As the heat of summer subsides, our yearning for lower humidity and cooler temperatures tends to grow stronger.
And so, it seems, do our cravings for some good old-fashioned comfort food.
Getting through those foreseeable “r” months before catching any signs of spring can be pretty bleak.
Some of us escape to warmer climates until it all “goes away”, but if you are left to tough it out, there is always comfort food to help you through.
And Maryland has plenty to choose from.
Considered one of those “love it or hate it” foods, scrapple is an essential Mid-Atlantic meat. German immigrants, now known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, brought this economical dish to the region in the 17th and 18th centuries.
For many, it’s not an Eastern Shore breakfast without it. Others would claim the less you know about its making, the better off you are.
Let’s just say, scrapple is often described as being made from “everything but the ‘oink.’”
A commingling of leftover pork cuts is blended with flour or cornmeal to make a cheap, filling source of protein that lets no scrap of meat go to waste.
One thing for sure, scrapple is suited for pork fans!
Eaten solo, right out of the frying pan, with eggs, or pressed in a sandwich, this slice of pure pork crunch with a velvety soft center is oh-so-pleasing to any scrapple lover’s palate.
Now, what is a pot pie without … oysters! Yes, Maryland may be the epicenter of the chicken world, but the mighty oyster gives its chicken version a run for the money.
This simple, rich dish is the quintessential classic, comforting pot pie, delivering that delectable briny oyster flavor with each and every bite.
Succulent oysters are steeped in butter, potatoes, cream, celery, onion, thyme, and other seasonings, before being baked in individual crust-lined ramekins or casserole dish.
One can barely resist breaking open the crust before the pie is cool! Rumor has it that the white sauce can also be used for chipped beef. Now, that’s a two-fer!
The pot pie itself has been around for centuries. Around 500 BC the Ancient Greeks made meat pies called artocreas.
These pies had a bottom crust but no top crust.
Once the Romans started making artocreas they added a top crust made from oil and flour.
Their pies were made from things like fish, mussels, oysters, and a variety of meats.
As people emigrated to the New World, they brought their recipes with them along with a love of pies that spread across the country.
Largely passed down through oral tradition, this recipe goes back many generations and is still considered a centerpiece on holiday tables.
Although there are variations on what the “stuff” is, greens, onions, and spices are common.
Kale, collard, and mustard greens are also called for in some households.
The stuffing is packed into pockets of a corned fresh ham, with what is left over pressed around it.
The ham is wrapped in cheesecloth and boiled for several hours, then drained. Into the refrigerator it goes until it is cooled and ready to slice … thinly, please!
The ham is served as a main dish or between slices of white bread or potato rolls. What, if any, condiments to use are anyone’s guess.
It was my first visit to Old Salty’s in Fishing Creek on Hoopers Island where not only did I learn of baked pineapple, but immediately became a fan. Our waitress informed us the recipe came from a local island church cookbook and was quick to mention it could be found in the restaurant’s gift shop.
Current Old Salty owners, Melinda and Mike Perry, tell me that the original recipe is still on the menu after 40 years, and continues to be their best-selling side dish.
Simple, but not overly sweet, crushed pineapple is mixed with sugar, eggs and flour, topped with cubed bread, drizzled with melted butter, and baked.
Served hot or cold, baked pineapple is not only offered as a side dish in area restaurants, but can easily serve as a dessert.
The best part is we went home with a handwritten copy of the recipe! How cool is that?
There are so many more dishes that can qualify as area comfort foods.
All of us have our personal favorites, and it is tough to name them all. But one thing is certain.
They all warm the soul, satisfy the taste buds, and bring a smile to our face—making those long winter months a little easier to bare.