Yesterday's Island Today's Nantucket
Volume 38 Issue 18, August 28-Sept 3, 2008
now in our 38th season


by Maryjane Mojer
Executive Chef, Bartlett's Ocean View Farm

I am very much a creature of habit and traditions. My husband claims that my definitions of habit and tradition are in truth merely obsessions wrapped neatly in a little package of denial. I choose not to quibble over semantics. I like my work schedule just fine, and when I do have a different day off, as I have had this week, it really throws me for a loop for a bit. I feel somewhat out of sorts and scramble to get back into the rhythm of it all. I am on the boat at the moment and have tomorrow morning planned already. By this I mean that I know which coffee I will start the day with. Granted I am usually the only one that notices, but still, I like my routines.

My work day begins with a flick of the kitchen light switch, a good morning to the ghosts on the farm and a bee line for the coffee grinder, dropping my bag and keys on my desk on the way by. I have just enough time while the grinder is grinding to hit all the lights and put the coffee pot in place. I do have a coffee pot with an automatic grinder at home as well, and really can’t imagine life with out it. Somehow the small lever that holds the top down allowing the grinder to grind has broken off, so I need to balance a bowl on top to hold the hinged lid down. I should actually buy a new one, and have certainly shopped around, but I feel a certain loyalty to inanimate objects that have served me well, and it will take a bit of time for me to let go.

Coffee is always a big part of our road trips, whether it’s to the Cape, the  Catskills, or Canada. There have been memorable cups along the way, most notably the best cup I’ve ever had from a small roadside stand in the Adirondaks. We haven’t been back, but we do have the trip mapped out and I dream of the day.

There is some discrepancy regarding the amount of coffee that I consume on a daily basis. This is not a topic that I discuss willingly, but on occasion, often times during a family dinner, during what my family deems “interventions,” the subject has come up.  I believe, (and I am strong in my convictions and beliefs; some might say stubborn) that I have two cups of coffee a day. My cup is a 24-ounce insulated mug with a lid. I fill it once in the morning, refill it two or three times through out the morning, and then, when empty, fill it again. Thus, two cups as a refill is merely an extension of the original cup. It seems as though some folks consider 6 ounces a cup of coffee.  Not true coffee drinkers I say. At home, I have a set of Bennington Pottery mugs, twelve ounces, broad at the bottom and narrow at the top. Yes, we went to Vermont in search of the perfect coffee cup. The coffee stays hot longer, and it’s just the right amount to sip and  refill to keep it hot. Those wide, oversize mugs that hold a quart or more are fine for lattes and cappuccinos, but for a hot cup of joe, a smaller, narrow cup is my cup of choice.

On my days off, I brew my coffee in a pot which is clearly mis-marked as ten cups and enjoy every last drop. I drink my coffee black and can’t quite wrap my brain around why anyone would do otherwise, though I don’t judge. I am not at all averse to drinking my coffee room temperature, or iced although iced coffee is a whole different beast on it’s own.  At work and at home, I freeze leftover coffee to use as ice cubes in my iced coffee. As the coffee ice cubes melt, it keeps the coffee cold without diluting it at all. For sweetening iced coffee, a simple syrup is swell and easy to make. It will last for months in your refrigerator, and will sweeten your ice coffee through and through without the pile of sugar crystals at the bottom. That is, if you need to sweeten your coffee. I still drink it black and as far as I’m concerned, if any beverage has sugar and cream in it, it will be a strawberry frappe with extra malt. Again, to each their own. Coffee is just fine as is, though not all are up to the challenge and I do understand that. Poor dears.

Simple Syrup

Dissolve 4 cups of sugar with two cups of water.  Bring just to a boil, and stir to make sure the sugar is dissolved.

Remove from heat, cool completely and store in a clean jar with a tight fitting lid.

Please be most careful as this is hot, hot and will burn badly!

I do like to flavor things with coffee as well, and find instant coffee an easy way to get a good, rich coffee flavor in various things. I take a small jar of instant coffee, (I prefer the freeze-dried type. It dissolves better and has a stronger, more true coffee flavor.) Into the jar, pour just enough very, very hot water to dissolve the coffee crystals and make a thick syrup. Store this in your refrigerator. For an eight-ounce jar of instant coffee, a quarter cup of hot water should do. If you need more, add it. A tablespoon of the stuff, after it’s cooled, can make whipped cream served on chocolate cake, or simply on a spoon, an event worth waking up for.

The syrup can also be folded into a cheesecake batter, stirred into any brownie, cake, or cookie batter or mixed with your favorite hot fudge recipe.

My favorite coffee dessert is one that only my youngest son shares an affinity with me for. Yes, he has the, well, some may say addiction, we call it adoration, for coffee, black and strong.

Coffee Jello

Dissolve 2 envelopes of unflavored gelatin in one-half cup of cold coffee. Set aside for ten minutes until gelatin is soft.

Mix three cups of hot coffee with one-quarter cup of sugar and a pinch of salt. Stir till sugar and salt are dissolve, and combine with coffee, gelatin mixture.

Pour into individual serving dishes, chill until set and serve.

This is far from an original recipe and is available at times on the box of plain gelatin in the grocery store. It is one of my favorite desserts, right up there with Indian Pudding and any kind of fruit pie. It is not for the faint of heart and to dress it up with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream and a drizzle of hot fudge, well, what a way to start a morning.
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