Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Itching and Scratching: Part I

You think you know, what our post title is aiming at? You think we are exaggerating?
Well, we think you are right :-)

Rose hips are the topic. And yes, this can be a very itching thing. But since the turn of the century (of course we mean the one before the last one) we are blessed with rubber gloves and zeppelins. One of it fits your hands better.

Rose hips

What rather raises the foragers' hackles, is the work associated with processing rose hips.
Rose hips? Of course you know them! They are the fruits of the rose plant, usually red or orange, and catch the eye through autumn in nearly every garden or park, at roadsides, hedges and skirts of woods.

If you reach through the prickles, you will be awarded with one of the richest plant sources of vitamin C.
Rose shrub with hips

Rose hips have a very unique sweet-sour taste and can be used very versatile. But we start with a very common usage: herbal tea.

We are lazy sometimes. And that's why we skip the rose-hip-processors'-nightmare. We neither scratch out the seeds nor the little hairs, which cause the itching at contact with the skin.
All we do, after washing, is cutting off the ends of the little fruits.
After that we throw them into a kitchen blender and let them be cut in little pieces for a few seconds.
Rose hips

Rose hips in blender

Don't fill the blender as full as we did on our photo. Better split it in smaller portions. We processed about 500 grams, by the way. More than two people can drink in one year ;-)
Another tip: Don't use very ripe fruits. It's easier with the hard and dry ones.

Blended rose hips

Afterwards you have to dry them completely before storing. If you have low air humidity in your rooms, you can simply spread the tea onto kitchen paper and let it dry over a few days. Otherwise you can put them into the oven with very low heat (about 30°C) for an hour or of course use a dehydrator if you possess one.

For brewing the tea use 2-3 teaspoons (of our Middle-European teaspoons. If you live in a country with standardised teaspoon-sizes you surely know better how to use them ;-)) for one cup, pour over boiling water and let it steep for 10 minutes. If you want to make sure that you won't get a hairy throat (it wouldn't be itching, just a little bit „sandy“) use empty teabags or coffee papers. Otherwise a tea strainer will do it too.
And don't expect the deep red colour of bought rose-hip-teas. They usually have other herbs added. But the tea is delicious. Don't miss upcoming part II, were we make rose hip marmalade.

Rose hip tea
Read more ...

Sunday, 12 October 2014

All we took were pictures


Today was a wonderful sunny autumn day and even though we had to study a lot, we felt the urge to go outside and into the wood. The floor was covered with many different mushrooms and we also saw some beautiful berries. But we are quite sure that they are inedible, so all we took were pictures. 

The beautiful glossy black berries we saw are uneatable but not unusable. They are the fruits of a plant called Ligustrum vulgare which many may know from privat garden hedges. Once the berries were used to dye wool into an rich blue. We might try it out some time...

Read more ...

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Filling the hoards

What can be associated more with autumn-food than nuts? Okay, squashes and mushrooms maybe. But our today’s post is devoted to nuts.
More precisely we want to focus on hazelnuts.

You all know them from bakery or Nutella. Large regions of Europe are crowded with the common hazel, a shrub of 3-8 meters height. Some days ago we found such a shrub. The funny thing is, we passed it for years now and never noticed it. But this day the surrounding ground was paved with nuts, so there was no way to overlook it.

Let us tell you a little bit about the plant and where to find it.

The common hazel (Corylus avellana) is native in most European regions. During Mesolithic it was the dominating woody plant and its nuts have had an important part in nutrition for eras. Nowadays mainly nuts from Corylus maxima (Filbert / German “Lambertshasel”) are on the market.

Hazel shrubs can be found in light woods, edges and hedges. The wood of hazels is not good for any relevant usage. However, young branches can be used for barrel hoops, fences or the like. In early spring, young leaves and catkins can be used as vegetable like spinach.
But as mentioned above, the real treasure are the nuts.
They are rich in protein and unsaturated fat. High amounts of vitamins B1, B2, and E, magnesium and calcium make them very valuable for nutrition. The nuts can be stored for months if you leave them in their shell.

