When it comes to foraging, PLEASE do your homework by consulting experts and guidebooks to make sure you really know what you're picking. There are some resources listed on the right. I'm a hobbyist who is sharing her experiments. I think foraging is amazingly entertaining, and fun, and awesome, but I never pick/eat something I'm not sure of. It's difficult to resist picking something you're almost sure of, but you have to do it. Resist. Take pictures. Pick a sample. Go home and study up. And then if you're sure, go back and harvest. Here are some ethical foraging guidelines.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Smoked Salmon Chowder

This was a delicious and simple meal, hearty, not fishy, and perfect for a cold blustery Juneau Sunday.  If you've got some hot-smoked salmon on hand, either occupying the back of your freezer or in a can/jar in the pantry, this is a really yummy way to do something besides eating it with crackers and cheese.

This is in some ways a more traditional chowder than the Sweet Potato Coconut Salmon Chowder I posted about a month ago and it's another great way to use Jorden's beautiful salmon stock.  Like the sweet potato coconut chowder, this chowder doesn't come off as fishy at all due to the smokiness of the smoked salmon and the hearty mixture of veggies.  Chowder has always been a little mysterious to me in that I always picture the standard thick white clam chowder you often get a restaurants, a guilty pleasure, but not the most exciting thing to think about making at home.  I was recently told by a friend that if it has seafood and potato in it, it's a chowder.  With these two newest additions to the repertoire, I'm seeing more chowders in my future.

Smoked Salmon Chowder

fat (clarified butter or other high-heat oil)
3 medium leeks
2 cloves garlic
1 large carrot
1 rib celery (and greens)
1 red pepper
1 large russet potato
1 bay leaf
3 cups salmon stock

8oz flaked smoked salmon
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup sherry
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp diced fresh thyme

green onions

Heat your butter or oil and saute leeks and garlic clove for 3 minutes over medium heat.  Add in carrots, celery, pepper, potato, and some salt and pepper and saute for another 3 minutes.

I'm a sucker for pretty colors.  You can easily adjust this recipe and reduce the veggies or add more.
Add salmon stock and 1 bay leaf, once simmering, reduce heat to maintain simmer and simmer until potato is cooked (length of time will depend on your potato chunk size).  Add in smoked salmon, milk, cream, sherry, tomato paste, and thyme and simmer for another couple of minutes, but be very careful not to let the soup boil otherwise your milk solids will separate, it won't be the end of the world (it'll still be edible), but it won't look half as pretty.  Once fully warmed, taste and adjust seasoning.

Top each bowl with spiral of siracha and diced green onions.  If you're not into garnishing, add a generous squeeze of siracha and green onions directly to soup.

We're really fortunate to have an awesome bread company in town and we had a loaf of Wild Oven's Country French to go with the soup, the perfect accompaniment!

Total Time: 30 Minutes
Servings: 4

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Venison Pâté

I'm not a liver or a pâté person.  However, I am a yummy food person, and someone who will always try anything at least once.  I'm also the kind of person who 100% believes in using as much of an animal as possible, so faced with a lot of liver, it seemed natural to start with pâté.

Ms. Katie White came over with a bottle of wine and a cranberry upside downcake and the two of got started piecing together a recipe.

Using Julia Child's the Art of French Cooking, Rombauer's Joy of Cooking, Dorenenburg and Page's Culinary Artistry, numerous random google searches, and our noses, this is what we came up with.  I took Julia's admonition to heart, that you have to be careful with flavoring foods that will ultimately be cold since they won't have the aromatic appeal of hot food - i.e. we heavily seasoned the pâté.

It came out rich, deep, and with a not-too-organ-meaty flavor.

Topped with cranberry ketchup! D-lish
I found many different references to soaking the liver in milk in order to reduce the liver flavor.  For this recipe we were using the liver of my deer, a large rutting buck, which to me meant that we should expect a gamier flavor than usual, so it seemed smart to go ahead and soak the liver in milk.

My deer's monster liver on the left, Andrew's button buck's liver on the right.
Since my deer's liver was so big, we processed the full liver and then decided to preserve it in two different ways. The first was based on what I was seeing in a lot of recipes online, an improvised jar set-up with a seal of fat. The second followed the terrine process outlined in The Art of French Cooking.  Part of the decision to do the terrine was based on the fact that Andrew's mother Anne had given me a Le Creuset terrine dish a couple of Christmases ago which is adorable and has, up until this point, been used for housing our feta.  I was dorkily excited to use it for an actual terrine.  We used half of the pâté for each process.

