MOUNT DESERT ISLAND — A light roll made from egg batter known as the popover is a sought-after treat for those staying on Mount Desert Island in the summer.
The fluffy pastries, which are similar to Yorkshire pudding, can be found at various eateries around Mount Desert Island, such as the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park and the Asticou Inn restaurant in Northeast Harbor. The puffy popover can also be found at the non-profit Common Good Soup Kitchen in Southwest Harbor.
Visitors and locals alike have been dining at the Jordan Pond House since 1893 when Nellie McIntire began baking and serving her famous popovers at the restaurant. Ever since, the Jordan Pond House has been serving popovers and tea. Variations of their specific recipe, which includes eggs, flour, salt, whole milk and baking soda, have been passed around for generations.
When the Acadia Corp began to manage the Jordan Pond House in 1947, it continued the establishment’s popover tradition and later brought the popovers to the Asticou Inn. Though the Acadia Corp no longer operates either establishment, it still sells the world-famous Jordan Pond House popover mix at Acadia Shops locations in Bar Harbor.
Emily Damon of Northeast Harbor, who just last summer was appointed the executive chef of the Asticou Inn, said that there is a fine art to making popovers.
Since new management has taken over at the inn, Damon has made it a priority to enhance the popover program at the inn’s restaurant.
“With popovers, you really, really have to be precise with not only measurement, but the timing of popovers,” said Damon, who added that her staff mixes the batter in 5-gallon buckets to feed the masses.
Damon said that once the batter is made, it needs to sit at room temperature for two hours and then must be refrigerated for at least 24 hours. “But you aren’t going to use it yet. You are going to let it sit again and come to room temperature before you actually put it into the oven,” she explained.
Damon said she did multiple trials to test the temperature of the popover pan as well. “They tasted better when you have a heated pan; you put the batter into a hot, greased pan,” said Damon, adding that you bake them for 30 minutes at 350 degrees in an air-circulated, convection oven.
“Our popovers are, I feel, kind of the most superior on the island. Maybe we need a popover bakeoff,” she said. “Seventy-five to 80 percent of our customers come solely for our popovers. I think that we’ve enhanced and fine-tuned them.”
At the Common Good Soup Kitchen, Executive Director Laurie Ward agrees that the process it takes to produce the eggy muffin is strict and it takes a lot of effort to make enough to feed their growing daily demand. To make things a little easier on the bakers, the directions for the soup kitchen’s popover recipe are taped to the refrigerator.
The soup kitchen, which provides free meals to local families in need, hosts its popover breakfast on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
“We’ve always done our breakfast for the visitors, and it is all by donation,” Ward said, noting the breakfast also includes homemade butter and jams – traditional condiments for a popover breakfast. The kitchen, which once served breakfast for 100-250 people a day, is now serving batches for up to 450 people a day.
Although the precise art of executing the “perfect” popover can be a challenging for some, it hasn’t stopped Damon and Ward from continuing to make them – much to the delight of the thousands of visitors who seek them out each summer.