I’ve still got it!

I know its been a long time since my last update but that doesnt mean I’ve been idle! Quite the opposite in fact. I’ve been keeping busy with all manner of projects. My favorite as always is foraging. Two trips in the Oakland hills had me come home with quite a handful of Candy Caps and several pounds of Fly Agaric.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Candy Caps are pretty self explanatory. Delicious ruddy little mushrooms that smell like butterscotch and maple and caramel and dark brown sugar. Dried, they can add a sweet nutty flavor to butter cookies, ice cream, and are amazing mixed into chevre and left to sit overnight.

Candy Cap (photo by Don Loarie)

The Fly Agaric, also known as Amanita Muscaria is renowned the world round as a poisonous mushroom. It is unmistakable with its brilliant red cap, and white speckles and stem. There is nothing quite as striking as this toadstool.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“But it’s poisonous!” you say. “Why would you collect it?” you say. Because while it is poisonous, it is also very tasty. The toxins in this particular Amanita are water soluble and can be removed through a simple, but time consuming process. Before I explain, let me say that this is NOT TRUE of any other poisonous Amanita, and I do not recommend taking this sort of risk lightly(and no matter how careful you are, wild forage always comes with risks… like getting your sparkly hat muddy).

IMG_1605

Following directions from this blog by Hank Shaw, I processed my Amanitas. I started by trimming all the muddy bits off and rinsing them very well in cool water.

IMG_8018Next, the caps and stems get sliced into 1/4 inch pieces and tossed into a big pot of water.  I used a 3 gallon stock pot filled most of the way up. It seems the key to making these babies safe is to be generous with the amount of water you boil them in. I added 1/2 cup kosher salt and a few tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to the water and brought the whole witchy concoction up to a gentle boil. I let the pot roll for about 10-15 minutes then dumped the water. At this point the water was dark yellow and the caps had begun to lose their distinctive color. They also lost more than half their size: 6 cups down to just over 2.

IMG_8924

 

The soggy slices went back into the pot with a round of fresh water(no salt or vinegar this time) for another 15 minute boil. By this time the mushrooms have lost all but a faded caramel color and the stems go slightly grey. Unappealing as is, but fried slowly in butter they get remarkably crunchy as I have never known mushrooms to get.  They have a delightful nutty flavor almost like hazelnuts and unfortunately for you, I munched them all down before taking a good photo! I did freeze and dry some to see how these mushrooms are best stored and will get back to you on that when I decide to test them.

IMG_0307

If you decide to try this yourself, do the research, and proceed with caution. Amanita Muscaria are widely recognized as a poisonous mushroom and while I had a positive experience preparing them, be aware that this may not be the case for everyone. Consuming wild mushrooms is as much about the preparation as it is about the person. Everyone reacts differently, so be careful, and eat small amounts the first time to be sure you don’t react poorly.

Advertisements

Keeping Up With Putting By

I love preserving foods. It’s a meditative process for me that brings me so much joy in the process alone and then I’m rewarded for the energy I’ve expended with tasty treats! This weekend I have made jam, jelly, curd, kombucha, and more. It’s been a weekend of doing what I love despite hardships and putting aside my worries for just a bit in favor of some really rewarding and happy time.

Left to Right: Vanilla Pear Butter and Lavender Quince Jelly

Saturday was spent with the son of my gracious hosts jamming and curding (if it wasn’t a word before, it is now). With him as my diligent assistant, we managed to make 4 separate batches of delicious sweet preserves. First among them was a quince jelly scented with lavender. It’s a gorgeous rosy red and smells divine! Next was a batch of pear and apple butter with candied ginger and vanilla bean and two different batches of citrus curd. The old standby is a lime curd for which I used the USDA recommended recipe which is shelf-stable. The newcomer is adapted from the shelf-stable recipe and uses grapefruit zest and some of the ruby grapefruit juice mixed with mostly high-acid lemon juice. The grapefruit flavor is delicate and almost floral, but the lemon brings enough tartness to balance the sweetness of it. I’m a fan and am definitely going to make this recipe again! Next time I may even share it with you, but I want to be sure of it’s stability before I do.

LIMES!!!

