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Category: Forage & Wild Harvest

We forage for and wild harvest mushrooms, greens and berries as well as meat.

Chaga Concentrate: Easy to Make at Home

Chaga Concentrate: Easy to Make at Home

Chaga Concentrate

Last year, on our way out of the woods after deer hunting, Steve spotted chaga on a birch tree. I was out of chaga concentrate so he watched for a piece in a birch stand. He has an eagle eye when it comes to chaga, especially if it’s high. Disclaimer: There isn’t any medical advice given here. Use chaga at your own risk. Take time to do your own research. We’re good now? Great!

chaga-on-birch-treeIt weighed 11 pounds (below, not the one on the tree above).

chaga concentrate, chaga, Breaking Chaga Down

When chaga dries it becomes difficult to break without a saw so I needed to get it into manageable chunks as soon as possible. No problem! The wood splitter was handy and in five minutes it was down to size.

Grind chaga into a crumble to make tea if you have a rugged grinder. You can buy tea bags that seal with heat or use a tea ball. After some trial and error I decided chaga concentrate is easier for me.

I broke my chaga into baseball sized pieces to make concentrate. It’s porous and will absorb water if given enough time.

Making Chaga Concentrate

chaga concentrate, chaga tea, how to make chaga,Put the chaga in the small crock pot early in the morning. Fill it with cold water, cover it, and set the heat to medium high or high. Leave it alone until the water steams. Remove the cover to let the water evaporate. The chaga will absorb water and eventually sink to the bottom. Turn the heat off before going to bed and let the chaga steep. Half or more of the water should be gone by now.

Next morning, the chaga concentrate should be the color of coffee. Remove the chaga and pour the liquid chaga concentrate through a strainer. You probably won’t get all of the crumbly bits out and that’s okay. They’ll settle to the bottom of the jar. Store it in the fridge. I can’t give you a definite amount of time you can store chaga concentrate without losing its effectiveness. The best I can tell you is that I’ve never had it mold in the fridge.

Chaga Tea

If you don’t have enough chaga to make concentrate you can steep it for tea. Taste test as you go to determine the strength you like. You can use your pieces more than once as long as you dry it quickly and completely. Chaga will mold if it isn’t dry when stored. A dehydrator makes fast work of drying it well.

I add one tablespoon to my coffee and tea. I can’t give you a dosage or medical advice. This is what I do. Before using chaga concentrate or chaga at all, do your own research.

 

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Creamy Wild Mushroom Soup

Creamy Wild Mushroom Soup

Creamy Wild Mushroom Soup

Creamy wild mushroom soup is one of my comfort foods. You don’t have to have to pick wild mushrooms to make this recipe. You can find mushrooms in the produce section of most groceries and sometimes at Farmers Market.

mushroom soup, creamy wild mushroom soup, how to cook mushrooms

I like to add a variety of mushrooms to one batch. Portobello, Lobster, Porcini, Coral, Shiitake, Cremini, and Oyster are varieties I think work very well. Lobster is a dense, dry mushroom, the only variety I was because it doesn’t absorb water. Skip Chanterelles in this recipe, its milder flavor will be lost in the mix, and it’s a little too special as far as wild mushrooms go to lose.

What looked to be a poor wild mushroom year took a turn in late August when we finally got rain. Chanterelles made a brief reappearance. Gray Oyster is growing on old logs in the wood yard. Scaber Stalk, Porcini (King) and other boletes are going crazy. I’ve never seen so many boletes, some nearly the size of a soccer ball. I’ve dehydrated and frozen enough to last us a year and they’re not done yet. It’s almost time for Matsutake to pop up, a mushroom I’ve not yet picked.

Pick what you know to be safe. Take a class or three. Learn from someone who knows mushrooms well. Until then, check out the produce department and farmers market to stay on the safe side.

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Blueberry Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Blueberry Bourbon BBQ Sauce

Blueberry Bourbon BBQ Sauce

I’m a barbecue sauce snob and have no problem admitting so. At the same time, I’m not a bourbon snob. I don’t even love bourbon. Truth be told, I barely like it. So why blueberry bourbon BBQ sauce? Bourbon is a small portion of the recipe. It adds a lot to the flavor without being overwhelming.

