Foraging

Foraged Mushroom Stir Fry

Spring in West Virginia has been overly hot and wet this year. It is causing my family frustration with the home remodel but is making perfect weather for mushroom hunting. So I have been able without much effort to find some wonderful large wild mushrooms this year. But finding wild mushrooms is the easy part. I then have to identify the fungus and find the best way to consume the treasures. Some times that is more work then just finding an old log with a mushroom growing out of it.

white spore,  Chiken Mushroom, Laetiporus- Cincinnatus

white spore, Chicken Mushroom, Laetiporus- Cincinnatus

This mushroom is very common in the Ohio Valley or the Eastern US and it is named after the city of Cincinnati Ohio where it was first found and Identified ( Laetiporus- Cincinnatus). The common name is Chicken mushroom and it is edible and delicious. it is a mushroom that will regrow if collected correctly and the “stem” is left on the log or stump when gathering. This is one of a small group that grows in a rosette style rather than a single stem with cap.This is also one of the few mushrooms that freezes well. In this case the mushroom weighs about 2 pounds before cleaning and trimming and about is the size of a 13 X 11 sheet of paper. So I have enough mushroom to make several meals… in this case I will make two and then freeze the rest for a cold day to make a baked steak slow cooker dinner later in the fall.

As with any wild mushroom I will remind you that you need a good mushroom identification book or two and or person who has experience hunting wild mushrooms  before eating. Many wild mushrooms are poisonous and some are deadly within hours. I use a book titled Wild Edible Mushroom by Hope H Miller for almost all mushrooms we hunt and eat.The link above it to its listing on Amazon.com. It has wonderful color photos of the most easy to identify edible mushrooms. We are also lucky to have friends that hunt the mushrooms that are in this book and we share information and at times hunt for them together.

After bringing this boy home I needed to clean it. Because it is a large stalk style mushroom that is not tender to the touch, soaking in a sink full of cool water encourages any bugs, sticks, slugs and dirt to slowly drop to the bottom of the sink. I let mine sit in the water at least two hours. In this case it soaked over night. Then I trim the “petals” off the base root that is white, leaving only bright yellow backs on the mushroom. I even trimmed it again when I was getting ready to cook it just to make sure we got the most tender portion of the “petals” in my stir fry.

strips of chicken mushrooms on top of stir fry

strips of chicken mushrooms on top of stir fry

A stir fry is the most common way we use fresh wild mushrooms. In this case I just added the chicken mushrooms into a vegetable mix we already had in the freezer added some beef and topped it with our favorite sauce and dinner on a hot humid West Virginia night in about 15 minutes.

 

I stir fried the thin sliced steak in two table spoons oil at a high heat and then removed them from my skillet or wok. I added  2 pounds of frozen stir fry vegetables. In the mixture I used it already had the noodles in the bag. I added them to the hot skillet and stirred in the wild mushrooms. It took about 13 minutes to steam the vegetables and make sure the mushrooms cooked tender. I added the steak back in to the skillet and added  half bottle of Teriyaki sauce. Pretty simple but a Delicious way to add wild mushrooms to any stir fry.

We also love this mushroom breaded and fried in butter with a little Old Bay Seasoning as great appetizer before dinner. It is another way to introduce friends and family to the joy of mushroom hunting when you can share a large plate of crunchy, juicy ,wild food that tastes so good!

Happy eating and keep you eyes open for wonderful mushrooms that grow just about anywhere. This mushroom was about 100 feet from a barn under a thin canopy of trees on piece of log maybe 10 years old.

Categories: Foraging, mushroom hunting, Mushrooms, wild food | Tags: , , , , | 11 Comments

The Mystical Mushroom Photos

When my family mushroom hunts I take lots of photos. Some of them are just your average record keeping photos but others seem to bring back to life the feeling of the fairy garden and the deep woods legends. I have a dear friend ( Beverly) who reminded me years ago that it is important to still have contact with that magical place where we are children and free to explore and imagine. So over the last few years I have attempted to take the time that we spend in the woods to a more arcane place. To find the and photograph as many mushrooms as I can. Making the fungus seem larger than life and full of magical stories. So since I am still a novice mushroom hunter and photographer I hope you will bear with me over the next few years as I discover and explore my love for mushrooms on film.

poly-spore on tree limb

poly spore on tree limb

 

As a kid I was always drawn to the fairy art work that showed mushrooms in some way. I hope to add that feeling to my photos although some of the first photos I took of this subject matter were just about documentation of the verity that we had found. Like this first photo that actually got my interest peaked and made me want to find more. This photo shows a cluster of different mushroom we found growing on one log in one afternoon… I only wish I could find this type of thing again. I should have slowed down and taken my time with this photo but excitement got the best of me.

Large mushroom group growing together on the same log... amazing

Large mushroom group growing together on the same log… amazing

Then as the year past and I was unable to keep up with my sons and husband in hunting the eatable mushrooms I started looking at them with a more artistic eye and started to slow down ( broken bone in the foot really helped with this). So I started to look at them from that child point of view, with wonder and amazement and with the help of some photo editing I started to get photos that not only documented what we were finding but also started to show signs of the mystery that I find in the woods and with its inhabitants.

Honey Mushroom  in fresh spring dirt

Honey Mushroom in fresh spring dirt

double scarlet cup

double scarlet cup

 

Then on early morning this spring I found myself alone in the woods sitting on a high bank full of Poplar trees with no one around. Tom and I had headed to the woods to look for the famous Morels and I was just not able to keep up with them on the soft, wet, steep soil. So I sat for a long time looking at the tiny honey mushrooms that formed a Fairy Ring around one tree…. they were every where hundreds maybe thousands all smaller than a penny. I thought about the fairy ring and wondered if I could somehow capture parts of it. This is the result of thinking about our cultures mythology of the fairy ring and the mushroom.

mushroom with faded edges

mushroom with faded edges 2014

Fairy Mushrooms under the poplar trees.2014

Fairy Mushrooms under the poplar trees.2014

I have even begun to see my mushroom photos in a  way to communicate with others about my feelings as this photo shows. I took this photo along a road side on a broken trunk of a tree. I also love the way it looks with no words at all just a quite image of the slow decomposition process.

