Category Archives: Foraging/Wild Harvesting

Blackberry Syrup with Honey

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So…we’re moving in just a couple of weeks. And we had a freezer full of food to eat up since we will be living in camping trailers and won’t have freezer space available to us (have you seen how small those freezers are?).

We had several bags of wild blackberries in the freezer from two summers ago. First of all, they just needed to be used. Because, you know, two summers ago!

Second of all, as I said, we don’t want to transport frozen food to Nevada. So we either needed to eat them or transform them into something that is doesn’t need to be refrigerated/frozen.

We had so many that we could eat cobbler several times a week from now till we leave. And as much as we all love cobbler, we’re just not that into desserts around here. We see them as a treat rather than a staple.

So a canned good of some sort was the order of the day.

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I coulda made jam. But as much as we had would have probably made about 5 pints of jam. Way too much for us to go through. That would have lasted us years! We just don’t eat that much jam.

So I chose to make syrup. By straining out the pulp and seeds I knew I’d get a smaller volume of juice. Not only that, but one jar of syrup will be gone in just a couple of days. We don’t make pancakes all that often, but when we do, we open a jar of our delicious homemade fruit syurp, use it for the pancakes, and the remainder gets used in oatmeal till it’s gone a day or two later.

I started out with 10 cups of frozen blackberries. I put them in a pot with about 1 cup of water and heated them till boiling, then cooked them for about 5 minutes. I then took a potato masher and mushed them up to get out as much juice as possible.

After that, I scooped them into some jelly bags to drain. You could use a piece of muslin or linen fabric, or several layers of cheescloth if you don’t have jelly bags.

I hung the jelly bags from a cabinet doorknob and let them drip into a bowl.

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They drained like that for about an hour or so. I probably could have let them drain for several more hours and gotten more juice out of them, but I was in a hurry.

I ended up with 4 cups of juice. I added this and one 1 cup of honey to a pot on the stove and started heating it. I chose this amount of honey because that’s what tasted good to us. Feel free to adjust the amount to your liking. You can also use any other kind of sweetener you’d prefer.

Once it was boiling, I sprinkled in about two tablespoons of no-sugar-needed pectin. I figured this would thicken it up into more of a syrup consistency without waiting for it to boil down on the stove. If you’d prefer not to use pectin, you can just let it simmer for a while on the stove, but be prepared to lose a bunch of volume. If you do use pectin, be careful not too add to much or you’ll end up with jelly!

Once it boiled good for a minute or so, I ladled it into prepared jars and processed it for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. For detailed instructions on water bath canning, check out this site.

You can see from the following picture that the syrup is thick enough to coat the inside of the jar. Yummy!

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I ended up with 5 cups of syrup in 4 jars (two 12oz jars and two 8oz jars).

Can’t wait to have some pancakes!

And yes, we left enough blackberries out to make a couple cobblers. 🙂

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

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Daily Life #11 – DIY paracord belt and signs of spring!

I finished my belt!

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And O.M.Gosh, my fingertips hurt from gripping the p-cord over and over and over as I weaved the thing!

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Weaving, weaving, weaving

Overall, I’m very pleased with how it turned out. As you can see from the first picture, I ended up using two different colors because we didn’t have enough of just one. But I think the two tone effect is cool. Besides, people hardly ever see my belt since I never tuck in my shirts.

So, out goes the very worn bracelet.

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Well, maybe I’ll keep it for those days when I’m not wearing a belt. 🙂

Oh, and here’s a picture that shows the instructions of how to make a belt or bracelet using the weave I used.

Today I went for my walk, but it took twice as long to go the same distance. I kept getting distracted by all the signs of spring just around the corner.

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And I walked through the neighborhood park which has the wild onions growing and picked some for our dinner.

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They are still small, but very flavorful.

Our house designer emailed us the house plans today. We are so very close to being able to submit the plans for our building permit. So Hubby and I spent a substantial amount of time going over everything, making changes were needed, and fueling our dreams.

