Along the Grapevine


34 Comments

Sumac Soda

DSC02869A couple of days ago I wrote about gathering and preserving rhus glabra, or smooth sumac, a departure from my usual rhus typhina, or staghorn sumac. These are only two of the roughly thirty five species of red berried rhuses, and as far as I can tell, their flavours are similar enough that they can be interchanged in recipes very easily. So while I have used the smooth sumac liquid, i.e. berry infused water as a base, you could substitute this with any other edible sumac.

I have made a few natural sodas lately, including tonic water, and the success I have had with all of them has encouraged me to continue experimenting. As sumac is great in a lemonade, tea or mead, I figured it would make a decent soda too. I was not disappointed.

Besides the sumac ‘juice’ as described in my last post, you will need some honey and some starter or bug for the fermentation to take place. The process for making a bug can be found here. Once your bug is ready, you mix the three ingredients in flip top bottles. Ginger is the most common root to use, but I also use dandelion and chicory root where I don’t want a strong ginger flavour as is the case with this drink.
 

My general rule is to mix the ingredients so that the initial mixture is sweeter than you want the end product, since much of the sugar gets used up in the fermentation process, so while there is a high ratio of honey, the drink is still quite dry. However, the fermentation is speedy and effective, so be warned. I try it after three days instead of the usual five, and open the bottles every two days to let excess gas escape. The drink will continue to ferment, so once you are happy with its flavour and fizziness, keep it chilled.
The proportions I used were as follows: 1 cup bug, 1 cup raw honey, 3 1/2 cups sumac juice.

DSC02870

So here is a soda that is not only delicious but actually good for you. I will be sharing it with the guests at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #104, where I will be co-hosting along with Mila from Milk and Bun. Do drop by for some extraordinary recipes, and if you are a food blogger yourself, feel free to post a recipe of your own. The clear and simple guidelines are outlined here.

 

 

 

 


15 Comments

Smooth Sumac – Rhus Glabra

DSC02836I have written several posts on staghorn sumac, by far the most common of the red-berried shrubs in this area but by no means the only edible variety. When I accidentally stumbled upon another variety, rhus glabra or smooth sumac, I was interested in finding out just what the differences between the two types is.

First I discovered that this smooth variety is actually more common throughout North America than the staghorn. It is also reputed to be more tart. Both varieties ripen in the late summer, but can be picked well into the winter and are perfect for foraging at this time of year.

The bushes are bare of leaves, so you have to rely on the berries to identify them. The smooth variety looks very much like the staghorn, but without the fuzz on either the berries or the stems. Here are pictures of both for comparison.

DSC02841

Just as I was contemplating writing this post, I came across an article extolling the medicinal properties of the rhus glabra. While my purpose in foraging is purely culinary, it is still of considerable interest to learn about the health benefits of any of the ingredients I use from the wild and this article helped me understand just what a remarkable plant I was dealing with. It is a wonder that with so much of it around it still remains unharvested.

I treated it the same as I did with the staghorn sumac. I placed the entire drupes in the oven in a single layer at a low temperature (170 degrees F) for a couple of hours until thoroughly dried. Then I remove as many berries as can be easily scraped off with a knife. These berries get finely ground in a spice or coffee mill, then passed through a sieve leaving a citrusy powder which can be used in everything from soup to nuts!

rhus glabra powder

Smooth Sumac on Punk Domestics

The remaining berries still attached to the drupes are placed in a large saucepan and covered with warm water and left to soak for about half an hour and then strained. In order to extract as much of the flavour and volume as possible, I give them a second soak in boiling water. This liquid can be used to make tea or sumac ‘lemonade’ which is the way it was most often used in these parts in the past.

DSC02851Perhaps my favourite way of using the liquid is by making sumac mead, although I will be publishing another drink recipe within a couple of days which gives a whole new purpose to collecting this prolific plant.


28 Comments

Crabapple Whisky Cake

Recently I was thinking of baking with some of my store of applesauce, when it occurred to me I should also use some of my crabapple sauce for a change. Quite by chance I came across a recipe which did exactly that, thereby saving me a lot of time and effort by not having to create my own.

