Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Momiji: Tempura Maple Leaves (wild love)

Mmm, fall. How lovely it is to stare up through canopies of red and yellow and orange, study the intricacies in the shifting colors and patterns of leaves. In Japan, they call this time of year "Momiji Gari," or "Autumn Leaf Viewing." I love the thought of making the beauty of this transitional time a celebration.  If only there were a way to capture that leaves-crunching-underfoot, warm-happiness-in-your-belly-feeling.

Actually...there is! I read the other day about the Japanese treat momiji, which are tempura maple leaves. I immediately thought how perfect they would be for the season, and became absolutely determined to try them.

If you are concerned about the edibility of maple leaves, this article may ease your mind.
Pick leaves from a source with no pesticides or herbicides. Wash them well, and pat to dry. Heat up a couple of inches of oil in a deep pot or pan until it reaches about 350F. Meanwhile, mix your batter:

Beat 1 egg, add a pinch of salt and 1 cup of ginger beer and then add 1 1/2 cups rice flour and mix gently (don't overmix!) Then dip the leaves in and shake of the excess batter. Fry them in the oil until brown and crispy, then serve with maple syrup, golden syrup, or powdered sugar. Easy peasey!

The traditional recipes are hard to find, but it looks like they're more of a traditional savory tempura, often made with sesame seeds. I wanted to try a sweeter "Americanized" version, but I can see these being very tasty made with sesame seeds and served with a soy or chili sauce. I was pleasantly surprised by these; I thought the fibrous leaves would be too tough to eat but after they were fried they were crisp and crunchy, like kale chips. (Only with a lot more fat and sugar, so way tastier.) You could get a faint hint of tannic maple flavor but it was subtle. Nicely balanced by the crunchy-sweet of the batter. 

These were a beautiful shape and texture, though honestly if you fry anything in oil and cover it in sugar it is bound to taste pretty good. ;) All in all, I thought this was a successful experiment! The minions and I talked tonight about how lovely these would look topping a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, or that they'd be a fun appetizer for the evening. Let me know if you try them yourself!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Juniper (wild love)

Gin is my favorite kind of alcohol. To me it tastes like the forest, cool and crisp and refreshing! It's no surprise, then, that I love the smell of juniper berries which are the main flavoring component in gin. But what else can they be used for? Plenty, if you're creative about it.

But first, a little about them: Juniper berries are not berries at all, but instead are the small female cones of the juniper tree. There are lots of kinds of junipers, some edible and some not. True juniper berries come from a short sprawling shrub called Junipers Communis. This is what is used to flavor gin, typically. But there are plenty of other plants that go by the name "juniper"- the ones that are usually used as decorative accents are usually Eastern Red Cedar, or juniperus virginiana.  The ones I gathered are Rocky Mountain Juniper, or Junipers Scopulorum. The berries of both of these plants are typically sweeter and less potent than true juniper berries, so you have to use more of them to get the same effect. Fall is a good time to harvest juniper berries- they are ripe but aren't deteriorating at all yet.

Warning: Not all juniper berries are edible. If they taste strongly bitter, proceed with caution. Make sure you properly identify which particular species you are harvesting and whether or not they are edible! Also, juniper has strong medicinal qualities so consult your doctor if you are taking medications before eating them. Pregnant women should not ingest juniper berries as they can cause contractions. Use with caution in persons with inflammatory kidney disease.

Juniper berries have a long record of use all over the world. The native peoples used them to cure their meats, treat various ailments, and to flavor their soups and stews. The Great Basin Native Americans used juniper as a blood tonic to alleviate symptoms of anemia and re-energize the body. They were also used for colds, flus, and other aches and pains. You can read more about their historical uses in this article by food52. They have also showed up in recipes from all over the world- in Europe they were added to sauces and game dishes to give a bitter, spicy flavor. In Northern Europe they were ground and added to breads and cakes to add spiciness. (On that note I will probably be making some juniper-cardamom gingerbread cookies closer to the Holidays...) The earliest recorded medicinal use of juniper berries is from an Egyptian papyrus dating back to 1500 BC. It was used to cure tapeworms. The Romans used the berries for purification and stomach ailments.

