Letter from Vermont – January 28, 2010

From the desk of Christopher Kimball
Order Your Copy of The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook and receive the 2010 season DVD boxed set free
Photos of Kimball Farm Over the Holidays
Antique Cookware Photos

Dear Home Cook,

I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s rabbit hunting with Tom, president of the Old Rabbit Hunter’s Association, and my 14-year old son, Charlie. The first day was all browns and grays—there was no snow on the ground—but then it got colder and we had snow. Charlie finally got his first rabbit (see photos of our farm over the holidays) in the middle of a snowstorm but afterward we ran across one of the smartest, wiliest rabbits in Vermont. He took off up the hill and down the other side. He popped out from a stone wall and Charlie shot but missed. Then he ran Tom’s dog, Bernadette, all over the backside of the hill, turning, backtracking, and running in circles. Then he popped out for a peek but we missed again. The last sight I had of him was running flat out back into the woods. He beat us fair and square, including Bernadette, who took two days to recover.

Adrienne and I were invited to dinner recently and one of the guests posed the following question, “Push a cork into an empty wine bottle. Okay, how do you get the cork out of the bottle without breaking the bottle? You can only use whatever tools are on the dining table.” I suggested something about lighting a fire in the bottle (the old hard-boiled egg trick) but that wasn’t it. Maybe floating the cork up to the neck with wine from another bottle and…nope. He finally demonstrated how to do it and it really works-no gimmicks. Want to see how it is done? Just watch my YouTube video.

Our best-selling cookbook this fall was The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook which contains all of our recipes, taste tests, and equipment reviews from 10 years of the public television show. It is over 600 pages long, contains more than 500 recipes, and is the result of many thousands of hours of kitchen work. It also contains all of the recipes from the current 2010 season. I can offer you a copy of this comprehensive volume for just $29.95, 25 percent off the cover price. That works out to be about $3 per year of work, a pretty good bargain. Plus, I’ll also send you a free 4-disc DVD boxed set of the 2010 TV show season (the regular price of the DVD set is $39.95). Order your cookbook and DVD set today!

Caroline, our 19-year-old, decided to spend the night up at our small hunting cabin in single digit temperatures. She hauled up two loads of wood in her backpack, banked the small woodstove, and had a warm, comfortable night of it. Then we got almost 3 feet of snow toward the end of vacation, and that means out come the snowshoes. It looks like it is going to be an old-fashioned Vermont winter.

I have spent a lot of time researching 19th century cookware lately and have come across two items that I really like. The first is the Combined Pitcher, Can-Opener Holder. It looks like a beer mug. You slip a can of condensed milk or similar item inside, close the top, and a hinge on top of the mug punctures the top of the can. You can then pour out the contents using the pitcher handle. Great idea! The other item is the Crown Fryer, which is a deep skillet with a wire basket that sits in it, suspended by two upright flanges. It’s great for shallow frying. Good ideas from our past. (View photos of unusual antique cookware.)

As for cooking, I made the Cook’s Illustrated Cassoulet for Christmas dinner and loved it. I also made the Ricotta Cheesecake, which is both easy and fabulous, and during our week of vacation Adrienne and I cooked out of our freezer, making brisket, pork roast, and a huge 15-pound ham from one of our pigs. I also whipped up the Lemon Cake fromCook’s that is just about to die for (the recipe was featured in the 2008 season of the TV show and is in The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook).

Since politics seems to dominate conversations these days, I thought that you might appreciate this story from Allen Foley, author of What the Old-Timer Said:

“Would you tell us, my friend, how it happens you’re a Republican?” asked the chairman.

“I’d be glad to,” said the Vermonter. “Two reasons only. In the first place I come from Vermont. And in the second place my father was a Republican before me.”

“That is a very poor reason for being a Republican,” the chairman said, “a very poor reason indeed. Suppose your father had been a horse thief?”

“I reckon in that case,” replied the Vermonter, “I’d been a Democrat!”

I leave you with a description of a Sardinian sheep’s milk cheese that you will find highly unusual. It is called casu marzu, which translates as “rotten cheese.” It is riddled with insect larvae that are deliberately introduced into the cheese to provide an advanced level of fermentation and to break down fats. Here is the truly revolting part: The larvae appear as translucent white worms, 8 millimeters long. Ready for this? When disturbed, the worms can launch themselves for distances up to 6 inches! The citation went on to say, “Some people clear the larvae from the cheese before consuming and others do not.” Think that I would stand at least 6 inches away!

On that note, enjoy the New Year, and I hope that you get to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.


Christopher Kimball
Founder and Editor
America’s Test Kitchen

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 4:44 pm  Comments (18)  

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18 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. hope that in this new year 2010..you will post many receipes…love to hear you…

  2. I received a letter from Vermont on 2/25/10 with no attachment?

    • cs for CPK – I will look into and get back to you but in the meantime you can find the February Letter from Vermont here: http://bit.ly/cyJ3RB. May i ask what web browser you are using?

