Get Cookin'

Welsh Rarebit

02/21/2017

This last stretch of winter has us longing for warm spring days. We’d gladly frolic around a metaphorical maypole if it meant we could grill outdoors and tend our herb gardens again. Alas, Mother Nature has other plans for us. This lady won’t give us a break to thaw our winter bones! Have no fear. We’ve got a solution to make you feel all warm and toasty inside – a bit of comfort in these final days of February. We’re talking about our very own version of Welsh Rarebit.

This dish came about in the midst of preparing a few years ago for the Mac & Cheese Challenge organized by Vermont Farmstead Cheese at Artisans’ Park in nearby Windsor, VT. We pulled an all-nighter and cooked enough mac & cheese to serve over 4,000 people that day. Phew! In true Jackson House fashion, we wanted to introduce a velvety texture while dishing out a healthier version of a traditionally heavy recipe. The modern science of binding salt proteins did the trick! Quick note: we took 3rd place out of about 20 entrants. Not too shabby for our first time competing!

For our Welsh Rarebit, we coat pieces of sourdough with a luxurious, silky cheese sauce and sprinkle sugared bacon, sweet onion, and roasted tomatoes on top. Are you saying to yourself, too heavy? Think again. We’ve perfected this recipe to be a healthier version of your favorite cheesy indulgences. Think: the same ooey-gooey goodness of nachos or fondue, but without all the guilt of a cheesy smorgasbord. The added chicken stock prevents this dish from being too heavy in calories. Instead, we maintain luxurious mouthfeel without all the heaviness.

The smell of melted cheese and bacon fills the kitchen as we slice sourdough and roast tomatoes. This is the kind of dish that smells so delicious, you can’t wait to plate and eat it. Nevertheless, some time and effort go into the process of making our Welsh Rarebit. Cheese and tomatoes are key ingredients to this recipe, the quality and freshness of which can elevate the dish completely. The bacon is also a separate, yet easy process. We use the Pecan Sugared Bacon recipe previously featured on the blog for our Welsh Rarebit as well!

We here at the Jackson House Inn use locally sourced ingredients from Vermont. As such, the Welsh Rarebit you’re served here features Jasper Hill cheese and Long Wind Farm tomatoes. The recipe below reflects generalized ingredients to accommodate accessibility for our at-home chefs.

Welsh Rarebit

Servings: 6
Difficulty: Intermediate
Print recipe here.

Ingredients:
410 g chicken or roasted vegetable stock 16.4 g sodium citrate
335 g cheese, grated: 185 g gruyere, 50 g blue, 100 g havarti
1 loaf of peasant or sourdough bread
24 tomatoes*, 1/8 inch sliced off of stem & bottom, 4 per serving
Olive oil
Fresh thyme leaves
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced and separated
6 slices sugared bacon, chopped
Microgreens or fresh chives, chopped
Balsamic to drizzle

*We highly recommend sourcing Campari tomatoes which you should be able to find at any “Whole Foods”-type market. They are larger than cherries, smaller than vine-ripened.

Keys to Success
There are three keys to the success of this recipe. The first is to use a full-flavored natural chicken or roasted vegetable stock
that has not been seasoned with salt. If using a store bought stock, we suggest reducing by a third to amp up the flavor profile. The second is the quality and blend of the cheeses. A majority of cheeses, when melted, separate leaving an oily cap. The sodium citrate is used as an emulsifier to blend the proteins of the cheese with the liquid for the sauce creating a silky, luxurious mouthfeel. It is derived from citric acid (from citrus fruits). The third is weight in grams. Precision is necessary to determine the sodium citrate ratio and the appropriate blending of cheeses (air impacts measuring by volume with grated cheeses).

Method for the Sauce
Heat stock to a medium simmer and add sodium citrate until fully dissolved (1 minute) . While simmering, add the cheeses to stock liquid. Whisk occasionally until melted (approx. 5 minutes) . When melted, use an immersion blender** to fully emulsify the stock/cheese mixture (3 – 4 minutes). The texture will become smooth and silky and will appear lighter in color when fully emulsified. The taste of the sauce should be completely blended, with a smooth texture. Put back on heat for about a minute to make silky, if need be. Maintain on low heat and stir occasionally. If thinning is needed, use water or milk.

