Category Archives: Food

Gathering: Black Currants

I’m not really into shrubs. I probably should be, since my husband was a landscaper for quite a few years. To me, they’re just the elevator music of plants; they provide ambiance with no focal point. So, it came as no surprise when it took me awhile to notice some juicy and delicious looking berries on a couple bushes in the front yard that I’ve ignored for over nine months.

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Most berries immediately put me on the defensive, but these seemed worth looking into, because they certainly didn’t look poisonous. A bit of research revealed that they were none other than quite edible black currants. I have basically zero experience with currants, hence my inability to identify them immediately, and saw some mention that a disease had mostly wiped them out in the lower 48, so that explained that.

Now what to do with them! I picked 7 cups of berries total, which I though was pretty good for two little bushes (shrubs have now moved up a level in my esteem). Most of the recipes I found called for currant jam or jelly, so that sealed it. Jam it is!

I merged several recipes to figure out the best berry/water/sugar/lemon ratios for my jam. I also decided to not can the jam, partly because I knew I wouldn’t have all that much, but mostly because I don’t have the supplies for legit canning yet.

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Black Currant Jam – 3 1/2 Pints

7 cups fresh black currants

2 cups water

juice of one lemon

3 1/2 cups sugar

I picked the leaves, sticks, and slugs out of the berries and rinsed them a few times. Next, I brought the berries, water, and lemon juice to a boil and let it simmer until the berries had popped and the mixture looked yummy. I poured in the sugar and simmered awhile longer. When it looked jammy and tasted good, I poured it into jars, screwed on the lids, set them out to cool, then put them in the fridge. Totally not how you make jam, but it tastes fantastic!

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My next problem was what to do with the jam. Eating it straight from the jar isn’t an option, at least not while anyone is watching. Due to trying to stick to gluten-free I just don’t have bread or crackers around. I hunted down a recipe for gluten-free shortbread cookies that was really easy. I was out of maple syrup so I subbed honey, and it did the trick! We’re already down one batch of cookies and a jar of jam.

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Rhubarb Swirl Coffee Cake

I had a bundle of local Alaska rhubarb a friend gave me slowly decomposing in my crisper, so today I salvaged what was left with this delicious coffee cake.  I only very minimally modified this recipe.  I used butter instead of coconut oil, because I’m out (I go through one of these about every 6 weeks), and after measuring honey for the rhubarb sauce, I was done with measuring honey, so I just used organic cane sugar in the cake batter. That sad, wilted rhubarb moved to a whole new level today!

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Seafood from the Back of a Truck

Under typical circumstances, offers of seafood from a lone vehicle in a gas station parking lot would have sent up an immediate red flag.  But the brightly hand-painted signs promising Kodiak scallops and Alaskan shrimp propped up next to a pickup truck last week were surprisingly reassuring, as was the salesman, who identified the origin and method of harvest for each of his goods.  I walked away with 2 1/2 pounds of shrimp and almost 2 pounds of scallops which were local, had lived well, and were free of chemicals, pesticides and shelf-life stabilizers.

When I got my little gems home, I looked up a few different recipes, but ultimately decided to freestyle dinner.  First, I had to do something with the shrimp.  Most of my shrimp cooking experience has included a frozen bag of EZ peelers, but these mamas needed a bit more work.  They had been de-headed and de-veined, but still retained copious numbers of legs and eggs.

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After some experimentation, I ended up snipping down the back of each carapace with some kitchen scissors.  The meat came out easily after that, even if it was a bit labor intensive to cut a slit in each individual shrimp.

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I diced up some bacon and cooked it about half way on the stove, then added some sliced zucchini and green onions.  I threw in the shrimp and seasoned it all with sea salt, pepper, thyme and garlic.

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For the scallops, I heated up an empty pan.  I coated the scallops with avocado oil, and sprinkled them with sea salt and pepper.  There were so many scallops, I had to sear them in three batches, about 45 seconds on each side.

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I ended up with more scallops than I’ve ever seen at once!  I’ve never liked ordering shellfish in restaurants, because the quantity is always disappointing.  There was no skimping on shrimp and scallops at our house that night.

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I made up a basic risotto for a carby treat, and served us up!  Si wasn’t convinced that this meal was anything special, but John was impressed.  Restaurant shellfish lacks both quantity AND quality, it turns out.  The scallops were tender and moist, and the shrimp tasted so fresh.  There are certainly some perks that come with living at the source.

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Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict

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Last weekend, we came home from the Kenai River with 9 Sockeye salmon, all thanks to John’s newly acquired fishing skills.  Several of them were processed with my newly acquired filleting skills.  We froze the fillets, then grilled half and smoked half of the bellies.

Smoked Salmon

We marinated the pieces of salmon belly in salt, brown sugar, and Yoshida’s for about 24 hours, then smoked it over maple chips for 2 hours.

Eggs Benedict

For the breakfast, I stacked a Romaine lettuce leaf, a good chunk of smoked salmon, and a poached egg, then smothered it in Hollandaise sauce (using this recipe), and topped with a sprinkle of paprika.

I love this recipe because a) it’s delicious, b) it’s pretty simple, and c) it looks fancy.

(Paleo/primal disclaimer: I realize the marinade for the smoked salmon has a lot of sugar and even HFCS.  As I become more experienced and confident in the process of smoking salmon, I’ll start working on more Paleo-friendly recipes.)