The excerpt of Cherries in Winter in the November issue of O, the Oprah Magazine also features the recipe for my Aunt Nettie’s Clam Chowder, and some of you may notice it’s slightly different from the way you’ll see the recipe in the book. Other recipes in the book will be featured on Tastebook.com, and they’ve been updated a bit there too.

That’s because Nana, Mom, and particularly Grandpa loved to play around with recipes. Nana wrote down precise instructions where she could, but sometimes a recipe had been handed down through so many generations, and made so many times, that there wasn’t really a specific set of instructions. As I read the original bare bones instructions for Aunt Nettie’s clam chowder, I could imagine her saying, “You just throw in some carrots, some parsley… You know.”

Grandpa knew, and he made the chowder recipe his own by adding a bottle of clam juice, leaving the clams out until the last stage of the simmering to keep them tender, and omitting the parsnips. When Mom made it, she added a slosh or two of white wine. And when I make it, I keep all the stock veggies in instead of taking them out.

I included the original recipes in the book because they are as precious to me as my family photographs. To have something in my grandmother’s handwriting is, in some ways, like getting to hold her hand again. But Nana, like me, was a chef in progress—we didn’t know how to cook, but we learned by doing. And by experimenting.

I invite you to use the recipes in Cherries in Winter as basic templates and to make them your own. In that way, we all share the meal together. And maybe my great-great Aunt Nettie’s Clam Chowder will one day be known as Your Clam Chowder.

If you like the variations you’ve made on the recipes, share them in the cherriesinwinter.com Recipe Box!

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