Foraging

Sights from the Mountain; A Look Back at 2016

So to keep from bitching about how disappointing 2016 was from my point of view and keeping my mind off another medical procedure I am planing to have this week. I wanted to lighten up and share what good things did happen in 2016 and skip my reasons to complain and just share my Joy for life, Friends, Family and Creativity.

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Tom sanding floors of Christopher’s bedroom 2016

 

finished Master Bedroom with new bed and paint

My finished Master Bedroom with new bed and paint

One of the few things I did actually accomplish after Tom and I both spent the spring recovering from surgeries was redoing two bedrooms.This is the first time Tom or I had re-finished hardwood floors and learned tons and will be doing more of the house over the next couple of years. The biggest think I learned was sometime imperfect conditions lead you to perfect resolutions. The floor in Christopher’s room had several places with water damage and some were very dark.  We learned from Dan Antion a fellow blogger at “No Facilities blog” how to lighten them without having to actually remove the damaged sections if they were not rotted.I also learned, more about polyurethane then I ever hoped too this year between this project and the following one.

I poured my heat and soul into a public art project with my AmeriCorps site in Elkins, West Virginia. I helped to plan, paint and install three large 8 X 8 foot quilt block panels on downtown city buildings. It was some of the most fun I have had in years. Not only did I get to work with a great groups of volunteers I got to spend time doing art in a way that I never imagined.That Art degree finally paid off and my mom is so proud.

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“Maple Leaf” installed on the side of the YMCA in Elkins WV

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installed “West Virginia Star” on wall of Davis trust company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Log Cabin” installed on back of the YMCA Elkins WV 2016

The summer was full of time out side whether we were working, traveling or just trying to spend time together as a family. For that I am really thankful and we were able to see some wonderful places that were new to my family this year. One of my favorite hobbies is hunting mushrooms and I think I missed all of the best foraging days this year but was able to find and photograph several that I had not seen before. This photo is from the Monongahela National Forest.

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I got to beat the summer heat at Cannan Valley Ski resort with some of the wonderful co-workers. Picking wild blue berries for a work Team Meeting was one of the most refreshing trips outside I made all year. We rode the ski lift up the mountain, hiked out to a point and sat on rocks over looking  a valley where we ate the berries we had picked. I will never look at work meetings the same again.

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summer wild blueberry picking team meeting July 2016

We ended summer with a trip deep into the mountains of West Virginia with a trip to Green Bank and Cass State Park. In all the years that we have traveled the state I think the trip to Cass is on my top five places to see in West Virginia. The train, the town, the hiking and river all combine to make this a must see place.

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Scenic over look at the top of Spruce Knob by way of Cass Scenic Rail Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then fall arrived and my friends and family descended on our house for almost the entire month of Oct we spent time with people that we had not seen in years. First my brother came for a week to visit. We spent time sight-seeing, eating and drinking are way across the state.

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The Powers family with brother Bill Lowrey at the Mystery Hole just West of Hawks Net State Park, West Virginia

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Road side view of the Mystery Hole Rt#40 near Hawks Nest  State Park,WV

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Mystery Hole front doors… We needed to see what was in that Hole!

After a morning at Bridge Day in Fayetteville West Virginia everyone traveled the next 16 miles to the town of Ansted  to see the World Famous Mystery Hole. One of the most silly and fun road side attractions in the state. This place is something you just can’t really explain unless you have been there. The fun part is trying to explain how they do what they do in the Mystery Hole and joke about what drug induced night mare inspired its construction.

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Street side view of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum Oct 2016

Then a life long friend and Haunted House expert Alex came to visit for my birthday and Halloween. It had been years since we got together and it was the perfect time to take him sight-seeing at West Virginia’s most haunted location, the Trans  Allegheny Lunatic Asylum and Haunted House. We had a great time on the VIP tour and got to see every floor of the old mental hospital and take hundreds of photos.We laughed and screamed inside their annual haunted house and spent time taking classic old building photos around the surrounding counties.

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A Beautiful Mess in a Plaster Repair room second floor of the TALA.

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Alex Smits taking photos inside the TALA. This room is supposed to be haunted by a little girl named Lilly who will play with the toys.

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Long corridors along the third floor of the TALA. This is floor was used for farm workers.

Then we also added the most time-consuming project of the year! Doc takes up almost all of my free time with his walking and play times. He is not the dog for everyone but perfect for my family.

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“Doc” Holiday our sleepy puppy at about 3 months old

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“Doc” trying to share a chair with Tom at 5 months old… getting sooo big.

 

“Doc” has been a very active and funny part of our year and If I can just survive the next year with him,he will make a wonderful friend for many years to come. As of today he is 6 months old and weighs about 48 pounds. Full grown he should be about 60 pounds. He is the reason I get out walking every morning and the reason all the neighbors now know me as the lady with the big red dog. Doc will start some  kind of training in just a few months. I hope to see if he is able to be used as a search and rescue  dog for our local county. Time will tell if he is going to help find lost hikers and children in the mountains of West Virginia or of if he is just going eat everything insight and keep Christopher company on our trips planned for next year. I will let you know!

