Saturday, January 1, 2011

Nantucket in the wintertime

"What's the island like in the wintertime?" is the question most asked by Nantucket summertime visitors.
First of all, and lucky for the Islanders, winter arrives on Nantucket a little later than it does on mainland New England, warmed as it is by the surrounding Gulf Stream. (the blizzard that paralyzed the northeast over Christmas weekend didn't touch the island ).  In the wintertime, Nantucket Island, world-class summer resort, sheds its fancy designer duds and is once again a New England small town inhabited with busy people.  In the almost quiet privacy of wintertime Nantucket is a beehive of activity.  Islanders finally have the time they need to socialize, share recipes, tend to their  businesses readying them for the next season, fish for world-famous Nantucket bay scallops, take long walks along the desolate moors - right out of "Wuthering Heights", beaches and ponds. It's a romantic and cozy time on island - a time that year 'rounders cherish.

The lighthouse at Brant Point welcomes visitors to the island as they round it and enter the harbor.  At Christmastime the Coast Guard, stationed on the Island, decorates it, anchoring the wreath with oars.

Every year I spend Christmas Day on Nantucket with my sister Laura, and her husband, Jimmy. And every year Jimmy treats us to the crepes that he's been cooking since he was eight years old.  They're simple, and the batter doesn't need to rest before cooking.


Serve any day, any time of the year.

Makes about 24 9-inch pancakes

4 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole milk
unsalted butter for frying

1.   Beat the eggs in a large bowl.   Alternately add the flour and the milk, mixing continuously with a fork or a whisk (you'll run out of flour before milk).  Keep mixing until the batter is completely smooth and relatively thin - about the consistency of buttermilk.
2.   Melt 1 teaspoon butter in a 9-inch omelet pan (Jimmy uses 2 at a time).   Pour a scant 1/4 cup batter into the center of the pan and tip it from side to side to let the batter cover the bottom, not the sides, in a thin layer.  Cook for 1 1/2 minutes, or until the edge begins to curl and pulls away from the side of the pan.   Flip the pancake with a metal spatula and cook for 30 seconds more.  Add another 1 teaspoon butter to the pan every other batch.  Pile the cooked crepes on an oven proof serving platter and keep warm in a 200 degree F. oven until all are cooked and ready to serve. 
3.   Serve with a selection of fillings from sour cream and caviar, applesauce and heavy cream, marmalade and whipped cream, butter and maple syrup - and our favorite way with creme fraiche, just-thawed-from-Laura's-summertime garden red and white raspberries and blueberries, and maple syrup.

Steve Bender harvests oysters from his Pocomo Meadow farm in Polpis Harbor. He reminds everyone who's fortunate enough to have one that they must chew it in order to have a real oyster experience!  It's true - while the oyster's liquor is ocean-salty-briny, its meat is sweet.

Marina opens a daily catch of the world-renown Nantucket bay scallops.  The mollusks provide excellent employment opportunities for Islanders as fishermen, cullers, and openers during the commercial season which begins on November 1 and ends on March 31st.

A few unharvested cranberries frozen for posterity- or until the spring thaw - in the world's largest, naturally contiguous, bog, Windswept Cranberry Bog.  Sure, there are larger bogs in the world - but they are man-made.


serves 6 - 9

2 cups cranberries, rinsed and picked over
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped dates
1 tablespoon water
1 cup oats
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter

1.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir the cranberries, sugar, cloves, salt, dates, and water together.  When the mixture begins to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, or until most of the cranberries have popped.   Remove from the heat and let cool.
2.   In a bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, pecans, and flour.  Use a pastry cutter or 2 knives to cut the butter in to form a crumbly mixture.
3.  Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.  Put half of the oatmeal mixture in the prepared pan and evenly cover the bottom using a rubber spatula.  Spread the cooled cranberry mixture over the oatmeal layer.  Top with the remaining oatmeal mixture.  Bake for 45 minutes, or until the juices are bubbling around the sides and the top is deep gold and crisp.  Cool on a wire rack.  Cut into 6 or 9 pieces.  You may want to quarter those pieces for one-bite morsels.

Semi-frozen Polpis Harbor.  Check out  the eyelash, treetop silhouette way in the background.  It's one of my favorite island sights 

Maxcy's Pond is located on the island's north side.  It's the site of an early 17th-century settlement.  Maxcy is a variation of Macy, one of the island's original families.  The scrubby green growths near the pond's shore brighten the grey wintertime scene.

Long-time islander, Christie Cure has followed in the footsteps of  Nantucket women who opened shops in town to keep busy while their husbands were out whaling.  She's opened the parlor of her home on Orange Street, calls it #8 ,and sells an eye-catching collection of her favorite things from note pads, soap, candles, masks, re-envisioned furniture, rugs woven with rags and chewing gum wrappers- all displayed on sleigh beds, antique cribs and library ladders.

Coatue is a barrier beach that separates Nantucket Sound from Nantucket Harbor.  Here's Coatue as seem from Brant Point Lighthouse.   Go to Nantucket in the wintertime - you're in for a treat!


  1. Lovely photos and story Susan!
    Makes me want to go again. Glad to see what those famous crepes look like...absolutly delicious!

  2. Lovely photos and story Susan!
    Makes me want to go again. Glad to see what those famous crepes look like...absolutly delicious!