Thursday, July 21, 2011

From Mulberries to Chanterelles

Summer is speeding by at an alarming pace. I'd hoped to write about a bunch of things, giving each one its own post but I fear now that if I keep that goal, I'll never get to any of it. Before life gets any busier and while I listen to the calming sounds of the bullfrogs and a most-unfairly named screech owl, here's a bit of what we've been up to over the past two--now make that three--weeks or so:

In doing a little orchard maintenance, we discovered that we'd missed some blossoms on one of our young, heirloom (is than an oxymoron?) apple trees. We try to keep the trees from fruiting at this age so all of their energy will go to making a strong tree. Our neglect of the Horse tree resulted in a fine illustration of why a sapling shouldn't be allowed to fruit too early--the entire tree was bent over to the ground under the weight of the fruit. We didn't get a picture in our rush to relieve the pressure on the tree (i.e., pull the fruit off) but here's a shot of the developing apples. Yes, Horse apples. Can't wait 'til we can let these beauties grow properly.

Speaking of fruit, a neighbor tipped us off to the location of some mulberry trees with ripe berries on public land nearby. We spent part of our 4th of July harvesting free fruit--ours for the staining, I mean picking. Neither of us had seen or eaten fresh mulberries before and they were a revelation. Gently sweet and slightly floral, their deep purple juiciness was refreshing in the awful heat and humidity. We gathered what we could reach and bemoaned the lack of longer arms.

After snacking, we had about three cups worth. Not enough for jam but almost enough for pie. I grabbed some of last year's blueberries out of the freezer to fill out the filling. All the mulberry pie recipes that I consulted said to leave the stems on. Looks weird but I understand why. The stems run down through the fruit so if you try to pull them off, you just end up juicing the berry and still not getting the stem detached. Plus, your fingers make you look like an Iraqi voting for the first time.

I didn't feel like going to the trouble of making a lattice top crust so I went for a crumb topping instead. It was absolutely the right idea even if the recipe I used went too heavy on the sugar--that's easily fixed next time.

Even though I really had to steel myself for turning on the oven, it was worth it. Overflow was an issue despite  the scant amount of filling but fortunately I had remembered to stick a cookie sheet under the pie plate.

So tasty! The only real downside was the stems. Not that they're tough to eat, they just create a weird texture issue--I kept thinking I was about to eat something I shouldn't. Next time, I'll snip them off as close to the berry as I can get.

Shortly after the mulberry madness, this guy showed up:

Normally, I just let the stray dogs sans identification wander back where they came from but this guy just kept hanging around. Neutered and very familiar with the concept of porch, I figured he had been kept by someone at some point. He was, however, quite emaciated and covered with a cloud of fleas and more ticks than I could count. It took me awhile to get him to let me close enough to check him out (he was very head-shy as though he was expected to be hit) but eventually his sweet self couldn't resist some attention. I pulled as many ticks as I could before I got so flea-bitten that I broke out the Frontline and dosed him for both our sakes. My plan was to take him to the pound the next day if he was still around. Normally I would not feed a stray but when I found that he had eaten my snapping turtle shell, I realized just how desperate he was for food and I took pity on him. I gave him some dog food but I didn't want to give too much at once, so I also gave him a zucchini (yes, there's one more use for all those squash you have lying around this time of year).

He happily wolfed it down, thus earning him the name Zuke. At some point during the night, Zuke wandered off. We know this because we a certain howling hound kept us up most of the night making noise from not too far away (but far enough that we couldn't do anything but close windows and insert earplugs to little avail).
No sign of Zuke in the morning, so off to the pound he did not go. That afternoon, he showed up again. But this time he brought a friend. Another hound whom we'll call Red, for his reddish patches. Now, I'm starting to feel like someone painted "sucker" on my forehead and "easy mark" over the back door. Red didn't look hungry or parasite-infested nor did he have any of Zuke's shyness, so I expect he is actively cared for by someone. I couldn't manage to take both dogs in nor track down their owners with company about to arrive, so I let them run around and apologized to the buffalo for Red's incessant barking (I now suspect it was he, rather than Zuke, who kept up the barking all night). They disappeared before the company arrived and I haven't seen either of them since.

We had enough rain and warmth at the beginning of the month to make a foray worthwhile. I went to my favorite mushroom patch on the farm and found all sorts of interesting things. Best of all were these lovelies: chanterelles!

Because there was such a variety of shapes and sizes among the examples I found and there are a number of poisonous look-alikes, I took my fungi to the Asheville Mushroom Club for positive identification before eating. Once given the all-clear, I quickly dug out a favorite recipe for creamed chanterelles with sage over wheat crostini (made all the better for having wheat walnut bread from West End Bakery). So decadently rich, so decidedly delicious! If only I'd had time to go looking for more....... 

1 comment:

  1. Mmm--what a beautiful post. I'd like everything shown for supper, please. Except Zuke.