Monthly Archives: March 2014

Acorn Bread

The newest, as in some ways the oldest, of the foraged foods is an Acorn Bread that I made last weekend.  Late last fall, we were hiking in the Santa Cruz mountains and I noticed that a bunch of acorns (specifically from a coastal oak) were littering the trail so I decided that we should harvest a bunch.  On the way back down the trail, we stopped to collect a couple handfuls of acorns, loading them up in my sweatshirt and walking them back to the car.

When we got back home, the long process of prepping acorns began.

Step 1 is shelling – pretty much just hit them with a hammer and then pick the meat out of the shell.

Any project that lets me use a hammer in the kitchen is a good project.

Any project that lets me use a hammer in the kitchen is a good project.

Eat only the inside

Eat only the inside.

Step 2 is leaching to remove the bitter tannins.  I chose to hot leach boiling the acorns in 4 sets of water which ended up with a mildly bitter but good tasting nuts.  You can also cold leach in running water for a couple of days which is apparently better for making flour, but I didn’t know that at the time so live and learn.

Leaching takes a while and is rather amazing when you taste the difference between progressive boilings

Leaching takes a while and is rather amazing when you taste the difference between progressive boilings.

Step 3 is grind the flour.  I used my coffee grinder (which I only use for spices really) and made a powder in a couple minutes.

It was surprisingly easy to grind into a fine powder

It was surprisingly easy to grind into a fine powder.

Step 4 is making acorn bread. You will need:

1/2 cup of acorn flour
1 cup of white (or wheat) flour
1 cup of buttermilk (I used milk slightly curdled by lemon juice)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup of molasses

Grease a casserole dish, then fill it up with a mixture of the above ingredients.  Seal the casserole dish with aluminum foil and cook for 2 hours at 250 degrees.  You should check every once in awhile for doneness since you are using found ingredients which could vary the cook times somewhat.  Eat hot and it tastes almost like a more dense earthy pumpkin pie, or have leftovers slightly sauteed in butter.

Mmmm... tasty bread

Mmmm… tasty bread.

Good luck and happy foraging, and once again thanks to Backyard Foraging for the inspiration.

Goodbye to Our Rosemary

About six years ago, I was killing some time at the hardware store and saw a little rosemary bush cut like a Christmas tree. Since it was December, I decided that would be my Christmas tree and bought it.

It looks so full and healthy!

It looks so full and healthy!

We then learned the hard way – twice – that rosemary plants do better with limited waterings and the rosemary underwent a couple of die-back cycles. For most of the next five years, we kept expecting it to die, but it hung in there.

The rosemary spent most of this time as a potted apartment plant.

The rosemary spent most of this time as a potted apartment plant.

Sick of dealing with a not-healthy-but-not-near-death plant, we planted it in the ground as soon as we moved into a house. The rosemary seemed to do much better and we enjoyed the supply of spices. Then, when Lloyd and I were gardening last weekend, I noticed that the rosemary was leaning to the side a bit. I went to see why and discovered this:

There were move leaves on the rosemary when I first spotted it, but the damage was less apparent.

There were move leaves on the rosemary when I first spotted it, but the damage was less apparent.

We’re unsure what caused this, but the result was that the rosemary, after looking sickly for five years, was at last at its end. So we cut all of the useable rosemary off of the tree and dried it. We probably now have enough rosemary to last us at least the next year.

Our grapes have a lot of nice spice drying area this time of year.

Our grapes have a lot of nice spice drying area this time of year.

Once the rosemary leaves were removed, I started picking up the pieces of the tree. All of them came away easily expect for one small branch near the base. I left it there for the week and it still looked healthy so we transplanted it. The former rosemary site is now occupied by this year’s Christmas tree.

It's not much, but maybe someday it will produce a lot of rosemary.

It’s not much, but maybe someday it will produce a lot of rosemary.

I don't think this one is used for seasoning, but it's at least a bit of continuity.

I don’t think this one is used for seasoning, but it’s at least a bit of continuity.

Dandelion Wine

Something I had always heard of but never drank before was dandelion wine, so a little over a month ago there was a couple days of rain, then a couple days of sun, which led to a small explosion of dandelions.  I decided when life gives you dandelions, you should make dandelion wine.

Step 1 – Collect a ton of dandelions – like a larger handful – for every cup of wine you are making.

Some harvest occured at the neighbors.  They approved of my weed removal.

Some harvest occurred at the neighbors’. They approved of my weed removal.

Step 2 – Remove the petal (the yellow part) of the dandelion and get rid of the rest of the dandelions. We are making 750 ml (1 bottle of wine) so we need about 1.5 cups of petals. Now rinse off petals well – don’t do this before separating the petals as it is harder when wet.

Not Exciting

Not exciting.

The volume of the petal is disheartening after the work for it. I would be a bad saffron picker.

The volume of the petal is disheartening after the work for it. I would be a bad saffron picker.

Step 3- Boil together the petals, 750 ml water, juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 tsp ginger, and 1 cup of sugar.  After it boils, simmer for 30 minutes.  Let sit for a couple minutes, then strain into a clean wine bottle.

