keep the foam down while maintaining a boil. The shells of the berries will begin to "pop" after a minute or so. Late in the 9 minutes, the boil will become a hard simmer.
  • When the timer goes off, immediately remove from the heat and stir. Allow to cool before pouring into a glass bowl or dish.
  • Chill and serve.

Notes

  • If you prefer the smoother "jellied" sauce, after cooling purée the sauce with a stand blender or immersion blender.
  • Suggestions include replacing some or all of the water with bourbon, rum, champagne, better orange juice, or ading chopped pecans or walnuts, cloves, star anise, or orange zest.

The Ubiquitous Pulled Pork Recipe


Pulled Pork Hoagie

With Mary being a travel nurse now, and the two of us moving around the country on a regular basis, we have plenty of opportunity to feed other people. We occasionally feed not only the people we stay with, but more often we feed the staff she’s working with in a given facility. In the previous post and recipe I included an image of the Chicken Noodle Soup I’d made for her co-workers in Gallipolis, Ohio. Now a few months later, after making BBQ Pulled Pork for her co-workers in Cody, Wyoming, one young lady asked me for the recipe.

Looking through this blog and my other sites, it dawned on me I’d never posted this particular recipe. I’d posted a few versions along the way using specific ingredients … But as far as my “generic” recipe went, the procedure I use most often, it was nowhere to be found.

What’s most interesting to me about this recipe is really how simple it is. There is very little preparation involved, and once it gets going it basically takes care of itself. You only need to keep an eye on it from time to time to make sure it’s progressing nicely, accomplishing a few tasks to help it on its way.


Pulled Pork Tacos

I use this recipe for many reasons and in varying amounts. At home, most batches weigh less than 10 lbs and will sometimes last almost a week. But for larger groups I’ve made catering batches that sometimes weigh almost 30 lbs. On occasion there are leftovers from those batches and we’re able to bring some home. But in other locations, when I go to pick up the crockpot or other serving vessels, there is nothing left for later.

BBQ Pulled Pork can be served in many ways. Most times I’ll simply provide buns and plates, as well as bowls and forks for those diners who would rather forego the buns. Lately I’ve also been including a bowl of good cole slaw for use as a side or for those who like to add the cole slaw to the top of the meat on a sandwich. Pulled Pork can also be used in omelets, burritos, tacos, hoagies, or any other dish where small pieces of juicy meat can be enjoyed.


Two pork shoulders for a large gathering, approimately 10lbs each, on a rack in an oval roasting pan.

There are two different cooking methods I use for BBQ Pulled Pork. For larger amounts, particularly when we’re not on the road, I’ll use an old-school blue oval granite-finish roasting pan, with both a rack and a lid. Various sizes of this roasting pan are available, as well as round and rectangular configurations. But for this recipe, it’s really the rack for inside the pan that’s important. With larger pork shoulders I’ve also had to set the lid aside and cover the pan with heavy duty aluminum foil instead. But the rack is always inside under the pork.

The other device I use, especially when traveling, is a 6-quart crockpot (aka, a slow cooker). Liners which make for easier cleanup are available near the aluminum foil in most grocery stores for use with these cookers. It really doen’t matter what size the cooker is, as long as the pork shoulder you’re cooking fits in it comfortably so the heat can surround the shoulder properly. This airflow is why I use the oval roaster with a rack for larger amounts.


A 7.5 lb pork shoulder in a 6-quart crockpot, using a slow cooker liner for easier cleanup.

The key decision to make is what style combination of rub and sauce you want to use. My go-to rub really isn’t a rub: It’s my favorite spice mix for just about anything, Miracle Blend from Alden Mill House in Alden, Michigan. When my wife starts a new assignment, I make sure to have plenty of this stuff in the pack-out. You can also use a simple combination of salt, pepper, garlic, and any other spices you’d like, and simply add them directly to all sides of the pork.

