Slow cooker pacific mussels and sausage chowder

There are many types of chowder in the world and even more variations of chowder recipes. Over the centuries if it is from the ocean then some one has probably made chowder out of it. After my last trip to the coast to forage I didn’t get any clams but I did get a nice bucket of fresh mussels. Which make a perfect chowder. The only thing that tends to throw people off about using mussels is that instead of the normal white of clams these are an orange color. Using a slow cooker for this makes the mussels nice and tender and delicious.

Tasty bowl of chowder with mussels and sausage.
Tasty bowl of chowder with mussels and sausage.

ingredients:

  • 8 oz chopped mussels
  • 4 sliced chicken sausages
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 6 to 8 medium potatoes
  • 3 c. water
  • 3 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 4 c. half and half cream or milk
  • 3 to 4 tbsp. cornstarch or (instant potatoes)

If you are using fresh mussels like I am you will need to steam them open and then cut them up. Also be careful of the occasional pearl. All of the ones that I have found were small but they would still have chipped a tooth. Cut the mussels into bite-sized pieces after removing them from the shell if they are large. In a skillet, saute sausage and onion until golden brown; drain. Put into slow cooker with mussels. Add all remaining ingredients, except milk and cornstarch. Cover and cook on high 3 to 4 hours or until vegetables are tender. During the last hour of cooking, combine 1 cup of milk with the cornstarch. Add cornstarch mixture and the remaining milk and stir well; heat through.

A link to my handy slowcooker

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Red Huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium)

This is a great berry to find while hiking anywhere in the Pacific Northwest.  They really do grow nearly everywhere west of the Cascades.  Red Huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium) is a species of Vaccinium native to the western North America, where it is common in forests from southeastern Alaska and British Columbia south through western Washington and Oregon to central California. In the Oregon Coast Range, it is the most common Vaccinium. It occurs mostly at low to middle elevations in soil enriched by decaying wood and on rotten logs, from sea level up to 1,820-metre (6,000 ft).  I see it a lot on rotten old growth stumps.  Which usually means it is to high off the ground for me to reach to eat the berry without some climbing and gymnastic.

Ripe huckleberries out in the sun along a powerlin cutting in the coast range
Ripe huckleberries out in the sun along a powerline cutting in the coast range

Indigenous people’s found the plant and its fruit very useful. The bright red, acidic berries were used extensively for food throughout the year. Fresh berries were eaten in large quantities, or used for fish bait because of the slight resemblance to salmon eggs. And yes this does work.  I used to do it in Alaska when I was younger to catch Dolly Varden.  Berries were also dried for later use. Dried berries were stewed and made into sauces, or mixed with salmon spawn and oil and eaten at winter feasts. The bark of the plant was used as a cold remedy thanks to the therapeutic acid called quinic acid. The leaves were made into tea or smoked. The branches were used as brooms, and the twigs were used to fasten western skunk cabbage leaves into berry baskets. Huckleberries make a good jelly, or can be eaten as dried fruit or tea.

fairly large bush with quite a few berries on it
fairly large bush with quite a few berries on it

Current uses: Red huckleberries are edible and widely used today for pies, jams, jellies, and are frozen or canned. A wine can be made from the fruit. Red huckleberries are quite tart, so some people prefer the blue huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum). The berries can be dried, mashed, or pressed for juice. The leaves can be used fresh or dried to make tea. Red huckleberry makes an attractive and versatile ornamental. Sometimes, the branches are used for floral arrangements. It takes a lot of berries to make some of these so gather as much as you can.

Huckleberry jam (this recipe is from a book published from the Siuslaw National park in the 1970’s)

  • 6 cups crushed huckleberries
  • 1 pkg powdered pectin
  • 8 cups sugar
  • 9 1/2 pint jars

Wash and drain berries then crush.  Put the 6 cups of berries into a 6 quart pan. Stir in pectin and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Add sugar, stir until mixture comes to a boil then boil exactly 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and skim. Place in jars and process.

 

Homemade Jerky

With hiking and fishing season starting it is nice to have a good high protean snack to take along with you. And it is a good survival food to know how to make. In the most basic form jerky is lean salted meat that has been air-dried. In the olden times many a traveler would put meat under the saddle of their horse as they traveled. The salt from the horse sweating was enough to preserve the meat for a short period of time. Since I don’t have a horse or a reason to ride around the countryside I use two different types of salt to make my jerky. It is plain salt or soy sauce. Soy sauce has more than enough salt in it to provide all you need.