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Preserving the harvest

There is a house in our neighborhood which is vacant and for sale. In the back yard stands two apple trees and five (yes 5!) plum trees.

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Last year I got permission from the owner/tenant to pick their apples since it was obvious by the number of apples on the ground that they were not going to be doing anything with them.

This year I called the realtor and he gave us permission to take all the fruit we want.

Yay!

So I’ve been supplying us with plums to snack on for a couple weeks now. And I’ve had a basket of apples sitting in the corner waiting for me to do something with them.

Then two days ago a friend gave me some cucumbers and zucchini that she had left over after making all the pickles and relish she wanted.

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So today, I sat down with my recipe books and a pad of paper and made some lists.

Apples : make into cider
Cucumbers: pickle them
Zucchini: shred and freeze
Plums: unknown (I don’t care for plum jam/jelly. What else is there to do with plums?)

As you can see, I had some research to do. I finally decided to make plum butter amd a plum bbq sauce. But first we gotta go pick the plums!

Fist on the agenda for the day was to make the pickles since they are best when the cukes are fresh and they were already 4 das old.

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I’m not going to give a tutorial on how to make pickles. There are already a million of them out there, and I followed the instructions from the Ball Blue Book (one of my go-to canning guides). The only thing I changed is that I left out the sugar. I mean, really. Dill pickles do not need sugar!

However I did want to mention one tidbit that might be handy. The instructions say to tie the spices in a bag. I’ve heard that you can use a tea bag (the kind you buy empty and put loose leaf tea in to steep). But I don’t have any of those lying around, besides, I don’t like to use disposable if I can help it. You can tie the spices up in a square of cheesecloth or fabric, but that just seems awkward. What I’ve done for years now is use panty hose.

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Yep, I purchased a cheap pair specifically for this purpose so they had never been worn. I gave them a good washing. Snipped off the foot portion and tied a knot in the end. Then I just fill the tube with the spices and knot the other end.

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Because the fabric is so stretchy, when it is time to clean, it is a simple task to unknot it, turn it inside out over the compost bucket, and then rinse and wash. And since it is nylon, it dries almost instantly, too.

So once I had the pickles all canned, it was time to deal with the apples. The Hubby and Princess Girl helped cut them up. Because they were so wormy we only got about half of each apple for the pot. The wormy parts went into a bucket to be fed to the chickens. No waste that way.

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I put them on the stove to cook a bit and while they were heating, Princess Girl and I attacked the zucchini.

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I shredded, she packed. We put approximately two cups into each bag since that’s what most of my recipies tend to call for.

We did not blanch the zucchini. I have seen directions that call for it, but in my experience, it has never made a difference in the end product.

I got called away to help Mom with some stuff and when I came back I found that the apples on the stove had cooked down to apple sauce!

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I realized I had cooked them too long to make cider, so I changed my plans and decided to make apple butter instead. Unfortunately, all the peels were still in there. I know some people cook their apple butter with the peels on and they eventually break down into the sauce, but I believe that lends a bitter taste to the sauce and resulting butter. So, I strained out the peels.

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(Gotta teach Princess Girl how to take clearer pictures!)

I spooned the peely sauce into a mesh strainer and by tapping the strainer “ears” on the rim of the bowl and stirring the sauce in the strainer, I got most of the sauce separated from the peels.

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Another of Princess Girl's photos

Even though the apples were not real sweet, the sauce is some of the best I’ve made. I think that is because usually I use the Victorio strainer and it mashes the peels up and strains them out. And while the peels don’t end up in the final product, I think some of their flavor does.

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Princess Girl told me I have to keep this picture and post it. 🙂

At any rate, I got all the peels strained out of the sauce (more food for the chickens!) And ended up with 10 cups of sauce which I put in the slow cooker with some cinnamon and clove. I will let it cook over night.

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I have to buy some honey tomorrow to use as the sweetener since we don’t have enough at the moment.

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Princess Girl helped me finish up the zucchini and get the bags ready for the freezer.

