WESTON, VT. >> For a true New England winter, envelope yourself in the honest warmth of simple Vermont charm with Grandma and Grandpa Orton and the rest of the Vermont Country Store family in the new cookbook "The Vermont Country Store (Recipes, History and Lore from the Classic American General Store)."
The 320-page volume is compiled by four-time cookbook author and food stylist Ellen Ecker Ogden (whose career includes articles written for The Boston Globe, Country Living, Martha Stewart and Eating Well) and Andrea Diehl (food editor of the Philadelphia Daily News, features editor of the National News Bureau and Williams College news director).
The cookbook captures the essence of a bygone era, featuring fresh-from-the-farm, home-tested, New England classics and family favorites handed down from generation to generation. More than 200 photographs visually represent the spirit of a self-reliant life in the slow lane, and sidebars describe the state's history with quotes from store founders, Vrest and Mildren Orton.
"They were small-town people who were self-reliant and wanted to carve something out of life," Eliot Orton, a third-generation Orton and current proprietor of the store, said of his grandparents.
He remembers them as humble, rugged folks who were full of warmth, wanting to do the right thing by family and neighbors alike.
The desire to do the right thing for the community led to an epic decision in 1946. Following inspiration from a popular Chase and Sandborn coffee advertisement, which showed men of the community gathered around an old pot-bellied stove, the success of a revolutionary 12-page, hand-typewritten catalog sent to the family's Christmas card list, and the steadfast dedication to revive an authentic, old-fashioned rural operating store, Orton opened The Vermont Country Store in Weston, Vt.
The store, which is on the National Historic Registry as one of the first restored rural general stores in the nation, featured a variety of sundry items including store cheese and crackers, bolts of calico cloth, kitchen knives and cooking forks, tobacco, peppermint sticks, roasting coffee, nutmegs and other nostalgic things.
Not only was their personal warmth and store revolutionary, but so was their cooking. Decades before the current nationwide health movement, Mildred Orton was cooking with whole grains. Mildred thought we should be thinking about how the products make us feel, not just how they look.
The book covers a wide range of recipes, from breakfast and brunch items — buttermilk doughnut puffs and strawberry-rhubarb streusel — to chapters dedicated to preparing fish, venison, duck and wild berries.
The Vermont Country Store cookbook captures the delicious food heritage of Vermont dairies, farms, woods, streams and fields.
Eliot Orton agrees. "For people who have never heard of us, the book will give a wonderful sense of New England. It's got everything."
Cheddar Breakfast Popovers
Courtesy of The Vermont Country Store
3 Tbls unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or rye flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup finely grated cheddar cheese
butter, jam for serving
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Dot each of 6 popover cups with 1/2 Tbsp of the butter and place in hot oven to preheat while you mix the batter.
In small bowl, stir together the flour, salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and cheese, then gradually add the flour mixture and whisk until smooth. (You can do this in a mixer, but whisking by hand produces more tender, lighter popovers.)
Carefully remove the popover cups from oven and divide batter evenly among cups, filling each three-quarters full. Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 20 minutes more, until popovers are golden brown. Remove from oven and serve piping hot with butter or jam.
What: 'The Vermont Country Store Cookbook: Recipes, History, and Lore from the Classic American General Store' by Andrea Diehl and Ellen Ecker Ogden. Grand Central Publishing
Available for purchase at the store, Amazon