DISCLAIMER: I don’t know that all of the alcohol will dissipate while the sauce simmers. Maybe, but I don’t know.

blueberry bourbon bbq sauce, dipping sauce, blueberry, bourbon, recipe

Maine is home to more than 90% of the world’s wild blueberry crops.  I stopped at a roadside stand on Rt 9 and bought seven quarts. If blueberries don’t grow locally you can find them fresh in the produce isle when they’re in season or you can buy them frozen. If frozen, thaw them and let the moisture drain. I put them on a cotton dish towel and roll them around gently to get the excess water off.

I’ve had a lot of fun working with this recipe. Give it a try! Let me know how you change the recipe if you do, and what you used it on. I use this specifically on meat. I’ll be sharing fruit bourbon sauces that aren’t barbecue that you can use on meats and even desserts.

This makes a great dipping sauce for poultry nuggets and fish sticks.

blueberry bourbon bbq sauce, wild turkey, barbecue sauce

I cooked half a wild turkey breast on the grill, slathered sauce all over both sides in the last few minutes, and gave it another minute on each side. We love homemade chicken nuggets and this was a perfect sauce to dip them in, much better than the standard ranch, blue cheese or sweet and sour dressings.

Foraging Wild Food – Quality food at a low cost

Foraging Wild Food – Quality food at a low cost

Foraging Wild Food

After morning chores are finished and before it gets too hot I’m foraging wild food. I pack a half-bushel basket, a paring knife, cold water to drink, berry boxes and measuring cups with handles, a camera and a pair of tall boots in case I have to cross a small stream to get to the mushrooms. We’re going to pick one of my favorite mushrooms, Chanterelles. If I were to buy them, these mushrooms would cost $26 a pound, more than we can afford to pay considering how many pounds we like to put up for a year. Picking 20 pounds will fill our needs but this year that’s unlikely because it’s too dry. Fortunately, we do find a small patch in my favorite spot. They’re on both sides of the stream, tucked in near hemlock trees. Keep that in mind. If you’re looking for Chanterelles, look near hemlock trees.

I carefully choose two-thirds of the best mushrooms, cutting each stem just above the ground, and leave the rest. By leaving some I know there will be more; maybe not this year if it stays dry but next year.  Nobody else has followed the trail along the stream to this spot. Lobster mushrooms are starting to come up.  They are the dirtiest mushrooms we pick, covered in duff from the forest floor, but washable because of their density. These mushrooms are a great base for cream of mushroom soup.

foraging wild food, chanterelle mushrooms, sautee
Sauteed wild mushrooms with chives and Italian seasoning

Wild Blackberries

I haven’t seen blackberries this abundant in 32 years. I remember it well because it was horribly hot that summer and I was hugely pregnant. We picked five quarts on August 8, the first ripe berries. Next week I’ll be counting gallons, not quarts. I’ll make jam and jelly, wine, tarts and maybe even ice cream.
foraging wild foods, wild blackberriesI’m blessed with an abundance of wild foods and the freedom to pick them. The timber investment companies that own the hundreds of thousands of acres that surround my home don’t care about this food. Raspberries are almost over, blackberries almost in full swing, and I think blueberries are about ready to pick now. I’ll be looking for blueberries next week.

Wild Apples

foraging wild food, wild applesApple trees are either loaded or bare this year. It looked like there would be more than last year’s huge harvest but pollination must have been a little off as a lot of the small apples fell. Picking up dropped apples on country roads is similar to gleaning in agricultural fields.

I will fill freezers and jars by foraging wild food. By the time the ground has frozen we’ll have harvested wild foods throughout the growing season, from fiddleheads and Japanese knotweed gathered in spring, to berries and mushrooms picked into fall. This foraging wild food thing…you should give it a try if you don’t already. What do you forage? And how do you use what you find?

 

What Do Homesteaders Do? Glad you asked.

