Posts Tagged With: wild foods

Elderberries prevent the flu??

   As many of you already know from my other blog posts West Virginia is a place with a huge assortment of wild foods. My family and I try as much as possible to use what is given in our woods for food and better health. One of the most wonderful plants that my family has found and uses not only for food but also as a medicine is Elderberries. It has been a tradition here to use these berries as a tonic or wine for centuries but more modern studies have shown that their medicinal uses are wide-spread. For more information what benefits they have finding fallow the link. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/supplement-guide-elderberry. The berries are high in vitamin C and have anti viral properties that anyone can use in these coming cold winter months. Studies suggest that the berries reduce inflammation and swelling also so it can’t hurt to take a bit everyday and maybe more if you are feeling the effects of a cold or flue coming on.

  These little power houses are one of my favorite things about my hunter-gather life style as I make a wonderful jelly out of these berries and who can complain about a daily dose of medicine that you can put on toast, biscuits or even pancakes.

Elderberry flowers in spring and summer fruit

Elderberry flowers in spring and summer fruit

    My passion for the wild bushes started out on our small horse farm  where a small bush took up residence in a fence row. After talking with my husband who knew what the plant was I ask if he liked Elder berry wine and jelly he said he had not had either in years but liked them both.

Me riding in front of fence line full of baby elderberries

Me riding in front of fence line full of baby elderberries

   Well that following year I read up on the tiny berries and how to use them. Waited until they were about 80% ripe and went to work making my frist batch of Jelly that the family loved and later found out how wonderful they were for your health.

   So now every mid July I hunt for enough wild berries to make  at least 20 half pints of jelly and if I am lucky several quarts of juice to later made into syrup. We use it as a cold treatment and a preventative… a daily dose to word off the flu season blues. 

    Last spring I ran out of jelly and needed to renew my stock pile and decided to take photos of the jelly and syrup process and share them with you. A person can buy dried berries and make both jelly or syrup but fresh is always the better option if you can find them.

   The plants are easily found along road banks and ditches here in the east and most farmers mow the plants not wanting their stocky plants in their meadows. The canes grow about 5 to 9 feet tall if left to grow wild and are thornless but grow in the same manner as black berries. The canes are hallow and round and in fall they do become brittle and snapped off for other uses. In spring the plants have a very beautiful white cluster flower all along the top of the canes against a green leave back ground. Summer leading to the  red/black berries. The darker the berries the better they are for you health. These berries would eventually look almost black when totally ripe. I pick mine just before that happens as the birds love them and will clean entire bushes off in a day when totally ripe. These berries sat on my porch for about three days to finish ripening and getting that beautiful red/black color.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

  In the Jelly making process you want a few under ripe berries to help produce natural pectin to help jell the juice.If making you are making syrup only it is better to use the ripest fruits for better flavor. As you can see I used about a 90-10 mixture and still needed to add a little lemon juice to encourage the jelling process.

   After picking the berries I strip them from the stems, wash them through a colander,

berry juice stained fingers

berry juice stained fingers

bowl of fresh Elder berries on counter

bowl of fresh Elder berries on counter

  place them in a large stock pot and add water to begin the juicing process.

  Always wash and sterilise your jars, lids and rings before making the syrup or jelly. Plan to use a boiling water canner to seal jars.

      Next  place berries in stock pot ( mine is an 8 quart) adding about half as much water as you have berries. In my case I had almost 5 quarts of berries and I added 3 quarts water to the pot. Add medium heat to the pot and wait for the berries and water to boil a low boil and begin to smash the berries as they cook with a potato masher. The berries will appeared to pop from the heat and skins will float to the top of the juice.

     After letting the juice cool I then strain it through 3 or 4 pieces or WET cheese cloth. I put mine in a colander and drain into another stock pot. When straining the berry skins away from the juice do not squeeze the cheese cloth. let it drain naturally. If you squeeze the skins to hard they will cloud you juice making it look milky. At this point I had about 7 quarts of juice to make into any thing I wanted. I could process this very healthy juice into quart jars, I can make a more palatable syrup for coughs and colds or make jelly. I make both the syrup and jelly with sugar but honey could be used in the cold syrup instead, Jelly on the other hand needs sugar and acid to set up.

I then fallow the SURE-GEL elderberry jelly receipt that fallows. http://www.kraftrecipes.com/recipes/surejell-elderberry-jelly-60866.aspx The receipt was once a staple of the package instructions but as of this year Kraft removed it. Not a wise idea if you ask me.

   This was the end result of about 30 minutes of picking time, a box of Sure-Gel,a few cups of sugar and a case of jelly jars.GE DIGITAL CAMERA I also made about 6 1/2 pints of cold syrup this year and that should last are family all winter. Most of these jars will eventually be sent to family and friends for a gift of health for the holidays.

