Tag Archives: wild food

Warming Herbs for Winter

Hey there!
So Snow Moon began not too long ago (not that I’ve done my blog post about it or anything, but… bear with me), and the snows have come in force, bringing a lot of ice and a lot of quite cold (-23C, so seasonal, but not horrific if you’ve got somewhere warm to be) temperatures.
When I think of “warming herbs” – meaning herbs (and spices) that will produce heat in the body to help you sweat out illness and similar – I tend to think of things like ginger and cinnamon. These days, I also think of garlic and mustard (Woohoo!), but I was wondering – thanks to this post over at Little Red Tarot – what else I might be able to draw on, in terms of locally grow-able flowers, leaves, and roots, that will help someone (like, say, ME – I got a bad bronchial+sinus infection, quite a few years ago now, and it’s left me pretty susceptible to getting more of them) deal with Winter illnesses at home, without having to book an appointment with my over-stretched GP.
 
Labador Tea (Ledum glandulous) – good for calming coughs. Also good – when the dried roots & leaves are ground and added to an ointment – for helping to relieve chapped lips and hands.
 
Lavender – I use the essential oil to help heal badly chapped lips and knuckles when the cold, dry air makes them split. NOTE: Lavender is a common allergen, so be careful with this one. Topically, it’s good for helping to heal burns. It’s a powerful antibacterial and anti-fungal (so, for example, good to use on your feet if they are getting gross after weeks of heavy socks).
 
German Chamomile (Roman Chamomile works too, but German is hardier for the garden) – Steep the flowers into a tea to help gently warm you up. If it’s anything like Ox-Eye Daisies, it will help to increase circulation, but… meh?
 
Burdock Root – Like chamomile. Make a tea of the roots (you can also tincture them)
 
Mullein (Verbascum thrapsis) – One of the primary herbs for any lung problem, including whooping cough, asthma, bronchitis and chest colds. Allegedly, the leaves were smoked to relieve lung problems. I wonder if you could use them in a hot water inhalation (the way we use eucalyptus essential oil).
 
Angelica ROOT – including (hard to find, apparently) Ontario native species Purple Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea) – will help “cut through obstruction” and make you sweat. This one is easy to grow from seed and needs lots of space in the garden. It’s a carrot-family plant, and should be harvested in the fall (late October, early November) of its first growing season. Use the leaves to make a chest compress to relieve inflamation.
In TCM, this root is called Dong Quai, and is used for menstrual stuff like relieving PMS symptoms & menstrual cramps, or helping to encourage a late period to get started. It’s also good for upset stomachs (think gas, bloating, digestive difficulties… but also (apparently?) IBS and colitis?)
As a Winter Herb, though, it’s particularly good – steeped as a tea, or made into a tincture – for helping to increase your circulation, reduce mild fevers (don’t use it for bad fevers), and help you to loosen up thick, gummy phlegm that’s making it hard to breathe.
NOTE: If you are a pasty, white person like me? This can make you more sensitive to sunlight. Also it’s not wise to take this one while you’re pregnant or lactating (it’s bad for fetuses and kids under three).
Allegedly, the taste is somewhere between celery and… juniper? I have no idea how that works, but people candy it and say that angelica root tea tastes good rather than, like, barely tolerable, so… maybe it’s one to look into?
 
Peppermint – The leaves make a good tea for coughs. Essential oil is cooling (topically) and anti-microbial (see: “mint”) so, when accessed through the leaves, can help get rid of coughs and colds that way.
 
Basil, Thyme, and Rosemary – Like mint, these herbs make a tea (or an addition to savory dishes) that acts as a digestive aid and can help push through light-weight phlegm. Good for when you have a frog in your throat, not so useful for something heavy like walking pneumonia.
 
Fennel – Simmer the seeds to make a tea – which you can drink as-is, or else thicken into a syrup for use in calming coughs and shortness of breath as well as loosening up congestion. Apparently you can’t use this stuff in high doses as it can cause spasms and hallucinations (I don’t know what constitutes “high doses”, though, so that’s not very helpful).
 