What Do Homesteaders Do? Glad you asked.

What do homesteaders do?

“What do homesteaders do?” That question was asked of me many times last Friday and Saturday. I can’t speak for all homesteaders but here’s a list of what we do here on our 45 acres as well as on other land and on the water.

Homestead Food Production

We grow most of our own vegetables, about 95%. Corn, beans, peas, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, spinach, turnip, rutabaga, pumpkins, squash, Swiss chard, beets garlic and others. Dill, oregano, lemon balm, chives, basil and sage are my main herbs. I’m working on expanding the perennial herb garden.

In addition to the garden we have an orchard. There are 40+ apple trees that start as seedlings and end in highly productive trees that provide more apples than we can use, and last year more apples than the wildlife could eat before they spoiled. We also have plum, pear and peach trees, strawberry and rhubarb, and hazelnuts in varying stages of production. Chestnut and oak trees are saplings that I hope produce in my lifetime. I’d like to use some of the chestnuts. The oak are for wildlife.

wild apples, homesteadersWe have ducks and chickens year round for eggs, use some of the ducks for meat, and raise chickens yearly and sometimes turkeys and pigs for meat. We buy or barter pork and beef. We avoid factory farmed animals as much as possible but we aren’t purists. There are rare occasions that we eat that meat, and we give Ava her epilepsy medications in that hamburger.

Fishing provides some of our meat as well as a source of fun. We love to fish for bass, salmon, trout, perch and pickerel, though we seldom eat pickerel.

But...what do homesteaders DO? It's a big question. Click To Tweet

We hunt. Hunting is a traditional method of putting food on the table used by homesteaders since the first person discovered meat. Long before man domesticated animals he hunted them. We hunt turkey, partridge, bear, deer and snowshoe hare, and we hope to hunt moose. Moose requires a permit that’s given out in a lottery.

homesteaders, turkey huntingWild Harvest & Forage

Wild harvesting plays a big roll in feeding ourselves. In addition to hunting and fishing we pick raspberries, blackberries, apples, strawberries, mushrooms, fiddleheads and other wild plants. There are wild choke cherry trees galore that I don’t use, and wild elderberry I should use more than I do. I’ll be writing about this in more detail as we go through 2016.

Food Preservation

The work continues after the garden is grown, birds raised, fish caught and animals hunted. It all has to be “put up.” I make bacon and sausage, and all of the meat is frozen. All of the vegetables are frozen, canned, dehydrated or stored in the cold cellar. Pickles, jams and jellies line the cupboard shelves. These are things I’ll write about in more detail over time.

Firewood

We heat with wood. We do have a small propane furnace for backup in case we’re gone longer than the fire lasts. The winter of 2014/15 was brutal. More than 200″ of snow fell and the temps dipped and stayed below 0° for long stretches. We used six cords of wood and sometimes ran the furnace to warm up the basement. The duct work loses a lot of heat to the cold basement, a problem if we depended on it to heat the house but useful when we have to keep the space above freezing. The old part of the foundation is a stone wall cellar with a dirt floor, hard to keep warm. During the mild winter of 2016 we used four cords of firewood. The furnace hasn’t been turned on in well over a year.

firewood, homesteaders

Livestock

Other than poultry and dogs we don’t have anything with feet and faces. We’ve had horses, pigs, cattle (meat and milk), goats and rabbits. It was what I’d been told “real” homesteaders do so we did. A woman who worked at the feed store said “you’ll get over it.” She was right. I love OPA – other people’s animals. As long as we can buy and barter for meat locally we’ll stick to chickens, ducks and turkeys.

Paying the Bills

“But how do you live? You know. How do you pay the bills and buy stuff?” Steve’s career pays our bills. We aren’t “poor homesteaders,” something someone asked me about. We aren’t off grid. I stay home to take care of the majority of our food rather than going to work to earn the money to pay someone to provide (grocery stores) it for us. Being an introvert, I’m not cut out for working with the public or being around people all the time. I’m good for temporary stints like writing retreats.

Any questions? I’m happy to answer!