While slaving in the kitchen, we broke into my new kombucha made with black tea and honey. I’ve heard many times that kombucha won’t consume honey, or that it will kill the SCOBY. However, my boss/coworker who generously gave me this new pet has always fed it with local honey (instead of sugar as is usually recommended) and the nuttiness and caramel notes in her kombucha are definitely something special, so I figured I would go ahead and do the same. I was anything but disappointed. In fact I was thrilled and drank up almost a quart of it across the day! One cupful even got a generous splash of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice that would otherwise have gone to waste. Yum!

Grapefruit Curd

Sunday was just as productive and fun. My place of employment hosts a lot of amazing classes and as an employee I get to attend them whenever there is an open space. Yesterday’s awesome class was Advanced Fermentation taught by Nishanga Bliss, author of Real Food All Year. Nishanga is a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese medical practitioner AIMC Berkeley and is about to complete a doctorate in Nutrition. Wholesome holistic living seems to be her passion and it was a pleasure to learn a bit from her.

Along with a short presentation about the history, health benefits and biology of fermentation, Nishanga shared a few really spectacular recipes with the class. We got to taste a few yummy ferms from her kitchen and started two of our own: Bok Choy  and Butternut Kimchi, and Ginger Bug.

Feeding my new pet.

The simpler of the two is a Ginger Bug (also sometimes called a Ginger Beer Plant) which is a wild yeast starter made from shredded organic ginger root and sugar water. This starter can be used for making all kinds of delicious sodas and fizzy juices. To make your own Ginger Bug, grate  two about tablespoons of organic ginger with the skin on. In a 16oz jar or larger mix the grated ginger with an equal amount of sugar and about a cup of water.  Leave your bug in a spot that stays between 68 and 78 degrees. Every day for the next week add more ginger and sugar until bubbles form. This is a sign that you starter is strong enough for you to start making sodas with it, and you’ll want to put it in the refrigerator unless you plan to use it and feed it right away. Even with refrigeration though, you will need to feed it every week.

I am just so excited to be getting my groove back. I’m finally starting to feel like myself again.

Berry Delicious

Ah summer. The sun is shining and berries are ripening everywhere. Even my first-year blueberry bushes are bearing big sweet fruit! I don’t think I’ll be getting enough fruit at any time this summer to do anything but graze and enjoy, but since blueberries are one of Boy’s favorite fruits, I decided I ought to make a good blueberry jam. I’m a bit odd when it comes to blueberries; Fresh or frozen, they are up in my top ten favorite fruits, but cooked, there is something about the way the flavor changes that I usually can’t stand. The goal here is to come up with a blueberry jam that I’ll eat too. For those of you who don’t care for the narrative, the recipes are at the bottom.

On a quick trip to the grocery store I got lucky and found big bags of blueberries for only a dollar each and I quickly picked up about 4 quarts worth of berries, thinking I’d make the Boy something delicious. At home I tragically discovered a jam jar shortage meaning I wouldn’t be able to make all the jam I meant to. Two and a half quarts of berries went into the freezer for later use and one and a half went into a stock pot along with a pint of frozen cranberries and a quart of sugar. At this point I had a moment of panic because it looked like I’d added way too much sugar even though I’d done my research and confirmed how much sugar I wanted to use, so if it looks like you berries are disappearing under and snowy avalanche of white sugar, don’t freak out. Do what I did and add about half a cup  of water. This added just enough liquid to saturate the sugar without making the pot soupy. I zested a lemon into the pot as well, stirred well, and left them all to macerate for an hour or so.

Macerate. Macerate. Macerate. What is maceration and why do we do it? Maceration is the process of softening or breaking down a fruit using a liquid. In the case of fresh fruit, it is it’s own liquid, drawn out with the help of a sugar. This makes the jam more flavorful and gives it a more even texture without having to cook it for a long time. After macerating for an hour or more most of the sugar should have dissolved. My liquid was still a bit grainy, but not to worry.

Over medium high heat the remaining sugar quickly dissolves and the berries begin to burst. Be careful to watch your pot though as these berries really like to froth up and can even boil over. Take a wild guess how I found that out.

