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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

How to make spruce tip salt

Spruce Tips

This year the spruce tips are coming out a little later than normal. Spruce tips are an easy to forage wild edible that's widely available. They have a green, citrus-y flavor that's bright and my family is pretty wild for it.

Any time you're trying a new wild edible, pick a couple and taste them before harvesting, because you want to make sure you like the flavor! If they need some sort of process to eat- like some mushrooms need to be cooked (NEVER PICK MUSHROOMS UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING!) - pick a couple, bring them home, and cook them. Just make a note of where you found them.

Spruce tips can be eaten raw. You're looking for just the tips that come out in spring- they will be a light green and the needles are quite tender compared to the rest of the needles. You pick them like berries, just pinching them off the tree. As with any wild edible, harvest sustainably. There are enough tips that you can collect from different places on the trees, and leave most of them in place.

Spruce tips

These are the picked tips. See that papery brown coating? It slips right off. Take that off, and discard it. Make sure there is no debris on the tips.

Chop up the tips. You could use a food processor- but I don't like even the mild heat that a motor can generate, or how much gets stuck or pasty because of the slight moisture. Chopping a bunch at a time by hand doesn't take very long.

Mix it with white sea salt. In this case, I got some sea salt from an artisan salt maker in Valdez. She gets sea water and evaporates it. I wanted my spruce tip salt to be made using Alaskan sea salt.

I like a 50/50 mix.

 This is just some of the tips added.

Spread it in a thin layer in a baking sheet and allow to dry overnight. The salt helps it dry quickly. Then put in jars.

What can you do with it?
Spruce tip salt is delicious on vegetables, fish and chicken- and probably good on pork. I'm not really a pork eater.

It makes a lovely, personal gift.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Movie Night with G.H. Cretors popcorn (sponsored)

When I got an email asking if I'd like a couple bags of G.H. Cretors "Obsessively delicious" popcorn and a couple fantastic movies for a movie night- I'm going to admit that I didn't hesitate.

I probably wouldn't have hesitated even if the movies weren't movies that I wanted to see because the popcorn is just that good- but one of the movies was one my family really wanted to see and the other was one that people have recommended repeatedly. Both movies were nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

So the package came and the popcorn flavors were going to be a surprise. G.H. Cretors has the following flavors available:

  • The Mix
  • Organic Chili Jalapeno White Cheddar
  • Organic Dill Pickle
  • Just the Cheese
  • Just the Caramel
  • Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • NEW Organic White Cheddar
  • NEW Organic Honey Butter Kettlecorn
  • NEW Organic Salted Butter
I got The Mix and Just the Cheese

So for the first night, we watched Moonlight- which was the movie that TG and I really wanted to see, the one that Mahershala Ali won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.  That night, we opened the bag of The Mix- which is a perfectly balanced, not too sweet, not too salty mix of cheddar popcorn and caramel popcorn. 
Look at that! The shiny candy caramel and the perfect cheddar! It was delicious. 
My daughter curled up under the blanket they sent, and I curled up with the tissues. It's a really beautiful movie, a coming of age movie that's gorgeously done in 3 parts. 

The other movie was Arrival, which also won an Academy Award for the Best Sound Editing, and that night was watching with my husband. I opened the bag of Just the Cheese and my husband and I were just wild for it. 
Isn't that pretty? Yes. I took both popcorn pictures out in the sun to get the best lighting possible and cropped them but didn't otherwise edit the photos. 

It's a fantastic cheese popcorn. It's not too salty or bitter, just cheesy with just the amount of cheese. My fingers didn't turn orange eating it. 

Arrival was lovely too, and watching it with my husband was very nice. He's so used to my love for action-adventure, that he enjoyed watching a thoughtful science fiction movie that actually had a plot with me. It's a gorgeous film, with a lot about language and communication and making choices. 

Both movies were about love, without being romantic films. 

The popcorn! Oh my gosh. It's perfectly popped. Nice sized roundish pieces with fantastic flavor. 

And it's easily available. You can find it at Walgreens, Target and loads of other places. Check here for a list of retail locations near you. 

I absolutely recommend both movies and the popcorn. Grab tissue. You'll need it.

G.H. Cretors Popcorn supplied the movies, blanket, tissue and popcorn at no charge. I was not otherwise compensated for this post and all opinions are mine. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

2nd Amendment coloring page- Bill of Rights series

2nd Amendment coloring pages

The 2nd Amendment is the next up in my Bill of Rights coloring page series. You can find the rest (which right now is just the 1st Amendment) HERE.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Click the images below for a larger version to color.

jpg version:
Print and color the 2nd Amendment- available in jpg and transparent png #BillOfRights #2A #Constitution

transparent png version:
Print and color the 2nd Amendment- available in jpg and transparent png #BillOfRights #2A #Constitution

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Cottonwood Buds- spring stuff

Geese back in Anchorage
Sorry I haven't been updating. It's spring and my garden calls and the stuff I like to wild harvest is starting to come up.

One of my favorites is cottonwood buds to make a cottonwood bud salve that's just as good as commercial aspirin containing topical creams but smells a lot better for my arthritis.

Cottonwood Buds

Black Cottonwood grows literally like a weed in the Anchorage area. During what my family refers to as "tree sex" season, the fluffy seeds are everywhere, almost like snow in the middle of summer. Really sticky snow that is hard to get out of carpets and drives my housekeeper husband completely nuts on the job. (He recommends alcohol to dissolve the sticky. And patience. And putting up a lot of signs for people to wipe their feet)

But in spring, the branches are covered with buds that will become leaves, and those buds have a fair amount of salicylates in the resin. If you can't identify cottonwood, mature trees have a thick, gnarled, grey-ish brown or grey bark and buds smell medicinal- like camphor. The buds will also leave a reddish-brown resin on your fingers when you roll them between your fingers. When you wild harvest anything- my family goes with a strict 1 in 3 method with everything except willow. So we pick one out of 3 buds on a tree and never the ones at the tips of a branch.

This is widely considered the tree to make Balm of Gilead from, and my ancestors used it as a medicine by dissolving the resin in animals fats.

Well, I'm not going to use rendered tallow or lard for my balm. Fortunately, while half of my ancestors probably had no idea that olives even existed, I can go to the grocery store and pick up olive oil.

Generally you want about 2 parts oil to one part cottonwood buds. My family picks from trees in our neighborhood and goes to state parks- our state parks allow reasonable harvesting for personal use as long as you harvest responsibly and it makes a nice hike.

So you put the oil into a jar with the cottonwood buds then top with a coffee filter or a piece of clean fabric. The reason you use the permeable top is because there is some water in the cottonwood buds and you want that to evaporate. Stir daily until the buds sink. Then leave sit for 1-2 months. That's where I'm at now-
As you can see, as the resin dissolves into the olive oil, the buds are getting more green looking. The oil is a gorgeous dark gold color at this point. In colored jars that's hard to see.

Cottonwood oil is considered liquid gold by the people who use it.

After another month, I'll strain the oil, pressing to get as much oil as possible, and then I'll add 2 tablespoons of grated beeswax/cup of oil to make a balm and melt it gently over a double boiler then pour into some of my husband's old pomade tins and mark them clearly.

It might be too late to pick cottonwood in your area, but there are people on Etsy who sell buds and completed oil, and there is a possibility that next year TG and William may be among those sellers.

This year, this is all for me. :)


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