I was very curious if there would be a taste difference because basically we were taking the pâté and then putting it through a whole secondary baking and compression step.

Last night we had our favorite advisor and guinea pig over for band practice, Mr. Sergei. He, Andrew, and I tried to put into words what it was that separated the two.  I would say, if you don't want to go through the extra time and processing of putting your pâté into a terrine, you'll wind up with a fine and delicious product.  But it won't be AS delicious.  The terrined pâté was a clear winner for all three of us, with a deeper caramelized flavor, a slightly smoother spread, a slightly less liver-y taste, and a kind of indefinable completeness to it, as if the flavors in the jarred pâté just hadn't quite come together.  I'm actually going to scoop out all of the jars today and go ahead and bake them into a terrine just because I can.

As for accompaniments, it was unbelievably good with my cranberry ketchup (we also had some venison backstrap for dinner which was also really delicious with the cranberry ketchup).  Not so good with the pickled beach asparagus.  I had it in my head that pâté is often served with cornichons, so why not the pickled beach asparagus?  Yeah, won't serve it with that again, the flavors seemed to be in a fist-fight in my mouth.

But the venison pâté with a bit of cranberry ketchup and sprig of Italian parsley? 100% winning.

Terrined pâté on the top and jarred on the bottom with cranberry ketchup and pickled beach asparagus.

Venison Pâté

This made enough for four half-pint jars and a small terrine.

2.5 lbs wild deer liver

1 small/medium onion
2 large shallots
2 large cloves garlic
4 slices bacon
plenty of butter (clarified or ghee if available)

1/2 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup brandy

1 sprig fresh thyme

2 anchovies
lots and lots of black pepper (to taste, but you'll use more than you expect to)
salt to taste (again, use plenty)
1 tsp allspice
1/2 cup loosely packed italian parsley
1/2 cup half & half

melted bacon fat to top jars

Remove liver from freezer and thaw in a cold milk bath.  After thawed, cut into 1 inch pieces and allow to soak in milk for an additional hour.

Melt butter in pan over medium/low heat, add onion and shallots and caramelize until edges are soft and brown.  Add garlic, cook for another 2 minutes.  Dice bacon.  Move onion/shallots/garlic to outer edges of the pan and fry bacon in the center.  Once bacon has begun to cook a bit, mix everthing back together.  Cook until bacon fat is clear, but not crispy.  Add brandy and sherry and deglaze the bottom of the pan (use the liquid to scrape up all the yummy brown bits from the bottom of the pan).  Once deglazed, pour into bowl and set aside.

Add a bit more butter and then the liver and thyme.  Cook until liver is brown on edges, but still pink in the middle.  Remove from heat and mix in onion mixture.  Pour off any excess liquid and save.

Add liver/onion mixture to food processor with anchovies, pepper, salt, allspice, parsley, and half and half.  Blend.  Use the liquid you removed from the liver pan to add until pâté is the right consistency.  Save the leftover liver juice to add to either future gravy or future stock!

For jars

In clean jars pack pâté down.  Run a chop stick around the outer edge to get rid of any air bubbles and bang jar on counter to settle pâté into a flat surface.  Heat bacon fat until just melted and pour on surface of pâté ensuring that all pâté is below the bacon fat.  Cool and then put the lid on and store in the fridge.  I think you could also easily use clarified butter in place of the bacon fat.

For terrine

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease terrine or loaf pan (non-metal is preferable).  Fill half full with pâté.  Tightly cover with foil.  Place in water bath with the water halfway up the sides of the pan and place in the lower 1/3 of the oven.  Bake for 1 & 1/2 hours or until terrine has pulled away from the sides of the pan and the surrounding fat and juices are clear yellow, with no evidence of red.  The pâté will actually rise significantly (which I did not expect).  You may need to add additional boiling water to the bath to maintain the level.

The adorable terrine dish in its water bath.
Remove from the oven.  Find a flat surface that will fit inside the terrine dish, Julia recommends a piece of wood or a slightly smaller pan.  If you're lucky like me and have a terrine dish, it actually comes with a ceramic insert that you use for just this purpose.  Place foil on the top of your pâté and then place your flat surface on the top of that, and then place a 3-4 pound weight on that surface.  I used a gallon ziplock bag 3/4 full of water.  Leave out at room temp over night.  Move the pan and weight to the fridge and let set for another 8 hours.  Once removed, terrine can be wrapped in foil to store in the fridge, or frozen for later use.