Yarrow – Use the leaves and flowers to make a tea, or add them to a bath, to help you sweat out a fever. (Drink lots of water with this stuff. Also, avoid this one if you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant). The tea encourages circulation and combines well with peppermint to help one conquer a cold or fever. (Also lowers blood pressure? Maybe, if you have low-enough-to-worry-about blood pressure, this is one to avoid?)
 
Anise Hyssop – Use the leaves to make a tea to help with colds and with chest pain brought on by coughing. You can use them in a hot bath or inhalation to help you sweat.
 
Garlic – This is a fairly powerful antibacterial and antiviral (eating whole cloves of it raw will also make you – or at least ME – throw it right back up, though, so make sure to mix it with something easier to swallow). It’s also improves circulation, which will help warm you up.
 
Cedar (leaves/fronds) – Cedar has antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. A tea – or a hot bath – made with the tips of the leaves, is good for coughs and colds. The essential oil can be used, topically, in an ointment like vix to help relieve congestion (don’t take cedar essential oil internally, generally speaking). I think (I think) you can use this, much the same way you’d use eucalyptus essential oil in a steam inhalation.
 
Mustard – Use the seeds of the mustard plant (like: the one you would use as cooking greens) to make a VERY HOT poultice. From what I hear, this is super uncomfortable and shouldn’t be put directly on skin BUT if you spread it on a scrap of cloth, and put the cloth on the chest of someone with pneumonia or otherwise really bad chest congestion,it will have an effect similar to a eucalyptus rub (but NOT soothing – this stuff can cause blisters if you put it directly on your skin).

New Year New You 2016: Week Eleven – Casting Out Doubt

I’m doing Miss Sugar’s New Year New You Experiment in Radical Magical Transformation (again) because I find it’s a really good way to kick my own ass into getting things done. You should try it!
 
Instructions: “[…]Use a method of your own choosing to banish the negative energy” or otherwise communicate with your own Jerk Brain to get it to give you a break.
 
Tarot Card(s): Page of Water, Queen of Earth (and, yes, my Mary-El deck arrived a few weeks ago, thense the links to images from that deck for this post). Neither of these cards explicitely have to do with Casting Out Doubt. But they’re relevant for a couple of reasons, one being that I did a two-card pull that relates to my Queen of Cups Project (and various points there-within such as my life-coaching sessions and the Plan that is to Get My Groove Back, so to speak) and I didn’t even pull these two cards, they just popped right out of the deck, like: Here’s your answer, kiddo. (This deck is proving very accurate on the jumpers front, so far, I’m just saying…).
Anyway, so there’s that. I’ll get into that a little more later, mind you. The other reason why these are relevant to the “casting out doubt” prompt is that the first one – being a Page card – is about approaching things (feeeeelings) with curiosity, rather than fear, while the second one is very much about being rooted and steady (rather than riddled with anxiety). the combination is basically a case of “Here’s something you can do instead of assuming the worst and spinning about it all the time”.
Useful? I think so.
 
ANYWAY.
 
So, as-you-know-bob, I am a BIG fan of ritual/magical baths as a form of spell-casting and Creating Change At Will. unsurprisingly, my method of casting out doubt involved (a) having a giant, scrubby shower (and, yeah, some Stuff came up during the shower, and I was just, like, “Don’t be mean to yourself. Let all that stuff just sluff off and let it go”. Which… we’ll see if that bit sticks, honestly, but I gave it a go), and (b) taking a sensual-glamourous bath after the fact to soak in (and soak up) something better to fill that vacuum left when I got rid of all the EUGH[1].
So.
The other day, I went out and gathered a whole wack of “second chakra associated” flowers and leaves. I picked bergamot petals, geranium blossoms, rose petals, rose leaves, and motherwort[2] tops (mostly leaves). All sorts of pinks and reds. I wound up explaining to a newly-arrived-home couple just what, exactly, they had growing under their tree (Motherwort – see footnote[2]). They’d asked if they had “something special”, since I was obviously investigating the weedy patch they’d (woohoo) missed with the mower.
 
I wound up waiting a solid 48 hours or more before I actually took my bath, though.
I kind of think that’s telling, seeing as the whole idea was to open up my centre of drive, passion, confidence, and sex… and I was consistently putting it on the back-burner while I got other stuff done. :-\
Hm.
 