Typically the "berries" are used, though the wood can be burned for highly-scented smoke used to purify sacred spaces and banish witchcraft. It was also used to purify air during the days of the plague. Western European folklore states that if a juniper tree is planted near your door, a witch cannot enter.

But how do you eat them? 

Juniper berries should be ground or crushed just before use to preserve the essential oils. Junipers are a strong flavor, well suited to game meats. I found some inspiration for culinary uses of juniper here. Be sure to scroll down to see some lovely plating ideas! I saw a couple of recipes for juniper combined with chocolate, most notably this recipe for chocolate juniper cake with milk jam creme fraiche. There's a technique there that I definitely want to try- coating dense cake with sugar, then pan-frying to make a crunchy coating. Yum!

Since juniper berries are so good with rich and gamey meats, I decided to try making a pot roast using them as flavoring. This recipe would be even better using a venison (or other wild game) meat, but beef is delicious as well.

I based my roast very loosely on this recipe.  First I made my spice mix. I did this by taste, so I can't give exact measurements but you'll get the idea. I blended about 1 Tbs. dried juniper berries with a few springs (2 Tbs worth) dried yarrow* in a spice grinder. Then I chopped some parsley finely until I had about 1/3 cup and added that to a bowl with the juniper/yarrow mix. I chopped up 2 cloves of garlic and added that, then grated some lemon zest in there. Added about a Tbs of dried thyme and some salt and pepper, then mixed it up well. I added the juice from 1/2 lemon and a drizzle of olive oil to make a paste.

Then, I heated some olive oil up in an oven-safe pan and seared the roast in it for about 5 minutes, turning to get all the sides. Then I removed the roast from the pan and set it aside on a place. To the hot pan I added 1 onion, coarsely chopped, and let it brown for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. I added the roast back in and rubbed it with the mix I'd made. I tossed in a few sliced garlic cloves, some whole juniper berries, some springs of thyme, 1 cup water, and 1 cup chicken broth and brought that to a boil. Then I stuck the whole thing in a 350F oven and let it cook for an hour (longer if the roast is bigger!) After an hour I added some chopped potatoes and carrots and let it cook for another hour.

*Yarrow is another wild medicinal herb. You can leave it out if you don't have any, or add some rosemary or other bitter herb in its place.

It was a delicious roast, and tasted like the forest just as I had hoped. Plus once the added Juniper berries were stewed they weren't very bitter at all and were tasty to nibble on.

But I also wanted to try something sweet as well, and started thinking about various gin drinks that I enjoy as a starting point for inspiration. I remember one this summer that was made with muddled blueberries and gin, so I used that as an idea to launch me into brainstorming. One of my favorite desserts is an Australian treat called Pavlova, which is what I would imagine eating clouds tastes like, except with a lot more sugar ;) It consists of an airy and crunchy meringue base topped with fluffy whipped cream and fresh fruit. I decided to make a Blueberry Juniper Pavlova. I made the meringues using a basic meringue recipe, except I added about 1 Tbs of finely ground juniper berries to my meringues before piping them onto a baking mat. (For reference, my meringue batch was 6 egg whites, 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar, a pinch of salt, and 1 1/2 cups sugar.) If you need some good directions to make meringue, I recommend this site. Once the meringues were done, I topped them with some lightly-sweetened whipped cream and fresh blueberries. How'd they turn out? Awesome. These were so good! And I know it's not just me that thinks that because my minions had seconds...and thirds...and one for the road...and one for the husband... :) My only issue with them was that it was difficult to grind the juniper berries as finely as I would have liked, so the meringues were ever-so-slightly gritty. Perhaps making a juniper syrup and stirring it into the meringues would have worked better. It wasn't a big deal and would add an extra step, so just keep it in mind as a suggestion not a necessity.

Still want more? Check out this post by Serious Eats. It's seriously good.
Also, here's a collection of juniper recipes by a lot of fantastic wild foraging writers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Flow (art): throwback

As the rainy season in my new Oregon home is just getting underway, I've been thinking about water and the healing properties of it. This seemed like a good time to re-visit a project I did last spring, called "Flow." The writing below is for a spring event, but it is equally applicable to fall's reflections and preparation for change. 