While we didn't do it, we also thought that lining the terrine pan with bacon would've been a great choice.  Next time!

Preferred Soundtrack: Marvin Gaye
Total Time: 3.5 hours
Active Prep: 1 hour
Clean-up: Blegh
Result: Delicious

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Perserving Hedgehog Mushrooms

Surprise, surprise, turns out golden chantrelles and hedgehogs love the same kind of woods as Sitka black tail deer!

Last week amidst deer hunting we collected a couple of huge bags of mushrooms.  We thought they'd keep fine until we got home.  Then the temperatures dropped and the mushrooms froze. I was worried about how they would stand up and finally last night took them out of the fridge to look them over. The flesh actually looked pretty good and low and behold they were still delicious!

They're large, a little blown-out, and their texture isn't quite as firm as usual, but they're still worth the work.  These are actually the medium-sized chantrelles from the giant patch we found, the majority of the really large chantrelles and the tiny ones were too soggy and mushy to pick.  These, however, were lovely.

Some giant hedgehogs on top and some golden chantrelles below.
Since chantrelles are notorious for not being preservable, Andrew dry sauteed them and then tossed them with some caramelized onions, cooked garlic, salt, pepper, and butter and deglazed in dry sherry for a delicious side to some baked chicken and kale from the garden (still going strong through the frosts!).

Yummy golden chantrelles in the lower right of the plate.
For the hedgehogs, I went ahead and processed them to preserve. The best way to preserve hedgehogs, especially when they're this large, is go ahead and dry saute them to get the majority of their water out.  These hogs were soggy soggy as you can see:

This is after 10 minutes of cooking. 1/2 inch of water in the pan!
Once much of the liquid has been either reabsorbed or evaporated, throw a healthy dose of butter into the pan. These mushrooms will freeze well in the fat. I kept them in big hunks to give me options for what I'll turn them into on the other side.

I came out with a 1/2 pound package of yummy hedgehogs ready to use in pasta, sauce, soup, or gravy. Thinking of dreaming up some clever use for them for Thanksgiving.

Hopefully I'll be in town for more mushroom season next year and can do some pickling experiments.

Monday, November 17, 2014

My First Deer: The Story, Lessons, & Processing

My Deer Story

We were on the ferry riding home from Hoonah and a friend of my dad's had heard about my first deer.  He came over with some buddies to see if I had a picture to show.  Passing around my phone, each remarked that they hadn't seen any bucks that big their whole week, what a beautiful deer he was.

My immediate response was the same as it had been from the first time I told my hunting partners about what had happened: minimize.  He just walked out in front of me. 30 feet away. He's gorgeous.  Really lucky.

"I don't know how to talk about it," I told my dad after his friends walked away. "It felt like pure luck, but that's not how everyone else talks about it." Maybe it was because I was a woman?  I asked my dad how guys talk about hunting, how I should talk about hunting, because so far it had all felt really strange.

"You can talk about it however you want to, but you should remember, you worked really really hard for that deer.  It didn't just happen.  You put a lot of time in, and yes there's luck, but it wasn't just chance."

Until he said that, I had almost felt embarrassed at how big my deer was, how close he was when I shot, how the shot was a classic lung shot so he'd been pretty easy to clean.  The only thing I felt like had been a struggle was dragging the deer out of the woods, but talking about how hard he'd been to drag out felt like complaining, and I absolutely was not complaining.

For my first deer, the actual moment couldn't have been more perfect.  After three days of hunting in pairs, this day was my first day hunting solo.  I was still in the same general area as our group and an easy walky-talky away, but it was my first time moving alone, choosing my own path entirely, choosing where I would sit.

I was grumpy.  We had been hunting for three days with no deer.  The day before had been a hard day with hours of slogging through patches of devil's club.  This day had started out similarly until my father and I re-grouped and I set off solo when we each wanted to hunt in different kinds of terrain.  But then I found the perfect spot, the kind of magical old-growth forest that would make even an avid-indoors-person sigh.  I found a huge moss-covered stump eight feet off the ground, easy to climb with 180 degrees of shooting visibility.  I was seated on my stump next to a sparkling stream in a small valley between two low blueberry hills and best of all I appeared to be at the juncture of multiple heavily used deer trails.

