Saturday, February 27, 2016

Wordworking and Other Shenanigans

I got a plumb hammer from the 1930's for $5. It's funny how much these tools were new, how much better they are made than new tools and how much cheaper they are than new tools.- Justin (talking about his recent antique store and flea market finds).
Justin refurbished the tools with hand carved handles
My brother and I have been spending quite a bit of time recently on woodworking projects. For me that means a lot of little projects, for my brother that means even making a whole woodworking bench from scratch with all hand tools!
I have been bringing home logs and branches of various hardwoods I encounter in the woods (and even some times on roadsides) for a few months now. From these little scraps I have been carving and whittling away!
I found this treasure trove on my walk home 

I am still not sure what kind of introduced hard wood it is, but check out the grain and heartwood! 

I fashioned this mallet head from the above hardwood, the handle was from plum wood I cut, the background chisel handle was from a scrap of mountain mahogany I cut with my buddy Alex (see "High Desert Trails"), the gouge handle in the foreground was carved from a scrap of sycamore I pulled out of a tree near campus 

I started in on a willow log with the new spoon knife my brother gave me 

And the bowl turned out quite nice! I thought it paired well with some osage orange utensils I carved (abalone shell inlay was from an abalone I got freediving on the Sonoma coast last year) 

 All my projects in a pile with a longbow I carved from an old big leaf maple tree
It's always fun to free a refined shape from the rough but beautiful natural form of a hardwood log!
Besides woodworking, it had been a while since I had made it out into the woods for a small game hunt. I was near the end of my fish fillets and was beginning to crave terrestrial game over marine food (even as delicious as our fresh-caught fish always is). The other night I decided to hit the hay a little earlier than normal and vowed to wake before first light. My hunting pack lay stocked with a pair of oranges I had picked the day before, a bottle of water, and a box of #4 shot shells.
I awoke the next morning just before my alarm broke through the tranquility of the cool silence of morning. After coffee and some flapjacks I loaded up my gear and headed off to my favorite spot in search of rabbits.
The hunting was not easy and though I had several well executed stalks and plenty of close calls, by 11 am I was still empty handed…and out of water. Using a trick my buddy Alex and I had tried while felling osage orange wood for carving longbows a few months back I was able to quench my thirst and keep pushing on. I cut a section of wild grape vine and held it high as purified cool water dripped slowly but steadily down into my parched mouth. I browsed a patch of chickweed whose leaves still glistened with dew in the partial shade of a mighty old cottonwood. Thirst quenched, I proceeded and eventually was successful!

The first night I cooked up a braised rabbit leg with a French cream green peppercorn sauce…absolutely divine! As much as I hate to be repetitive with the wild food I eat, all I can say is some recipes become tradition for a reason. Slow cooked pulled pork-style rabbit sandwiches are one such tradition in my house, and one that I am always happy to share with my friends. It has been our dinner for the past two nights.

I hope to see you out there experiencing the wild side of life!

Keep the old ways alive!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Winter Chantrelles and Black Trumpet Mushrooms in the Coast Range

We got out in the coastal forests the other day in search of some of the most illusive yet flavorful fungi trumpets! These dark and easily overlooked members of the chantrelle family are one of our all time seasonal favorites!

The woods were lush, green, and quite welcoming!

Alex found a pair of beautiful golden chantrelles early on as well.

The cobwebs glistened in the beams of sun as we searched the forest floor for fungi.

I would have walked right past the first thick patches of black trumpets had Alex not seen them and hollered out. We ended up finding pounds and pounds of these delicious morsels! We also found winter chantrelles (one of our favorite mushrooms to put in homemade ramen) scattered throughout, just waiting for the trained eye and eager hands of the hungry forager.

Someone once said "fallen trees are the pathways of the forest." In this case it was a bridge. Alex and I crossed this fallen fir trunk and though it does not look high from the angle of the picture and the height of the massive sword ferns below, this was easily a 20 ft drop to the ravine below!

On the drive back we stopped off and did a bit of intertidal gathering as well. Mussels, edible seaweeds...and the usual fun stuff!

Well, I usually like to incorporate more than one foraged ingredient per meal, but after school the other day I was tired and hungry, so my buddy Nick and I enjoyed baked peppers stuffed with Italian sausage and black trumpets...quick, easy and delicious!

Well, the weekend is rapidly approaching, and I really want to get out fishing and foraging again.
Until then, cook up some good food, if you're in the mood, grab some wild greens, or some other fine foraged things, or just get out for a freedive, and keep the old ways alive!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Seasonal Sweets

"If I found a mushroom that was good in s'mores I would call it a s'moreshroom!" - Naima

I got out mushroom hunting with my buddy Jeremy and his daughter Naima for her 8th birthday last weekend. Taking kids into the woods is so much fun. Their natural inquisitiveness, low center of gravity, and generally high energy, are perfect ingredients for the makings of good mushroom hunting partners.We found some nice oyster mushrooms right off, and Jeremy came across a pair of beautiful bear's heads in perfect condition towards the end of the day!

Bear's Heads Have the Appearance of Melted Candle Wax or Icicles

As we drove home, Naima joked about a mythical s'moreshroom that would go great with chocolate, gram crackers and marshmallows. This got me laughing at first and then gave me some food for thought. My dad had recently told me of a candycap mushroom ice cream he had enjoyed on the Mendocino coast and the more I thought about it the more it sounded like a recipe I just had to try.
Mushroom ice cream? I know, most who hear this concept furrow their brows with skepticism... and rightly so. Until you dry a handful of candycaps and their sweet maple-syrup aroma permeates throughout your own pantry, you (as I was) deserve to be skeptical of mushroom ice cream. Candycaps are aptly named. Their aroma and flavor is perfectly suited for making sweets which is one of the reasons they are so highly prized by those who love a seasonal and unique batch of cookies, cake, or in this case ice cream!

Candycaps with Cobwebs

I had gathered and dried some of these aromatic milk caps a few weeks back so when I got home I rehydrated them in warm milk and egg yolk as I made up a batch of candycap infused custard...the backbone of a good ice cream!

I added a dash of my mom's homemade vanilla extract and some sugar as well. The resulting ice cream was absolutely incredible! The maple flavors and aromas really came through, and I am now convinced...mushroom ice cream will be on my menu of seasonal favorites any time I find these delicious little fungi!

The next day I came across an orange tree and a lemon tree that had dropped a few of their fruit in a recent windstorm. I was not about to pass up these little gems!

I decided to try to make a batch of ginger ale on a whim and it came out quite nice! The soda paired beautifully with a plate of rockfish (we caught the other day) and sautéed mustard greens (I collected while out along the edge of the woods). After dinner I set to making a few new seasonal citrus-sweets.

My buddy Jason suggested chocolate-covered candied orange peels. This was a sweet snack his grandma made while he was growing up and it sounded like a fun one to me.

These are delicious little blasts of sweet citrus! I absolutely loved them!

The next day I used the lemon juice paired with a few ingredients from my local store and made my first lemon-meringue pie!

This was also exceptionally tasty!

Well, time to get out to the woods again. This time we are headed to the coast range in search for some illusive (yet incredibly flavorful) black trumpets and abundant (yet often overlooked) winter chanterelles! Who knows, maybe we'll even stop off in the intertidal zone for a little low-tide sea foraging?

I hope to see you out there!

Keep the old ways alive!