Einstein and the mushroom tree

Einstein and the mushroom tree

white tree mushroom

white tree mushroom

Some how these mysterious fungus have captured my heart and my imagination and I hope to continue to explore my woodlands for images of them that show off the beauty and mysterious world that we inhabit. So for now I will be keeping my eyes on the ground looking for my favorite thing in the woods.

Tree shelf mushroom on elm tree

Tree shelf mushroom on elm tree

Chanterelles waiting to be washed  and fried

chanterelles for dinner

turkey tail mushrooms on log with wild flowers

turkey tail mushrooms on log with wild flowers 2014

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Foraging, Mushrooms, mythology, photo review, Photos | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Cream of Potato, Wild Ramp and Ham soup

For anyone who loves spring in Appalachia there is nothing more defining in the spring then the smelly Ramp. A wild onion that many of us in the hills love and look forward too every year. The traditional way to cook a Ramp is to chop up the greens and all, frying it in bacon grease until soft and serve it with the traditional brown beans( pinto usually) corn bread and fried potatoes. I love this just like any hillbilly, but on occasion, I like to use ramps more like garlic and bring out more of their subtle  flavor. I came up with this recipe last spring  after we had a large amount of ham left over after Easter. Ramps are at the peak of their short month-long season during this time of the year and we loved this to use up left overs. I have other posts about Ramps if you want more recipe ideas.

Cream of Potato Ramp and Ham soupe

Cream of Potato Ramp and Ham soup

washed, roots removed and ready to eat

washed, roots removed and ready to eat

These are ramps that we forage for and then clean and freeze every spring for summer and fall use. Sadly, they never make it to winter because our family likes to eat them to much. So here is another way to eat a small bunch of ramps without using all the greens. A great way to use up wilted ones or some with out the green stems.

 

Ramps and Potatos

Ramps and Potatoes

 

This very simple soup is ready in about 30 minutes and produces about 6 servings..

Cream of Potato,Ramp and Ham soup

1/2 stick of butter

1 cup chopped ramp bulbs and 6 to 8 ramps with tops chopped fine

2 gloves or garlic minced

4 cups water

3 chicken bouillon cubes

5 med potatoes

1 1/2 cups left over smoked ham

3/4 cup instant potato flakes

1 can condensed milk or 8 0z of whipping cream

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

1 teaspoon celery flakes

salt and pepper to taste

 

 

I started with 5 med white potatoes peeled and diced into medium-sized chucks and about 1 cup ramp bulbs and about 6 ramps with tops and about 1 1/2 cups diced ham. Make sure that the ramps get well washed to remove any hidden dirt and chop them fine. They are hard like garlic so mince well to make sure they soften quickly.

melt 1/2 stick butter in the bottom of a 5 or 6 quart stock pot add minced ramps with tops and garlic and season with about a table-spoon salt and a dash of pepper. Saute until soft and aromatic about 5 minutes. Add 4 cups water, 3 bouillon cubes and chunks of potato simmer with Bay leaf about 20 minutes. Until the crisp edges of the potatoes begin to soften into the stock. Then add parsley and celery flakes and about 1 to 2 cups diced smoked ham. The soup appears to have a light green cast to it at this point.

ramps, stock and potatoes simmering

ramps, stock and potatoes simmering

 

Simmer again for about five minutes and then add 1 can condensed milk and about 3/4 cup potato flakes (you can substitute cream here, I usually always have canned milk on hand so I use it). This will thicken the soup and make it creamy without losing all the texture of the potato chucks in the soup. Make sure the potatoes are soft all the way through at this point, try to stab a chuck with a fork. The potatoes should fall apart or smash when stabbed, if not, continue to simmer for several more minutes. Remove the bay leaf and allow to cool and thicken. I wait about 8 to 10 minutes to thicken the soup.If it still seems to thin, add a few more tablespoons of instant potatoes and add more pepper if needed. Once you add the milk the color appears more of  a light tan with the green floating in the soup. Beware, if you add to many greens to the soup it will turn a wonderful grass-green color. I made a batch this way and a couple of my friends felt put off by green soup, so you may want to limit that amount of greens you add.

soup with condensed milk added

soup with condensed milk added

 

This soup also brings out he aroma of the ramps so if you are not completely used to the smell of roasting garlic or of fresh ramps you may not find the aroma of this soup appealing. Our family on the other hand looks forward to the smelly little guys and knows that with that scent comes a wonderful taste of spring. I hope you enjoy and eat more Ramps.

Field of wild growing ramps

Field of wild growing ramps

 

Categories: country cooking, Foraging, Ham, ramps, Ramps, soup | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Wine Making part 2: Dandelion Wine the Fermentation.

As all of you should know by now my New Years Resolution  was to learn more about and try to make fermented foods and drinks.   So far, I have learned to make  sauerkraut ( Toms family has made it for years so I had a lot of help on that one)  and now wine. There are several others I want to do like brine pickles, pickled beets ( I love these and have made them before) and maybe if time allows yogurt and farmer cheese. The items I am making are in the order of availability. Dandelions are everywhere so this just made sence to use for my first wine project. I  Have already posted about the equipment needed for this project and you can find them at preparations for Dandelion wine making part 1. In this post I will cover the ingredients and steps to get you through fermentation and the next post will cover racking and bottling and ageing.

After gathering your equipment and washing everything  and sanitizing it (I use a store-bought cleaner that has a chlorine base but does not taste like it) your carboy, funnel and buckets are ready to collect the needed flowers of  Dandelions.

just opening dandelion flower

just opening dandelion flower

 

Christopher picking Dandelions with a plastic kife

Christopher picking Dandelions with a plastic knife

We collected about 4 quarts of flowers that day,enough for my recipe that calls for 1 quart of flower petals to every gallon of wine. I was hoping to make about 3 gallons of wine this time.

