Tag Archives: wild food

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”.

Goblin Fruit Jam 2015 ~ OR ~ Canning Season Is Upon Us

So, a year or two ago, I wrote a story. It was a little tiny thing, only a thousand words, and I wrote it so that I could tell it from memory at a local storytelling open mic. It was a story about a small, fictional town (Emerson, Ontario, for those keeping track) and the annual Jam Jambouree put on by one of the churches.
Mrs. Phillips always won the Jam Jambouree…
It was a story about a kid who’d had Mrs Phillips for an English Teacher and hadn’t had a very pleasant time of it, and who decided to show up Mrs Phillips just to Show Her that not everybody was willing to bend over backwards and make themselves small, just so she could feel big.
 
My main character made “Goblin Fruit” jam – or jelly, really – out of a summer’s worth of black currants, choke cherries, and blackberries, along with a glug of vanilla, a hoarded piece of candied ginger, and a nip of creme de casis from a tiny, dusty bottle in the back of her parents’ liquor cabinet.
 
My particular version of Goblin Fruit jelly, for 2015, includes the following:
 
Black currants from a harvest of the Booth Street bush down near Scott (which, fyi, contain a heap of their own pectin) (protection, abundance)
Choke cherries (harvested this morning, just before the rain hit, from the tree on the corner of Arlington and Bronson) (luck, love, passion)
Red (oh well) raspberries from the Everbearing bushes down the alley – only about ten, I picked them as I was coming home from getting the choke cherries (love, protection, passion)
Sweet cherries (again, only about 10) that came out of a bag in the freezer and come from nowhere near my neighbourhood (luck, love, passion)
A vanilla pod given to me by a friend (love, passion, & happiness)
A dash of ground allspice (luck)
A cube of candied ginger (love, and a magical energy boost)
 
As you can see, there’s a bit of a theme running through all of this. 😉
 
Because I don’t go in for jewel-tone clear jellies, but strain as much of the fruit pulp into the mixture as possible, I’m inclined to call this stuff “jam” rather than “jelly”. Regardless, it should be a dark redish-purple colour when it gets done, and it should taste roughly like cherry candy.
 
Wht I wound up with, after I’d simmered the fruit (in two rounds) and strained it through a sceive, was 2.5C worth of juice-and-pulp, which I poured back into the (washed) sauce pan with an equal amount of granulated sugar (and about two tablespoons of red wine vinegar, just to be on the safe side), and I’ve been quietly simmering that mixture on the stove for the past hour and a half or so while I wait for it to thicken up. It probably would have taken less time if I’d opted for a wider pan (thus allowing for a shallower depth of juice, more surface area, and as such a faster thickening process).
 
As it stands, I’ve filled 5 half-cup jars already, and am quickly boiling three more in order to use up the rest. If I have a drizzle left over, it might (maybe) get whipped into some cream for tonight strawberry-raspberry shortcake confection (we’ve got company coming over).
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad. 🙂

X is for Xylos – Pagan Blog Project 2014

Xylos – as in “xylophone” and “xylitol” – is Greek for “wood”. So, yes friends, I’m talking about trees today. You do what you gotta. (It was that or reprising Xmas for another year).
 
We are edging towards the longest night of the year up here in the northern hemisphere, so it’s likely that at least some of you are putting up douglas firs (or imitations thereof) in your living rooms. I’ve got my Fake Spruce wreath on the door, and my Fake Holly garlands to string up and decorate as well.
 
But those aren’t (exactly) the trees I want to talk about today. Rather, I want to talk about trees in general, in the context of Getting To Know the Neighbours. What trees grow in your neighbourhood? Can you recognize them when their leaves have dropped? Can you recognize – to choose folks who live in my neighbourhood – hawthorn, crab apple, rowan, evans cherry, choke cherry, serviceberry, apple, maple, poplar, oak (to name a few) by their bark, by where they grow, by the way their branches bend (or don’t), fork (or don’t), angle (or don’t)? Do you pay attention to what flowers when, to which fruits you can eat (and which fruits you can’t)? Can you tell the difference between juniper and cedar? Can you recognize a Norwegian Spruce at all? Do you know how to tell a pine tree by its needles? How to recognize a waxberry (bayberry) or harvest the thick, white berry-covering and melt it into vegan-friendly candles[1]?
 