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Twelve pints of pickles canned, 6 bags of zucchini in the freezer, and apple butter cooking in the slow cooker. I’d say it was a productive day.

And tomorrow we go pick apples and plums.

I love harvest season and knowing that I am providing healthy food for my family. And it’s especially great when I get that food for free!

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Better late than never

Went blackberry picking today.

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It’s kinda late in the season, even though it’s only August 24th. But the blackberries came on early this year, along with everything else in the Pacific Northwest. Usually you can still pick all the way through Labor Day weekend.

Not gonna happen this year.

Sure, there were plenty of branches like this:

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But for every one of those, there were five like this:

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Blackberry raisins anyone?

But then, every once in a while, I’d run across a bunch like this:

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Jackpot!

It took me about 40 minutes to pick 2 quarts full and I had to wander all the way along the edge of the clearing to find the good ones.

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And I’d like to say that as I sit here in the nice shaded clearing and write this that I happily munch on berries. But, alas, about a month ago, I got violently ill after eating a bunch of blackberries, and now have an illogical fear of eating them off the vine. Oh, well, more for the bucket, eh? Who knows how long it would have taken me to pick enough had I been snacking on them along the way.

But it just wouldn’t be summer in the PNW without at least one fresh blackberry cobbler.

And THAT I think I can stomach.

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121

Fresh salad!

Fresh salad, straight from our garden/yard. Yum! I needed to thin out the lettuce from the small garden, I picked some of the over-wintered-but-not-doing-so-well spinach from the big garden, and I found some dandelion greens in the yard. I had a head of purchased iceburg in the fridge and add to all that some borage flowers which just started blooming and you have a gorgeous salad almost too pretty to eat. Almost, but not quite. 🙂

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I love that dandelions are considered a weed, yet they are edible and good for you. And the borage is a volunteer which comes back every year.

Edit: For the health of you and your family, be sure if you are harvesting any wild edibles that they come from a trusted source not treated with any harsh chemicals! We don’t use any herbicides or pesticides or even any fertilizer on our lawn, so I know the dandelions are safe to eat.

Harvesting Green Onions

I went back to that park where the wild oinions are growing.

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All of that "grass" is onions!

I picked a large grocery sack full and brought them home. Kinda weird to be walking through the neighborhood with a bag full of produce which I had just harvested from the “wilds” of the neighborhood park.

Once I got home, Princess Girl and I got to cleaning.

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After cleaning, I ended up with what amounts to about 15 to 20 bunches from the grocery store.

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I gave them one last cleaning in the sink, then got to chopping. Once chopped I put 1/2 cup servings into small baggies.

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When they were all bagged, I labeled them with the what they are, today’s date, and serving size. I ended up with 22 servings (11 cups).

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All the little baggies went into a large baggie and into the freezer for future use

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We’re headed to Nevada next week (yay!), and when we get back, if the onions are still harvestable, I’ll probably do it all again. Visions of quiches and soups and all sorts of recipes are dancing in my head!

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.” Ps 121:1-2

On my walk

Look what I found on my walk today. “Wild” onions! At the same park I went to earlier in the week. The family and I went on a walk. In the pouring rain. And came home with a whole handful of onions. And there’s more, many, many more, to be had. I’m making quiche tonight with green onions in it. Yum!  And later this week, I’m going back to pick more and preserve them by cutting and freezing them. I’m excited. Can you tell?

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This is perfect because the onions are already there, growing great, and all I have to do is harvest them before they die off or get mowed down. And if you’re worried about me picking someone’s onions, don’t be. This part of the park is all but abandoned. The city comes in once or twice a year and mows it. And the onions are so thick, it looks like grass. I could pick as much as I wanted to, and you’d never be able to tell I had been there. In fact, I would never have guessed the “grass” was actually onions except that with the girls running around today, they were stepping on them and we could smell them and investigated. When I was there earlier in the week, I stayed on the trail. I guess there are times when getting off the trail is a good thing. 🙂

Maridy

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.” Ps 121:1-2