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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Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward SparkFinally finally, Old Blue Raw Honey is up for sale on our new website! I’m so excited and proud and anxious to share this news with y’all. Henry and his bees have been working like crazy all spring and summer to create the bounty that we now have stored away in buckets and bottles, ready to send out into the world.

This year, we have these cute 8-ounce squeeze bottles that that fit right into USPS small flat-rate boxes for efficient shipping. I was pretty skeptical about these jars before we ordered them because I kind of hate plastic, BUT I’ve since grown to love them. First off, they’re BPA-free, so you don’t have to worry about chemical junk tainting your pure, raw honey. Secondly, they’re perfect for doling out a thin wisp or a big dollop of honey without having to deal with a messy, sticky spoon. You can even rest them upside down to glean the “bottom of the barrel” so to speak. They’re also a great size for the honey connoisseur to collect a couple different varietals without feeling overwhelmed by a large quantity or skunked by high shipping and handling charges. So far, most of our customers have ordered two or three honey varietals at a time, and though you’re more than welcome to purchase just one, it’s probably more fun to order a pair or trio to do your own honey tasting or share a bottle with a friend without paying any extra for shipping.

honeybee on crimson clover // Wayward Spark

You’ll notice on the Old Blue website that some honey varietals are marked as “limited release” and are priced a little higher. These varietals were harvested early in the season, and they contain significantly more pollen than main-season honeys and have distinct flavors. If you’re in the market for medicinal-quality, heavy terroir honeys, these are the ones you want. Early honeys are lower yielding, more labor intensive, and higher risk (because hives that are strong enough to produce spring honey are probably also on the edge of swarming, which is a loss that Henry works to prevent). You can read a little more about our early honey extraction here.

We have nine honey varietals currently for sale, but in the next couple months, you may see some of those go out of stock and a few new ones appear. We are only offering larger pint-size jars of main-season blackberry-nectar-based honey varietals. We’re also limiting shipping to within the United States. (Sorry, international folks!)

Old Blue Raw Honey mating yard // Wayward Spark

Our friend Halley Roberts designed our new labels, and Taylor Made Labels in Lake Oswego, Oregon printed them. We could not be more thrilled about how they turned out. If you ever need a few thousand (or hundreds of thousands of) labels printed, we highly recommend the consummate professionals at Taylor Made. Our website looks so classy only because I spent an afternoon around a kitchen table in Portland with Henry’s cousin, Ellie Harmon, who’s a computer genius and all-around interesting person (PCT through-hiker + PhD candidate). I gave Ellie a vague outline of what I wanted the website to look like (after studying the websites of friends in business including Block Shop Textiles, Nell & Mary, Clamlab, Portland Apothacary, Marble & Milkweed, etc.), and with the help of Shopify and a free customizable theme, she made my dream into a reality. I could have spent five times as much time working on it on my own, but the outcome would have only been half as good.

Old Blue Raw Honey beekeeper Henry Storch // Wayward Spark

We’ll be doing several different honey tasting events in Portland in the between now and Christmas, and we’d love to see some of you and share our harvest. Our first event is coming up next Saturday, November 15 at Takara Studio in North Portland. For more details on upcoming events, you can keep track of us on the “Events” page of the Old Blue website.

Old Blue has a fledgling Facebook page here, and Henry’s been posting real-time beekeeping anecdotes on the @oldbluerawhoney Instagram feed. We also encourage you to sign up to receive the Old Blue email newsletter. I’m planning on sending out occasional (once a month?) emails including updates from our apiaries, information about our varietal honey availability, honey-centric recipes, and links to topical bee and beekeeping articles from national and international news. This link will take you to the sign up form.

One of the things that I really like about the new Old Blue website is that all of my beekeeping blog posts are now right there alongside our e-commerce platform to show folks that our honey is legit and give customers a sense of all the work that goes into managing our hives. Don’t worry, though. I’ll continue to publish blog posts about the bees here first, and then I’ll copy them over to there, too.