Long Nights Moon is about to crest, and Snow Moon is on its way. Frost and fire, ice and stone. Do you know your neighbours when dressed in skin and bone?
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden

 
 
[1] Er… I don’t. I mean, I can recognize them, sure, but I haven’t tried to make candles with the wax yet at all. And, while I can usually spot a poplar (size), crab apple (shape of branches + shaggy bark), choke cherry (almost-weeping branches), and maple (bark… ish)… I certainly can’t recognize all of those trees.

New Moon – Thunder Moon Begins

I know.
Thunder Moon actually began over a week ago (last Saturday – complete with New Moon Pizza featuring roast duck, rhubarbicue (in lieu of tomato) sauce, diced green onions, shredded kale, and dried cherries – it was a really sweet pizza) and, yes, it’s been raining – less thunder and more drizzle, most of the time, but raining – for much of the week.
It’s that time of year.
Atypically (I think… I’ll have to check my records) for this time of year, though, it’s been really, really cold (for a given value of “really, really” wherein “cold” means a high of 23C rather than 36C) – right up until about yesterday, anyway. Usually it’s a lot, well, hotter than it was last week – though the temperatures have climbed back up to waht I think of as “normal”, which is nice.
None the less, the tomatoes (in my neighbourhood’s many front-yard gardens) don’t appear to be suffering, and the squash and beans continue to do their Thing in spite of the chill. So there’s that.
I’ve been checking out the plants that grow along the weedy margins of my neighbourhood – the cliff-grown scrub along Bronson, for example, and the edges of people’s un/der-tended front yards, and I’ve found (a) Catnip, (b) Soapwort / Bouncing Bet and (c) Mugwort. I didn’t even know we had mugwort growing around here. 😀 As a side note, while I’m doing roast pork for Fabulous Friday Dinner this week, if I can swing a chicken thighs to braise in the near future, I might just do it like a tagine with fresh catnip (which tastes like lemon and mint combined) and red currants thrown in with the cinnamon, paprika, sweet potatoes, onion, and cilantro.
The apple tree up the street from me is starting to drop its green-and-red apples all over the street. I put a Hidden Harvest Ottawa flyer in their mail box, and we’ll see if they call – the house is for sale, so they might not. Who knows. Hard to believe that apple season is already upon us. It feels like the summer’s going by like it’s on wings. O.O
Lammas is this weekend – we’ll be spending it on the acreage of a couple of friends of ours (the folks who let me pillage “tidy-in-exchange-for-free-veggies” their garden last year) – and its influence hangs over Thunder Moon every year. Just like the rain, the harvest comes in torrents: Ontario’s Yummy Season, I’ve heard this time of year called. Case in point: I went to the “Marche Vieux Hull” today at noon, a fairly small farmer’s market just up the street from my contract-building where people had everything from kale, patty-pan squash, and snap-peas to eggplant, garlic, and even bell peppers available. I got half a dozen baby-beets with their tops still on, a little bouquet of garlic scapes, and a moderately sized eggplant for the bargain price of $7 (which is better than I’d get for Ontario produce at the Metro, so I’ll take it). Now is the time to be bringing in those annual veggies, enjoying them fresh-and-delicious, but also preserving them to eat through the cold months ahead.
In the same vein, Thunder Moon can be a tad bit overwhelming. Maybe you’re freaking out just a little at the thought of having to stock up on Back To School supplies (for yourself or your kids), or else are running yourself ragged trying to display (and sell) your wares at the last of the big summer festivals and fairs. Maybe you’re like my wife, and the time between June and September is when you’re work-load basically triples what with all the boots coming in for repairs.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, some gentle social time – think small groups of people you know and love – might be a good way to give yourself a break (and enjoy the season’s bounty). Backyard barbicues and pot-lucks focussed on “extravagant salads”[1] are one way to do this, so are days at the beach (if you’re good with crowds and it’s not too drizzly). If some Alone Time is what you really need, getting away for an overnight camping trip (midweek, if you can swing it, ‘cause there’ll be fewer people around) might be just the ticket.
Myself, I’m hoping to spend most of Thunder Moon (starting on Tuesday, if not slightly earlier) putting up peach butter, peach chutney, and tomato-peach salsa, along with freezing golden zucchini in various forms (grated-and-drained + diced-and-blanched) for later use this winter.
Cooking is my self-care. What can I say? 😉
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad, the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Think “grilled eggplant, peppers, mushrooms, and patty-pan squash tossed with olive oil plus fresh rosemary and lemon-thyme” or “chilled steamed beets – roots AND tops – served with goat cheese and crumbled walnuts” or “diced cucumbers with fresh dill and cilantro dressed in yoghurt” or “a rainbow of halved cherry tomatoes tossed with tiny mozzarella balls and shredded fresh basil, drizzled with balsamic vinegar” or “quinoa tossed with quick-steamed golden zucchini rounds, fresh (shelled) snap peas, fresh red currants, and shredded catmint”… You get the idea.

