September 19, 2017

Maine Made Bubbling with Vision – and a Swig of Moxie

Better Than Average LLC is the official maker of Moxie jelly. The other flavors are no less interesting, including Garlic Jelly and interesting pepper combinations. Christmas Jam is a combination of cranberries and strawberries.

Janine Pineo Photo | Better Than Average LLC is the official maker of Moxie jelly. The other flavors are no less interesting, including Garlic Jelly and interesting pepper combinations. Christmas Jam is a combination of cranberries and strawberries.

Felted flower pins from Orange Iron and artist Kate Chandler

Janine Pineo Photo | Felted flower pins from Orange Iron and artist Kate Chandler

• By Janine Pineo •

Mainers’ creativity never ceases to amaze.

I got to eat, touch and sit my way through it all Saturday at Maine Made 2013 at the Samoset Resort in Rockport.

More than five dozen vendors showcased their imaginations at the event, billed as a “celebration of Maine food, artisans and creativity.” From tea to wine,  pillows to quilts, jewelry to wire chairs, jelly to butter, the range of products being produced in our state reveals the practical to be the extraordinary.

One of the first things I stumbled upon was Casco Bay Butter Co. Based out of Portland, this company uses MOO Milk for its organic products and Oakhurst for its all-natural butters. I ended up eating a rather large dab of salted caramel butter on a piece of bread.

That’s right: salted caramel butter. You have to eat it to believe the flavor, which might make one become a butter addict. And by the way, they make their own caramel for it.

A signature star pillow from Josie's Heirloom Crafts, "Dogwood Blossoms"

Janine Pineo Photo | A signature star pillow from Josie’s Heirloom Crafts, “Dogwood Blossoms”

Flowery things are a big draw for me, which means I found myself admiring the felted beauty of Orange Iron creations from artist Kate Chandler. Rich colors and unique patterns made for beautiful blooms, but the Warren resident also does larger pieces, a sort of felted painting for lack of a better description. I especially loved that she used leftover felt to string together a colorful garland – also for sale – that stretched around her table.

Mainers just don’t let things go to waste.

I also couldn’t help but admire the elegant beauty of the star pillows from Josie’s Heirloom Crafts. Four sizes of star pillows are made according to the genius creation of the owner’s great-grandmother, who had given the pillows to relatives over many years. The fabric patterns and pairings are exquisite and the pillow construction is flawless. ‘Dogwood Blossoms’ now resides in my living room for all seasons.

After the sweet flowers, I had a bit of salt from Eggemoggin Salt Works. The Reach Salt is a gentle one, boiled out of the water in the owner’s backyard and sold in various-sized Mason jars.

A pinch of Eggemoggin Salt Works salt for the cake

Janine Pineo Photo | A pinch of Eggemoggin Salt Works salt for the cake

Practical packaging, don’t you think?

Moments later, I found myself at the Better Than Average LLC booth, marveling at the sign proclaiming it to be the official source of Moxie jelly.

I will give you a moment to digest that fact.

(Crickets chirping.)

Shannon Bissonnette of Mechanic Falls claims it will be “the death of me,” but she enthusiastically told me the tale of how Moxie jelly came to be. She blames a friend who wanted her to bring her jams and jellies to the Moxie Festival, that celebration of Maine’s own Moxie soda. Shannon protested, saying she didn’t have anything Moxie.

After two minutes in her company, it did not surprise me that she decided to make a batch of jelly out of Moxie.

It gelled. Somehow the news got out and she was mobbed within the first 20 minutes of opening her booth. One thing led to another after that and she is now the official purveyor of Moxie jelly.

If you would like to know how popular Moxie jelly is, I give you the figures from this year’s Fryeburg Fair. Shannon took 187 cases of it with her to the fair, expecting 2,244 jars of it to last for the three-day fair.

It all sold in half a day.

By the way, it tastes like Moxie but sweeter with no aftertaste.

A skein of 6-end bulky yarn from Longwoods Alpacas

Janine Pineo Photo | A skein of 6-end bulky yarn from Longwoods Alpacas

Around the corner was Pamela Harwood, owner of Longwoods Alpacas, luring me in with the luxurious colors and decadent feel of alpaca yarns. Pamela has more than 20 alpacas doing their thing on the farm in Cumberland. Pamela dyes the fiber, weaves its, knits it and has more fun than a farm full of alpacas doing it. I walked away with a skein of some of the softest yarn I have ever laid hands on.

As I lingered at the Maine Grains table, Amber Lambke talked to me about the grist mill and the farmers growing grains here in state. There were six last year, she said, and this year there were 12 farmers coming to the mill in Skowhegan, just a year after it opened. I dithered over which flour to purchase, finally settling on the one you can substitute for unbleached flour. It was only after I arrived home that I was properly flabbergasted when I saw the flour was milled on Oct. 8, 2013.

Fresh flour, what a concept.

At that moment, I wished I had the “Lobstah Rockah” from Sea Rose Trap Co. in which to faint. This Scarborough business makes lobster traps for a living, 18,000 of them this year, according to Kyle.

I took pictures of this marvel of engineering and sheer Maine ingenuity, but they failed to save. So you must go look at their site to see what I think is the most comfortable rocking chair I have ever sat in.

Maine Grains sifted wheat flour

Janine Pineo Photo | Maine Grains sifted wheat flour

I had my doubts, for how could lobster-trap wire be comfortable? But it is sit-down-and-fall-asleep comfortable. If it wasn’t for Kyle going on so eloquently about the “rockah,” I probably would have dozed off right there.

I can picture one of those beauties – in blue, I think – set amongst the petunias, a place where I could relax after a tiring day in the garden.

Or even before I hit the garden.

Janine did a little cooking with the flour and salt. Here is the result of that experimentation.

Click on the links in the story to visit the websites of the businesses mentioned.

 

 

 

Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse as seen from the Samoset Resort

Janine Pineo Photo | Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse as seen from the Samoset Resort

 

Dozens of roses were in bloom around the grounds at the Samoset Resort.

Janine Pineo Photo | Dozens of roses were in bloom around the grounds at the Samoset Resort.