It was a long year in many ways. Health issues were my main topic of worry this year and some seem better while others seem to just keep me from enjoying my life as much as I would like too. So here is to a healthier 2017! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: "Doc" Holiday, Bridge Day, Cannan Valley Ski Resort, DIY projects, family fun, ghosts, hiking, Monongahela National Forest, mushroom hunting, Mystery Hole, New Years Eve, photo review, Photos, puppy, Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Travel, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Exploring the National Parks System on it’s 100th Birthday, Aug 25th 2016.

It is in the woods that I find peace and my spirit is rejuvenated. It is in the forest of my beloved West Virginia that I rejoice that we live in a country that values and protects the most unusual of our natural resources. It is in our countries wisdom that they have saved millions of acres of land and miles of waterways for future generations.

West Virginia is one of the states that does not have a fully designated National Park. So for this August 25th celebration I want to share a vision of one of my  states protected National Forests, Monongahela National Forest. This unique forest ecosystem is preserved at the national level within the National Park System along with West Virginia’s  National Rivers, The New River,and Blue Stone, Two National Recreation Areas,The Gauley River National Recreation Area and Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, a National Historic Park at Harper’s Ferry and of course a National Scenic Trail the Appalachian Trail. All of these locations are protected for future generations buy the National Parks System of the United States of America.

 

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The Monongahela National forest represents a wide verity of rare and unique ecosystems, natural wonders, beautiful vegetation, and abundant wild life. It is here within the forest that my family and I have spent hundreds of hours exploring, searching for that rare moment when the outside world disappears and  nothing remains but the sights, sounds and smells of nature.

This National Forest comprises roughly a million acres of forest land in West Virginia. An approximate 1.3 million visitors come to the Monongahela National Forest each year.The forest spreads across the Southern portion of the state from the city of  White Sulfur Springs to the Northern border of West Virginia to Maryland state line. With the main body of the forest residing on the Eastern side of the state, along US Highway 219.

Within West Virginia’s largest National Forest there is a long list of natural wonders. Some I have photographed over the years and others are still a mystery to me. Some are easy to access and others are miles from civilization. So with the help of my family I have had the pleasure of seeing much of the forest and can share just a few of the wonderful sights that I have explored over the years.

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Stuarts Park has several CCC built covered pavilions with in the Monongahela National Forest. Also located within a mile of the campground/ park pavilions is Bickel Knob Observation Tower where it is possible to see about 1/3 of the National Forest and the surrounding towns.

Bickle Knob observation Tower in the the morning sun randolph county West Virginia 2016

The trip up this tower early in the morning lets us see over six different ridge tops and two small towns.

Christopher and JoLynn on top of Bickles Knob observation tower last days of summer 2016

 

The Bowden Fish Hatchery is where the local brook trout, brown trout and the West Virginia Golden Trout are brooded for release all over the state.

Tom Christopher at the Bowden Fish hatchery 2016

We fish in the many streams and rivers in the forest. My son learns to cast at Shavers Fork of the Cheat River.DSC00172

Exploring Smoke Hole Caverns on a hot summer afternoon is a treat.To spend a couple of hours under ground exploring the caves is one of my families favorite summer time trips.

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Smoke Hole Caverns entrance

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The slow drip of the Smoke Hole Caverns ceiling

All of these amazing locations are within the National Forest but what I am most fond of is the simple quiet beauty that we see as we forage and hike through the woods.

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Mushrooms growing on a tree stump near Bear Haven Campground

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Young horse at home on public grazing land at Monongahela National Forest

queenann lace with blue flowers summer 2016

Summer wildflowers along a forest service road in the Monongahela National Forest

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Wet wildflowers at Stuarts Park, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

 

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Cheat Mountain Salamander takes visitors on rides through hundreds of miles of the Monongahela National Forest. This is my favorite way to see the sights.

This train ride is headed for Green Bank and the National Radio Observatory where in the middle of the Monongahela Forest is the darkest place in West Virginia. It is the perfect location for star-gazing with professional astronomers. This is where my family and I finally got to see the Milky Way with our bare eyes.

As you can see I love my state, love my Forest and am excited to be included in this centennial  celebration. Thanks to Cotopaxi Company  for inviting me to take part in the festivities in my small way. I am proud to share with all of you the great work that Cotopaxi is doing all around our world and how one company with a mission can change the world one backpack at a time. I am so glad that their company supports and loves the outdoors as much a I do. Thanks for reminding us all about how important our Nation Park System is and what would be lost without our ability to explore and enjoy to great outdoors. Again Thank you Cotopaxi for letting me join in the fun!

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Camping, Cheat Mountain Salamander, family fun, Hardwood forest, hiking, Monongahela National Forest, mushroom hunting, natural resources, Potomac river, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Foraging spring greens and weeds

A friend sent this to me on Face Book just a few days ago. It makes me wonder how many of us really understand how foraging can help control evasive plants. It also made me want to share this with any one who likes foraging for greens. Wild Garlic Mustard is found growing almost everywhere in the Eastern US and can be cooked and eaten like any other bitter green. Another green that is problematic in our area and across the south is Stinging Nettle.  Hardy and fast spreading by seed if given the right  growing conditions these plants crowed out natural flowers and plants . Animals do not like the smell or taste of the Garlic Mustard or Stinging Nettle so they are not controlled by the environmental conditions .

