Fungus Foraging or A day outside in the fresh if damp air.

English: fungus

English: fungus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fungus Foraging or A day outside in the fresh if damp air.

Last week I got invited to attend a fungus foraging course at my local woods. I was very excited by the prospect and after a bit of organising managed to get a lift to the start point.

It was a wet day but the tree’s afforded plenty of shelter from the rain. I was surprised and delighted by the turn out. There must have been 40 of us who had dug out wellies and braved the weather to explore the outdoors.  Other than me there were plenty of families many with children. It was fantastic to see how excited the kids were at the concept of searching for and identifying something so basic and often overlooked.

We searched for about an hour covering only a small area. Then retreated to the car park to display our finds on a trestle table and ask the expert questions about our finds.

Personally I was surprised by the vast variety of fungi we found in such a small part of the woods.

I had a very enjoyable day and would go to other events at the forest in future.

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Jelly bean mushroom

jelly bean mushroom jelly bean mushroom

Jelly bean mushroom

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Friday Foraging Fun (well almost)

Today we went foraging. It was a delightful sunny day and we had finished our chores so we decided to take advantage of the weather and head outdoors. We wanted to go foraging as September is a prime time for free foods. The main aim was to collect as many dandelions as possible to make a batch of dandelion liquor that would be ready for Christmas.Yarn anf foraging 005

As the weather was so nice it was just lovely to be outside and we weren’t expecting to find much.

We were pleasantly surprised. We enjoyed a good few hours in the open air and returned with dandelions (heads and leaves), clovers (the flowers are amazing and very sweet), crab apples, blackcurrants and mushrooms (which we decided to compost instead of eating to be on the safe side).Yarn anf foraging 007

Yarn anf foraging 010

Overall it was an invigorating experience that made us feel like children hunting for hidden treasure.Yarn anf foraging 008

This afternoon was spent making the base for the dandelion liquor with honey and lemon juice. As well as cleaning our prizes ready for use tomorrow.

We have found a few recipes for crab apple jelly and lemon aid that we want to test although this may involve a second trip at some point to collect more fruit now we know where it can be found. The site I will be using for my base recipes is :http://www.sallywise.com.au/blog/crabapples-the-not-so-humble-fruit/

I still have some leftover apples that I picked whilst at home and the blackcurrants picked today which will be cooked into either a preserve or a desert.

If you have any suggestions for things to do with foraged ingredients or want to share your own experiences please leave a comment.

 

I hope you are enjoying a pleasant September and reaping the benefits of what is available locally.

I hope you will come back again.

Dandelions revisited

In june I made a batch of dandelion liquer which I then proceeded to forget about and left to ferment. on getting back to uni we all decided to try it. it was a delicious very fruity liquer with a slight after taste for the alchohol.  I have been implored by my test subjects to make this again and will probably be giving away strained versions of the drink as gifts next year, a few of myfriends have suggested it had a mellow taste similiar to a sweet mead. however i have not tried mead so can’t compare the two.

I got the initial recipe from http://vallenuova.blogspot.it/2012/05/foraging-dandelion-liqueur.html

however the idea came from http://wildcraftvita.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/things-to-do-with-dandelions.html

the initial recipe You need:
100 dandelion flowers (collected when fully in bloom)
A syrup made with 250 g of water and 300 gr of sugar
2 whole lemons cut in pieces
Juice of 2 lemons
750 g of water
750 g of 95º alcohol
(you can use Vodka and reduce the amount of water accordingly)

English: Two dandelions side-by-side in some g...

English: Two dandelions side-by-side in some grass. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Make a syrup with 250 g of water and 300 g of sugar and let cool.

In a glass jar that you can close tightly put the flowers, lemons, lemon juice and syrup.
Close, store in a warm place and let rest for 1 week.
Add the 750g water and the alcohol and leave for about 3 months.
Filter and enjoy!

