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archive for September 2013

fall is in the air

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Recipe: homemade ketchup

Still technically summer, I know… Despite the forecasted hot days this past week (80Β°F in the mountains is excessive, folks!), the recent afternoon thunderstorms have washed over us like clockwork every afternoon, cooling the air and recharging all living things. It’s delicious. It’s wonderful. And it’s the start of a cooling trend. We’ve seen those rogue aspen branches turning yellow in a sea of deep green. People catch sight of those and immediately think fall colors are here. They are not. But they will be. Fall approaches and well – WINTER IS COMING! But I’m trying not to get ahead of myself. Yes, even we winter-lovers milk the last days of summer for all she’s got.

visiting alpine lakes we haven’t seen before

hiking a new trail

jeremy on the continental divide

the view from on high

There is a precious time between Labor Day and the first big snowfall in the mountains when crowds disappear from trails, scrub turns brilliant red and gold, and you have to wear a warm fleece hat, a warm jacket, and gloves when you start hiking in the morning. The pika at high elevations are bouncing around gathering their stores for winter. Marmots waddle across alpine meadows, fat as they can be before hibernation. Adolescent ptarmigans strut about in their summer plummage, not knowing their feathers will turn a brilliant white for winter. And if you’re lucky, you might find a patch of ripe, sweet huckleberries at 11,000 feet.

or a straggler porcini

or two (or six…)

storm buildup on the divide (at pawnee pass)

the view south from pawnee pass

What you won’t find in the mountains are wild tomatoes, because it’s just too cold for those babies. As luck would have it, a short drive down to the flats puts you in tomatoland. I got a bazillion pounds of organic heirloom tomato seconds from Cure Organic Farm this summer. I canned tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, but I also reserved several pounds to tackle a project I’ve had on my list to try for years. Homemade ketchup.

ten pounds of heavenly flavor

tomatoes, cider vinegar, onion, garlic, peppercorns, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cayenne, ginger, salt, sugar

**Jump for more butter**

twisted mojito

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Recipe: watermelon berry mojito

Do you ever say to yourself, “I haven’t done X as much as I would like to”? X being whatever it is that you would like to do. I found myself saying that over and over again this summer with regard to hiking. Obviously, we can’t go backpacking right now because of Kaweah (who is doing quite well at the moment), but even scheduling hikes is conflicting with meetings, client work, and other things that demand our attention. We managed to get out the other morning to see the grasses of the high country starting to turn. In a few weeks, Colorado will start going gold when the aspens change from lush green to brilliant yellow. It’s an amazing time of year.

indian peaks morning

fiery moody sunsets

Jeremy and I did a good bit of hiking last summer, which has a lot to do with the fact that we weren’t splitting our time between two places. I also learned foraging last year, which is fun. Except lately I’ve begun to scrutinize “foraging” as an activity. This has been cycling through my mind lately whenever I’m outside like yesterday morning’s hike. I was overjoyed to be moving at a good clip, getting somewhere and seeing all of the familiar features of the mountains – places I’ve hiked countless times before. I am no forager. I am a hiker. You could say I’m a noodler when it comes to foraging because I don’t care about the haul so much as satisfying my curiosity of what grows where and when. I prefer the physical exertion of hiking. I’m in it for the journey and the challenge. The extra nibbles are a bonus for me, not the purpose.

sweet wild raspberries from late august

The idea for a watermelon berry mojito crossed my mind one evening and I made a mental note to pick some. Watermelon berries (Streptopus amplexifolius) or twisted stalk berries or wild cucumber are plump red berries that have a slimy texture (think ripe hachiya persimmon) and lots of seeds. The flavor is that of a slightly sweet cucumber. It’s lovely. Wendy introduced me to them last summer and they remind me of holiday ornaments dangling from their stalks. They grow across North America in mountain and subalpine zones.

you see why the plant is called twisted stalk

and if you look underneath, lots of berries

I find these berries to be easily identifiable, but as with all things foraged – you really need to know what you’re putting in your mouth or else things could go very badly for you. Jeremy and I picked the berries at about 9600 feet in a shady mixed stand of aspens and conifers near a stream in the mountains. They were everywhere. It was the same day we foraged huckleberries (which were not everywhere) for the huckleberry ice cream. On our way back to the trailhead, I felt dissatisfied and said as much. We both agreed that we’d be happier with less foraging and more hiking.

a cup of watermelon berries

watermelon berries, lemon, water, sugar

**Jump for more butter**

thanks a lox

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Recipe: homemade salmon lox

It’s my favorite month, you know… birthdays, autumn colors, potential snow storms, fleece weather. A three-day weekend saw August off and welcomed September with sweaty open arms. It always gets hot in early September which merely increases my anticipation of the first frost in the mountains. For the most part, we remained at home and worked through the holiday weekend to avoid the throngs of people flooding into the mountains. Except we did venture down to Denver at the last minute to score a great deal on some season passes for Crested Butte this winter.


Granted, it is technically summer until September 22nd and I accept this. If summer didn’t have such a bounty of wonderful foods, I’d be a lot less tolerant of the heat. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon graces my fishmonger’s display these days. It’s downright distracting when I’m swinging by to pick up some scallops or shrimp and then these jewel-colored filets or steaks draw my attention to the “sale” sign. Sometimes, I can’t help myself.

salmon, dill, tarragon, bay leaves, shallots, black pepper, green peppercorns, vodka, kosher salt, sugar

I’ve been wanting to cure my own lox for several years now. I’m not sure if I should be happy about finally getting around to doing it or if I should be sad that it took me this long. Part of the problem is that I wanted to use wild salmon rather than farmed salmon. Farmed salmon is available year-round while wild salmon is seasonal. Summers kept slipping past me before I remembered to make lox, and farmed salmon doesn’t really appeal to me these days.

the filet will have pin bones

remove those with some (clean) pliers

What I love about making lox is how easy it is. Aside from finding space in my refrigerator, it was just a bit of chopping, mixing, smothering, and wrapping. Most of the work doesn’t involve you at all.

mix the sugar and salt together

chop the dill

slice shallots

mix the herbs and spices and aromatics together

**Jump for more butter**