After picking you need to remove any of the green that is still attached to the petals. Things like the stem and base of the flower. If you do not remove them they will give the wine a bitter after taste. I sat on the back porch cleaned the flowers for about an hour. This is the hardest part of the process and the most time-consuming. When finished I had Three quarts of very nice petals with very few green leaves mixed in.

Dandelion Petals

Dandelion Petals

I rinsed the flowers and tossed them around to make sure I had no full flowers that Christopher had been playing with on the porch or any bugs or leaves in the batch. I then heated about two gallons of water on the stove until a slow boil. Then poured the hot water over the petals in a five gallon bucket. Letting this mixture sit covered  for 2 or 3 days. Making the tea we will need to make the wine.

3 quarts dandelion petals with 2 gallons hot water. to make the "tea"

3 quarts dandelion petals with 2 gallons hot water. to make the “tea”

After three days I strained the tea throw a fine sieve that you saw in the top post getting almost every petal out. This made a nice yellow tea that is the base for the wine.

Strained Dandelion tea

Strained Dandelion tea

To  this tea, I added my fruit, spices, water, Campden tablets and sugar.

The first thing I added was a half a gallon of water…. I will be adding more later and some apple juice.

The fruit I am using are for flavor more than anything. Citrus fruit does not ferment fast or easy but it does add the acidity that you need for good flavor. My recipe calls for 1 lemon and 3 oranges . I add them and 1 box ( 2  1/2 cups) of white raisins to the tea. The raisins provide a nice flavor and a nutrient base for the yeast to grown on. I Also add 2 cups of 100% apple juice for the same reason as the raisins. At this time I also add spices to the tea. I use cinnamon sticks and whole cloves. I love mulled wine so I just thought I would save myself a step an add the spices into the wine, just a personal preference here.

Lemon, Orange and white raisins for a golden wine

Lemon, Orange and white raisins for a golden wine

 

100% apple juice as a nutrient starter for yeast adding more gold color

100% apple juice as a nutrient starter for yeast adding more gold color

Campden tablets get crushed and added to wine mixture

Campden tablets get crushed and added to wine mixture

cinnamon stick for flavore in wine

cinnamon stick for flavor in wine

Now lets talk about the Campden tablets for a second, They stop wild yeast growth and lots of bacteria and sanitize your wine, they help to remove chlorine and other water additives. I used filtered bottled water for my wine but if you use tap water this will help remove the flavor. My easy to fallow rule is one tablet for 1 gallon of wine. I Crushed and added them to the tea and fruit mixture to kill any wild yeast that could be growing on the fruit.Wild yeast loves over ripe fruit so do not use it as it could turn the wine you are working so hard to make into a nice rotten batch of vinegar. Stopping the wild yeast also lets you introduce the type of yeast you want for wine making.  You can certainly use regular old bread yeast to make wine but if you want to make the best tasting wine it is better to use a yeast for your type of wine. Also Campen tablets let you control the length of fermentation better. You know when you add the yeast and how much yeast, rather than letting wild yeast control you.  So adding the tablets now stops any strange bacteria and yeast growth that you may have accidentally added to your brew and you start out with a nice clean fresh product to add the  Montrachet yeast to. You should add the Campden tablets at least 24 hours before adding the yeast.

The next and most messy is adding the sugar that the yeast will have to convert into alcohol. The general rule is 4 cups sugar  per gallon of wine. In my case I added twelve cups of sugar to the tea and then took a measurement with a tool for wine making called a hydrometer.This is a way to measure the sugar content in the wine and  project alcohol level of the wine after fermentation. They are a complex tool and you may want to learn more about how to use all the things they can do. The tool is also used in beer and liquor making.

Hydrometer flouting in the tea mixture

Hydrometer flouting in the tea mixture

Thermometer and Hydrometer

Thermometer and Hydrometer

After taking the reading off the hydrometer I went to the included chart and 1.09 specific gravity = dry wine and we wanted something a little sweeter so I needed a specific gravity around 1.11 to 1.14, sweet wine runs 1.15 to 1.17. I measured in at 1.10 so with 12 cups of sugar I was low for the sweetness I was looking for.My projected alcohol count was to low also  at about 8%. We need more sugar to make a product that was med-sweet and had an alcohol content of 12%. So I added 4 more cups of sugar, mixing them in two at a time and taking a measurement each time.My final product was 1.130 specific gravity and projected alcohol content a little high at 14%. I will adjust the alcohol content later at bottling by adding water to the mixture to reach the exact amount of alcohol in the batch if that is a concern. Since this is a home-made batch it will not matter too much as I am not selling this in the retail market.

Organges, Lemons, spices and raisins are added to the tea

Oranges, Lemons, spices and raisins added to the tea

Now that we have added all of our flavorings to the tea, the half gallon of water, the campden tablets, and almost ten pounds of sugar to the tea, we are ready to let this mixture sit for about 48 hours.This steeps the raisins and spices flavor into the tea/sugar mixture. This also gives the campden tablets time to kill any wild yeast  before adding in the my wine yeast.

So two to three days later I open up my bucket and see this.

soaked raisins oranges and lemons floating in tea

soaked raisins oranges and lemons floating in tea

The mixture is ready for yeast and getting the fermentation started.

To get the yeast ready I placed 2 cups warm water in a measuring cup with a thermometer and looked for a temperature between 100 degrees and 105 degrees. I opened the package of yeast and dumped it into the water, mixed and waited for the yeast to get frothy, around ten minutes. I then add it to my bucket of fruit and tea and mixed well. The tea will start to bubble very shortly after adding the yeast.  

warm water with thermometer and yeast

warm water with thermometer and yeast

I got my yeast off the internet from northernbrewer.com a nice med to dry wine yeast that can handle higher amounts of alcohol. Yeast will eventually die from too much alcohol.This one is good up to 13 % alcohol per volume, table wine is usually 12% and home-brew is usually about 14% if you like a sweeter wine higher if you like a dryer wine. We are hoping for an alcohol percent about 12%. I also bought my campen tablets, air lock, bottles and other supplies at this website.

