Sunday, 16 September 2012
Friday, 16 September 2011
So far this has been a great year for mushrooms with a very wet and cool summer providing perfect conditions for a huge variety of species to start appearing. Autumn seems to be with us already after yet another disappointing summer here in the UK, yet already we've seen a massive amount of mushrooms in our forests and woodlands.
I've only been on a few forest walks in the recent weeks yet I've managed to see a great number of different varieties of mushrooms. I've seen Hedgehog (Hydnum repandum) mushrooms , Ceps (Boletus edulis), Chanterelles, Parasol mushrooms, Giant puffballs, Amethyst deceivers and of course field mushrooms. The best places to find these species are in Oak forests, Beech forests, and other old grassland areas. Parasol mushrooms love to grow in fields and amongst bracken, as do giant puffballs which also love to grow amongst stinging nettles. Chanterelles like to grow in moist ditches on the edges of forests, usually appearing in the same spot every year.
We're only a few weeks into Autumn and so this is a very good sign for mushroom lovers here in England, and as winter comes theres bound to be loads of Oyster mushrooms to be found, along with many other species. Make the most of the abundance of mushrooms out in our forests now, but remember not to pick above the allowed 1.5kg limit per person (which, in our eyes, is too much anyway), and remember its illegal to collect for commercial reasons. In our part of England we're having a real problem with people collecting way above the limit and doing so for commercial reasons - either selling the mushrooms on to restaurants or shops.
If you find yourself having picked too many mushrooms then possible to consume, then you should consider the options of freezing or drying, depending on the species. Hedgehog mushrooms freeze quite well but can hold a lot of moisture - so when it comes to cooking them they release a lot of water. Another option is drying them - just slice the mushrooms thinly and lay them out on a wire rack and place in a warm cupboard, such as a boiler cupboard or airing cupboard. The mushrooms can then be re-constituted with water when ready for using. This method of preserving mushrooms works particularly well with species of Bolettes.
I'll try and add some mushroom recipes to our wild food blog over the course of the next few weeks.
Thursday, 8 September 2011
This year has been excellent for crab apples with many trees loaded with the small, sharp fruit, most likely due to the amount of rain that we've been getting over the past few weeks. Summer seems to have been and gone in a flash, and the cold, blowy Autumn nights seem to be upon us already, so what better way to cheer yourself up by having a go at making a batch of crab apple wine to enjoy another year.
Its worth noting that it can take over a year, preferably 2, for the crab apple wine to ferment and become ready to consume, so its not really something that can be enjoyed quickly. The actual process of going out and searching for and collecting crab apples, as well as preparing the wine, are actually really good fun harmless fun in it self, so it could be a great way to spend a dull, rainy Sunday. And if you're anything like us, you'll put a lot of effort into collecting the crab apples and preparing the wine, only to leave it fermenting in your garage and completely forget about it until 3 or 4 years later... in which time it inevitably ends up tasting like a sherry...
Anyway if you haven't been put off yet then you should give this recipe a go. A good crab apple wine can actually be a very potent drink, a little like a very strong cider, so go wary when you're finally ready to consume it as it can pack a surprisingly strong punch. Refreshing, yet very potent. Its definitely well worth giving the recipe a go, head down to any nearby forests and you should find an abundance of crab apples already fallen to the floor - these ones should be fine to use, you'll only be crushing them yourself anyway so it doesn't matter if you use fallers plus by leaving plenty in the trees you'll be providing food for any wild animals to enjoy - horses and pigs love to feast on them even if humans don't (they leave a very bitter taste - coming from a first hand experience).
4 kilograms / 8.5 lb's of Crab Apples
1 Campden tablet
Teaspoon of Pectozyme
1 kilogram / 2.5 lb's of sugar
300 grams / 8.5 lb's of raisins
Teaspoon of yeast nutrient
Sachet of Champagne yeast
Crab Apple Wine Recipe
Gather up around 4kg of crab apples and then give them a wash and de-stalk them with a knife. You then need to crush them - this is the fun part. An apple crusher or press is ideal, but obviously not everyone is this fortunate... everyone else can use a strong plastic bag, perhaps 2 black (unused!) binbags would be suffice - place the apples inside and then use a mallet or plank of wood. If using a mallet be careful as you don't want to puncture the bag and spill apple juice everywhere...
Get 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of cold water and drop in your Campden tablet. A Campden tablet is a sulfur based product which is used to kill bacteria which grow during the fermentation process, preventing many other wild yeasts from growing which would affect the flavour of your crab apple wine. The tablet should dissolve in the water, allowing you to add the contents of your bag - the crushed crab apples. Next, you need to add a teaspoon of Pectozyme. This is a pectic enzyme, which helps to break down the pectin found in the apples - pectin is found in the cell walls of plants. By breaking the pectin down it helps to speed up the extraction of the juice present in the apples.
Place the concoction in a cool, dry place and cover it with some kind of lid. You will need to stir it every day for 4 days. Don't worry what it looks or smells like at this stage, its early days yet. You will next need to strain out the mixture into another suitable container. Then you can add the 1kg of sugar followed by the 300g of raisins. Give it a quick mix and follow this up by adding the final ingredients - a teaspoon of yeast nutrient and a sachet of champagne yeast. The sugar helps with the fermentation process and also helps sweeten the wine, and the raisins also help to impart a deep, fruity flavour. The yeasts are obviously required to help with the fermentation of the wine.
