Post #3173: Autumn food thoughts

Photograph of Willows Inn cookbook, small loaf of sourdough wrapped in paper and a jar of stone fruit jam.

For the last few years, Brian and I have put aside $100 a month so that for our anniversary at the end of September we can purchase a piece of artwork for our home. This year we decided that instead of artwork, we would put our anniversary money towards a dinner at Willows Inn, on Lummi Island. This is a place we love, having been two times before (once shortly after Blaine Wetzel joined the establishment in 2011, and another time with friends about six years ago). The food is always an artwork, and though it is too twee for everyday nourishment, I find myself coming away inspired to do more with local and foraged foods. I bought the new Willows Inn cookbook this time, which is full of techniques I’ve never tried but have access to the ingredients for (aging venison, making sea salt, cold smoking salmon).

We drove from Willows Inn to our cabin outside of Princeton yesterday, and I’m writing from the loft while Brian wanders the hills above for sign of deer. It’s four-point buck only at the moment, so doubtful that he will get anything this week, but we have a freezer at home waiting to be filled so I’m crossing my fingers. When I finally leave the coziness of this bed I’m tucked into, I will dress and go for a walk around the lake looking for rosehips and juniper berries which should both be ready for picking. It might be late for the rosehips and early for the berries, but I know this is the approximate time of year junipers ripen. While tedious to pick, they dry into a flavouring agent for game and other meats like nothing else.

I’ve also decided I’m going to hunt mushrooms again on this trip, something I have done in the past but not for a couple of years now. Given the rain up here this fall, I figure it’s worth another shot. We have harvested morels here a couple of times in the spring, but what I’m really hoping for is oyster mushrooms or even chanterelles. I have no idea if those species grow here, though the conditions are right for both.

One small project we have been thinking of for after Thanksgiving, is to build a little smokehouse at home. This has been on the radar for awhile, but now I have an island friend who wants to make Ukrainian sausage because she misses it from her childhood. Also – I’m inspired to try cold smoking salmon, and curing venison (a la Willows Inn). I’m interested in a design that allows for both hot and cold smoking and I think this can be combined fairly easily. We have a lot of the materials to make it happen on hand (or can get them from the local recycle/reuse depot).

I also have plans, once I return from my travels east in mid-October to get the sourdough starter out of the fridge and start making bread and other sourdough goodies. I shelved the starter sometime in late winter, but I know that it will only take a couple of weeks to get going again. I’ve been eating pretty low carb since mid-summer, so baking has been off the agenda, but I’m comfortable with a bit of whole grain sourdough here and there and I can’t really imagine a winter without bread. I look forward to pulling Sarah Owens’ book Sourdough: Recipes for Rustic Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories, and more off my shelf and trying some new things this season. Hers is the best baking book for sourdough I have found.

Earlier this month I was at work filling the pantry with staples for the winter including soups, stews, pickles, and stewed tomatoes. I also finally got around to bottling the hard cider that I collected the apples for in fall 2018. It’s been sitting in the carboy since October of last year, though I did rack it twice so it came out nice and clear.

30 bottles of apple cider: Windfall apples free from the neighbour, steam juiced. Nottingham ale yeast for the brewing, dextrose to carbonate. These will be ready for drinking in early October.

There is no doubt that I am definitely in the food storage, food planning part of the annual cycle! The trip to Willows Inn was a nice reminder of what else we can do to enrich our food gathering and sustenance experiences, though I am glad that we already participate in local food cycles that sustain us and our community in an ongoing relationship. Moving to Gabriola has enhanced that a thousand percent, though my cycle of food prep was this way even when I lived in the city – I just have more access to free fruit and veg, and locally raised meat. I’ve been thinking lately about how to pay that out to the community in the form of a processing collective, but that is a project for winter, when I have time to plan and have meetings with folks. When I’m done with getting ready for the long nights and cloudy days.

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