**A regular blender will work. Just be careful with the hot liquid! Blend on medium speed (approx. 1 – 1.5 minutes).

Method for the Tomatoes
Preheat oven to lowest setting possible. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and top with a cooling rack. Slice tomato stems & bottoms and arrange flat on rack. Lightly salt each tomato and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Lightly drizzle olive oil over each tomato segment. Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. Roast tomatoes for approx. 2- 3 hours, checking and rotating the sheet pan every 30 minutes. The size of tomatoes will dictate the length of roasting. You want a light char on the edges.

Serving
Choose a peasant or sourdough bread. Slice and toast both sides. Cut into desired-size cubes. Place 3/4 cup of toasted bread cubes in a shallow soup-like bowl. Ladle approx. 1/3 cup of cheese sauce evenly over cubes. Top with chopped bacon and onion slices. Add tomatoes. Ladle an additional 1/4 cup of cheese sauce. Garnish with fresh chopped chives or microgreens. Drizzle with balsamic. Serve immediately.

All photos c/o Kelby Zimmerman

Stay Local

Love is in the Air

02/14/2017

With Valentine’s Day upon us, we are proud to remind you all that the Jackson House Inn was voted Best Couples Retreat by Yankee Magazine in 2016! We’ve got you covered with a comfy room, top-notch amenities, and mouth watering breakfast. However, there are plenty of charming things to do with your love outside the inn as well. In the spirit of romantic getaways, we’re sifting through our very favorite date recommendations. Here are a few suggestions to experience with your loved one while vacationing in Woodstock VT!

Woodstock Movie Theater
Every weekend in the Woodstock Village, our little town hall transforms into the cutest movie theater you could imagine. Think small town, Gilmore Girls style. Velvet curtains and maple butter popcorn will set the tone for a romantic screening. The Pentangle Arts Council selects one movie to play each weekend. Showings begin at 7:30PM Friday through Monday (Sunday screenings are matinees throughout the winter). You can see their showtime selections here. Keep in mind that live performances occasionally replace movie screenings, and will be noted on their calendar.

Couples Clay Date
Our neighbors over at Farmhouse Pottery offer you a chance to throw your own pot with one of their master potters! Experience something new together or impress a beau with your mad ceramic skills. The potters are a truly fantastic bunch, and with wine and cheese included, we guarantee you’ll enjoy every minute of this unique date. Read more about Farmhouse Pottery’s wheel workshops here.

King Arthur Baking School
An alternative to simply eating out, why not make your meal together? Head on over to the famous King Arthur Flour in Norwich VT to sharpen your cooking skills and learn new techniques. Gnocchi, pretzels, flatbreads, and more – this is the perfect opportunity to learn from some of the best instructors in the area. We suggest reserving your spots early, as classes tend to fill up fast. Check out their class schedule here!

Northern Stage
Take in the outstanding drama community we have here in the area. The newly constructed Barrette Center for the Arts is impressive on its own. Moreover, every Northern Stage play we’ve attended has been outright fantastic. We highly recommend purchasing a ticket for yourself and a loved one. The intimate theater and top-notch staging add to the romantic feel of this playhouse. Shows generally run a few weeks before turning over. Check out their schedule, and head on over to White River Junction!

Mount Tom
There’s something special about ambling through the woods with someone special. Walk and chat along the carriage trail, around the picturesque Pogue, and up to the summit. Want to earn extra points? Prepare a picnic to enjoy at the top, overlooking our little town of Woodstock. Hot chocolate with a panoramic view sounds romantic, indeed. Read more about our resident mountain here!

Vermont is an exceptional place to enjoy with someone special. Stay cozy or venture outside – there is something to satisfy every couples’ interests. We hope you enjoy the arts and have some laughs. Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us here at the Jackson House Inn!

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Refuge in Nature: VINS

02/07/2017

There is something completely tranquil about walking through a nature center. We crave a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life at times, and we’ve found solace at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS). This nonprofit bird sanctuary provides environmental education that is entertaining for children and adults alike. Take some time for yourself or with friends and family. Roam the grounds, enjoy the art, and wonder at the many raptors who call VINS home.