In traditional medicine the leaves have been used for curing liver diseases. Catkins brewed as tea are diaphoretic and the nuts are salutary for brain and nerves.

Hazelnuts are delicious freshly peeled or roasted. But you can use them in lots of dishes, sweet and salty. Mainly the nuts are used directly or pressed to oil in pastries.


Okay, back to our personal treasure :-) We gathered a large bowl of nuts so far and hopefully there's more to come. But of course not everything is for storage. We'd like to try three dishes with them. Or more precisely two pastries and one salty dish, which we think could be tasty. But we have to wait for a special ingredient ;-)
What would you do with plenty of hazelnuts?
Read more ...

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Hot for the cold

Preserving food for winter has been essential for thousands of years. Nowadays the food industry takes this task out of our hands. It's comfortable and cheap to buy various preserved vegetables and fruits or meat and fish. And why not?

But there are two unbeatable reasons for making your own freezed, pickled, canned, bottled, etc., food: It's fun and it's delicious!

We are lucky having the chance to grow our own food. At least the little bit our small balcony allows. But more about these possibilities some other time.

some fruits from our balcony

Today we want to focus on one plant, respectively its fruits, we learned to love and which we plant in lots of different kinds for years now. The chili pepper (Capsicum).

Unfortunately we had a very wet summer this year and with it came a very meagre yield. But it seems to us it made our chilis hotter all the more. And no, we aren't sissies – when we say hot, we mean really hot ;-)

NuMex Twilight chili peppers on our balcony

The uses of these fruits in kitchen are manifold, as it can enhance many various dishes. But as the introduction of this article suggests, we are not writing about recipes now, but about the methods of preserving chili peppers for some months.

We want to mention four possibilities – of course there are more – and show more detailed the one we tried out this year.
  1. To freeze chilis is a very easy way to preserve them for up to six months. Simply put them into freezing bags or durable tupperware and store them in your deep freezer. A good tip is to cut them in half or even smaller pieces before. Then you can take the right dose out without the risk of unfreezing more than you want.

  2. Drying might be the oldest and most used technique for chili preservation. You can tie the fruits on a string like you surely have already seen somewhere. They should hang at a warm, dry and well ventilated place. Unfortunately this makes it impossible for us to use drying, because we live in a relatively humid and cool part of Vienna.

  3. If you want to use the hot taste only and don't mind not having the texture of the whole fruit you can easily make a sauce like e.g. “Sambal”. Traditionally the peppers are crushed using pestle and mortar. But you can also use your kitchen blender. For preserving the paste you can salt it or boil and can it.

  4. This year we decided to pickle a great deal of our harvest in vinegar. The peppers keep their taste and you also receive a well spiced vinegar for dressings or cooking. First you should pickle the fruits in brine overnight. Next day you bring a 50:50 mixture of water and vinegar (should be a sour vinegar with at least 5% acid) to boil and add some mustard seeds, a bit of allspice (pimenta) and a couple of bay leaves. Then you take the chili peppers out of the brine, wash and dry them, cut in the fruits a little bit and put them into jars (boil the jars and the lids out for at least 10 minutes). Pour in the vinegar mixture hot, or if you want to have the peppers more crisp, let the liquid cool down a little bit before. Cap the jars, let them cool and store them dark.
pickled chili peppers

Read more ...

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Of autumn, woods and blackberries

Autumn silently arrives. Well, to be true, here in Middle-Europe it's not so silently, as the rain crackled against the window glasses for most of the summer. But it arrives. And with it the most various food selection of the year.

Not only the farmers reap their harvests of vegetables and fruits. Also forests burst with nuts, seeds, berries and mushrooms. Squirrels begin to fill their lairs and so could we. If only these delicacies wouldn't be too tasty to store!
Read more ...