Garlic Mustard Pull flyer

Forest Service Garlic Mustard flyer

 

 

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Wild Mustard in Bloom

If you are in the West Virginia area and have time to help with this problem and enjoy the outdoors and cooking free wild food we could use your help. My family hopes to attend one of these pulling dates and make a nice side dish of Garlic Mustard Cakes when we get home.A dish made from boiled greens drained to remove bitterness, eggs for a binder and Italian bread crumbs fried in brown butter.

April and May is prime pulling time before the plants start to seed and West Virginia could use all the pickers we can find. We are allowed to take home as much of the Garlic Mustard as we wish but they would love for us to remove some of the plants also. For ideas on how to cook the wild greens  follow this link Cooking Mustard Garlic. Hope to see you in the woods picking this spring.

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, community service, country cooking, Foraging, Monongahela National Forest, organic food, regional food, Uncategorized, West Virginia, wild greens | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

One Bee Hive at a Time

bee in pink rhododendron flower on family farm

Bee in pink rhododendron flower on family farm 2002

I have spent several years thinking about becoming a beekeeper and this year I will officially have my own hive. I have followed blogs and read books and talked with several beekeepers about the hobby.  I have been supportive in my gardens to feed all pollinators and like any normal person I love honey. So this February I enrolled with about 40 other community members in a Department of Agriculture class titled “Beginning Beekeeping” given through the Lewis County,W.V. Extension Office. The class was what I needed to feel like I can become a responsible beekeeper.

One of the wonderful things about the class was to see who also enrolled in the very inexpensive class.They are the faces of people who I see almost everyday,there were farmers, business owners, teachers, retired state employees, gas men, salespeople and few children all eager to learn how to help the bees. It was an equal mix of husbands and wives and families who all felt the drawn to honey and the plight of the bees. Maybe it was a mixture of love and fear that made all of us trudge to the 4 classes almost 2 1/2 hours long in the cold evenings of February.

Living in an agriculture heavy state bees are a serious topic of conversation.My community worries about the future of our farms and orchards with less pollinators . They want education and they want to help bees.The classes were eye-opening for all of us. According to USDA’s 2014 report open pollinated soybean and apples are our state’s 3rd and 4th largest cash crops. Those two bee loving crops produces $25,708,000 dollars of produce for our state’s economy. This is only the information on registered producers who sell for profit. The effects of low bee populations are dramatic when you add in all the other fruit and vegetables that are lower on the list and all the produce from the back yard farmers that sell or give away their produce. It is overwhelming that all of this money rests on the winged shoulders of our bee population.With bees in decline all of us at this class understood the importance of our attempt on a small-scale to help.

Spring wild blue bells at Hacker Valley, West Virginia

Spring wild blue bells at Hacker Valley, West Virginia

Honey sweetens the pot for beekeepers who want to also make a profit from caring for the bees. In our class were able to get enough information about bee keeping to think seriously about what we will do with the honey. Our family plans to eat and give away honey with the comb in jars, so we will be doing a more historic and traditional way of processing our honey then many in our class. Most members will be removing the honey with a centrifuge system that should make honey production faster and easier.

Cosmos a bee favorite flower in the backyard

Cosmos a bee favorite flower in the backyard

As spring arrives I will be writing more and sharing photos of our last class where all of us beginners will get a hands on chance to open and split a hive, take a look inside the hive and look at the condition of the queen and the comb. It will be just before then that we should have our hive and begin setting it up in the yard. Around the same time our bees should arrive and we will take the first steps in this adventure. I am looking forward to sharing my new hobby with my husband and two sons. If I am lucky maybe they will also see the value in raising these very important pollinators and will see the overall benefits to our family, community and state. If Christopher finds any interest in the bees he can even use them as a 4-H project to educate other kids about bees, honey and how important they are to our world.  It is because of all people I call my friends that I think together we can make a difference in our environment one hive at a time.

Categories: 4-H, Apples, Beekeeping, Foraging, hobbies, Honey, Preserving, rural life | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Venison, Wild Mushroom, Lasagna

Deer season started today, so to honor my husband and all the wild game he provides for my family, I made this wonderful venison  meal.

I love to cook with wild foods and two of my favorites are Venison and Wild mushrooms. I had a few pounds of ground venison in the freezer from last year and about a pound of frozen wild mushroom from summer.The mushroom I am using is a  Chicken Mushrooms ( Laetiporus- Cincinnatus) the orange verity. I also had home-made Marinara sauce out of the garden. All that I needed from the store was cheese and noodles.

ingredients for Venison Lasagna

ingredients for Venison Lasagna

This was the foraged mushroom that I had a portion of frozen.

white spore, Chiken Mushroom, Laetiporus- Cincinnatus

white spore, Chicken Mushroom, Laetiporus- Cincinnatus

The stems of the mushroom can be woody, I saute’ them  chopped in butter with a little onion and garlic before I brown my meat. It can take several minutes to make the mushroom stems soft. I like to use bigger pieces so they do not lose their texture in the cheese mixture. I cook the mushroom mixture a little longer then what it takes to soften the onions. Set it aside to wait assembly of the lasagna.

