Event: FARFA Conference

 

I will be speaking during the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance – Farm and Food Leadership Conference October 14th and 15th , in McKinney, Texas.

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Topics covered at the event will range from food security and public policy, to land management techniques and home gardening. I will be speaking on a panel about diversifying income streams for farmers, along with Megan Neubauer, Brad Stufflebeam and Jennie Herm.

I will also be holding a joint panel with Jesse Griffiths, owner and head chef at Dai Due, in Austin Texas. We will talk about issues dealing with learning about edible native species of plants, as well as wild game. While this talk will be geared towards the average consumer, we will also address how consumers, as well as land owners, can utilize these resources to supplement their income, experiment with native species, benefit their environment and provide a sustainable food source.

Conference tickets are still available, as are tickets to the Farm-to-Table dinner being held the evening of the first day of the Conference. There are also several workshops to be held Sunday, the day before the Conference officially starts, and they will also cover a wide range of both consumer and producer related topics.

More information and registration are available here.

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Event: Kids’ Fall Foraging

I’m teaming up with the Calixto Project again to offer another Kids-focused foraging adventure! We’llexplore and gather the wild Autumn foods of the forest, then create some surprising (and delicious!) treats.

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This is a perfect outdoor activity for kids, with a little bit of learning and life experience snuck in (shhh!). The event will be held Sunday, October 21st, near Southeast Austin. You can read more about the oppurtunity at the Calixto Project, as well as find information on how to sign up!

The weather is sure to be cooler by then (or at least not lethal!) so come out and have some fun.

Recipe: Prickly Pear Marinara

Anyone who has eaten fresh prickly pears can tell you, despite their juicyness, theirs is a delicate sweetness.

Much like tomatoes, in a way.

We’ve been experimenting with producing different sauces, and syrups, with prickly pears for a long time, on our Wild Pizzas and as a glaze and barbecue sauce with wild game. We’ve found that they can really take on a variety of flavors, similar to tomatoes in many traditional recipes.

Ingredients:

peeled, seeded prickly pears (crushed)

prickly pear juice

oregano

basil

lime juice

salt/pepper

dill weed

This recipe is designed to mimic a traditional marinara sauce, for use in Italian style dishes, or on pizza. The fresh cactus pears are excellent at absorbing savory flavors and their light sweetness compliments these sauces in much the same way as ripe tomatoes usually will.

The key ingredients are strained prickly pear juice and several peeled, de-seeded prickly pears. Producing the juice is extremely simple, however skinning and removing the seeds from the whole prickly pears can be time consuming work.

To make the juice, place several whole prickly pears in a large potand cover with water, then boil for about 20-25 minutes, until softened. Afterwards, using a potato masher or other utensil, pulverize the cactus pears in the pot until thouroughly mashed. Next boil them for another 30 minutes and then strain, first through a colander and then a cheese cloth. This method denatures the sharp spines, and enables the pulp and seeds, as well as any spines or glochids, to be removed without having to struggle with them.

Peeling the whole prickly pears and removing the seeds has no easy short-cut though, and is longest part of this process. Remove the tops and bottoms from the pears with a sharp knife and then slice each in half. The seeds can then be scooped out of the centers, and the skins peeled off the fruit using the knife. After which, both the whole fruits and juice can be combined in a large pot with all of the seasonings and brought to a simmer.

After the mixture begins to boil, and the prickly pears halves start to break down, they can be crushed using a mallet, spoon or immersion blender. The entire sauce should then be allowed to further reduce down, and seasoning adjusted for taste. Once the desired thickness is achieved, remove the sauce from heat and add the juice of 1-2 limes  before transferring the sauce to jars for storage.

We’ve had so much success with these prickly pear – tomato substitutions. I challenge anyone to come up with a recipe where you couldn’t swap the two out wholesale. Their mild flavor and absorbtion, along with their A-MAZING color, are making them more and more my go-to for all kinds of sauces.

Recipe: Wild P B J

Nearly everyone loves the classic American combination of peanut butter and grape jelly, in sandwich form.

However, peanuts don’t grow in the wilds of Texas, and grape jelly is loaded with sugar – not exactly the healthiest of indulgences. Fortunately there is another fantastic, native, gustatory combination that exists, with every bit of magical pizazz as a traditional peanut butter and jelly combination, but amazingly, in an infinately healthier, and guilt-free form.

Presenting, the majestic mesquite-butter and prickly pear jelly sandwich! This “mesquite butter” is created from reduced mesquite oil, with emulsified cream and other spices. Our prickly pear jelly is produced using a low-sugar/sugar-free pectin.

After producing Mesquite Flour, the left over chaff) is perfect for using to make mesquite jelly, or rendering into refined mesquite oil. After reduction, and chilling, this oil takes on a glutinous, almost syrupy quality. When whipped with cream (or butter) and spices, what is created is a wonderful, delicious spread with a host of applications!

Ingredients:

1-2 cups refined mesquite oil (produced from several cups mesquite chaff)

1/2 stick of butter

OR

~ 1 cup of heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon of salt

Additional spices can include: cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and possibly orange zest or ginger

 

After rendering the mesquite oil, the process of combining it with butter or heavy cream is relatively simple. Should enough of the oil be produced, and allowed to reduce and chill enough, it is possible the addition of butter or cream could be omitted. Although, a small amount of low-sugar pectin may need to be added.

To blend the butter or cream into the mesquite oil, use an immersion blender to emulsify the fats along with the oil in a tall glass, or other container. Afterwards, the desired spices can be folded in.

To produce  the prickly pear jelly, juice several fresh prickly pears in the same manner as with the Prickly Pear Marinara recipe. After straining, add low-sugar pectin to the juice and bring to a boil for 10 minutes, while stirring constantly to avoid scorching the mixture.

The jelly will need to set overnight in the refridgerator, but on the next day, you’ll have one of the most wonderful wild treats we’ve come up with waiting for you.

Recipe: Pickled Wild Grapes

Pickles and other preserves have become a favorite in the Cottage industry, and with good reason!

I recently provided a new recipe for the Botanist Gin’s Summer 2018 wildcrafting kit. Trying to come up with a pickled wild food emblematic of the Summer season, I finally settled on using the Mustang grapes which were just then ripening, and boy did they not disappoint!

Pickled Grapes

This is a simple recipe, but has enough complex pizazz to impress friends and family at any gathering.

Ingredients:

Up to 3/4 gallon of fresh, ripened Mustang grapes

White pickling vinegar

Bay leaves

Whole cloves

Cracked black pepper

Dill weed

 

Fill up a gallon pickle jar with up to 3/4 gallon of fresh mustang grapes. Add a handful of bay leaves, around a half dozen whole cloves, 1-2 tablespoons dill weed, and several large dashes of black pepper. Fill up the rest of th jar with white vinegar, and seal. Give the jar a few good twists and turns to make sure all the ingredients are well mixed and then store in the back of your refrigerator for 1-6 months.

The flavor of these retain much of the sour, acidic tang of fresh mustang grapes, but matured to a delicate sweetness. The addition of the different herbs and spices also serve to mellow out the sharp flavor of the wild grapes. The bay leaves are perhaps my favorite ingredient in this recipe. Truthfully I’ve been on a bay leaf-kick for a while now, but the unique zesty-sweet flavor paired perfectly with the sour grapes, and brought it down to a more accessible level.

Try these out at a low-key gathering with friends, weekend cocktail parties or even around the grill. They’re zesty-sweet and sour combo is sure to fit in just about anywhere!