O is for Overwhelmed and “Out of Order” – Pagan Blog Project 2014

I’ve just spent a chunk of the afternoon reading this frightening and somewhat perlexing piece and this (less scary) piece that linked to it, and now I want to freak out.
Which isn’t actually helpful or useful.
There are things I can do, sure. Stop buying plastic is a big, but more than slightly difficult, one. Switching to LED lights and eating more and more locally (both in the sense of organic-cotton-clad-hippies-at-farmers’-markets and in the sense of knowing which plants in my neighbourhood are the ones I can eat on the regular) are big ones, too. But, while these actions have a huge impact on my life, they feel like they would accomplish absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things.
So much of what I could do – solar panels, larger windows, better insulation, geothermal heating, wood stoves – if I had the option, which I don’t living in a low rent apartment building with electric heat, limited natural light, no balcony, and enough of a building-wide bug (and, to a somewhat lesser extent, mould) problem that growing food indoors just seems like an entirely bad idea… seems like it would do little beyond giving me and mine (and “mine” are a very small number, if I get right down to it) a chance at pretending that things are “okay” for longer.
It’s overwhelming.
It’s terrifying.
The questions I ask myself are things like:
We could (just about) afford to move to The Country – two hours away from the nearest suburb of the city we live in – but could we manage that, if we did it? Could we deal with having to drive Everywhere[1]? Could I deal with seeing 99% of the people I care about no more than a couple of times per year? Would my own loneliness drive me crazy, drive my wife to leave me? Would the isolation mean nobody would visit? Would my nearest neighbours be anything like me, want to know me as I am? Would whatever I learn or do, create or cultivate or produce, be of any use to anyone if I’m so far away from everyone?
Gordon quotes the following in this post:
 

“[…] Community wealth defined by community knowledge, community sharing of information, and community definition of truth derived in transparency and authenticity, the latter being the ultimate arbiter of shared wealth.”

 
I’m not a hedge witch. I’m a hearth witch. I want to know what grows here – native and naturalized and cultivated, all of the above – so that I can encourage it to grown in a patch of land that I can steward for a long time. The “English Country” flower garden that I dream of is mostly multipurpose flowering plants that work as edibles, medicinals, magicals, and that encourage pollinators and beneficial predatory insects[2]. I want to be growing enough food, and out in my (currently mythical) yard often enough, that I can hand off stuff to my neighbours, have enough to give away. I want to welcome people in, build community, strengthen ties. Going Away… doesn’t do that, even though being hermits might, in the long run, keep us safe.
 
The Medicine Woman offers the following:
“We don’t have to live in a virgin wilderness or lush forest to connect to place, the plants of our regions pop up in ghettos and suburbs, in barrios and busy downtown districts. And cities have their own internal ecosystems of street tough weeds and wildflowers.”
 
I am a city witch., and so “going to the wild”, re-wilding myself, needs to happen in a forest of sky-scrapers where wild means feral cats, squirrels, and racoons, means toadstool mushrooms and fallow scrub lots. It means following the curve of the river (full of bass, carp, zebra-muscles, catfish, crayfish, cattails, river grass, brown trout, muskies, an Old Lady sturgeon on the bottom, below the rapids, who’s been there for longer than I’ve been alive). It means hive-hotels for solitary bees, and Making Arrangements with the blue-black hornets who go wonky in the hot days of mid-September, after the frost-warnings of early Apple Moon (or labour day weekend, as you will). It means listening to the crows who fly (in a river of thousands), south to north across the city, every evening at sunset. It means seeing the harrons on the Redeau, or tracking their flight along the length of Bronson from Carleton U to the Ottawa River. It means catching the tok-tok-tok of the big raven whose territory covers most of Hintonburg and part of China Town, and recognizing that the pigeon carcass (all wings, and not much else) had a fatal run-in with the falcon who lives on top of the tallest apartment tower on the block. It means having a good idea of where the lead isn’t when you harvest those dandelions, those wild grape leaves, that garlic mustard. It means skipping the roots of Chicory and Queen Anne’s Lace, and opting for windfall apples, choke cherries, black walnuts (that are a mess to crack, but that taste like blue cheese, if you like blue cheese). It means knowing that “we are nature, working” (Starhawk, The Earth Path) and, as such, trying not to behave like an autoimmune disorder.
 