 

the adjustments i made was using honey instead of sugar and vodka instead of alcohol. only a tiny amount of vodka is needed however less than a teaspoon. the only other significant thing to note as i found with one of my earlier batches once open the mixture if not drunk within 3 or 4 days starts to go off. it would definitely be best to make this in smaller portions to avoid waste or invite friends round to help test each batch.

 

Making felt from scratch aka what to do with raw unprocessed wool

I went for my walk this week to visit my friend with my emergency rice-pudding cake. On the way my other friend and I decided to collect the wool which we kept discovering caught on thistles and hedges. This was a successful venture and we collected far more raw wool than we initially expected.

I decided that this was my opportunity to card and comb my own wool, dye it and then make my own felt from scratch.

Feeling ambitious I did some research and decided on the steps I was going to take.

1)      I knew I needed to clean the wool first.  This would involve washing and removing any stray pieces of straw or thistle that had got into the wool. I got advice from this website on the best way to wash wool before combing.

http://www.newenglandsimpleliving.com/processingwoolfibersbyhand.htm

2)      Combing I needed to comb or card the wool after washing in order to prepare it for felting.

The steps of cleaning the wool:  I placed the wool in my clean crafting bucket along with warm (not boiling) water.  I had also dissolved the remainder of a bar of gentle strawberry soap in the water before adding the wool.   Then I left this overnight to soak.

I changed the water that was filthy 3 times before splitting the wool into four smaller batches. These batches were soaked again until the water was clear.

Once the water was clear excess water was gently squeezed from the wool. The wool was then laid -out on a towel to dry.

After the wool had partially dried I began to tease it (pull it apart) to prevent unwanted felting.

Bag of raw wool

Bag of raw wool

Raw wool in bucket before adding water

Raw wool in bucket before adding water

wool in bucket first soak

wool in bucket first soak

The last batch to soak

The last batch to soak

a batch of clean wool in tea towel

a batch of clean wool in tea towel

Clean wet wool in tea towel ready to squeeze some of the water out

Clean wet wool in tea towel ready to squeeze some of the water out

some of the clean wool drying on a towel

some of the clean wool drying on a towel

Damp wool teased out left to dry on towel

Damp wool teased out left to dry on towel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other useful sites

http://knitsnthings.wordpress.com/2009/05/11/combing-wool/

http://sweetleafnotes.blogspot.co.uk/2009/01/washing-wool-fresh-off-sheep.html

http://www.ranching-with-sheep.com/wool-processing.html

http://members.peak.org/~spark/PDF_files/Preparing%20Wool%20for%20Spinning%20or%20Felting.pdf

Homemade flour

After all the examining of back to basics I had a sudden inspiration. Could I make my own flour? Most of my favourite recipes involve some sort of flour but if I made my own would it be cheaper than buying it from the shop.

I decided to test this theory out. I have never made my own flour before so started by doing some research. I wanted to discover what flour could be made out of. Were there any ingredients I could forage for or anything lying in the back of my cupboard that could be used.

I found that often you don’t need specific flour for a recipe and can adapt the recipe to suit the flour.  One example, which shows how to use normal flour instead of self-raising and vice versa can be found here: http://southernfood.about.com/cs/breads/ht/self_rise_flour.htm

Then I remembered that acorns are sometimes used to make flour. There are no acorn trees near us but there is a recipe for acorn flour here: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Acorn-Flour orhttp://www.self-sufficient.co.uk/Making-Acorn-Flour.htm  Don’t forget to rinse out the acorn mush before drying to remove tannins (which are bitter and poisonous but thankfully water soluble)

Next I looked at rice flour: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Rice-Flour . However after reading reviews about white rice flour is mainly used for thickening soups, stocks and stews and not for baking. What I needed was an all -round multi-purpose flour that was inexpensive to produce.