But I took my bath: all the petals plus dried bay leaves, sea salt & epsom salts (to draw out any residual gunk), and essential oils of rosemary, clary sage, ylang ylang, and sweet orange.
Soaked and floated in the hot water. Did Child’s Pose to open my hips, and breathed in the smell of all those oils and flower petals.
 
Got interrupted towards the end, a young woman (possibly from Korea, going by the alphabet her phone was using) who’d taken a wrong turn trying to find her airBnB. This is most likely Just A Fluke, but I’m choosing to read it as any of the following:
Sometimes people turn up in your life when you’re not expecting them and/or when it’s not entirely convenient. Just go with it.
Things are not always going to go according to your internal scrips. See above and just go with it.
See also: Have a sense of humour about it, for fuck’s sake.
 
I can still smell rosemary on my skin.
I hope this is one more thing that will help me open myself up without seeing every damn thing as a threat. Which… I guess I can use as a handy segue?
 
About that tarot reading!
It was a “who” and a “how” card to answer the question: “Who and how do I need to be in order to open myself up the way I want and need to?”
The page of water and the queen of earth, respectively, fell out of the deck almost as soon as I started shuffling.
So that’s apt.
WHO: The Page of Cups says “be in the moment”. It says “learn to trust” and “trust the learning”. The Page of Cups is very much me on a lot of levels, just figuring this heart stuff out (after nine years of working my ass off for it, still just figuring stuff out) but also being neck-deep in it all the time. It’s very much what my Life Coach is trying to help me do, with regards to approaching pleasure and relationships with curiosity rather than trepidation. It says be loyal, be devoted, be compassionate and supportive of yourself as well as others. Be emotionally vulnerable.
BUT
HOW: The Queen of Earth says “don’t fling yourself off a cliff to do it”. Offer that loyalty, devotion, compassion wisely. Make sure you have an oxygen mask of your own, rather than hoping someone else will pass you one in the event of an emergency. Explore, see where things go, walk into this stuff with joy and hope. For sure. But also make sure that you can stand solid on your own. Be aware of what you value, what you want and what you need, as you go out exploring. You can be emotionally vulnerable, you can let your heart be curious, because you can pull back and prioritize yourself when you need to. (Which is also part of the Life Coaching stuff, as it turns out).
 
The Queen of Earth, in the Mary-El deck, is weaping diamonds. It makes me think of this post I wrote just before C ended our relationship. In this context, I read it as “there is value is showing your emotions” and also “experiencing your bodiliness, letting your feelings come through your body, isn’t weak. Quite the opposite”. There are a million ways to interpret a given tarot card but this seems like a relevant way to read this one today.
 
So. That was how I went about Casting Out Doubt. It’s been helping. Every time I pass a rose bush (which are still quite fragrant in these parts, even as the flowers are fading), I catch the scent and breathe in love and gratitude. It’s a nice reminder and it helps me stop spinning my self-doubt wheels.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] That’s a thing to keep in mind. If you banish something, it can be a good idea to fill the void the banishment leaves with something you actually WANT (either by putting it there, or by ritually inviting it to take up residence), so that you don’t end up with either (a) the same damn shit again, OR (b) just any old thing that happened to be in the area filling in the available psychic/physical/emotional space. A bit like my tarot-pull being all “Here’s what to do INSTEAD of the disfunctional thing you’ve always done”.
 
[2] Motherwort calms the heart (it makes a good anti-anxiety tincture, similar to skullcap in that regard, but much muuuuuuch easier to get ahold of in urban areas as it grows quite happily in disturbed ground like construction sites), builds self-trust and confidence, bolsters libido, and attracts joy, success, & a sense of purpose. It encourages listening/discerning one’s heart’s desires and has associations with Venus, Freja, and Ogun (er… apparently). It can come and live in my garden any time.

Common Motherwort (Leonurus Cardiaca)

Full Moon – Leaf Moon Crests

So, in theory, this full moon is going to teach me something about Relationships. I’m not even sure where I got that, but it might have something to do with what Chani Nicholas has to say about this week. Or it might have to do with dinner + a possible drive to Montreal with my wife and my ex (aka: her partner) tomorrow night and just how that’s gonna go, given it’s the last time I’m going to see said ex for, well, a very long time. (They’re moving to Alberta in six weeks). I’m trying not to over-think it or get all worked up about it, or whatever.
 
