Articles & Recipes

Asian Style Cattail Shoots

If any vegetable–wild or otherwise–comes closeto bamboo shoots in the Great Lakes bioregion, it’s cat tail shoots. Their flavor, shape and growth habit are reminiscent of the common bamboo shoot, but with their own special something’s of their own. Whilst picking some nice tall shoots I was inspired to create this recipe, and it was a winner. Cattail shoots are best when between 1 and 3 feet tall, depending on their location. Pull close to their base and pop them off their root. Peel off all of the fibrous outer layers until you reveal the tender inner core. I bend and nibble sections to find those that are most tender…

Asian Style Cattail Shoots

What You Need:

  • 10 ~2 foot cattail shoots, peeled–about 2 cups
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 scallion
  • a couple sprigs cilantro, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp dried cayenne/hot pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • drizzle of soy sauce or tamari
  • drizzle of sesame oil
  • drizzle of maple syrup
  • drizzle of rice wine vinegar

 

  • Peel cattail shoots. Chop into 2 inch segments and cut lengthwise.
  • Fill a sauce pan with one inch of water and put it onto the boil. Set up your steamer basket inside and pop on a lid.
  • In a skillet, heat the sunflower oil on medium heat. Once hot, add the pepper flakes, garlic, and ginger.
  • Sizzle the pepper flakes, garlic, and ginger until the garlic just starts to turn golden brown and remove the pan from the heat. Immediately stir in the sesame seeds.
  • Set the cattail shoots in the steamer and cover. Allow to steam for 30 seconds to 1 minute checking often to make sure it doesn’t over cook. Once they’re heated through, quickly remove and add to the skillet.
  • Into the skillet drizzle the soy sauce, sesame oil, maple syrup, and rice vinegar. Stir everything together and taste. Adjust soy/sesame/maple syrup/rice vinegar to taste/
  • Serve immediately with the freshly chopped cilantro. Chopsticks optional!

Acorn Pancakes (or Waffles)

This is up there as one of my favorite ways to work with acorn flour in a baking/bread situation. You can take this same recipe and use it in a waffle iron to make waffles as well. As I’ve mentioned in my ACorn bread recipe, I really emphasize making acorns close to half of the dry ingredients, allowing them space as stars and not just side roles. Acorns are rich and buttery and take care and time to prepare, so it seems a shame to me to only add a dash of acorn flour to something. Especially in something so classic and awesome as a pancake or waffle. Like most of my bread recipes, grain ingredients soak and ferment at least 8 hrs to break down enzyme inhibitors, release & add nutrition, and for texture and superb flavor. Finally, I find it hard to believe many folks can resist a hot pancake dripping in butter, autumnberry jam, and maple syrup!
I should note: you may notice that after eating one or two pancakes or waffles (depending on size), you feel more satiated than you may when eating a straight flour, unfermented pancake or waffle. I generally reach a generous feeling of “stuffed” after three pancakes or waffles. The acorns are super nutritious and hearty, and I find myself wanting or being able to eat less. Plus, the energy from this food feels more sustained and nourishing, especially from the fermentation process.

Acorn Pancakes (or Waffles)

What You Need:

1 1/2 cups wheat (or your favorite grain) flour
1 1/2 cups acorn leached acorn flour
2  cups milk, preferably raw or organic/grass-fed.
2 eggs, separated
3-4 tbsp maple syrup
4-5 tbsp melted butter
pinch of salt

  • The night before your pancake breakfast, mix your  flour and milk together in a bowl. It should have a loose consistency, similar to paint. Cover and set somewhere warm to ferment/soak.
  • The following day, uncover your batter for observation. It should be slightly bubbly and much thicker.
  • Preheat your griddle or waffle iron.
  • Whip the egg whites to a soft peak in a glass bowl with a pinch of salt.
  • Gently incorporate the whipped egg whites into the mixture.
  • One at a time, add the acorn flour, egg yolks, melted butter, maple syrup, and another pinch of salt to the batter. Mix each in carefully and thoroughly (trying not to deflate the whipped eggwhite).
  • Ladle the mixture onto your griddle or waffle iron and cook them until a crispy, light brown crust forms on the outside. I start with one to get a feel for how long I want to cook them—cooking it until I think its perfect, then breaking it open and trying a few bites.
  • Once cooked, stack the pancakes or waffles on a big plate.
  • Pull out the butter, maple syrup, an favorite sauce or jam. I pile thick knobs of butter, a few healthy spoonfuls of autumnberry or wild blueberry jam, and light drizzle of maple syrup and dig in!