Upon entering VINS, we feel utter calmness. Tucked away from the busyness of Quechee’s main road, the institute seems like our very own refuge – quiet, still, and grounding. We enter through the avian-oriented gift shop and amble along the gravel path. The nature center ahead looks like a birdhouse of its own, floating above the slight hill below it. Art pieces scatter the grounds, most of which are part of the exhibition, Ice Age Mammals on the Meadow. Life-size structures created by New England and New York-based artists have been curated to encourage visitors to imagine the landscape as it once was, during the last Ice Age. These artistic interpretations of a Dire Wolf, Irish Elk, Saber-toothed Cat, and Mastadons stand tall in a field of untouched snow. The scene in its entirety is incredibly beautiful.

We continue toward the raptor enclosures and peek into each microenvironment, structured according to the preference of its avian inhabitant. The snow owl sits quietly on the snow covered floor of his enclosure, surrounded by evergreens and camouflaged in a sea of white. The giant eagles pose on their high perch, keenly aware of any onlookers below. We could spend hours staring at these stoic creatures. Every enclosure provides a backstory of the particular bird inside – its history and rehabilitation. In doing so, you feel a certain closeness with the raptor in front of you. The connection forms and captivates you. It’s so easy to lose yourself in thought and observation here.

To further enjoy your natural surroundings, VINS also encompasses a 47-acre campus adjacent to the Quechee State Park. You are welcome to enjoy the trails that weave through campus and along the Ottauquechee River. You can even reach the Quechee Gorge and Deweys Landing from here!

VINS encourages people to care for the natural world. In addition to offering educational programs and partnering with conservation organizations, VINS also operates an avian wildlife rehabilitation clinic.  The trained rehabilitators at VINS treat more than 400 injured or orphaned birds each year. A viewing window at their Center for Wild Bird Rehabilitation allows you to peek into the rehabilitation process. You can also watch their video on rehabilitating wild birds here. Small groups are allowed to tour the center and see the rehabilitating birds up close! Just contact VINS to inquire and plan your visit.

Feeling moved by these birds? You can help contribute to their recovery through the Adopt a Raptor Program! This program allows you to sponsor a resident songbird or raptor and help provide the specialized care they need. We’ve had a guest adopt a turkey vulture! Thinking of a present for someone special? You can adopt a raptor as a gift too.

We highly suggest visiting VINS and learning more about their environmental initiatives and rehabilitation efforts. Your experience is bound to be both refreshing and educational. We can’t wait for their upcoming Owl Festival on Saturday, February 25th from 10AM to 4PM. Unable to make it? No problem. VINS hosts a slew of events and programs throughout the week. See their feeding and tour schedule here. VINS is open seven days a week from 10AM to 4PM (5PM beginning April 9th). Get a glimpse of these magnificent birds and savor some outdoor time at VINS, year-round!

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The Human Element: Shackleton Thomas

01/31/2017

Shackleton Thomas is a name that we immediately associate with timelessness. Tucked in the side of the Bridgewater Mill, their showroom is a take on inspirational whimsy. Warm hints of cherry wood and hand carved objects mix seamlessly with blue-hued pottery and earthy florals. It’s warm and cozy, yet the artisan touch is not lost.

The showroom is undoubtedly a reflection of the world Charlie and Miranda Shackleton have envisioned. Born in Ireland in 1958, Charlie grew up in a beautiful Georgian house outside Dublin. Charlie’s ancestors came to Ireland in 1720, after which members of the family started a milling farm to grind wheat. Interestingly enough Charlie is closely related to the famous Antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton. Adventure and hard work are abundant in the Shackleton family line, and Charlie certainly followed suit.

He went to the Stowe School in England, an establishment well-known for its campus architecture. With a pull toward the arts, Charlie later attended art school in England and met his wife, Miranda. “I enjoyed making things by hand as a child, and I continued to appreciate a functional product where you could see the work of the human hand,” he says. Charlie learned how to draw, make parts, as well as the skills of wood and metal working. Miranda was studying pottery at the time.