Primordeal and powerful, water is ever-present in our lives. We are surrounded with water and filled with water and nourished by water. Water flows through us and our planet in an endless cycle of movement and cleansing. In the springtime, we watch the snow on the mountains melt and trickle down through our forests…and with it comes life. Lichens uncurl, moss returns to a vibrant green. The ground under our feet awakens and, if we’re lucky, we get to watch. 

We joined together in a meditation on the healing nature of water and the importance of slowing down and noticing the small details and subtle rhythms around us. I made a series of big ceramic bowls inspired by the swirling of water and the greens of moss and lichen, which were filled with forest infusions and hidden in the woods on a mossy path by a stream. 

Each bowl held a different infusion with a different purpose, from the enlightening elderflower to the grounding mugwort. Each participant got a small cup with which to sample the various infusions, a sketchbook to record their thoughts in, and a map of the infusions’ flavors that served as a guide to the experience. 

The flavors and scents of the infusions in the bowls guided each participant to unlocking their creativity through written prompts included in their map. They engaged all of their senses in becoming grounded, relaxed, and inspired in Idaho’s forests. We all embraced the flow.

Hopefully this winter when I inevitably grow tired of the constant raining I will remember the intention behind embracing water as a means to meditation and health. I will remember that it is life-giving and cleansing and soothing. I will wake up happy to hear the rain on my rooftop, and I will go out into the soggy woods and smell the scent of life. Oregon winter, I'm ready for you. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Minion Wednesday 10/21/15: Juniper and more acorns!

Learn more about minion wednesdays here.

To sign up, fill out a short application here.


I had some other plans for this week but I'm still waiting for a package with some key supplies, so instead this week we'll be continuing our exploration of acorns! If you didn't have a chance to come last week and learn about the correct ways to process acorns, here's another chance. Last week we shelled and ground acorns to (eventually) make into flour. This is being cold-processed in my fridge right now to leach all the tannins out. There's another (faster) way to leach the tannins out, though: hot-processing. These different process yield slightly different results: cold-processing is better for making flour to bake with, since it leaves the starches intact. Hot-processing is faster and is suitable for nuts you want to chop up and add to things, pickle, or eat more-or-less whole. Since I have a bunch of acorns left over, we'll use this as an opportunity to compare and contrast the different ways of processing them.


As a thank you for the help of my "minions," each week I will feed you something tasty. This week it's blueberry pavlova with juniper-flavored meringues! The strong balsam flavor of juniper berries will (hopefully) go well with the light sweetness of meringue and blueberries. This flavor combination was inspired by a particularly delicious gin and blueberry drink I had this summer. Pavlova is an Australian dessert that I learned from my mom, who lived there for a year as a child. I've always thought it is like eating clouds...if the clouds were made of sugar. ;) It consists of a light-as-air meringue base, a dollop of whipped cream (I'll make some vegan whipped cream too!), and some fresh fruit. This dessert is gluten free. (Also, keep in mind: part of the reason I am doing this program is to have "guinea pigs" to test my weird creations out on. This means I may not have made these particular recipes before so be warned! I appreciate honest feedback on them.)

If you have any extra pliers, hammers, or nutcrackers, bring those! They are helpful in the extraction of the nut-meats from the (fairly thin) acorn shells. If you'd like to bring wine/beer or a treat to share feel free to, though it is by no means required. 

Hope to see some of you there! :) Don't forget to apply, you can do so here:!apprentice/nxn7i

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Chanterelles (wild love)

Is there anything quite so flirtatious as a Chanterelle mushroom? Hunting them is a thrilling adventure. Their bright orange caps peek out from under old logs, hide under moss. Their enticing smell- a combination of fresh apricots and flowers and damp earth- lingers in the air and teases me as I search for them. If mushrooms had a personality they'd be mischievous and playful, always drawing me further into the woods.

This year, I was lucky enough to be accompanied on a mushroom hunt by my boyfriend. Let me tell you, mushroom hunting is just about the best date there ever could be. It's was so much fun to explore the woods together, letting out a good holler when I found some bright orange beauties staring up at me. And besides, chanterelles are sensual. Their sweet earthy perfume and perfect ridges and delicate texture evoke images of peaches and cream and silk and softness. Together we trudged through some damp woods by a stream, releasing the spicy scent of the wild ginger underfoot (I harvested some of that, too, for bitters and tea in the future) and damp moss and fresh mushrooms.

