Wild Food: Halt’s Maultaschen.

Guten Tag! Ihr wisst vielleicht schon, daß ich zweisprachig bin. Ist logisch, wenn ich eine Praktikum in Deutschland machen werde, oder? Dieses Idee ist mir gestern während meinen Deutsch Unterricht angekommen.  Continue reading

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Wild Food: Miso-Rubbed, Roast Wood Duck

Tuesday was an eventful day around these parts. One of my goals from last year was to be in Spring classes for 2014.  It almost didn’t (hasn’t? tenses are weird) happened. But, at the last minute, I paid off the last of what I owed UW-Madison from two years ago. And super-extra last minute filled out an re-entry application. Even laster-minute I contacted my advisor, via cell phone, to ask what class he would recommend. That was last week Thursday. Classes started Monday on this week.

Well, the class he rec’d is full. But I attended today anyway, in hopes that some poor sap will drop it before the deadline & I can snap up that spot. I’m checking the course guide every 30 minutes or so. I was speaking full German sentences for the first time in a little over two years. My vocabulary is rusty. The class is named similarly to, and uses the exact same book as, a class I took during my last full time semester (in, ahem mumble2007mumble). Being a transfer student, unfortunately, means repeating some work, in gen-eds as well as my major. But I do need the language practice, so hopefully I can get in. This is all on top of shuffling a ton of paperwork to change my state residency status with the University, as well as applying for some scholarships which apply to my poor, education-interrupted ass.

Anyhow, given my combo fear/determination regarding college courses anymore, I felt a little bit like celebrating today. So when I got back from class and my first homework assignment in two years, I set a duck out to thaw, one of the last two we have.

Looking a tad mushed from being jammed into the freezer.

Looking a tad mushed from being jammed into the freezer.

This was Matt’s little wood duck from up north. At first, I had no idea what to do with it. And nothing in my Duck, Duck, Goose cookbook was speaking to me. I browsed the fridge and my spice cabinet. Still nothing. Until I spied the Ziploc bag holding my leftover shiro miso paste. I’d seen recipes for chicken seasoned with the stuff. Adding even more savory, umami flavoring to duck could only turn out well, I thought. So I rubbed the cavity with miso paste, stuffed some green onions in, and rubbed the outside. Then I brushed it with a smidgen of sesame oil and olive oil, and roasted it in my cast iron pan.

I still have tons left. More miso soup is in my future.

I still have tons left. More miso soup is in my future.

Fresh from the oven at 350F . No idea how long I had it in there- I always forget to check the clock.

Fresh from the oven at 350F . No idea how long I had it in there- I always forget to check the clock.

Glossy, browned skin

Glossy, browned skin

About med-rare

About med-rare

You want to eat that skin. Believe me.

You want to eat that skin. Believe me.

I served it (to myself, Matt’s chronically working late these days) with seared artichoke hearts and a baked sweet potato. The flavor was incredibly rich. This duck had probably been gorging on wild rice all summer. His skin is that lovely white color indicating neutral-tasting fat. And there was quite a bit of it- my cast iron is duck-fat seasoned now.  The miso added an excellent depth of flavor to the skin and meat. I would definitely roast another duck this way.

Wild Food: Crappie Miso Soup and bonus Venison Fried Rice.

While Matt was cleaning those crappie from Saturday’s fishing trip, I had a seedling of an idea. I asked him to let me have them, that I wanted them for something. As he often does,  Matt looked at me like I was a crazy person. Perhaps I am a little bit, wanting to keep fish heads and skeletons.

GE

Well, that seedling of an idea was to make fish stock. But it quickly blossomed into something more than simple fish stock. I wanted to make miso soup. From scratch. With fish I helped catch.

First things first: miso soup needs a base of dashi stock. This is made from dried konbu seaweed and dried, shaved bonito- a fish related to mackerel and tuna. Their meat is somewhat dark in color, and they’re an ocean fish. My little crappies are very lean, light freshwater fish. If I’ve learned one thing being a person who 1. tends to do adventurous cooking when it’s late at night and cold and who 2. doesn’t always plan ahead and sometimes hates leaving the house, it’s that if you’re going to be making wild substitutions, you’d best be sticking firmly to the technique. So I took the crappie carcasses I kept and cleaned (beheaded and gutted) and a couple fillets and stuck em in my dehydrator. They’d take roughly 3 hours to get good and dry, so I headed out into the cold on Sunday to procure some exotic supplies I didn’t have to hand.