There are also a couple rub recipes I use to achieve certain flavors:

Brown Sugar Rub

  • 1/2 cup Brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1/4 cup Sea salt
  • 3 tbsp Black pepper, coarse ground
  • 3 tbsp Granulated garlic
  • 2 tbsp Rosemary
  • 2 tbsp Marjoram

Savory Rub

  • 1/2 cup Sea salt
  • 1/4 cup Black pepper, coarse ground
  • 1/4 cup Granulated garlic
  • 2 tbsp Ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp Smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp Rosemary
  • 2 tbsp Marjoram

I’ve also been known to just throw ingredients into a bowl and mix them by hand to create a rub, not really measuring anything, adding other ingredients to taste depending on my mood. You can be as creative as you’d like, achieving whatever flavor profile seems best.

The sauce we use most often is Sweet Baby Ray’s Original. For savory sauces, Montgomery Inn and Stubbs are excellent choices. Make sure to have about a half gallon of sauce for every 10 lbs of pork.


A batch of completed pulled pork, ready for transfer to the crockpot for transport.

Start with a 9 – 11 lb bone-in skin-on (if you can get it) pork shoulder. Generously rub all sides of the shoulder with your rub or seasoning mix. For an oval roasting pan: Place the pork skin-side-up (or fat-side-up) on a rack in the roasting pan, cover it with a lid or aluminum foil, and roast it at 225F for eight-to-ten hours. Test the pork (see below) after about the seven hour point. If not done, continue cooking, testing every 20 minutes. For a crockpot: Line the crockpot with a commercial liner and add the pork, skin or fat side up. Cook it on low for twelve-to-fourteen hours. Test the pork (see below) after about the eleven hour point. If not done, continue cooking, testing every 20 minutes.

In testing the meat you’re not looking for a given internal temperature, but rather the meat flaking apart like a good fish fillet, without being mush.

Remove the meat from the heat. While pulling the pork apart into a large stock pot, remove and discard the skin, fat, and the bone. Add your desired sauce to the pork and stir, completing the pulling for a good texture. Heat the sauced pork through in the stock pot before serving.

Updated Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe


A serving of Chicken Noodle Soup made with this recipe for the overnight staff at Holzer Senior Center in Gallapolis, Ohio, on January 12, 2019.

I had first posted my recipe for Traditional Chicken Noodle Soup on December 30, 2007. In the subsequent decade it’s been made numerous times at our house during chilly days and cold winters in Michigan. Our daughter Bree and I have also swapped out traveling the 45 miles to each other’s home to make it when the other has been too sick to make it for themselves.

It’s also been made a few times for Mary’s nursing staff coworkers, as a special treat, as a winning item for some kind of staff activity, or as part of a potluck. It hadn’t been made in all of 2018 after Mary began working as a traveling nurse in April. But on January 12, 2019, the overnight nursing staff scheduled a “soup potluck” at Holzer Senior Center in Gallapolis, Ohio, where Mary was working. It was quite a hit, to the point where Mary’s coworkers requested the recipe.

At that point it dawned on me just how much the recipe had evolved. I now had it down to a single pot, and it was richer than before if only because I was now cooking the noodles in the juices from the chicken. Cooking the noodles with the vegetables is also a major timesaver. I wrote out the recipe by hand so Mary could make copies (we don’t travel with a printer), and I present it here as well. Make sure the freshest ingredients possible, as well as using chicken stock instead of broth or boullion. Enjoy!

Chicken Noodle Soup

A family favorite, this is requested by those who are ill as well as by some of Mary's co-workers.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Amish, chicken, Jewish penicillin, noodle, soup, whole chicken
Servings: 6 quarts

Ingredients

  • 1 each Chicken, whole, with giblets
  • 1 stalk Celery
  • 1 lb Carrots, whole
  • 1 each Onion, large or 2 medium onions
  • 1 lb Noodles, Egg, Amish-style, extra wide
  • 1 cup Chicken stock not broth or boullion
  • Granulated Garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Instructions

  • Break down the chicken and add it and the giblets to a stock pot.
  • Add 4 – 6 quarts water to the stock pot (enough to cover the chicken by about 3 inches) and salt well.
  • Stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, boil the chicken till fork-tender with no redness at the bone.
  • Remove the pot from the heat. Remove the chicken from the pot, retaining the water (and discarding the giblets), and set the chicken aside to cool.
  • Clean and slice the celery and carrots and do a large chop on the onions. 
  • When the chicken is cool enough to touch, skin and debone it, then cut it into bite-size pieces.
  • Bring the pot back to a boil. Add the vegetables and the chicken stock, stir well and season to taste. Immediately add the noodles, then cook until the noodles are al dente.
  • Remove from the heat, stir in the chicken, and serve.