Chopped Chicken Mushroom with onion and Garlic Sauteing

Chopped Chicken Mushroom with onion and Garlic Sauteing

I then brown about a pound of ground venison with a little oil to keep it from sticking to the pan.

Browning ground Venison

Browning ground Venison

Because Venison is so low in fat the moister you see in the photo is not oil but moister from the meat. It will cook off and I add Salt and little pepper and one quart home-made Marinara Sauce or your favorite sauce. Adding 1/2 cup water to store-bought sauce or 1 cup to my thick sauce to add the additional moister for Oven Ready Noodles. If you use regular cooked noodles you would skip the water.

Then mix together in a large bowl the Cheese mixture of your choice. I like ricotta cheese in my lasagna for two reasons. First it has a lower moister content and will not get really runny with the Oven Ready Noodles. Secondly the flavor to me is better when mixed with Italian seasonings.

Three cheeses ricotta,mozzarella Parmesan, eggs and spices

Three cheeses ricotta,mozzarella Parmesan, eggs and spices

Then add sauce to venison and place about 1/2 cup in bottom of 13 X 11 pan cover with uncooked noodles.

Venison marinara sauce with oven ready noodles

Venison Marinara sauce with oven ready noodles

Cover noodles with cheese mixture and top with sauteed mushroom and onion mixture

Wild mushroom and onion mixture topping ricotta cheese mixture

Wild mushroom and onion mixture topping ricotta cheese mixture

I then top this with another row of Oven Ready Noodles and cover the top with more venison sauce topping that with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Back in the oven lightly covered at 350 degrees for 60 minutes and let stand at least 15 minutes after removing from the oven. This allows the cheese to set up while cooling and keeps the lasagna firmer when cut and not too hot to eat.

venison, wild mushroom lasagna

venison, wild mushroom lasagna

Ingredients

1 pound wild mushrooms

1 med onion

1 teaspoon or two cloves garlic

2 teaspoons butter

1 pound ground venison

1 quart or more Marinara sauce

1/2 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper

1 pound ricotta cheese

2 cups mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup fresh shredder Parmesan cheese

2 eggs

1 1/2 table spoons Italian seasonings

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon parsley

1 box Oven Ready Noodles… the non-boil kind

Directions

  1. Saute chopped mushrooms, onions and garlic in butter a minute or two more than when the onion becomes translucent.
  2. Brown 1 pound of venison in large skillet, add salt and pepper and 1 quart of Marinara Sauce. Simmer until warm and bubbly.
  3. In a 13 X 11 backing pan spread 1/2 to 3/4 cup meat sauce in bottom of pan, making sure to cover entire bottom of pan adding more if needed.
  4. Cover sauce with one layer of Oven Ready Noodles.
  5. In large bowel add all but a handful of cheeses. Ricotta, Mozzarella, Parmesan, and two eggs. Mix until mixture is smooth and creamy.
  6. Add Italian seasoning, parsley, garlic salt to cheeses and mix.
  7. Scoop cheese mixture over Oven Ready Noodles and smooth out.
  8. Cover cheese with mushroom and onion mixture, spread evenly cover with 1/2 cup sauce below noodles.
  9. Cover with another row of Oven Ready Noodles and top with sauce, topping with left over cheese.

10.Cover loosely with tin foil  and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Let cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

 

So with high hopes I can fill my freezer again this year with fresh organic meat..best of lucky Tom, Cody and Bill may you hunting season be filled with the joy of nature and thrill of the hunt and the knowledge that you have provided another year of food for your families.

Categories: cooking, deer hunting, Foraging, Hunting, lasagna, mushroom hunting, Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Venison, venison Lasagna, venison Lasagna, West Virginia, wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Seeds, Magical, Mystical and Divine

Yesterday as I stood at the dock of our local feed store, Southern States, I watched small pellets of snow falling in the cold morning air. Yet when I looked closer at the mysterious dust that slowly covered the roof of my car and the shoulders of my sweater I realize that the white dusting is not snow at all but seeds. Seeds are wafting down through the air from the milling machine that I hear grinding away in the loft of the steel building. Some of the pieces appear as crushed corn, others are millet, cotton seeds and shells from soybeans. The mixture is for bird seed, I think, and the finches swoop in, landing on top of a stack of pallets at the end of the dock to steal what no human would want. My hair and sweater  are white in a matter of minutes and the older farmer standing next to me laughs at the sight of our hair white with corn dust. What a strange and wonderful way to start my day. It Reminded  me how wonderful, powerful and mysterious seeds are and what they can mean for us.

