Saturday, October 19, 2013

Acorn Cookies

I think if anyone tasted this out of the blue, the flavor would immediately say: dark chocolate. Even with eyes closed these taste chocolatey. But there's not a drop. It's basically just an ordinary cookie. White and brown sugar, two sticks of butter, cinnamon, vanilla, two eggs, baking powder. Maybe 3 or 4 cups acorn flour. As I've mentioned, we had a bumper crop this year. These are from Victory Park about 100 paces from my house. Just dried and ground in the blender. Needed no leeching. The cookies are SO crunchy. I think cookies need to be, a soft cookie is an abomination in my mind. These might be a little over the top, but they really did turn out lovely. The batch in there now includes the black walnuts I collected a few weeks ago, that took me hours to smash with a hammer on the driveway and pick out of the shells. Talk about slow! At least I didn't pound the acorns by hand this time.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Scylla and Charybdis: Olives

This year's olive harvest was rather nice.  *Yes, my two little trees are named Scylla and Charybdis, because I planted them a little too close on a slope, so picking is somewhat treacherous. Last year almost the entire harvest was devoted to my mad attempt to press oil by hand. Warning: it can not be done. So this year I tried various cures. They have to be picked before they fully ripen or the bugs get them, though oddly that wasn't the case last year when I had some black salt cured olives too. Well, some were cured as I always do: just brine. Takes a year and a few changes of brine every few months. But they stay firm and vegetal. Far right is one tree's early harvest. The other I slashed, soaked in water and brined in Spanish fashion, which is the quickest way to do it. But the grand new experiment was using lye. LET me tell you; scary stuff. And not easy to find, try hardware stores but not Home Despot. Oh, and Red Devil is now apparently called Rooto. Evil warnings still appear on the label. The proportions in the cure were given to me by Megan Brown (see The Cult of Prepasteurian Food Preservation group on Facebook). I doubled her formula using 2 gallons of water and 8 tbs of lye at 70 degrees F. It covered the olives. After 12 hours I drained and repeated. USE GLOVES!! And goggles. Then rinse for 3-5 days with water draining and rerinsing 3 times a day. I was gone the past few days so it was more like a week. Then it went into strong brine. In one quart jar I added lemon peel, spices and chilies for kicks. They already taste good. A little soft, and I do prefer a bit of crunch, but still, so far a real success. Thanks Megan and everyone else in the Cult for the inspiration.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Urban Forage

The term urban foraging means many different things. To some, it's anything in a city that overhangs a public street, whoever owns the tree. To others it means dumpster diving. In Stockton, it means finding public spaces where there are things most people don't think of as food. And get them before the critters do. (Though leave some for them too.) This was a bumper year for acorns and I took maybe 50 pounds of huge beauties just down the street at Victory Park. And this day's forage was for black walnut. A huge bag. I'm still not sure how to open them. But along the way there were some nice olives off March Lane. Some Carob on Rosemary Lane. Some walnuts on the levee before you get to I-5. They were so good roasted with cinnamon and sugar. And a few bitter almonds, with which I like to tempt fate. Fall really is nut season. And how nice, one of these days my little book on NUTS will come out in Reaktion's Edible series. I wrote it a couple of years ago now. GRRR. That's my squirrel impersonation.