The Beekman Boys might be reality TV stars, but they want you to know: it’s all in the name of preserving the past.
It all started in 2007, when Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge were a New York City couple — Ridge, a physician by training who worked for Martha Stewart’s media company, and Kilmer-Purcell, a drag queen-turned-author-turned-advertising executive — who were eager to buy a weekend getaway spot. Cheap interest rates helped them scratch that itch, Ridge says now.
“We were those people. But when the recession hit, we both lost our jobs and we had this huge farm with a million-dollar mortgage,” he says. “We had to come up with a way to make it survive. When life gives you goats, you make lots of things.”
In 2010, they let cameras into their 210-year-old farmhouse in upstate New York (not to mention their relationship and budding goat milk soap and cheese business) for “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” which aired for two seasons on Planet Green. (The Beekman name comes from the original owner of the farmhouse.)
With two seasons of “reality” reality under their belt and an irresistible on-camera chemistry, Kilmer-Purcell and Ridge snagged a spot on last year’s season of “The Amazing Race,” which they ultimately won.
Taking a cue from Martha, the couple leveraged the success of both shows to expanded their lifestyle business beyond soaps and cheeses to put an emphasis on all things durable, sharable and meaningful.
“We’ve always said that if our company grew, we wanted the community to grow with it,” Ridge says.
Three years ago they opened their first shop in downtown Sharon Springs (population 547), and five other businesses have since opened on Main Street. They also started the Beekman 1802 Rural Artist Collective to sell products from other craftspeople they’ve met through their business.
In 2011, they published their first cookbook, “The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook,” the first of a trio of “Heirloom” books inspired in part by the church communities cookbooks they remember from their own childhoods.
They will be in Austin this week for the Texas Book Festival and Prevention magazine’s Prevention R3 Summit at the Long Center (see sidebar for ticket information) to talk about their second book, “The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook: 100 Delicious Heritage Recipes from the Farm and Garden,” (Rodale Books, $32.50) which they wrote with recipe developer Sandy Gluck.
In each of the “Heirloom” books, the authors encourage cooks to write in their own recipes, adaptations and notes among the recipes featured in the book and see the book as a keeper of memories as much as a guide for how to cook a certain dish. (Vegetables will be the subject of the next book in the “Heirloom” series, which they are working on now.)
In the past year, they’ve launched their first national food product line: “Mortgage Lifter” tomato sauces, which starting this month will be available in Central Markets across the state. (You can also buy it online at beekman1802.com.)
The sauce is named for a tomato of the same name made famous by a West Virginia farmer in the 1930s who paid off the mortgage on his house by selling the plants for $1 each.
Because the $1 million “Amazing Race” prize was their mortgage lifter, the Beekman owners decided to donate 25 percent of the profits to help other farmers pay off their mortgages.
(Winning the reality travel competition also helped Kilmer-Purcell finally quit his job three and a half hours away in New York City. The weekly commute was a source of stress and tension for most of “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” which you can now watch on the Cooking Channel and through Netflix and Amazon Prime. It’s a ridiculously sweet and touching show, especially the episodes with Farmer John, their friend and farm manager who loves goats more than any person on the planet. When he talks about his goats, he cries, and you will, too.)
Ridge says that moving away from the city and their old work habits didn’t just lead to new careers; it has revolutionized their lives.
“It gave us not only the opportunity to reinvent ourselves but to find what we were truly passionate about,” he says. “It’s not that we didn’t enjoy our careers; we just know that we’ve found our passions.”
Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafers
When Brent was growing up in North Carolina, his great-grandmother, Jesse, would make this classic Southern dessert every Easter. These wafers are easy to make, but feel free to swap in store-bought vanilla wafers — you’ll need about 30. The dough yields enough for about 5 dozen cookies, but you have choices: Bake all the dough (you’ll like these on their own); bake half, forming and freezing the other half to bake at your leisure; or halve the dough ingredients.
— Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge
For vanilla pudding:
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 large egg yolks
3 cups milk
2 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
For vanilla wafers:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned into cup and leveled off)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. milk
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 lb. bananas, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
To make the pudding: Set a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl. In a large, heavy-bottom saucepan, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Whisk in the egg yolks and milk until smooth. Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, for 5 minutes, or until the pudding has thickened and large bubbles erupt on the surface. Transfer the pudding to the sieve and strain. Stir in the butter and vanilla. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding and refrigerate until chilled.
To make the vanilla wafers: In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until well-combined. Add the egg, vanilla and milk and beat until combined. With the mixer on the lowest speed, beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Place the dough in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Drop the cookie dough in walnut-size balls onto the baking sheets 1 inch apart. With the bottom of a floured drinking glass, flatten the dough slightly. Bake for 15 minutes, switching the baking sheets from top to bottom and rotating front to back halfway through, until golden brown around the edges. Let cool for 2 minutes on the pans, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
To prepare the bananas: In a large skillet, combine the sugar, water and the lime juice and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 2 minutes, then add the bananas and toss to coat. Remove from the heat.
In a 9-inch-by-9-inch baking dish, make layers of pudding, bananas and their syrup, and vanilla wafers, beginning and ending with pudding. Cover the surface of the pudding with plastic wrap and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Alternatively, layer in parfait glasses and top with a few wafers. Serves 8.
— From “The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook: 100 Delicious Heritage Recipes from the Farm and Garden” by Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Brent Ridge and Sandy Gluck (Rodale Books, $32.50)
Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge will be in Austin this week for both the Texas Book Festival and Prevention magazine’s Prevention R3 Summit, which is taking place Friday and Saturday at the Long Center. Tickets to the Prevention magazine event cost $85 and are available at preventionr3summit.eventbrite.com, and Kilmer-Purcell and Ridge are slated to speak Saturday. Their book festival cooking demonstration, which is free to attend, is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Sunday in the cooking tent on the south side of the Capitol.