ANYWAY.
 
I feel kind of like I had a penny-drop moment the other night, which was kind of a big deal and is something I’m hoping I can build on. The plan to see more people and do more social stuff (in a sustainable way) seems to be working out so far. I mean, it’s only been two weeks, but I’m still getting to socialize and also have down-time, so that’s a good thing. Dancing at Morning Jam last weekend was great (and I met a couple of people who remembered me and my poetry(!) from the Reading Out Loud show I took part in last year – awesome bonus!). I have Plans in the works for how to promote my chapbooks around town, and a birthday party to attend on Sunday.
 
I finally (FINALLY) made candles – beeswax ones, no less – for the altar (which – sorry, Gods – has been sorely neglected of late), and got a package in the mail, the contents of which will be put to use in various magical fashions. I’ve been poking at the tarot course I’m taking (slowly, but surely), thinking a lot about the 2 and 3 of cups, but also the Queen of Swords (of all things) – she has more to do with Death (both the Major Arcana card and its meanings, and the literal thing) than I was expecting. Who knew?
 
The seeds I planted (er – literal seeds in this case) in the Cold Weather Bed are starting to come up, and I’ve transplanted some self-seeded greens (mustard or rappini, not sure) into that bed as well. I’ve harvested sage and vietnamese garlic greens (and rhubarb) from the perenial/self-seeding bed and have a vase (well, jam-jar) of water on the kitchen counter, full of dandelion greens for dinner tomorrow. The plan is to spend a significant chunk of this weekend setting up the Squash Bed (which will have cherry-tomato plants and maaaaaaaaaybe eggplants and/or ground cherries in addition to cucumber, yellow zucchini/crookneck, Musquee de Provence or Sugar-Pie pumpkin, and Butternut squash) and maybe, if I can swing it, adding some showy-but-cheap annual flowers (and some Spiderwort and/or spearmint, if I can find them) to the front flower bed.
 
~*~
 
MOTION: Walking all over town. Still haven’t made it to a pool, but have started working one day per week (soon to be two days) at my wife’s shop, which involves a lot of being on my feet. Learning how to do that without screwing up my back/hip/knee… face?? (No, seriously, I’m having facial spasms again – that doctor’s appointment in early June can’t come soon enough) is… going to take a bit, but a good pair of insoles is probably a requirement. Hoping to get to another not-late-at-night dance in the next few weeks, but I have to find out when it’s happening first. (Turns out, I follow the organizer on twitter, so this shouldn’t be too hard).
 
ATTENTION: Looking for moments of sychronicity & good luck; watching the leaves opening, the (slow, due to lots of shade) flowers in my front yard start to bloom, and the cotlydons (?) poke through the soil in my vegetable beds. Trying to be an attentive wife. ❤
 
GRATITUDE: HOT WEATHER! I went out in flip-flops and only a sweater this morning, and felt great! Also, apparently wishes do come true. It may not be houndstooth, but I am now the delighted owner of a rich purple straight-skirt (not quite a pencil skirt, but close enough) that I got for free when my Mom cleaned out her closet (thanks, Mom). Also, tremendously grateful for realizing what That Feeling was, the other day, and being able to stay emotionally open in a situation where I might otherwise have shut down. Definitely a win, and one I hope to repeat. 😀
 
INSPIRATION: My wife, who is riding about 150km/week on her bicycle! Also: The Two of Cups, in its various incarnations.
 
CREATION: Right now, it’s all about the garden. Well, that, and writing Glosas. I’m slowly working through a bunch of self-sellected poetry excerpts by various femme poets and glossing all of them. It’s a bit of a break-up album, so far, but the plan is that it will eventually be chapbook #3, which will be awesome.

Tarag? Skyr? – Adventures in Cheese-Making Part Four!

So I usually buy milk, by the gallon jug, at the local convenience store. It’s close by, I can return the jugs for a deposite (way better than throwing them out, in my books, plus that $0.25 is not to be sneezed at, especially when I go through this stuff like I do), and – provided that trans-pacific trade agreement doesn’t come into effect as-written (uh… not holding my breath, but I reeeeeeeeeeally don’t like what it would do to Canadian farmers) – the milk in said jugs is super-local, even if it’s not organic by any stretch of the imagination.
 