The light coming through the dark woods was mottled and green and the lichens dripping from the trees made us feel like we were elves or pixies in another world entirely. It's so easy to get lost in the moment when foraging which is why I love it so much. And it's even more fun to be able to share that love with someone else and see the light in his eyes when he discovered his first big patch of chanterelles:

As we harvested the chanterelles, we were careful to cut them cleanly from their stalks (leaving the bottom part of the stalk in the ground so more mushrooms would grow from it) and brush dirt and debris off gently as we went. It's generally not a great idea to scrub mushrooms or soak them for very long as they can absorb water and become damaged so we did as much in the field as we could.

Chanterelles, along with most wild mushrooms, are usually used in savory applications- cream of mushroom soup, in pastas, and accompanying meat. But the floral and fruity perfume of these mushrooms inspired me to try some sweeter applications. The first order of business, however, was to sauté some in butter for my trusty foraging partner and my dad so they could taste the pure deliciousness of fresh chanterelles. There's really no better way to highlight a chanterelle than a very simple presentation when they are super fresh.

But for the rest: processing time! I decided to start out by making chanterelle-infused cream and almond milk (since I can't eat dairy and I want to try my concoctions too!)

To do this, I combined 3 parts cream and 1 part almond milk. I roughly chopped some chanterelles and covered them with the cream mixture, then simmered them very gently for about half an hour. I let the mixture cool to room temperature, then stuck it in the fridge overnight. In the morning I heated it slightly and strained the mushrooms out. I froze the cream for further use and saved the mushrooms for some tasty pasta (see below.) To make the almond milk infusion I followed the same steps, except just covered the mushrooms with almond milk. I think I actually preferred the almond milk-infused chanterelles because the scent of the mushrooms was more noticeable. We'll see how each tastes in further tests!

I also decided to make candied chanterelles in syrup. I brought 1 part water and 1 part sugar to a slight simmer, then added 1 part chanterelles, roughly chopped  (large ones were quartered, small ones kept whole.) Simmer, stirring constantly, for 5 mins. Pour into hot, sterilized jars and process for 12 mins.

Chanterelle cream sauce for pasta:
First, make a roux out of butter and flour to make a base for your sauce. Then add the cream-infused chanterelles left over from making chanterelle-infused cream and add a good splash of white wine and a little more cream. Bring to a simmer and cook down to the desired consistency. Add a tiny bit of freshly-grated nutmeg and some salt and pepper to taste, then serve over al-dente pasta.

I got thea for chanterelle creme brûlée from one of my favorite bloggers, who focuses entirely on wild-foraged ingredients. Check out this post to see lots more recipes and the inspiration for the following experiment!

Back to featuring chanterelles in sweet applications. I got the idea for Chanterelle Creme Brûlée from one of my favorite bloggers, who focuses entirely on wild-foraged ingredients. Check out this post to see lots more recipes and the inspiration for the following experiment!  I was really excited to try enhancing the subtle sweet and floral tones of this mushroom in a delicate custard. I based my creme brûlée experiments on this recipe from Betty Crocker. Be sure to plan ahead since it has to chill a couple of times. I made the custard the night before I served it, then broiled the sugar topping the next morning so had time to set up again before my guests arrived. I made a batch with the chanterelle-almond cream, and also the chanterelle-infused almond milk so I could see the difference.

The verdict? Tasty! I could only try the almond milk ones since I am allergic to dairy, but I found it to be a lovely custard that still preserved the floral flavor of the chanterelles. My testers (read: minions) told me that their cream versions were also delicious, but a couple who tried both said they actually preferred the almond milk variety because it wasn't as thick and it was more delicately-flavored. I guess cooking the cream for a bit to infuse the chanterelle flavor thickened it up enough that it was a little too heavy for a creme brûlée. Also, I froze the cream when I made it for later use and as I was thawing it out I got quite worried- it seemed to have separated and had a weird consistency (I'm guessing from the water present in the mushrooms and the combination of basically scalding it.) I was concerned that this would make a grossly-textured brûlée or that it wouldn't even set up, but I couldn't tell the difference in the finished product. Good to know!