For this recipe I am using soy sauce as the salt source for this batch of jerky. Jerky is extremely easy to make with little effort. The main thing you want in making jerky is a good quality lean meat. This same recipe works great with wild game also. This recipe is for two pounds of meat. You can increase the amount if you want to do more at a time. This is about all that my dehydrator will hold also. After you get your meat cut it across the grain into strips about 1/4 inch thick. If you do not cut it across the grain it will make it much chewier. I don’t like mine to take 30 minutes to chew one piece. Put all of your sliced meat into a glass or ceramic bowl. Do not use metal because the marinade will dissolve some of the metal and change the taste of the meat. This is true with almost all marinades.

marinade :

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cracked pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • and a little water to cover the meat

Mix up the marinade and pour over the sliced meat. Mix up well then add as much water as you need to just get to the top of the meat. For this batch it was only 1 cup of water.

Meat sliced up and marinade added
Meat sliced up and marinade added

Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours or overnight. Drain and pat dry the meat after it has marinated, Then lay the strips out in a single layer and let dry in the dehydrator until the meat bends but doesn’t break. In mine this takes about 24 hours. After it is done let cool back off and put into ziplock bags. If you are not eating it within a week or two you can put it in the freezer. With little to no water or fat in the meat it will last a long time before it goes bad. I tend to eat it quickly so none of mine lasts more than a month before I have to make more.

Soft pretzels with the Katy bug

In between making batches of cheese Katy and I decided to make some soft pretzels.  It is her first time making them.  I haven’t made them for years so I had to look up the recipe.  First spot for getting easy recipes is the red plaid book from better homes and gardens.  Which is a staple in every person I knows kitchen.  You can find most of their recipes on their website also. (which is where i got these instructions from)

ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 quarts water
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or coarse salt
Kitchen aid and Katy ready to go.  Yeast and flour all mixed together in the bowl
Kitchen aid and Katy ready to go. Yeast and flour all mixed together in the bowl
Had a little bit of explosive flour spray while mixing up the milk with the rest of the flour
Had a little bit of explosive flour spray while mixing up the milk with the rest of the flour

directions:

1. In a large mixing bowl stir together 1 1/2 cups of the all-purpose flour and the yeast; set aside. In a medium saucepan heat and stir milk, sugar, oil, and 1 teaspoon salt just until warm (120 degrees F to 130 degrees F). Add milk mixture to flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl constantly. Beat on high-speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in whole wheat flour and as much of the remaining all-purpose flour as you can.

2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining all-purpose flour to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (6 to 8 minutes total). Shape dough into a ball. Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface of dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double in size (about 1 1/4 hours).

Dough all ready for the next 90 minutes of raising in it's lightly oiled bowl
Dough all ready for the next 90 minutes of raising in it’s lightly oiled bowl

3. Punch dough down. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly grease two large baking sheets.

Katy punching down the dough.  Her favorite part of the process
Katy punching down the dough. Her favorite part of the process

4. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Roll dough into a 12×10-inch rectangle. Cut into twenty 12×1/2-inch strips.* Shape each strip into a pretzel.**

5. Carefully place pretzels on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 4 minutes. Remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Generously grease two large baking sheets; set aside.

6. In a Dutch oven bring 3 quarts water to boiling; add 2 tablespoons salt, stirring until dissolved. Lower pretzels, three or four at a time, into boiling water. Boil for 2 minutes, turning once. Using a slotted spoon, remove pretzels from water; drain on paper towels. Let stand for a few seconds. Place about 1/2 inch apart on the generously greased baking sheets.

7. In a small bowl combine egg white and 1 tablespoon water. Brush pretzels with egg white mixture. Sprinkle lightly with sesame seeds. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden. Immediately remove from baking sheets. Cool on wire racks.

finished pretzels cooling on the rack.  They are very tasty
finished pretzels cooling on the rack. They are very tasty

Farmhouse Cheddar

Farmhouse cheddar with some chipotle peppers added
Farmhouse cheddar with some chipotle peppers added

This is the first hard cheese that I made when I was learning how to make cheese.  It is the best starting cheese for anyone learning the cheese making art.  Farmhouse cheddar is a drier flakier version of a normal cheddar.  You don’t need to do any actual cheddaring to make this one.  Yes cheddar is actually a process and not just the name of the cheese.  This and Caerphilly are the fastest aging hard cheeses that I have made to date.  I still prefer the Caerphilly because it becomes a sharp cheese faster than farmhouse.  But both are great to eat.

