Category Archives: Found

Flower Sour

elderflowers

Sweet Little Flowers

Well the elders are in bloom again, and hedgerows all over froth and foam with the delicate white unbrels, almost like the spring tides coming in. This year is a bit later than ususal, due to the length of the Northern hemisphere winter, but now the sunshine has returned, and naure is more than making up for her long sleep.

I love this time of the year, and stock up on elderflowers for cordialsugar, and champagne. All of it delicious, and making the most of the best of the season’s forage.

Elder is really abundant where I live, so there is always plenty to go around during the flowering and fruiting seasons; for us foragers and for the birds.

Elderflowers are not just for the sweet things in life, they are also great in salads, and I have heard of sauces to go with meat. An elderflower sauce is on my list of Things I Want To Experiment With. Like most food bloggers, I guess, I have several such lists – electronically, on paper and in my head. A colleague of mine recently found them in some notes I had taken as part of a work trip, and seemed surprised that I would also be making lists of flavours in between meetings.

As well as the flavours that exist on my lists, or go around in my head, I have a number of different or unusual flavours in my kitchen. For example, I am never without vinegars of all kinds of flavours – raspberry, blackberry, tarragon, rosemary; I even have coconut vinegar since a Filipina friend introduced me to it when she kindly gave me her adobo recipe.

For me, then, it wasn’t too much of a stretch to think that elderflower vinegar would be a great way to keep hold of the elderflower season for just a little bit longer, but without all the sugar.

Try to pick elderflowers on a dry day, in the morning. There will be more pollen and nectar in them, which makes the flavour more intense.

This vinegar is good with salads. I am currently embarking on the 5:2 regimen, because my need to develop great food for this blog was beginning to have a toll on my waistline. I have found that the addition of a few herbs to some of this vinegar is a good way to dress a slad without the need for oil.

You can make marinades with it, and even a couple of drops in some water gives a nice flavour, that is not too sweet.

Elderflower Vinegar

Not So Sweet Little Flowers

Recipe: Elderflower Vinegar

Ingredients

40 g elderflowers

500 ml white wine vinegar

Method

Try to pick the flowers in the morning after a dry spell, in order to maximise the pollen and the flavour.

Remove the elderflowers from the stalks by pulling a fork through the stalks in the diretion of the flowers. You don’t have to be too fussy, as long as you have removed the largest stalks.

Steep the elderflowers in the vinegar, in a non-metallic container or bowl. Cover with a tea towel, and set aside for a few days.

Whenever you remember, give the flowers a stir.

After three days to a week, your vinegar should have reached the strength of flavour that you want.

Bottle up into sterilised bottles. This vinegar will keep well in a cupboard. I cannot resist this fragrant flavour, so the trouble is making it last!

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under Found

Sugar and Spice

 

Spiced Japanese Quince Jam

…Makes This Jam Nice!

Following on from yesterday’s jelly making escapades, I had a load of fruit pulp from the Japanese quince to use up. I always try to use up the fruit pulp leftover from making jelly, and frequently make fruit butters, or even add them into a pie.

Japanese quince is perfect for this kind of repurposing, and you can make all manner of things, like pies, crumbles, stewed fruit, and many other things. Had I found these earlier on in the year, I may have been tempted to use the pulped fruit in a mincemeat of some kind, but I will probably experiment with that later. I could also have made a sweetmeat, like the membrillo I made last year.

However, this quince needed to be transportable, so I decided upon jam, since it had to get lugged all the way back to the Netherlands and needed not to leak into our luggage.

In keeping with the Persian theme, I wanted to spice the quince with flavours from the Middle East. I decided upon cardamom and cloves, to give it heat. A lapse of concentration also meant that a teaspoon or so of cinnamon also found its way in there, but it’s none the worse for it.

This jam is sweet, although not as sweet as it could be. I used a bit less sugar than the standard 1:1 ratio of the traditional set jam. I had the pectin from the fruit, and the bag of seeds in any case, and I wanted it to be more spicy than sweet. I think the spice mix would also have worked well had I decided to make a membrillo with it.