I plated them with some vanilla-infused whipped cream and a tiny little candied chanterelle. In the following photo they are surrounded by acorns, because that was our activity at this week's Minion Wednesday: shelling acorns to make some flour. (Stay tuned for future blog posts about that...)

All in all, they were a pretty tasty dessert that captured the flavor of chanterelles well. Highly recommend! And now I'm going to go eat my leftover one for breakfast...

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Minion Wednesday 10/14/15: acorns and chanterelles

Learn more about minion wednesdays here.


We'll be shelling acorns and processing the nuts into flour. Processing acorns is tricky business because of the tannins present in these nuts, but when processed correctly they yield a delicious sweet and nutty flour. Come learn the proper way to do this and help me prepare a stock for future projects.


I'll be testing out a recipe for chanterelle creme brûlée. I made some chanterelle-infused cream and almond milk that I am excited to try out in a sweet application since chanterelles have such a delicate and lovely fruity/floral scent. These treats will contain egg and dairy, though I will also be making a smaller test batch that is dairy-free. If you will require a dairy-free treat, please let me know when you RSVP.


Just your smiling faces!

See you at 6:30 at my home in Eugene! I will send you the address when I get your RSVP.

EDIT: We had a great time! The chanterelle creme brûlée turned out wonderfully, see photos on the chanterelle post. We processed roughly 10 lbs of acorns to be turned into flour- nice work team!

Introducing: Minion Wednesdays!

For years I've been asking Santa for minions every Christmas but he has yet to deliver and I'm sick of waiting, so I'm just going to figure out how to make my own ;)

I love apprentice-based learning. I am definitely a hands-on learner, so the opportunities I've had in my life to study under someone and learn from them have all been incredibly rewarding to me. And I love teaching and sharing what I'm passionate about, so the times in my life where I've been in that role have also been rewarding. I think it's a shame that in our money-based society true apprenticeships have largely fallen by the way-side. Everyone can benefit from this model of education! So I'm bringing it back.

That's me looking "hella optimistic"

Here's the deal: Every Wednesday evening from 6:30-whenever, I'll be hosting an informal gathering at my home here in Eugene. During this time, I will have some activities related to my art practice that I need help with- everything from processing wild foods to packaging bottles to assembling jewelry. In exchange for help, I'll trade my knowledge and skills so everyone attending gets educated in something new and interesting. It will also be an opportunity for me to test out fun new recipes on my "minions." I get free labor and company, you get delicious food and an education and probably plenty of bad puns. Sound fair?

Each week, I will post information about the up-coming meetup on Sunday night so people have time to RSVP by Tuesday. I'll let you know what we'll be doing, what I'll be feeding you, and if you need to bring anything special to help out. It'll be pretty informal-no need to attend every single Wednesday meetup by any means. Just come when you can and be sure to let me know ahead of time so I can make enough food for the masses. You can apply to attend by filling out the form on this page. If you've already filled one out and want to attend another week, just fill out the basic info- no need to answer the questions. Each week I will review applications, giving priority to those submitted first. I'll only select as many "minions" as I need for that week's activities- anywhere from 4-8.

Here's me teaching a class on mordanting fabric. Look at how well-behaved my students are!

A couple of guidelines:
*This activity is intended for adults, though if your teen is responsible and interested I will consider allowing younger participants.
*I am by no means an expert in wild-crafting, crafting in general, or teaching. But I do have quite a bit of experience with all of those and I teach with integrity; I won't pretend to know something I don't and will only teach what I am confident in teaching.
*This is a time for trying new things and experimenting. As such, I may not have much/any experience with the activity for any given night. I do my research but don't always know how something will work, so be warned. I am always open to suggestions!
*I am inviting you as a guest into my home, so please be respectful of my (and my landlady's!) belongings and space.

Hope to see you there! 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Chiaroscuro Book and Kraken Cookies

In honor of Halloween celebrations coming up, I wanted to highlight a recent project of mine: Chiaroscuro. See below for more info about the event, and remember that the book about it is
available on Amazon if you want to buy your own copy! It's full of photos from the event and behind-the-scenes photos of making it. It also has a recipe section full of all-black and all-white foods that would be perfect for a spooky buffet.