We have a wonderful chain of employee-owned grocery stores in northern Illinois and Wisconsin called Woodman’s. They carry allllll kinds of food and tend to be enormous, with excellent east Asian/Indian/Kosher/Hispanic food sections. Well, I got some tofu there, and the fixin’s for some fish tacos, but it turns out mine carries neither konbu nor shiro miso paste. So I did some quick google-fu on my phone, and found that there was an Asian grocery nearby. I gathered my courage and headed over. Unable to read the characters of any Asian language, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, or otherwise, I proceeded to get very lost in the Asian supermarket. The very, very kind owner eventually helped me out, but now I know where to go if I ever want beef tendons in bulk, dried jellyfish, or copious amounts of wonderful, wonderful snacks and Aloe Drink.

Shredded konbu, slightly different than the sliced, dried squares

Shredded konbu, slightly different than the sliced, dried squares

Delicious, delicious miso paste.

Delicious, delicious miso paste.

So I returned with my haul, and got to work. Dashi is a much simpler process than I realized- you boil the konbu in the water, and once the konbu is soft, you add the fish and kill the heat. While the water and seaweed heated, I pulled the fish off the dehydrator.

Crispy dried crappie

Crispy dried crappie

I shredded that, and once the konbu had softened a bit, tossed it all in and killed the heat. I then let it sit till mostly cooled, and strained it into a container. It was already night time, and the rest of the soup making would wait until Monday afternoon.

Dried fish in the konbu tea.

Dried fish in the konbu tea.

A little over 50 oz dashi

A little over 50 oz dashi

GE

The next day, I got it out, and began heating it on the stove. While I did that, I sliced some green onions and began working with something you seldom see in my kitchen.

Hard to open packaging.

Hard to open packaging.

It's just. So. Weird.

It’s just. So. Weird.

They call it bean curd. You know what that means? Cheese made from soymilk, basically.

They call it bean curd. You know what that means? Cheese made from soymilk, basically.

Cubed pressed soy cheese curd and sliced green onions.

Cubed pressed soy cheese curd and sliced green onions.

So, once the dashi boiled, it was time to add the miso. The side of the miso package said one tablespoon for every 3/4 cup soup desired. After some math, I came up with approx 8 tablespoons, but that sounded like a lot. I put in 4, tasted it, and put in a 5th tablespoon. Perfect. Time to simmer slowly for a bit, then add the tofu.

Beautiful.

Beautiful.

At this point, I would have really liked some dried mushrooms to reconstitute in the soup, but you recall my troubles in the Asian market. “Dried black fungus” in bags wasn’t the most helpful thing in the world. Maybe next time I’ll be brave in the name of fungi.

I could find only shredded konbu, remember. It tasted the same still.

I could find only shredded konbu, remember. It tasted the same still.

Green onions went on in the bowl. And the taste? This could have been made in a Japanese restaurant, except I pulled part of the original ingredients out of a frozen lake with my own two hands.

I had this for lunch, but it made such a big batch I had some with dinner. Dinner was venison fried rice.

A wild meal: Crappie miso and venison fried rice.

A wild meal: Crappie miso and venison fried rice.

The high today in southern Wisconsin was -16. Near -40F with the wind. A steaming bowl of miso soup was just the thing to warm up with.

 

 

 

Wild Food: Salmon, Two Ways.

So, there’s some stuff you may not know about me.  Yeah, yeah, I’m a person from Illinois living in Wisconsin, which opens me to all sorts of general harassment (particularly relating to football teams). I grew up in the Land of Lincoln. I also went to college there, fresh out of high school. I then dropped out of said college in the middle of my junior year. And then I just kinda…stuck around. My dad in 2006, and then 2 years later my mom and sister left Illinois to move to Arizona, and then Oregon. I had only extended family in my hometown, so I stayed in my college town, worked as close to full time as I could, and sort of hung out.