ACorn Bread

 
When I cook with acorns, I prefer ways that accentuate what the acorn has to offer, as opposed to just throwing them into any old dish just because. This ACorn bread not only accentuates the buttery, rich flavor of the acorns, it allows them to act as close to half of your dry ingredient list. I’m also a huge proponent of making grain dishes using traditional fermentation techniques that break down the nutrient inhibitors and enzymes present in the grain, and unlock not only their deeper flavor and nutrition, but offer texture and structure to the final product. This bread should come out moist and dense.

*If you aren’t growing and grinding it yourself, look for true corn flour, not corn meal. It will make a world of difference.

ACorn Bread

What You Need:

1 3/4 cup corn flour—preferably freshly ground.*
1 cup acorn leached acorn flour
1 3/4 cup milk, preferably raw, hopefully organic/grass-fed.
1 egg, separated
3-4 tbsp maple syrup
4 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp baking powder
2 pinches of salt

  • The night before baking, mix your corn flour and 1 3/4 cup of your milk together in a bowl. It should have a loose consistency, similar to paint. Cover and set somewhere warm to ferment/soak.
  • The following day, uncover your corn flour and milk mixture for observation. It should be slightly bubbly and much thicker.
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Whip the egg white to a soft peak in a glass bowl with a pinch of salt.
  • Gently incorporate the whipped egg whites into the mixture.
  • One at a time, add the last 3/4 cup of milk, acorn flour, egg yolks, melted butter, maple syrup, and another pinch of salt to the batter. Mix each in carefully and thoroughly (trying not to deflate the whipped eggwhite).
  • Pour this mixture into a buttered 8-9inch cast iron pan (or 9 inch square baking pan, or equivalent—I’ve found cast iron is the best for corn breads). Place in the preheated oven an bake for 35 minutes.
  • After 35 minutes, insert a toothpick into the bread. If it comes out clean, remove the bread from the oven, remove from the pan, and let rest on a cooling rack for 10-15 minutes.
  • Slice, apply thick slabs of butter, (some honey if you like) and indulge!

Autumnberrykin

I’m a really big fan of closing loops. For that reason, I’m always thinking of how to most efficiently and frugally use all things, especially with food. I’ve always got my chickens to eat my scraps, the compost pile, or my pet red composting worms, but making more food/drink is always option one for me. In my cider pressing experiences I learned about a techniques used throughout all traditional apple/cider cultures called Ciderkin. It was a fermented preparation made by pouring water over the spent pomace from cider pressing (apple pulp that had its juiced pressed out) and left to ferment, the yeast eating up the remaining sugars. I was a big fan of this ciderkin after I made it—it’s light, bubbly, and a mild apple flavor. After making a batch of Autumnberry fruit leather, I had a whole pile of autumnberry pulp and seed and thought to myself, “Why don’t I make Autumberrykin?”. So I did.
It’s something you can ferment a lot or a little, and like ciderkin, extracts those last sugars left in the pulp, giving you a nice lightly autumnberry flavored sparkling drink.

Autumnberry Kin

What You Need:

A pile of Autumnberry pulp left over from your fruit leather making

  • In a large jar—one that is large enough to accomodate the volume of pulp you have plus some water—pack in your autumnberry pulp. (you can use a Ball jar. an old pickle jar, or a big jar with one of those flip-top jars with a rubber seal, which is what I used)
  • Cover the pulp with water until it is fully saturated.
  • Cover the jar tightly and set it in a warm place.
  • After a day or so, it will start to bubble as the wild yeast on the pulp start to increase their population. Release any pressure built up by the second day.
  • If you want a sweet Autumnberrykin, ferment it only one-two days. For a drier or more lactic drink let it go three-four days, making sure to release the built up pressure once a day.
  • After you’ve achieved your desired sweetness or dryness, strain out the pulp, and bottle it up into any airtight bottle you have. The best are flip-top bottles, but glass screw-top on bottles from sparkling water or even plastic 2 liters work great.
  • Let the bottle sit for a day or two to build up carbonation. Once they’re carbonated, chill them down and enjoy!