  The gifts of the wild woods here in West Virgina always amaze me. I am so glad to live in a place that offers so much to a person who is willing to take the time to learn more about the wilderness. Elderberries of course can also be grown from nursery stock and  planted in you own back yard. At some point when my knees and ankles will not allow me to berry pick on a steep hill-sides I will  then transplant a bush into our yard for easy access. But at this point, I am happy to spend the day along a farm road or creek side, looking for and making a wonderful tasting flu and cold preventive the old fashion way.

Katherines Corner  this post is shared on  Katherine’s corner blog hop.

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre

                                         shared with the homeacre blog hop.

Categories: Appalachina Mountains, Elderberry, Jelly, organic food, Preserving | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Wild Turkey, and our the dinner table

  Turkey season in West Virginia starts on the first week of May and runs through to the end of the month. My Husband started hunting the timid birds as  teen with some success, but  had taken many years off from hunting them recently. With more time to pursue hunting, Tom thought it would nice to see if turkeys were still in the area. Within  two trips to the woods he brough home this. A nice gobbler that was not to old to eat and enjoy.

Tom and Christopher with years first wild turkey

Tom and Christopher with years first wild turkey

Then  my husband teased our older son Cody  “you need to see if you could keep up with the old man” and get one for himself. Well in “show up  my dad style” my son also got his turkey the very next day. Two large gobblers in two days what a great weekend.GE DIGITAL CAMERA

 So early friday morning I got my first lesson on wild turkey cleaning, processing and cooking. With the help of family friends, we were able to get a quick lesson on cleaning a turkey.Ken suggested that we “NOT CLEAN” the whole bird. “You will only need to clean the whole bird if you are not going to roast it” he stated.Ken also suggested that we only “remove the breast and thighs of the bird to eat and leave the rest.” So by mid morning,working on the tail gate of our pick up, my husband and I removed the parts of the bird that we planed to eat. We also removed the tail fathers and wings for crafts with natural fathers. By skinning the bird instead of plucking it, the entire process took less than 20 minutes we had no feathers to remove and no entrails to clean up. The meat was fresh and clean and ready to eat or freeze quicker then I could drive to the local store to buy meat.

  With the meat removed, washed and frozen. I started the process of looking and asking friends about their favorite Wild Turkey recipes. Wild Turkey is extremely low in fat and moisture and can easily be over cooked. So, with this in mind I went to the National Wild Turkey Federations web site for help…at www.nwtf.org/tips_adventures/recipes.php. They have a nice collection of recipes and Tom and I chose one for Turkey cutlets.

 The process is very simple and the list of ingredients is short, almost everyone will have these items in their home. All of these items can switched out with store-bought organics… making a 100% organic main course

2 whole wild turkey breasts

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1/3 bottle of zesty Italian salad dressing ( I use Wishbone)

1/4 of a pound real butter

First take the wild turkey breast and cut slices across the grain of the meat about 1/4 of an inch thick. The slices will vary in size, some  large and some small. I also cut the tender strip of meat that is on the back of the breast and removed the tough tissues  from its middle section before cooking.  

Place all the these pieces into a  gallon zip lock bag adding enough zesty italian salad dressing to cover the turkey and mix dressing  into the  meat to cover every piece.

Let sit in refrigerator for about 3 hours.

Turkey cutlets after  marinading for 3 hours

Turkey cutlets after 3 hours in marinade

heat 3 teaspoons butter in large skillet and roll cutlets in remaining ingredients of flour, salt and pepper mixture.

Fry cutlets over low heat until turkey is firm and is easily picked up with a fork. This may take more time for larger cutlets and short time for smaller ones.

Wild turkey rolled in coating mixture

Wild turkey rolled in coating mixture

Turkey cutlets cooking

Turkey cutlets cooking

 Brown them slowly on both sides( low to low-med heat) adding butter as needed. I remove the first batch to a paper towel covered plate, putting them in a 200 deg oven to keep warm, as I fry the next batch of turkey. Two breasts easily feeds 4 to 5 adults and we have found that the kids love these home-made turkey tenders also.When serving the cutlets if they are not cooked to long, we omit any sauces. But, if you like to dip chicken/ turkey in a  sauce we used honey mustard, and it was very good.

The flavor of the turkey is mild, yet more buttery then domestic turkey,  cooked this way it has become a family favorite. As of this weekend, we have eaten every bite of the 4 turkey breasts the boys brought home this spring. My family will have to wait until next year to have this dinner again, and that is a long time coming. Now I may just have to get my gun out and get my own next year.

Happy hunting and cooking, hope to have another Wild Turkey recipe posted soon.Wild Turkey Pot Pie… this one is our own family creation. I just have to redo the spices and type up some thing our family already loves.

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, back woods, country cooking, Hunting, organic foods, West Virginia, wild food, Wild turkey, wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 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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