Usually this does me just fine, because I drink enough heavily-adulterated tea and coffee, plus make enough alfredo sauce, pancakes, and other milk-friendly foods, that I can go through a gallon of the stuff in about 10 days. But the minute I get a cold/cough/sore-throat, work a few full-days at a temp job (or a slew of modeling gigs with early starts), or get a visit from my cows-milk-alergic sweetie, the giant jug of dairy gets shoved to the back of the fridge to make way for herbal berry teas, goat’s milk (and/or almond milk), and juice that fill the “lots of fluids” niche… and the chances of my milk going off? They go through the roof.
 
Consequently, due to a perfect storm of all of the above, I had two half-finished jugs of milk go off on me, one after the other, in December. That’s four litres (in 2L batches) of milk, with a lot of overlap, that needed to be used up during a period when my fridge and freezer are both super-stuffed with frozen veggies (having only just stopped harvesting kale and chard from the yard), raw root veggies, and numerous not-usually-in-stock goodies (like half a dozen fancy cheeses, at least one open bottle of wine, sweet cider, various kinds of paté, and chocolate bark)… meaning I couldn’t just make a quadrupal batch of waffles plus a couple of cherry-chocolate-chip quick breads, and then freeze them (not even in a bag hanging off the back doorknob, which could have worked just fine, given enough zip-locks and tupperware, if we hadn’t spent most of December with well-above-freezing temperatures on hand).
 
The first half-gallon did end up in quick breads and coffee cakes. but the second one happened right between Winter Solstice and New Years, and honestly? I just let it go. I let it sit in my fridge and curdle/clabbor/etc to its heart’s content.
 
And, today, I drained off the whey, and called it Cheese.
 
Wait, what?
I know. But bear with me.
 
I trust my food.
I trust that, in a kitchen where wine, home-made bread, and live-culture yoghurt feature heavily in the cuisine, and where kefir, kombucha, blue cheese, and chevre make their appearances, most of the bacteria in my fridge? Are bacteria my species has been cultivating relationships with for thousands of years (sans fridges,even).
I trust my food knowledge, too. I’m a home-canner. I know that anything well into the sour (NOT bitter) spectrum is not going to harbour deadly stuff like botulism, and that vinegar, hot peppers, and garlic will kill off most of the nasty stuff that causes food (particularly meat) to spoil.
I also have a pretty good idea of where most of my food came from, how it was grown/raised and (in the case of the wine and some of the diary products) how it was processed, so… I’m not too fretful about the kind of nasty stuff you get when “pink slime” is involved… because it generally isn’t.
 
Which means that when the milk in my fridge goes off? I’m willing to see where it wanders.
 
Where it wandered, this time (having been left, for over close to three weeks, to swell it’s jug all out of shape, and having had the cap taken off and screwed back on a few times over the course of its wandering), turned out to be:
Fairly solid
With lots of whey below it, and
Smelling both super-sour and faintly of something like kefir.
 
So I tasted it.
 
NOTE: The fact that my weirdo milk product both (a) was clearly fermenting, and (b) smelled more or less like something else I’d already eaten safely is WHY I was willing to taste it.
 
I tasted a curd, about half the size of my smallest fingernail.
Nothing weird happened to my tongue or lips or gums.
I swallowed it.
Still nothing.
Tried a (slightly) larger bit, then another.
Still fine.
The stuff is sour as hell, and tastes both a little bit like beer and a little bit like yoghurt, so I decided “Screw it,”, drained off the whey, and strained the curds in my mash bag (which I got from a wine-making store for the purposes of making cheese… on purpose).
 
At this point, I have a cup-and-a-half or so of home made Accidental Cheese that I’m pretty sure is the product of a little bit of free-range bread-yeast (that I use to super-slowly fridge-ferment berry iced tea into something that sparkles about a year later) and a little bit of free-range yoghurt bacteria, and that will probably work best when cooked into a quiche or a pot-pie that would benefit from some cottage cheese thrown in.
 
Whee! Experimenting!
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Chokecherry Chutney (Gleaning Local Fruit to Make Preserves)

Hey there!
 
