Sunday, October 31, 2010

Before I get going on the day's artwork, I need to take advantage of the wood stove's morning flare to do the cooking.

A gallon of sea water makes this much sea-salt (Fleur de Clallam).  It's collected from Clallam Bay, out by the far point in that picture. It's slightly damp, very white, and has a very faint sweetness.  Only enough is made for us, Christmas gifts for a few friends and occasionally to sell.  Up here they call it "Donna's Salt."

To keep from getting my clothes wet, I wear a knee-length sweatshirt dress and flip-flops.  Yes, it's cold, but it's never cold enough to freeze.  Two gallons are collected at a time, one for each hand.

Peanut butter cookies, made with the Day of the Dead skulls that didn't make it.  And the bowl of salt.

Four years ago, we lost our old cat Spuds.  All fish and seafood coming into this house went to him.  When we lost him after a long fight, to nose cancer, fishing just reminded me painfully of him.

Back on the beach, again, this time asking him to share if he wants any.  I only fish if I'm hungry for fish. Admittedly, like all fishers, the carnivore/omnivore instincts kick in, and I enjoy the fish's struggles on the line.  But if I don't don't think I will want fried fish and bone crackers the next day, I don't fish. 

I have a deal on with the fish: when I catch one, I smash up all of my mussel bait, and throw it to out to my breakfast's brethren.  No, I don't think the fish know about this deal; it just makes me feel better.

Turns out I'm good at hunting and gathering.  If I took up hunting deer, it would be for spikes or, if they ever allow it, does. Because hunting for antlers is just hunting grandpa -- and it's traditionally a practice for war, replacing the urge to kill other humans.  And bucks and bulls are in rut: YUCK.  

If I were hunting for antlers, I'd turn it into a REAL sport: tracking the same buck every year until he dropped his horns, starting when he was a spike, until he dropped his final set as an old man, and letting the tough old guy feed something that will enjoy him, like a mountain lion.  Or somebody who needs a really good, thick hide.  But collecting a life-time's horns without killing, counting a kind of coup, would really demonstrate tracking ability and courage. However:

Now for the real reason for hunting or gathering anything: putting it in our faces.

It's not necessary to fillet greenling.  Just head and cut, scraping out the bloodline with a mussel shell.  Split open.  Rinse well, salt inside, wrap in a towel and put in the 'fridge 'till breakfast time.  Rinse well, pat dry, fry skin-side down, preferably in lard of bacon grease, although any oil will do.  The best spice to sprinkle, lightly, on a greenling is Chinese Prickly Ash, also called Sichuan pepper, available at McPhee's Asian Grocery in Port Angeles, and soon to be available at Sunset West Co-op in Clallam Bay.

Dish, slip out the backbone and slip off the skin and fins.  Place them all back in the pan, to slow-crisp.  They will make the most delectable crunchy bone-crackers.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

In the middle of the day's cooking, thought I'd give these a try.  Can't find 'em ANYPLACE out here:

Can't find Calaveras de azúcar.para el Día de los Muertos (November 1)? (Sugar Skulls for the Day Of The Dead) Make 'em! Here's a simple at-home recipe: 
 Beat egg whites into soft peaks, mix with granulated sugar until the consistency of soft sand (add a bit of water if too dry). Form into little skulls by hand; use kitchen utensils to form eyes, nose and teeth. Let dry 24 hours. Decorate with food coloring or frosting. They're a great holiday activity with the kids. Sugar skulls are ornamental, and not meant for consumption. 
These are my first try; only these four survived a dozen attempted.  Do NOT try to cook these; they just fry and stick to the plate!  Be patient and dry them. 

Forming them:  make a ball of sugar in your hand, and then turn it over.  You'll be amazed how little tweaking it takes to make a little bony head.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Been over on Facebook, not posting here as I should.  First of all, today's haul:  a nice mess of Woodland Russalas, found in a park in Port Angeles while walking between busses.  They're simmering here in chicken-stock sauce, with homemade egg noodles, made with eggs from our hens, and green beans.  Took advantage of Terry Gross's latest interview, that was running while the mushrooms were sautéing on the woodstove.  When the dish was ready, I popped some fresh black pepper, a dash of lemon juice, and home-collected sea salt over each helping.  The acid combined with the sweet, hazelnut-like flavor of the mushrooms made the whole melange to die for.  Thanks, Terry!

Billions of gorgeous mushrooms this year; biggest chanterelles we've ever found.  Honeys, white oysters and puff balls.  

Hadn't gone fishing in four years, since we lost Spuds.  At his end, I'd been fishing and gathering seafood only for him, and was missing him too much to go collecting again.  Back to picking up nice little greenling off the beach.  They were only yanking the bait off my hook, until I muttered, "First one grabs it, I stop fishing for today, smash up the rest of the bait and throw it in.  So somebody come help me feed your brethren."  BAM -- fish on.  Smashed up the bait, threw it in, took the one fish home.  Nice greenling, which provided too lovely fillets and a sweet backbone for bone crackers.  

No fishing yesterday; our neighbor brought over a couple pounds of fresh halibut.  Fried up in lard with black pepper and sea salt made of seawater collected from Clallam Bay, boiled in an old pot on the wood stove.  A gallon makes about 3 ounces of Fleur de sel.  Because of its mineral and iodine content, it's entirely cut back on our salt cravings.  It's excellent when used for Live Salt (my term for the fresh grains thrown on a dish at the last moment to spark the flavor).

Built a THIRD chicken coop and it really is a chicken tractor, now.  Easy to move, a lot easier to clean, and more accessible for eggs, while retaining security.

The people we got the hens from stuck us with a skinny gray rooster -- who has grown up into a nice, quiet, masculine silver, who only crows a little at dawn, and all the girls love him.  The neighbors say he doesn't bother them. Nice deep body on him, too -- if he sires chicks, they may be nice for egg-laying.  Dunno; will have to see.  His name is Blue.  The hens are named Red, Black, Splash, and Inky.

We are SO ready for the rains -- and getting back to some real drawing and writing.