This bubbly frothy mixture we now need to strain out of the “primary” ferment container into the “Secondary” or Carboy bottle. I just took a slotted spoon and pulled out the larger pieces of fruit and spices then strained the remaining tea mixture through a muslin fruit straining bag over my funnel. Get a large one if you hope to make other fruit wines or jelly this one is a med size and would have worked better if it was just a little bigger.

straining the fruit must from the new wine

straining the fruit must from the new wine

Now remove the funnel and add a universal bunghole with an hole and the air lock itself.

bunghole and airlock in place

bunghole and airlock in place

Fill the airlock half way with water to allow for the Co2 to escape and to prevent air from entering the bottle.  Again you do not want any wild yeast or germs or bugs into the wine.With in just minutes of moving this bottle to its hiding place it began to move the water in the air lock into one side of the tubes and was bubbling out Co2 out the top.Within hours our home was about 72 degrees and the bubbling was constant.

 

carboy with airlock hidden away under my kitchen counter

carboy with airlock hidden away under my kitchen counter

I placed the “secondary”  carboy under my kitchen counter. It is out of the families way and in the shade from the sun. Ten days from now I can taste a nip and do another check with my hydrometer to see if all the sugar is gone and to see what % of alcohol we have. If I hit 14% we know that we are at the end of fermentation.

The next post at the end of the ten days will be about racking the wine and bottling it. This is the final steps in the process and then ageing the wine about 6 months to a year in recommended.

 

 

Here is my recipe for Dandelion wine

 

16 cups of sugar ( about ten pounds)

2 1/2 gallons filtered water, two cups warm water for yeast

3 quarts dandelion petals. We picked about 4 to get this

3 oranges

1 lemon

2 1/2 cup golden raisins… or one box

2 cups apple juice

2 cinnamon sticks

20 whole cloves

1 packet powered wine yeast

3 campden tablets

and fallow the above directions…

Thank you for stopping by this  is my most exciting project of the year.Hope you enjoy it as much as I have making it!

 

Categories: Dandelions, fermentation, Foraging, home brewing, organic drinks, wild food, wine | Tags: , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Weekend Forage Feast, Chives and Watercress

my weekend collection of foraged foods, Ramps, Parsnips, Watercress, Chives, a land turtle shell and a shelf mushroom( not edible)

my weekend collection of foraged foods, Ramps, Parsnips, Watercress, Chives, a land turtle shell and a shelf mushroom  (not edible),but fun to look at.

The spring has finally arrived for a few days here in the mountains of West Virginia. I am so thankful for the warming sun. The weather was finally warm enough (even in my cast) we were able to spend the day with family friends foraging on and around their homestead. We are in the middle of Ramp season here and the whole state is out looking for the wonderful wild leek. The community dinners have started and the cooking has begun. I have written about Ramps the Wild leek  before for those of you who have not heard of them. Today’s Post is going to cover a couple of other wild greens that grow and ripen at the same time in the spring as Ramps. First, is another wild onion that all most everyone has heard of and that is Chives. Another aromatic member of the onion family.

wild chives

wild chives

This little guys packs a punch of wonderful hot peppery goodness in the greens although the bulbs are sweet. This is a very close photo of what they look like and makes them appear larger then they are. The tiny leaves are not round like a green onions but more a flat ribbon. They are a Kentucky blue grass-green rather than the blue /green/gray of wild onions. These also grow more like a grass in clumps rather than the single stem of wild onions. The field we were working in looked like this with thousands of chives clumps above the short growing grass of spring.

Photo of wild chives growing the back yard photo by Pamela Silvestri

Photo of wild chives growing the back yard photo by Pamela Silvestri

I gathered 5 or 6 clumps of these flavorful plants and took home enough for several meals. I also wanted to transplant a few so that I would have them ready next year. So now I have a pot full that I can grow right on the porch and I will get to see them bloom each summer. The other green that we collected  were Watercress and sadly they are at the end of the their season already. They are early bloomers and are most tasty before they get the hard stalks with blooms.They are primarily a March green one of the first that is found every year.

Watercress close up

Watercress close up

They are most often found around the edges of a creeks or streams but in our case here in West Virginia they will grow any where their is a damp place this includes under the eves of my house where the water runs off the roof. This is a photo of the full-grown plant just before blooming.

Watercress growing in the back yard about to bloom

Watercress growing in the back yard about to bloom

The flavor of watercress reminds me of spinach and the nutritional value is twice or three times that of iceberg lettuces . So it is an easy to use addition to any salad or cooked green. So with some of the freshly foraged foods that we found with our friends Kenny and Sylvia we were able to make  a couple of nice salads, a skillet full of fried Parsnips and a couple of dinners with fried Ramps. All free, All organic and with twice the nutritional value of store-bought foods.

My friends and the property that we foraged  on this weekend

My friends and the property that we foraged on this weekend

The salad that I made was the highlight of our dinner last evening. A ramp, watercress salad with pecans and blue cheese crumbles.

Ramp Watercress and Pecan salad

Ramp Watercress and Pecan salad

The this salads recipe adjusts  with any ingredients that you find that day but this is what we used for dinner that evening. Watercress, Ramp, Pecan salad. 1 cup iceberg lettuce torn into bite size pieces 1 cup baby spinach torn into bite size pieces. 1 cup Watercress torn into bite size piece. 4 ramps cleaned and diced small. 2 table spoons blue cheese crumbles. 1/3 cup pecans chopped. topped with 2 table spoons fresh chopped chives. Tom and I like this salad with a nice light vinaigrette or a sweet Russian or French dressing. I served this salad with broiled pineapple slices and Teriyaki pork chops. It was a wonderful light spring meal.