Cars at loading dock at Southern States

Cars at loading dock at Southern States

When I returned from Southern States I also started to clean out our garden. Trying to gather up the last of the died plants. The tomato vines,the pepper stocks, the Zinnia stems and a rotten watermelon are all that is left of the work that my garden did over the summer. As I move through the rows I come to Christopher’s Zinnia’s that bloomed like wild this summer. They died in mid bloom by a hard frost about a week ago. They are all that remains standing in the garden and still have seeds in side the brown dead blooms.  I though to myself that I should gather up some of the seeds for next year before the birds discover that in side this wrinkled crusty shell  there lives a hundred small seeds.

Deafd Zinnia Bloom in the Garden 2015

Dead Zinnia Bloom in the Garden 2015

So I gathered up about 12 seed pods and headed to the house to pull them apart. Remembering that before the frost I pulled the last few rounds of green beans off the plants to store as seeds for next year. I have been waiting for them to dry  so I can shuck the seed pods to store them for planting next year. So my garden will be full of green beans again.

Shucked green beans, leather britches or seeds for next years green beans

shucked green beans, leather britches or seeds for next years green beans

Dry Shucked green beans, Leather Britches, or dried white beans

Dry Shucked green beans, Leather Britches, or dried white beans

Then over the weekend my family also gathered the chestnuts and hickory nuts in our yard and the surrounding woods. this means I will have a few for winter cooking. The hickory nuts looked like they were ready crack open their hard shells and begin to grow if only the weather was getting warmer not colder.

ripe chestnuts in the back yard

ripe chestnuts in the back yard

Hickory Nuts with shell

Hickory Nuts with shell

What still surprises me every year that I plant a garden is the power inside a seed. That each one is the renewed life of what was lost only a few months ago. It really should come as no surprise to any of us that we instructed by Dr’s to eat more seeds, get more of our protein from seeds and try to get our oils from seeds instead of animal fats. They hold inside their shells the power and energy to renew life. They are the grand magic that holds with in them all the secrets of our living world. With just a little water and warmth, they begin the life cycle again in hopes that life will continue again, that we will see the spring flowers, see the fruit of their labor and again reap a harvest. It is miraculous that some how every thing we see in nature comes from a seed.

The seed is also one of the most used symbols in religious texts and a common metaphor used for writers and poets. It is the seeds ability to transform from a small brown stone, shedding its shell, pushing through the hard earth and reaching up to grow, that is stunning. How they survive the elements and sprout leaves and roots to one day become some thing enduring that fascinates me. It is hard to believe that about 6 months ago, this was just an avocado pit, a seed, that I lovingly planted in hopes of one day having an Avocado tree of my own.

Avacado tree from seed

Avocado tree from seed

One day the tree will be taller and stronger than me. It should live longer then I do and could produce fruit for generations. It can produce more seeds than we can count and one day may be the parent to a hundred trees. So with in one seed is the energy and potential to create hundreds if not thousands of trees. This is why the great texts  use the metaphor of the seed. To teach us about life, death and rebirth. That nothing really ever ends that it is only a transformation from one form to another. The seed lives in the fruit of the living tree, becomes the hardened seed when death and harvest comes, to sprout and regenerate when the seed roots,and finally grows sharing its new life. If only we could look at our lives in the same way and see the beauty that is found in the seed. That death and life are only part of a greater pattern of events. That life is the bounty of nature and that we are just simply seeds at heart.

popular tree seed pod

popular tree seed pod

Categories: Change, Fall, Foraging, gardening, Nuts, Preserving, seeds, water | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Apple Cider Vinegar Made from Scraps of Home Made Apple Sauce.

Apple sauce, apple butter, apple jelly and apple cider vinegar are things I try to make for my family every fall. I try very hard to forage my apples to use in these recipes. I hate to see one of my friends let a tree full of healthy organic apples go to waste. So every summer I start looking around at who has apples that they do not use and try to remember to ask them if I can have them. This summer I was a little unsure of where I was going to get my apples. We moved and I did know to many people who had apple trees in our new area. I remembered a huge apple tree at my favorite public library. Why not ask the librarian of the Lewis Bennett Library  what they were going to do with some of the apples…. it couldn’t hurt to ask right?

So after asking the  head Librarian Karen about the apples, she said no one had asked for the apples and most of the time the apples just fell and made a huge mess on the library side-walk. She let me have as many of the apples as I wanted. The tree is well over 100 years old and they do nothing to maintain the tree so they are again chemical free, of unknown species and cost me nothing, a perfect fit for my foraging personality.

front of Louis Bennett Library

front of Louis Bennett Library the tree is in the right of this photo three stories tall and full of apples

So after a couple of hours with my apple picker in the yard of this historical mansion I had filled my buckets with about 70 pounds of a soft yellow-green apples.

one 18 gallon tub and one 8 gallon wash tub full of apples about 70 pounds

one 18 gallon tub and one 8 gallon wash tub full of apples about 70 pounds

Most people call these deer apples and never plan to use them at home but let the deer enjoy them.Today I was able to make 6 quarts of apple sauce from 8 pounds of these little apples.( I have a DIY post about how to make  Home Made Apple Sauce here) They made a very nice sweet apple sauce so I am guessing they are a golden delicious type of apple developed in Clay County West Virginia around the time the house was built.