So what do I do?
I say “excuse me” when I pass pigeons (or human neighbours) on the sidewalk, and wave to the crows.
I pay attention when I’m walking, looking at who’s around, plant-wise, getting to know the neighbours, looking what says “Notice me!” (for example, I’ve only just started noticing a member of the mint family with fluffy white flowers, growing all over my neighbourhood[3]).
I greet the river, the sun, the moon, and the plants (cherry and serviceberry, apple and crab apple trees, grape vines, raspberry and currant bushes, plots of dandelions, milkweed, feral spearmint, wood sorrel, purselane…) that I eat from. I acknowledge the crossroads, the soil under the concrete and asphalt. Cheer for the rain and the thunder storms.
When I make offerings, I try to make sure that they’re… the work of my own hands. I’ve heard it said that offering a bouquet of wild flowers to Nature is a bit like yanking off someone’s finger and then presenting it to them like a gift. But clean water and hot-cooking compost heaps, the work it takes to build up a water-lens (using swales and the like) or clean up other people’s garbage[4] in a public space (whether that’s a wild public space or a more cultivated one, either way), art[5], or raw materials transformed into something that the rest of nature can’t make on its own (fresh-baked bread, maple syrup, yoghurt or butter, country wine…) are often cited as good bets.
I try to do my animal bit to distribute the seeds of fruiting plants, tossing apple cores, red currants, raspberries, cherry pits into neglected, sunny spots where, hopefully, they’ll find ways to take root and grow.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden
 
 
[1] Ignoring for the moment both the question of my learning how to drive (again), and the other question of what about when there’s no more gasoline? …Could I use a bicycle to get around? How many bicycle-hours away from the nearest transit way station am I willing to live in the mean time? (Would something like this work?
 
[2] Queen Anne’s Lace, motherwort, chickory, purple cone flower, bone set (queen of the meadow), catnip, tansy, foxglove, mallow, hollyhocks, spiderwort, marigold, juniper, cedar, sunflowers, black cohosh, bee balm, bergamot, sweet william, centaury, Joe Pye Weed, blue cohosh, bouncing bet, mugwort, skullcap, mullein, slippery elm, wood sorrel, scilla, sweetgrass, giant (purple) vetch, borage, yellow evening primrose…
 
[3] Turns out it’s (probably) catnip, which can be used to make a lemony, minty tea that will (in theory) help you sleep, and which can be chucked into spells to draw good luck, particularly good luck in romantic/sexual endeavors, your way. Apparently the oil also works as a mosquito and tick repellant. Yes/No?
 
[4] I know. I know. It all has to go somewhere, and amalgamating a bunch of it into a (most likely plastic) bag that is then sent to a landfill doesn’t actually fix the problem of we use too much disposable, non-biodegradable, crap… but it does keep things contained a little better, and makes it marginally less likely that other people in a lot of different areas are going to swallow, or get tangled in, our Tim Horton’s cups and six-pack rings.
 
[5]Songs, stories, poetry, dances, sure. But clay sculpture and temporary visuals – a picture rendered in wet sand (or plain chalk?) that will disappear with time, rain, and spring floods or tides, wherein the work of creating it is the offering.

Food Hoarders Anonymous

Hey there. So it’s been a while (I think) since I last did a post about seasonal eating and/or preserves and, hey, Erica has an April “eat down the larder” challenge going on, so I figured: Perfect opportunity! So here I am.
 
See, on the one hand, it’s April. Which means that, ever since the temperature started peaking above the freezing point (call that one mid-to-late March), and the days started – just barely – being longer than the nights (same time-frame), I’ve been going “Oh, crap! It’s only 3.25 months until the service berries start coming in!” and “Oh, crap! I have to empty out my freezer if there’s going to be room for steamed wild greens come early May!” Which means that I’ve already started “eating down the larder” in anticipation of fresher stuff to come.
Which is dandy.
The fact that empty jars are rolling in from various family members, at the same time, is also dandy… if a bit hilarious. (My gift-jars come back empty, sure, but I also wind up with old pasta-sauce jars from the grocery store… which I don’t think was planned, and which I’m hesitant to use for canning… the lids always seem a little too… cardboard to feel like a safe idea… Maybe someone can reassure me on this one?)
 