After his schooling, Charlie connected with his brother’s friend, Simon Pearce (sound familiar?). Interested in learning the craft of glassblowing, he traveled to America with Simon and blew glass for five years. There, he experienced how a high-end craft business is run and continued to fine-tune his artisan abilities. “Glassblowing is very different from woodworking, but it was a good education. It added fluidity to my work going forward,” says Charlie. We, as well as anyone who has visited the Simon Pearce workshop, can understand the fluidity that goes into the glassblowing process. The swift and precise moves necessary to glassblowing undoubtedly provide skills that could be translated to another form of craft. After five years, Charlie turned to his true love of making things out of wood. “You only live once,” Charlie thought. He left Simon Pearce to start his own business making furniture, and he has continued this business for 30 years.


Miranda also worked for Simon Pearce as a potter. Upon marrying Charlie and building their family, the combination of crafts seemed obvious! They created a successful collaboration of pottery and furniture under the Shackleton Thomas name. This only made sense to Charlie and Miranda based on a similar vision of why handmade items are so popular. “People are craving things around them that reflect humanity and soul.” We whole-heartedly agree.

There is something incredibly special about choosing artisanal, handmade products to put in your home – the place you call your sanctuary, that both comforts and inspires you. The love and care that go into handmade products, such as our breakfast room chairs (made by Shackleton Thomas!) and a piece of Miranda’s pottery that graces our coffee service area in the main house, most definitely set the vibe with which our guests begin their day. We love our local businesses and the beautiful products they create. And when a maker’s artistry can connect with your own vision and aesthetic, it’s spectacular and stimulating.

If we are to describe Shackleton Thomas in one word, “handmade” would do the trick. “We’re big on using our hands and handmade tools, whether it be the curls on a chair or a small decoration. We make contemporary interpretations of classic designs,” Charlie notes. Not meant to be funky or difficult to understand, Shackleton Thomas pieces are approachable in both a comforting and interesting way. This most certainly contributes to why we immediately feel at home in their showroom. We sense contentment with a flare of intrigue, pulling us further into their gorgeous showroom.


Shackleton Thomas has kept their business small and intimate, now employing six furniture makers and three potters. “Everyone who works here abides by a core belief: when someone buys a piece of furniture or pot, the Design, Materials, Quality of Craftsmanship, and Human Element are all there.” Design speaks to the aesthetic and shape of the piece. Materials include quality wood, metal, glass, or clay. Quality of Craftsmanship describes how well the pieces are put together – the quality of construction. Finally and most importantly, the human element gives Shackleton Thomas pieces a soul. Imprecise details by the maker give a piece character and beauty that cannot be replicated by machine. Shackleton Thomas products function as unique pieces of art.

Vermont appears to be the perfect place for a shop such as this. With no big wholesalers in sight, Shackleton Thomas likes their customers to come straight to the source and see the handmade pieces in person. Their style takes influence from the rural lifestyle in Ireland, much like Vermont. Thinking back to his childhood home, Charlie remembers “rough country furniture, often painted but beautiful. Our cottages were close to the ground, and decor reflected our closeness to the soil and land.” This is particularly similar to why people are drawn to Vermont. And so here the Shackleton Thomas showroom sits, in the heart of the a rural landscape that so perfectly displays their inspired pieces.

Shackleton Thomas’ showroom in Bridgewater is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm and Sunday from 11am to 4pm in the winter. Not in the area? They have a store in Brooklyn Heights too! They’re online store has a wealth of information and products, but we highly suggest visiting their showroom in person. You’ll fall in love with the handmade element that makes a Shackleton Thomas piece so unique. 

Eat & Drink, Go Explore

Fine Dining on the Mountain: Ledgewood Yurt

01/24/2017

The skiers and snowboarders have taken their last runs, and the mountain now sits tall, somber, and empty…with the exception of 30 or so guests waiting to dine at the Ledgewood Yurt. A select few have snagged a reservation at Killington’s exclusive dining room for the night. We sit among them, sipping on spiced cider in the Snowshed Lodge as we wait for our snowcat to arrive and take us up the mountain. This is the beginning of what executive chef, Greg Lang, calls a truly unique dining experience.

