scones // Wayward Spark

There are a million scone recipes out there in the world. I can guarantee that you don’t need another one, but…I’m going to share this anyway. These are my mom’s, more bready than crumbly and barely sweet at all. They call for a good slathering of jam or honey for breakfast or dessert although you could probably omit the raisins and go all savory on them with an egg, a swipe of tomato jam, and a handful of arugula. The thing I like best about them, though, is that they’re hard to screw up because the dough’s not too delicate. I have never made a decent biscuit in my life (though lord knows I’ve tried), but somehow these scones rise in pseudo-laminated layers every time. I’ll confess that I even screwed up the batch in the photos by getting all the way to the shaping and cutting before I realized that I forgot to add the raisins. I smooshed up the triangles of dough and kneaded in the raisins, convinced that I’d end up with hockey pucks from overworking the dough, but low and behold, they still turned out great.

scones / Wayward Spark

I added a bunch of new podcasts to the list on the right for your (and my) listening pleasure. I want to specifically point out a new one, Local Mouthful, hosted by my friends Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars and Joy Manning, editor of Edible Philly. I really like these two women as people, but they’ve done a fantastic job right out of the gate delivering quality audio media. Give it a listen.

Also, the above photo shows an optimistic version of my kitchen table these days. I’ve jumped on the kombucha-brewing bandwagon, so my poor table is always a cluttered mess. We’re hoping to get moved to the new house in the next week or two where there is considerably more counter space. Hallelujah!

scones // Wayward Spark

Raisin Scones

The original recipe is from The Vegetarian Epicure, but this version has been tweaked significantly.
makes 8 medium-large scones

1/2 cup plain yogurt + 1/2 cup milk (or 1 cup buttermilk)
1 good egg
2 Tbs. sugar

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (optionally including up to 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour or other whole grain flour) + extra for dusting
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup cold salted butter

2/3 cup raisins (or dried cranberries)

In a measuring cup, thoroughly mix the yogurt, milk, egg, and sugar.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the biggest pieces are pea-size.

Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Use a wooden spoon to stir together the ingredients at first, but once mixed, turn it out on a lightly floured surface, and gently knead the dough with your hands. Add flour as necessary and continue to knead gently until all the ingredients form a cohesive lump. Don’t knead more than necessary, but also don’t be afraid to handle the dough enough to fully blend it. After the dough comes together, knead in the raisins (or cranberries).

Cut the dough into two equal sections. Pat each section into a disk about an inch thick. Cut each disk into quarters. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment, leaving at least an inch between scones. Let the scones rest while the barbecue (or oven) warms up.

Heat the barbecue and heat-insulating apparatus on medium. You can see photos and a description of my standard insulating apparatus here, but if you come up with your own system that works as well or better, I’d love to hear about it. (Alternately, heat oven to 350°.)

When the barbecue is hot, place the baking sheet on the heat-insulating apparatus and close the lid. Check the scones after 15 minutes, rotating the scones if they appear to be baking unevenly. Bake another 10 minutes or so until some of the edges have turned golden brown, checking and rotating as necessary.

These scones are best served warm from the barbecue or reheated within 36 hours of baking. Serve with lots of butter, honey, and/or jam.

scones // Wayward Spark

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We bought a house.

August 14, 2015 · 9 comments

hiking at Sweet Creek Falls // Wayward Spark

We bought a house. It’s (sort of) a REAL house with power and closets and counter space and indoor bathrooms and neighbors, and I am (mostly) thrilled. I’m assuming some of you are surprised by this development. Before all the recent radio silence, I used this blog often to brag/blather about this little cabin that’s been our home for a decade now, but as much as I do still love this place, circumstances have changed and even in our most optimistic periods, we never thought we’d stay here forever. Maybe you’re disappointed that we’re not better advocates for “tiny house” off-grid living, but I would like to think that I’ve always been honest about what lifestyles we are and aren’t endorsing.

In the beginning, Henry bought this place and built the original section of the cabin as something of a temporary bachelor shack. The two of us lived in under 200 square feet for two years before adding on shortly before our first kid was born. We made further improvements, but back then, we decided to plan on building our “real” house on the same property when Levi turned five and Henry turned 30. Those milestones came andwent in 2012, and over the course of several discussions, we decided that we were still genuinely happy in the cabin, and we weren’t ready to undertake a major construction project. Right around that time, too, Henry was shooting the breeze with one of our crotchety older neighbors who lived in a cute house on about 15 acres of well tended land, and the neighbor turned to Henry and said, “Someday, I should sell you the ranch!” Henry came home that night and relayed the not-particularly-serious proposition. My jaw literally dropped, and though we’d never ever talked about living anywhere aside from the property we already owned, I told Henry to say yes. “Call him right now, and tell him we say yes, and we’re super serious.”

It turned out the the neighbor was pretty content at home–he remains there still–and there’s probably no way we could ever wrangle the funds to pay fair market value for the property, but once that seed of an idea was planted, we basically quit thinking we’d stay here on the hill forever. After we opened up to the possibility of eventually living somewhere else, it seemed absurd to consider building our “real” house at the end of these awful, steep gravel roads, without electricity, and in one of the most fire-prone areas of Benton County, and so the hunt was on for a new place.

