Tag Archives: food

Gathering: Wild Blueberries

I’ve been planning for the last year to pick blueberries, but I had no idea where to go.  Luckily, I joined a group for an AMAZING trail run, and found myself running through bushes absolutely thick with them.  I only snacked on a few that day, but went back last week with the boys.  it wouldn’t have been possible to return to the Land of Endless Blueberries with a baby and a kindergartener, since that was at least 4 miles out, but there were plenty along the trail. We happily picked, made up blueberry songs, and got eaten by mosquitoes for almost 2 hours.  Our take?  6 oz.  Worth it? Our purple tongues and fingertips give that answer.

Focused!
Focused!
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Though they be but small, they are delicious!
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Satisfaction.

 

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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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No Place Like Home-r

After weeks of suffering from daily-grind-itis, it was high time for us to get out of town for the weekend.  Since the weather has been turning spring-ish, John hooked up our little trailer, loaded our fishing gear, and we took off Friday after work on the 5 hour drive to Homer, the artsy-hippie-fishing town on the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula.

Driving

The drive to Homer goes by fairly quickly.  In all, it’s amazingly scenic, and there is plenty of wildlife to look out for.  We spotted a half dozen moose on the way down, but no bears, even though they should be waking up from their winter nap.

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Arriving in Homer is a great finale to a nice drive.  When the little fishing village first comes into sight, you are high up on the bluff above Kachemak Bay, with the town laid out below.  The long stretch of the Homer Spit, a long, beachy peninsula, shoots into sight across the bay.

 

Staying

We spent Friday and Saturday night parked at the Driftwood Inn.  They provided both RV parking and hotel rooms.  Other amenities included bathrooms, showers, a laundry room, a small playground, and a fish cleaning counter.  The best part was the location: high on a bluff with a stellar view of the confluence of Kachemak Bay and the Cook Inlet.  A few short trails led down the bluff to the beach.

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Fishing

Over the last week, John picked up a couple of shore-casting rods so we could fish from the beach.  I still have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to fishing, so I just let him choose my gear for me.  After breakfast on Saturday, we drove down the Homer Spit.   It’s lined with cutesy little gift shops and charter fishing businesses.  We parked at the very end, I fed the baby and put him down for a nap in the trailer, and we set out to try our luck with our new set-ups.

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The morning was chilly.  The thermometer on the truck said it was in the forties, but the breeze created a significant windchill.  My hands went numb almost instantly.  I let John get set up and test the waters, literally, and played with Si on the beach.  The view from the spit made the cold tolerable.  The beach was a mix of sand and millions of perfectly round, flat rocks; a stone-skippers dream.  Out across the water, the other side of the bay was a panorama of jagged, snow-capped mountains.

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After awhile, John seemed to have the new fishing method figured out, so I gave it a try.  Shore-casting rods are heavy and in the range of nine-feet long, and casting requires flicking the rod to send the rig flying hundreds of feet off the shore.  The problem is that flicking is a light and quick movement, and the rods are…not.  John didn’t have too much of problem reconciling that issue, but my casts were a bit less than impressive.  It didn’t take long for John to start reeling in Alaska Walleye, a kind of pollock, with long spotted bodies, big, round eyes, and similarly shaped mouths.  I tossed out my pathetic cast, felt a light tug, and pulled in…a little purple starfish.  A few casts later, and I felt like I was getting the hang of it.  I felt a bit harder resistance on my line, and reeled in a bit bigger of a starfish.

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We stayed on the spit for two or three hours.  Our final tally was seven Walleye for John, and three starfish and two lost rigs for me.  I am completely clueless about what qualities make a person good at fishing, but I don’t have them.  However, to be fair, John was fully focused on fishing for those several hours, while I part-time fished, and part-time kids-line-untangled, rock-hunted, baby-carried, photo-took, snack-delivered, water-out-of-boots-dumped and lost-hook-searched.

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Eating

We usually pack our cooler to the brim for camping; eggs, bacon, sausage, steaks, chicken, fruits and veggies, it all comes.  For this weekend though, we suspected all that planning would go to waste since we’d heard so many good things about all of the options for eating out in Homer.  We kept the cooler empty for fish.

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On the drive down Friday night, we stopped at St. Elias Brewing Co. in Soldotna.  We had been there before, last summer after fishing on the Kenai River, and knew we wouldn’t leave disappointed.  I knew full well this weekend would be a huge gluten-bomb to the system, so I just rolled with it and ordered pizza.  John had Pesto Chicken, Si had Pepperoni, and I had Chicken with Pineapple.  I think we all liked John’s the best.  We also filled up our Hydroflask growler that I bought John for Christmas with their Dos Lobos amber ale before getting back on the road.

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Our next four meals were all within walking distance of the Driftwood Inn.  Saturday morning we ate at Maura’s Cafe.  It was amazing.  Si had Blueberry Crepes, crepes stuffed with farmer’s cheese and topped with a generous serving of blueberries with a chicken and apple sausage on the side.  I ordered the Root Veggie Hash, which was a pile of potatoes, yams, and arugula topped with fried eggs and the same chicken sausage.  John asked for the Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict, and it really gave my own recipe a run for the money.  The salmon was cold smoked, and the sauce was topped with capers.  My recipe has definitely been suffering from a caper-deficiency.  Their poached eggs were truly a thing of beauty, and I vowed find out what their secret was.

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For lunch, we went to the Two Sister’s Bakery.  I usually just say no to bakeries to avoid the temptation, but everyone I’d talked to about Homer had mentioned it, and I’d already fallen off the gluten-free wagon.  John had a turkey sandwich on foccacia stuffed with almost every kind of veggie – kale, zucchini, roasted red peppers, grilled onions.  I had Hungarian Mushroom Soup with a salad, and I ordered Si some veggie soup that came with two giant hunks of bread.  He only the ate the bread, of course, so I had vegetable soup along with my soup and salad.  Si likes to talk a big talk about our nutritional lifestyle, “Oh, I can’t eat that.  We only eat protein.”  But put him in a sugar/gluten/dairy situation and he’ll destroy it like nobody’s business.

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Dinner that night was AJ’s Steakhouse.  I saw a poster advertising the live music from the previous Saturday night, and, as it turned out, we were a week late to see Nikos Kilcher, Jewel’s brother, play.  Instead, our dinner was accompanied by a woman with a beautiful voice, a guitar, and jeans and Sorels; true Alaskan style.  We thought about steaks, but decided there was something sacrilegious about having beef in the “Halibut Capital of the World”.  So, I had the halibut.  It was a bit overcooked, but had decent flavor.  John ordered scallops, and had no complaints.  Ever since the scallops I made him a few months ago, he’s been a fan.  I usually let Si get whatever he wants when we go out to prevent any foods from acquiring a forbidden allure, but was still disappointed when he ordered PB&J.  I mean, seriously, kid?!

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Sunday morning, we went back to Maura’s Cafe.  I had been expecting them to be closed for Easter Sunday, so it was a pleasant surprise.  This time, we both had omelets.  John’s had shaved ham and brie, and mine had shrimp, rice noodles, and sweet and spicy Thai sauce.  Both were excellent.  Si had just scrambled eggs and the good ol’ chicken sausage, since he had just eyed my eggs over his blueberry crepes the breakfast before.  All breakfasts were delicious once again.  I remembered to ask about the poached eggs.  Apparently, a bit of vinegar in the water helps keep the egg together.  Who knew?  Well, probably everyone, but it was news to me.

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Overall, it was a fabulous weekend.  A new destination, a check off the Alaska list, some much needed R&R, and a whole set of plans for future return trips.  There’s no place like Homer!

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