The only unfortunate thing is that Japanese quince do not turn the beautiful red that ordinary quince become after a long cooking time, so this is a rather brown jam, but it is no less tasty for it. Like the jelly, this will also be good in stews and gravies, but this will work better with lamb, and chickpeas.

Recipe: Spiced Japanese Quince Jam

Ingredients

Jam jars with lids

Boiled Japanese quince pulp, once drained of liquid

Seeds from the quince, tied up in muslin

Sugar (in the ratio 3:4 with the pulp)

Water (equal weight to the fruit pulp)

5 cardamom pods

6-8 cloves

1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon or one cinnamon stick

Waxed discs

Method

While the fruit is still warm, after boiling, pass it through a sieve, so that any skin and remaining pips are retained by the sieve, and you only have fruit pulp left. You will probably need to push it through with a wooden spoon.

Sterilise the jam jars and lids, in a dishwasher, in a low oven or in a pressure cooker.

Weigh your pulp. I got 400 g of fruit pulp from mine. Then you need 3 parts granulated sugar to four parts fruit, so I measured out 300 g of sugar.

Put the seeds in muslin that you used to produce the jelly into the pan with the fruit pulp, sugar, and equal weight of water. Tie the spices up in more muslin, or in the same piece of muslin as the seeds if it is big enough. If you are using ground cinnamon, add this straight into the pulp and mix in well.

Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved completely and then bring it up to a rolling boil. Again, the jam will set when it reaches 104.5°C, or passes the fridge test.

As soon as the jam reaches setting point, sterilise any ladles, jugs or jam funnels you are going to use with boiling water.

Pour the jam into the jars, and fill it to within 2mm of the top. This jam is quite thick, so give it a bang if you can to dispel any air bubbles. Put wax discs on the top, with the wax side down, and seal with the lids while the jam is still hot.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Found

Jam and Japonica

Japanese Quince and Tarragon Jelly

A Persian Twist

Most Fridays, I go foraging with a small group of great people. You may remember that I met one of them back when I did the seed workshop. One of them, Jennie is a herbalist, and we are learning a lot about the medicinal and culinary uses of wild plants from each other, and we all share good spots to find useful ‘weeds’.

On the last forage of last year, we hit gold, despite the cold. We found a huge stash of Japanese quince, or Chaelenomeles Japonica fruit. The Japonica is usually grown for its beautiful flowers, as many people have no idea that the fruits are so delicious, or so beautifully scented.  At this time of the year, the fruit are pretty obvious, although I used to assume that they were ordinary bushes that some kindly person had studded with apples for the benefit of the birds in winter.

Japanese Quince on the bush

Hedge Decoration

Of course, this is a valuable winter fruit for the birds too, so if you do come across some yourself, then make sure you don’t take them all, as the birds will appreciate them, especially after they have bletted well. In fact, you will also think that they are better for a good bletting. Like their rosaceous namesakes, they are not at all good when you eat them raw, but they are delicious when cooked in pies, baked or as preserves, and they are really high in pectin, so great for this purpose.

Japanese quince , halved

Seedy!

The Japanese quince is thin skinned, and has a lot of small seeds. I removed all of the seeds, and put half in a muslin bag for two types of jam, for the pectin. The other half I kept, and some of these may well find itself wending its way around in the next round of Seedy Penpals, which will be coming up shortly.

The fruits are also beautifully scented, and they have been brought into homes to simply sit in a room and lend it a lovely, delicate fragrance. As I cycled around, my foraged fruit was filling my nostrils, and my living room smelled lovely for a few days before I was off to spend Christmas at my parents, when they were unceremoniously stuffed into a bag, so we could make things with them.

Both quinces and Japanese quinces are used extensively in Persian and Moroccan cookery, and although I knew I was going to make jelly and jam, I wanted this to influence what I paired with them. Inspired by this recipe, I decided that I was going to make a quince jelly with tarragon, and then I could use the fruit pulp to make a different jam. I always try to use up the pulp from making jelly, and quinces make it really easy, due to the pectin.