As you can see, there are lots of different ways that you can keep track of us and this business, or you can always email oldbluerawhoney@gmail.com if you have specific questions. Keep in mind that we prefer to address broad questions about our beekeeping practices through long-form blog posts. If you would like to know more about how we operate, you’re welcome to request a blog post on a certain subject, but it may take a while for us to get around to presenting it.

Thanks in advance for supporting us in this venture. We really appreciate it!

beekeeping with Henry Storch of Old Blue Raw Honey // Wayward Spark

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Hull-Less Pumpkin Seeds

October 18, 2014 · 3 comments

hull-less seed pumpkins // Wayward Spark

Oh, this poor, neglected blog of mine. I was really truly convinced that when my kids started school in September, I was going to spend at least an hour a day working on stories for this space, but alas, that obviously hasn’t happened. Don’t worry, though, I’m not gone for good. I have a good handful (a couple handfuls?) of post ideas/photographs that will get published eventually. I guess I would just say that you can expect me to be a little less prolific for a while. Sorry ’bout that.

But anyway…pumpkin seeds! Gotta love ‘em, right? Back in the spring, I talked my mom into growing two different varieties of hull-less seed pumpkins, and now that they’ve been harvested, I want to give you the report.

Hull-less seed pumpkins produce seeds that aren’t encased in a fibrous covering. That makes them quite a bit more palatable and digestible than your average roasted jack-o-lantern seeds that really give your jaw a workout if you try to gnaw through a handful. The two varieties we tried out were ‘Kakai‘ from Johnny’s Selected Seeds and ‘Beppo‘ from Territorial Seed Company. (Henry also grew a few ‘Styrian‘ pumpkins from Turtle Tree Biodynamic Seed Initiative.) Unfortunately, the two specimens got all mixed up, and we couldn’t tell them apart from the outside. Both are, however, highly attractive in a gnarly ‘decorative gourd season‘ kind of way.

Like most pumpkins, these seed varieties were pretty low maintenance over the summer, and as the rest of the jack-o-lanterns and other winter squashes fully colored up and hardened off in the fall, these, too, were ready to harvest. My mom can’t remember exactly how many plants she put in the ground, but the end result was about 30 mostly good-sized fruits.

hull-less seed pumpkins // Wayward Sparkhull-less seed pumpkin harvest // Wayward Spark

We cut into a few right away, but a couple days ago, my mom decided that she wanted them gone, so we hacked up the whole lot with an ax and squished through pumpkin innards for a couple hours.

hull-less seed pumpkin harvest // Wayward Sparkhull-less seed pumpkin harvest // Wayward Spark

Each pumpkin produced 1/2 to 1 1/2 cups of slimy green seeds. There was a distinct difference in seed character between the two varieties. We *think* it’s the ‘Kakai’ seeds that are a bit larger and darker while the ‘Beppo’ seeds are more sage green and a little less plump. Overall, we collected about two gallons of seeds.

Some of (what we think are) the ‘Kakai’ seeds had already started to sprout inside the pumpkin, so we probably should have harvested them right away instead of letting them sit around for a couple weeks.

hull-less seed pumpkin harvest // Wayward Spark

Mom roasted a huge pan of seeds coated in olive oil and salt, and we’ve all been munching on them constantly for the last 48 hours. I think my little 2 1/2-year-old niece loves them the most, though I’ve heard rumor that her mother has been hoarding their stash for herself.

The seeds that didn’t get roasted right away went into the food dehydrator overnight to extend their shelf life for winter snacking.

hull-less seed pumpkin harvest // Wayward Sparkhull-less seed pumpkin harvest // Wayward Spark

The flesh of the seed pumpkins is supposedly pretty stringy and not particularly tasty, so we composted some and gave the rest to our chickens to peck at.

Growing seed pumpkins is a fun, worthwhile activity for a home gardener to do on a small scale, but I once saw “local” pumpkin seeds for sale at a natural food store in Corvallis at $12/pound, and that seemed kinda crazy. Yes, there’s a lot of work involved to justify that price, but I think I’d rather grow my own (or have my mom grow them for me).

