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Posts Tagged ‘elderflower’

Elderberry crazy

Last spring we foraged for elder flowers, making cordial and fritters and drying them for tea.We’ve grown to really like elder. Czechs apparently do, too, or at least they used to, because elder is growing just about everywhere. Roads are lined with them, old hedgerows and older homes all have elder bushes. Really, they are everywhere.  I imagine the birds have done their part in spreading them, too. So, now that we are in elderberry season, there are berries everywhere. Colleagues have told me about the cordial they have made from them, and I was all read to go wild, but friend and neighbor Andrea related to me how she had made some last year and her family wouldn’t drink it. So I was a bit tentative this year and picked a small bucket full to make into cordial.

The recipe was quite simple and can be found here. The hardest part was getting the berries off the stalks. They recommend using a fork to sort of comb them off. It works, but the inter-tine distance makes a big difference, so if it seems hard at first, switch to a different fork! The rest was quite simple really.

Boiling the berries.

Squeezing out the juice and straining out the skins.

And it’s delicious! Next year  I’m hoping to make much more, and perhaps try some jam, too.

I guess it’s the combination of my innate frugality and the fun of DIY, but I love foraging for  food. I especially like preserving foraged food. It makes me feel so secure (and, okay, maybe just a little smug) to know I can find food out there in the world and bring it home and feed my family. Free food, that is. And though it seems to raise a few eyebrows here and there, foraging from the hedgerows used to be quite common and normal. As much as I would like more people to eat locally and seasonally, I am glad that I seem to have most of the hedgerows to myself these days!

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Monday Menu

Is it Tuesday already?  I sort of slept through Monday, suffering from allergy attacks. I believe the girls and Kamil had, brace yourself, frozen pizzas for dinner. Blah… Well, here’s what we had tonight:

Fried cauliflower°

smashed potatoes

sautéed sugar snap peas*

elderflower* cordial

I must admit that I did not make most of this dinner, either. My wonderful mother-in-law agreed to make the fried cauliflower, a Czech specialty, and she threw in the potatoes for good measure! I did pick and sautee the peas with garlic. First of the season and wonderful!

 

What did you have for dinner tonight?

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Round 1 Explore the dandelion

This one is pretty easy, given we already eat them every year as I described in an earlier post. But I have been exploring other ways to eat dandelion.

My mother-in-law makes dandelion honey. I am not sure how she does it, but I know she sends the girls out to pick 100 dandelion flowers, cooks them up in a simple syrup and then leaves them out to sit over night. She must then strain it and put it in jars. So, it’s basically dandelion flavored sugar syrup, but it’s yummy. We eat it on pancakes and use it to sweeten tea.

I have also been experimenting with dandelion muffins. I got the idea here, but use an entirely different recipe that I adapted from The New York TImes New Natural Foods Cookbook (published 1982 and stolen from my mother in about 1992).

Fabulous 3-grain Dandelion Muffins

1/3 cup corn flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup soy flour

1/3 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup plain yogurt

1/3 cup oil

1 cup dandelion petals

1/3 cup or so dried cranberries

Combine dry ingredients. Add in dandelion petals and mix well. Mix egg, yogurt and oil together and then add to dry ingredients. Mix in cranberries. Bake 25 minutes at 350F.

Mixing in the dandelion petals. The muffins never stick around long enough to photograph!

And, to top it all off, with all my talk about dandelions, a colleague made some dandelion jelly and brought me a jar. Delicious!

Round 2 Hunt for morels

Mushroom hunting is big in the Czech Republic. Very big. It has been quite dry here, though, notwithstanding a couple days of rain not too long ago and I haven’t seen the mushroom hunters out. I hope I can do some hunting myself this year and will surely post about it if I find anything. The problem always seem to be that the serious hunters are out at dawn (which occurs about 5am these days) and there is nothing left by the time normal folks roll out of bed and get into the woods!

Round 3 Cook a foraged meal

This is the one we really go into. Friend and neighbor, Andrea, my partner in all these crazy things I am doing these days (who is highly amused at being called “friend and neighbor,” though it is an accurate description) got in on this one with me. And once again, she sacrificed her vegan principles for a taste of our (not in the least vegan) foraged dinner.

Elder is flowering so we decided on a traditional German elder pancake for dessert and elder cordial to drink. For the main course, I proposed nettle gnudi and a salad. The salad is mostly from the garden, but we threw in some foraged lamb’s quarters.

Foraging is even more fun with a nice basket.

The nettle gnudi recipe comes from the Fat of the Land Blog, a wonderful source for foraging and home of this round of the challenge. The recipe calls for ricotta but there was none at the store, so I substituted tvaroh and cottage cheese and it turned out just fine. Of course, frying anything in sage butter and olive oil is bound to taste good!

Adding the chopped, blanched nettles to the cheese.

Roll it out and cut into pieces.

I made them by the plateful.

My helpful daughter cooked them while I rolled and cut. When they float, take them out of the boiling water.

Ninety nettle gnudi…try saying it 5 times fast!

Fry them up in olive oil, butter and sage.

I barely had time to snap a photo…those gnudi disappeared fast!

Now for dessert:

Andrea made a thin pancake batter, dipped the flower heads in and then plopped them into hot oil.

Fry until golden

Nibble right off the stem!

They were great plain but also with a little dandelion honey.

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The garden is doing great and tonight we had our first strawberries and the best spinach I’ve ever grown. Our soil is just too heavy for spinach to do well, but last fall I added lots of shredded leaves and good soil to a bed to make it nice and light and it seems to have made a world of difference to the spinach. The other inspiration for tonight’s dinner was the hunk of cheese and bag of mushrooms I bought at the farmer’s market last week.

Menu for Monday, 28 May

crustless mushroom° quiche

spinach* with tomatoes

toasted bread

yogurt with sliced strawberries*

elderflower* cordial

The crustless quiche was a sort of improvisation since I didn’t feel like making crust. And since the crust is just slightly sweet, it made the tangy quiche even tangier.

Crustless Quiche

Sautee sliced mushrooms° and let cool. Place on bottom of quiche dish. Mix 1 1/2 cups of yogurt with 2 eggs°, 2 tablespoons of flour, a bit of salt and some shredded cheese°. Pour over mushrooms and bake at 350F for 30 minutes. I tucked a little left over asparagus° into one end – a little treat for me.

Spinach and tomatoes

My husband bought some really awful looking tomatoes – you know, the hard orange balls that don’t really look, smell or taste much like real tomatoes. Well, the only way to deal with those is cook them down, which I did with some garlic and olive oil. Then I added the spinach until wilted. The spinach was so good it even made these tomatoes taste alright!

Yogurt topped with strawberries

Can’t wait until the strawberry:yogurt ratio is reversed!

Elderflower cordial

An experiment inspired by the Urban Farm Handbook foraging challenge and all of the elders flowering right now everywhere you look.

I found the recipe here and made a batch over the weekend.

I think it turned out too lemony and sour, but over ice with a bit of dandelion honey to sweeten it, YUMMMMMMY! We will definitely be making more of this.

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