Notes

The soup can be frozen in portions for reheating later.

Recipe: Crock Pot Creamed Corn

One of the most popular recipes on Luna Pier Cook is Mary Jewett’s Kentucky Sweet Corn Pudding. We’ve enjoyed it ourselves for many holiday get-togethers over the couple decades since we first got a copy of it from Mary herself. The number of page views on the recipe have really skyrocketed since I first posted it in 2008 as people search for an alternative to the standard Green Bean Casserole. It’s becoming a staple all its own.

For Christmas dinner in 2018 our daughter Bree told us she’d located a recipe she really liked along the same lines. It was apparently just as simple to make, using a crock pot to develop a creamed corn that would be just as good as our now-standard corn pudding. I was a bit leary of it myself, as I could just stand there with a spoon needing to be dragged away from Mary Jewett’s specialty. But Bree insisted, and on the day of our family dinner she brought a crock pot with a batch of the stuff in it.

I found I could just stand there with a spoon needing to be dragged away from this new specialty. Rich and flavorful, with crisp corn kernels and a thick cream, and just the right amount of salt and pepper … It was really nice stuff.

It turned out the recipe was Crock Pot Cream Corn by Holly & Katie over at The Semisweet Sisters. Its quite simple as Bree had said, but is also hearty and filling … Still, I could just stand there with a spoon and keep eating it.

We now have two corn dishes for the holidays. Choose your weapon.

Crock Pot Creamed Corn

Adapted from The Semisweet Sisters
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time3 hrs
Total Time3 hrs 15 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Corn, Creamed, Crock Pot
Keyword: corn, creamed, creamed corn, crock pot, crockpot

Ingredients

  • 20 to 30 oz Corn, whole kernel, frozen
  • 8 oz Cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup Milk, whole, or half-and-half
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black pepper, ground

Instructions

  • Put all the ingredients into a crockpot.
  • Cook on high for 2 to 4 hours or on low 4-6, stirring after the first hour.
  • Stir and taste, and adjust salt and pepper as desired before serving.

Notes

  • For more freshness, you can also cut kernels from fresh cobs of corn and freeze them for 24 hours prior to using them to make this dish. Just be sure to still have the same amount of corn by weight.

A Recipe For Maine’s Lobster Roll, Authenticity, plus A Shack With A View


The overstuffed fresh lobster roll at Five Islands Lobster Co., Georgetown, Maine, on July 5, 2018.

I had first attempted to eat lobster in May of 1991 at a popular seafood restaurant on the east coast. I won’t say which restaurant, as it’s still open at the time of this writing and they’re still serving lobster as they always have to happy customers. But to say that I was sorely disappointed is an understatement. I had no idea how to open the thing as it didn’t come with instructions, and the meat was not only a bit tough but rather rubbery as well. The flavor seemed “off”, not being anything like any crab I had ever eaten of any variety, including Chesapeake Bay blue crab, Opelia, or King. I decided lobster is nothing more than an expensive way to eat melted butter.

I wasn’t about to give up though, and as time went on I attempted to enjoy lobster every chance I got. I rarely got back to the Atlantic shores very much so most of the lobster I tried was in the midwest. The classic preparation in the Michigan or Ohio is that of grilled lobster tails. They’re rarely fresh there, being processed and frozen raw on the coast before being shipped to frozen food distributors. At larger gatherings and restaurant buffets where they offer a “lobster bake” the lobsters arrive already boiled, packaged in individual nylon nets. They’re then thawed, the nets are removed, and the whole lobsters are boiled quickly for about another four minutes before serving.

Lobster cooking techniques and presentation in the midwest can also end up being rather far off the mark. In 2018 this was one area restaurant’s Lobster Roll:


The New England Roll Special with Tarragon on Brioche at a restaurant in the midwest, as seen on Facebook on July 6, 2018.