Ingredients:

  • 2 gallon Whole milk (which is about 3.25% fat by the way)
  • 1/8 teaspoon Mesophilic direct set culture
  • 1/8 teaspoon Calcium Chloride diluted in 1/4 cup unchlorinated water
  • 1 teaspoon liquid rennet diluted in 1/4 cup unchlorinated water
  • 1 Tablespoon cheese salt

Cheese making steps:

  1. As always pour your milk into your 2 gallon double boiler and bring up to 90°F
  2. Now add you calcium chloride and starter culture and stir in. Let sit while maintaining temperature for 45 minutes.
  3. Add your diluted Rennet and stir for one minute. Cover and let sit while maintaining your temp for another 45 minutes.
  4. Check for a clean break at the end of the time. If it is not set check every 15 minutes until it is. The first time I made this I didn’t wait nearly long enough for the curds to set and ended up with a gooey mess.
  5. Cut the curds into ½” cubes and stir gently for one minute. Now let the curds rest and settle for five minutes.
  6. Now slowly raise the temp up to 100°F over the course of 30 minutes.  No more than 2°F every 5 minutes.
  7. Let your curds rest for 5 minutes then move to the draining.

Draining/Pressing time:

  1. Strain off the whey using a cheesecloth and colander. Tie up the corners of the cloth and let the cheese curds hang and drain for one hour. Then pour the curds back into the pot, and mill into 1/2″ pieces. Blend in the salt as you mill the curds. The curds for this cheese are fragile so make sure you mill them gently
  2. Pack your curds into a 2 lb lined mold. If you have any extra curds put into a handkerchief and hang to drain. It will give you a little bit of fresh cheese to eat during the week.
  3. Cover the curds with one corner of the cheese cloth, and apply the follower, and press at 10 lbs. for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove cheese from press, and gently unwrap. Turn the cheese over, rewrap, and press at 20 lbs. for 10 minutes. Repeat by turning over again and press at 50 lbs. for twelve hours.

Cheese Aging: Remove from your press and air dry for 2-4 days.  Make sure you flip it as it drys at least 2x per day.  Four times would be best if you can.  This prevents the moisture in the cheese from settling in the bottom of the cheese. After a yellowish rind has formed wax and age at 55°F for at least a month.  The longer it ages the sharper the flavor will be.  Flip every day after you wax for the first 2 weeks than once a week until you can’t wait any longer to eat it.

Hardtack or the cracker that lasts forever

hardtack

A great food to store for emergencies is hardtack or as the sailors knew it as a sea biscuit.  These little squares will last for years if stored in a cool dry place.  During the civil war soldiers ate hardtack that had been made 30 years before and stored in casks.  Because they are rock hard when dried it is best to use a hammer (yes a hammer) and break them into pieces and then soak them in soup or a broth to soften them.  My favorite is to use them in place of crackers in stews.  Depending on how you like them you will need to soak them up to 10 minutes to make them soft enough to eat.  While hiking I have slowly gnawed on pieces for a snack.  You cannot chew on them without worrying about cracking a tooth.  Have I mentioned that they are very hard?

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of flour (whole wheat is best)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup water
  • 6 pinches of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of shortening (optional)

Steps needed to make your hard tack:

1. Mix all the ingredients into a batter and press onto a cookie sheet to a thickness of ½ inch.

2. Bake in a preheated oven at 400°F (205°C) for one hour.

3. Remove from oven, cut the crackers into 3-inch squares, and punch four rows of holes, four holes per row into the dough (a fork works nicely).

4. Flip the crackers and return to the oven for another half hour.

To make them even better for long-term storage let them cool then bake at 250°F for another hour.  This will remove the last of the moisture.  For sea voyages they would cook the cracker a total of six times to preserve them.

And a little bit of history and trivia:

“In 1801, Josiah Bent began a baking operation in Milton, Massachusetts selling “water crackers” or biscuits made of flour and water that would not deteriorate during long sea voyages from the port of Boston, which was also used extensively as a source of food by the “gold diggers” emigration to the gold mines of California in 1849. Since the journey took months from the starting point, pilot bread was stored in the wagon trains, as it could be kept a long time. His company later sold the original hardtack crackers used by troops during the American Civil War. The G. H. Bent Company is still located in Milton, and continues to sell these items to Civil War re-enactors and others.”