You will notice that the pulp fromt he autumnberries will come out of solution—simply shake the autumnberrykin before serving.

Autumnberry Fruit Leather

I’m a huge fan of fruit leather. I’ve spent hours mixing up different concoctions of fruits, herbs, spices, and drying them into thin, sticky, sweet sheets. It’s all good fun and one of my favorite ways to preserve food. But, of all of the fruit leathers I’ve made, Autumnberry remains my all time favorite. Its a fruit that has, in my opinion, the perfect balance of sweet and tart. Its pulp is very fine, almost silky, when cooked down and extracted from its seeds. Drying this fine pulp results in a firm, flavor packed sheet of goodness.
Fruit leather is really simple—much more so than jam or jelly. Really, all you do is pulp up your desired fruit, spread it in thin sheets on a non-stick surface and dehydrate it. Also, it can store for years, and I’ve kept some leathers over 3 years in an airtight jar.

Autumnberry Fruit Leather

What You Need:

1 gallon ripe Autumnberries

  • First things first: turn your autumnberries into pulp. To do this, load them into in a medium-large pot and put them on the stove at medium heat. Pop a lid on the pot and let the berries begin to soften.
  • Once they start to simmer, stir the berries every few minutes until they’re heated all the way through—this will soften the flesh and bring out a lot of juice from them.
  • Take the berries off of the heat. Using either a standard blender or immersion blender (I prefer immersion), blend the cooked berries until they become a nice fine pulp with seeds conveniently suspended throughout.
  • Strain this through a fine sieve into a bowl. I use a ladle to take them from the pot to the sieve, then use the bottom of the ladle to push the pulp through. I finish of the extraction with a flat wooden spoon. It works best for me to strain one ladle full at a time. (don’t forget to save the excess pulp/seed mixto make Autumnberrykin, an interesting fermented drink!)
  • Once you’ve extracted a satisfactory amount of pulp, you’re ready to dry it. There’s two ways to do this—using a purchased dehydrator (round or square, doesn’t matter) or in an oven. In the dehydrator, spread a layer of the autumnberry pulp across a nonstick sheet (could be what comes with your dehydrator model or even parchment/wax) paper to roughly 1/4″ thickness. Then dehydrate on the fruit setting for roughly 3 -4 hours.
  • If you don’t have a dehydrator, set your oven to its lowest setting, which is usually around 170 degree F. Cover a baking sheet in parchment or wax paper. Spread the autumnberry pulp across the nonstick surface to approximately 1/4″ thickness. Stick your sheets of pulp into the oven and then prop the door open by jamming the handle of wood spoon in it. Allow them to dehydrate for 2 hours, then check them every 30 minutes or so until they’re nice and firm and tacky all the way through. A nibble never hurts at this point, either.
  • Peel your finished fruit leather from your dehydrator surface—it will be nice and sticky. I tear mine up into small bite size pieces and jam them into a clean, airtight, glass jar. They’ll keep in there for years—but I highly doubt they’ll last that long. Make a bunch!

Herby Autumnberry Ketchup

I love a good ketchup. Not that mass-produced and overly sweetened kind, with no real complexity of flavor to enjoy. A few years back my mom and I made a batch of homemade ketchup that we learned through Jamie Oliver. It had lots of herbs and spices that set a new bar of ketchup experience. Ever since I’ve tried to get in a batch or two during the harvest season to store and use all year. This year, while out harvesting Autumnberries, I got the idea that their pulp would be the ideal replacement for tomatoes. Not just because it contains over 17 times more lycopene than tomatoes, but because it has a wonderful balance of sweet and tangy flavors and beautifully silky pulp. So I made up this recipe… Make sure to use fresh herbs—and don’t be afraid to add in some of your favorites like fresh oregano, winter savory, or wild analogs like bee balm or lemon balm. To yield your Autumnberry pulp: Cook down around 3-4 cups of autumberries in a small pan at medium heat until their juices start to release. Blend them with an emersion blender (or a blender) after they’ve simmered for around 5 minutes. Then run this pulp through a fine sieve or folly food mill and you’re good to go.