Quarts of home made cinnamon apple sauce

Quarts of home-made cinnamon apple sauce

collecting apple peals into bowl for vinegar making

collecting apple peals into bowl for vinegar making

To make Apple Cider Vinegar I took the peals and cores from these apples and split them between two gallon containers. I left enough room at the top to let water stand over the top of the cores and peals. The apples will begin to ferment under the water’s surface but Some mold may grow if a peal is sticking up to high.

Apple peals and cores in plastic gallon jars.

Apple peals and cores in plastic gallon jars.

Next I added 2 and 1/2 quarts of warm water that I had added 2 1/2 heaping tables spoons of white sugar to each jar. Making a 1 to 1 ratio of sugar to water. The sugar helps feed the Bactria to get a good start to the fermentation. It also adds a sweetness to the vinegar. I use most of my vinegar for cooking so I want a strong apple flavor without much sweetness. If I was drinking this everyday I would add more sugar to make to flavor more drinkable. One recipe I read had 1/2 cup of sugar per gallon. It is not necessary to use this much sugar, apples ferment quickly! Apples have a lot of  natural sugars and yeasts that ferment so well it is hard to stop raw apple juice from turning to wine and vinegar in a matter of days with out a chemical to stop the fermentation. Believe me no sugar is really needed to ferment apples, we have had a few drunk cows on the farm from eating rotten apples in the pasture,what a funny sight !

Quart jar and sugar bowel

Quart jar and sugar bowel

I added a weight to apple scraps to hold them under the water

I added a weight to apple scraps to hold them under the water

Here I am trying to keep the apples under the water surface with a small bowel to prevent mold or scum from growing around the top of the jar. I then cover the jars with cloth to prevent bugs or dust from getting into the jars. I store my jars in our laundry room. Where the temp in the summer is more constant much like a cellar. It never freezes but is never as hot as the house on a hot summer day. The best fermentation happens between 60 and 80 degrees F.

Two gallons of apple peals and cores ready to ferment

Two gallons of apple peals and cores ready to ferment

Two gallons of apple scraps on shelf ready to ferment

Two gallons of apple scraps on shelf ready to ferment

Now I wait two weeks to strain out the apple cores and peels. The fermentation will actually take several weeks and the smell of vinegar will increase as the amount of sugar decreases. At about 4 weeks the sugar should be eaten up by the bacteria that converts the sugar to alcohol than into vinegar. At this time you can filter the vinegar to make it look clear or rack it just like wine. I will filter mine with cheese cloth just to remove the large pieces of apple and return the vinegar back to the shelf for two more weeks to make sure that all the fermentation is finished at 6 weeks. If by chance you notice that the apple cider vinegar has a slimy pad floating in it (smile really big)… you have grown a “Mother” or “Scoby” that should be removed and  stored to make the next batch of ACV ( apple cider vinegar) and reduce the time for fermentation to about 4 weeks on another batch.

Apple Cider Vinegar MOTHER

Apple Cider Vinegar MOTHER

The raw ACV can at this point be bottled and kept in the refrigerator and it will be good up to 1 year. My family goes through about 1 gallon in a year so this is the amount I try to make. If you want to keep it on the shelf for easy storage then the you need to cook and bottle the ACV. The cooking process does two things. It will kill the good Bactria growing in the ACV ( pasteurizing the ACV)  but will also stabilizes it so that you can store it almost indefinitely. ACV is processed like any other canned food with sterile bottles or jars and correct processing times.

So if you are a fan of raw apple cider vinegar you can make this for pennies. I think the most expensive part would be to get containers. Most families do not use as much vinegar as we do so with just an old spaghetti sauce jar ( 1 quart size) and 3 apples you could make enough ACV for at least 6 months. It is just another way to make some thing from free healthy foraged food.

So when I finally get the 18 quarts of apple sauce finished, the 8 pints of apple butter, the 10 jelly pints of apple jelly, and the gallon of apple cider vinegar finished in 6 weeks, I will feel like I stocked my pantry well from these free ugly old deer apples that no one wanted! Here at links to my post on Slow Cooker Apple Butter and Apple Jelly they are also made with free apples and made much like this with a two for one process.

Categories: apple butter, apple cider vinger, apple sauce, Apples, fermentation, Foraging, Lewis Bennett Library, organic food | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Foraged Mushroom Stir Fry

Spring in West Virginia has been overly hot and wet this year. It is causing my family frustration with the home remodel but is making perfect weather for mushroom hunting. So I have been able without much effort to find some wonderful large wild mushrooms this year. But finding wild mushrooms is the easy part. I then have to identify the fungus and find the best way to consume the treasures. Some times that is more work then just finding an old log with a mushroom growing out of it.

white spore,  Chiken Mushroom, Laetiporus- Cincinnatus

white spore, Chicken Mushroom, Laetiporus- Cincinnatus

This mushroom is very common in the Ohio Valley or the Eastern US and it is named after the city of Cincinnati Ohio where it was first found and Identified ( Laetiporus- Cincinnatus). The common name is Chicken mushroom and it is edible and delicious. it is a mushroom that will regrow if collected correctly and the “stem” is left on the log or stump when gathering. This is one of a small group that grows in a rosette style rather than a single stem with cap.This is also one of the few mushrooms that freezes well. In this case the mushroom weighs about 2 pounds before cleaning and trimming and about is the size of a 13 X 11 sheet of paper. So I have enough mushroom to make several meals… in this case I will make two and then freeze the rest for a cold day to make a baked steak slow cooker dinner later in the fall.