I’m pretty pleased with this jelly; it is tasty and unusual on toast or yoghurt in the morning, as well as being good with meat. This year, Christmas dinner was a gammon, which was prepared in the same way as this baked ham. I added a tablespoonful of this jelly to the gravy, which made it rich and unusual, bringing a slight taste of the Middle East to a Western meal.

Recipe: Quince and Tarragon Jelly

Ingredients

3 jam jars

750 g Japanese quince

Water to cover

3 large stalks of tarragon, plus another 3 sprigs for chopping

Caster Sugar (400 g per 600 ml juice)

Wax discs

Method

Sterilise your jam jars and lids, by running them through a cycle in the dishwasher, cleaning them in hot soapy water and placing them in a low oven, or by steaming them in a pressure cooker.

Quarter the quince, and remove the seeds. Take about half of the seeds and wrap them in muslin for cooking with. Place the fruit and seeds in a large pan, and cover with water. Bring the fruit to a boil, then simmer them until the fruit is tender, and the perfume fills your kitchen. This will be between 40 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on how well bletted they were when you started.

Drain off the water through a piece of muslin, but keep the cooking liquid, as this will form your jelly. Set aside the fruit pulp, because this will be the basis of your jam. Measure out the liquid, as this will determine how much sugar you will need. For making jelly, you take 400 g sugar for every 600 ml juice. My fruits yielded 1.3 l, so I used 860 g sugar.

In a large, clean pan, add the liquid, sugar, tarragon stalks and the rinsed off muslin with the seeds in it. Heat gently, stirring while the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar has dissolved completely, bring the jelly up to a rolling boil. Don’t stir it after this. It needs to reach 104.5°C to set. You can measure this with a jam thermometer, or you can do the fridge test. I often do both.

Meanwhile, chop the rest of the tarragon finely, and set aside for later. Once the jam has reached setting point, take it off the heat; remove the muslin with the seeds, and the tarragon stalks. Don’t throw the seeds away, they are useful for more jam making later. Add the chopped tarragon, and leave the jam to cool for 10-15 minutes, so that the tarragon will be more evenly distributed through the jam in the jar.

Meanwhile sterilise any jugs, ladles and jam funnels that you will need to transfer the jelly into the jam jars, by covering them with boiling water. You’ll need to dry them off before use.

Pour the jelly into the sterilised jars, making sure that the jam is within a couple of mm from the top of the jar. Put the wax discs on the top, wax side down. Put the lids on and tighten them well while the jam is still hot.

12 Comments

Filed under Found

A Shaggy Mushroom Story

Shaggy Ink Cap Mushroom

Shaggy Ink Cap

I have just got back from the UK, where I was attending my sister’s wedding.  She and her groom did a lovely job, with the help from friends and family. A great time was had by all, and the weather mostly held off. Congratulations to my sister and her new husband!

I also managed to fit in a little bit of a forage, between the wedding day and the train home. I found some blackberries, at last. This year has been terrible here, probably because of the lack of pollinators. I got enough for a couple of good crumbles, or maybe even a pie. I also got a sizeable amount of rowan berries, which I am experimenting with. I will bring you the recipe shortly.

I found these little beauties. I wasn’t looking for them, in fact I was busy with other things, but once you start to forage, spotting things in fields and hedgerows becomes like second nature. You can’t help but investigate, which often leads to thinking up ways to use your finds.

As Shaggy Ink Caps do not keep well at all, I quickly made them into a tasty little soup. It was really delicious, as they have a nice nutty, mushroomy taste. I did not get pictures, because (as the name suggests) it was a grey/black colour, not unlike food containing squid ink. I think that adding wilted and chopped spinach would help to make the dish look more appetising, if you are averse to odd-coloured food. Don’t let the colour put you off, the soup is definitely worth it.

I have given the recipe below, in case you come across any for yourself.