In case you are wondering what Chiaroscuro was, here's the artist statement:
Anyone who has ever survived hardship knows that the world is not all good, all the time. But the contrasts in life give it richness; the darkness gives light purpose. Without bitter, would we appreciate sweet? Without rough, would we notice smooth? I created a food-based event called "Chiaroscuro" highlighting the importance of these contrasts to facilitate acceptance of past trauma. It was set up as a cocktail party with a banquet table in the center, divided down the middle. On one side were all-black foods, and on the other their nearly identical all-white counterparts. The forms were the same, the colors and the tastes drastically different. Pungent horseradish salad juxtaposing nutty and sweet poppyseed paste highlighted the vibrancy of each. The event was a forum for discussion, an exercise in empathy, and an exploration of the idea that life is richer with its many contrasts. This book includes a full artist statement, photos from the event, recipes for every food item featured, and lots and lots of gorgeous pictures of the process.

You can also see more pictures from the event on my Facebook page or my website. I am so happy I was able to present this project, and I couldn't have done it without the support of my backers. So instead of just sending them the book, I sent them a little extra:

Some of these are coasters. Some of these are cookies. All of them went out as an extra "Thank you!" to my generous Kickstarter backers that made this project happen. 

There's just something about the black-on-black that I find incredibly alluring, don't you? But I'm not a fan of using food coloring in my food artwork- it's just not great for you and it makes me feel like I'm "cheating." So I decided that my challenge to myself was to make these cookies using only all-natural sources of black coloring.

Enter: Kraken Cookies.

These are a delicious hybrid of chocolate cookies and gingerbread, with a little extra kick: squid ink makes them a beautiful black color naturally and adds a very subtle umami flavor that rounds out the sweetness of the cookies just a bit and makes the flavor of the cookies a little richer (without tasting fishy at all.) The frosting packs a punch too- made with spiced rum (kraken, appropriately) and cocoa powder, it turns out a gorgeous glossy black to contrast the matte black cookies.

Oven 375F

In a bowl, mix:
3 ¾ cups flour
2/3 c. cocoa powder, sifted
1 Tbs. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. ground cloves

In a big bowl, beat until fluffly:
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup shortening or unsalted butter.

Then add:
1 large egg
¾ c. molasses
6-7 tsp. squid ink (this is usually salted which is why the salt was omitted from dry ingredients.)

Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed or by hand until just combined. Roll out dough between 2 layers of waxed paper (avoid using flour because it will show up on the black surface of the dough!) Roll to 1/4 “ thick and use your favorite cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Place on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and bake for 8-10 minutes. Let cool on the pan.


Beat 1 egg white with 1/8 c. rum and 2 pkg squid ink (about 1 tsp) and 1 tsp. vanilla.

Add ¼ c. cocoa pow and mix well. Add 2 ½ cup powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time and mixing well after each addition. Put in a pastry bag with a small round tip and pipe on cookies as desired. *note: you may need to adjust the consistency of the frosting a little bit. Add more powdered sugar to stiffen, or add more rum ½ tsp. at a time to thin.

*note: this post was not sponsored by Kraken rum, though it probably should have been! ;) 

Enjoy, and Happy Spooking! 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sunday Shareday

Every Sunday I'm going to start putting together a little list of the things that stood out to me during the week.

Did you know that violets produce a SECOND crop of flowers every year, but they are underground and secret and don't require pollination? Learn more about this cycle here.

An interesting article about the future of food...and bugs. Read about some tasty entomophagy here.

If you're interested in food politics, this is the article for you. It busts some common food myths (for example, did you know that there are only 8 GM crops in production right now?) and was definitely more than a little eye-opening for me.

Some exquisitely beautiful glass vases can be seen here.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Small Batch Creative Canning (wild love)

This fall, I've gone a little crazy about canning. I realized that once you know the basics (like that salt, sugar, acid, and alcohol are all preservation tools, and that processing in a hot water bath makes most fruits and vegetables safe to can), you can view canning as more a "guideline" than a specific recipe. I've processed lots of small batches of wild foods this fall from rose hips to elderberries to even rowan berries. Instead of using specific recipes for each food, I've stuck with a few "base" recipes and added on. If you're a first-time canner, I recommend following some actual recipes first so you can learn the rules and get the hang of it. If you vaguely know what you are doing, though, dive on in and get creative! It's really nice to just be able to do a jar or two of any particular kind of fruit to sample. 