This isn’t a New England Lobster Roll, regardless of what the Chef says. What this does is disrepect the lobster as the main ingredient, elevates the roll itself to a bread New Englanders wouldn’t use, and confuses people who don’t know what a real New England Lobster Roll is by presenting an inaccurate version of the dish to those patrons who have yet to experience the authenticity of the New England Lobster Roll.

This kind of situation is why I hadn’t yet been able to enjoy the real article.

It wasn’t until we ended up in Maine for six months beginning in April of 2018 that I finally had the opportunity to try fresh local lobster that had been cooked in a kitchen specializing in northern Atlantic seafood. The first full day we were there we ended up at the Taste Of Maine restaurant in Woolwich, where our daughter proceeded to order two whole lobsters.


Our daughter’s two whole lobsters at the Taste Of Maine restaurant in Woolwich, Maine, on April 21, 2018.

With a lot of their patrons being from out-of-town or out-of-state the restaurant’s placemats give detailed instructions on how to break down a whole lobster. Once we followed the instructions, along with some good hints from our server, we all tried it.

The difference between any other lobster I’ve tried and the meat from those two animals from Maine waters that had also been cooked nearby in a Maine restaurant was rather eye-opening. The meat was sweet and moist, very tender, and had a rich flavor that I felt had been missing in all the other dishes I’d attempted to enjoy for almost thirty years.

The cuisinologist in me hadn’t given up on multiple preparations of this same or similar dishes, and my determination was firm in continuing the quiet mission of trying to find out what was wrong, why I hadn’t been able to enjoy such a popular meal. And it paid off, right here in Maine.


Five Islands Lobster Co., Georgetown, Maine.

As the summer progressed I enjoyed lobster rolls in a number of restaurants and, more importantly, at roadside lobster shacks where things have generally been done a certain way for a very long time. The first lobster roll I had was at Red’s Eats in Wiscassett on May 2nd during the stand’s 80th anniversary year. Red’s has been popular in the area the entire time they’ve been open but have seen even more business since showing up on a food and travel show called “The Zimmern List”, on the Travel Channel in 2017. Many lobster rolls I had seen weren’t half as stuffed as the one I was served at Red’s. But the one at Red’s was considerably better than I had imagined such a thing could be. It came with sides of mayonnaise and melted butter, and I decided the butter was the way I wanted to go with it. That was definitely a good decision as the butter enhanced the flavor the way it should have on my first lobster thirty years before.

One of the interesting aspects of the lobster roll at Red’s Eats is that each one includes the meat from one whole tail and two whole claws, along with a literal handful of other picked meat. Detailed in the restaurant’s own book, Debbie Gagnon Cronk, Red’s daughter, the current owner and the face customers see at the shack’s window, was quoted as saying “If you want to cook and pick your own lobster meat, plan on 1 – 1-1/2 pound hard shell lobster or two to three 1 – 1-1/4 pound softshell lobsters per roll. (Do not use frozen lobster meat; that is a sin.)” [Cronk, Debbie Gagnon; Wright, Virginia. Red’s Eats: World Famous Lobster Shack. Camden, Maine: Down East Books, 2010, page 25].

Topping such a great lobster roll is no mean feat, but a couple months (and a number of lobster rolls) later I found the one I believe to be the best. Five Islands Lobster Co. near Georgetown, Maine, isn’t too far from Red’s Eats and was also represented on the same episode of Zimmern’s show on the Travel Channel.


The setting of the Five Islands Lobster Co., showing one of the three outdoor dining areas. The open ocean is just beyond the islands.

Five Islands is probably the freshest lobster shack in the area while also likely being the most fun. Located on a picturesque man-made peninsula in the Sheepscot River, there’s parking for dozens of cars and picnic table seating for at least a hundred diners. Five Lobsters is made up of three buildings. The farthest is the lobster building, where lobsters from the surrounding waters, along with other shellfish such as steamers and mussels, are prepped from live to either direct sale to customers in to go containers or as baskets to eat on-site. The “Love Shack” grill building offers the sweet and overstuffed lobster roll shown in the fist photo above, as well as other seafood preparations, burgers and sandwiches, and many other items. And the ice cream building offers desserts made of local products. Wandering the rocky shoreline nearby is also allowed, it’s only the active boating docks that are private and off-limits. The overall view, past Malden Island, Hen Island and Mink Island to the open ocean, is simply breathtaking.