As with any wild mushroom I will remind you that you need a good mushroom identification book or two and or person who has experience hunting wild mushrooms  before eating. Many wild mushrooms are poisonous and some are deadly within hours. I use a book titled Wild Edible Mushroom by Hope H Miller for almost all mushrooms we hunt and eat.The link above it to its listing on Amazon.com. It has wonderful color photos of the most easy to identify edible mushrooms. We are also lucky to have friends that hunt the mushrooms that are in this book and we share information and at times hunt for them together.

After bringing this boy home I needed to clean it. Because it is a large stalk style mushroom that is not tender to the touch, soaking in a sink full of cool water encourages any bugs, sticks, slugs and dirt to slowly drop to the bottom of the sink. I let mine sit in the water at least two hours. In this case it soaked over night. Then I trim the “petals” off the base root that is white, leaving only bright yellow backs on the mushroom. I even trimmed it again when I was getting ready to cook it just to make sure we got the most tender portion of the “petals” in my stir fry.

strips of chicken mushrooms on top of stir fry

strips of chicken mushrooms on top of stir fry

A stir fry is the most common way we use fresh wild mushrooms. In this case I just added the chicken mushrooms into a vegetable mix we already had in the freezer added some beef and topped it with our favorite sauce and dinner on a hot humid West Virginia night in about 15 minutes.

 

I stir fried the thin sliced steak in two table spoons oil at a high heat and then removed them from my skillet or wok. I added  2 pounds of frozen stir fry vegetables. In the mixture I used it already had the noodles in the bag. I added them to the hot skillet and stirred in the wild mushrooms. It took about 13 minutes to steam the vegetables and make sure the mushrooms cooked tender. I added the steak back in to the skillet and added  half bottle of Teriyaki sauce. Pretty simple but a Delicious way to add wild mushrooms to any stir fry.

We also love this mushroom breaded and fried in butter with a little Old Bay Seasoning as great appetizer before dinner. It is another way to introduce friends and family to the joy of mushroom hunting when you can share a large plate of crunchy, juicy ,wild food that tastes so good!

Happy eating and keep you eyes open for wonderful mushrooms that grow just about anywhere. This mushroom was about 100 feet from a barn under a thin canopy of trees on piece of log maybe 10 years old.

Categories: Foraging, mushroom hunting, Mushrooms, wild food | Tags: , , , , | 11 Comments

The Mystical Mushroom Photos

When my family mushroom hunts I take lots of photos. Some of them are just your average record keeping photos but others seem to bring back to life the feeling of the fairy garden and the deep woods legends. I have a dear friend ( Beverly) who reminded me years ago that it is important to still have contact with that magical place where we are children and free to explore and imagine. So over the last few years I have attempted to take the time that we spend in the woods to a more arcane place. To find the and photograph as many mushrooms as I can. Making the fungus seem larger than life and full of magical stories. So since I am still a novice mushroom hunter and photographer I hope you will bear with me over the next few years as I discover and explore my love for mushrooms on film.

poly-spore on tree limb

poly spore on tree limb

 

As a kid I was always drawn to the fairy art work that showed mushrooms in some way. I hope to add that feeling to my photos although some of the first photos I took of this subject matter were just about documentation of the verity that we had found. Like this first photo that actually got my interest peaked and made me want to find more. This photo shows a cluster of different mushroom we found growing on one log in one afternoon… I only wish I could find this type of thing again. I should have slowed down and taken my time with this photo but excitement got the best of me.

Large mushroom group growing together on the same log... amazing

Large mushroom group growing together on the same log… amazing

Then as the year past and I was unable to keep up with my sons and husband in hunting the eatable mushrooms I started looking at them with a more artistic eye and started to slow down ( broken bone in the foot really helped with this). So I started to look at them from that child point of view, with wonder and amazement and with the help of some photo editing I started to get photos that not only documented what we were finding but also started to show signs of the mystery that I find in the woods and with its inhabitants.

Honey Mushroom  in fresh spring dirt

Honey Mushroom in fresh spring dirt

double scarlet cup

double scarlet cup

 

Then on early morning this spring I found myself alone in the woods sitting on a high bank full of Poplar trees with no one around. Tom and I had headed to the woods to look for the famous Morels and I was just not able to keep up with them on the soft, wet, steep soil. So I sat for a long time looking at the tiny honey mushrooms that formed a Fairy Ring around one tree…. they were every where hundreds maybe thousands all smaller than a penny. I thought about the fairy ring and wondered if I could somehow capture parts of it. This is the result of thinking about our cultures mythology of the fairy ring and the mushroom.

mushroom with faded edges

mushroom with faded edges 2014

Fairy Mushrooms under the poplar trees.2014

Fairy Mushrooms under the poplar trees.2014

I have even begun to see my mushroom photos in a  way to communicate with others about my feelings as this photo shows. I took this photo along a road side on a broken trunk of a tree. I also love the way it looks with no words at all just a quite image of the slow decomposition process.