WARNING: It is very easy to confuse the Shaggy Ink Cap with the Common Ink Cap. Both are edible, but the Common Ink Cap will poison you if you eat it with alcohol.There have been no reported fatalities from this kind of poisoning, but the symptoms can be uncomfortable.  In fact, alcohol is best avoided for at least the next day too, to be on the safe side.  Please also stick to Basic Fungus Foraging Rules when picking mushrooms.

Common Ink Cap Mushrooms – not to be taken with alcohol

This soup was enough for 2 people, and will freeze well before the cream is added.

Recipe: Shaggy Ink Cap Soup

Ingredients

6 young Shaggy Ink Cap mushrooms (before they flatten out and look black and kind of slimy)

1 tbsp olive oil

Small knob of butter (optional)

1 medium onion

1 fat garlic clove

400 ml chicken or vegetable stock

100 ml cream (or milk would probably do)

Small bunch parsley, finely chopped

Leftover pasta to thicken (optional)

Method

Chop the onion, and roughly chop the garlic, and sweat them off in some olive oil, until translucent.

Roughly chop the caps of the mushrooms, and chop the stalks reasonably finely. Add to the onion and garlic, and add the butter. Season well with salt and pepper, and fry off. This stage may take a while, as you want to try to drive off the black moisture that will seep from the mushrooms.

At this point I added the pasta, to give a bit of bulk. You could also add leftover rice, or cooked potato. You could probably also add raw potato when you sweat the onion. Or leave out the starch altogether. I mainly added it because it was in the fridge.

Add warm stock, and the chopped stalks of the parsley. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Blitz in a food processor, or with a stick blender until it is as smooth as you like your soup. I don’t like it completely smooth, so I don’t do this as long as I could if I liked a more homogenous texture.

Return to a pan, and add the cream and the chopped parsley leaves. Warm, but do not boil. Taste for seasoning, and serve.

You can also add a swirl of cream in the bowl if you want it to look a bit more fancy, but really, how fancy can a kind of grey/black soup get?

7 Comments

Filed under Found

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Sauteed Chanterelles for Breakfast

…But If You Try Sometimes, You Might Find, You Get the Breakfast You Need.

We were recently in Sweden, and spent a wonderful afternoon with the Big Guy’s sister and her family foraging in a wood. We are never in one place for long in Sweden, and I had spent much of the week eyeing up the meadowsweet and rosebay willow herb that was abundant in the area we were in at the start of the week. I have never seen either plant in the Netherlands, so was looking forward to cooking up some goodies with them. In Swedish, meadowsweet is called älgört (pronounced el-lee-yurt), which means moose herb. Rosebay willow herb is called rallarros (pronounced rah-lor-rose), as it used to be the first plant to line the railways once they had been cleared through the forest, hence the name of railway rose. This is what makes it a pioneer species.

Tettigoniidae spp Bush Cricket

A Fellow Forager

As is often the way, when we got out to where his sister lives, we were actually in a subtly different habitat, and so there was no meadowsweet or rosebay willow herb to be had. This is a good foraging lesson – if you see it, grab some, as conditions may not be the same the next time you come back, or if you move onto a different spot.

Wild raspberry

Forest Jewels

However, all was not lost, we came across some other things I am yet to find in the low countries. First was wild raspberries. Slightly smaller than their domestic cousins, but just as sweet. They were great to come across, and we filled a few tubs.

Bilberries

Edible Carpet

Blue berries are everywhere in Swedish forests. We would call this variety bilberries in the UK, they are a little smaller and less sweet than the ones you would typically buy from the shops. They carpet the forest floor, alongside their cousins, the lingonberry. They are actually not at their peak for a few more weeks yet, but I like them when they are sharper too.

Unripe lingonberry

Not Ready Just Yet

 

The lingonberries are not yet ripe, so we didn’t even try to pick them. Apparently, there is a hybrid between the lingonberry and the blueberry that they call the ‘blingon’. We didn’t find any of those, but I’d love to taste one, just to see what it is like.