For a year or more, our search for a new home was casual. We were still very comfortable in the cabin and weren’t feeling any pressure to change our situation. Last July, we looked semi-seriously at the first piece of property (in Burnt Woods), and then around October, we started actively looking for a new home and new home for our business. We made a list of our most essential criteria for a new place: a small, livable house (1,200-1,800 square feet), at least half an acre of flattish, unforested land, on or near a paved road, and within a specific geographic area (Philomath area, “downtown” Wren, or Blodgett). While at first we didn’t think those criteria were particularly limiting, we soon realized that in an extremely low-inventory real estate market in a smallish geographic area, we were basically chasing a unicorn. In about seven months, we only looked +/- 15 places, not all of which actually fit our criteria.

The process of house hunting was frustrating and depressing on all levels, but now that we’ve found a place, I’m just really excited to be moving forward, making plans for landscaping and gardens and business space and bike storage and all the rest. We now have two acres of blank slate-ish land and lots of dreams to fulfill.

I have a million other things to say about the house and the state of things, but I’m just going to leave you with a few photos of a day trip to Sweet Creek Falls (west of Eugene) and the dunes in Florence that the kids and I took with my brother’s family and a couple friends.

Hope your summer has been grand!

hiking at Sweet Creek Falls // Wayward Sparkhiking at Sweet Creek Falls // Wayward Sparkhiking at Sweet Creek Falls // Wayward Sparkhiking at Sweet Creek Falls // Wayward Sparkbeach time // Wayward SparkFlorence dunes // Wayward Spark

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Leek Scapes

April 30, 2015 · 8 comments

leek scapes // Wayward SparkMaybe you’ve heard of garlic scapes, those curlicue green things that show up at farmers’ markets around this time of year. They taste faintly of garlic and are often (for reasons I don’t totally understand) blended into an alternative pesto. But have you heard of leek scapes? Like garlic scapes, leek scapes are the shoots and flower buds of leek plants that emerge in the spring as the leeks attempt to go to seed.

About this time last year, I was walking by the far-past-prime overwintered leeks in my parents’ garden when I saw a few scapes waving in the wind. I honestly had never heard of people eating them at the time, but I thought I’d give it a go. After a million meals of eggs and kale raab during the springtime garden dearth, it seemed like a good idea. I chopped them into easy-to-manage lengths, tossed them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and threw them on a hot grill. I burned my fingers and my tongue grabbing hot spears off the barbecue and stuffing them into my mouth, but the flavor made it all worthwhile.

I took these photos yesterday and then promptly ate about 2/3 of that whole pan of grilled leek scapes. Juicy and mildly allium-y, grilled leek scapes are the best thing EVER (or at least this week). I’m sure you could do them up a million different ways, but I can’t seem to find the motivation to try anything more complicated than minimal seasoning and simple grilling. To fancy them up a bit, I just pulled a jar of homemade romesco out of the freezer to pair with my next batch of grilled scapes, inspired by news of this event.

I have found the easiest way to harvest leek scapes is to gently tug on the exposed shoot until it pops out of the layered casing. The scapes are often straight, but occasionally they go wonky or grow super tall. Unlike hardneck garlic that will continue to ripen a bulb even after the scapes are harvested, what’s left of these leeks are pretty much toast at this point.

Since my first experiments with leek scapes, I have actually seen them at farmers’ markets, but they’re not too common, and they don’t have a very long season. Most leek-growing farmers, my parents’ included, are anxious to tear out sad overwintered produce to make room for ground prep and early summer crops. If you grow your own leeks, you might want to let some go so that you’ll get of this sweet spring surprise.

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Robin and Laura Sage of Red Bird Acres // Wayward SparkLaura and Robin Sage, owners of Red Bird Acres, are nice people and good farmers working to provide high-quality meat and eggs to Corvallis-area customers without compromising on ethics or farming practices. They raise broiler chickens, laying hens, hogs, sheep, and a few dairy goats all on green green Willamette Valley pasture.

Recently I visited the Red Bird Acres farm and talked to Laura and Robin in depth about their farming methods and the ethics of raising animals for food. A few different parts of their program stood out to me as being somewhat exemplary even in this local-food-obsessed community.

The “red birds” at Red Bird Acres are ‘Freedom Rangers’, a French breed of chicken know for excellent foraging abilities and good meat flavor. They are much slower growing than the industry standard ‘Cornish Cross’ broiler chickens, but they thrive on pasture and experience fewer health problems than ‘Cornish Cross’. (I wrote a little more about this here.) Laura and Robin also raise ‘Idaho Pasture Pigs”, another breed that does well with the extra room to roam and grass of the Red Bird Acres farm.

All the animals at Red Bird Acres are fed non-soy, non-GMO feed custom milled by Union Point Custom Feeds in Brownsville, Oregon. They are NOT fattened up with GMO corn and soy-based feed shipped in from Iowa.

Laura and Robin do all of the animal butchering themselves without the help of volunteers or low-wage laborers. They personally ensure the quality of all their products and are with their animals all the way from field to market.