So I pulled out my water, pulled out a landjager, got my binocs, deer call, lighter out, sighted down my gun in multiple areas, and got ready to settle in.  I figured I'd give myself 5 minutes to make noise, eat my landjager, and then I'd sit quiet for another 5-10 minutes and then I'd start calling.

Mid landjager bite I suddenly realized that a deer was walking around my stump from left to right, he had just gone behind a tree, and was downwind of me which was unexpected. But the deer had been casually walking, not running, and I knew if I prepared myself to shoot once he walked around my stump and came out from behind the tree, I had a great chance.

The spike of adrenaline seeing a real live deer in the woods was amazing.  Weirdly, despite the fact that I had been utterly convinced that I would see a deer at any moment, it was still a shock to actually see one.

I clicked off my safety, mentally checked off that I had a round in the chamber, and took some deep breaths trying to calm my heart.  My rifle was up and the deer walked straight into my scope.  He was only 30 feet away and I could feel myself worrying that he might actually get too close and sense me.  I sighted in on the spot my dad had told me was the ideal place to shoot, 1/3 down* from the top of the body lined up with the fore leg farthest away from me.

The crack of the shot echoed. The buck slowly lowered his forelegs, and then his rear legs, and lay down.  I lowered my gun, sitting as still as possible.

We sat together silently, 30 feet separating us, as he died.

In my perch, waiting with my deer.
My dad had instructed me that when I took my shot, I should stay put. Take a clock out and time yourself. Give at least five minutes, ten is better, before you approach your deer or the area where you shot your deer.  "Once they lay down, they rarely stand back up, but adrenaline can do amazing things," he said.  Once that time had passed, mark the location you shot from with some flagging and then go to the spot where you believe the deer was standing when you shot and mark that location, then look for your deer.  If you find your deer and it's still alive but clearly dying, you have two options, both of which my father had gone back and forth between.  The first was a kill shot, to put the animal out of its misery immediately.  The other, and the option he has recently settled on, was to sit quietly some distance away and allow the animal to die in peace.

I chose the second option, which turned out to be almost an unconscious choice.  In that beautiful piece of woods, tall old timber with a perfect mat of thick moss, watching this beautiful animal go through it's last moments was almost like a dream. This amazing animal was going to provide me and my friends and family with food for the winter, and in thanks for that, it seemed right for me to let him die in peace.  After about five minutes I could see that his tail had stopped twitching and his eyes looked glazed.

I called my dad on the radio.  We were all close enough to be able to hear any shots taken and we had decided that if anyone heard a shot, we'd all turn on our radios and wait for that person to call.  Dad, Andrew and Darrell were all waiting and all ecstatic when I announced that I had shot a 3 point buck.

As I waited for my Dad to find me, I found myself hesitating for the first and only time during the whole experience.  I couldn't bring myself to touch my deer.  It was just so strange to think about touching a wild animal in the middle of the woods.  Dad found me relatively quickly.  He admired my deer and starting looking him over.  I finally reached out and touched my deer's shoulder, he was so unbelievably beautiful.

A beauty.
I thanked the deer and the two of us went to look for some little bit of green nubbin that a deer might find tasty, we put that last bite in the deer's mouth and thanked him again, and then we got to work.

Lessons Learned

Dragging is a pain in the butt.  But in the situation we were in, where we were camping multiple days in Southeast Alaska (aka a rainforest), it's essential.  By keeping the deer whole and the hide on you can easily hang your deer at camp and keep the meat protected from the elements.

Our camp view.
My dad had explained to us about paying attention to the routes we took to make sure it was drag-able, to pay attention to the time of day and figure out how long it will take to drag and make sure that you gave yourself enough daylight.

Turns out it was one of those things that I couldn't fully comprehend until I'd gone through it.

I never would've been able to drag out my deer by myself.  I had sort of paid attention when walking in, enough to think that it might be a tough place to drag out of.  Man-o-man.  There were logs to pull the deer over and under, multiple stream crossings, weird narrow deer trails up and down little hills, it was terrible.  It took my dad and I two hours to go less than 1/2 mile and at the last steep hill Darrell came to our rescue and hossed the deer up to the truck in probably a quarter of the time it would've taken my dad and I.  I shot the deer at 9:10am and we made it to the truck at around 1:30pm.