Anyway. The point of this post is to talk about, well, my hoarder tendencies when it comes to food.
Because, while I am trying to incorporate things like 2012 rhubarb syrup and 2013 apple butter version 2.0 (I had, like, 16 jars of the stuff at the end of September and have… at least 8 left) into everything from sweet-and-sour cabbage (it worked!) to half-empty-jars-of-jam pancakes (also worked!), and while eating from the pantry is a pretty much staple thing to do at our place anyway (in that “seasonal eating means never having to by non-tinned tomatoes in january” kind of way)… I’m still seriously freaked out at the thought of intentionally eating the cupboards bare.
 
Some back story:
I’ve been poor – below-the-poverty-line poor – for most of my self-supporting life. Recently, while still being pretty low-income, the addition of my wife’s salary (retail/production, so low-but-not-minimum wage) has popped my household income over that line. But we’re still pretty broke a lot of the time.
Years of temping have meant that I’m used to making about $12K per year and having multiple month+ periods of being unemployed during any given year.
This means that:
(1) When I have money coming in, I buy non-parishable food.
(2) When I am about to stop having money coming in, I buy non-parishable food (and frequently fill up a coffee-shop gift-card while I’m at it, so I can still go out with my frinds on occasion).
(3) Eating down the larder when I don’t “have to” feels a bit like firing off “Help me I’m lost in the woods” flares in lieu of improvised fireworks, two days before going hiking in Bear Country.
 
This is not to say that I think it’s a bad idea. Quite the contrary.
It’s to say that… I guess one way of putting it would be to say that my idea of “par” – to use another concept I learned from Erica – fluctuates depending on what kind of money I have lying around and how willing (or wise) I am to trust in local resources (read: foraging and gleaning) to make up the gap. In early April, with buckets of snow still on the ground – albeit melting quickly – I am in the heart of Hungry Month. We are still four weeks away from the earliest wild greens – dandelions and garlic mustard, the latter of which is bitter enough that it doesn’t make a very good primary vegetable in a given meal – and…
Oh, this is silly.
To quote my own sister “You have more food than anybody I know”.
This is something she said to me, in June of 2008, when I was freaking out about having to sell a now formerly-marital home before the cold weather hit, because I knew I couldn’t afford to heat the house. I was for-real afraid that I would not have enough to eat.
And yet I still had more food than anyone else my sister knew. I had cupboards stuffed with whole grains and tinned beans and dried vegetables and pasta… But cooking from the larder is a skill, and I didn’t have it yet.
Now I do.
Now I can throw tinned tomatoes and left-over pork and frozen greens and dried ancho chilies (these are mild, folks) into the frying pan with a little bit of lard (or butter or name-that-oil), stretch it with half a cup of raw red lentils (and a cup of stock or water) or a tin of well-rinsed beans and serve it over millet or rice or quinoa or whatever grain I happen to have on hand… and that’s what we eat all winter.
 
And I still dread the thought of less than five tins of tomato or cream-of-mushroom soup in the cupboard. I still dread the thought of running out of beans. I still dread the thought of my freezer contents dwindling to where I can see the bottom of the bin[1].
 
I’m afraid I won’t be able to fill it up again if I let my stores drop that low.
 
So, in the past couple of days, I’ve been out and buying things to try and get myself back up to what I think of – in my haphazard way – as “par”, and to make sure I have something to serve all those to-be-eaten-down preserves with or on or in, as well. 🙂
 
Tonight will be grilled cheese sandwiches (with apple butter and hot mustard and tinned garlic-chili tuna) + tinned tomato soup.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Which maybe doesn’t bode so well for my hopes of buying meat by the animal… Good thing the local meat CSA delivers in batches rather than in one fell swoop.

Spicy Pickled Radishes (Extra-Tiny Batch) – Recipe Makes Half a Cup

Hey!
So I did wind up making pickled radishes. While I was waiting for my last three jars of garlic-dill cucumber pickles to process. Because I’m… like that. Right.
 
Anyway. The recipe, below, used four of my guerrilla-gardened radishes, but could easily be doubled or quadrupled or whatever depending on how many radishes you have lying around.
It could potentially be made with fresh ginger (diced, like the garlic) and might do nicely with the addition of a quarter teaspoon of whole yellow mustard seeds as well. Not sure. Will try again next year (or with more radishes).
 