Laura and Robin are at the tail end of a Barnraiser campaign to raise funds for purchasing new chicken processing equipment. They’re not asking for a lot, but a small lump sum of donations would be invaluable for furthering sustainable meat production in this area. I would encourage you to learn more about their farm and then send a few dollars their way. They are so close to reaching their goal with just a few days left, and I know that I will be personally super bummed if they miss out on this opportunity because they came up just a little bit short. (If you’re like me, you may be kind of annoyed by so many Kickstarter-type campaigns, but this one is legit, especially at a time when  more traditional forms of capital are simply not available to farmers of this scale, and supporting small farmers has never been more important.)

You can also find Red Bird Acres at the Corvallis Saturday Farmers’ Market every week.

Red Bird Acres // Wayward SparkRed Bird Acres // Wayward SparkRed Bird Acres // Wayward SparkRed Bird Acres // Wayward SparkRed Bird Acres // Wayward SparkRed Bird Acres // Wayward Spark Red Bird Acres // Wayward Spark

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Henry Storch beekeeper at Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

I’m pleased and excited to announce an upcoming collaboration with Cocotte Restaurant, Seastar Bakery, Nectar Creek Mead, and Old Blue Raw Honey in the form of a honey-centric brunch on Sunday, April 19 in Portland, OR at Cocotte.

Here’s the menu:

1st course
Sweets: Honey drinking porridge, baked goodness, honey-roasted seasonal fruit

2nd course
Toast: Honey-baked beans on rosemary cornbread; a salad of spring herbs and vegetables on rye;
square slice (crispy pan-fried pizza) with pecorino, hot pepper, and honey

3rd course
Salad: Spicy farm greens with honey mustard vinaigrette, honey-plumped mustard seeds, grilled Halloumi cheese, honeycomb candy

4th course
BLT: Honey-cured and roasted bacon, fried egg, last summer’s tomato jam, roasted Padron peppers,
chili-infused honey drizzle on a Seastar bakery biscuit

Mead-infused brunch cocktails
Stumptown coffee

Tickets are $50/person, and they include food; one honey or mead cocktail or non-alcoholic beverage; presentations and discussions with the beekeeper, the bakers, and the mead maker; and gratuity. Tickets must be purchased ahead of time here. There will also be honey and mead tasting at the event with products available for purchase.

This is a really fun project for me personally because of the good folks involved. Annie Moss (whom I wrote about here), one of the co-owners of soon-to-be Seastar Bakery is someone I’ve know since elementary school; Mischa, the chef at Cocotte use to live across the street from me growing up (and I once, only kind of intentionally, gave her a bloody nose, much to my horror); Nick Lorenz, one of the co-owners of Nectar Creek lives up the road from my parents in a funky, off-grid cabin not dissimilar to ours; and Nick’s brother Phillip Lorenz, the other co-owner of Nectar Creek, used to work on the same farm that I did and is also a former beekeeper. I trust that these people are going to make this event extraordinarily delicious. I would love for you to come.

In other news…

I recently wrote and photographed a five-part series for the online food site The Kitchn all about Henry’s beekeeping practices and our honey. You can find it here. I’m quite proud of this bit of writing, and I’m pretty sure that if you read it, you’ll learn something. Doing this series forced me to distill the main plot points of our business into a short amount of space, so if you would rather an overview than a detailed description of how to graft honeybee queens, this series would be a good place to start.

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wild honeybee hive in a barn wall // Wayward Spark

I have about a million photos to share from our recent trip to check on bees in the almond orchards of Northern California, but before I do that, I wanted to pop in quickly with a few shots from a recent honeybee colony removal that Henry did here locally. I’ve written about bee removals a bunch of times on the blog, and this one was pretty straightforward. Actually, it was even in the exact same barn as the one featured in this post.

The colony was settled in a section of barn wall right under the roof about 8 feet off the ground, so most of the removal activities were performed a few steps up a ladder. I was taking photos over Henry’s shoulder from the ground. Henry had already removed the siding in the area of the colony before I arrived on the scene, and you can see (above) the hive was pretty well established between studs. Henry thinks they probably swarmed in last summer.

honeybee removal // Wayward Spark

He started by smoking them a little and then pulling/cutting out chunks of empty comb and honeycomb.

wild honeycomb // Wayward Sparkhoneycomb // Wayward Spark honeybee removal // Wayward Spark honeybee removal // Wayward Spark

He quickly and carefully removed wax sheets that contained brood.

a frame of wild brood comb // Wayward Spark

He cut out sections of brood comb and used rubber bands to secure them in wooden fames. He placed the frames in an empty hive box.

honeybee removal // Wayward Spark honeybees on comb // Wayward Spark honey hand // Wayward Spark honeybee removal // Wayward Spark

He set honeycomb aside in a bucket, took empty comb home to melt down, and secured all the brood-filled comb in a hive box.

honeybee removal // Wayward Spark

He installed a stand as close as possible to the former colony location and placed the hive box filled with a feeder, frames of honey, and frames of brood on top of the stand.

honeybee removal // Wayward Spark

At this point, he started literally using his hand to scoop up clusters of bees and deposit them in the new box.

honeybee removal // Wayward Spark

He spotted the queen, and nabbed her in a queen catcher. The queen is often shuttled to the back of the hive during a disturbance, so in this instance, she was more or less where he expected her to be. He moved the queen into the new hive box.

smoking honeybees during a removal // Wayward Spark

Then he smoked the heck out of the whole area in order to drive bees from the old colony location into the air where they would reorient to the new hive box with its enticing brood and queen pheromone. Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

Henry got stung a few times, pooped on a few times (the orange bits by his temple and behind his ear), and generally had lots of bees crawling all over him.

Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

There’s the H. Storch Pollination ad photo right here.

wild honeycomb // Wayward Spark

He divvied up the bucket of honeycomb collected from he colony between the owners of the barn and some friends.

A couple days later, Henry picked up the box where the bees were happily established and relocated it to a better location.

If you would like to purchase Old Blue Raw Honey (from our hives not a funky barn wall), we have 10 different varietals available on our website.

 

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20141222-DSC_0254

Oh, man. I’ve never been away from the blog for so long, and it feels pretty strange. I’m not making any long-term promises, but rest assured that this blog isn’t going away any time soon. And, hey, I’ve even added a handy new blog feature in the form of an ever-evolving list of podcasts that I partake in. It’s over there in the sidebar. FYI there’s some potentially offensive stuff in several of them, so listen at your own risk.

Though I haven’t been writing here lately, I have been writing. You see, this year I’ve committed to taking on the sales, shipping, and marketing duties at Old Blue Raw Honey, and though I don’t plan on using this space to push our products all the time, I will be posting (hopefully) frequently about what’s going on in our apiaries and our business ventures. I’ve also been spending a lot of time pitching all sorts of ideas around to other blogs and publications. To be honest, I’ve thought about launching a part-time freelance writing career of sorts for a couple years now, but with the exception of a few fruitless pitches, I’ve never really had the motivation or the nerve to really go for it. Now, however, promoting our honey is my job, and I’ve found it’s a whole lot easier to ask for things of influential people when I’m doing it in service of a entity that’s not just me myself. I really believe in Henry and Old Blue, and so far, that passion has resulted in a few enthusiastic responses. I’m pretty stoked about that, and I’ll be sure to let you know if/when my work is featured somewhere off this site. (For starters, Henry has a pretty good interview up on the Portland Apothecary blog that I didn’t write, but I did edit and influence quite a bit.)

I should also note that though I’m not here much, you can always keep up with me on Instagram @waywardspark, and Henry’s there, too, @oldbluerawhoney.

Wayward Spark Oswald West State Park // Wayward Spark

Instead of a real blog post today, I’m just going to offer you a long list of recipes that I turn to again and again for tried and true deliciousness. These are favorites in our house that are particularly well suited to the dark days of winter. The photos included here are from our trip with Henry’s extended family to Manzanita on the Oregon Coast.

The Best Granola” from David Lebovitz–This is my go-to granola recipe. I always use chopped hazelnuts instead of almonds and all honey instead of a honey-rice syrup blend for sweetener.

Yeasted Buckwheat Pancakes from Not Without Salt–You gotta plan ahead a little, but these pancakes are worth it.

Dark Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread (homemade Nutella) from Megan Gordon‘s cookbook Whole Grain Mornings–We have a ton of hazelnuts kicking around our house, and this is a good way to use them up. It doesn’t contain any dairy products, so it lasts for quite a while.

Turmeric Tea from 101 Cookbooks–I’ve gotten really into turmeric + honey + lemon. In the beginning, I found it a little overwhelming, but now I can’t get enough.

Fire Cider from cider and rye–I chopped and grated everything up for this fire cider a while back, but it’s not quite ready, so I won’t get to taste it for another couple weeks. I don’t have any experience brewing or even consuming fire cider, but I’m super excited to try it out.

Smothered Cabbage from Orangette–This method often leads to my eating a vast amount of greenery in one sitting. I usually just make the smothered cabbage and don’t do the whole soup thing that the post suggests. Sometimes I eat it over rice with a bunch of parmesan cheese. I would imagine that one could also substitute in brussels sprouts for some or all of the cabbage, and I may well do that soon.

Lacinato Kale and Pecorino Salad from 101 Cookbooks–I made a giant (and I mean truly giant) bowl of this salad and ate the whole thing myself in the course of an afternoon. I just couldn’t stop. I used garlic and homemade hazelnut butter in the dressing in place of shallot and tahini, and I subbed in a regular onion, toasted hazelnuts, and some other kind of hard cheese in place of green onion, pecans, and pecorino. Honestly, I think you could do this salad a hundred ways with good results. So good!

Winter Squash Soup with Curry and Coconut Milk from Coffee in the Woodshed (or this variation from Orangette)–if you still have squash kicking around your pantry.

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread from The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book–This is from an old standard, but it makes a great basic loaf bread.

South Indian Dal that my friend Leela of Tea Cup Tea posted on Cup of Jo–This is a great dinner-is-in-half-an-hour-and-I-don’t-have-a-clue-what-to-make recipe. It’s easy, healthy, and totally satisfying. The options for garnishes and condiments with this dish are pretty endless: plain yogurt, cilantro, hot sauce, toasted nuts…

Bloody Marys from Anne Parker–I don’t normally drink cocktails. (To be honest, I swore off hard alcohol twice, once after my 20th birthday party and a second time after my 21st birthday, and since then, I’ve mostly stayed away.) But when we were planning for our trip to Manzanita, Henry’s cousin’s boyfriend and I started scheming about bloody marys, and the first person I thought of was my friend Anne Parker who is something of a bloody mary aficionado. Anne’s recipe is great, and I definitely partook in the bloody mary bar to it’s fullest extent. We used dill aquavit (Broder Nord-style), but this horseradish vodka sounds like it would be a good addition.