Step 4 – When the mixture is at body temperature, add in 1 tsp of champagne yeast (or any other wine yeast) and close off with a bubble check valve.  After one week of fermenting, transfer to another clean wine bottle and add the check valve to the new wine bottle.  After another week of this, you can cork the bottle or just leave the bubbler on.

Step 5 – Wait at least 2 more weeks, and preferably even longer as it apparently ages well.  We couldn’t contain ourselves longer than another 2 weeks so we tried it then.  It was quite tasty, light and not very alcoholic.  Almost like a mix of cider and unoaked Chardonnay.  I’ll do it again once more dandelions are about, this time letting it age properly.

Our came out clearer and a little less yellow than expected.  I imagine that mean we need more dandelions in the next batch.

Ours came out clearer and a little less yellow than expected. I imagine that means we need more dandelions in the next batch.

Yosemite National Park (N37.77 W119.57)

A couple of weeks ago, Jasmine and I talked about going to Yosemite National Park since we have lived in California for half a decade and not made it yet.  Last weekend the weather was so nice that we decided we had to go and I am very glad we did.  Due to some issues with my work, we didn’t get out as early as we wanted to, but we made it up by early Saturday morning and got our back country permit.  Thus began our 50 hour hiking and camping fun.

North Dome From Yosemite Valley.

North Dome From Yosemite Valley.

Mirror Lake - kind of a boring name if you as k me

Mirror Lake – kind of a boring name if you ask me.

We started from Yosemite Valley which is where most of the iconic views and cliffs are: Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls among others.  It was all very picturesque, but for us the best part of hiking is getting out into the woods and away from civilization so we started out of the valley.  The path we took was pretty rough – a 2400 ft ascent in a 1.5 mile route at the start, then another 10 miles mostly in wet snow till we got to our over night stop overlooking another valley and the closed down highway 120 (closed for winter).

Our path was like cobblestones at a 30 degree angle, very wierd. The rangers here must work 24/7 keeping this trail up during the runoff season.

Our path was like cobblestones at a 30 degree angle, very weird. The rangers here must work 24/7 keeping this trail up during the runoff season.

Finally we were high enough to get a good look of the valley.  The view only improve the higher you get.

Finally we were high enough to get a good look of the valley. The view only improves the higher you get.

The hiking was a little rough at times.

The hiking was a little rough at times.

The other Valley we hiked to. I got this walking stick on the way up.  It brok in half on the way back down within 10 ft of where I picked if up. Weird.

The other valley we hiked to. I got this walking stick on the way up. It broke in half on the way back down within 10 ft of where I picked it up. Weird.

It is hard to make a fire in a snow field.

It is hard to make a fire in a snow field.

The next day we did a bunch more snow hiking, much easier in the morning when the top crust of the snow is hard and you don’t fall through.  We took an easy day and found a good camp site with an awesome view of Half Dome.

Our lunch chair in the middle of a creek.

Our lunch chair in the middle of a creek.

Its Huge.

Its huge.

Then, for the last morning, we tried to get an early start back home but we were foiled – by frozen shoes. :)  So after I built a fire and we thawed our shoes out sufficiently to get our feet in, we made our descent back into the valley and the end of the trip.

Half Dome from our camp site. Maybe the best view I have ever had from a camp site.

Half Dome from our camp site. Maybe the best view I have ever had from a camp site.

Overall, I’m very glad that I made it to Yosemite, which has some really cool views, and I’m glad I saw it in the winter when everything felt a little barren and rustic which I think improves the general high California mountains.

Rock slides are a bit of an issue around here

Rock slides are a bit of an issue around here.

We saw 4 sunrises in one morning on the way home.

We saw 4 sunrises in one morning on the way home.

Wooden Rings

One of the random things I have been making on and off for the past couple of years is wooden rings and I feel as though I have a good enough method to share.

The first thing is to get some wood, preferably between 1/4 and 3/8 of an inch. It should also preferably be a cool looking wood – I like cherry the best – and also fine grain wood both to look nice and to physically hold up as a ring.  Then you just go to town drilling, sawing and sanding as shown below.

First draw out the ring, most rings are about 1/2" diameter

First draw out the ring; most rings are about 1/2″ diameter.

Drill out the inner hole to 3/8" and rough cut out the outside

Drill out the inner hole to 3/8″ and rough cut out the outside.

Use a round rasp to sand the ring ID to the correct diameter. I don't just drill to the right diameter because it will splinter out the back.

Use a round rasp to sand the ring ID to the correct diameter. I don’t just drill to the right diameter because it will splinter out the back.

Then using a saw and a flat rasp rough out the OD.

Then, using a saw and a flat rasp, rough out the OD.

Use a dremel with a tapped over sanding pad as an impromptu lathe to smooth out the OD

Use a dremel with a taped over sanding pad as an impromptu lathe to smooth out the OD.

Sometimes I' add  alittle gemstone.  I this case I sanded a flat on the ring and using super glue glued on a Jade gemstone.

Sometimes I add a little gemstone. I this case, I sanded a flat on the ring and, using super glue, glued on a jade gemstone.

Then you need to finish the ring, I usually use 2 coats of lacquer or just mineral oil.

Then you need to finish the ring; I usually use 2 coats of lacquer or just mineral oil.

Here is a slightly ring I prepared earlier with a garnet stone.

Here is a slightly smaller ring I prepared earlier with a garnet stone.