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Oregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward Spark

Mid-September marks the start of hazelnut harvest season in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Turkish farmers grow a large majority of the world’s hazelnut crop, but Oregon hazelnut growers produce five to seven percent of the world total, making this area a significant player on an international scale. Because of some losses from freezing temperatures in Turkey among other factors, the price of hazelnuts is at a record high this year, and the yield for many Oregon hazelnut farmers looks promising. If you drive through the Willamette Valley, you’ll notice a number of fledgling hazelnut orchards planted in the last few years by farmers meeting an increasing demand for US-grown hazelnuts.

Ron Hathaway’s father planted his first hazelnut orchard on Kiger Island in Corvallis, Oregon over fifty years ago, and the operation has been expanding ever since. Now Ron and his son Mike manage several orchards spread across Kiger Island including that first one that’s still in production. In addition to farming hazelnuts, Ron and Mike also grow grass seed and other seed crops (including clary sage seen in this archived post). The Hathaways have planted several different varieties of hazelnuts including ‘Ennis’ (see in the photo above), ‘Jefferson’, ‘Barcelona’, and ‘Yamhill’.

Oregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward Spark

Over the summer, hazelnut orchards are groomed and raked several times to make sure the soil is completely flat so that the nuts can be swept and harvested efficiently and completely. Growers also clear out dead branches and other debris that has collected on the orchard floor.

Hazelnut trees naturally drop their nuts in September or early October (depending on the variety). Ron and Mike Hathaway harvest each of their orchards at least twice so that all the nuts get collected but none remain on the ground for too long, potentially getting wet and dirty.

Oregon hazelnuts // Wayward Spark

Each nut is encased in a husk that will eventually release the nut as it dries out.

Oregon hazelnut orchard // Wayward Spark

The trees in this orchard are about 12 years old.

20140923-DSC_076120140923-DSC_0802Oregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward Spark

Several different pieces of equipment are used during hazelnut harvest: a sweeper, a harvester, a tractor, and a forklift. The sweeper and harvester are specially designed machines manufactured in California that are used exclusively for harvesting hazelnuts. In the past, hazelnut growers have experimented with using almond harvesting equipment, but they’ve found machines designed for almonds are not effective for harvesting hazelnuts.

Oregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward Spark

First the sweeper (driven by Mike Hathaway) makes two passes down each aisle, blowing all the fallen nuts, husks, leaves, and debris into a windrow in the center of the aisle.

Oregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward Spark

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Oregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward SparkOregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward SparkOregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward SparkOregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward SparkOregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward Spark

Next, Ron Hathaway brings in the harvester pulled by a tractor. The harvester sweeps up everything in the windrow, and then fans blow the debris out, ejecting it from the machine before the nuts move up a conveyor belt into a hopper. Each step in the process is extraordinary dusty.

Oregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward SparkOregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward SparkOregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward SparkOregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward SparkOregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward SparkOregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward Spark

Oregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward SparkOregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward Spark

When the hopper is full, Mike brings over a wooden bin on the forklift. There’s a lever on the back of the hopper that, when pressed by a bin, will activate a conveyor belt that empties out the hopper into the tote.

Oregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward SparkOregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward SparkOregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward Spark

At this point, the nuts are fairly clean, but some husks and leaves remain mixed in.

Oregon hazelnut harvest // Wayward Spark

Ron and Mike together can harvest about 10 acres of hazelnuts per day. They prefer not to work in the orchards when it’s raining hard, but a little drizzle is actually nice for suppressing the dust. If the nuts get too muddy, however, it can be difficult for the processor to clean them sufficiently.

Mike will haul each semi-load of hazelnuts to a buyer in Independence where they’ll be washed, dried, and shipped all over the world.

Thanks so much to Ron and Mike Hathaway for allowing me to photograph their harvesting process!

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Camping at Scott Lake

September 17, 2014 · 5 comments

Scott Lake in Oregon // Wayward Spark

Ahh…We sure have been enjoying this bit of indian summer to its fullest. Aside from being freaked out about fires in this ultra-dry weather, our days have been long and full (of school among other things). This past weekend, Henry’s parents organized a quick camping trip to Scott Lake in the Cascades, and although Henry and I both left a hundred half-finished projects behind, I’m so glad we went.