Teriyaki pork chops, Candied grilled Pineapple and wild greens salad

Teriyaki pork chops, Candied grilled Pineapple and wild greens salad

I encourage you to think out side of the “Produce Section” box. Finding and eating wild food is a skill that I am still building on every year. I try to add at least one new wild food to my foraging every year. I encourage you to look at your yard or property as a place to feed you family and grow better heath.Not only with in your garden but the wild weeds that grow near your home. I also encourage you to think about taking care of your own family in a time of trouble. Eating the weeds is just another way of preparing for an uncertain future. I know my family will eat well even when others may not.    “Just food for thought “.                                      Thanks again for stopping by and eating along with me.

Categories: Chives, cooking, Foraging, Hardwood forest, Homestead, organic foods, ramps, Watercress, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Dandelion Wine Making Preparation Begins part 1

I have several friends who over the years have made their own wine, schnapps , sherry’s and flavored liquors. I just never thought that I would be one of them. About a year ago I realized that I use a lot of wine to cook with. So I decided to make my own for half the cost. I do not regularly drink red wine as I am allergic to something in the tannin’s of the red grapes but love a lighter and sweater white wine with dinner or when out with friends. So why not make home-made wines to drink and cook with. My home-made wines would keep me from getting allergic headache  and would still be pleasant to cook with. West Virginia is also over run with natural wild ingredients  that cost very little to make into a favorable wines.

Bowl of fresh picked and cleaned Elderberries

Bowl of fresh picked and cleaned Elderberries

The idea for making home-made wine deepened this Christmas holiday when a friend shared some of her wonderful apple liquor with us.  When I asked where she bought it I was given a typical Hill Billy response… ” At the getten place”. Meaning that she was not telling me who or where the wonderful “hooch” coming from. Years of moon shining  and prohibition in these mountains still make folks around here suspicious of sharing this kind of information.When I asked if their was more for sale I just got a laugh and a ” Maybe”… meaning if I had enough money I might be able to get some but mostly I should just enjoy the evening and forget about getting my hands on this hand-made treasure.  This just sparked the fire and the thoughts began, “I can make this, I am sure I can do this”!

After talking with several people I have compiled at list of what a  beginner wine maker needs and what is just handy to have to make two simple wines over the course of the summer. I will include this list at the bottom of this post. The two wines I hope to make are Dandelion wine with out a grape base and Elderberry wine.  I see no reason to make myself sick so I will not use grapes in these two versions. I also will make about 5 gallons of Apple cider vinegar with the same ingredients and containers. I also find that using fresh and  free ingredients makes this project cost-effective. This project should only cost a dollar or two a bottle when done with an end result of 10 gallons of wine and 5 gallons of vinegar.

I also recommend reading about fermentation and what you can achieved just in your own kitchen. I have found vast amounts of help through reading and on the internet that will help me as I progress through this new adventure.

me with experimental wine bottle

me with experimental wine bottle

This is  a photo of all the basic equipment is all I need to start a small batch of home-made wine.

basic supplies for small batch home wine making

basic supplies for small batch home wine making

In this photo I have two five gallon buckets, a five gallon carboy with filtered water, 10 feet of 3/8 inside diameter vinyl  hose, One universal stopper for carboy with hole for air lock, air lock, 3 packages of yeast, 12 bottles with screw tops.  The three other items that you may want to add to your list that I still need to pick up sometime in a future shopping trip are.

potassium -sorbate to stop fermentation

potassium -sorbate to stop fermentation

This additive stops fermentation so you can add sweeteners if the wine is to dry.

these tablets are added to preserve the wine and prevent bacteria growth to keep wine from turning to vineger

Campden tablets

The Campden tablets prevent wild yeast and bacteria from growing in the wine. This will stop mold growth and wine from turning to vinegar. A must have if you are making hard apple cider and many grape wines with low acid content.

Hydrometer and tube

Hydrometer and tube

Then lastly a Hydrometer to measure the alcohol/ sugar content of the wine so you have enough sugar for fermentation and to track of the amount of finished alcohol per batch.

With all of this new never used equipment I would say I have about 100 dollars in everything inculding shipping. Some of these things we got local and some we ordered on-line. I am making one more trip to a local store in the next couple of weeks to get the campden tablets and hydrometer for the dandelion wine. The potassium-sorbate I will not need until I make the Elderberry wine later in the summer, it will needed when I add additional sweeteners and I hope to use organic honey for my sweetener.dandelionwine

I am still learning and with friends from a local winery maybe I can skip some of the most common made mistakes and share them here with all of you. So tomorrow I head over to Lambert’s vintage wines to get some first hand tips and recommendations from a family that started their vineyard in their kitchen a decade ago and now have a thriving business. I hope  to share some of the beautiful photos from their winery and interview one of the owners. Maybe by the fall I will have a well stocked shelf of home make wines like these and some custom labels to go one them.

Categories: apple cider vinger, Apples, Elderberry, fermentation, Foraging, home brewing, organic drinks, organic foods, wine, wine, winery tour | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Wild Mushroom ( Hen of the Woods)( Chicken Mushroom) Penne Pasta

One of my favorite things about West Virginia is finding wild mushrooms. I modified the ingredients for this dish around the holidays when Tom and I grew sick of eating turkey and ham. This recipe could use any mushroom but as I have learned more about wild mushrooms it is wonderful for the meaty and almost fibrous Hen of the woods.

Hen of the Woods...Grifola frondosa

Hen of the Woods…Grifola frondosa

Hen of the Woods can range from almost white to almost totally grey.It ranges in size from about a pound to some here in West Virginia that have come in at 80 pounds. This mushroom a choice edible. The Hen of the Woods  should not turn blue/black when bruised  and should not have  an unpleasant odor.  The small mushroom on the left of this photo is the one that we took in the house to eat as it was a gift from friends. Our little mushroom hit the scale at about 5 1/2 pounds. Just as a size reference it took up the entire dish strainer when I cleaned it.  The center mushroom was about 12 pounds and about the size of my kitchen sink.

cleaning and draining a Hen of the woods Mushroom

cleaning and draining a Hen of the woods Mushroom

Warning…  edible mushrooms are easy to mix up with poisonous ones  learn them before you eat.