One of my goals for this trip was to learn enough to be able to go hunting solo.  I'm there, except for the issue of getting my deer out of the woods.  As a petite woman, I just physically can't drag a deer by myself unless it's a really small deer.  So we talked about methods for handling this, mainly it would mean field dressing any deer I got and packing out in either one or two trips depending on the deer.  This means that I need a new pack set-up.  Alaska Department of Fish & Game actually has a pretty cool page and video outlining this process.

I probably will never again have a deer as large as my first deer.  He was a beautiful giant.

I also will probably rarely if ever have the same perfect set up, a close shot, in a beautiful place, with a deer that lays down, and with no damage to any of the gut.

I loved exploring the woods every day with that keen awareness.

My favorite kind of Southeast Alaska forest.
Spending that much time in that many varieties of landscape = many many opportunities to increase knowledge about mushroom habitat.  Found oodles of hedgehogs, golden chantrelles and winter chantrelles and I can't wait for next foraging season.


With three deer between our group of four, the two largest deer belonging to Andrew and I, we took on processing.  This is actually one of the parts of hunting that both of us were most excited about.

Turned out Andrew's woodshed, with a little alteration, was a perfect place to hang our deer, especially in the cold snap we've had in Juneau.  While 3 days of aging benefits a larger/older deer, more than that has no tangible benefit.  So with my deer shot on Wednesday morning, and Andrew's on Thursday afternoon, we were good to go to process Saturday morning.  Basically, at a minimum, you need to ensure that your deer goes in and out of rigor mortis, otherwise the meat will be tough.

I had decided that since I was unlikely to get another buck this big, I was also going to keep the pelt and send it out for tanning and would keep the skull for a European mount that I would do myself (plan on a future post).  So we took our time to carefully skin my deer, ensuring no punctures.

Skinning that powerful neck.
While I had helped my dad break down a quarter before, it was amazing to see the full animal and how awesomely powerful their necks and shoulders are - how all these different cuts of meat that appear on our plates fit together in a complex puzzle resulting in strength and agility.

Loin out of my deer and Andrew working on his quarters.

Dad and I cleaning up cuts.

Ready for the freezer!
We decided to split the deer evenly in four shares and Andrew and I wound up with:

1 skull
1 pelt
15 #s grind-able
27 #s steak/loin
1 bag of stock bones
2 hearts
2 livers

All in all it took us around 11 hours over two days to get everything ready for the freezer. Excited, but probably going to wait a week or two to get going on sausage, pate, and corned venison.  Not to mention the European mount.  A lot of work, but such an amazing experience and an awesomely full freezer.

*My dad wrote me with a correction.  1/3 up from the bottom of the body. Another lesson learned!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Getting Serious About Deer

This is my year to get my first deer. I know it.

I've always loved venison. My father, and sometimes my brother, went hunting every year when I was growing up and the result was a freezer full of venison cuts and fresh sausages. Every time I came home from college, I'd get to choose what I wanted for my special dinner. It's always been the same: venison tenderloin sliced thin and marinated in Yoshida's teriyaki, barely grilled with a side of twice baked potato topped with Tillamook's cheddar. Nothing says home to me more.

As I grew up, started cooking, worked in a couple of restaurants both down south and here in Alaska, I began to realize what a uniquely fortunate food world I had been raised in. Never ending subsistence venison, fresh salmon, halibut, rockfish, shrimp, dungee, & king crab, fresh raspberries from the garden, fresh blueberries and cranberries from the forest, and all of it accepted as just how life is.

As I've grown older I've slowly added more and more variety to my Southeast Alaska centered diet expanding to include many of the amazing local beauties that I've been writing about in this blog.

And five years ago I decided it was time for me to know and understand what it meant to shoot and process that favorite of favorites, venison.

So my dad and I started going into the woods on day hunts. He got me a gun, a bolt action Ruger .308  with a composite stock, which I love - perfect for rainy Southeast. We set up my day pack, ready to go whenever the weather looked good and we were both free.

The forest, my dad, his pack, and his gun.
But then we ended up being so rarely free at the same time during hunting season. I traveled. He had an injury. And a couple years passed without any shots taken and only one or two short day hunts a year.

But even in the limited time, I settled into really loving hunting. Loving that it's something you have to be taught, verbally, by someone who's been out there. Loving that I was learning from my dad, not just about deer, but also about the woods. And then the added pleasure for both of us when realizing that over the years, the amount of time I've spent on my own in the woods, curious and foraging, has translated into knowledge that I get to share in turn with him.