Herby Autumnberry Ketchup

What You Need:

2 cups Autumnberry Pulp
2 heaping tbsp fresh basil, chopped (or dry, if that’s all you’ve got)
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp fresh lemon thyme, chopped (or any other thyme you have growing)
1 tsp fresh fennel leaf, chopped
2 heaping tbsp chopped chives
1 large clove of garlic, chopped (or 2 small cloves)
1 small handful of gold raisins
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp olive oil s
alt and pepper to taste

  • Rustle up two 8oz half pint canning jars and two clean, unused lids. Submerse these in a pot of water and bring it to a boil (to sterilize).
  • In a medium pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic and chives for 2 – 3 minutes.
  • Toss in the fennel seed, stir the mixture and then sauté  for another 2 minutes.
  • Toss in the thyme, fennel leaf, basil, and gold raisins. Stir it again and let sauté  for another 2 minutes.
  • Pour in the autumnberry pulp, brown sugar, and apple cider vinegar. Add salt and pepper to your taste and stir it all together.
  • Cook this on a medium heat for about 5 minutes—it will reach a steady, yet mild boil that will “set” the whole mixture together.
  • Your jars should be nicely sterilized by this time. Remove them from the boiling water and slowly & carefully fill the jars with the hot ketchup. I fill mine all the way to the brim, top them with the sterilized lid, and then screw on the ring nice and tight.
  • Let the jars sit until fully cooled down. Make sure that the lids “pop” and seal. Once they’ve cooled and sealed, labelt hem up and let mingle in the pantry for at least 6 weeks before you tap in. Luckily, you should have about a 1/4 cup of excess ketchup that won’t fit in the jars. Go ahead and make some homemade french fries or and enjoy it!

Wild Blueberry Ice Cream

I admittedly adopted the base recipe from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions book, but with one minor tweak. She uses arrowroot powder, which I find gives the final ice cream a slightly “powdery”, for lack of a better word, mouth feel. Regardless, it’s nice and creamy, especially with good raw milk. And the final color and flavor are incredible—a deep dark purple blue and intense wild blueberry aroma. Sure to please!

Wild Blueberry Ice Cream

What You Need:

2 cups fresh wil blueberries
3 cups milk, preferably raw or organic/grass-fed
1/2 cup maple syrup
pinch of salt

  • In a food processor or a blender, add all of the ingredients together. Alternatively, you could use a large bowl and an immersion blender. Blitz the whole lot  until everything is evenly incorporated, and a nice purple-blue hue.
  • Taste the mixture and adjust blueberry, maple syrup, or salt quantities to taste.
  • In an ice cream machine, whether electric or hand powered, add your mixture and turn until ice crystals start to form.
  • Once the mixture reaches a thick consistency—similar to soft serve ice cream, but a tad more loose, transfer to a freezer safe container and then pop into the freezer for at least 2 hours.
  • Check on it to make sure its frozen through and dig in.

Red Currant and Lemon Balm Sorbet

This is a recipe inspired/adopted from this Red Currant Sorbet recipe. I’ve replaced the use of citrus with lemon balm, an herb widely grown in gardens and commonly found in the wild. It adds aroma and even more cooling satisfaction to this summertime treat.
I made this in tandem with red currant sauce, so I just drew off 250ml from the red currant juice I was going to use for the sauce.

