We took a break from chores on Thursday morning to visit the Montauk farmers market. My quest: locally grown honey. Hay fever has been a problem this summer and adding local honey to my diet can naturally control allergy symptoms caused by pollen, or so I’ve heard.
At her booth on the green, I met beekeeper Robin Blackley of Southampton’s East End Apiaries. A friendly woman, Ms. Blackley said she’s thankful she doesn’t suffer from hay fever herself. Tending bees involves physically transporting her hives to different farms and local orchards where her bees do the essential job of pollination. Ms. Blackley advised ingesting about a teaspoon of her “Wildflower Honey” daily, and in about six months, she said, my allergies will be much less troublesome. Wildflowers across the north and south forks are all about the same, so it’s not essential the honey be specifically from Montauk. I should have started this regimen about six months ago!
I bought a pint of blueberries at the booth of Ryan Wesnofske, assistant farm manager of Wesnofske Farms in Peconic. I asked Ryan if it’s still blueberry season. Affirmative, he said, though this is the tail end. At Wesnofske Farms several different varieties of blueberries mature at different times, allowing the season to be extended right into August.
In the 1960s, we all, except Dad, ventured into the Montauk woods to forage for blueberries. Polish grandma led the brigade. We each hung a coffee can with string handle around our neck as we pushed single file through brambly deer paths. Mom, Aunt Helen, my sister, my brother and I competed to be first with a full bucket. Later in August when wild blackberries came into season we ventured forth again.
Aunt Helen, who worked in doctors’ offices in the city, kept a jar of alcohol on her coffee table along with very sharp tweezers. She removed ticks from cats, dogs and people with surgical precision. Into the alcohol she dropped the ticks. The same jar was handy all summer; no fuss; no band-aids, no alcohol applied to our numerous bites.
Grandma and Aunt Helen simmered huge cauldrons of berries on the stove. Aunt Helen put up many different kinds of preserves which were stored on a shelf in her basement, including jarred tuna in olive oil which we kids wouldn’t touch. In later years she switched to making smaller batches of jam, which is easier and takes less time.
I’ve tested this recipe and submit it here by request of my cousin Donna Heyen Bishop. Donna’s mother, Joan, was my oldest first cousin. Donna was so much the apple of Aunt Helen’s eye that friends of Aunt Helen still occasionally call me Donna. Aunt Helen died in October, 2002 and is still sorely missed.
Donna hopes Aunt Helen’s friends and you enjoy this authentic recipe:
Into a large saucepan, place the zest and juice of one lemon; one sour apple, peeled and grated; and one pint of blueberries. Add 2-1/2 cups of sugar.
Lightly crush the berries and place over medium high heat, skimming off foam. Simmer, stirring constantly until the sheeting stage, about 35 minutes. Remove from heat, add one quarter-teaspoon of cinnamon, and pour into jars. Refrigerate or freeze. (In “The Joy of Cooking” there’s an instructive ink drawing of what’s meant by the “sheeting stage.”)
The Montauk Village Association will hold its annual Greenery Scenery Party this Friday, August 16, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Montauk Lake Club. This year’s honoree will be Mickey Valcich. There will be dinner, dancing and a live auction.
Tickets are $125 and available at either Keeshan Real Estate or Pospisal Real Estate. Raffle tickets for a chance to win $10,000 are also available for $25.
Wednesday night was “Hotter Than A Pepper Sprout,” a concert by “Nina Et cetera.” I was tired, but soon even my little foot was tapping. Hotter than a pepper sprout is a phrase from the song, “Jackson,” written by Billy Edd Wheeler and Jerry Leiber. I also liked their rendition of Stephen Foster’s “Camptown Races,” with lots of “doodahs,” which the audience sang too. Nina played a steel stringed guitar, strummed a zither, played harmonica or piano as well as providing vocals.
Between, she gave history and background of songs and composers. I learned that prolific American songwriter Stephen Foster died on the Bowery with 38 cents in Civil War scrip and three pennies to his name, yet many of his songs live on.
Tim Smith, guitarist, appeared as “etcetera” for the performance. They’re at Bistro 72 at Hotel Indigo in Riverhead, August 15, from 7 to 10 p.m., as well as other nearby venues around Long Island this month. Check out www.ninaetcetera.com for specifics. They’re quite good!
On Sunday at the library, the Aviva Players, along with the Golden Fleece Opera Company, presented opera and standards from Broadway. In attendance were two guest composers, Mira J. Spektor and Lou Rodgers. How intriguing to see them as their works were performed by superb vocalists, ranging in age from, I estimate, about 25 to a youthful 70-plus. My favorite was “Ladies of Romance,” a spoof of famous literary heroines composed by Ms. Spektor in 1997 with lyrics by June Siegel. For example: “Mr. Rochester, what of your wife? The one behind you, with a knife.” I was also impressed by the 20-minute opera, “Happy Valentine,” with music composed by Ms. Rodgers.
Montauk Library program director Carolyn Balducci’s next presentation, “Ladies of the Silver Screen,” is scheduled for Wednesday, August 21, at 7:30 p.m.. This will be an evening of jazzy interpretations of movie songs by Linda Cafalo on vocals, Jane Hastay on piano and Peter Marin Weiss on bass.
Keeping us entertained till then, the Friends of the Montauk Library will host a concert featuring mandolins, mandola and guitar this Saturday, August 17, at 7 p.m., at the library. Refreshments and a brief annual meeting of the Friends will follow.
And Sunday, August 18, at 4 p.m., the Friends have invited architect Richard Sheckman, to give a talk “Montauk’s Building Boom in the 1920s, the Carl Fisher Era,” illustrated with drawings and photographs explaining the contributions Carl Fisher made to Montauk’s growth. Mr. Sheckman is president of the Peconic chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and a full-time Montauk resident.
If, like me, you like to dance, Hamptons Dancers AARP Community Group offers group classes in fitness, yoga, ballroom/night club dancing, country western and specialized fitness programs for seniors starting September. Classes are for all ages and fitness levels. There’s an open house this evening, August 14, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. with a free dance class at 5:30 p.m. at the Montauk Community Church. For information call Lori Newell at Living Well Yoga and Fitness, (631) 259-1385 or visit www.lwyf.org. See you there!
This weekend, August 16 through 18 on the Montauk Green 80 national and international artisans will be on hand for the 19th annual Juried Fine Art Show. The festival opens Friday from noon to 6 p.m. and continues both Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. One summer I met there an art teacher and cartoonist from Poughkeepsie, who constructs collage/intricate landscapes on weathered barn boards and driftwood. It’s been some time since I’ve seen him and I hope he’s back with his wonderful creations.
Lighthouse Weekend is also Saturday, August 17, from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, August 18, from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. A sampling of the many highlights scheduled are a demonstration of colonial toys and games by Shari Crawford, boat safety and knot tying by the U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, leather crafting by Steve Crawford and traditional pottery by Mary Scott. Trap fishing by town historian Steve Crawford sounds interesting too. Admission is $9 for adults, age 13 to 61, $8 for Senior Citizens (62 and older), $4 for children 41 inches in height up to age 12. Children under 41 inches in height get in for free but may not climb or be carried up the tower. There’s an $8 per car fee for parking at the lighthouse from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.