Too young Chanterelles

Beloved by Chefs, But Better Left a While

The main thing that we actually did go out to find was the chanterelles, and we were not disappointed. We started to come across really tiny ones. This is the kind that chefs often prefer because they are fairly regular sizes, and can pretty up a dish. However, many foragers lament this habit, because if everyone only took the smallest ones, they would not have time to spore, thus spoiling things for future forages, and the fungus itself.

Mature Chanterelles

We Struck Gold

We were lucky in that we didn’t have far to go to find more mature ones, and we found large mushrooms by the bucketful.

Cleaning Chanterelles

House Work

Because these mushrooms grow in the leaf litter (often quite well hidden, but once you have found one, there will be more) they will need a little trimming, and a bit of a clean with a stiff bristled brush. This can be time consuming, but well worth it to get rid of grit from between the fine gills.

Cleaned Chanterelles

A Bucket of Breakfast

The next day, we ate a king’s breakfast, starting with sautéed chanterelles and scrambled egg, followed by muesli and yoghurt, liberally scattered with raspberries and blueberries. We were leaving Sweden that day, and it was a fantastic start to our travels.

Muesli and foraged berries

Second Breakfast of Champions

We did manage to get through all of the chanterelles, even though we picked a lot. We left many of the berries for the Big Guy’s sister, and I know that she will make delicious things with them. I’m also very lucky that she likes to forage as well, and I’m very grateful to her for a wonderful afternoon, and for the huge pot of mushrooms that she’d dried from last year’s bounty.

Dried Chanterelle spp

Once-Buried Treasure

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Found

They Called me the Wild Rose

Wild Rose Jelly

…But my Name was Eliza Dane

I’ve been back collecting rose petals again. As I mentioned in my post about rose cordial, the roses in my favourite spot are probably rosa acicularis. These are quite a long flowering variety, and you don’t need that many for this recipe, so you can still find them now if you try. Don’t forget to leave the bees behind when you pick them, though.

This time I made a really delicately flavoured jelly. My version definitely has all the flavour of rose, but has quite a subtle colour. If you would like a darker coloured jelly, then you can boil the petals up in the water before you add the apples, but I personally don’t think it needs it.

I have never made rose petal jelly before, but once you have the proportions in your head, making jelly is easy. You will need a jelly bag, or muslin and a sieve to strain the liquid. I have a thick piece of muslin that I nail to the frame of a chair with the seat removed, and that works well for me. Whatever method you use, it needs to support a bit of weight.

This makes 3 standard pots of jam, but I actually used smaller jars, as it was a lovely one to give away as gifts. I was also thinking ahead to possible foodie penpals. When I sent my first parcel out, I found to my penpal’s cost that sending jars mean that I can send much less, due to weight limitations. A nice work around is to try to send small jars as testers. I will see if that works.

This jam is a good breakfast preserve, and nice with yoghurt. However, I actually think this has more potential as a glaze for patisserie. I am going to try making a raspberry tart, and use rose petal jam as the glaze, where you would probably ordinarily use apricot jam. Of course, I shall let you know the results when I try it.

Wild Rose petals

Pretty In Pink

Recipe: Rose Petal Jelly

Ingredients

15 g rose petals

500 g apples

400 ml water

Granulated sugar – the exact amount will depend on how much liquid you have

Method

Rinse the rose petals, and remove the claw.

Cut the apples into chunks. There is no need to peel or core them, as this contains pectin, which you need to help the jam set.

Place the apples, petals and water in a pan, and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for half an hour. At the same time, boil your muslin to sterilise it.

Strain the fruit pulp through your muslin/jelly bag/ whatever set up you use into a large bowl. Leave  it to strain overnight, so you get the maximum amount of juice from your pulp. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the bag, or push the pulp through though, or your beautiful clear jelly will be cloudy.

I usually make fruit butter with the leftovers from jelly making. It is a tasty preserve, but it does have a short shelf life. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to make it or to find homes for the pots where it would not go to waste. As there has been no sugar added, you can still compost the pulp with no adverse effects.