  3. Hey Chris . we just started our ‘primitive” maple tapping this week . first 20gal. to be “warmed” tomorrow . When do you think your operation will commence??

  4. Chris,

    When you film in Rupert is there any chance to watch. I live in Dorset and am a huge fan of the show and the magazines. Your recipes are wonderful.

    • cs for CPK: I am happy to try and coordinate if there is availability. Please reply with your email and I will reach out to you! Thanks.

  5. Would like to receive these letters by email. Thank you.

    • cs For CPK: I am happy to add you to the email distribution list for the Letters From Vermont if you would like to reply with your email address. Thank you!

  6. Hey, Christopher:
    I enjoy reading your “Letter from Vermont” each month. Though I live on Cape Cod, I’m a Vermonter in my heart and love hearing about your family, farm and neighbors.

    I have a request for a recipe for strawberry rhubarb jam, if you have one. I too have just harvested a prodigious amount of rhubarb and would like to preserve some of that taste of Spring to be enjoyed with a warm biscuit on a cold winter’s day.

    Keep up the good work. You have many fans.
    Joan Cowan

  7. Dear Cooks Illustrated,

    I would like to share an idea that I have, regarding a recipe that I would LOVE to see in one of your publications.

    Some time this year I discovered the Cooks Illustrated version of chocolate pots de creme. Absolutely phenomenal, and actually quite easy to prepare. Basically it was pouring over chocolate, a cooked creme anglaise, and voila…done!

    Some time this year through Cooks Illustrated, I also learned the merits of a chocolate company called Guittard. Specifically, the review was for their White Chocolate Chips.

    I would love to see a version of a Butterscotch pots de creme, or pudding, as done in a similar fashion to your chocolate pots de creme, and I do believe that the use of Guittard butterscotch chips should take it over the top. In anticipation, I just drove 30 miles to a candy supply house for 25 pounds of these chips!

    Here in Los Angeles, there is a restaurant called JAR. They are very, very famous for a butterscotch pudding, and while I’ve scored with getting some of this restaurants recipes, their butterscotch pudding is “top secret”. I know that Cooks Illustrated or America’s test kitchen could trump JAR’s pudding, and I am so excited to imagine your talented men and women coming up with the ultimate version of this treat.

    My very best wishes to you,
    Jeff Winett

  8. I grew up in the village next to yours in Vermont, and really enjoy reading about my old stomping ground.

    Have you ever made black birch tea or wild ginger root syrup? We used to pick in the woods in the Spring-so delicious!

  9. I have heard that the Test Kithchen in Rupert has “cooking classes” in September. Is that true, and if so, how do we find out more about them????


  10. Mr. Kimball: I love your magazine and TV shows. My grandparents had a bakery/grocery in a very small town in Indiana. It was gone before I was born in 1932. While cleaning out some old boxes I have come across a small pad with several recipes hand written in fading pencil — a few in ink. The quanity of each ingredient is too large for home use so I am suspecting this my have been my grandmother’s. Not sure but don’t have any other explanation. For instance, it may call for 2.5 pounds of lard or 25 eggs. They use molasses, Hell spice(?) and powdered ammonia(?)– mostly cakes and cookies.
    After I am gone this item will probably wind up in the land fill. Before that happens, do you have any suggestions on someone that might be interested in such old material? Thanks for listening.

    Jack Ward

  11. Mr. Kimball,
    Have you ever heard of “Meat Glue”? I received the following video that has me quite concerned:


    I would be interested in your thoughts on this.

    Art Koenig

  12. I can’t think of another place to ask this question, though I’m not sure why it seems right to ask it here … and yet it is a question I wonder about every two months: why have the Cooks Illustrated editorials never been collected together and published in one or more hardcopy editions? They are among the most compelling modern examples of a form that itself has long since gone into hibernation, and one that is sorely missed. Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly, the closest analogue I’m aware of also has Vermont roots: Garret Keizer’s No Place But Here.

  13. I sent an email to customer service, but I didn’t want my complaint to just disappear. I want you to know how your subscribers are being ignored. The lack of responses to my concerns can’t be mine alone. Check it out.

  14. Since I already subscribe to Cook’s Illustrated for the online recipes, why is it that most of the recipes I search for require me to pay more for the “Editor’s Super Secret Recipes”? I assume that is you…. Kind of like paying for a slow cooker and then finding out that the power cord cost extra.

  15. I just finished reading Mr. Kimball’s Letter from Vermont dated 11-30-11. I love reading his monthly letters. The pictures from his time hunting were beautiful.

    I wanted to suggest to Mr. Kimball something I think he might enjoy, based on his most recent letter. He should check out “The Hunt” episode (Season 3, Episode 19) of the show “The Twilight Zone”. It was written by Earl Hamner, Jr. (the writer of “The Waltons” television show). It was about a coon hunt – a man and his dog. It is one of my all time favorite television episodes.


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