That ended up being a lot of food service jobs. My friends and I made trips in to Chicago and its suburbs quite often- the closest Metra stop was only 15 miles away in Elburn, and it was only an hour drive to the Loop.  At some point a boyfriend at the time dragged me into a sushi restaurant for the first time. And that was pretty much it for me- I adore sushi. There was an all-you-can-eat, $17.99-deal sushi place off Dundee Road in Palatine where I ate sushi until I hurt more times than I care to count. The sushi place in Geneva off 64 wasn’t bad.  I went to Jurin on Randall Road in Elgin plenty of times, too. So, when a Japanese restaurant finally opened up out in DeKalb, and we didn’t have to drive 20 miles just to get it, that was really something.

I’d eaten there a handful of times already when I took a job at a specialty grocer. I worked in their deli kitchen, where they catered from. And it was three straight weeks of 12 hour days, with only two days off in the middle. When I asked the owner a question one day, he screamed see-you-next-Tuesday in my face. I walked out, and applied to be a delivery driver at the Japanese place. I started two days later.

I worked there for a year and a half, 45 hours a week, right up until I moved to Wisconsin in early 2011. I learned a lot working there. I learned that even in blind taste tests, I don’t like hog intestine soup. I also learned hibachi cooking and sushi making. I was no sushi chef, but the actual sushi chefs let me play around when it was slow, and I watched them enough to pick up quite a bit. So, when we caught those salmon on Lake Michigan back in August, I had an inkling of what I wanted to do.

Since we were at first undecided on whether to smoke them or grill them, they got frozen together in one bag. As a result, I made so much food tonight that I’m considering giving it away. I first followed this set of instructions  on making sushi rice. I don’t have a rice cooker, and after nearly three years, I was a little rusty on the process. So, while the rice cooked, I cleaned the salmon up- I cut the fillets off the sides, pulled the pin bones, and skinned the ones I was using for sushi.

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By then the rice was done, so I stirred and seasoned it according to the instructions. Then I made the teriyaki I was going to use on the cooked salmon. I’m especially proud of this one. It’s a maple-brown sugar teriyaki.

Giant jug of soy sauce from when we still belonged to Costco. Moscato subbed for Mirin.

Giant jug of soy sauce from when we still belonged to Costco. Moscato subbed for Mirin.

I would reserve some of the mixture, and add a couple extra tablespoons of maple syrup to it.

I prefer sashimi over nigiri any day of the week, but I’m a bit leery of just eating Lake Michigan salmon plain. So, I made a couple nigiri, and three rolls. One salmon, avocado, and cucumber, one salmon and spicy mayo avocado, and one with avocado laid over the top, all fancy.

The rice texture was spot on.

The rice texture was spot on.

GE

My first roll was a bit rough.

My first roll was a bit rough.

GE

But I still got it.

But I still got it.

Now, the raw salmon looked orange enough when it was still one piece, but after it was cut up, it was definitely paler. I’m going to guess that since these salmon never make it to the sea, their diet is different enough, and lacking in the krill with the red-orange pigment that they won’t be bright orange. Also, they aren’t fed artificial carotenoids like farmed salmon. Ah well. Sushi finished, I turned to cookery.

Before starting the sushi rolls, I had dipped the salmon I was cooking into the teriyaki mixture, and then refrigerated them to marinate for a bit. At this point, I took them out, placed them in well-oiled cast iron pans, brushed them with the reserved, sweetened teriyaki mix, and put them into a 300F oven.

While the salmon cooked in the oven, I added yet more syrup to the reserved teriyaki mix, and then I put that in a small sauce pan over medium heat to bubble away and reduce to a thicker sauce. I also heated up some oil in my wok, and fried some rice. The salmon was done quickly, and I plated up some for myself and for Matt.

GE GE

 

So, I ended up eating a plate of cooked salmon and fried rice, as well as half of the sushi rolls I made. I’m not really too full. I blame it on a hard lower body workout at the gym yesterday, as well as a tough upper body session today causing me to crave some serious food. Ever since I began lifting weights with seriousness, I’ve eaten way, way more. How did it taste? Good. The texture wasn’t as firm as you generally get from salmon you buy, but these fish were caught in late summer- perhaps that had something to do with it. They were also very lean- there wasn’t really any fat layered in the muscle.