A look into the kitchen at the lobster building at Five Islands Lobster Co. Note the bright unmuted color of the lobster’s shell, indicating the live animal’s freshness.

The difference between the lobster on the lobster roll at Red’s and at Five Islands is only a matter of what’s probably only a few hours in preparation, but there are enough differences in the characteristics of the lobster meat on the roll that the latter is the one I chose, even though I’ll also enjoy a lobster roll at Red’s Eats any chance I can get.

Authenticity matters. Recreating a dish like this with a personal flair to make it seem “high-end” so it fits a restaurant that’s not a lobster shack is disrespectful of the main ingredient, in this case the lobster, and does nothing to create an accurate representation of the named dish. Presenting such a dish the right way is the right thing to do. It’s what people who know the original dish expect, and it teaches accuracy to patrons who are unknowing of the original dish.

Authentic Maine/New England Lobster Roll


Franfurter Buns in Maine in my electric skillet with traditional Maine red hot dogs. This is how the buns should be prepared for lobster rolls.

Maine Lobster Roll

Cook Time30 mins
Assembly Time5 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Main Course, Sandwiches
Cuisine: American, Seafood
Keyword: Lobster, Lobster Roll, Maine, Roll
Servings: 4 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Lobster meat cooked (see notes)
  • 2 Tbsp Mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup Celery, chopped optional
  • Leaf lettuce optional

Instructions

  • Chunk the lobster meat and chill it for at least an hour.
  • Fold the mayonnaise into the lobster meat, and add the celery if desired.
  • Butter and grill four frankfurter rolls (what the rest of the country calls a New England roll, a split hot dog bun having flat sides).
  • If tesired, add one leaf of lettuce to the roll.
  • Stuff the roll with the lobster meat mixture and serve.

Notes

  1. Try your best to avoid using frozen raw lobster.
  2. Get the freshest live lobster possible, less than about 72 hours after it was landed on the lobster boat. If you're not near any lobstermen, your best bet is to have live lobster overnighted from the coast. If it's been in a tank for a while, especially a tank that doesn't contain real seawater, it's not worth it. Check the color of the shell and make sure when you squeeze the sides there's a little bit of "give".
  3. If the live lobster has to sit at all before cooking, ensure that it's in well-salted clean room-temperature water for as short a time as possible.
  4. Cook the live lobster quickly using the time-honored methods of lobstermen or people in those fishing areas. Here are the two simplest methods as published in a 1964 local cookbook:

    Do You Boil It Or Steam It?

    As far as I am concerned, “you takes [sic] your choice.” Either method is satisfactory, although I feel that steaming is preferable: there’s not as much water to drain out of the lobster when it comes out of the pot, and the meat texture seems firmer yet more tender … For boiling you need enough water (sea water if possible, otherwise well-salted water) for complete immersion. The water should be boiling briskly when you dunk the lobsters headfirst. When the water comes back to a boil let them cook for about 15 minutes. Take them out and put them on their backs to drain. Then serve them hot, with lots of melted butter … For steaming you need only an inch of water in the pot, and when you have a good head of steam drop them in and give them about 18 minutes of cooking. (A nice touch: put in ½ cup of sherry. The flavor and sweetness of the meat will be enhanced considerably.) Simple, isn’t it? And in my opinion, about as fine a way as there is to enjoy the full, true flavor and succulent meat of a Maine lobster. [Roux, William C. What’s Cooking Down In Maine. The Bond Wheelwright Co., 1964. p. 3 – 4.]
  5. Either enjoy it immediately, or pick the meat immediately and chill it for making lobster rolls.

  6. If making lobster rolls, make sure to use the correct bun. In New England it's called a Frankfurter Bun (above, right, compared to hot dog buns at a Hannaford grocery in Maine), but in the rest of the country it's generally known as a New England Roll (below, in a Piggly Wiggly in southeastern Ohio).