I had been picking crabapples even after the frost, so I was relieved to learn someone else does it, and it really is OK. They don’t look that great on the tree, but for cooking purposes it is quite safe to do so. So if you have some of these shrivelled little fruits to pick, here is a perfect way to use them.

DSC02876

I followed the recipe which you can find here   (as well as some interesting facts about crabapples), using the cinnamon and nutmeg instead of spice berries, regular walnuts instead of black walnuts, and the whisky which I thought made it suitable for a Robbie Burns dinner this weekend, but it is delicious enough you can forego the liquor all together if you wish.

The crabapples give the cake more fruit flavour than regular apples would, and the spices and nuts add even more to the rich flavours.

DSC02879

I baked it in a large bundt pan which took about 75 minutes to bake, longer than the recipe calls for, but times will vary depending on the shape of your pan.

DSC02880

If using a pan like this, it is important to grease it very well to make removing the cake easy.

DSC02883

It would be delicious served with whipped or clotted cream, but we chose to have it neat.

DSC02886

Now that I know just how good crabapple sauce is in making, I might just have to work on more recipes, but I doubt I could beat this one. Easy to make, delicious, keeps well, it is a keeper.

DSC02887

Linked to Angie at Fiesta Friday, Sonal at Simply Vegetarian and Petra at Food Eat Love.


25 Comments

Canada Goose Confit Tamales

DSC02868

This is a two-part recipe, one for a Canada goose confit and one for tamales, and each recipe can stand alone. The confit can be made from chicken, duck, or most meats, so if you don’t have goose, you can still use the same recipe. Likewise, just about any filling can be used for tamales – it is more for the methods than the exact ingredients that I write this post. You may have your own local ingredients that would serve well in these recipes.

I just happened to have received my annual Canada goose and wanted to prepare it in such a way that it could be preserved and used in small amounts for several recipes. So I began by making my confit.

Confit is a way of preserving poultry or meat so that it has a shelf life of several months. It can be bought ready-made in a good butcher’s shop, and although it’s expensive, it is worth it. Often used in cassoulets and other bean dishes, it can also be added to rice or vegetable dishes.

The process for making it takes some time, but it is really quite easy. First the meat is cured in salt for several hours, then cooked long and slow covered in fat – duck or goose fat is good if you have it, but lard or oil can also be used. Then it is packed and sealed, again covered in fat, in mason jars.

This was my first attempt, and while it worked, I would change my method slightly next time and make it less complicated. I did not have a second goose, so I made do with it, but for the recipe I will direct you to two recent posts I read on the subject. Forager Chef  offers a very straight forward method with a delicious berry sauce and Married with Cauldron who makes duck confit with sunflower oil. Both these recipes are very helpful to anyone trying this for the first time.

DSC02854

Just for the record, I used lard that I had rendered myself. Once you remove whatever fat you have used to cook and store it, you can use that for heating up the meat, roasting vegetables, or as in my case, to make tamales.

Now for the second part of this recipe. I’d never made tamales before, but I have tasted many varieties of this ancient dish in several Latin American countries. If you are not familiar with them, they are a cornmeal mash filled with meat, vegetable and sometimes fruit, wrapped and steamed in corn husks.

DSC02856

I keep corn husks on hand even though tamales have never been part of my repertoire. They are very useful for just about anything where you normally use aluminum foil. I use them on the grill, to roast and “tent”, sometimes just to line or cover dishes. They impart a delicious flavour of their own, and can be composted after use. I highly recommend them.DSC02857

I read many, many posts on making tamales, (the singular of which is tamal)  mostly from Latin America because I was looking for authentic recipes. Before this I had no idea that the cornmeal was usually mixed with beaten lard, but was relieved to find that I could use what I had from cooking the goose.DSC02853

For a vegetarian version, they are sometimes made with vegetable oil which I have yet to try. For this recipe I worked out my own proportions and flavourings, and aimed for something resembling what I knew. And I am pleased to say the recipe worked out just as I had hoped.