So last week, I got to pick about 3L worth of chokecherries from my friend’s front yard tree.
I stewed the fruit and strained it through a seive in order to get as much juice and pulp as possible. (I didn’t actually get as much as possible because I didn’t start off scraping the bottom of the seive at regular intervals – I probably could have got an extra cup or two of fruit puree if I’d gone that route). What I wound up with was about 1L of fruit puree. I reserved 250mL of it in the fridge (for making chokecherry curd, later today) but the rest went into making this fancy-ass preserve that I’m calling a “chutney” but that is really closer to something like a chunky, savoury jam.
 
Regardless of what you want to name it, here’s the recipe:
 
~*~
 
 
INGREDIENTS
 
10 “prune plums”, peeled and diced
½ C granulated sugar
+
3 C chokecherry puree
¾ C red wine vinegar
+
1 red onion, chopped
+
¾ C dried (sweetened) cranberries
¼ C dried currants
+
1 C granulated sugar
2 tsp dried rosemary
2 tsp dried mint
2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp dried basil

 
 
DIRECTIONS
 
Peel the plums (if you are stewing the chokecherries at the same time, you can chuck the plum skins in with them to stew, otherwise they can be added to fruit butters or even just composted).
 
Dice the plums. Toss them in a bowl with 1/2C granulated sugar and let sit for a few hours (possibly while you stew chokecherries, or possibly while you get something else done. Wevs).
 
Combine in a broad, somewhat shallow, pot: Chokecherry puree, diced plums, red wine vinegar[1] and all other ingredients.
 
Stir periodically to prevent sticking, but mostly just bring to a boil and allow to simmer for an hour or so. If you leave the lid of the pot slightly askew, you can let the water boil off faster[2] without splattering everything everywhere[3].
 
Sterilize some jars + lids and rings. I was expecting this to make upwards of 2L worth of chutney, but only got a little over half that much, so.
 
When the chutney is bubbling and nicely thickened (and the liquidy part will sort of glob together a little before dripping off a spoon), ladle it into your sterlized jars.
 
Cap and process in a boiling water bath for 10-15 minutes (using 1C jars).
 
Allow to cool, listening for the “plunk” that tells you they’ve properly sealed.
 
Makes 5C Chutney.
 
~*~
 
 
So there you have it.
 
I came up with the recipe because (a) it’s pretty easy to get your hands on free choke cherries around here, and (b) I wanted something in the same family as my usual rhubarbicue sauce (rhubarb chutney) that I didn’t make this year, since my rhubarb plants have been getting established and aren’t ready to be harvested yet.
It’s based really loosely on the “chokecherry chutney” recipe in Wild In the Kitchen – at least that’s where the fruit ratios got their start – but it departs radically from that recipe’s spicy-cherries-and-apples signature from there.
 
Chokecherries have a lot of tannin in them so, when I was considering flavour combinations, I went for things that pair well with red wine – plums and cranberries being the big ones – and that also paired well with both cherries (and plums) and with things that go well with red wine. Thus my choice to use cloves, yes, but also rosemary and mint in the mix.
 
This preserve pairs well with roast lamb, for sure, but also with pork and poultry. It makes a great spread for a ham or turkey sandwich, for example, but also works well (maybe thinned out just a little with some water or red wine) when used as a glaze for roast duck, braised pork shoulder, or barbecued spare ribs. I’m inclined to see how it would work as a (distant) alternative to tzaziki when eaten with something like sweet potato latkes or falafel.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I actually added the vinegar to the puree as I was making it, but do what you will.
 
[2] This was a fairly significant thing for me. It felt like forever before the mixture thickened up.
 
[3] There will still be some splatter, however, because we’re talking about boiling sugar and lots of chunky stuff that wants to sink to the bottom of the pan. Wear oven mitts while stirring, and maybe use the pot-lid as a shield, I’m just warning you.

Chokecherry Curd 2015 Recipe

So, as-you-know-bob, a few years ago I posted a recipe for cranberry curd. It’s a good recipe if you’re starting with raw (fresh or frozen) cranberries, BUT what if you’re starting with, say, a litre of sour-fruit puree? A recipe that starts from raw and doesn’t tell you the volume of puree you’ll wind up with is… not entirely helpful on that front.
So!
Today I find myself (woohoo!) with about a litre of chokecherry purree – having picked 2-3lbs of chokecherries from my friend’s tree, yesterday, and then stewed and milled them to form the base of a chutney I’ll be making later on – and a definite interest in seeing if I can do a chokecherry curd along the same lines as the cranberry curds and black currant curds that I’ve made in the past.
 