Add pectin once your fruit has come to a boil then simmer for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can add a pat of butter to reduce foam, or skim it off. I didn’t bother this time since it seemed to settle out with a little patience. Once you jam has simmered for long enough, fill it into 16 four ounce sterile canning jars and process in a boiling water bath. The four ounce jars only need 5 minutes in the boiling bath, but half pint and pint need 10 minutes. I had one pint jar full that wouldn’t fit in the canner, so I decided to inversion can. It is something I have been doing my whole life either for small batches or for the jar that won’t fit in the bath. Important is just to keep these jars in the fridge instead of on the shelf. However this method isn’t recommended for putting up jams because it isn’t as clean or effective. Case in point would be the afore mentioned jar which burst the ring right off the moment I tried to turn it over. Since the glass was in tact, I was able to save most of the jam and decided to make ice cream with it. For the ice cream, I creamed together one egg plus a yolk and half a cup of sugar and a pinch of salt then slowly whisked in 2 cups of heavy cream. I dropped in a split open vanilla bean and slowly heated these over medium-low heat, constantly stirring. Eventually as the custard came closer to a simmer it became thicker, though more like the texture of a rich soup than on true egg custard. I poured this into a tupperware and set it in the fridge for about 2 hours to cool. I probably should have waited even longer, but I was impatient. Into the ice cream maker went the cooled custard (minus the vanilla bean which I popped in my mouth to suck on while I waited) and about half the jam. As the ice cream started thickening, I added some fresh blueberries from my bushes and blackberries that needed to be used up. Twenty minutes later there was ice cream! Sure I could eat it now, but I wanted blueberry-cranberry swirls too! In the same tupperware I used to chill the custard earlier, I layered ice cream and jam and put the whole thing back into the freezer for half an hour.

Then, voila! Swirled berry ice cream!

Blueberry Cranberry Jam

Yields 7 pints of jam Ingredients:

  • 6 cups blueberries
  • 2 cups cranberries
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1/2c. water (optional)
  • 1 package pectin

In a large stock pot, combine berries, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Add water if your sugar is dry and white. Macerate for 1-2 hours. Set on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the pot does not bubble over. When fruit mixture comes to a boil, add pectin and simmer for 15-25 minutes. In this time, sterilize jars and lids and bring canning bath to a boil. Fill jars and process for 5 minutes for 4oz jars and 10 minutes for 8-16oz. jars. Cool and confirm the seals then jars may be stored at room temp for 1 year.

Berry Swirl Ice Cream

Yields 1 quart ice cream Ingredients:

  • 2c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 yolk
  • 1/2c. granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 1/2c Blueberry Cranberry Jam
  • 1/2 pint fresh berries (optional)

In a cold saucepan cram together yolk, egg and sugar. Split open vanilla bean lengthwise and add to pot along with cream. Turn on low heat and stir constantly heating liquid until runny custard forms. Scrape vanilla bean into the custard and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. MAKE SURE YOUR ICE CREAM MAKER BOWL HAS BEEN IN THE FREEZER FOR AT LEAST 48 HOURS! Churn custard and 1c. jam in the ice cream maker for 20 minutes or until the right consistency is reached. Then, in a tupperware layer ice cream with remaining jam and freeze for at least 1 hour before serving.

Green and Growing

I’ve been incredibly busy these past months. Between finals, keeping up with my garden, and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life, I’ve been quite neglectful of my blog. I’ve been growing and planting and harvesting and replanting so much. In fact I have had more plants than space lately and expanded my collection of pots substantially from the original 5 to over a dozen, not to mention the now crowded strip along the driveway.

Let’s see whats in the container garden here.

Fava Beans

‘Blue Lake’ Bush Bean

‘Golden Sweet’ Snow Pea

‘Sugar Ann’ Snap Pea

Old Spice Sweet Pea

Nasturtium

‘Little Fingers’ Carrot

‘May Queen’ Butterhead Lettuce

European Red Lettuce

Rainbow Chard

Wild Arugula

‘Chiogga’ Beet

‘Bulls Blood’ Beet

Russian Kale

Spinach

‘Sunshine Blue’ Blueberry

‘Misty’ Blueberry

Spanish Lavender

‘Love Lies Bleeding’ Amaranth

‘Ace’ Tomato

‘Everbearing’ Strawberry and ‘Sequoia’ Strawberry

Japanese Indigo

Black Salsify

Zucchini Squash

Blue Borage

Red Currant

‘Black Oil’ Sunflower

‘Yellow Sweet’ Onion

‘Belgian White’ Leek

White Alyssum

Blue Thimble Flower

California Poppy

Quinoa

Potato (various)

‘Pink Beauty’ Radishes

‘Bee Bliss’ Sage

Herbs: Moroccan Green Mint, Onion Chives, Thyme, Rosemary, Greek Oregano, Cilantro, Italian Sweet Basil, Culinary Sage, Lemongrass

Other yummies and pretties I have no photos of: Italian Lacinato Kale, ‘Japanese Black Trifele’ Tomato, Volunteer Tomatoes, California Wild Fuchsia (Clarika Eligans), California Lupin, Giant Mystery Lily, White Cala Lily, Pinot Noir Grape, multi-flower mystery iris, and several more!