This mixture will need to ferment for a week in similar conditions before straining for a final time, pressing the raisins in the process to extract their juices into the wine mix. And here it is, ready (well, not quite)... you'll need to avoid temptation and leave the wine to ferment for around 18 months, ideally longer. But remember, the longer you leave it the stronger it will get, so we recommend that you consume it between 18 and 24 months. When the mixture has fermented for long enough you can start to bottle it up. Remember to follow the routine of sterilising the wine bottles and equipment used in order to prevent your hard work going to waste.
I'd love to hear your own crab apple wine recipe suggestions, and would equally love to find out if you gave this recipe a go!
Monday, 21 June 2010
By following this recipe you will be able to produce a clear, sparkling drink which is not too strong yet which is still alcoholic.
From start to finish you should have your Elderflower champagne ready to drink within about 14 days, not bad going considering some alcoholic drinks will take several months before they are ready.
The white flowers of the Elder tree should be very distinctive and will have a very recognisable smell (hopefully you have tasted Elderflower before, as some sort of drink).
Elderflower Champagne Recipe
This recipe will produce around 6 litres of Elderflower Champagne
16 Elderflower heads (roughly)
4 litres of hot water
Juice and zest of 4 lemons
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
A pinch of dried yeast (not essential)
Instructions For Making Elderflower Champagne:
1. Pour the hot water into a clean bucket and add in the sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add 2 litres of cold water to the mixture.
2. Add the white wine vinegar, lemon juize and zest, and then add the Elderflower heads. Stir the mix gently to combine the ingredients.
3. Place a section of muslin over the bucket and move to a cool and airy place to allow it to ferment for a couple of days. Check the bucket to see if fermentation has taken place (the liquid will become foamy and a little frothy). If no fermentation has begun to take place then add a pinch of dry yeast to the mixture.
4. Check the mixture again in 4 days when it should have fermented as much as possible. It should now be ready to bottle. To do this, strain the mixture through a sieve lined with muslin and into a sterilised container. It is best to use something strong as the build up of Carbon Dioxide can cause the bottles to explode. It is also recommended that you use champagne stoppers, or sterilised screw-top plastic bottles, to keep the container sealed throughout the extra fermentation period.
5. Make sure the bottles are properly sealed and leave them for at least 7days before drinking. Elderflower champagne is best served chilled after this length of time, and should be kept in a cool and dry place. It should keep in the bottles for about 5 months. Enjoy!
Thursday, 22 April 2010
If eaten raw acorns have a really bitter taste and will leave a funny astringent feeling in the mouth, some people presumed that they were poisonous to eat but they just don't taste that good - and so its best to process them before making use of them.
Acorns are a plentiful food usually, especially after a wet year, and there is rarely an acorn shortage in the UK. For this acorn coffee recipe you won't need a set amount of acorns, but a couple of handfuls should provide you with several servings of this drink.
Boil the acorns, shell included, for about 20 minutes. After this time you should let the acorns cool before trying to peel them from their hard outer shell. By boiling them you make peeling them easier and reduce their bitterness slightly. After removing the shell, peel off their outer skin.
Next you need to split the acorns, which you can do with a knife or pestle and morter type implement. Put the split acorns in a warm area to dry for about 24 hours. An airing cupboard or warm kitchen worktop is an ideal place to remove moisture from the acorns.
Finally you need to grind the split acorns up, if you can use a coffee grinder then use one, if not then just try to grind them as finely as possible. Place the grounded acorns onto a baking sheet and either place under a grill or in an oven to roast them until dark brown. You need to pay close attention to stop them from burning.
Place around 3 tablespoons of the ground acorns in a cup of boiling water, like you would usually do with coffee beans. Add some milk and a small amount of sugar, and the acorn coffee is ready to drink.
Friday, 2 October 2009
Sweet chestnuts are not only very good for you but they are delicious too, and very versatile. You can use them to make soup, flour, and much more. They taste great just roasted on an open fire, but one of my favourite recipes is a chesnut soup.
It may be best to wait until the frost has arrived before picking, so you may be best to pick chestnuts at around November/December time. But if you see any that have already started dropping onto the floor of the forests then it would be a shame for them to go to waste (obviously leave some for the animals though!).
Chesnut Soup Recipe
This recipe will serve around 4/5 people
1 pint of Milk
1 tsp. Pepper
1/4 Pint Stock
1/2 tsp. Mace
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg
1 tbsp. Oil
Pinch of Salt
Remove the chestnuts from their sharp husks, be sure to use gloves when doing this. It may be simplest to put them on the floor outside and stand on them (wearing shoes!) to free the nuts from their husks.
Put the 500g of chestnuts into a pan and cover them with water. Boil them for about half an hour, this is simply to loosen the skins from the nuts (the skin leaves a bitter taste if eaten). Remove the skins from the nuts (wait until they have cooled down first).
Use a liquidizer or food processor to puree the chesnuts. Use some of the stock to help you break the chestnuts down.
Finely chop the onion and then fry in a little oil. Add the remaining stock to the pan. Next, add the chetnut puree mix, simmering until it starts to thicken up. Make sure that you keep stiring the mix at this point to get the soup at a good consistency.
At this point you will want to add half of the 1pint of Milk, and continue to simmer the soup for about 5 minutes, before adding the rest of the milk. Remember to keep stirring at this point - no-one likes lumpy soup!
Add the 1/2 teaspoon of Mace, the teaspoon of Pepper, half teaspoon of Nutmeg, and a pinch of Salt. Continue to cook the soup for about 30 minutes.
There you have it, a very simple yet filling soup - very tasty and warming, especially on those cold winter days! Serve with a chunk of fresh bread.
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