Dill Pickled Carrots from Marisa McClellan’s Preserving by the Pint–I’ve talked about Preserving by the Pint and Marisa’s outstanding blog Food in Jars before (here and here), but even I am surprised by how often I’m reaching toward the book for inspiration. It seems like once or twice per season, I’ll be in dire need of a condiment or a pickle or a preserve to shake things up a bit, and Preserving by the Pint never fails to provide just what I desire but never would have been able to come up with on my own. These dill pickled carrots are great in bloody marys or on their own. I didn’t can mine because they didn’t last long in the fridge before we had eaten them up.

Celery Salt from 101 Cookbooks–Great for bloody marys, eggs, egg salad, or really on anything.

Za’atar from 101 Cookbooks–Gotta use up all that homemade sumac spice, and this is awfully tasty.

Salted Chocolate Rye Cookies from Apt. 2B Baking Co. via Tartine No. 3 (which I really should buy sooner rather than later)–I’ve made these a few times, and they’re always a huge huge hit.

Biscotti from Alice Medrich’s cookbook Chewey Gooey Crispy Crunchy–Buy this book ASAP. There are a bunch of wonderful recipes, but being a big fan of biscotti, I’ve made several different biscotti variations, and I can rationalize excessive cookie baking because biscotti is kinda supposed to be stale, so they can hang around my kitchen for weeks.

Nibby Buckwheat Butter Cookies from Apt. 2b Baking Co.–If you’re into buckwheat like I am, these are right up your alley.

Buckwheat Cocoa Cake from Smoke Signals Bakery–I’ve been meaning to bake this since the second Tara posted the recipe. Tara’s also a lot of fun to follow on Instagram @bakerhands.

…and a couple of my recipes:

Homemade Naan

Pickled Beets with Honey on Food in Jars

Honey-Vanilla Bean Quince Preserves on Food in Jars

Oregon Coast // Wayward Spark Oregon Coast // Wayward Spark

 

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Old Blue Raw Honey tasting at the OSU Food Science lab // Waysard Spark

We’ve had our honey up for sale online for six weeks now, and so far, everything has been going extraordinarily well. Our customers are emailing/Instagramming rave reviews, and I haven’t yet made any major mistakes in the packing and shipping process (Whew!).

When I originally wrote the product descriptions for each varietal, I intentionally did not include any flavor descriptors because I simply don’t have a very discerning palate, and Henry didn’t feel comfortable describing the tastes on his own. If you look around, many honeys you might find online or at a grocery store are described with words like “luscious”, “robust”, and “intoxicating”, which are words that don’t really have much meaning, and we didn’t want to go that route. We also didn’t just want to come up with a bunch of pretentious sounding adjectives that weren’t relevant or helpful. The reality is, however, that people shopping for food online really need the retailer to guide them in choosing an appealing product by providing accurate flavor descriptions.

To remedy our lack of flavor vocabulary, Henry scheduled a honey tasting event at the Oregon State University Food Science lab with his friend Brian Yorgey and five of Brian’s flavor-nerd coworkers. In the Food Science Department, the professors, research assistants, and students regularly do to organized tastings of all sorts of foods from the latest cane berry varieties to fat-free cream cheese. Honey tastes a lot better than fat-free cream cheese, so the folks we met with were quite happy to help us out.

Old Blue Raw Honey tasting at the OSU Food Science lab // Waysard Spark

We didn’t set up a super official taste test, but we did set out our unmarked varietals in order with the strongest flavors at the end of the line. Tasters had water to drink between sampling and sniffing each varietal. Honeys were warmed to about 80° to best bring out the flavors and aromas. We brought along several of UC Davis’s recently published “Honey Flavor and Aroma” wheels that list and categorize different tastes that appear in varietal honeys. (If you have a hankering to do your own honey tasting, you can pick up a honey flavor wheel here.)

A bottle of each varietal was passed around the table, and our tasters took free-form notes as they sampled. We tried to keep the discussion to a minimum during the tasting, although there were several varietals that elicited strong facial expressions and gasps of “Oooh!” and “Whoa!” At the end, we talked through the character of each varietal and voted on favorites/least favorites.

Old Blue Raw Honey tasting at the OSU Food Science lab // Waysard Spark Old Blue Raw Honey tasting at the OSU Food Science lab // Waysard SparkOld Blue Raw Honey tasting at the OSU Food Science lab // Waysard Spark

Old Blue Raw Honey tasting at the OSU Food Science lab // Waysard Spark

The two clear favorites of the day were the Clary Sage & Hairy Vetch from our Kiger Island apiary and the Blackberry & Salal from our Fruitvale apiary. With the exception of one taster who really liked it, the Raspberry & Mint from our Sunset Valley Organics apiary was the least favorite. The Blackberry from our Depot Slough apiary and the Blackberry & Lotus from our Elk City apiary were declared the most mild and pleasant but unobtrusive, not anyone’s favorites but not their least favorites either. The Bigleaf Maple from our Blodgett apiary and the Blueberry & Chittum from our Greenberry apiary were the most flavorful and most controversial in a love ‘em or hate ‘em kind of way.