As with any of my mushroom posts I encourage everyone who wants to start looking for mushrooms to buy several mushroom identification books and find other hunters in your area to help with identification.  Some wild mushrooms are very poisonous and can kill a grown human in a few hours.  Remember to only try one new mushroom at a time.That way if there is a reaction to the fungus, you know what type of mushroom it is making you ill. Cook all wild mushroom before eating this also reduces allergic reactions to the fungus. Always keep a sample of the mushroom in case you have misidentified the mushroom and need medical attention. Get an outside person to look over your findings…. can’t hurt to have a second pair of eye looking at what you want to eat.

I cleaned this large mushroom in a large sink full of warm water. The water needs to cover the entire mushroom and it should ideally soak for about 25 to 30 minutes. This allows the small bugs, slugs, dirt, leaves or any other unwanted matter time to drown or soften and float to the bottom of the sink. Remove the mushroom from water, drain and rinse again with tap water. Place the clump of wet mushroom in dish strainer to drain. The mushroom can now be canned, frozen, or cooked. I cut this big guy up and froze about 3/4 of it for the winter.

bag of frozen Hen of the Woods mushrooms

bag of frozen Hen of the Woods mushrooms

Hen of the woods is one of the few mushrooms that freeze extremely well and does not lose its firm texture  when thawed. So this one is a wonderful winter cooking staple. After cutting up the large mushroom I patted the branches dry and placed about 2 pounds per bag. Using about two cups of frozen branches for the following recipe.

Hen of the Woods Penne Pasta

Hen of the Woods Penna Pasta

Hen of the Woods Penne Pasta

serves 5 to 6  baked at 350 degrees

  1. quart Italian tomato sauce or marinara sauce
  2. 1 pound penne pasta
  3. 1 pound Italian Sausage ( we use sweet or mild)
  4. 1  green sweet bell pepper
  5. 1 med yellow onion
  6.  2 cups Hen of the Woods thawed mushrooms
  7.  2 cloves garlic crushed
  8. 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  9. 2 cups shredded cheese Mozzarella, Cheddar, or blended cheese

Begin with a 2 quart casserole coated with cooking spray or butter the casserole dish set a side. Boil salted water in a large pot and cook 1 lb noodles until about 3/4 the way soft. Drain noodles and set a side. They will continue to cook when baked with other ingredients  in oven.

In a large skillet break up and brown 1 lb of sweet Italian sausage. When browned all the way through remove from pan and set a side. To skillet oils add garlic and thawed mushroom and saute until mushrooms begin to brown at the edges.

saute mushrooms and garlic remaining oils in skillet

saute mushrooms and garlic remaining oils in skillet

Then add in onions, peppers, saute until onions begin to turn translucent and peppers begin to soften , under cook the vegetables so they remain some what crunchy they will continue to cook in the oven when baked.

Hen of the Woods, onions. peppers and garlic saute

Hen of the Woods, onions. peppers and garlic saute

Add cooked sausage to casserole dish followed by cooked mushrooms and vegetables. Mix together and add one quart of pasta sauce, 1 pound of cooked penna pasta.

sausage, onion, peppers, hen of the woods mushrooms, garlic in casserole dish

sausage, onion, peppers, hen of the woods mushrooms, garlic in casserole dish

Add into mixture 1 cup Parmesan cheese and mix well. Cleaning the rim of dish after mixing to prevent burning while in oven. Top mixture with shredded cheese and bake covered at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

adding pasta, Parmesan cheese and sauce to mixture in cassarole

adding pasta, Parmesan cheese and sauce to mixture in casserole

 The  topping will appear melted and the filling will appear bubbly when ready to eat. We serve this will garlic bread and a romaine lettuces salad. Making a nice meal that helps incorporate  the woodiness of the wild mushroom without making it distracting in a main dish.  This is one of my husbands favorite dishes as long as I leave the pepper, onion and mushrooms in large slightly crunchy pieces.  

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Just for fun here is a photo of an over grown Hen of the woods that my husband and a friend found while working along a road side for the DOT in 2010.This one was almost to big to eat at 80 pounds and really tough.

Mark Metzger with huge chicken of the woods

Photo used with permission from Mark Metzgar 2013.

Categories: country cooking, Foraging, Hardwood forest, Mushrooms, West Virginia, wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Puffball mushrooms, Safty tips and Recipe.

  This time of year in West Virginia is a blend of late summer heat and cool rainy days. Perfect weather for wild mushrooms. This last week has been full of friends dropping by saying, ” While we were out in the ( you pick the place), woods, river bank or yard, we found this… mushroom. We were wondering if you can eat it ; do you know what this one is? Well most of our  friends do know something about mushrooms so they do look for the edible ones but it is always nice to have some one back you up on what you have and if you should eat it.

two puffball mushrooms cut in half each one larger then a large onion

two Puffball mushrooms cut in half each one larger than a large onion

    On Tues a friend dropped these two mushrooms off at the house he found them on the creek bank behind his house.  Puffball mushrooms are very common and easy to find but to need  cut in half when small to make sure they are not Earthballs or confused with a starting bud of the POISONOUS AGARIC mushroom. At this size a Puffball can not be  confused with any other mushroom making it very safe to harvest. Earthballs are small round mushrooms that are a dark purple inside and smell very strong they are not for eating. The other poisonous agaric mushroom also forms into a white button when small and eventually forms a traditional ” toads stool” when mature.                                                           

 If you were to confuse the two while small the safety tip is:

    Slice open the ball and see if an egg-shaped cap appears inside the button,in some cases it looks like the soft outline of a mushroom growing inside the button. Do not eat the ones that have anything inside other than creamy white flesh.The inside of the Puffball is white and looks like cream cheese.It can be sliced and fried or chopped for other uses. Use them fresh and do not let the mushroom turn grainy or chunky that is a sign that the mushroom is deteriorating and spoiled. Always cook wild mushrooms some people are sensitive and could get an upset stomach when eating any mushroom cooking does help reduce the chance of an upset.

