Tag Archives: Culinary History

Adirondack Spruce Gum was Once a Hot Commodity


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All this talk from me during the last two weeks about spruce-related subjects (Sprucelets and spruce beer) is linked to past conversations with my mom, a native of Churubusco in northern Clinton County. It’s officially known as the Town of Clinton, but to local folks, it’s just Busco — and about as country as it gets around here. Growing up there on a farm in the 1920s and ’30s, Mom partook in things that were once the norm, like drinking raw milk and chewing spruce gum.

Her repeated mention of loving to chew spruce gum intrigued me. But as a young boy, I made the mistake of thinking any old evergreen would do, so I tried white-pine sap, something I still regret to this day. Maybe it doesn’t actually taste terrible, but in my recollection, it was terribly terrible, like turpentine. To avoid steering anyone away from it based on an old memory, I confirmed through our state DEC website and others that white-pine resin can be used to make turpentine. And the higher the pitch level, the stronger the turpentine taste — so my memory is good that the taste of raw pine resin was awful. Continue reading

Spruce Beer: An Old Adirondack Favorite


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In keeping with last week’s spruce theme — Sprucelets: An Original Adirondack Medicine — is a look at one of the most common drinks in early Adirondack history: spruce beer. Like the aforementioned Sprucelets, it was believed to be of medicinal value due in part to its vitamin C content. Several evergreens share those same properties, and their use dates back centuries.

In one of the earliest mentions of evergreens used as a health aid in North America, there remains disagreement as to which tree along the St. Lawrence River (at today’s Quebec City) was used by Jacques Cartier in 1536 to cure scurvy. His voyage journal says that after learning nearby natives were quite ill with an unknown disease, Cartier quarantined his men on their ships, which were frozen in the ice.

As he noted, the precaution didn’t work. “Not withstanding these defences, the disease begun inside our group, in an unknown manner, as some of us were getting weak, their legs were becoming big and swollen, the nerves as black as coal. The sailors were dotted with drops of blood, and then the disease went to their hips, thighs, shoulders, arms and neck. Their mouths were so infected and rotten that all the flesh fell to the level of the roots of the teeth which had fallen out.” Continue reading

Craft Beer Fundraiser Celebrates Erie Canal Bicentennial


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hudson valley hopsOn Saturday, April 8 from 4 to 7 pm, the Albany Institute of History & Art will host the sixth annual Hudson Valley Hops. This regional craft beer tasting event is a fundraiser for the museum and is sponsored by the Times UNions’ Table Hopping blog.

It’s an opportunity for the community to sample the flavors of Capital Region craft brewers, see brewing and distilling artifacts from the Albany Institute’s collection, meet industry experts, and receive a commemorative glass. This year, the fundraiser will toast the bicentennial of the groundbreaking of the original Erie Canal with an Irish Red Ale invitational, an IPA contest, music, and more. Continue reading

Senate House State Historic Site Sugaring Off Party


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senate houseThe Senate House State Historic Site will celebrate maple season on Saturday April 8, 2017 from 11 am – 3 pm.

Activities include boiling maple sap to syrup, making jack wax candy, baking molasses cornbread and waffles over an open fire, hewing a log into a trough and making wooden buckets and spiles which were used to collect the sap. The First Ulster Militia will re-enact a raid on the sugar bush. Mark Rust will perform traditional 18th century music on a variety of musical instruments including banjo, violin, guitar and spoons. Continue reading

Nutting Season: An Old-Time Ritual


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blackwalnutwikipdThanksgiving, with food a major holiday component, calls to mind a time of year that was once the subject of great anticipation: nutting season. I’m not old enough to have experienced it first-hand, although back in the 1980s I did explore many natural edibles. Among my favorites was beechnuts, which we harvested and used in chocolate-chip cookies. Outstanding!

But in days long ago, when many folks earned a subsistence living that utilized home-grown vegetables and wild foods, nutting season was an important time. Continue reading

New York’s Historic Inns, Restaurants, and Taverns


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nys-historic-restaurants-inns-and-tavernsNew York’s Historic Inns, Restaurants, and Taverns (Globe Pequot Press, 2016) explores the history of over forty institutions throughout New York City and the Hudson Valley that are still in existence today. Travel to the tavern where George Washington hosted a farewell dinner for his officers at the close of the American Revolution. Eat steak at one of the city’s oldest steakhouses. Rest your head in one of the original houses built by Dutch colonists in the Hudson Valley. Part historical record and part travelogue, the book tells tales about the region’s most historical and storied establishments. Continue reading

Mabee Farm to Fork Celebrates Agricultural History Saturday


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mabee-farm-to-fork-sept-24The Schenectady County Historical Society and the Electric City Food Co-op are teaming up to host an evening of local food tastings and live jazz (featuring Roben Kosek Jazz & Blues) inside Mabee Farm’s historic Dutch Barn, on Saturday, September 24th.

Mabee Farm to Fork will be held from 5 – 8 pm. Tickets are $25 per person and will include local food tastings prepared by chef Christopher Marney. A cash bar will be available for alcoholic drinks. Continue reading

Beer of Broadway Fame: The Piel Family of Brooklyn


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beer of broadway fameFor more than a century, New York City was the brewing capital of America, with more breweries producing more beer than any other city, including Milwaukee and St. Louis.

In Beer of Broadway Fame: The Piel Family and Their Brooklyn Brewery (SUNY Press, 2016,) Alfred W. McCoy traces the hundred-year history of the prominent Brooklyn brewery Piel Bros., and provides an intimate portrait of the company’s German-American family.

Piel Bros. grew from Brooklyn’s smallest brewery in 1884, producing only 850 kegs, into the sixteenth-largest brewery in America, brewing over a million barrels by 1952. Continue reading

Hudson River Valley Historic Tavern Trail Events


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hudson valley tavern trailJourneys to Orange County’s most historic inns and restaurants are planned for the 2016 Historic Tavern Trail of the Hudson Valley, beginning April 29th.

There are seven tavern events being held on the Friday of each month from April through October, between 5:30 pm and 7 pm.  A cross promotional effort between Orange County history, tourism and economic development communities, these seven Tavern Trail happy hour and dinner events feature local food, a specialty cocktail, and discussions of local history.

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A Short History of the Finger Lakes Wine Country


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finger lakes wine countryThe new book Finger Lakes Wine Country (2015 Arcadia Publishing), by Finger Lakes local author Sarah S. Thompson, is a photographic journey covering 150 years of viticulture and winemaking in New York’s Finger Lakes region, and its pivotal role in American wine history.

The book is a regional history of the wine industry, told through more than 200 vintage images from collections of area wineries, museums, historical societies, archives and passionate residents. Continue reading