When you compare one taster’s notes to another’s, you’ll notice that some flavor profiles are all over the map, but a few are very clearly defined. Though the taste is pretty obvious, I was still impressed that all the tasters used the words “eucalyptus” and “menthol” or “mint”, and five out of six used “root beer” or “birch beer” for the Bigleaf Maple honey. Words like “sweaty”, “rubber”, and “toast” were also used by more than one taster to describe one varietal or another.

Old Blue Raw Honey tasting at the OSU Food Science lab // Waysard Spark

I’ve added a condensed version of the flavor notes from the tasting to each honey varietal that we have listed online, but the full, mostly unedited descriptions are included below. Each line was written by a different taster.

1. Blackberry from our Depot Slough apiary

floral, waxy, clover, fruity, vanilla
nutty, walnuts, confectionary: butter scotch, toffee, tree fruit: pear, dried fruit:figs, barnyard
waxy, floral, honeysuckle, fruit paste, slight almond, caramel, brown sugar, nutty aroma
beeswax, propolis, quince, floral, maple syrup
uncomplicated, honeysuckle, butterscotch
waxy, fig, cotton candy, nutty, pecans

2. Blackberry & Salal from our Fruitvale apiary

floral, jasmine, citrus, roasted, astringent, woody, cedar, nutty
bready, roasted, woody, pine, mint, tea, papery, toasty
roasted, toasted walnut aftertaste, orange
cinnamon, allspice, toast
toffee, pollen
floral, honeysuckle, clover, herbal, tea, veggie/grass/hay, pastoral

3. Blackberry & Thistle from our Feagles Creek apiary

fruity, dried apricots, jam, clove, dark fruit, viney
estery, fruity, citrus, orange zest, berry, cane fruit creme brûlée, orange blossom
citrus, lemon, geranium leaf, floral, slight citrus, Ricola cough drops
lime, cherry, cough drops, viney, plant, floral/violet, orange
herbal, mint, grassy
peach, apricot, toffee, salty, bready

4. Blackberry & Lotus from our Elk City apiary

caramel, vanilla, very sweet, oak tree, spicy
lavender, marshmallow, moldy, sweaty
caramel, cooked fruit, figs, lemon aftertaste, maple
cabbage, citrus, orange, earthy, earth spice
marshmallow
melon, spicey, pine, caramel, maple

5. Bigleaf Maple & Dewberry from our Logsden apiary

goaty, barnyard, hay, earthy, pungent, white pepper, licorice, burnt
peppermint, fennel, mushroom, cherry
rubber or ash, waxy, fishy smell,
rubber, almond, lime, butterscotch
very buttery, beeswax
anise, licorice, minty burnt wood

6. Poison-Oak & Chittum from our Cardwell Hill apiary

berry, currants, herbal, earthy, rose, cinnamon
orange, orange blossom, maple
waxy, almond, floral
plastic, candy, cotton candy, rose
sweet grass, light lemon
menthol, prune, rootbeer, tea, rubber

7. Clary Sage & Hairy Vetch from our Kiger Island apiary

floral, very sweet, perfumey, cotton candy, toffee, almond brittle
cocoa, toffee, floral
cinnamon, lemon, citronello
marshmallow, plant, clover hay, alfalfa, viney/plant
nutty, toasted, brickle, most unusual, unique, slight fig, flora, jasmine
vanilla, maple, butterscotch, orange blossom

8. Bigleaf Maple from our Blodgett apiary

medicinal, menthol, eucalyptus, cough drop, licorice, root beer
melon, anise/licorice/root beer, eucalyptus, banana
eucalyptus, menthol, minty, licorice, root beer
licorice, spearmint, eucalyptus, floral, birch beer
eucalyptus, menthol
minty, menthol, anise, eucalyptus, clove, root beer

9. Blueberry, Dewberry, & Vine Maple from our Siletz apiary

fruity, dried fruits, spicy, toast, yeast
maple, butterscotch, citrus, lemon/orange, soap
orange peel, lemon, baking spice, toast, maple
bread, toffee, cinnamon, plastic, toast
sweet cream
cinnamon, strawberry, ginger, molasses

10. Raspberry & Mint from our apiary at Sunset Valley Organics

tropical fruit, sulfur, orange blossom, clove
cotton candy, cat pee, sweaty, cherry, christmas, clove, cinnamon
rubber, burnt aroma, heavy waxy taste, slightly medicinal, eucalyptus, animal, leather, bitterness
sweaty, gamey, chestnut, plastic
off aroma, decomposition/socks, spices
sweaty, leather, waxy, nutmeg

11. Blueberry & Chittum from our Greenberry apiary

pungent, dried dark fruits, sour, spices, potpourri, strong
leather
orange, cloves, sharpness, acid, roasted
marshmallow, vanilla, astringent, oak, woody
rich, root beer, nutmeg
sour, astringent, marshmallow, tea, tobacco

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Barbecue Baked Squash-Honey "Pumpkin" Pie // Wayward Spark

We’re living out the tail end of an early raging ice storm in these parts. The kids went off to school yesterday, but only a couple hours later, the school called to say the power was out, and I should come pick them up. Driving through Blodgett on the way to get them was pretty freaky. The roads were surprisingly ice-free even though some sort of precipitation was pouring down, but all the trees on the sides of the road were covered in ice and drooping perilously. I had to veer around tree limbs down on the highway, and I witnessed several whole trees tipping over, thankfully not on my car or the road. Once we were safely back home, I scanned through multiple anecdotal reports on Facebook of nasty road conditions, power outages, and general natural havoc.