The frist step to cooking a Puffball is to remove the outside skin. This leaves you with the creamy white clean insides to eat.

The outer skin removed from a large Puffball mushroom

The outer skin removed from a large Puffball mushroom

     Again this was a 1 pound mushroom  so with company on the way for dinner I thought an appetizer was in order and took half of the mushroom and chopped it fine and made a warm mushroom dip with garlic crackers. The dip  left on the thin side has many uses like sauce for chicken or over noodles for a meatless mushroom meal.

This is what the thickened dip looks like and it was a hit with company as I finished making the rest of dinner.

Puffball warm chip dip

Puffball warm chip dip

    Warm Puffball chip dip

1/2 pound mushroom finely chopped ( any mushroom will do)

1 stick butter softened

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons minced onion

3/4 pound of sour cream

1 bouillon cube (dissolved) or 1 Korr chicken broth tub

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons flour ( optional, omit for sauce)

chips, crackers, or vegetable slices

 1. Saute mushrooms in a large frying pan on medium heat with 5 tablespoons butter and lemon juice until tender.

2. Add finely chopped onion.

3. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Add sour cream, bouillon granules, and salt and pepper and simmer 3 minutes.

5. mix flour and two table spoons butter together into a paste  use as a thickener for dip.

6. Add paste to hot sauce and stir until thickened.

7. serve warm in a fondue pot in small slow cooker for party’s.

 yields about 3 to 4 cups.

   In my effort to learn more about mushrooms I have gained lots of safety tips and the above recipe from the wonderful book listed below. It is the book that we use the most.  I think every beginner should have a copy the photos are wonderful and the information shared is simple and easy to use. I take it with us every time we are out in the woods.

             “Wild Edible Mushrooms”

             tips and recipes for every mushroom hunter 

                                by Hope H Miller.

The book is easily found on Amazon at this link http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Edible-Mushrooms-Recipes-Mushroom/dp/0762771437/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1382016858&sr=1-1&keywords=Wild+Edible+Mushrooms.

My son also bought me a second identification book for my birthday it is more of a traditional field guide with thousands of mushrooms and drawings. It is useful to give a second description for a new mushroom and is handy for ones that look so similar. It is recommend having at lest two books to use while trying to identify wild mushrooms.

                         “Mushrooms”

                          Peterson field guides

               By Kent h. Mckight/ Vera B. Mcknight

again the Amazon link http://www.amazon.com/Field-Guide-Mushrooms-America-Peterson/dp/0395910900/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1382105122&sr=1-2&keywords=mushrooms+field+guide

  This book covers a larger verity of mushrooms and is handy when a question about what verity you are looking at or what ones are edible.Since we focus our time on the edible ones I use this book less often, but find it useful. Amazon lists several field guides, and regional guides to help with identification.

 Mushroom hunting has been on of the best hobbies that our family enjoyed  the last few years. It is something everyone can do and share in from the littlest in our family to the oldest. The locations are not limited to the woods. As I explained the Puffball above was found in my husbands best friends back yard along a creek bank .So even a nice walk through a park or  stream side maybe the place to find wonderful mushrooms to share. It is the time together walking, cooking and eating that makes this experience so much fun and healthy. It is nother way for me to eat healthier and be less dependant on society for my food. It is hard to believe but just one Puffball made about 3 quarts of meatless soup and a wonderful dip for entertaining all free for the taking. It is a lesson I am so glad I am learning.

Tom and Christopher mushroom hunting in Jane Lew , Wv

Tom and Christopher mushroom hunting in Jane Lew , W.V.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: cooking, family fun, Foraging, Jane Lew, Mushrooms, wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A New Passion… Mushroom Hunter.

    This has been an idea in my head for years…. Hunting Mushrooms. I find that my passion for foraging just grows year after year. I spend more and more of my free time in the woods looking for wild edible foods. This year my son bought me two mushroom hunter guide books for Christmas. He bought them after a conversation we had about how we should take up the hobby so that we can spend more time in the woods in the summer. Summer is our OFF season, trout fishing is over and deer hunting is not in season, so we really had no reason to go into the woods in July. That all changed a couple of weeks ago when we began Chanterelle mushroom hunting for ourselves.

   With help and encouragement from my husband’s friend Mark Metzger, Tom and I took off on a Saturday morning to a woods that my husband has hunted for years. We had photos and seen real examples of the mushroom we were looking for. We read where these tasty morsels grew but you never really know what you will find until you try. Our hopes were high that the mushroom hunt would fill our bags, we were not disappointed. We ended up with about two pounds if bright yellow flesh ready to eat.

Here is a photo of our friend Mark with a mushroom of a life time,a portion of a 100 pound “Chicken of the Woods” mushroom found in a drainage ditch while at work. Working for the DOT sometimes has its advantages… Mark Metzger with huge chicken of the woods

    It was this photo and story that pushed me into this new adventure. I wanted to see, find and eat something like this. I knew that edible mushrooms were just waiting for me to find and enjoy them. We started off looking for some of the easiest to identify wild mushrooms so that we were sure to stay safe and get an easy start on this new project.

  Our first steps were to pack up for the trip. I read and reread the ways to ID  the Chanterelle, the mushroom type we wanted to find. We packed several “green” grocery bags, a roll of paper towels, a couple of pocket knives and water bottles. We all dresses very comfortable yet in jeans. This time of year you tramp through wild roses and brier batches along every hill-side. We did not travel along pathways or trails, we brush busted through groves and thickets. I also took along our “for beginners” identification book just in case of confusion and of course my camera.

  It took Tom, Christopher and I  several minutes to get to the proper location for chanterelles. They only grown in the darkest part of the woods under mostly oak trees. To find an area with the correct environment took about an hour of hiking. GE DIGITAL CAMERA

We past thousands of mushrooms that morning of every color, style and size. One of the most interesting ones was this beauty, possibly a Morgan mushroom.

what we think was commonly known as a morgan ploypores mushroom

what we think was commonly known as a Morgan polypore mushroom

  Since we were not totally sure what this thing was we left it to grow and just took a photo of it. I at some time hope to use the photos in paintings and drawings. 

