Monday, December 23, 2019

Hoshigaki How-To

Every winter for the last five years we have had some interesting holiday decorations hanging in windows or from ceilings in two apartments: hoshigaki - strings of peeled persimmons, drying slowly in the Japanese tradition.

The finished fruit is dense, chewy, and as unctuous* as toffee, if fresh toffees grew on trees (as they do in C.S. Lewis's The Magicians' Nephew).

*You get to say unctuous once a year; I have waited a long time, and there it is.

Learn how to make hoshigaki in this story I wrote for Edible Brooklyn. Tips, tricks and deliciousness. This is a wonderful annual ritual, and persimmons are in season. You need to try this at least once.

That white bloom is a cloak of tiny sugar crystals. 

If you have ever had a very plump Medjool date, you have some idea of the flavor and texture of good hoshigaki, but the Medjool is less complex. And before you ask, these results bear no relation to what you might achieve in a dehydrator. You need more time.

I love the process of making these wonderful treats. They last a year (I have never managed more), and are reserved for special occasions. Like supper for two, with cheese! Or a forage picnic.

Come and taste some on our wild walk in Prospect Park on January 1st.


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Fir - the love of December

Go on, buy me for the holidays. Either on my publisher's site (35% off), or from your local bookstore. Or you, know, at the other place.

Because it's time to play with fir - the most delicious scent and wonderful flavor. Fir is not pine, and pine is not spruce, and spruce is not hemlock, and hemlock is not larch. None of them are yew. Don't eat yew. Evergreens with needles can be confusing. Fir belongs to the Abies genus, and has unmistakably fragrant needles (the others are all interesting - and edible, too, except the yew - but without the distinct aroma of the freezing north in December).

I made a fresh batch of fir sugar last week. The flavor and scent last years. Literally. Although the fresh green will fade with time.

You need fir sugar on your party glasses.

Or on your drink for one. This is Firgid, from the book.

And this is house-cured gravlax. Recipe in the book. So easy. Memorably delicious.

And here are the fir smoked potatoes you should not live without. Roasted in duck fat. And you don't need a smoker.

And here is dessert. Made with this season's Meyer lemons.

I told you. You need to buy me

Have fun!


(Yes, there will be fir)

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Jones Beach - Owl Watch

We went to the beach on Long Island that in summer is crammed with thousands of roasting bodies.

It was cold and empty, and the dune grasses were beautiful in their rufous, early winter color.

I saw tracks and found scat (rabbit?), and scanned every hump and hollow for the snowy owls we were hoping to sight.

Solidago, gone to seed.

And then we found her, between hell and high water. Not perched on a dune, but surveying her landscape sleepily from a rusty fence above empty handball courts. A New York owl.

Below her the courts were crammed with rusting barbecues and stacked picnic tables, detritus from summer, corralled by the dozen and locked up behind chainlink until next season.

They belong to the barracks of empty cabanas.

Much later we realized we could have found her via the road, rather than on a long beach hike, and so we parked the car there in the vast and empty parking lot named for the resort - Malibu - and ate hot tomato and chile soup with field garlic sprinkles and watched the owl. She's about at two-minutes-to-twelve above the cup on the left. Faraway, on the fence:


Friday, December 6, 2019

New Year's Walk

New Year's Tramp
Prospect Park
1 January 2020
12pm - 2pm

Bundle up and join me to greet the new year with the resilience that 2020 will require. What better way than with a bracing tramp outdoors? Up hill, down dale, and through the Brooklyn woods? 

On our wild winter walk we will identify edible plants that will be ready to gather in the spring, learn about spruce and pine, and will meet some sturdy botanicals whose flavors defy freezing temperatures. 

Our warming picnic will be flavored by the year's preserved forages (and some fresh ones, too) and will feature hot toddies, steaming soup, and a Spicebuche de Noel. And maybe something bubbly, too.

Book via the button below and please visit my walk page for info about my walks and refund policies.


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Thai Lime Marmalade

The recipe for my Thai lime marmalade is next door, at 66 Square Feet (the Food).

Thanks to the abundance of fruit on our overwintering bedroom citrus trees, I had enough limes to make two batches of Thai lime marmalade. It is really delicious: tart, bitter, sweet, aromatic. And it set absolutely beautifully, both times. A perfect jelly. It's really much easier than making jam.

The knobbly green skin of Thai limes (makrut, Citrus hystrix) is remarkably aromatic and their pale green juice is very acidic, slightly floral, and faintly bitter. Not everyone has bumper crops of Thai limes, and this recipe will work with any lime or lemon, too.

I based my recipe initially on one from Return to Camdeboo by Eve Palmer (a compelling book about Karoo farm life, seasons, and food), but its directions were ambiguous, I disagreed about the sugar. In the end I went my own route. But the original did teach me to soak the fruit first, which is essential, unless you like chewy lime rind.

The Thai lime marmalade recipe is at 66 Square Feet (the Food)


Monday, December 2, 2019

Winter cocktails

I don't mind somber, when it comes to cold weather drinks. Brown is beautiful. The paler one above is 'Dear George' - based on applejack and Spicebush Cranberry Fizz. (But here is a holiday-red one, if you prefer bright).

As the seasons change, so do my cocktail and drink mixing habits. We eat differently, so why not drink differently? Tomatoes are gone, root vegetables and winter squash have taken their place. (And thank goodness for kale.) So, too, terrace-sipped gin and tonics are a strange memory. By 4PM the terrace is dark.

The citrusy character of spicebush - red when fresh, brown when dry - is limitlessly versatile, and seems made for winter. To make Spicebush Cranberry Fizz, a delicious and easy ferment and mixer I conjure in late autumn and winter for all kinds of drinks (and even cooking), you will need spicebush berries (technically, they are drupes, not berries). You will find its recipe in the link. You need fresh cranberries, too.

If you have not foraged and dried spicebush yourself you can buy it online from Integration Acres (Ohio) - above, with my spicebush gingerbread. They call it Appalachian allspice.

Also, if you have your own trees (large shrubs, small trees) you can substitute a bunch of the young twigs, scratched up to release the scent, for the infusion. The picture above shows the ground up, dried spicebush fruit with the twigs.

See Forage, Harvest, Feast (35% off right now, from my publisher) for much more about spicebush - Lindera benzoin. It is the utterly North American spice that almost no one knows, and has vast potential. I use it more than any other wild flavor. And go next door to 66 Square Feet (the Food) for the ferment recipe!