More than anything, I love the quiet anticipation. The feeling of all the little tendrils of my consciousness spreading out through the woods, prodding and probing for anything new and different. And the sunny muskeg naps. Oh my goodness. I love the mid-afternoon sunny muskeg nap after a long hard morning of hunting.

The best.
This year we got serious. In August, before I left on all my trips, the two of us went out in his skiff for our first overnight hunting trip, hunting on Admiralty Island for the day, then over to Lincoln Island to set up the most beautiful campsite you could imagine, and spent the following day walking through the woods. While we struck out on actual deer, we saw loads of deer-sign.

Can't beat that tent view.
It was a reminder of what exactly I'm doing out there. Of what it means to be in the thick of the woods, silent, still, extremely aware, and ever hopeful. More than anything, I was surprised at that optimism, even though I knew it was probably too early in the season, I still whole-heartedly believed that at any moment I was going to see a deer and have a great shot. And even though it was a bit of a bummer that the shot never came, in some ways it didn't matter.

Two days, two similar perch views.
Now we're getting really serious. Next week Dad, Andrew, and I head over to Hoonah with four other guys for a 5 day hunt. I'm more than optimistic, I'm planning for venison. I'm getting my game plan for processing lined up, ordering supplies for sausage making, dreaming up a few exciting experiments.

But more than anything, I'm ready to be in the woods again. Excited to have the opportunity to process a full deer, excited to learn how to hunt in a new way, with a base camp and logging roads for access, and excited to get to share that experience with both my dad and Andrew.

Wish us luck! And prepare yourselves for more posts about meat meat meat.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cranberry, Like Buttah - Late Post

Another late post as I think the highbush cranberry season is most likely over. I picked and cooked up my highbush cranberry butter and highbush cranberry ketchup in late August.

When I first told my mother about this blog and how I was was going to ramp up my foraging this year, she asked if I was going to pick berries. I told her no. I hated picking berries (I think this may have changed now that I'm a little older and more patient). She suggested that in that case, the best berry for me was high-bush cranberries because you can pick them a fistful at a time.

Highbush Cranberries
A member of the maple family, these shrubs turn early.
She was right, it was quick and fun to pick these berries. They grow along the edge of meadows and their bright red berries are not only pretty, but easy to spot.  Within an hour the two of us had picked 12 cups.
Check out my mom's awesome collapsible and water-tight bucket!
Despite the name, high-bush cranberries have little to do with actual cranberries. My guess is the name comes from how the under-ripe berry resembles a true cranberry. Instead, these berries are bright, juicy, have a massive seed, and a unique slightly musky flavor. Growing up we had a high-bush cranberry bush in our front yard and my mom's Cranberry Ketchup, which she now calls Cranberry Chutney, was a staple in our house.

As a seasoned picker, she had one incredibly helpful tip for me. Having cooked the berries, put them in a strainer and smoosh the berries through so that you catch the giant seeds. The bigger the holes in your strainer, the better, so that you can get more of the skin/body of the berry.



Post-cooking/smooshing with only the giant seeds left in the strainer.
Her recipe for Cranberry Ketchup is straight out of the Cooperative Extension's recipes. Take a look at their complete hand-out and recipes here!

I made the ketchup in honor of my mom's tradition, and for something new I made the butter.  I am now totally obsessed with this butter and eat it on toast practically every morning. These berries have a high natural pectin content and part of the draw for the butter is that the texture was just so dang perfectly spreadable.

I changed up the recipe only slightly due to the fact that I had oodles of berries. It's awesome.

Highbush Cranberry Butter

Highbush Cranberry Butter

6 cups highbush cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 lemon, grated zest & juice

Prepare jars. Boil berries & water until the berries pop and soften. Force through sieve to remove the seeds. Reheat and add applesauce, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, & salt. Simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and add lemon juice & zest. Fill jars with hot butter, leaving 1/4 in headspace. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Makes 4 cups.

Sweet, but not too sweet with a nice spice and slightly musky berry flavor. I basically have just been chowing down on this with toast and butter, but it would be great with anything you normally put jam on.

A note on consistency: I went ahead and did the classic droplet test. When testing a jam/jelly for thickness you simply dip a spoon in the sauce, and hold it up on its side and watch how the jelly runs down the spoon. If when the jelly drops off the spoon it drops off in individual droplets, it's not done, but if it runs down and then gathers and drops in connected droplets, you're good to go. Here's a more complete description.