The Scott Lake campground sits in the shadow of the North and Middle Sisters (of the Three Sisters mountains), and our campsites probably had the best views in the whole area. The lake itself is pretty shallow (especially this year) and relatively warm, perfect for person-powered boating and swimming. Henry’s dad is a major boat enthusiast, so he brought his canoe and an inflatable raft.

camping // Wayward Spark

This was our kids’ first experience camping “in the wild” (as opposed to the backyard), so they were bursting with excitement for days ahead of the trip. The two of them slept in their own tent without incident.

blue heeler // Wayward Sparkcamping // Wayward Sparkcamping // Wayward Spark

Henry’s parents go camping fairly often, so they have a full camp kitchen setup ready to go at a moment’s notice. In some ways, our campsite was probably better equipped than our own home, and we had anything we could possibly want. It helped that we could park nearby, and Henry’s parents hauled everything in easily with the assistance of their canoe cart. We contributed some of the food, and every meal was delicious.

camping pancakes // Wayward Spark

In the mornings, there was bacon, eggs, pancakes, toast, coffee, orange juice, and more. One dinner, Henry’s stepmom made foil packets of burger, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage with campfire baked biscuits (and s’mores) for dessert. The other, Henry and I prepared burritos with beans, salsa, sour cream, cabbage, cheese, and sautéed peppers and onions. Lunches were kind of a free for all, but no one went hungry, for sure.

camping // Wayward Spark

I was really kind of amazed by how long a day could be without any distractions or commitments to work or home life. There was plenty of time for reading, boating, hiking, AND sitting by the campfire, swapping stories.

Scott Lake and Three Sisters mountain in Oregon // Wayward Sparkprivy at Scott Lake campground in Oregon // Wayward Spark

The campground had the cutest privies.

hiking trail // Wayward Spark

Hand Lake // Wayward Spark

Henry’s stepmom and I took a quick hike over to mostly-dried-up Hand Lake. The sights of alpine forests, dry lakebed, nearly barren lava flows, and tall mountains in the distance were quite impressive.

Hand Lake bed // Wayward Sparklake bed // Wayward Sparkshelter at Hand Lake // Wayward Spark

The shelter near Hand Lake has been there for nearly a century.

canoeing on Scott Lake // Wayward Spark

My kids had never been canoeing before, but that didn’t stop them from jumping into the boat almost as soon as we arrived and heading out for multiple pajama-clad morning paddles. By the end of the weekend, Levi was really getting his stroke technique down, and he even took the canoe out on his own for a while (though he needed a little help getting back to shore).

canoeing // Wayward SparkScott Lake in Oregon // Wayward Spark

 

If you want to camp at Scott Lake there are a few things you should know:

The mosquitos can be pretty terrible in July, but when we were there, they didn’t bother us at all.

From what we’ve heard, the campground is mostly empty during the week but is often full during weekends. (Henry’s parents staked our claim on Thursday afternoon, which was probably a good thing because there weren’t any sites available the rest of the weekend.)

There’s no potable water, so you’re gonna have to bring your own.

You can’t park directly next to campsites, so be prepared to pack in your gear a short ways.

Keep all your food in closed containers, especially overnight, because the camp robbers (gray jays) are pretty fearless and always hungry.

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5 Years Old

August 30, 2014 · 4 comments

Charlotte turns 5 // Wayward Spark

Charlotte turned five yesterday. We celebrated the occasion with an afternoon at the coast. First we had delicious sandwiches and pizza at Panini in Nye Beach (quite possibly the best restaurant in Newport unless you’re desperate to eat seafood). Then we surprised her with a trip to the Newport Candy Shoppe where we gave her two dollars and told her she could buy anything she wanted. She has a major sweet tooth, but we’re usually pretty strict about limiting sweets and almost never let our kids eat candy, so this was a major thing. Charlotte’s eyes about popped out of her head as she ogled all the taffy, Jelly Beans, gummy candies, and suckers. She was in heaven.

At the beach, there was fun with bull kelp and lots of splashing in the very cold surf. At the end of the day, we threw two filthy kids in the bathtub and sent them off to bed exhausted.