Also it's worth mentioning that this bit  by the show Portlandia has been kind of my internal theme song all harvest season. ;) We can pickle that! We can pickle anything! 

Pickled rosehips flavored with some sprigs of yarrow and juniper berries 

Pickle Base: 

1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 Tbs. sugar
1/2 Tbs. salt
Pack your fruits/veggies into clean, sterilized jars and then heat this solution up until bubbling and the sugar and salt are dissolved. Then pour it into your jars, leaving about 1/2" headspace. You can add spices and herbs as desired to flavor the pickles, or keep it simple and let the produce shine. Once you've filled all the jars, gently wipe the rims with a clean damp cloth and then put the lids on, without screwing them on too tight. Process for 10-15 minutes in a hot water bath. Note: You can also try different kinds of vinegar (apple cider works well too) or try upping or lowering the sugar content to taste. 

Following my mantra "I can pickle anything," here are some pickled baby pinecones I made last spring. I made two batches; one more savory with cumin added, and one sweeter with fennel. They turned out pretty well with an interesting chewy texture and pine aroma. I think they'd be pretty good on a salad. 

Syrup Base 

(very heavy, which means the sugar content is high and the fruit will hold its shape better): 
1 part sugar
1 part water
Follow the directions above for pickling. If you are working with particularly tough fruits, you can let them simmer in the syrup for a few minutes before canning and processing. Add spices to flavor as desired. For some of my projects, I "recycle" syrups I made last year to flavor this year's canning projects. I made some rosehips in elderflower syrup I am particularly excited to try! 
If you'd like to try a recipe with less sugar, take a look at this helpful link detailing different options.  

Rowan berries in the Ambrosia base. I also tried some in the simple syrup (though with a slightly lower concentration of sugar) and pickled. Going to let these age for at least a few weeks before trying so their bitterness can be tempered. 

Elixir Base: 

Very simple, 1 part brandy (or other brown alcohol, rum is tasty too) to 1 part honey. I haven't canned with this recipe but I suppose you probably could, though the hot water bath process would weaken the alcohol and the heat may destroy some of the qualities of fresh fruit. My favorite plant to process this way is elderberries. Just fill your cleaned and sterilized jars about 3/4 of the way full with berries, then pour brandy to fill half and top with honey. You may need to come back later to "top it off" as it will take a while for the honey to fill all the spaces between berries. Let sit in a cool, dark place for 6 weeks before sampling. (Also, if you are using elderberries, keep in mind that they contain toxic compounds and should not be eaten raw. They are perfectly safe to eat after being frozen, cooked, or infused with alcohol.)

Sour pie cherries in an Amaretto syrup to be canned into delicious cocktail cherries. 

Ambrosia Base (similar to the Elixir base, but with a sugar syrup instead)

1 part water
1 part sugar 
spices as desired (I used fresh nutmeg)
Heat the above on the stovetop until it is slightly bubbling and the sugar is dissolved. 
Remove from heat and add 2 parts alcohol and a healthy squirt of vanilla extract and/or some almond extract. You can get pretty creative with the alcohol used- I used Amaretto but this would also be delicious with bourbon or brandy. You can mix and match too, if you'd like. Add the fruit and stir gently, then scoop the fruit out with a slotted spoon and place in clean, sterilized jars. Top with the syrup and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath. This recipe is loosely based on this link about making cocktail cherries. I was inspired to research some ideas as my mom and I were cleaning out our freezer and stumbled upon a bag of pitted sour cherries that she'd bought and processed this summer. I recalled tasting some pretty spectacular brandied cherries at a fancy bar and we decided to re-create the recipe. I also tried this recipe with Rowan (Mountain Ash) berries since I'd read here that they are vaguely similar to cranberries and need some sweetness to temper the bitterness. Let sit for 6 weeks to cure before sampling! 

Now, about the plants: 

As always, be mindful when foraging. Here is a post I wrote about foraging guidelines, in case you need a reminder! 