Highbush Cranberry Ketchup

6 cups highbush cranberries
1 1/2 tsp celery salt
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup onions, diced
1 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp ground cloves

Prepare jars. Cook berries in water until soft and then force through sieve to remove seeds. Add onions, vinegar, sugar, & spices and boil until mixture thickens. Fill jars with hot ketchup leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Makes 4 cups.

This tastes to me like a fruity barbecue sauce with a little bit of that classic highbush cranberry musky flavor. Great on pretty much any kind of meat or with beans.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Coconut Sweet Potato Salmon Chowder Magic

Don't like sweet potatoes? Don't like fishy fish or fishy chowder? Have a piece of last year's salmon from the freezer which is smelling a leeeeeeetle fishy? I've got the thing for you.

If you remember, earlier this summer I made and canned Jorden's beautiful salmon stock. I've been dying to use it, and newly back to a cold and rainy Juneau fall, I couldn't think of anything better. I used, and slightly modified, a recipe from Michele Genest's The Boreal Gourmet. This book was gifted to me from one of my favorite food conspirators, Ms. Kate Consenstein and it contains loads of great recipes featuring all sorts of items that can be foraged/caught/hunted in our corner of North America. This was the first time I've used it and I'm now VERY excited to try everything else.

Coconut Sweet Potato Salmon Chowder

Seriously. This was so good.

I used our oldest piece of salmon in the freezer, which had that distinctive sort of rubbery, slightly ugh fishy smell once thawed which made me nervous about using it. You never would've guessed. Frankly, I was also a little nervous about the salmon stock in general.  If you look around online, most recipes specifically advise against using salmon for stock because it's considered too strong a taste. Who knows, maybe in a non-salmon recipe it would be, but this was divine, and again, not fishy.

Not only that, but when we served the leftover soup as dinner the second night to a friend who, surprise, doesn't like sweet potatoes, he loved it too!

Coconut Sweet Potato Salmon Chowder

Ready for the soup pot!
A not too sweet, not too thick, not too fishy chowder with great hits of acidity and spice. An all-around winner!

4 cups salmon stock
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 Tbsp butter
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp flour
1 can coconut milk (400 ml)*
2 large sweet potatoes, 1/2 in cubes
medium/small fillet cooked salmon (I used a 9oz fillet of sockeye), boned & flaked*
juice of 1 lime*
3 tsp siracha*
2 tbsp dry sherry*
Handful of fresh cilantro
Salt & pepper 

*my changes

Set oven to 375. On a baking sheet, create a little foil boat for your salmon. Lightly coat the salmon in olive oil and place skin side down. Season with salt and pepper and anything else you feel like that's not too strong (I have a Provence herb mix that I sprinkled over the top). Cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until opaque in the center. In general, this is longer than I would normally cook a piece of fish for eating solo, but you want it nice and easy to flake once you pull it out. Pull out and remove bones and skin and then flake with a fork.

Heat up salmon stock on the side. In your main soup pot saute your onions in the butter until clear, add celery, carrots & garlic and saute for another 5 min. Add flour and stir until all veggies are coated, about 2 minutes. Add a cup of heated salmon stock, stir until flour is completely disolved. Add remaining stock. Add coconut milk, bring to a simmer and then drop back to low heat and add sweet potatoes.

Simmer for 15 - 20 minutes, add salmon, lime juice, siracha, and sherry, simmer until sweet potatoes can be poked with a fork and salmon is heated through (shouldn't take too long if you just cooked your salmon, if using left overs from the fridge, may take a couple of minutes).

Salt and pepper to taste, serve with cilantro on top.

For the second day, I found that the spice had mellowed. When reheating leftovers, be sure to taste again and add more siracha if desired.

*Ms. Genest's recipe is slightly different, she called for 475ml of coconut milk, but the cans of coconut milk I found in the grocery store were all 400ml, so I just went with that. Same with the lime juice, one lime was actually around 3 Tbsp. Again, she called for 8oz cooked salmon, I used a 9oz fillet of sockeye I had in my fridge. Ms. Genest called for 2 Tsp of crushed chilies or hot sauce, since I used siracha I upped the spice quantity because I think siracha is a little less intense.  I also added dry sherry because I think that dry sherry does a umami thing to soup that is amazing and I'm obsessed with it.