Charlotte will start full-day kindergarten on Tuesday, so basically my baby isn’t a baby anymore. She even learned to ride a two-wheel bike without assistance a couple weeks ago. She still loves dirt, cuddling, bugs, princesses, picture books, sugary things, purple things, all fruits and vegetables, our cat, her brother, silly jokes that have been told a hundred times, water activities, and staying up way past her bedtime. At her checkup the other day, the doctor told us that she’s still in the 25th percentile for height and weight, but even though she’s small, the girl has grit. And we still love her to pieces.

playing with bull kelp at the Oregon Coast // Wayward Sparkplaying with bull kelp at the Oregon Coast // Wayward Spark

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salted brown sugar peach jam and pints of canned peaches // Wayward Spark

A very peach-intensive week and a half in mid-August started with 20 pounds from (locally famous) The Peach Place and then there were another 28 pounds from a farm stand on Lingo Lane near Junction City. A few days later, I picked about 25 pounds or so off my in laws’ trees. During peach season, my family can put a lot of fresh fruit away in a hurry, which is a good thing because tree-ripened peaches won’t ever keep very long. Charlotte would probably each peaches exclusively for days if we’d let her.

Aside from stuffing our faces and dripping peach juice all over everything, I froze a good majority of our haul. My peach freezing method: peel (blanching if necessary), slice, splash with lemon juice, stir, spoon into Ziploc bags, label, and then freeze. If you do it this way, they will brown a bit but not too badly, and you’ll need to thaw them for a while when you want to use them unless you can handle a big ol’ clump of frozen peach.

I also canned a few pints (a new canning activity for me) using Penn State Extension’s method.

peaches // Wayward Spark

What I really want to tell you about is the Salted Peach Jam recipe from Marisa McClellan‘s newish cookbook Preserving by the Pint. I told y’all about Preserving by the Pint (and Marisa’s Mustardy Rhubarb Chutney recipe) in the spring, but after that, I kind of set the book aside and didn’t crack it open again until I had a load of peaches on my hands and needed a good peach preserve STAT. Flipping through the “Summer” chapter had me lusting over a whole bunch of different recipes, but I honed in on the Salted Brown Sugar Peach Jam rather quickly. This stuff is pretty much manna from above, and I’m sure it’ll help me relive this beautifully hot summer jar by jar over the winter months. My new favorite morning meal (inspired by something I had at The Mill in San Francisco in July) is sliced good bread (sometimes homemade), homemade almond butter (made from almonds that Henry traded for honey with his Californian almond-grower buddies), and this salted peach jam. The stuff is also great over ice cream.

My peach jam came out a little on the runny side, but that’s the way I like it.

I also put up a batch of spicy peach barbecue sauce using another recipe from Preserving by the Pint, and it is outstanding. Just do yourself a favor and buy the book. You won’t regret it.

Salted Brown Sugar Peach Jam

from Preserving by the Pint by Marisa McClellan 

~2 pounds peaches
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon finely milled salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
juice of half a lemon
 

Peel and pit peaches, blanching if necessary. In a bowl, mash them up with a potato masher until they make a chunky pulp. Stir in the sugar, and let the mixture sit for a few minutes until most of the sugar is dissolved.

Transfer the sugared fruit and all the other ingredients into a non-reactive pot, and place it over medium-high heat. Bring it to a boil and then turn it down to simmer until it’s thick, 10-12 minutes, stirring regularly.

Jar it up in sterilized jars. Wipe the rims, screw on the lids until “finger tight”, and then process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

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harvesting and processing wild staghorn sumac // Wayward Spark

Over the winter, I blended up a batch of za’atar (this recipe from 101 Cookbooks) for the first time, and both Henry and I loved it. The bright, lemony flavor of sumac is a perfect match for the earthy, herby flavor of dried thyme. We sprinkled the heck out of everything with it: eggs, buttered naan, bean-grain salads, etc.. When I saw that the recipe called for sumac, I simply went to the local health food store and bought a little baggie.

