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Berkshire Tidbits: Christmas Goodies, Year's End Events
By Judith Lerner, Special to iBerkshires
12:48PM / Tuesday, December 22, 2015
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Whitney's Farm Market on Route 8 in Cheshire is open 9 to 6 with seasonal offerings.

Charles H. Baldwin & Sons, aka Baldwin's Extracts, is really dressed for Christmas.

Baldwin's West Stockbridge store offers more than just extracts.

Chocolates from Catherine's Chocolate Shop in Great Barrington.

St. Stephen's Table in Pittsfield is again hosting a free Christmas Eve supper.


Charles H. Baldwin & Sons
Has Extracts Galore & Plenty More

Monday through Saturday, 9 to 5; Christmas Eve, 9 to 3; reopens Monday, Dec. 28

When you are on tiny Center Street in tiny West Stockbridge, you cannot miss noticing that Charles H. Baldwin & Sons, aka Baldwin's Extracts, is really dressed for Christmas. Even from outside.

Giant handmade pink and blue wreaths of oversize shiny-wrapped candies, ornaments, ribbons and flowers surround the two front windows, making spirits bright as soon as you see them. If you fade the nicely paved street and overhead wires, you could be back in the 19th century when Charles Baldwin opened.

After three previous generations had made extracts before them, Charles H. Baldwin and his father, H. M. Baldwin, started the company and began making their first quality vanilla extract in 1888 using beans imported from Bourbon, Madagascar.

The business is owned and run by Earl Baldwin Moffat, great-great grandson of Charles H. Baldwin with his wife Jackie Moffat. Earl and Jackie use the same equipment — the original copper percolator, the original oak barrels — and the same recipe and nearly monthlong process for making vanilla extract that Earl's progenitor created more than 125 years ago.

Inside, Baldwin's is tightly packed and cheery. It's a general store filled with old-fashioned and newfangled treats and toys from floor to ceiling. It's also filled with vanilla extract, all the other Baldwin's extract flavors — almond, orange, peppermint, banana, black walnut, root beer and at least a dozen others — and products they make.

There's the table syrup, an early, lightened maple-flavored cane sugar based syrup created by Charles' son Earl Baldwin in the 1920s; no preservatives, no artificial flavors or colors. There's Mr. Baldwin's "Proper" Bloody Mary Mix. There's Baldwin's Worcestershire sauce and their vanilla vinaigrette. There's their salt and MSG-free Muffy's Meat Rub spice blend. There's their vanilla sugar and their vanilla cinnamon sugar, their Walnut Russe (walnut pieces suspended in vanilla and maple flavored syrup), their Bay Rum and a number of products that are made and bottled or bagged for them.

West Stockbridge native and close family friend Marjorie Powell presides over the store with ease and a lot of laughter.

"Holidays, for us, are extremely busy," she said. "All the way from Thanksgiving and with everybody baking" and using Baldwin's extracts.

"We have the same tried and true extracts, but there's many," Powell proclaimed.

You can visit Charles H. Baldwin & Sons, call  413-232-7785, or view a bit of what they make and sell at www.baldwinextracts.com.

 

Catherine's Chocolate Shop
Has Traditional Chocolates Covered

Open daily 9 to 6; Sunday 10 to 5; Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, 9 to 3

Catherine's Chocolate Shop, 413-528-2510, 260 Stockbridge Road/Route 7 in Great Barrington, is a small family owned and run confectionary that follows fudge, chocolate and candy traditions originated by great uncle Emile in the 1920s and '30s and brought to Great Barrington by grandmother Catherine Sinico in 1959.

But don't think they haven't modernized to give their customers chocolate-covered Twinkies, Oreos and Rice Krispie Treats. They make batches of them frequently.

"My daughter, Anna Catherine Sinico, who is 10, likes to take them off the machine when I do them," current owner and chocolatier Matthew Sinico told me proudly last week.

Matthew said of his job/vocation/avocation as the family's head chocolate maker, "Did I decide to do it or was I born to do it?"

As he presided over customers' orders he said, "I really like what I do. I've been making fudge since I was 13. It's been nearly 30 years since I've been doing this."

His mother, Kathleen Sinico, is still making and selling her chocolates too.

"It's hard keeping up," she said, "when you make nearly everything by hand which we do. We make our fillings for our chocolates — jellies, creams, nougats, caramels, cherries … Shall I go on?" she queried.

"But we try," she said with a laugh. "What we were out of yesterday morning we had in stock yesterday afternoon."

If you like local, homemade fudge — chocolate, chocolate nut, chocolate peanut butter, penuche, penuche nut, Butterfinger, chocolate mint and more — peanut brittle or cashew brittle, shortbreads, chocolate covered cordial cherries, chocolate covered marzipan or mints, truffles or buttercrunch balls or chocolate-covered Twinkies, come right down.