Today, school was canceled again because the power was still off. I had big plans for the day but switched gears and decided to bake a pie and roast a giant pan of lemon-parmesan brussels sprouts instead. The two dishes hit the spot on this nasty day though I’m probably going to have to hang out on the fart patio tomorrow.

squash-honey "pumpkin" pie // Wayward Spark

I have to confess that when I come across pumpkin pie at a Christmas party or buffet table, I usually skip it. Don’t get me wrong. I love pumpkin pie, but I kind of only love my mom’s pumpkin pie. Others just don’t live up. They’re too bland or too spicy or soggy or dry. My mom’s pumpkin pie is always just right, for me anyway. I called my mom up to get her recipe this morning, and then I tweaked it in a pretty major way by swapping in honey for sugar. I wasn’t sure if it would work flavor and/or texture-wise, but the end product turned out silky smooth, incredibly fragrant, and just right in terms of sweetness.

I used an ambercup squash (the orange ones in the photo below) in this recipe because I’ve never been too impressed with the taste of sugar pie pumpkins. I simply baked the halved, seeded squash in my barbecue until soft and then scraped out the cooked flesh to use in place of pumpkin puree.

This recipe falls on the less spicy side of the pumpkin pie spectrum. You could up the quantities of added spices if you prefer. Freshly ground/grated spices boost the flavor in a very good way.

If you’re in the market for more pie inspiration, I highly recommend following Tara Jensen @bakerhands on Instagram or checking out her blog. Her pies are always impressively beautiful but in a rustic, appealing kind of way.

winter squash // Wayward Spark

Squash-Honey “Pumpkin” Pie

1 pie crust (I’m partial to this rye crust from 101 Cookbooks, but be sure to halve it for a single bottom crust.)
 
2 large eggs
3/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups squash or pumpkin puree (You can used canned, but it will be better if you make your own. This method works well, although this time I didn’t feel the need to run it through a food processor, and it turned out fine.)
1 can (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, honey, spices, and salt. Add the squash puree, and whisk until combined. Add the evaporated milk, and whisk until combined.

Roll out the pie crust and line a pie pan with it. Pour in the filling.

To bake it in a propane barbecue, place several fire bricks on the grill and top them with a heat shielding device. (I use a Lodge cast iron pizza pan on top of four fire bricks as seen here.) Preheat everything on medium for about 20 minutes. Place the pie pan in the center of the heat shielding device.

To bake it in an oven, preheat the oven at 350° and place the pie on a rack in the middle.

Bake the pie for a hour or more until the center no longer jiggles when the pan is nudged. Cool thoroughly before slicing and eating.

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gathering hazelnuts // Wayward Spark

Back in early October, my friend Erin and I toured the Corylus collection at the National Clonal Germplasm Repository (NCGR) in Corvallis, Oregon, and basically we were like kids in a candy store. Once again, my friend and neighbor Joseph Postman, a plant pathologist at the facility, welcomed us, provided us with some literature about the collection, and quickly toured us through the rows before turning us loose to gather and admire whatever we wanted.

the world collection of hazelnut varieties at the National Clonal Germplam Repository // Wayward Spark

The orchard is home to over 800 trees including hazelnut cultivars and selections and their wild relatives originating all over the world as well quite a few varieties developed right here in Corvallis by acclaimed hazelnut breeder Shawn Mehlenbacher. Many of the trees are well established, but Joseph continues to plant saplings of newly acquired varieties from around the world as well as those that have been clonally propagated from brand new, not-yet-named varieties bred for their resistance to Eastern Filbert Blight and for other characteristics.

Like for most plant collections at the facility, the horticulturalists at the NCGR are primarily focused on keeping these trees alive for propagation and research purposes, so the hazelnut orchard at the germplasm repository in Corvallis isn’t tended the same way that a commercial hazelnut orchard would be. There’s grass growing in the rows, the plane of the land is pitted and bumpy, and the trees themselves are growing in many physical forms.

hazelnut variety identification at the National Clonal Germplasm Repository // Wayward Spark

Generally speaking, each accession is represented by one tree in the orchard. A tag hangs on each tree documenting the variety name, origin, location in the orchard, and other identifying information.

hazelnuts on the ground at the National Clonal Germplasm Repository's world collection of hazelnuts // Wayward Spark

The nuts are simply a byproduct of the tree preservation efforts, so most of them fall to the ground and remain there. Erin and I went to town filling bags and baskets with nuts. We consulted the NCGR’s list of “Breeder’s Choice” varieties, and gathered and labeled quite a few nuts from trees on the list, but we also stopped to collect nuts dropped from many other trees. Seeing all the nuts laying out and knowing that they were probably going to go to waste was a ridiculous motivator that kept us there longer than our schedules really allowed. It was SO much fun.

mature filbert clusters // Wayward Spark

Erin, a flower farmer and florist, was intrigued by some of the attractive papery filbert clusters, and she had great ideas about how they could be used in floral arrangements.