I’ve always know in the back of my head that the patch of spindly trees with resinous, fuzzy stems in front of my parents’ house was sumac, but I literally never thought about it or gave it a second glance in 31 years with the exception of noticing its flaming foliage in the fall. That’s why I was completely caught off guard a couple weeks ago when Henry casually asked if that sumac was ready to harvest. I had never connected the trees with the reddish, powdery stuff I bought at the store. The day Henry brought it up, however, I did a little googling and taste testing and realized that indeed the fruit from my parents’ trees was not only edible but delicious.

The trees in my parents’ yard are staghorn sumac, Rhus typhina, not to be confused with poison sumac, a rare shrub that grows in wet, boggy areas and produces white berries. In the summer, staghorn sumac trees have mature, showing, conical fruit clusters that are bright red to red-brown in color. If you want to harvest sumac, it’s best to do it sooner rather than later because heavy rains can wash out the flavor potency out of the fruits.

Tama Matsuaka Wong has a good write up of how to harvest and process sumac here, and since I had no idea what I was doing, I mostly followed her advice. 

harvesting and processing wild staghorn sumac // Wayward Sparkharvesting and processing wild staghorn sumac // Wayward Sparkharvesting and processing wild staghorn sumac // Wayward Spark

First I got up on a ladder and clipped a bunch of sumac cones, avoiding ones that were already brown and funky looking. The branches of the trees and the cones of staghorn sumac are both sticky to the touch, and if you lick your fingers after squeezing the fruit, you’ll get an über lemony shock to the tongue.

harvesting and processing wild staghorn sumac // Wayward Sparkharvesting and processing wild staghorn sumac // Wayward Sparkharvesting and processing wild staghorn sumac // Wayward Spark

The flavorful part of the sumac fruit is the hairy covering on the seeds.

harvesting and processing wild staghorn sumac // Wayward Spark

Whole sumac cones can be used fresh in a refreshing beverage referred to as “sumacade“, but I was more interested in processing the fruits for spice, so I broke up the clusters and put them on trays in a food dehydrator for about 48 hours until the individual drupes were no longer very sticky and were easy to pick off the little stems.

harvesting and processing wild staghorn sumac // Wayward Spark

I spent a meditative hour or so cleaning my stash of stems. I’m not sure this step was totally necessary, but I did it anyway. Then i processed small batches of the drupes in a blender(Did I ever tell y’all I got a blender?), checking their progress often, until many of the seeds were bald but not too many of them were crushed. (I don’t think a food processor would be the right tool for this job because it would likely just pulverize the seeds instead of separating the fruit from the seeds.)

harvesting and processing wild staghorn sumac // Wayward Spark

After that, Henry’s awesome aunt who was visiting stirred and pressed the sumac business in a NOT-superfine mesh strainer.

harvesting and processing wild staghorn sumac // Wayward Sparkharvesting and processing wild staghorn sumac // Wayward Spark

My resulting sumac spice does not really look like the pure red powdery stuff from the store. It does include crushed bits of seed, but I don’t mind because it tastes just like the stuff from the store, and the added debris doesn’t add too much unpleasant texture to the spice. harvesting and processing wild staghorn sumac // Wayward Sparkharvesting and processing wild staghorn sumac // Wayward Sparkharvesting and processing wild staghorn sumac // Wayward SparkBecause I didn’t struggle forever to clean the seeds of every speck of fruit, I decided to save them and the adhering sumac bits for a couple batches of sumacade. I’ll probably have to use a high sumac-to-water ratio because a good amount of the flavoring has been removed, but that doesn’t really matter if I’m just using up a byproduct of my spice-harvesting experiment.

So, have any of you tried this before? Are there any great sumac-centric recipes that I must try? If so, please share your experiences and/or suggestions!

 

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Some Things

August 8, 2014 · 4 comments

Radke's Blueberries in Corvallis, OR // Wayward SparkLately I’ve been…

Cooking: 

Tartine’s Salted Chocolate Rye Cookies from Apt. 2B Baking Co.

