Sunday, 16 August 2009

Two go wild in Newfoundland (part 2)

Continuing my discovery of the joys of foraged food, I heard last week that there was a great patch of blueberries up on Signal Hill. Wild blueberries not being something you see in the UK (though small numbers do exist, apparently), I was keen to go see what it was all about.

We were only up there for an hour and a half, and we collected 5 cups-worth of blueberries. We could have had an awful lot more but I didn't want to be too greedy. Besides, I had no idea what to do with them.

After some deliberation I decided I'd try and make some jam, despite being a complete novice, and it seems to have turned out pretty well. I only did enough to make one jar, given that it was my first attempt.


I used:

3 cups blueberries
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/8 cup lime juice (it's supposed to be lemon, but we'd run out)

I mashed half the berries in a pan, then added the rest of the ingredients. The mush was then boiled on a medium heat for half an hour or so, till it started to thicken.

I then poured it into a clean, heated jam jar and covered with cling film.


It seems to be setting (touch wood). This is a relief as I didn't use pectin, partly because I didn't want to, and partly because I didn't have any. Apparently it's not necessary though, and lemon juice or the addition of apples or redcurrants will do the same job.

I couldn't wait for it to cool properly, and I just dolloped some slightly runny blueberry goo on some ice cream. I can report that it tastes pretty damn good, though the berries are a wee bit chewy.

I'm loving this free food lark! We still have 2 cups left, which have been put into the freezer. I'm thinking I may try these for size.


Two go wild in Newfoundland (part 1)

I've always been a fan of the great outdoors, but I realised this week how little I actually utilise the outdoor larder. I used to fruit pick *very* occasionally in the wasteground where we walked the dog, but this was a long time ago, we only picked a few to eat on the way, and I've not even thought about it since I was about 8 years old.

This week I visited the Burin peninsula as part of a project I'll be working on this coming autumn. Whilst there we stayed in a cabin which was part of a larger campground in Frenchman's Cove. Wandering the grounds we found these marvellous things absolutely everywhere:

Had I not been with a man who knew his mushrooms, I doubt I would have had a clue. Now I feel like a chanterelle expert. Chanterelle mushrooms cost a fortune in the shops and here they were ripe for the picking, and with the campers around seemingly oblivious, this meant more for us.

Here's just a couple of tips about Chanterelles I have learned this week:
  • When you collect them, don't pick them. If you cut them off with a knife they will grow back again next year (this goes for all types of mushroom).
  • Chanterelles can be distinguished from their slightly more toxic 'false' counterpart (not fatal - they'll just give you a bad stomach) by their undersides. The false chanterelle has lines which go all the way from stem to edge unbroken. Real chanterelles branch (see pic below).
  • When you prepare them, absolutely do *not* wash them. They will soak up the water like a sponge and taste really bland. Instead use a brush to remove dirt.

We cooked them up and had them alongside some fresh fish caught that morning, which we witnessed being gutted and filletted on the beachside. The ones I brought back I fully intend to either risotto-ise or cook up with garlic for a lovely side.

Food miles? What are they?


Thursday, 6 August 2009

Summer hiatus

This summer has probably been one of the most action-packed of recent years. Back in the days of university and, in particular, the dreaded thesis (*shudder*), summer holidays were in short supply and I think I went about 6 years without one (not counting parental visits).

This year, though, I've been operating the 'change is as good as a rest' policy, as I've been travelling all over, but not actually having any proper holiday time. I left Newfoundland in mid June to return to my alma mater. This was originally supposed to have been to prepare for our fieldwork in Libya, but due to a hiccup with Visas we ended up organising a field season in Croatia instead. A week after I arrived in Birmingham I began the 3 day drive to Hrvatska, accompanied only by a vast array of machines that go *bing*, and a passenger with a great knowledge of Roman North Africa and early Christian churches, but no driving licence.

What followed was an epic catalogue of disasters. We should have known something was up when we were met in Germany by torrential rain and roadworks. It seemed the entire road network through Germany, Austria, and Slovenia was under construction. Still, we made good time and arrived in Split only to get horribly lost in the one way system due to the 'European' coverage sat nav - Mrs Miggins - only operating as far as the Austrian-Slovenian border.

The first couple of days we went out to
Sveti Spas in the Cetina Valley, only to be met by the bura (the wind that is alleged to send you mad) and some rather wet weather. Whilst not generally an obstacle for the archaeologist, when 3D scanning it is generally not helpful to have your targets blowing over and the laser bouncing off of raindrops. Serves us right for having too much whizzy equipment. We left one scan short of completing the church.

A rare break in the weather

The rest of the fieldwork, though, consisted of work in the city of Split which was great, if a little difficult working through the tourist throngs and avoiding lightning strikes during one of the worst Mediterranean summers in decades. It also involved a fair degree of extreme archaeology, and my vertigo was a bit of an issue on a number of occasions.

It's higher than it looks.

Being so reliant on technology is also a problem when the processing software licences run out the day you arrive, and your colleague drops the hard drive on the floor causing a strong burning smell and smoke. The nail in the coffin, though, was the news that our GPR specialist had contracted swine flu and was unable to travel. This meant double shifts for the poor geophysicists who were already starting at 5am.

Aside from the various setbacks, the trip was successful and good results were had by all. The drive home was not too horrendous and I treated myself to a marvellous massage once back in Brum. I still reckon I could have charged it to the project.

There then followed 2 weeks of data processing and a huge number of curries, whilst I awaited the arrival of my new Canadian work permit. Lunching with the ladies every day was a real treat and gave me time to catch up on the gossip, and I passed my 32nd birthday with no major incident.

Staying at the
Pinder-Wakelam Hostelry was a delight and I still can't believe they put up with me for so long. If only all B&Bs accepted DIY odd jobs and occasional singalongs as payment. I also squeezed in a trip to see the folks in Wales and also one to Bristol where I failed to go see the Banksy exhibition due to the extraordinary queues. I did go to the marvellous Windmill Hill City Farm, though, with my dear brother and nephews. It's sad to hear that the farm is in financial trouble as it's a top notch place. A quick catch up with Trish and Olly gave me my first taste of Settlers of Catan, and I can now safely concur that it is rather ace, especially as I won.

Then via London where I met up with the lovely
Jo Weeks, soprano extraordinaire, and then abused the hospitality of published author and common-law-brother-in-law Mr Paul Herringshaw. What circles I move in.

Once back in the New-found-land I volunteered to go digging on the
Signal Hill historic site. As a combination of climbing a massive hill every morning and not having excavated in about 8 years, it was a bit of a shock to the system and I spent most evenings popping ibuprofen and whinging to Liam. This is particularly annoying as I am also no fitter or lighter than when I started. It was good fun though, and a real change to (1) actually find stuff (being an historic site stuff has had less time to degrade and material culture is a bit more profuse), and (2) get back to basics after the technological orgy of the Croatian field season. There's certainly a lot less potential for catastrophe. An added bonus was that the site was well-placed for whale spotting, as I saw three (a single and a pair), puffing away just off the coast. I also apparently made an appearance on the CBC news, though lacking a television I was unable to bask in the glory such fame brought.

A long way above sea level.

Today was my last day as backfilling is tomorrow and, as a volunteer, I am excused duty. I am now back to my normal life of emails and obsessively checking Facebook. Posts after today will return to the usual inane comments on my latest knitting project. That is all.