The Sinicos have made up gift boxes and pails and towers. And there are many decorative and delicious choices to put together yourself.

Catherine's Chocolates is running out fast but they do their best to keep up with demand.

Catherine's Chocolates in Great Barrington offers chocolate-covered Twinkies.

Free Christmas Eve Supper
at St. Stephen's Table

Thursday, Dec. 24, 5:15; doors open at 4:30

Every year, for the last 23 years, members of the Jewish community under the leadership of Ellen Masters prepare and serve the Christmas Eve supper at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church.

This year's menu includes fresh vegetable soup and a salad as starters, a main course of cranberry chicken with rice and green beans and ends with freshly baked chocolate brownies with vanilla ice cream and some sugar-free options.

All are welcome at St. Stephen's Table, 67 East St. in Pittsfield, entrance around the corner on Allen Street.

 

American Legions Host Free Dinners
Christmas Day in North Adams & Pittsfield

Post 125 in North Adams, noontime

The public is invited to the annual free sit-down Christmas dinner provided by American Legion Post 125, 91 American Legion Drive in North Adams. No reservations are needed.

They will also deliver meals to the homebound in North County. Call the Legion, 413-664-9004 to request a delivered meal.

Post 68 in Pittsfield, noontime

Once again, the public is invited to the free sit-down Christmas dinner provided by American Legion Post 68, 41 Wendell Avenue in Pittsfield. No reservations are needed.

The Legion will also deliver meals to the homebound who live in Pittsfield. Call Kelly at 413-499-1435 by Tuesday, Dec. 22, for delivered meals.

She said dinner will be a full turkey meal with all the trimmings.

 

Becket Parish Serves Final 2015
Monthly Community Breakfast

Saturday, Dec. 26

The Yoked Parish of Becket presents its monthly breakfast on the last Saturday of every month from 8 to 11. All are welcome. Menu consists of homemade scrambled eggs, pancakes, French toast, bacon, sausage, ham, hash, home fries, fresh fruit, juices, tea and coffee.

At Becket Federated Church, 413-623-5217, 3381 Main St. across from the Becket Washington elementary school. Adults $6; children under 12, $3.

 

'Cooking at The Chef's Shop' Series
Features Party Foods

Sunday, Dec. 27, 3 to 5

This coming weekend, Julie Gale, chef and owner of At the Table Cooking School in Hillsdale, N.Y., will be teaching her final class of the year, as part of her "Cooking at The Chef's Shop" series.

Gale says just when everyone feels that entertaining is over, cooks have to get ready for New Year's Eve and she will help you.

She said, she "will give you some easy recipes right out of the 1960s, including Craig Claiborne's timeless onion-parmesan crisps, my mom's scrumptious mini potato knishes (the secret is schmaltz/chicken fat), the simplest yet amazing honey rosemary fennel roast pork tenderloin and the tangiest accompaniment, kumquat-cranberry sauce!"

Gale promises the two-hour class will have lots of hands-on participation and conclude by the class eating the prepared meal which will have been made using organic and local ingredients where possible.

Next month, next year, it's on to comfort food, basic food for winter.

The Chef's Shop offers class students a 10-percent discount on purchases made on a class day. Classes are limited to 12 students. The cost is $60 per person for a single class, $150 for a series of three. Payment is required in advance with a 48 hour cancellation policy. For more details or to reserve a place: 1-800-237-5284, 413-528-0135 or Email@TheChefsShop.com.

 

Berkshire Co-op Market Offers
10% Discount on Monday

 

Monday, Dec. 28, 8 to 8

As a gift to everyone in the Berkshires, Berkshire Co-op Market, 42 Bridge St., Great Barrington, is offering a 10 percent discount on everything in the store on Monday, including sale items on the day exactly in between Christmas and New Year's Eve.

Now's the time to stock up on that organic Basmati rice or special cheese or whatever is a favorite. This is a good deal.

 

Free Christmas Dinner For All
at Becket Federated Church
 
Friday, Dec. 25, noon to 2
 
Rev. Kevin Smail, pastor of The Yoked Parish of Becket was delighted to tell me that the parish is hosting a Christmas dinner this Friday. All are welcome.
 
"It will be a fun time," he said. "Those who are alone will have a wonderful place to come and have dinner."
 
He said there will be turkey and roast beef and potatoes and squash and all kinds of side dishes and mostly homemade desserts.
 
"And at no charge," he added.
 
"We try to be on schedule but that does not always happen," he joked. "It's our intention, a hope."
 
The church is asking people to call to let the cooks know how many to plan for, "But we always make enough for a dozen more," Smail said.
 
The free Christmas dinner will be at the parish house of Becket Federated Church, (413) 623-5217, 3381 Main St. across from the Becket Washington elementary school.
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