Before you start to make the jelly, sterilise some jars. You can do this in various ways, including washing them in hot water, rinsing well, and putting them in a warm oven; you can steam them in a pressure cooker; or wash them in a dishwasher, being careful to time your cycle with about the right time that the jam is ready. At the same time, boil your muslin to sterilise it.

Measure your juice that was strained from the pulp. This is where the proportions come into play. For every 600 ml of juice that you have, you need 400 g sugar.

In your preserving pan, gently warm the juice and the sugar, stirring while the sugar dissolves. Then bring to a rapid rolling boil. Allow to boil like this for about 10 minutes. Your jelly will have reached setting point at 104.5 °C, or when you get a skin forming on jam dropped on a cold plate and left in the cold  for a minute.

Pour into the sterile jars while both are still hot. Fill to within 3 mm of the top, then put a wax disc over it, wax side down. Seal with a screw lid, or a cellophane cover.

Label them and give them a week for the flavour to develop. Once you have opened a jar, keep it in the fridge.

1 Comment

Filed under Found

A Whole Lot of Rosie

Wild rose petal cordial

Entente Cordiale

At the same time as we collected all the elderflower, we were also delighted to find some wild roses. The most common of these is the dog rose, but they have mostly gone over in the more accessible places. I did manage to get a photo, but couldn’t reach the  blooms, as they were on a steep slope, and behind a lot of brambles.

Wild Dog Rose

Dog Rose

Luckily, we also came across a load of what I think is most likely to be prickly rose, or rosa acicularis. This is a really beautiful rose, with abundant, dark pink flowers. They also have a lot of thin thorns on them. I was so excited to find them that I forgot to take pictures, but I’ll try to go back soon to get some. When the sunshine comes back. If the sunshine comes back.

The good news is that all rose petals are edible. The more highly scented, the better they will taste. As well as some basic foraging rules please be careful that the roses that you use have not been sprayed with any pesticides, which can be an issue if you are foraging in a park. Another word of caution; if you are allergic to bee stings, like I am, please check each flower before you pick the petals. Bees love roses, and will spend a lot of time feeding from each one. I very nearly picked one up with some petals, but it warned me by buzzing angrily, and I quickly dropped the petals. Bees are quite polite really, and will warn you before they sting.

You could dry the petals, and use them in cakes and jelly, or even brush them in egg white and dip them in caster sugar to crystallise them and then use them as a cake decoration.

Rose petals with & without claw

The white claw (L) is bitter and must be removed

When you use rose petals, you need to remove the claw, or the part where by which the petal is joined t the rest of the flower. This is bitter and can taint your produce. I usually just snip them off with scissors.

The first thing that I made was a cordial. This recipe is inspired by one that Sandie made at Herb and Wild Food Recipes. Sandie intended to make a jam, but actually made a syrup with dog roses. I used the same technique to prepare the roses, and then made a cordial as I would normally. This is a great blog, full of wild food recipes, so please do go and have a look.

It has also taken on the dark pink of the rose. I have had it as a refreshing drink, but I’m also going to try this in a syllabub, and maybe to cook some gooseberries in. If you have any suggestions for ways to try this cordial, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Recipe: Rose Cordial

Ingredients

2 large handfuls of rose petals (claws removed as above)

Juice of a lemon

500 ml water

300 g sugar

Method

Sterilise a 500 ml bottle and the lid. You can do this in a number of ways. I find it trickier to get bottles clean in the dishwasher, as I would do for jam jars. You can wash them in hot soapy water, using a bottle brush to get into the nooks and crannies. I give them a good soak in the steriliser I use for brewing before I rinse, and put in them in a w arm oven (150°C). If you have a pressure cooker, you can also hold it in steam.

In a saucepan, add the lemon juice to the flower petals and the water. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Strain through muslin, and return the liquid to the saucepan. As you would expect, I didn’t throw out the rose petals. I have a great recipe for them to come. You can refrigerate or freeze them, if you want to use them later.

Add the sugar to the rose-water, and heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to simmer for five minutes, then hot-fill the sterile bottle.

Keep this little jewel in the fridge.

3 Comments

Filed under Fermented, Found