Einstein and the mushroom tree

Einstein and the mushroom tree

white tree mushroom

white tree mushroom

Some how these mysterious fungus have captured my heart and my imagination and I hope to continue to explore my woodlands for images of them that show off the beauty and mysterious world that we inhabit. So for now I will be keeping my eyes on the ground looking for my favorite thing in the woods.

Tree shelf mushroom on elm tree

Tree shelf mushroom on elm tree

Chanterelles waiting to be washed  and fried

chanterelles for dinner

turkey tail mushrooms on log with wild flowers

turkey tail mushrooms on log with wild flowers 2014

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Foraging, Mushrooms, mythology, photo review, Photos | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Cream of Potato, Wild Ramp and Ham soup

For anyone who loves spring in Appalachia there is nothing more defining in the spring then the smelly Ramp. A wild onion that many of us in the hills love and look forward too every year. The traditional way to cook a Ramp is to chop up the greens and all, frying it in bacon grease until soft and serve it with the traditional brown beans( pinto usually) corn bread and fried potatoes. I love this just like any hillbilly, but on occasion, I like to use ramps more like garlic and bring out more of their subtle  flavor. I came up with this recipe last spring  after we had a large amount of ham left over after Easter. Ramps are at the peak of their short month-long season during this time of the year and we loved this to use up left overs. I have other posts about Ramps if you want more recipe ideas.

Cream of Potato Ramp and Ham soupe

Cream of Potato Ramp and Ham soup

washed, roots removed and ready to eat

washed, roots removed and ready to eat

These are ramps that we forage for and then clean and freeze every spring for summer and fall use. Sadly, they never make it to winter because our family likes to eat them to much. So here is another way to eat a small bunch of ramps without using all the greens. A great way to use up wilted ones or some with out the green stems.

 

Ramps and Potatos

Ramps and Potatoes

 

This very simple soup is ready in about 30 minutes and produces about 6 servings..

Cream of Potato,Ramp and Ham soup

1/2 stick of butter

1 cup chopped ramp bulbs and 6 to 8 ramps with tops chopped fine

2 gloves or garlic minced

4 cups water

3 chicken bouillon cubes

5 med potatoes

1 1/2 cups left over smoked ham

3/4 cup instant potato flakes

1 can condensed milk or 8 0z of whipping cream

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

1 teaspoon celery flakes

salt and pepper to taste

 

 

I started with 5 med white potatoes peeled and diced into medium-sized chucks and about 1 cup ramp bulbs and about 6 ramps with tops and about 1 1/2 cups diced ham. Make sure that the ramps get well washed to remove any hidden dirt and chop them fine. They are hard like garlic so mince well to make sure they soften quickly.

melt 1/2 stick butter in the bottom of a 5 or 6 quart stock pot add minced ramps with tops and garlic and season with about a table-spoon salt and a dash of pepper. Saute until soft and aromatic about 5 minutes. Add 4 cups water, 3 bouillon cubes and chunks of potato simmer with Bay leaf about 20 minutes. Until the crisp edges of the potatoes begin to soften into the stock. Then add parsley and celery flakes and about 1 to 2 cups diced smoked ham. The soup appears to have a light green cast to it at this point.

ramps, stock and potatoes simmering

ramps, stock and potatoes simmering

 

Simmer again for about five minutes and then add 1 can condensed milk and about 3/4 cup potato flakes (you can substitute cream here, I usually always have canned milk on hand so I use it). This will thicken the soup and make it creamy without losing all the texture of the potato chucks in the soup. Make sure the potatoes are soft all the way through at this point, try to stab a chuck with a fork. The potatoes should fall apart or smash when stabbed, if not, continue to simmer for several more minutes. Remove the bay leaf and allow to cool and thicken. I wait about 8 to 10 minutes to thicken the soup.If it still seems to thin, add a few more tablespoons of instant potatoes and add more pepper if needed. Once you add the milk the color appears more of  a light tan with the green floating in the soup. Beware, if you add to many greens to the soup it will turn a wonderful grass-green color. I made a batch this way and a couple of my friends felt put off by green soup, so you may want to limit that amount of greens you add.

soup with condensed milk added

soup with condensed milk added

 

This soup also brings out he aroma of the ramps so if you are not completely used to the smell of roasting garlic or of fresh ramps you may not find the aroma of this soup appealing. Our family on the other hand looks forward to the smelly little guys and knows that with that scent comes a wonderful taste of spring. I hope you enjoy and eat more Ramps.

Field of wild growing ramps

Field of wild growing ramps

 

Categories: country cooking, Foraging, Ham, ramps, Ramps, soup | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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