Canada Goose Tamales


Ingredients for the cornmeal

6 cups cornmeal

4 cups stock (approximately)

1 Tbsp salt

2 Tbsp chili powder

2 cups lard (or other fat)

Ingredients for the filling

1 lb goose confit

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tsp each coriander, cumin and black pepper

2 hot chili peppers (or to taste)

2 tsp pepper jelly (or other sweet condiment)

I/2 cup stock, vegetable or meat or combination of both

To make the goose filling, fry the onion until it is soft. Add the garlic, pepper and spices and cook for a further two minutes. Add the stock and jelly, reduce the heat and continue to cook until the liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool.

To make the cornmeal mixture, start by pouring hot water over the husks and all them to soak until soft, about ten minutes. Combine the dry ingredients and stir in the stock gradually until mixture is the consistency of peanut butter. Let it sit for 20 minutes. Meanwhile beat the lard with an electric mixer until it is very fluffy (see photo above). Stir the lard into the cornmeal mixture.

Place one corn husk on a flat surface and spread the corn mixture in a thin layer in the centre, leaving about 3/4 of an inch at either end, and about half an inch on either side. Place about 2 Tbsp of filling down the centre of the corn and roll up the husk. Tie the ends with string or with strips of corn husk. Repeat for the other tamales.

Place in a steamer and steam for 20 minutes. To serve, untie the bundles and discard the husks.

DSC02866

There was enough cornmeal for 3 dozen tamales, but only enough goose filling for 16. For the rest I made a vegetable filling with caramelized onions, chopped wild mushrooms, grated scapes, seasoning and a little vegetable stock, following the same method as I used with the goose filling.DSC02862

Once steamed, tamales can be stored in the fridge for three days or frozen for longer, and reheated by steaming them again for about five minutes (depending on how thick they are). They can be eaten on their own as a hearty snack, a light meal, and combined with salad, salsa, refried beans or however you like. DSC02864

DSC02874

Linked to: Fiesta Friday #102;  hosted by Angie at The Novice Gardener, co-hosted by Elaine at Foodbod and Julie at Hostess at Heart

 


33 Comments

Juniper Berries and Soup

DSC02831Since I began working on this blog, I have found two things about foraging which surprise me. First, that you can forage quite happily in the winter even in this snowiest of landscapes for some really worthwhile ingredients, one of which I am writing about today. In fact, the winter has the advantage of being insect-free, and as long as there’s not a blizzard and you are dressed for it, the venture is very invigorating and a great excuse to enjoy the outdoors. Just don’t remove gloves for too long while you take photographs or snip branches, both of which are impossible with furry gloves.

The other surprise is that some of the most overlooked and miniscule pickings add so much flavour and are every bit as valuable as the bulkier crops. Good seasonings and spices are essential in cooking, and if they are local, fresh and free, all the better.

I have always used juniper berries in cooking, usually to flavour fish, game, sauerkraut and choucroute garnie, but no longer will I buy little plastic boxes from the supermarket. I found my own source, and they are so good!

DSC02832

These ones grow on what is usually referred to as the Eastern Red Cedar which is misleading because it is not a cedar, but a juniper, juniperus virginiana to be exact. This same cedar we use to add a scent to our linen trunks and repel moths is not a cedar at all – another surprise for me. There are other varieties of juniper, but I will only try and describe this one as I have direct experience with it. So here are a few facts you’ll need to identify it.

DSC02833

Where it grows:  Eastern North America, hardy to zone 3.

Description: A coniferous evergreen which in poor soil may just be a shrub but in the right conditions can grow as high as 40-50 feet with a spread of 8-15 feet.  It is pyramid shaped. The leaves change appearance with age. The young ones, on trees up to three years old and the new growth on older trees have sharp spreading needles about 2-4 inches long. Leaves of older trees are green and scale-like arranged in overlapping groups of four. The trees I picked from were of the younger variety. There is a good picture showing the leaves at different stages in this post. The fruit are small currant sized cones resembling berries, dark blue with a white waxy coating which makes them look sky blue.

Uses: The cones are used in cooking and making gin, the leaves are toxic. The bark is used as a moth repellant, and the wood is used in building fence posts. Oil is extracted from leaves, bark and wood.

Benefits and Cautions: The cones (which look like berries) have an antiviral compound called deoxypodophyllotoxin (DPT) which is used against some viruses. People used to add it to tea as a medicinal herb. They should not be taken in large amounts.