 I found a handy list of different types of flours you can make and level of difficulty at: http://www.attunefoods.com/blog/2013/04/how-to-make-your-own-gluten-free-flours-in-3-minutes-or-less/

The two that appealed to me were rice and oats as I already had these in. I decided to make a small batch and see how I got on.

I made a batch of oat flour which was fantastic and my old blender processed in seconds. I now have a tub of oat flour which I will be using in my next bake session. Probably to make pasta or bread.

cooking attempts flour 003

However when it came to producing the rice flour I tried both blending it with water and blending it dry. Blending it with water slightly crushed the rice but that was all no sign of flour after a good ten Minuet’s of holding my hands over my ears to counter the noise made by the machine.

Rice flour wet blend

Rice flour wet blend

Blending the rice dry in an attempt to crush it was more effective with an obvious sign of flour. As you can see against the plastic of the tub. Unfortunately my poor old blender was not up to the challenge of totally crushing the grains. In the case of rice I think some kind of grinder definitely needs to be used.

Rice flour dry blend

Rice flour dry blend

Eventually after much searching of the web I found this awesome recipe for multipurpose gluten free flour and the importance of the ratio of different ingredient with suggestions and a how to video. Check it out at: http://glutenfreegirl.com/2012/07/how-to-make-a-gluten-free-all-purpose-flour-mix/ . This site was amazing as it showed how to balance my homemade flours to ensure that they could be used for most cooking just like normal flour. I didn’t intend to learn how to make gluten free flour when I set out but it was an added bonus as several of my friends are gluten intolerant (celiac). I will definitely be using some of these (easier to crush) combinations in future when we have a baking spree.

At Gluten-Free-Girl they suggest using 40% wholegrain flour to 60% white flour or starches and provide a list of examples for each category.

I have now learnt how to make my own flour and would love to make some acorn flour when I get a chance. However, I think for now I will be sticking with basic shop bought flour. For those of us who can get away with gluten flour it is still cheaper to buy it from the shops at 65p for 1.5kg of Sainsbury’s basic flour compared to 40p for 500g of basic rice. This can be made cheaper if you buy in bulk but not everyone has access to bulk-discount store and for this experiment I only wanted small amounts and had to rely on the local supermarket. However, for those who are intolerant to gluten making your own is a much cheaper alternative to the shop priced packs.

Related

http://www.forgivingmartha.com/ – a blog by a gluten free dairy free chef who cooks amazing masterpieces from her apartment.

http://www.self-sufficient.co.uk/index.htm – website for anyone interested in foraging and recipe ideas.

https://frogandcount.wordpress.com/

Hello

This is a week of firsts. I have had lots of new and exciting experiences. all of which were extremely cheep, if not free. I wanted to enjoy the sunshine that has suddenly appeared and i needed to do some gardening. I decided to dig out a few dandelions to make coffee and salad. Yet, with some help from my sister and a few recipe suggestions i managed to create: a jar of cough syrup, a jar of dandelion Liqueur which will be ready in 4 weeks (I will let you know when i try it), two frozen boxes of pasta, coffee for four and a very happy bunny. I dug up the plant including the roots and spent a very productive time in the kitchen doing some experimental cooking. However i fed my first batch of pasta to 4 of us and everyone enjoyed it.

I used the recipe from http://ediblewildplants.wordpress.com/2010/04/09/dandelion-pasta-and-garlic-mustard-pesto/
for the pasta but substituted my own sauce for the pesto. I used the dandelion stalks, garlic, red onion, chilli and oil to coat the pasta and make very happy students.

The other recipes were taken from http://wildcraftvita.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/things-to-do-with-dandelions.html
It was a fantastic day, I got to enjoy the sunshine, spend time in the garden and got plenty of exercise whilst weeding definitely preferable to the gym.

this is the first of what i hope will be many posts. My aim is to enjoy as much as possible for as little as possible. Anything free i want to try. making my last uni year more exciting without breaking the bank.

hope you have a fantastic week and i will let you know how i get on.
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