Chokecherries are pretty ubiquitous in these parts. They’re native to the area, which helps, but they were also a big favourite of city planners and condo developers about, oh, 25 years ago because (a) they have eye-catching purple foliage that turns crimson in the fall, (b) they have long, frilly white flowers in the spring that turn into grape-like clusters of almost-black berries over the course of summer, and (c) even though they drop their fruit all over the sidewalks, the birds and insects love them just as much as they love serviceberries, which means they get cleaned up pretty quickly with no effort on the part of Neighbourhood Associations or what-have-you.
So there are a LOT of them around the place, and – because raw chokecherries are bitter enough to make your lizard-brain go “this may actually be poisonous,kiddo” (or at least to turn your mouth inside out from the puckering – thense the name), most people will only ask why you’re picking chokecherries, not ask you to stop doing so.
 
Y’all know how my motto is “Free fruit is good fruit,” right? Right.
 
So I’ve already made chokecherry jelly this year, and will be making chokecherry chutney (with the addition of not-so-free plums, onions, and dried cranberries, but hey) shortly as well. I’ve decided that, since I only need about 3C of chokecherry puree to make my chutney, I’m going to use the extra cup worth to try the following recipe:
 
 
~*~
 
Chokecherry Curd
 
INGREDIENTS
 
1C choke cherry puree
¼C butter
¾C sugar
+
¼C sugar
3 eggs
 
 
DIRECTIONS
 
Sterilize 6 half-cup jars before you actually start making the fruit curd[1]. You won’t really have time to get this bit done once you’ve started the cooking process, so.
THEN
In a sauce pan, over very low heat, stir the puree, the butter, and ¾C sugar together until well-combined.
In a 2C measuring cup (or a random bowl, but the measuring cup makes pouring easier), blend the eggs with the ¼C sugar until extremely smooth.
Add the egg mixture to the puree mixture slowly and carefully while stirring gently over that same low heat[2].
Once the egg mixture and the fruit mixture are smoothly and completely blended, you can – if you want to – turn the heat up to “medium”[3].
Continue stirring, gently, to prevent scorching and to help the mixture thicken (if it starts to boil “too early”, turn the heat down, fyi).
The mixture will eventually turn a slightly paler shade of pinky-purple (though it will still be dark). Around this time, it will start to bubble and also (rapidly) get thick enough to “coat the back of a spoon[4]”. This means it’s ready to can! 😀
Take your curd OFF the heat!
Pour/spoon your curd into those sterilized jars.
Cap them and process them in a boiling water bath (yes, even if you sterilized the jars in the oven) for a solid 15 minutes (you can go longer, if you want) for half-cup jars. You’ll need to go longer if you’re using bigger jars, fyi. (I like the little ones because they make really nice gifts, and you can use up a whole one during a single pancake brunch).
 
~*~
 
 
Anyway. That’s my (as-yet-untested) [EDIT: It works! :-D] chokecherry curd recipe.
 
Wish me luck! 😀
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1]Keep them warm-and-clean either by keeping them in the hot water, or by keeping them in a 225F oven. You can sterilize the glass at this temperature, if you bake them for 20 minutes, but you still have to boil the lids and rings if you go that route.
 
[2] The idea here is to prevent the egg mixture from, basically, “flash-cooking” before it’s blended into the fruit mixture. Part of making that work is pre-blending the eggs with some sugar. The other part is keeping the heat low and making sure to blend the fruit in steadily, but also fairly quickly. A whisk is a wonderful tool for this, fyi.
 
[3] This isn’t strictly speaking recommended. But I’m also impatient when it comes to waiting for my fruit curds to thicken, so I do this fairly frequently and… it doesn’t actually hurt anything. You just run the risk of scortching things and having them burn to the bottom of the pan. Less curd for you plus you then have to be careful about making sure you don’t scrape up any bitter, burnt bits into your delicious, sweet-tart-and-creamy fruit curd. Make your own decisions on that front.
 