Plum Upside Down Cake with Rosemary Caramel from Sweet Paul

Heavy Duty Granola from David Lebovitz

Classic Dill Pickles from the Wayward Spark archive

South Indian Dal from Leela Cyd on A Cup of Jo

Tomato Jam from Food in Jars

Wishing I were eating:

Apricot Pistachio Squares from Smitten Kitchen

Lemongrass Miso Soup from 101 Cookbooks

Spiced Plum Bars from 5 Second Rule

Green Goddess Sandwiches from The Bojon Gourmet

Parmesan Rosemary Biscotti from My Name is Yeh

Drinking:

lots of water (My aunt in San Francisco made fun of me when I turned down all her beverage offerings in favor of water. I really do love water, but because I’m a weirdo, I prefer it cold without ice.)

Wishing I were drinking:

all the cocktails on the new-to-me blog cider & rye

Running:

102 miles in July and 33 miles in the last week (In an effort to get in shape for a half marathon this fall, either the Runaway Pumpkin or Silver Falls, I signed up for a training plan on RunKeeper, a running app that I have on my phone. I chose a plan called “Sub 2:15 Half Marathon”, which really didn’t sound that ambitious considering I ran my first half marathon in 2 hours 18 minutes. After pushing through a couple weeks of training runs, I slowly began to realize that this plan is CRAZY hard and way more serious than I thought. So far, I’m sticking to it, though it might kill me.)

Picking: 

a million pounds of blueberries at Radke’s (photo above) to eat fresh and freeze for the winter

Reading:

Game of Thrones (My brother in law turned me on to it. I obsessively buzzed through the first three, but now I’m trying to be a little more laid back getting through the fourth, partly because I have a million other things to do and partly to stretch it out as long as possible. I’m still trying to decide if it’s worth dedicating another huge chunk of my life to watching the Game of Thrones TV show.)

Following on Instagram:

@frolicblog (Frolic) because Chelsea, whom I’ve met several times in Portland, is off on a European adventure of undetermined duration, and every. single. one. of her photos is so so pretty.

@sternmanrule (5 Second Rule) because Cheryl’s silly food puns make me laugh every time.

@kgfarmer (Kitchen Garden Farm) for Tim’s gritty farm photos

@bakerhands and @papercranefarm (Tara and Joe are a couple.) for beautiful baking and more farm photos

@nancyr10 (Nancy whom I’ve known since I was about 11) for Oregon adventure photos

@davidlebovitz (David Lebovitz) for beautiful food photos as well as quirky French miscellany

@tarasgroi (Tara Sgroi) for cool short videos

Listening to:

an explanation of the Earned Income Tax Credit on Planet Money

a first-hand account of surviving the giant earthquake and tsunami in Japan from an American engineer who was INSIDE the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant when the earthquake started on The Moth (This is one of few podcasts that I would not recommend listening to while exercising. It’s pretty emotional.)

an interview with Dan Savage on Death, Sex, and Money

the new-to-me podcast The Memory Palace

this interview in which the granddaughter of the original owner of the Washington Redskins says it’s time to change the team name

my Pandora station

Planning for: 

a local camping trip with the kids (A couple weeks ago, I got the hare-brained idea to solo parent an epic camping trip to Glacier National Park and back. While I’m still convinced that I COULD do it, I’m realizing that August is just too damn busy to take off for a week without a ton of planning, more than I’m really willing to commit to right now. Instead, I think we’re going to do two nights at Alsea Falls. I think a couple days of splashing in the river, reading books, cooking over a fire, and gazing at the stars will do us good.)

Thinking about:

This situation…

I was hanging out in my mom’s booth at the farmers’ market when Charlotte’s eyes got wide, and she said, “LOOK, MAMA, A NINJA!” while pointing to the crowd. I turned and suddenly realized that she was pointing directly and obviously at a (presumably Muslim) woman wearing a black head scarf that covered everything but her eyes. She saw us, I smiled apologetically, and she didn’t seem upset by the attention. She was too far away for me to mumble an explanation, and honestly I’m not sure what I would have said anyway. I’m of the mindset that there are very few things that a small child could say that could be considered truly offensive, and I hope she felt the same way. I would imagine that, like it or not, a well covered Muslim woman in Corvallis probably gets a considerable number of small children pointing and staring at her on a regular basis.

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