Cooking on the Coast
At Salt Water Farm in Lincolnville, Annemarie Ahearn teaches the important but often forgotten basics of cooking.
By Will Bleakley
Photograph by Kristin Teig
Salt Water Farm in Lincolnville, set on a picturesque old sheep farm with views of Penobscot Bay, has been attracting acclaimed chefs and curious students to take part in its rustic, traditional cooking classes and supper club feasts since 2009. In a post-and-beam barn on the top of a hill, Annemarie Ahearn leads one- and three-day workshops on everything from foraging, butchering, and beekeeping to pickling and turning cream into butter. In spring 2013, Salt Water Farm is opening a year-round café with a seasonal chalkboard menu, local produce market, and additional classes in a space overlooking Rockport Harbor. Ahearn spoke with us about her workshops and what students can expect to learn.
What do you hope students take away from a class at Salt Water Farm?
We hope people realize that these skills are very useful and it changes the way they think about feeding themselves. We teach really basic skills, but we get students from around the country who are some of the best chefs out there. They know all these fancy techniques and are real magicians, but when they come to us and shake cream in a mason jar and see it become butter, they’re amazed. We’ll go foraging, fishing, break apart a chicken, and make stock out of it, and do traditional elements of cooking that they’ve never actually experienced.
What are three techniques or skills everyone should know?
Composting. There’s so much unnecessary waste. Keeping a sharp knife and knowing how to use it properly — it makes everyone’s life in the kitchen more fun. There’s also tremendous pleasure in having fresh eggs and your own chickens.
What are your favorite Maine ingredients you forage or catch?
Mackerel is at the top of my list. We catch it right off the beach and grill it. Berries of all kinds — especially to preserve for the long winter. And finnan haddie when it’s smoked and put into a pie.
What’s your favorite class to teach?
Definitely the three-day workshop. People get to know each other, and it’s like a camp for adults. The classes always change depending on the season, but we teach things like how to raise laying hens, bake a loaf of bread, and make a frittata with eggs and vegetables from the garden. The other days may include foraging on an island, making a wood oven-fired pizza, shucking oysters, or learning to cook over an open fire.
How is Salt Water Farm suited for Maine?
What makes Maine unique is how, even with a limited growing season, people still eat locally 365 days a year — which means pickling, preserving, salting, smoking, and freezing. I never experienced that kind of resourcefulness anywhere else. The more time I spend in Maine, the more I realize that kind of resourcefulness is what’s missing from the knowledge base of people who live elsewhere.
Upcoming classes include:
Aug. 18 Summer Harvest
Aug. 20-22 Three-day Workshop
Aug. 25 Tuscany Comes to the Coast of Maine: Olive Oil Traditions from a Country Farm
Sept. 8 Pickles & Preserves
Sept. 9 Backyard Burgers
Call 207-230-0966 or visit saltwaterfarm.com