Whether you’re celebrating the Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, or some other holiday, I hope you’re finding time during these long nights and short days to dream of what you wish to see in the longer, light-filled days ahead.
I just visited my mom and her husband Frank in Yreka, CA. That’s in the Mt. Shasta area.
While I was there I found some meadow mushrooms (Agaricus campestris)
and welcomed Nina, the newcomer in my mom’s household.
Now I’m in San Francisco visiting my dad. Yesterday I went to the farmers market and had an East Coast locavore’s citrus envy (citrus trees can’t grow outdoors in northeastern North America because the winters are too cold)…
…but then I remembered that as of next monday 29th I’ll be living in a place where citrus grows abundantly. Stay tuned!
Here’s a motley assortment of holiday recipes, inspiration, and gift ideas. There’s also a special offer for next spring’s foraging tours to give you and yours something to look forward to.
Give the gift of personal foraging instruction: Email me about how to gift either participation in one of my Spring 2015 foraging tours in the NYC, SF, and Yreka areas, or a private foraging tour (in case you wanted to know what’s growing on your property or nearby ;). 10% discount if you put SOLSTICE in the subject line.
Everyone loved them, and I sold out of all the books I’d brought (yay!). But several times people asked whether the recipe for the carrot pickle was in the book.
Yes. And no, not exactly.
The whole concept of Preserving Everything is that it focuses on each different method of food preservation and what makes it preserve food safely. Yes, there are recipes in the book, but they are meant to be examples as much as something tasty to make.
Once you understand which safety factor is involved in the recipe (Is it the acidity of the vinegar? The heat inside the pressure canner?), you can make up your own recipes.
I know, I know: I’m not supposed to say that. But let’s cut the bullshit: Yes, there are real, crucial food safety rules when it comes to food preservation…and they are totally learnable. And once you learn them, you can make up your own safe and delicious food preservation recipes.
For this recipe, I started with the Dilly Beans recipe that’s in the book. I knew (as will any reader of that chapter) that the pH of the vinegar brine was the main food safety factor, so I left that unchanged.
But I swapped multi-colored carrots for the green beans, and used coriander and ginger instead of dill. The result is an unusual and delicious pickle recipe that I made up after I wrote Preserving Everything, whilefollowing the safe vinegar pickling rules in the book exactly.
Pickled Carrots with Ginger and Coriander
Makes 1 pint, recipe can be multiplied
1 pound carrots (use multi-colored carrots if you can find them)
1–2 cloves garlic, smashed
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into four chunks
4–6 whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
2–3 fresh sprigs cilantro (coriander) leaves
1 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon kosher or other non-iodized salt
1. Peel the carrots, slice off the stem ends, and trim them so that they will fit into a pint-sized canning jar lengthwise with an inch of head space above them. Cut them lengthwise into quarters.
2. Put the garlic, ginger, pepper, mustard and coriander seeds into a clean, pint-sized canning jar. Tip the jar onto its side. Load in the carrot spears. When the jar is full enough for the carrots to stay vertical, set it upright.
3. Tuck in the cilantro (coriander leaf) sprigs. A chopstick is useful for pushing the herbs down in between the carrots.
4. Add more carrots until they are so tightly packed that you can’t shove in a single carrot slice more without it breaking. The carrots will shrink slightly during canning, and you want them to be so tightly packed that even with that shrinkage they hold one another down under the vinegar brine.
5. Put the vinegar, water, salt, and honey into a small pot and bring them to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the salt and honey.
6. Pour the hot vinegar brine over the carrots and other ingredients in the jar. Be sure that the food is completely immersed in the brine, but there is still 1/2 inch of head space.
7. Wipe the rim of the jar clean. Screw on the canning lid. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months, or for longer storage at room temperature, process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (adjust the canning time if you live at a high altitude). Either way, wait at four days for the flavors to develop before tasting.
Yesterday I saw (and smelled) the first ripe ginkgo fruits hitting the ground. Once you get past the stinky orange pulp there’s a culinary treat in the seed. Here’s how to harvest so that you skip the smelly stuff. There are also easy, delicious recipes there for using the ginkgo “nuts.”
If you’re in Brooklyn, stop by the Park Slope CSA distribution today between 4-6:30pm. I’ll be signing copies of Preserving Everything and handing out taste samples (I’ll bring the naturally pink cauliflower pickles for sure, and we’ll see what else). You don’t have to be a member of the CSA to check out the signing and sampling. Just stop by the Garden of Union community garden on Union St. between 4th and 5th avenues.
Oscar Wilde said, “The only cynic is a failed romantic.” This post is for all of you who would have loved to love the People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21st, 2014, but didn’t.
Somewhere between 310,000 and 400,000 of us marched on Sunday, depending on which source you get your numbers from. That’s a heck of a lot of people hopeful and motivated enough about our ability to positively impact climate change to show up. Some traveled from other countries to attend.
But before I ever arrived at 71st Street and Central Park West, the meeting point for the Food Justice contingent I was marching with, snarky tweets and demoralizing FB statuses had already started coming in.