[4] You know how you can test jam/jelly for done-ness by seeing if the drop run together before gloobing off the end of the spoon? This is the same idea. It’s a bit like the Cold Plate Test, but using your (typically hot) stirring implement. Basically, you slide a spoon through the mixture and give it a good tap on the side of the pot to get rid of any excess. If the back of the spoon stays well coated upon doing this, then you’re probably good to go.

Partying Because We Can (and also because we make puns about preserves)

Hello!
 
The moon is waxing. My neighbour just gave me a bag of cherry tomtoes. I have my own cherry (and sauce) tomatoes to pick in the next 36 hours as well, since they’re definitely ready to be harvested. AND I’m spending this Saturday – as that lovely, full, super Apple Moon gets ready to rise – hitting up the local farmer’s market with an awesome friend and then hanging out in my kitchen with her, making All Things Tomato.
 
We will be doing primarily Very Easy Crushed Tomatoes[1], and then making a variation on last year’s tomato-peach salsa wherein we’ll be using nectarines instead of peaches (and, hopefully, not having to peel the nectarines… though we’ll manage if we do need to do that). I’m going to see if I can re-jig the recipe so that it uses already-crushed tomatoes (instead of diced ones), so that we can just make the salsa by adding a dozen diced nectarines, plus rough-chopped garlic, onions, and various dried peppers, herbs, and spices to the last third-or-so of the crushed tomatoes. I think I can work that out.
 
I’ll still be making my usual fancy tomato sauce although this year’s will (a) not include any peppers, and (b) WILL include some minced basil, oregano, and savoury from the garden (and some dried rosemary from the cupboard).
I think I can probably set this up so that the cores from our Very Easy Crushed Tomatoes, along with a few litres of actual tomato puree, go into my slow cooker (and into a pitcher in the fridge, in the case of some of the puree) fairly early in the day so that they can be turned into sauce on Sunday.
 
Fingers crossed. The whole idea is to get as many different tomato products sorted out and jarred in one go as possible. We’ll be buying about 60lbs worth of tomatoes (is that too many?) so we may end up do some in the oven as the kind of herb-and-garlic roasted tomatoes that you can chuck in a tupperware and freeze, too. The cherry tomatoes from my neighbour will probably get slicedinto halves and done in the dehydrator… because why not? 😀 Although that may not happen on Saturday. 😉 Not sure yet.
 
This time, last week, I was harvesting apples from my friend’s back-yard tree (she also has a crab-apple tree and an Evans cherry – how cool is that?), and the last of the apple butter (about 3L, done up in 1C jars) is processing on the stove right now. I spent yesterday making vanilla-ginger nectarine jam (with some ground-cherries thrown in, just ’cause I had them lying around) – a recipe which resulted in ten half-cup jars (so just over one litre, really) of the sweet stuff, and my cupboards are starting to feel less bare.
 
Tomorrow, I have a date with a neighbourhood friend’s choke cherry tree (and her step ladder). I’m hoping to haul home upwards of 3L worth of choke cherries… which should net me, after some cooking and straining, about 5-6C worth of juice and cherry pulp. The plan for that is to make a chokecherry chutney that’s full of basil, mint, and rosemarry (rather than spices – although there will also be cloves in there, for what it’s worth), by mixing it up with herbs, yes, but also red onion, red wine vinegar, brown sugar, dried cranberries (and maybe dried currants), black plums if I can find them, and a red onion.
 
If I can manage to snag some of the big, toonie-sized crab apples from the trees around town, that will be particularly excellent, because crab apple jelly is a wonderful thing. Getting my hands on some of my neighbour’s pears wouldn’t hurt, either, although I’ll live if I don’t make pear butter this year. After that, we’re mostly down to waiting until this time next month (or, probably, a little bit later), so that I can make pumpkin butter before heading to Toronto for Thanksgiving.
 
So, what I’m saying, is that the Big Canning Push for 2015 is happening this week.
O.O
 
Wish me luck, folks! 😀
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad, the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] You core your tomatoes, puree them in a food processor, and then cook them down, seeds and peels and all (with a little vinegar and a little sguar and that’s about it) until they’re halfway between “sauce” and “juice”.