Up and up we go. The snowcat’s lights illuminate the slopes enough to see the outline of chairlifts and treetops. The twinkling lights of Killington village grow smaller and smaller as we ascend. A brief 20-minute ride up the mountain takes us to the entrance of the yurt – an old world structure in the most idyllic wintery setting. We can’t imagine how cool it must be to ski along and suddenly come upon this massive yurt beside you. While Ledgewood is open to lunchtime skiers looking for a little grub and libation in the afternoon, the yurt’s dinner service is meant for only a select few. As Greg puts it, “Thousands of people could be skiing on the mountain that day, but only 30 people will be eating dinner in the yurt.”

White lights lead us up the stairs and into the the main entrance. Inside, we “ooh and aah” with our other fellow diners admiring the large tent made of wooden frame and heavy canvas – an authentic Mongolian yurt. Servers know us by name and escort us to a communal table with six other guests. A tablescape of heavy pewter plates, goblets, and tall candles only add to the yurt’s ambiance. We eagerly await the five-course experience on which we are about to embark.

Head chef for all of Killington’s dining, Greg Lang, takes pride in his work at Ledgewood Yurt. “It’s meant to be an experience. For some, a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he says. Beyond the impressive atmosphere of the place, Lang points to another important aspect of the experience: the food. “I change the menu every year. I try to make sure that I accommodate people looking for something different, but balance that with food that is still approachable.” The duck, for instance, is served with a delicious “nori paint” that brings a welcomed saltiness to the dish. Other unexpected ingredients on the menu include emu. “Emu as an experience is pretty cool,” he notes. With as unique a menu as the yurt’s, Greg pays close attention to the reactions of his guests. He has no issue changing out a menu item such as emu for a more approachable bison filet, for example. “I want to be sure the guests get what they want as well. I want everyone to walk away happy.”


As a native Vermonter, Greg stretches his culinary muscles with some home state pride. He uses as many local ingredients as possible. Along with his education at the New England Culinary Institute, Greg remembers traveling to Virginia, Tennessee, Newfoundland, Malaysia, and Singapore in his youth. “I’ve seen a lot of different cultures,” he says, “and as I’ve gotten older, I remember a lot and it resonates with me now.” These experiences have helped build Greg to the chef he is today. Upon returning to his Vermont roots, these memories have contributed to the fun Greg has planning and executing the menu for Ledgewood Yurt.

Greg loves to support Vermont in its rapid and well-deserved growth. He enjoys showing his guests that Vermont can be known for so much more than maple syrup!  “Vermont itself has done a phenomenal job marketing itself with regard to farming habits, raising meat, tending land, and making cheese and butter. There are so many incredible products here, and it’s fun to share with guests.”


Mid-dinner, we see Greg making his way around the dining room. He’s checking in on the diners, seeing what they like and don’t like, what he can tweak or improve. He’s very keen in this way. “Getting out on the floor and talking to folks in the yurt allows me to see what their feedback is and what they enjoy. It drives me to find new ingredients, to try different things.” The Ledgewood Yurt is an experience, beginning even before the snowcat arrives. “Guests are excited as they roll up and see the lights outside, they walk into the yurt with a rustic feel, and then it’s my turn to put on the food show,” says Greg. Those 30 or so guests in the yurt are bound to have a good evening from the get-go, and Greg ensures this excitement carries throughout dinner.

Ledgewood Yurt revolves around a cozy atmosphere with communal seating, and lasts anywhere from two to three hours – a great option for those who like a relaxed meal while striking up conversation with new or old friends. Taking in the yurt’s warm, rustic feel is juxtaposed by the brisk air that greets us as we step outside to return in the snowcat. We look around to find absolute silence among freshly groomed trails and swaying trees. It is completely peaceful on the mountain.

Interested in the yurt experience on top of Killington Mountain? Ledgewood Yurt suggests making your dinner reservation at least two weeks in advance. For those of you who are under 21, or have little ones in your family, the yurt also hosts family nights – a shorter, more approachable dinner option for ages 7 and above! See the mountain in a whole new way, and enjoy a dinner excursion in one of the coolest venues we can imagine!