I read that the march wouldn’t make a difference. I read that no matter how many of us showed up, the folks at the UN meeting wouldn’t change anything because corporate money rules political power, and both are in bed with climate-raping practices like factory-farmed animal meat and big oil.
I read that only retro-hippie types in their seventies and twenty-something hipsters, most of them white, were marching. I read that they were leaving their fast food disposable cups and other trash in the street when they couldn’t find enough trash cans to service them, a direct contradiction to the idea of taking care of your environment.
But the march was amazing. The organizers (who need better arrangements for trash collection along the route next time) hoped for 100,000. They got over three times that many of us to show up. The energy of over 300,000 people raising their voices in support of an urgent cause they believe they can do something about is something I hope you get to experience.
Many others have already posted about how amazing the minute of silence followed by the roar of voices was. There were also fascinating, hopeful connections being made between inventors with solutions to energy issues and people who could hook them up with customers. There was also a lot of simple, wonderful, human fun like drummers and puppets and dancers who kept us focused and energized even when the march didn’t get going until over an hour after it was supposed to.
Checking in online the day after the march, though, was a bummer.
I read the word “hypocrisy” many times, including in a status update from a friend I have great respect for. She, too, referenced the huge amount of trash left behind by the march. I felt compelled to respond, and this is what I wrote in the comments:
I don’t think it’s possible to get over 300,000 humans together and not have a certain percentage be hypocritical assholes. But at 52 years old I’m hardly a hipster, and I marched yesterday. As for trash, when the woman in front of me couldn’t figure out what to do with an apple core because there weren’t any trash cans near by, I put it in an empty container I had to take to the compost collection at my local Greenmarket. You can focus on the jerks who littered at a climate march, or you can focus on those of us who went out of our way not to. Both narratives are true.
In response, one of my friend’s friends said it would be great if I could share an article “highlighting the beauty of it.” This was someone who had been interested in the march, but ultimately not motivated enough by the pr to attend it. I didn’t know of such an article, so I said I’d write it.
I think cynicism and perfectionism are two of the most dangerous mindsets on the planet right now. Both encourage people to opt out of actually doing anything. But perfectionism is the most dangerous of all. It’s so dangerous that it can become ridiculous.
The empty container I had to receive that woman’s apple core on the march was a Tupperware one that had previously held my lunch. It was made out of plastic, a petroleum product. Should I not have offered to solve her organic trash problem out of shame for the origins of my container?
Or should I have asked her, “Before you give me that core, I need to know: Was that apple organically, locally grown?” And if not, should I have refused to take it from her?
You don’t have to do everything. You don’t have to be the poster child for environmental responsibility.
But you do have to do something. Dare to hope, and don’t be a failed romantic.
And now I need to stop writing this post and email the organizers of the People’s Climate march to tell them they need to do better about trash collection on the next march.
Yesterday’s People’s Climate March in NYC exceeded all expectations. We were hoping for maybe 100,000. 310,000 showed up. I was there marching with the Food Justice contingent.
When I started this blog in 2007 I was embarking on a year-long local foods challenge I called The 250, and one of my major motivations for doing so was the environmental impact of what we eat. Seven years later, “local” has become a food-shopping buzzword, and “sustainable” is stepping up where “organic” used to be the only word associated with environmentally-friendly food.
There’s a long way to go, but there has been huge progress as well. For example, the number of farmers’ markets in the U.S. has increased by 75% since 2008. As with the follow up to yesterday’s historic march, there are continuing actions that are essential on a scale that ranges from international. But just for a moment, let’s celebrate the successes so far (with some local wine and grub, of course ;).
The buzz is that as many as 100,000 people will be marching in the People’s Climate March in NYC today, and I will be one of them! I’ll be marching with the Food Justice group and hope to see many of you there (well, okay, it may be kinda hard to find each other amidst that many people, but DM me and it could happen).
Excited to demonstrate for solutions, not business as usual. If you don’t live near NYC, there are lots of other companion climate events happening today and this whole coming week.
One of the first things I did when I arrived at my temporary home was make pickles. I was staying on Manhattan’s Upper West Side for two weeks to housesit the beautiful home of some friends who were away on vacation.
I know, pickling was kind of a weird priority. But I like to have good pickles around to munch on, and it’s a matter of pride that I haven’t actually bought pickles in at least two decades.
These are hands-down my favorite pickles, the ones I always have some version of in my fridge. I left a couple of jars of them for my friends to enjoy when they get back.
Try them and let me know what you think:
Two Day Refrigerator Dill Pickles
The difference between fantastic and okay cucumber pickles is choosing small, firm cucumbers with few seeds. It’s not important that you use a pickling variety of cucumber, but do use only those that are not more than an inch in diameter and feel solid.
Makes 1 quart/2 pint jars (recipe can be multiplied)
2 pounds small, firm cucumbers
3 cups water
1/2 cup cider or white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or other non-iodized salt
1 tablespoon sugar or 2 teaspoons light honey (clover or wildflower works well)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2–4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2–3 dill flowerheads or 2 generous sprigs fresh dill leaves or 1 tablespoon dried dillweed
1. Cut a thin sliver off the flower end of the cucumbers (that’s opposite the stem end, but if you’re not sure, slice off both ends.) The end of the cucumber that once had the flower attached contains enzymes that can soften pickles, so slicing off that little bit can result in better, crunchier pickles.