Guest Post: A Birthday Surprise

First of all hello, I’m Colin, Freya’s partner. Like Freya, I’m a jack-of-all trades into all kinds of crafting and mischief. I knit, sew, cook, and brew. I’m excited to have the opportunity to post as a guest here on peculiarpurls.

When I asked her what type of cake she wanted for her birthday this week, she told me she didn’t know. After persistent questioning, she gave me some thoughts: “an almond raspberry cake, or maybe a cheesecake.” Well I’ve never made either of those cakes, but I accepted the challenge and set out to make both: an almond raspberry cheesecake! The recipe I used is adapted from Ina Garten’s raspberry cheesecake recipe on foodnetwork.

A beautiful cheesecake with a heart of raspberries on top. And a candle!

Here are the ingredients:

Crust

  • 10 honey graham crackers
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter

Filling

  • 2.5 lb cream cheese
  • 1.5 c sugar
  • 5 large eggs + 2 yolks
  • 0.25 c sour cream
  • ~1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1.5 tsp almond extract

Topping

  • 1 half-pint raspberries

Instructions

Allow your ingredients to sit out for a while before cooking so that the cream cheese will soften. Preheat the oven to 350° Fahrenheit.

Pulverize the 10 graham crackers in a food processor (or by other means), and mix into 6 tbsp melted butter with 1 tbsp sugar. Press this by hand along the bottom and corners of a 9″ springform pan. Bake for 8 minutes so that the crust is crispy, and allow to cool. Raise the oven temperature to 450° Fahrenheit.

Mix the cream cheese and sugar together on high speed in an electric mixer for about 5 minutes until the consistency becomes light and fluffy (and delicious). Wisk together aggs and yolks in a separate bowl. Slow the mixer to medium speed and add the eggs and yolks a bit at a time. When this is mixed, add the sour cream, lemon zest, and almond extract. Pour this mixture onto the crust and place into the oven (carefully! I was worried the pan would overflow so I put some aluminum foil on the rack below).

Bake at 450° for 15 minutes, then drop the oven temperature to 225° Fahrenheit for 1 hour 15 minutes. When the time is up, there are a couple of options. If you want a perfectly beautiful cheesecake, leave it in the oven with the door open for about half an hour before cooling for an hour at room temperature, and later move to the refrigerator to set overnight (or at least for several hours). If you care less about the aethetics, you can  put it in the fridge earlier, but expect the top to crack. When you’re ready to serve the cake, rinse the raspberries and make a nice arrangement on top. I chose a heart for mine, and since this is a birthday cake, it had to have a candle. And here is what you get when you make a tasty cake for a pretty girl:

A pretty girl blowing out a candle.

Another Warming Soup

This recipe is one which I came up with last fall and absolutely loved! I originally posted it at the WildWoodYarn blog, but felt it was so good that it merited reposting here. It’s a deliciously filling soup that warms all the way through without needing the heat of spicy peppers. It could make up to make 8 servings, but I went back for seconds and it vanished more quickly than expected because it was just so damned delicious and I laid on the couch after dinner rubbing my overfull tummy. This makes a fantastic full meal for 4-6 or a delicious, warm appetizer for 8.

Maize

Vegetarian Corn Chowder
Cook Time: 1.5-2hrs
Ingredients
1 large yellow onion, minced
1 large carrot, chopped small
2 medium leeks, chopped
2 stalks celery, minced
4 yukon potatos, cubed small
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup sliced mushroom
1 can sweet yellow corn, undrained
2 quarts, chicken or veggie stock
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup white wine
3 tablespoons butter
ground black pepper and salt to taste
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
shredded cheddar, sour cream, and/or chopped chives for topping
Directions
Slowly sweat onion, garlic, leek, and celery with butter in a soup pot. Once onions are translucent and soft, add mushroom and carrots continue to cook them on very low heat until everything is sweet and starts to caramelize. Add corn, potato, stock and wine then simmer on low heat for 45-90 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the potato cubes are soft and falling apart, ladle about half the soup into a blender or food processor and pulse until it has a smoothe and creamy texture. Return the blended soup to the pot and stir in half and half, paprika, salt and pepper. Continue to Simmer on low heat 15 minutes then serve in deep bowls. Top your soup with sour cream, shredded cheese, and chives or if you’re looking for a stronger smokey flavor and do eat animal, add bacon crumbles.