hazelnut variety identification at the National Clonal Germplasm Repository // Wayward Sparkhazelnuts on the ground at the National Clonal Germplasm Repository's world collection of hazelnuts // Wayward Spark

Joseph explained that every few years he runs a rototiller-like piece of equipment down the rows to churn under many of the accumulated shells and twigs for somewhat more efficient composting. When we were there, all of last year’s nuts were still laying on the surface, but they were easily distinguishable from fresh nuts by their color and luster.

hazelnuts // Wayward Spark

After I got home, I let all my various bags and baskets of nuts dry out for a couple weeks before I started shelling them. The diversity of shapes (round, faceted, bullet-like), sizes (pea to quarter coin diameter), and subtle color differences among the different hazelnut varieties was pretty astounding. Some small shells were completely filled, and some large shells only held puny little nuts.

hazelnuts // Wayward Sparka diverse array of hazelnut varieties // Wayward Sparka diverse array of hazelnut varieties // Wayward Spark

The kernels themselves also came in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.

'Corabelle' hazelnuts // Wayward Spark

I think my favorite of all the kinds I gathered and sampled is the ‘Corabel’ (above). They’re big, beautiful nuts that are easy to crack. When roasted, the skins around the kernels rub off without much effort, and they taste delicious.

filbert worm damage // Wayward Spark

After we had been picking nuts up off the ground for a while, Erin and I noticed that some of them had little holes in the sides or ends. We cracked a few of these nuts while in the orchard and quickly realized that the holey ones had resident filbertworms and were no good. We tried to avoid the wormy nuts by leaving them on the ground when we saw the holes, but about 20% of the ones we brought home also had worms in them.

Commercial filbert growers apply a variety of herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides to their orchards throughout the year for weed control and to prevent damage to the crop from disease and pests including filbertworms. The horticulturalists at the NCGR do spray the orchard occasionally to keep grass from competing with young trees and to protect the trees from Eastern Filbert Blight, but the management plan there does not include practices to prevent pests in the nuts.

In September, Henry and I attended the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District annual meeting at beautiful Tyee Wine Cellars. Dave Buchanan, owner and farmer, led the group on a quick tour of the property. He explained that the grapes at Tyee are certified organic and certified salmon safe because the owners care about their impact on the soil and the surrounding ecosystem. Their filbert orchard, however, is not organic because sometimes chemicals are necessary to control pests and diseases.

I know for a fact that organic hazelnuts do exist because the good folks at La Mancha Ranch and Orchard are down at our local farmers’ market every weekend selling them. I’m not quite sure how they are able to manage pests and diseases without chemicals, but I’ve tasted their nuts, and they’re delicious. Maybe I should investigate their program more thoroughly.
filbert worm damage // Wayward Spark

Nuts with filbertworms in them are ruined. filbert worm damage // Wayward Spark

filbert wormAs I was shelling nuts, Charlotte, my bug-loving child, was super excited to collect a bunch of filbertworms in a jar with holes poked in the lid. She even brought her little “wormy-worm” habitat to school for Show and Tell. All the kids in Charlotte’s class thought her collection was pretty awesome.

A few more things about hazelnuts/filberts:

The Corylus page of the NCGR website has some great information and links to hazelnut industry sites of importance including this hazelnut growers handbook.

If you’re in the Corvallis area and you want some good nuts, The Peach Place‘s filberts at the Corvallis Saturday Farmers’ Market are reliably good, and they’re really nice folks. Also La Mancha Ranch and Orchard (mentioned above) offers organic hazelnuts. If you’re not in Oregon, there’s a list of distributers that sell and ship Oregon hazelnuts around the country here.

In case you missed it, you can read and see more about the hazelnut harvest in a commercial orchard here.

In the past year, my family and I have eaten a LOT of hazelnuts. Simply roasted filberts are a real treat and a healthy snack, but we’ve also enjoyed them in many different recipes including David Lebovitz‘s “Best Granola” (sub hazelnuts in place of almonds), Megan Gordan‘s “Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Spread” (Buy her cookbook Whole Grain Mornings!), countless batches of muffins, and hundreds of salads that needed a crunchy topping. I’m dying to try out Deb Pearlman‘s “Chocolate and Toasted Hazelnut Milk“, and Heidi Swanson just posted a recipe for “Roasted Cauliflower Rice” with a healthy dose of hazelnuts that sounds pretty darn good. If you’re interested in making hazelnut meal for cakes and such, David Lebovitz has some good tips for making almond meal that apply to filberts, too. I’ve also discovered recently that my favorite food in the world (other than pizza) is dukkah, a hazelnut-based condiment, so I’ll be posting a recipe for that soonish.

This visit was my fifth visit to the National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis. You can read and see more about touring other collections at the facility in the WS archive (though I didn’t photograph the world collection of pear varieties that I wandered through this summer with my friend Yossy): Kiwis and Quince, Quince and other rare fruits, and Currants and Gooseberries. Next year, I would really like to put together some sort of organized tour of one or more collections at the NCGR and welcome Wayward Spark readers and friends along. What do you think? Do you want to come out and sample currants, blueberries, pears, or filberts with me? I think it would be really fun, so stay tuned for more info.

 

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