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this land

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

Recipe: spruce tip syrup and the muir cocktail

It’s a long holiday weekend here in the States! Summer is in full swing and the mountains no longer require skis to access the high country. I have been itching to get more trail time, both hiking and trail running, without the distraction of mushroom foraging. It’s mostly past morel season and too soon for the other mushrooms I forage in my neck(s) of the woods. Soon, but not this day. Now is the time to get outside and admire the hillsides that are under snow for much of the year because that snow has given way to the most spectacular wildflowers. This is a special time in the high country – that short window of summer when life explodes with color and activity and those precious things that are so easy to overlook and take for granted.


take a hike!!

mountain bluebells and buttercups

moss campion

silky phacelia

jeremy and neva hiking the continental divide

neva waits for a snack after swimming in the lake



Hiking for us means hiking for Neva, too. We are seeing incremental improvements with her behavior on trail and especially around distractions like other dogs and hikers. But the most amazing thing has been the new car, or rather, how Neva feels about it. Neva’s cool with the Forester! We’re not entirely sure what made the difference, but she now voluntarily jumps into the back with gusto. Her enthusiasm for our destinations means we have traded nervous drooling for excited crying. I’ll take it. And since we arrived in Crested Butte last Thursday, she has been running into the garage to wait for us to open the back of the car. She used to be afraid of the garage because it had The Car, but I suppose it was really The Other Car. Who is this dog?!? Neva has also been getting more time on the water, learning to swim back to us on the SUPs (stand up paddleboards) instead of heading toward shore. Now if only we could teach her not to be afraid of the fireworks that will inevitably go off tomorrow (there are some being set off as I type and Neva is cowering under my desk at my feet).

a jewel-colored stormy sunset in crested butte

the lupine are at peak

neva rides along as we raft our paddleboards together

a happy dog on a happy hike

running down after climbing up

blue columbines lined parts of the trail

scarlet gilia being all red and racy!



A couple of weeks ago when Erin and I were hiking in to forage morel mushrooms, I pointed to the spruce trees lining the side of the trail. Just a few days earlier, Hank Shaw of Hunter Angler Gardener Cook linked to his post on spruce tip syrup and I made a mental note to try it. The branches are typically covered in sturdy dark green needles, but in late spring, our conifers send out new growth like everything else in the mountains. The tender tips of the branches emerge a lighter green and smell of evergreens with a touch of citrus. If left alone, they will mature and darken to match the rest of the tree. But during this period, you can pluck some of the tips to make spruce tip syrup or fir tip or pine tip syrup – whatever you have got – just don’t pick yew because it’s toxic. I grabbed a ziploc bag (I always carry extra bags because you never know what you’re going to collect in the mountains) and began selecting delicate tips, taking care not to pick the tops of baby trees or pulling too many from the same branch or tree.

new growth on a spruce tree

spruce tips

spruce tips, water, sugar, and lemon (optional)



**Jump for more butter**

sometimes i do dumb things

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Recipe: cherry (ice cream) bombes

My 45 years of experience have taught me that if I don’t schedule my summers, the things I want to do will not get done. Some of those things are “need to do” items like house projects or house maintenance. Some of those things are “stuff I want to do” like hikes and Neva training (actually this is a “want” and a “need” to do item). Maybe that’s why summer is not a relaxing season for me. It’s ALL SYSTEMS GO because the mountains are calling, Neva wants to go out and play, the weather is nice enough to have people over for dinner, summer fruits and mountain forage are begging to be made into recipes, and of course, my parents are in Boulder for the summer. This is also the only time I venture down to Denver – when the roads are free of snow – to visit with good friends. But a drive to Denver once in a blue moon reminds me why I prefer to stay close to the mountains and away from the city. I am officially a country mouse.


let’s go for a hike!

hiking, swimming, having a blast

belated father’s day dinner (dad is happy because… good wine)

ellen being ellen at post oak hall

soup dumplings with erin



When I received a shipment of dark sweet cherries from Stemilt Growers last week, I looked at my notes to see what cherry recipes I wanted to try. There were several easy ones that involved little effort and even less time. Those would have been ideal considering how packed the days are. So of course, I chose a multi-day recipe that involved some technical unknowns (mainly because I didn’t know if it would work) with the potential for great disaster. My idea was to make a cherry bombe – cherry ice cream in a dark chocolate sphere, finished in a red mirror glaze. What could possibly go wrong?

