I’m so pleased today to welcome Jessica Lawson, middle-grade author extraordinaire (and good friend), to my blog. Jessica is the author of the much-acclaimed books The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher, Nooks & Crannies, Waiting for Augusta, and now Under the Bottle Bridge, which was just published this week (all with Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers).
Later this month, we will be celebrating our book launches together in both NYC and Virginia (more details here). But today, Jessica is sharing a recipe inspired by her new book, and giving away a copy!
Of Hearth Milk & Home—Recipe & Book Giveaway!
My good friend Tara (owner of this blog!) is a foodie. You might be able to tell from her Gladys Gatsby series, or from this Wizarding World of Harry Potter post, or from the creative foods in her most recent book, The Great Hibernation (out next week!). When I wanted to buy a cookbook for my husband’s birthday recently, Tara was the one I asked.
My latest publication, Under the Bottle Bridge, is not a foodie book. It is an autumn book—a “change of seasons” book. Still, when I think autumn, I get very nostalgic for two things: 1) the beginning of a new school year and 2) autumn comfort foods—stews and cornbread and pumpkin dishes and apples and spices. And also hearth milk.
What’s hearth milk, you ask? I created hearth milk for the book. It began as a simple line of fiction. My main character, Minna Treat, lives in an old stone house (with a large stone hearth). It’s a home that she loves. It’s a home that circumstances might cause her to soon leave. I found myself wondering what generations of Treats might keep bubbling in the cast-iron pot on nights that were cold in temperature, or cold in spirit, or both. I decided that while Minna is a woodcraft legacy (eight generations!), her family would also have a legacy of making a special drink:
Hearth milk was for special occasions. We’d fill a hanging cast-iron pot with extra-creamy, straight-from-the-cow farm milk and heat it slowly with brown sugar, vanilla, a pat of butter, nutmeg, whole cloves, and a cinnamon stick.
Minna describes hearth milk as being “better than hot chocolate. Having hearth milk was like drinking a warm bed and a soft story.”
Over months of drafts and revisions, I read the ingredients line describing this fictional drink over and over. Eventually, I came to my senses and thought…Hmm. That sounds pretty good. I should try that. So I did. And it was tasty.
The recipe is below. Leave a comment letting me know your favorite autumn treat for a chance to win a hardcover of Under the Bottle Bridge. Winner will be chosen on September 14.
*Minna Treat’s Hearth Milk
2 cups whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons brown sugar (packed)
1 stick cinnamon
8 whole cloves
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon vanilla
Directions: Combine milk & cream in a saucepan on the stovetop on medium-high heat. I heat mine at 7 (out of 10). Add all other ingredients and stir on a regular basis to avoid a film forming at the bottom of the pan (or a “skin” on the top).
Within six to eight minutes, the milk should begin to simmer. At this point, turn on low for five minutes to let spices soak in. Continue to stir now and then.
Remove whole cloves with a spoon. Remove pan from stovetop and ladle into mugs. Serve with a spoon and—optionally—a thin pat of butter on top that will melt into the milk. Person who gets the cinnamon stick gets to make a wish.
Makes 6 servings, each ½ cup.
*You can substitute almond/soy milk for milk/cream if lactose-intolerant. We tried it with almond milk and my 8YO said thumbs up, 4YO said thumbs down. You can decide for yourself 😊
About Under the Bottle Bridge:
In the weeks leading up to Gilbreth, New York’s annual AutumnFest, twelve-year-old woodcraft legacy Minna Treat is struggling with looming deadlines, an uncle trying to hide Very Bad News, and a secret personal quest. When she discovers mysterious bottle messages under one of the village’s 300-year-old bridges, she can’t help but wonder who’s leaving them, what they mean, and, most importantly…could the messages be for her?
Along with best friend Crash and a mystery-loving newcomer full of suspicious theories, Minna is determined to discover whether the bottles are miraculously leading her toward long-lost answers she’s been looking for, or drawing her into a disaster of historic proportions.