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Indoor Container Gardening – Part The Umpteenth

Someone with a bucket and long-handled garden fork is out front raking through the Official Apartment Flower Beds – presumeably to uproot any weeds before they get a foothold[1]. I’m inside, having just done some (optimistic) transplanting and, er, learned a couple of unexpected things.
 
1) I really like growing plants. I like the hope they represent, and the very literal harvest that they might just manage to provide (provided that I don’t utterly mistreat them).
 
2) The giant pot that I thought had zero drainage? It’s just started drainage-ing all over my living room floor. So apparently drainage wasn’t the problem for my tomatoes. (Still not sure what was, though…)
 
3) There are uses for Ottawa’s city-focused, sports-centric, hyper-conservative newspaper. Who knew? 🙂
 
 
I’ve also gone over to the dark side, so to speak, and tucked a fertilizer stick into the soil, in the hopes of feeding the plants a little better (all my compost goes to the city, which means my bins of soil have been getting depleted for the past couple of years. I’m hoping this will help feed the plants without burning their roots.
 
The wheely-tray upon-which my “non-draining” pot has rested, lo, these past eight months, is about a foot wide at the base. If I can find a foot-wide tray for my pot to drain into, then we’ll be goo and I can just keep doing what I’m doing (or not – we’ll see how this works).
 
What I have is:
 
1) A smaller pot (with drainage holes AND the bottom layered with big chunks of “river rock”, to facilitate not drowing the plants) planted with my chervil and lemon verbena plus a new (and very droopy) basil plant that, hopefully, will start perking up now that it’s in a bigger pot.
 
2) The smaller pot is nested inside the original Big Pot, on top of about 4″ of soil, with more soil packed around it. I’ve sprinkled chive seeds in the “surround soil” in the hopes that they sprout and grow (and thrive?) and give us some fresh chives of our own.
 
3) Less relevant to the gardening situation: A heap of tiny perenial peas – I think they might be Broom? – Stuff I used to eat at recess, anyway, which I’m now snagging off the hedges along Somerset Avenue, a few blocks east of the big cathedral. (Need to shell them, as they’re going into dinner tonight).
 
I’ve also got a rectangular “pot” (a plastic packing box) half-full of dirt that’s going to get re-homed to an outdoor “bed” (a stump with a bit of a flower-bed built over it), along with all this very damp newspaper I suddenly have lying around and, hopefully (even though it’s fairly late to be trying this), I will still manage to grow some squash (someway, somehow) this year. I can dream.
 
Wish me luck! 🙂
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Which would explain why my turnip greens and squash never came up. Bastards. :-\

Yarrow – Some Things To Know

I have yarrow leaves drying in my oven (it does not take long, believe me).
 
Yarrow’s a funny one. It’s a love plant – use it in love spells and relationship-related divination; but it’s also a plant for psychic awareness and protection from curses: add it to a bath to cleanse oneself of nasty psychic gunk or sprinkle the flowers across your threshold to ward off ill intentions. Carrying it around with you can help you get through stage fright or interview fears and may also aid in chance meetings with people you’ve been wanting to run into. Medicinally it works as a poultice (leaves) to staunch bleeding, and as a tea (flowers) to start it, in the menstrual sense. It also works as an anti-inflamatory and (again with the tea, although possibly cold this time) can be good as a facial toner to help with acne and similar. (Note: Occasional it has the opposite effect – discontinue use if you get a rash or other allergic reaction. Seriously).
 
Yarrow grows, well, anywhere. But it grows particularly happily in scrub land and disturbed soil. Border country, if you will.
Or maybe I’m just drawing that parallel because it works so well – magically and medicinally – on the borders of things: The edge between life and not-life, for one, and around meetings and the realm of chance (and take-no-chances).
 
Because yarrow is a meadow plant, and because it’s connected with bridal flowers, and because it’s connected to the kind of divination that you get in, er, Llewelyn books , I tend to think of it as being connected to Misha – Youth and adventure and the first blushes of romance. However, given what it actually does, it’s got more in common with Maia (healing, psychic ability) and – even more-so – with Makaa (edges, chance, life-and-death-and-not-yet-born, psychic ability, and both pushing and defending one’s boundaries).
 
Courtesy of Cliff and Magnus Manske
Wiki Commons
http://commons.wikimedia.org%5B/caption%5D
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.