Warm Up for Winter: Lets practice feeding an army

We'll call that an intermission

…and now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

The Northern California Rennaissance Faire was fantastic. I have been spending all my weekends there since the end of August before the gates even opened to the enthusiastic throngs of patrons. In that time I was building the village of Willingtown, buffing up on my Elizabethan language skills and mostly shepherding children in and out of the Funny Farm petting zoo. Now, a week after our final days there, our apartment still hasn’t recovered, but I’m starting to get back into my normal routine, and that means recipes!

With holidays approaching and family visits already being planned, it’s important to load up on recipes that can feed a big group without breaking the bank or a sweat. This chili is an old standby that I learned to make from my mother when I was in elementary school. She never wrote down a recipe, but I learned to make it by feel and have since then taken down the recipe. It takes time when you start with dry beans, but the actual work involved in making it is minimal and the results are woth the wait. Just beware, the batch size is rather hefty. We often brought it to potlucks because it is vegan yet tastes as hearty as any classic meaty chili so its sure to please anyone. It’s also delicious, filling and incredibly cheap to make bucket-loads of!

Black Bean Chili

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups dry black beans soaked overnight
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups vegi broth
  • 2 cans fire roasted tomatos
  • 1 can corn with liquid
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 onions
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 3 dried ancho chilis, chopped into 1cm squares
  • 2 dried chipotle morita peppers, ground (sub chipotle meco for more heat)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
Directions:
Rinse your soaked beans until the water runs clear. Then bring beans, water and broth to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours or until beans are soft all the way through. Add more water if necessary to keep beans covered during this time. The liquid will reduce as it simmers. Coarsely chop onion and garlic and set in a shallow pan with the oil to slowly sweat over low heat, stirring occasionally to make sure they don’t burn. Once soft, add them to the beans and liquid. It doesn’t matter if the beans aren’t soft yet when you do this; the flavor will seep into the beans as they cook. Once the beans are soft, add the rest of the ingredients and allow the chili to simmer for an hour at least. The longer it can go, the better since the flavors need time to come out of the chilis pods and permeate the beans and corn. This is a relatively mild chili, though it may still have too much kick for some people. Leave out the seeds of the peppers for a milder batch or substitute the Chipotle Morita with Chipotle Meco for a spicier dish. For the adventurous, consider adding cayenne pepper or fresh jalapenos as a garnish.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream and cornbread for 8 people.

Hearty Black Bean Chili and Cheddar Cornbread

The Cheddar Cornbread is a recipe I developed myself  from the ones published by Alton Brown and Epicurious. It is the most tender and moist cornbread I have ever had! I have the bad habit of not following recipes, which drives Colin nuts, but produces amazing results. I look at around a dozen different recipes for the same thing and then narrow it to the two of three best looking ones. Then I play with the proportions(and the ingredients I have available) until I find exactly the product I want. It’s an artistic take on what is science side of cooking.

Cheddar Cornbread

Ingredients:

  • 1 cups corn meal
  • 1/2 cup corn flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon gluten
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 3/4 cup full fat yogurt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 can of corn, lightly drained
  • 4 ounces extra sharp cheddar
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 tablespoon butter for greasing the pan
Directions:
Preheat oven to 425°F.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix with a fork. Make a well in the center of the bowl and crack both eggs into it. Add, cream, yogurt, and corn to the well and wisk liquids with your fork, slowly incorporating the flour mixture. Chop green onions and cube cheese into 1/2 in. pieces. Set 1/4 cup of cheese bits aside to top bread with.  Add remaining cheese and green onion into the batter and incorporate fully. It should have the same texture as thick pancake batter so that it scoops easily, but still flows. Grease an 8×12 or 9×9 baking pan and pour batter into the pan. Sprinkle reserved cheese pieces on top evenly. Bake for 18-20 minutes until bread has risen and top is golden brown. Serve warm with Black Bean Chili or as a stand alone snack.