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chowder time

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

Recipe: chanterelle bacon corn chowder

I want to thank all of the folks who shared advice on puppy pukiness on car rides. We gave Neva a ginger chew 30 minutes before driving to Crested Butte last weekend and she puked about 20 minutes into the drive. I’ve become an expert at catching her puke in a plastic grocery bag, but sometimes she pulls away at the last minute and so I’ve also developed expertise at cleaning up puppy vomit. Our next step is to try dramamine per our vet’s instructions. On the drive back home, Neva kept it together until we neared Cottonwood Pass (the dirt road up is curvy and bumpy), but that time I caught it all in a bag! Once at the pass, we decided to take her out for a little hike, which made her VERY happy.

life with puppy is not all rainbows, but in crested butte it kinda *is* all rainbows

looking back at the collegiate peaks from cottonwood pass

fuzzy seeds

jeremy walks neva to the view east

Neva is about five and a half months old now and we suspect she’s entering that adolescent stage. She walks nicely on the leash when she feels like it, but when she wants to run around with Snickers (a little chihuahua-doberman mix) or anything else, she pulls like a maniac. So I got out Kaweah’s old Halti collar, also known as the gentle leader. It’s supposed to reduce pulling and render your dog obedient without hurting them, but most dogs I know really dislike it until they get used to the collar. Kaweah would melt when we put it on her. My in-laws’ dog merely sees the Halti in the room and he settles down. Kaweah’s Halti was big on Neva, so she was able to wriggle out of it a few times (Jeremy bought a smaller size after work today). We used to think Neva would surpass Kaweah’s weight and size, but now it’s looking that she will be the same size or smaller than Kaweah. Eventually, it appeared to work and we were able to walk peacefully, until Snickers came by…

at first she struggled

then there was demoralized acceptance

after much pawing and squirming, she managed this

This week marks the end of foraging for me. I’m done with the chanterelles and the huckleberries – or rather, they’re done. It feels good to be able to hike normally again without constantly scanning the ground and stumbling forward tripping over rocks and tree roots. My favorite part is the hunt. I love finding mushrooms and hucks. My next favorite part is the photography. I like shooting the pretty specimens I encounter. Then there is the actual collection which can be backbreaking and/or dirty work. My least favorite part of the whole process is cleaning the mushrooms (sorting hucks can be a lot of work, too). So when the season ends, I’m sad but I’m also glad.

more pretties off the trail

When September rolls around I find myself in the mood for some kind of corn chowder before the wonderfully sweet local corn is done for the year. Seeing as I had some chanterelles, it made sense to have the two ingredients share the stage. And then there’s bacon…

bacon, onion, garlic, chanterelles, chicken stock, pepper, wine, cream, potatoes, lemon, celery, corn, salt, thyme, dill

coarse chop the mushrooms

mise en place

**Jump for more butter**

september september

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

Recipe: huckleberry semifreddo

September’s arrival means it is time for me to resume posting twice a week now that my parents have flown home to Virginia, our sweet little Neva appears to be happy with her daily routine, I have heaps of recipes to share, and it looks as if the huckleberries are nearing the end of their season. My huckleberry partner in crime, Erin, is on a 12-day subsistence canoe trip in Alaska. She expressed great concern over missing the height of huck season here, so I assured her if the berries looked to be ending before her return, I’d pick some for her.

when this happens, we know she is done chasing tennis balls

sushi lunch with mom and dad the day before they flew home

finally the rains came – some nice relief

Last year was the first year Erin and I really foraged huckleberries, and it happened to be a long and fruitful season starting in early August and lasting deep into September. It was almost 2 straight months of precious, beautiful huckleberries. They were growing everywhere, so we were able to canvas miles and miles of trails in our mountain range to determine where there were a few hucks, where there were decent hucks, and of course – the motherlode. If you think foragers are jerks about not sharing their mushroom spots, don’t even *think* of asking where my huckleberry patches are.

snurple as snurple can be

Before you can pick a huckleberry, several events have to take place. First, there have to be huckleberry plants. Luckily, huckleberry plants carpet the mountains where I live. Next, they have to produce flowers – tiny bell-shaped, light pink lanterns that hang from underneath the leaves. Then the flowers have to be pollinated. Once pollinated, the flowers eventually shrivel up and a green berry will grow in its place. Erin and I call these green peas. And if all goes well – the right amount of sunlight, rain, and proper temperatures – those green peas turn red, then purple, then SNURPLE. But lots of things can derail the process. We monitored the huckleberries along several trails this summer, reporting to one another on flowers and green peas. It was looking promising until we began to notice some ghosts (dried up white berries that are essentially dead green peas), and then more ghosts, and then a lot of ghosts.

But the motherlode had purple hucks dangling like cute little earrings that you could only see if you really looked, albeit there were about a quarter as many as there were the previous year. And then we discovered motherlode 2 (ML2), which has supplied the bulk of my huck harvest this season. I went back to check on the original motherlode (ML1) this morning and discovered the berries were done – or had gone ghost. My heart broke a little as I walked the perimeter patches and then headed back down the trail. Hopefully next summer will be a better berry season and I’ll have trained Neva to be a good dog while we forage. Right now, she eats the huckleberries. It’s very cute for the first minute. Maybe Banjo can teach her to be a good forage dog and curl up under a tree for a nap.

