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Native Cooking

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Growing up in Rhode Island, I remember very few heavy snows. We lived near the shoreline, as we do now, but it rarely snowed more than 4 inches. As young marrieds, we lived in a higher elevation where people knew what winter meant. You had to be prepared to spend days or a week in, so you;d better have essentials in your pantry.

Those were good times because it made for creative cooking. A freezer was a luxury, so we made due with coolers on the back porch. I use them to this day. About 10 years ago, there was a terrible hurricane that took out our chest freezer full of the garden's bounty, lots of made-ahead meals and treasured miscellany. All was lost or given away. Ideally, one should have a generator that will take over for failed electricity, but even that is not completely reliable. Old-time cold cellars kept things like apples, squash and root vegetables at temperatures that helped to retard spoilage.

With the likely depletion of fossil fuels - or our ability to pay for them, whichever comes first - it might not be a bad idea to relearn some of the food storage techniques of our ancestors. The Europeans who first landed on Cape Cod came upon Native caches of seed corn buried near the beaches of Cotuit and helped themselves. Drying and smoking foods is still a viable method of preservation, and you can even spend hundreds of dollars on contraptions to ''aid'' in this process. Keep it simple.


Winter is a time for hearty breakfasts: stratas, souffles, quiches, frittatas, fruit salads, crepes, flapjacks, pancakes and eggs a million ways. This is the best meal of the day now for fueling the energy it takes to chop wood, ski, snowshoe, or even partake in some indoor projects. Working on a big breakfast sometimes lets you sail through the day without lunch and then into an early supper by the crackling fire.

Make-Ahead Strata

2 cups bread, cubed

8 oz. Cheddar cheese, cubed

8 oz. bacon (crumbled) or ham (chopped)

1/2 stick butter

8 oz. mushrooms, sliced

3 eggs

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a 1-1/2 quart baking dish, put 1/2 of the bread cubes, then half of the cheese on top, followed by a layer of bacon or ham and the butter. Repeat the layer and arrange the mushrooms on top. Beat the eggs, milk, mustard and salt together and pour over the mixture evenly as possible.

Place the baking dish in a pan of hot water. The water should come up the side of the baking dish about 1 inch.

Bake uncovered for 1-1/2 hours. Prepare this dish the night before you will be serving it and refrigerate overnight before baking in a preheated 300-degree oven the next morning.


Bacon-Egg-Corn Scramble

1/2 pound bacon, cooked, drained, set aside

1 cup whole kernel corn

3 eggs

2 tablespoons minced onion (optional)

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Beat eggs and add corn and onion. Heat skillet to medium and grease with butter or spray. Pour egg mixture into pan and crumble cooked bacon on top. Move all around pan until eggs are set the way you like them. Salt and pepper to taste.


Homemade Breakfast Sausage

2 pounds ground pork

1 pound each: ground turkey, bison and veal

1 onion, minced

4 tablespoons ground sage

1 tablespoon ground cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons salt

1 teaspoon ground thyme

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg or mace

4 tablespoons lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and form into 3 inch x 1/2 inch patties. Saute in skillet over medium heat, turning frequently. Freeze remaining patties with waxed paper in between, then wrap in foil or butchers paper. They will keep for about three months.


Make-Ahead Crepe Batter

3 or 4 eggs

1-1/2 cups beer

1 cup flour (or prepared pancake mix)

4 tablespoons melted butter

Put all ingredients in a blender or mixer bowl and process until smooth. Put batter in the fridge overnight. Spray or lightly butter a 6-inch crepe pan and heat on medium. Pour about 1/2 cup of batter in the pan and holding the handle, tilt and gently swirl the pan so the batter will spread over the whole bottom of the pan. Turn over gently and cook other side. Repeat until batter is gone.

Put completed crepes on a cookie sheet and cover with foil until batter is gone. Now you can fill them and eat, or freeze them with waxed paper between each to use later.


Notes and Tips

-- Old spices stored too long lose their taste. Put a piece of masking tape on the bottom of the jar with the purchase date. Arrange spices alphabetically to find them quicker.