   The grove we found our mushrooms in is old and thick. The canopy was full,  making the ground dark and damp, very little vegetation lived on the ground. Only the wondering grape vines and the yellow of the chanterelle were visable.The chanterelle’s bright yellow trumps are hard to miss in the dark of the woods. We literally passed from one level to another on the hillside picking as we move down. Of course I was so excited to see the little guys I forgot to stop and take a picture of the hill-side covered with little yellow flower like mushrooms (live and learn). We ended up with about two pounds of mushrooms from this location. We also left some of the smaller ones for later and to make sure that the spores dropped on the ground for the next generation of chanterelle.

Tom passing fallen tree to area where we found the Wild Mushrooms

Tom passing fallen tree to area where we found the Wild Mushrooms

   Also while wondering in the woods, we found another type of edible mushroom in a random passing of dead trees called  boletes. I collected them also but made sure not to mix the mushrooms in the same bag and rapped each in a paper towel to remove some of the moister that was on all of the mushrooms. Some were still water-logged from the weeks of rain we had just gotten through.  This type of mushroom also has no gills but has the shape of any common mushroom, but it does have a more flattened cap and velvety appearance.

frist botele mushroom found that day

first Bolete mushroom found that day

  We brought home about 6 Bolete mushrooms and was able to identify them as Bragger’s Boletes and will look for them again when we head out next time.

     The most popular mushrooms that also grow in West Virginia are Morels. They are an easy to spot spring mushroom that also grows in the dark oak groves of the Appalachian mountains. Tom and I did not have time this year to pursue hunting them but our friend Mark was able to find some. We have added this to the list of things we hope to do next spring.

Mark Metzgar with Morels and a Lewis County, West Virginia widow sign

Mark Metzger with Morels and a Lewis County, West Virginia widow sign

    Edible mushrooms are fun to collect, spending a day off in the woods is refreshing, but it is even more enjoyable to eat what you have found. I have always been a fan of trying new things in the kitchen so cooking up a batch of wild mushrooms is not hard.  Tom, Bill(a family  friend) and I cleaned and fried up our treasure in flour and butter.I added a little salt and pepper for flavor cooked them over low heat. The taste was a rich and strong mushroom flavor… and they melted in you mouth. I really wonderful way to start a meal.

flouring the mushrooms

flouring the mushrooms

  I can’t really put into words what it is that I love so much about foraging for food. It is like treasure hunting for me. I get an idea about what I want to find and some how God and the earth provides me a place and time of year to find it. I enjoy my time in the wilderness it recharges and invigorates me. Foraging also allows us to see lots of wild life. On this trip to the woods we found a spotted fawn, several song birds, what Tom and I believe was a Bob Cat sleeping in a tree and lots of squirrels. What a wonderful way to spend time with those you love,sharing time in the woods, finding wonderful treasures, then taking them home to eat a fun meal together. Dose life really get any better than this?

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Foraging, Hardwood forest, Mushrooms, organic foods, wild food | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Do you like the flavor of Root Beer? Make your own Sassafras Tea.

fresh made Sassafras Tea

fresh made Sassafras Tea

Foraging for the root that made A& W Root Beer famous is a family hobby. We love the taste and smell of Sassafras tea in the spring time. In our small West Virginia cottage, tea is a staple of life. I prefer it cold with a little sugar but it is also nice as a hot tea with honey. Sassafras is a wild tree/bush that is almost considered a weed or filth in the Appalachian mountains. Farmers  regularly mow the bushes down for pasture weed control. So to find sassafras you just need to look along road sides and abandoned fields.

look for leaves that are lobed..sometime with three like this or mitten style with two, one large lobe and one small

look for leaves that are lobed..sometime with three like this or mitten style with two, one large lobe and one small

    This batch of roots, that Tom gathered, came from his Highway Crew. They have been removing dead trees from an area in our state that was hit hard by a fall storm and they needed to remove several damaged and dying Sassafras Trees in order to clear a section of the road. Tom brought home a couple of pounds of roots and I took the smallest and youngest to make tea. As you can see in the following photo the roots have a sliver skin cover on them, then a red bark that is  covering a white root. The silver skin is the only thing that needs removed when making tea. The red bark gives the tea its color and the white root adds the flavor.

young Sassafras roots ready to clean

young Sassafras roots ready to clean

  After cleaning and removing the silver skin of the roots, you need  a pot large enough to boil the roots in.I personaly use a 10 quart stock pot.It  easily makes a gallon of tea with lots of room to spare.

ready to boil cleaned roots

ready to boil cleaned roots

Into this stock pot I put about a gallon of water. Then I add 4 or 5 roots and boil. The time to make a tea  is around 30 minutes to 40 minutes depending on how strong you want the flavor. Tom loves the “root beer” flavor so we boil ours about 40 minutes. The hot tea is then poured through cheese cloth and a strainer and sugar added to the pitcher. I use 3/4 cup of white sugar to every gallon if tea. Mix well and chill the tea several hours and or add ice.

Tea stained pitcher ready with strainer and cheese cloth

Tea stained pitcher ready with strainer and cheese cloth

   The roots dry on a dishtowle  and are reused several times. We boil them at least three times and the favor,color and scent remains the same every time. One of the benefits to making this tea is the wonderful aroma that fills the house. The sweet scent of root beer fills the house within minutes of setting the roots on the counter, then intensifies with a rolling boil on the stove. Two pounds of roots lasts us for about two months as we drink the tea slowly. On the plus side this tea contains no caffeine and the tea needs less sugar. Sassafras has no bitterness or acidic flavors to cover up. So for a foraged, cold or warm drink that teases great, I think that is worth digging up a few roots every year.

  Hope that the next time you are thinking a cold glass of tea to sip on the porch, you will consider trying Sassafras tea as great way to cool off and enjoy the wonderful gift that nature has given us.

Categories: country cooking, family fun, Foraging, ice tea, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

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