Sunday, September 22, 2013

acorn & spicebush jelly

This culinary experiment was inspired by Melissa Price and her demonstration of how to extract acorn starch from unleached acorns.  She and Sam Thayer use acorn starch for pie fillings and fruit bars; I thought acorn and spice bush were a natural combination.

I harvested the berries on Friday.  A gentle morning stroll in warm sun with easy picking.  After spending the night in the dehydrator, the fruit looks distinctly less shiny and bright but all its flavors were concentrated and preserved, just waiting for someone like me to come along with her spice grinder.

Dissolve 1/4 cup acorn starch in 1.5 cups cold water and whisk.

Grind 10 dried spice bush berries (should make about a tsp. of ground spice), then add 1/4 cup brown sugar to the spice grinder and pulse a few more times.  (Ground spice bush berry is sticky and tough to get out of the spice grinder.  The sugar loosens it up so you don't lose a speck of spice bush spiciness.)

Whisk the sugar/spice bush mixture into the starch and stir regularly over medium heat until the pudding starts to burp great thick bubbles.  Turn down the heat and continue to stir for 4-5 minutes, then pour into a square or rectangular, glass or pyrex pan and refrigerate.

The stiff, shiny, jelly is easy to cut into slices.  In Korean cooking, acorn jelly is served as a savory dish, often with kimchi or soy sauce and vegetables.  My dessert version comes with a dab of cream and a few chopped nuts.  I like a little crunch in the midst of silkiness.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


This is the last thing I did before losing my car keys.

Or maybe the last thing I did was pick some American suillus mushrooms
or climb inside a blueberry bush so I could reach up through its skeleton and pick the 1 day past perfect grapes scrambling over the moguls of blueberry bushes.

Whatever it was was a lot more fun than searching through poison ivy for car keys, waiting for my husband to arrive (because even though my camera was locked in the car I still had my cell phone) and hoping against hope that there really was a duplicate set back at the house.

Which there was.  Sigh.
and sigh.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

cornelian cherry ______ ?

After a wonderful weekend in Wisconsin I feel rejuvenated and inspired.  The Midwest Wild Harvest Festival was inspiring.  I taught, I learned, cooked, ate, judged a wild foods cooking contest, and hunted down the elusive, native red mulberry with Sam Thayer.

One thing I didn't do was use the cornelian cherries I collected in Madison the day before the festival.  The Olbrich Botanic Garden (don't miss it!) has vast allées of Cornus mas: established, stately trees, full of fruit.
Unripe cornelian cherries are intensely sour.  When the fruit ripens from vermillion to deep red and drops from the tree, it's ready to eat.  I filled my pockets full of fallen fruit and hightailed it out of there before any overzealous volunteers could reprimand me.  I may have squealed with delight or done a little dance on my way to the parking lot.  I really couldn't say.

At the festival Melissa Price (Sam's wife) showed us how to extract acorn starch from the nuts.  She and Sam use it instead of corn starch to thicken fruit for pie filling and bars.  (See where I'm going with this?)  After 3 weeks away from home, I'm itching to get into the kitchen.  I'll let you know how it goes.