eggs, salt, almond extract, vanilla extract, amaretto, cherries, cream, milk, sugar

pitting cherries

quartered



The cherry ice cream is the easiest part. It involves making a custard base, a cherry purée, and some chopped cherries. I added amaretto because I like boozy almond flavor with cherries, but it’s okay to omit it and stick with almond extract which is also in the recipe. I think I could have gone with more than a pound of cherries, because I like more fruit in my ice cream. So if you do decide to increase the cherries by another 8 ounces or so, just be aware that the final ice cream volume will likely approach one and two-thirds quarts or more. Then again, is there such a thing as too much ice cream? Important questions to ponder…

adding sugar to the cherries

stirring in amaretto after the cherries have simmered

reserve half of the cherries

purée the liquid and remaining cherries



**Jump for more butter**

gifts and giving

Monday, June 5th, 2017

Recipe: pheasant and morel vol au vent

It seems that everyone is checking out for the summer. People are on vacation and no one is reading blog posts. I get it. I get that. If I didn’t feel the compulsion to document my summer activities and my summer recipes (because OCD), I’d go dark over here until Octoberish. I’ll admit I often wonder if I stopped blogging throughout the summer, would I ever pick it up again in the fall? But hey, I probably use my recipe archives more than anyone, so I keep growing it for me and hence, for you. Besides, how else could you experience Neva’s progression from a crazy bad dog to a crazy good dog?


neva enjoying her first paddle of the season (and staying on the board)

a storm cell lets loose over fourteeners in the distance



After spending the past several weeks witnessing reports of spring morel flushes starting in the southern US and spreading north along the East Coast and into the Midwest, and the West Coast reports chiming in throughout, we in the Rocky Mountains have begun to see our flushes. Of course, our morels are going gangbusters after the harvest is nothing more than a memory for the rest of the country, but our time is NOW. I only started foraging black morels (the kind that grow in the Colorado high country) last spring when I found them near Crested Butte by accident. Searching similar environments back home on the Colorado Front Range yielded two very separate and very lonely specimens in 2016.

When you are just starting out on your own, it’s hard to know if you aren’t finding mushrooms because it’s a bad year or they don’t grow there or you’re looking in the wrong environment or because you suck at foraging that kind of mushroom. But now I am into my second season, so I can add the dimension of time to my morel data. Yes, they came up again in Crested Butte, but better than that – Jeremy and I found a motherlode on the Front Range based on what we know about morel environments and what we scoped out last fall. Countless hours and miles of reconnaissance, tracking snowpack and precipitation history, studying satellite imagery and topographic maps have paid off because SCIENCE WORKS!


a little party of morels (4 in the picture, but 12 total)

a pretty nice haul



My foraging buddy, Erin, has also been on the prowl for black morels on the Front Range since last spring with an even worse record than my two mushrooms. She found one. We email one another about mushroom hunting in the dead of winter, contemplating places to check when the snows finally recede. We research, document, study, archive, search for, and have lengthy discussions about mushrooms. Erin and I had a foraging date set for the morning after Jeremy and I found the motherlode, but we hadn’t decided on where to go because we didn’t know where the morels were at the time. I don’t give away my mushroom spots to anyone except for Jeremy (natch) and Erin. Erin is my partner in foraging crime. We are both afflicted with this extremely nerdy obsession/sickness and we happen to be damn good hawkeye foragers. It was time for a Righteous and Proper Mountain Girls’ Foray, so I took her to the magical kingdom of morels. Biggest haul ever! [We left our pups at home because the environment would have made Banjo unhappy and I’m pretty sure high-energy Neva would have crushed every single morel underfoot, twice over, before we could even get eyes on them.]

erin harvests a morel

twofer!

and that’s just her share – what a happy girl



When you spend seven hours crawling through the woods giving yourselves eyestrain headaches and experiencing highs and lows (finding and not finding morels) like a drug addict, it’s inevitable to talk about a whole host of topics, including your plans for the morels. My early haul morels are almost always slated for recipes that I want to test and shoot for the blog. Once I meet that quota, the rest will be sautéed in butter and stored in the freezer for winter or dried for various projects. Today’s recipe came about because my neighbors’ teenage son gave me two whole pheasant breasts from a hunting trip last fall as a thank you for a career brainstorming session with me and Jeremy. Game birds pair nicely with wild mushrooms, and now I had both!

morels, bacon, salt, pepper, brandy, egg, puff pastry, shallots, water, cream, butter, pheasant breasts



I decided the recipe would have to involve diced pheasant meat because all but one of the breasts had been torn through with pellets. Pheasant and morels served in puff pastry? Yes! How about some bacon? Yes! And some cream and a splash of brandy? Aw, hell yes! After several hours of walking cross country through the mountains in a Tai Chi-esque semi-lunge looking for morels, I don’t feel like making puff pastry from scratch when I get home. These morels don’t clean themselves and these recipes most certainly don’t make and photograph themselves. It’s okay to use store-bought puff pastry, as long as it is good puff pastry. Vols au vent are basically little baskets of buttery, flaky puff pastry deliciousness with space to hold even more deliciousness of your choice. It’s like an edible cup with all the calories you’ll need for the week.

cut out the bases and rings of the vols au vent

dock the bases

brush with egg wash

layer the rings and brush the tops with egg wash



**Jump for more butter**