“During the American Civil War, 3-inch by 3-inch hardtack was shipped out from Union and Confederate storehouses. Some of this hardtack had been stored from the 1846–8 Mexican-American War. With insect infestation common in improperly stored provisions, soldiers would breakup the hardtack and drop it into their morning coffee. This would not only soften the hardtack but the insects, mostly weevil larvae, would float to the top and the soldiers could skim off the insects and resume consumption.”

Bannock recipe

Bannock

Today is recipe day since it is cold and wet outside and the wife is sick.  Bannock is a great easy flat bread to make at home or on a grill while camping.  The dry ingredients can be mixed up ahead of time then all you need to do is add the water and butter to it.  There are huge variations to recipes for making Bannock.  This one is a nice simple one.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour. ( a great variety is to add half as oat flour.)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cup water (adding whey instead of water makes it very soft and fluffy)

Measure flour, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl. Stir to mix. Pour melted butter and water over flour mixture. Stir with fork to make a ball.  Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface, and knead gently about 10 times. Pat into a flat circle 3/4 to 1 inch thick.  Cook in a greased frying pan over medium heat, allowing about 15 minutes for each side. Use two lifters for easy turning. May also be baked on a greased baking sheet at 350 degrees F  for 25 to 30 minutes.

If you want to give it a nice twist while camping you can form the dough into cigar shapes then twist them around a green branch and roast them over a campfire.  It makes for a nice change from marshmallows and hot dogs

Homemade trail bars

There is nothing like having made your own trail bars when you are out hiking, fishing, or hunting.  You know exactly what is in it and how much energy it can provide you.  This is my favorite recipe to use when making my own bars.  It has peanut butter for a high amount of energy for a small size bar and steel cut oats for a nice chewy texture.

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh ground peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups steel cut oats
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (or any other dried fruit)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts (2 ounces/60 grams)
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips

Total time to make this is about 50 minutes.

1. First preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.

2. Blend the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Then beat the peanut butter, sugar, and honey in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer until blended (I love having a kitchen aid). Blend egg and egg whites with a fork in a small bowl. Add to the peanut butter mixture, along with oil and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Add the flour mixture and mix together. Mix in oats, dried cranberries (or other dried fruit/berries), nuts, and chocolate chips. Scrape batter into the prepared baking dish. Use a piece of plastic wrap to spread batter into an even layer.

3. Bake the bars until lightly browned and firm to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan on a rack before cutting into 24 bars. One serving is one 2 x 2-inch bar.

You can store these in a jar for several week or you can individually wrap them and store them in the freezer until you need them for a trip.  There are about 170-200 calories per bar depending on the exact mix you use.  For a little pick me up you can also add instant coffee to the mix.

Venison burger

20121202-183318.jpg

Quick and simple burgers to enjoy after a busy fall hunting

Ingredients:
1 lb ground venison
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients thoroughly together in a bowl until the breadcrumbs and meat are one nice tasty mix. Form into 4 thin patty’s as thin as a fast food burger if possible. Cook on medium high heat in a cast iron skillet (or a regular one if you don’t ave cast iron). Cook for 4 minutes per side and serve. Quick and oh so good

Quick and easy Ginger ale

I have had a few requests asking for a DIY on making ginger ale at home. This is a simple and delicious recipe for those of us who like the crisp bubbly taste of Ginger ale

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz fresh ginger root
  • 2 cleaned two liter soda bottle with lids
  • 1 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp bakers yeast

First take the ginger root and dice it up. Then add it to one gallon of water and simmer on the stove top for 30 minutes. You are making a very strong ginger tea at this point. After the tea is sufficiently strong for you add the sugar and stir until the sugar is completely mixed in. Let the tea cool and strain out the pieces of ginger. Split the tea between the two soda bottles then add enough room temp water to the bottle to fill it one inch from the top. Now add in 1/4 tsp of bakers yeast to each bottle, screw on the cap and shake until the yeast is dissolved. After that just sit it on a counter for a couple of days until the bottle becomes as firm as normal bottle of soda would feel. At this point you can refrigerate at drink at your leisure. The amount of sugar can be increased to taste. I prefer mine with only a hint of sweetness. Do not leave on the counter long after the bottle has firmed up. The pressure will continue to grow if you do. This recipe can be adapted to make other soda’s also. I have used vanilla and root beer extract to make great soda’s also.