Go Explore

Mush into Winter: Braeburn Siberians

01/17/2017

As a line of ten dogs scramble in front of us, our sled is taken on a brisk jaunt through winding trails of high pines and covered bridges. Each husky trots beside a partner, adjusting their gait to match their running companion. The pack’s two lead dogs traverse in controlled unison. Aside from ourselves, the nature around us appears undisturbed and pristine. Braeburn Siberians offers a dogsledding experience that we can only describe as one-of-a-kind.

Upon our arrival, Kathy and Alex, owners of Braeburn Siberians, are deciding on a game plan for the day’s ride. The couple’s attention to detail is evidenced by the amount of energy they put into arranging each ride, making sure to suit the needs of each individual visitor. In fact, Kathy and Alex are to host a surprise proposal on this particular day (how cool is that?)! With celebratory roses packed neatly in the sled, we greet the dogs while waiting for the pre-engaged couple to arrive. Kneeling down amongst all the fluff, we are introduced to all twenty of their beautiful Siberian Huskies.

Generations of pups sit side by side. Kathy is well-versed in who is who, pointing out the grandmothers, fathers, siblings, etc. Each dog has their own personality and characteristics. We look around and see pure white fur, piercing blue eyes, and distinctive markings surrounding us. Known as a relatively high maintenance breed, Kathy notes that Siberians Huskies can never be allowed to run free. “When a Siberian Husky catches a whiff of an enticing smell or when their prey drive is triggered, all bets are off,” says Kathy. With this in mind, huskies are meant to run many miles in a short amount of time. Kathy and Alex are sure to exercise their energetic huskies by hiking, jogging, biking, and…dogsledding. Moreover, these dogs are extremely sociable. Siberians are prone to form packs. As such, they yearn for canine or human companionship. For visitors, this means these pups will nuzzle and kiss you for as long as you’ll let them.

Braeburn Siberians began as a family passion. Kathy and Alex’s daughter, Elizabeth, grew up with dogs. At the age of nine, Elizabeth announced that she would like to learn how to dog sled, after which she undertook a mentorship at a kennel. Her growing interest encouraged Kathy and Alex to adopt two expert lead dogs, as well as connect with fellow dogsledding advocates. “[M]eeting with experienced mushers was nothing short of inspirational – and not only sealed my commitment to supporting Elizabeth’s interest, but spoke to something deep within me,” Kathy says. Since then, Kathy and Alex have bred and raised their own Siberian Huskies. They are now in their tenth year as husky owners and live with 35 adorable Siberian Huskies. Rumor has it, these pups are even allowed to sleep in the bed. Talk about dedicated dog lovers!

Kathy and Alex also share in their experience and knowledge of dogsledding, offering up a couple intern positions each season.  They tend to look for interesting people – those who can endure harsh weather and extended time outside, just like their Siberians! Our interns for the day were incredibly nice and easy to talk to (their outdoor-centric resumes included whitewater rafting and sailing). The entire Braeburn Siberian team, including the huskies, is wholeheartedly kind and genuine – an added bonus to our dogsledding experience!


A ride with the Siberian Huskies leads you on quite the journey. There is somewhat of an intimate connection with nature and wildlife while gliding through the woods. Also, the act of having an animal pull your weight and power you through the forest is intrinsically primal, given the huskies’ natural strength and ability. We equate dogsledding to a kind of ecotherapy. We felt rejuvenated after our ride, with an invigorated appreciation for nature. Cool winds, crisp air, and snowy trails all contributed to this elevated dose of outdoor time.

We opted for a two-hour excursion with Braeburn Siberians, and highly recommend this longer experience to truly enjoy the pups and your ride. Braeburn also offers 30-minute rides in Windsor, VT. You can see pricing and other available event options here. Winter isn’t all about skiing or snowshoeing. Try something exceptionally unique and exhilarating – go dogsledding! Now mush before winter is over!

(all photos c /o Kelby Zimmerman)

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