Juniper Berries on Punk Domestics

At this point I was just interested in using these little cones (berries), and as I am off rich and meaty dishes at this time of year, I decided to make a vegan soup – a pea soup, with some aromatic flavour. I also used some of my prickly ash, or szechwan pepper, but if you don’t have that you can just use more black pepper. And if you don’t have these plants in your area, you can buy both juniper berries or Szechwan pepper at a good spice store.

 

DSC02844

I soaked, then cooked one pound of split peas. Once cooked I added 1 chopped onion, 1 carrot, 4 crushed cloves of garlic, 10 juniper berries, 1 tsp Szechwan pepper, 1 tsp black pepper and salt to taste. I simmered it until all vegetables were cooked.

DSC02843

You can vary the spiciness  according to your taste of course. By using these less common flavours, you will find this familiar soup takes on a whole new character. If you have a favourite dish using juniper berries, I would love to hear about it.

DSC02847

Linked to:  Angie at The Novice Gardener; Jhuls at The Not So Creative Cook and Mr. Fitz of Cooking with Mr. Fitz.

 

 

 


15 Comments

Orange and Ginger Fig Pudding

DSC02817I made this steamed pudding for Christmas dinner. We always follow the English tradition of ending the meal with the drama of a flaming dish soaked in rum or brandy. There seems to be no question of abandoning this tradition, but truth be told, no one really likes it that much.

So I decided that by making my own version I could not only satisfy the vegetarian without having to make another dish, I could also make something that was lighter and even tastier. And while I was at it, I thought I could improve on the original just by adding some fruit from my garden.

This turned out to be pretty easy, and I have no idea why I didn’t think of this years ago. In fact, it is such a good dessert that there is no need to have it only at Christmas, although I would save the flambeing part and addition of alcohol for that occasion – otherwise it wouldn’t be so special.

Instead of using any sort of candied fruit, I dried the peel of one organic orange and chopped it along with some fresh ginger, thus giving the mass of mixed fruit a distinctively orange and ginger flavour – hence the name.
DSC02796

Orange and Ginger Fig Pudding

Ingredients

500 g of mixed dried fruit including dates, figs and apricots

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cups dried apples, chopped

1/4 cup orange juice, brandy or rum

10 Tbsp all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 cup brown sugar

2 cups bread crumbs

dried zest of 1 orange

1 tsp freshly grated ginger

2 eggs

4 oz butter

Method

Chop the fruit and pour the juice or alcohol over it and let it sit for about an hour. Mix the softened butter with the sugar, and when thoroughly combined beat the eggs into the mixtures. Add the breadcrumbs, ginger and fruit. Measure the flour and add the baking powder, then gradually stir all the dry ingredients into the fruit mixture.

Pack it into a mould or a pudding dish. Cover it with parchment paper, making a fold in the paper to allow for expansion. Steam it for 2 1/2 hours. It will be easy to invert onto a plate just by running a knife around the edge of the bowl to loosen it.

This recipe makes approximately 1 litre of pudding, so you will likely need two pudding bowls.

DSC02827

Serve with custard or cream. For Christmas I made a simple sauce of butter, maple syrup, rum and cream.

Linked to Fiesta Friday 

 

 

 

 


8 Comments

A New Year’s Eve Cocktail

Bringing in the New Year is a perfect excuse for a new cocktail concoction – and of course it is only fitting I should make it with some of my foraged hoard. Here I offer you a delectable drink made with my honeysuckle syrup, mixed with bourbon, prosecco and a dash of bitters. So let me drink a toast to all my readers who have encouraged me over the past year, and share with them a little taste of my garden which is now fittingly covered with snow.DSC02821

I first made a syrup with 1 part honeysuckle syrup, 1 1/2 parts bourbon and a few drops of bitters. Mix this half and half with prosecco in individual glasses. It is not sweet, but has a beautiful floral bouquet.

DSC02822

And as I enjoy my drink on this the last day of 2015, I am again reminded of where we live and our beautiful surroundings by my originally decorated Christmas tree – still fresh and fragrant. Dried hydrangeas, sedums and milkweed pods give it a festive, foraged flavour.

DSC02800DSC02801DSC02802

DSC02828

May 2016 bring you health and happiness, and great foraging!

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 497 other followers