Red Currant and Lemon Balm Sorbet

What You Need:

150ml water
140g sugar
1 large handful of fresh lemon balm
250ml of red current juice/pulp, strained

  • Wash and de-stem around 1 quart of fresh red currants.
  • Add the de-stemmed berries to a food processor or blender. Alternatively, you could use a large bowl and an immersion blender. Puree and then strain as much juice/pulp as possible through a sieve. Set aside.
  • Add the water, sugar, and lemon balm to a medium pot and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes (covering keeps the essential oils from dissipating into the air). Once the sugar is dissolved and the sugar well dissolved, take it off the heat and allow to cool.
  • Once the syrup is cool, strain off the lemon balm.
  • Mix the syrup with the currant pulp a little a at a time—stirring and tasting after each addition. This allows you to control how tart/sweet the sorbet becomes. Any excess syrup can be used to make a refreshing drink mixed with sparkling water or added to tea, etc.
  • If you have an ice cream maker you can use this to make the sorbet. Alternatively, you can simply pour the mixture into a shallow glass baking dish and pop it into the freezer. Take it out of the freezer every 15-20 minutes for an hour or so, stirring/grating each time with a fork to separate the ice crystals.

Red Currant and Bee Balm Blossom Butter

A few years back, while at a wild food cooking class, I had the good fortune to take part in making a very beautiful and interesting butter with the flowers of Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa and M. didyma). After harvesting a large glut of this seasons Red Currants, I came across a recipe for Red Currant Butter, using red currant jelly. I thought, why not spice it up a bit and skip the jelly party, just using the more tart fresh fruit?
This admittedly pretty, but tangy, sweet, and slightly savory (from the background hint of spiciness of the bee balm blossoms) butter can be frozen for long term storage and is great served on anything that needs butter… And what’s not better with butter? I can’t think of many things.

Red Currant and Bee Balm Blossom Butter

What You Need:

1 Stick of organic (preferably grass-fed) unsalted butter, softened.
4 tbsp de-stemmed red currants
3/4 tbsp maple syrup
8 heads of Bee Balm
salt to taste

  • First, pluck the feather blossoms off the bee balm flower heads. Try to only get the individual flowers and not so much green stuff…
  • In a small bowl, crush the red currants with a fork until nice and juicy. Mix in the maple syrup.
  • To the same bowl, add the softened butter and the bee balm blossoms—stir the whole lot until everything is incorporated.
  • Taste, then salt to your preference.
  • Plop the mixture onto a piece of parchment paper, shape into a roll, fold it up, and pop it in the freezer to harden up.
  • Make a slice of sourdough toast, bring out the hardened butter from the freezer, slice off a (nice thick) round, smash it onto the toast and enjoy!

Cornmeal Crusted Bass with Moscato Red Currant Sauce

Probably one of the most delicious and abundant wild food sources out there is fish. Every few weeks, a good friend of mine takes me out to a private spot where he shows me the in’s and out’s of fishing for the best of the lake fish of our region. The other day I came home with a whole mess of Large Mouth Bass filets, a basketful of foraged Red Currants, and whipped together this truly scrumptious meal. The tangy red currants, simmered in the sweet muscato, poured over the juicy, crunchy, spicy, and rich fried fish is such a treat.

Cornmeal Crusted Bass with Moscato Red Currant Sauce

What You Need:

Fish:
4 Filets of Bass
1/2 cup Corn Meal
1 tbsp whole wheat flour
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
3 tbsp butter
Sprinkle of paprika
Sprinkle of cayenne pepper
Sprinkle of salt & pepper
Sauce:
1 cup de-stemmed red currants
1/2 cup Moscato wine (or Riesling or your favorite sweet white wine)
2 tbsp organic cane sugar
2 tbsp butter

  • Mix the dry ingredients together on a large plate or 4×8 baking dish. (Add paprika, cayenne, and salt & pepper to your preference—I like it spicy!)
  • Beat the egg whites in a similar sized container as the dry ingredients.
  • Put the currants,wine, and sugar in a small pot and cook at medium heat.
  • Heat the butter in a large skillet or cast iron pan.
  • Toss each filet first in the cornmeal mixture, then in the egg whites, then back in the cornmeal mixture.
  • Once the butter is hot, plop in your crusted filets and let fry on each side until crispy and brown (about 5 minutes each side).
  • While the fish filets fry, watch the currant sauce. Let it cook at a low boil so that it can reduce by the time the fish finishes up.
  • Remove the finished fish from the pan and plate up. Stir the butter into the reduce currant sauce, then drizzle it on top of the bass filets and enjoy!