Mainers treasure blueberry recipes found in pamphlet

Posted Sept. 04, 2009, at 7:30 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:49 a.m.

When I think of Margaret Chase Smith, the first thing I think of is the Islesboro ferry named for her that that takes us to the mainland and back. Then I think of the courageous politician with a rose on her desk. And now we can remember her by her blueberry cake.

Barbara Barrett of Eastport wrote a couple weeks back, “I have lost a wonderful blueberry cake recipe that came from a pamphlet. … The recipe was attributed to Margaret Chase Smith, a personal hero.” As it turned out, Barrett had lent the pamphlet to a neighbor who saw this column and remembered that she still had the brochure, which she gave back to Barrett right away.

From all the information you sent, it appears that this recipe — and others — was published by the Maine Department of Agriculture in a pamphlet through a few editions. Elaine Olson from Dixmont had one that was distributed by the Skowhegan Chamber of Commerce. A third-edition pamphlet is owned by Sandy O’Brien of Jackson, who said her copy is “much tattered from use, as it was given me by my beloved nana years ago.” Barbara Vanderhay of Little Deer Isle, who at age 86 says she is still learning about cookery, sent one of the agriculture department brochures titled “Fresh Maine Blueberries Go Wild in Your Kitchen,” as did Jane Lyon of Marshfield. Jane’s husband has several blueberry fields, she wrote, and thinks he probably picked it up at a growers’ meeting.

The little pamphlet’s popularity was explained at least in part by Joanne Ellis of Alton, who owns a fourth edition now in two pieces. While she never tried Smith’s blueberry cake, she wrote, “I and everyone who eats the blueberry pie, blueberry muffins, and most especially the blueberry gingerbread made from the recipes in this can attest to the fact that they are the best.” Apparently Brownie Schrumpf, who used to write for this paper, tested the recipes.

Theresa Burcaw of Montville picked up her pamphlet at the Union Fair. Aurora Farms published the version Barrett owned. Lana Vining in Charlotte found her recipe in an old Extension Service publication from years ago. It also appeared in this paper awhile back according to Sandi Umble of Holden, who read the query a little late because she had been to the Machias Wild Blueberry Festival. Ruth Thurston in Machias found the recipe clipped “from an unidentifiable magazine or leaflet.” Patricia Estabrook in Houlton clipped her copy from the Bangor Daily News and put it in her “blueberry collection.”

Speaking of collections, Judy Boothby in Bangor wrote to say, “You inspired an hour of heavy looking and cleaning out of a lot of ‘visually filed’ recipes from as far back as the ’60s.” Don’t we all have files like that. Her recipe was from the Extension Service Circular 386, “Using Maine Foods in Everyday Meals.”

The recipe also appeared in “What’s Cooking Down in Maine” by Willan C. Roux, published in 1964, which Jen Johnson of Sullivan received as a wedding gift in 1971. Minnie McCormick of Dover-Foxcroft found the recipe in “Cooking with a Maine Accent,” published by The Maine Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1992.

Pat Southard in Howland sent along a version of blueberry cake and a cream cheese frosting, which she culled from two church cookbooks. Diana Boone in Eastport developed her own version of blueberry cake that she has made, she said, every year since 1972. Ethel Pochocki of Brooks sent a Blueberry Molasses Cake, which I will have to save for another time.

This recipe must be a good one to be passed around so much, and I hope there is a new generation of blueberry cake-makers out there interested in this recipe because here we go again. As usual, the value in hearing from all of you is your advice and comments on the recipe.

Some of you successfully substitute butter for the shortening. McCormick said she never uses nutmeg because she prefers cinnamon. Several of you observed that it makes a fine 9-inch-by-13-inch cake, even though the recipe says it makes two 9-inch layers. Barbara Barrett uses cake flour when she has it though all-purpose is OK fine, too.

Looking for … blueberry jam with apples in it. Iris Simon in Lamoine wrote: “We had a freezer malfunction so my many blueberries were partially thawed and lost their individual shape but they could be used for jelly or jam. I am looking for a recipe that uses apple juice and applesauce in the recipe. It gives great body to the jam but does not take away the taste of the blueberries.” Anyone?

Margaret Chase Smith Blueberry Cake

½ cup shortening or butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup milk

2 cups blueberries

Preheat oven to 375. Grease two 9- or 10-inch layer cake tins or one 9-by-13-inch cake pan. Cream the shortening or butter and add the sugar, beating until creamy. Add the eggs and beat until the mixture is light and foamy. Mix together and sift the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternatively with the milk. Fold in the blueberries. Bake the layer cakes for 25 to 30 minutes or the single layer for 35. When done, allow to cool for 10 minutes then turn out onto cake racks. When cool, put the layers together with frosting.

Looking for … blueberry jam with apples in it. Iris Simon in Lamoine wrote: “We had a freezer malfunction so my many blueberries were partially thawed and lost their individual shape but they could be used for jelly or jam. I am looking for a recipe that uses apple juice and applesauce in the recipe. It gives great body to the jam but does not take away the taste of the blueberries.” Anyone?

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