2. Slice the cucumbers crosswise on a slight diagonal, making each piece 1/2 to 1-inch thick.
3. In small pot, bring the water, vinegar, salt, sugar or honey, and turmeric to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.
4. Put the garlic, mustard seeds, peppercorns, and dill into the bottom of a clean glass jar. Because these pickles are destined for the refrigerator, not the canner, you do not need to use canning jars.
5. Pack the cucumber chunks into the jar on top of the spices. You want the cucumbers to be packed in so tightly that they hold one another in place under the brine—keep adding until you can’t get one more in.
6. Pour the brine over the cucumbers. They should be completely covered by the liquid. Screw on the lid, and put your pickles-to-be in the refrigerator.
7. Wait 2 days for the flavor of the pickles to develop before tasting them (they’re even better after 4 days, but we almost never wait that long).
I’ve already put up some grape leaves for future dolmathes. And the caper project (or as Ellen dubbed it, The Caper Caper) is winding down just as the sumac and grapes are ripening. Figs ready soon.
We’ve got a decent number of jars of capers put up, but I doubt it will be enough to get us all the way through till their season next year. We keep finding more uses for them, and also we keep proudly giving them to friends and family.
Speaking of family, many visitors are showing up at the end of the month for the wedding of bf’s younger son, and I’m stocking up on foraged treats to share with them. Besides the capers, I’ve got a few bottles of elderflower champagne, some naturally fizzy fermented ginger ale, and now that the sumac is coloring up I’m going to make plenty of sumac “juice” to have on hand for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
Passionfruit is ripening as well, and I’ve been stockpiling the juice in the freezer. Stay tuned for a post on the easiest way to free the juice from the many seeds, and what to do with passionfruit juice once you’ve got it.
I’ve also been foraging Saint John’s Wort. The yellow flowers turn oil a stunning crimson. I use the oil externally for nerve pain such as sciatica, or that old knee surgery scar that still bothers me.
Apparently Amazon pays attention to pre-order numbers as far as how prominently they promote a book, so if you’re thinking of getting it please go ahead and pre-order, and thanks! Or you can get one from me in person at this Slow Food NYC event.
P.S. – For those of you who’ve been concerned about the fact that I’m in Israel with all that’s going on, thank you for your concern. This is my sustainable food systems blog primarily focused on foraging and food preservation (although I leave myself wiggle room to share great local food ideas that don’t fit into those categories). I have decided to leave politics out of it, so this is all I’m going to say about that.
I’ve enlisted my boyfriend Ricky to help collect capers. Capers are the pickled, or sometimes salt-cured, unopened flower buds of Capparis spinosa, a plant that is native to Mediterranean countries. It sure as heck doesn’t grow back in my old Brooklyn ‘hood (but for my BK buddies and others cold-winter climes, you can make a nice mock up version by pickling nasturtium buds).
Collecting capers is a delicate, time-consuming business because the plants are thorny and primed to snag both clothing and skin. They are tough perennials that frequently grow out of rock walls and other dry spots. The delicate looking flowers give no clue as to just how tough a plant this is.
Unless you’re salt-curing them, capers need to be soaked in changes of water for three days before they are brined. This means some caper management if you’re bringing home a handful a day and trying to keep track of which have soaked for how long.
Once cured, capers are an essential ingredient in many dishes such as pasta putanesca. I’ve decided that since the plants are so prolific here, we shouldn’t ever have to buy capers. Ricky points out, jokingly, that if you calculated our hourly wage for collecting and curing them these would be the priciest capers ever. Okay, but that’s not the point. The point is that they will be our capers, and they will be delicious, and we had fun together while we were outside gathering them.
But the flowering season for Capparis spinosa is already winding down, and we don’t yet have enough to last a whole year (not to mention that I’d like to give some as gifts). Better get busy…
I’m trying four different versions of curing them: 2 in vinegar-based brines, 1 lacto-fermented, and a simple dry salting. I’m also going to put up a jar of the immature fruits to see if we like those (you see them for sale sometimes). Here’s the recipe for the simplest vinegar brine method that I tried for the first time last year, other recipes posted as soon as I’m sure they’re good.
Changing the subject for a shameless plug moment, I really enjoyed doing the interview for this post on the New York Botanical Garden’s site. It was nice to be asked thoughtful questions such as whether and why kids should be taught foraging.
Tomorrow night (Thursday, May 15th) there’s a Slow Food NYC event at The Farm on Adderley restaurant. It’s free, and you don’t have to be a Slow Food member to attend (although I highly recommend becoming a member of that excellent organization if you aren’t already!)
I’ll be doing a talk about foraging, including how wild edibles fit in with a sustainable food system and some issues specific to urban foraging. The Farm on Adderley will be offering up some cocktails inspired by foraged ingredients. And I’ll have copies of Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries available if you’re interested in getting a signed copy.