At this season of good eating, there is available an ever-increasing variety of specialized foods for the holiday table and for Christmas giving—foods that are not available at the corner supermarket. The smokers of hams, the packers of wild rice, the raisers of such game birds as Cornish hens are doing a land-office business through the U.S. mails, suddenly one of the best ways of supplying a gourmet's table. For instance, from Saltwater Farm in Damariscotta, Maine you can order a New England clambake, and the lobsters are guaranteed to arrive alive and kicking on, or before, the date you specify, express collect. Lobsters and clams and rockweed from the Atlantic are packed ready-to-cook in a metal canister in a barrel of ice. All you do is punch holes in the top of the container, set it on the stove, add salted water and cook for 15 minutes after steam appears. Eight live lobsters and a half peck of steamer clams are $14.95. Twenty live lobsters are $27.75, and there are many other combinations available. The railway re-ices the barrel in transit as needed.
Another very unusual New England specialty is water-ground buckwheat and wheat pancake mix, which comes, prepared by Sugarbush Farm of Woodstock, Vt., together with a jug of Vermont maple syrup ($2.25 plus postage for one pound of mix and eight ounces of syrup). The Ayres, who run Sugar-bush Farm, also make a delicious, cracker-size bar of hickory-and-maple-smoked cheese, almost a foot long and weighing about a pound and a half ($2.00 plus postage). And for a different tasting pancake mix there's Hiawatha, with wild rice, new to the food-by-mail market ($9.50 for 12 one-pound packages in a case, Mille Lacs Maple Products Co., 308 Prince St., St. Paul 1, Minn.). It has the wonderful flavor of wild rice. From the Pennsylvania Dutch country, near Lebanon, comes a very special, all-beef bologna, smoked in an 80-year tradition ($3.50 for 3½-pound sausage, Weaver's, Box 525, Lebanon, Pa.).
Hams, smoked and cured according to the customs of the area, are probably the most popular foods available by mail for the holidays. One of the most famous of hams is the Smithfield (7-to 12-pound sizes, $1.95 per pound, Smithfield Ham and Products Co., Smithfield 8, Va.). These hams are cut from peanut-fed porkers and cured by the three-century-old Smithfield method of dry salting, spicing and heavy smoking with hickory, apple and oak woods. The curing process requires about 65 days and the hams are then aged for more than a year. They are available uncooked or baked in wine. From Hill Hollow Farm, Far Hills, N.J. comes a ham hamper containing, in a wicker basket, a ham, together with jars of country mustard and ham sauce ($17.50, 12-to 13-pound ham). The ham is sugar-cured, then slowly hickory-smoked, and, since the curing process uses a minimum of salt, no parboiling is needed.
Wild game is very rarely available in the markets in America, because of the conservation laws—game has to be raised especially for sale. However, the George H. Shaffer market (673 Madison Ave., New York) specializes in fine and rare meats, sea food and poultry, and they frequently have game from around the world. For instance, smoked brook trout is available from them ($1.50 per trout plus postage), as is Scotch grouse ($5.50 each plus postage).
Smoked turkey is another holiday specialty—particularly fine for a buffet or a cocktail party—and among the best are the Catskill Mountain turkeys prepared by Forst's of Kingston, N.Y. The birds are first cured, then slowly smoked over applewood embers. They come ready to eat ($1.75 per pound, 8-to 20-pound birds).
Fred Anderson has a very unusual herb farm in Bucks County, Pa. There he grows his own herbs, then dries them and rubs them down by hand, not by machine, and they have much stronger, fresher flavors than other herb products. He blends them into a variety of seasonings and also makes a delicious hot herb mustard (85¢ for six ounces), meat tenderizers, wild garlic vinegar and an herb mixture (85¢ for two ounces). His other herbs and recipes are worth writing for.
Victor Borge, that unmelancholy Dane has probably done more for the little Rock Cornish game hen than any single processor. These wonderful little birds (they weigh about 18 ounces), have a preponderance of white meat and a delicious flavor. They are shipped by special delivery, eviscerated, frozen and ready to cook, packed with dry ice in well-insulated cartons ($11.50 for six, Vibo Farms, Southbury, Conn.). Borge also ships pheasant, likewise frozen and oven-ready ($12 per brace).
Smoked pheasant—a real gourmet delicacy—are now also available ($13 a brace) from the Hof Game Farm of Oakton, Va., which each year ships 5,000 pen-raised birds. They can supply birds in full plumage as well, with recipes ($12 per brace).
Up in Dutchess County, N.Y. there is another game farm which specializes in game birds, with a particular emphasis on bantam pheasants, birds which are force-fed for about 10 weeks, then killed when they have attained a weight of about three-fifths of their maximum mature weight. Although smaller than normal, they are unusually full-breasted—one bird is large enough for two ($8 a brace—a cock and hen, fresh-frozen, oven-ready, Deer Hill Hunt Club, Pawling, N.Y.).