I believe this is the beginning of the end of huck season. There is a tray full of clean hucks in the freezer that I shall bag up to give to Erin when she comes home. That’s not something I would hand over to just anyone. The huckleberry sisterhood is a strong bond. I’m also going to point her to this recipe for huckleberry semifreddo, which is huckle-licious and gluten-free. Substitute any berry for the hucks (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries), but the huck is a truly special berry.

huckleberries, egg whites, egg yolks, mascarpone cheese, salt, cream of tartar, lemon juice, sugar, cream, milk

place the berries, sugar, and lemon juice in a food processor

purée until smooth

**Jump for more butter**

first fourteener

Monday, August 24th, 2015

Recipe: huckleberry lemonade

Neva will be five months old in a couple of days. I have this mental disconnect that she is still a puppy and yet she has changed and grown so much since her first days with us. My sleeping pattern has shifted earlier because of the puppy, so I tend to go to bed a half hour to an hour sooner than Jeremy. During that time before Jeremy turns in for the night, Neva hops up on the bed and snuggles with me. Usually Jeremy will hear a series of exclamations like, “Don’t sit on the pillow!” or “Stop licking my hair!” before things settle down (and by things, I mean Neva). When both puppy and I are nodding off into Dreamland, Jeremy will gently lift Neva off the bed and carry her to her crate, which is next to my bedside. And then we sleep as much as we can before she wakes up in the morning.

But one morning last week, we were the ones waking Neva at 4 am to go for her biggest hike yet – Mount Bierstadt, a 14,060 foot mountain. Fourteeners (mountains over 14,000 feet in elevation) are a thing here in Colorado, because there are over 50 of them and because some have class 1 or class 2 trails to summit. Jeremy and I have mixed feelings about these mountains as they tend to attract a lot of people, something we prefer to avoid. This is especially true of mountains like Bierstadt which are fairly close to the Denver Metropolitan area and are relatively “easy” as fourteeners go. We chose it for these reasons – close to our house and not too challenging for Neva, who has been “in training” since the day we got her.

On the way to the trailhead, we stopped at the Georgetown Visitor Center to use the facilities and then Neva hurled in the car. Neva gets car sick quite often, so we usually have towels, plastic bags, and napkins at the ready. We are hoping she’ll grow out of it, but I’d love to hear if any of you have suggestions or recommendations on how to make her car rides less pukey. While Neva ate her breakfast (aka dinner) at the trailhead, she spat something out in the middle of her chowfest. Jeremy picked it up and placed it in my outstretched palm, “A baby tooth!” he said gleefully. At last, her adult teeth are coming in and those razor sharp baby teeth shall maim us no longer.

the sun clears the ridge with bierstadt in silhouette (upper right)

the view from summit

jeremy holds neva up for the token summit photo

Neva was a champ getting up the mountain, only whimpering on the last pitch when the boulders were too big for her to climb. Jeremy – the real champ of the day – carried her up and down those sections with the care and surefootedness that I’ve come to trust with my life. There were a lot of people on the summit, so we didn’t linger for very long. Plus, we discovered that Neva was scared of the thousand foot drops on either side of the peak (we consider this a healthy fear). She stayed very close to us and leaned her body against ours, trembling and making short quiet moans. On the descent, Jeremy carried her down the boulder field until they were safely on the saddle and she could resume being the crazy puppy that all of the hikers wanted to meet and pet. Not bad for a puppy’s first fourteener.

stopping for treats

taking a break and refueling

a nice cool stream crossing in the afternoon sun

The next few days were spent checking on huckleberry patches. It’s an odd season with lots of what Erin and I call “ghost” hucks – dead, dried up, white hucks that didn’t make it to their glorious purple potential. Was it due to late freezes or perhaps long stretches of hot weather with no nurturing afternoon rainstorms? We were concerned because this seemed to be happening to most of the patches that had been loaded with purple berries the previous season. Thankfully, the motherlode had lots of snurples (the really dark, sweet, purple berries – another term we coined), although a good fraction had gone ghost. Erin and I went foraging over the weekend to another spot that Jeremy and I had scoped out on a trail run last year. It had looked okay when Jeremy and I took Neva up there to check it out in the failing light of dusk, but when Erin and I arrived Sunday morning, there were so many snurples we couldn’t even make our way through the patch without stepping on some berries. Hot damn! We named this patch ML2 (motherlode 2) and by the time we headed back to Erin’s truck, our fingers, pants knees, and pants seats were stained purple.

jeremy captured me picking huckleberries at sunset

what a couple of hours will get you

It’s been hot and dry here such that the mushrooms have all but packed up and left, and our air quality has been abysmal due to smoke from wildfires in California and Washington. It makes me sad because this is typically a lovely time of year in Colorado and because California and Washington are both states that are dear to my heart. After several hours of picking huckleberries under the sun, I couldn’t wait to get home and pour myself a glass of huckleberry lemonade. That’s where it’s at for me. Lemons and hucks make a great team – why not drink them?

lemons, huckleberries (frozen), water, more water, and sugar

simple syrup: add water to the sugar

**Jump for more butter**