These lovely bight red fruits are super high in Vitamin C and other antioxidants. They're kind of a pain to process, though. You have to painstakingly cut each one open and scoop out the seeds and hairs inside to make them palatable; otherwise I would worry about the hairs being an irritant to the digestive tract. This will take a long time. Don't plan to make huge amounts of these guys, unless you have minions to do the work for you... I made some pickled rose hips with yarrow and juniper and some sweet canned rose hips in elderflower syrup and honey. Can't wait to see how they turn out! 

Rowan berries (aka Mountain Ash):

I had thought for a long time that these berries were poisonous, but apparently not! They contain the same toxic compounds as elderberries so they shouldn't be eaten raw- though it would be unlikely that anyone would eat enough of them to cause any damage since they are very bitter. Processing these berries destroys that compound and makes them safe to eat- cooking, freezing, canning, or drying are all good options. As I mentioned above, they are said to taste similar to cranberries so I tried processing them in sweeter syrups but also tried pickling them as well, just out of curiosity. These are also pretty high in antioxidants. Stay tuned for a post going into more details on this cool plant in about a month. 


These beautiful blue-black berry clusters are full of good stuff. Like the Mountain Ash berries, they need to be processed in order to be edible. When you process them, be sure to remove all the berries from the stems as the stems are toxic. These are particularly good cold medicine; the elderberry elixir mentioned above is a standby for flu season in my home. It's best to take small doses more frequently rather than a large dose once a day. These berries are slightly sweeter and less bitter than Rowanberries but still do well with the addition of some sugar. One of my friends cans hers in a salty brine to make faux "capers," which are delicious in salads! 

Cherries (bonus!) 

Not a whole lot to say about cherries, since they're more common and well-known. I didn't forage the cherries I processed this year, but I know that in many places you can find "feral" sour pie cherry trees. You can can sweet cherries or pie cherries, but I prefer the sour pie cherries because I think the cherry flavor is stronger in them. Naturally, you should use more sugar with less-sweet produce. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Petrichor (artwork)

We have stands for our cakes and cloches for our pies and flags for our cupcakes, but do we ever allow our humble produce such a lavish embellishment? No, my friends, we do not. But all that has changed! I have made a series of work from recycled glass that is meant to be the accessory your apples have always dreamed of. Named "Petrichor" in honor of the smell as the first raindrops hit the earth, these glass pieces show the elegant beauty of nature's own sparkling gems: dewdrops. Simple and clean, these elevate your fruit bowl to a whole other level. How do you like them apples?

I was inspired by all things dew while doing a residency at Heritage Farm, the headquarters of Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa in the summer of 2012. Seed Savers is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving genetic diversity and heritage through the sale and trade of heirloom seeds. I have long admired what they do so I approached them with the idea of doing an artistic residency, and they agreed to host me for three weeks. My stay there was heaven. During business hours I was able to work with a lot of friendly and welcoming staff members, and the rest of the time I was more or less alone on a big beautiful farm and had the place to myself. I took to taking early morning walks up to the orchard, which is up on a hill overlooking the rest of the valley. These walks were meditative, filling, and inspiring. The way the apples sparkled when covered with dewdrops made me wonder why anyone would want a diamond when they could have this expanse of beauty...

Growing up in Idaho, I wasn't used to the lush all-encompassing dew that was frequent in the muggy midwest. Every morning I was awestruck by this simple display of nature. I've already made some work about the plants and the dew I loved during my stay at SSE, but this project took the idea one step further.

The glass components are made out of recycled glass and serve as embellishments more than functional ware. I guess it is my slightly tongue-in-cheek way of pointing out what I find truly valuable.

The fruit displayed in these photos is from our local farmers' market. It's pretty beautiful on its own, but lovely when bedecked with my glass pieces as well!

I used the glass pieces as serving vessels, as well. Above are some zesty garden bites made out of frilly greens, cherry tomatoes, fresh goat cheese, nasturtium seedpods, and oregano flowers. They can be eaten much like one would eat an oyster; tipped back into the mouth.

Above is sweet rice with coconut and raspberries and pansies.
These pieces also were interesting when used as food presentation props. I covered up a dish with one of the larger Petrichor pieces. I loved how the glass diffused the form of the food underneath it, giving only vague colors and shapes. Then the diner was able to lift up the tactile form of the piece to reveal another tasty treat: Asian pears with honey, pecans, and multi-seed granola.