I’ve got the other half of my rolls left, as well as a couple teriyaki fillets. And that’s in addition to all the salmon scraps from cleaning the salmon we’d only gutted at the marina. So I’m thinking that in addition to this dinner, I will probably get a fancy version of the canned-salmon patties my mom used to make. I’m also considering trying to use the salmon scraps to make stock- but I have yet to find a recipe.

Wild Food: Seared Duck Breast.

I was unexpectedly called off work yesterday (thank heavens, golf season is beginning to wind down). So, I set out the duck breasts from the ducks Matt got on Saturday, intending to sear them. I’d read the post at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook a couple days before on how to pan-sear them.

Duck breasts, thawing.

Duck breasts, thawing.

I have three breasts here, because as I was butchering out the breasts, one of them just smelled… off. I did not feel good about eating that one at all, so I tossed it. These three would work just fine, since it’s only me and Matt.

Duck breasts, liberally salted.

Duck breasts, liberally salted.

I followed the steps to the letter. I used last weekend’s duck, because of the ones from up north, I only left the skins on two breasts. They were that badly damaged from shot.

SAMSUNG

The bits of skin on either end really do shrink right up immediately.

The bits of skin on either end really do shrink right up immediately.

My ducks were in the mid range, shading towards fairly fat. These were most likely resident ducks to the Madison area. They’d probably been eating a lot all summer and not moving all that much, never mind migrating several hundred miles on the first leg of their trip south.

The skin browned beautifully.

The skin browned beautifully.

I especially wanted to try this method because even on the grill or roasting in the oven, I hadn’t achieved that crispy skin yet. On a duck or a goose. I thought I’d been salting my birds well enough. Maybe I had, but I’d neglected to pat them dry, since up until now, they’d all had a brine or a flavoring rub on them. I won’t make that mistake again. The skin? I would make the leap to say it’s right up there with bacon. Maybe even better than bacon.

Medium rare duck, with a salty, crispy, savory skin.

Medium rare duck, with a salty, crispy, savory skin.

 

 

 

 

Blackberry Wine: Straining

I had originally intended to get this done yesterday, but two weeks of poor sleep during that heat wave caught up to me. Anyhow. It’s been just under a week since I started that wine. It was pretty damn hot for most of the time, so I cut the ferment on the pulp short. I’ve been checking the smell, and it definitely smells winey. Before that it was yeasty, which was good cause I’d worried I’d killed my yeast with Campden tabs. When the temp dropped yesterday, the smell stopped being as strong.

When I got home from work this afternoon, I began to sanitize.

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I cleaned out another bucket, in much the same state as the first, and re-sanitized a ladle, a spoon, a gallon jug, and my hands, since they would be doing the pressing. The recipe I’m following has me adding more syrup at this stage, and I had it cooling in a salted ice water bath. With everything clean, I was ready to strain out the pulp.

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I ladled the mash into the muslin bag, and dumped the dregs in. I let it drip and drain under its own weight for a bit.

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Then I got in there and started squeezing and pressing by hand. My palms are still tinged slightly purple. Once I got as much juice out of the pulp as I could, I added the cooled syrup and sloshed the mix around a bit. Then I positioned the jug and funnel under the spigot on this new bucket.

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And I let ‘er go.

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It’s quite full, more so than I expected from the recipe’s photos. It calls for one more syrup addition, but I won’t have room for that, and more syrup wouldn’t give it enough volume to fill two gallon jugs. But, I fit the bottle with a rubber stopper meant for the airlock, and put a balloon over that.

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Now it will sit for ten days. If I didn’t murder the yeast, that balloon should slowly inflate with carbon dioxide as they consume the sugar and turn it into ethanol. It will be racked two more times to rid it of sediment. And sediment it will have- I know I squeezed plenty of seeds back into it. Since I can’t add more sugar syrup to it (unless racking it really reduces the volume), I’ll rack it once (after ten days) back into a clean jug, and then that third racking (once fermentation stops entirely, approximately a week or two later) will be the final one, and I’ll add the conditioning sugar to carbonate it before I cork it.