Hello there Beastie friends! How was your weekend? Ours turned out to be surprisingly fruitful, when we went for a late autumn walk in the Irish countryside! Join us as we head out foraging in nature’s larder… Well, if Explorer Beastie can be coaxed out of the flower beds.
A Sloe Day for Foraging
We honestly weren’t expecting great results from our wanderings… Although it’s been a super year for blackberries, birds and other free food enthusiasts had long since stripped the best pickings from the hedgerows. And our other quarry, the humble sloe, didn’t seem to enjoy the unusually warm weather this summer as much as the rest of us did. All our usual picking spots were turning up bare!
But fortunately, Explorer Beastie stopped to check out this cushiony bit of moss growing among the spines of a blackthorn…
… And turned up some sloes clinging to the branches of its neighbour!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with sloes, they’re the fruit of the blackthorn tree. And although they’re related to plums and damsons, and look mighty like blueberries, you reeeeealllllly don’t want to just eat them. They’re unbelievably bitter, and biting into one will leave your mouth feeling like you’ve been wandering in the Sahara for a week! No, we have other plans for these… More on that later.
Continuing with our walk, we decided to check in on some four-legged friends further along the road.
This little lady calf was especially keen to come over and say hello. But wait a sec, what’s she spotted over there?
– GASP! –
It’s a monster mushroom!
What a beauty! And we were so sure that mushroom season was over!
“Look! It’s nearly the same size as me!”
Yum! But what should we do with it?
Back in my own Unphotogenic Kitchen…
Explorer Beastie supervised while I chopped the prized fungus into wedges, and we made up the numbers with a couple of large brown mushrooms from the greengrocer.
Then, with a little monster magic (and an onion, some ready-made puff pastry, crème fraîche, gruyere cheese and a smidge of bacon)… TA DAAAAH!
Mushroom tart à la Beastie! It was really rather good, even if it didn’t photograph particularly well. I don’t think the food bloggers out there have to worry about this turning into a cookery blog anytime soon!
And as for those Sloes…
Those other fruits of our foraging trip are destined to become sloe gin!
These bitter little berries undergo a marvellous transformation when they’re soaked in gin, sweetened with sugar and left alone for 3 months. (But then again, who wouldn’t respond favourably to such treatment? Ha!)
The end result is a fruity, bright pink liqueur which is delicious by itself, or topped up with sparkling water and some ice. I’ve been making a batch every autumn for the last few years, and I’ve amassed quite a collection. Feast your eyes on the wondrous Gin Gallery!
As you can see, every batch gets a pun-tastic name. Previous (long since departed) incarnations include Sloe Learner and Sloe Train to Oblivion, and that Vintage Reserve on the left is now a whopping 5 years old! Apparently the brew improves with age, so I’m going to see how long I can keep it.
But this year, a name is yet to suggest itself. Oh no! But I know there are a few of you out there who share my appreciation of a good/bad pun, so I’m opening the naming question to the floor. Leave your choicest boozy puns in the comments, and my favourite will grace the bottles of the 2018 batch!
Have any of you enjoyed foraging success this autumn? Share your food-for-free stories with us below. And also, pleeeeeeeease be super-careful when foraging for yourselves, especially where mushrooms are concerned!
30 thoughts on “A Beastie Foraging Feast!”
It could be that I tasted sloes as a child because I remember the bitter taste…. or it was something else…. ???🤔🤔🤔 I really can’t remember the fruit but I still have the bitter taste in my mouth…
That sounds like sloes all right! 😂 I was never tempted to take a munch of one, but I did once bite into a crab apple for a dare… YEUUUUUUCH! 😝 Cheers for popping in, Tajana!
How about SLOE MOTION? The lack of sloes in Ireland this year might have something to do with the cold, damp, wet spring that kept the bees from pollinating early flowers, blackthorn included. That mushroom flan looked really good! How many calories per slice??
Ohhhhhh, about half as many as the TWO slices I had for dinner that evening! 😀 Still, it would have been rude not to give that mighty mushroom a calorific send-off. And I forgot about our hideous non-Spring – that makes perfect sense. If it happens again next year, I’ll have to grab a paintbrush and give the bees a helping hand!
Thanks for stopping in, Queen Bee… And for your gin name! Into the pile it goes!
Beasties and thorns do not sound like a wise combination, ha! A snag would be terrible! The mushroom tart looks lovely and how wonderful you made good use of your foraging! Wow I would have been fooled by the fake blueberries!
Fortunately I’ve never been fooled into eating one… It’s the only upside of blueberries being a rare enough crop on this side of the pond! I’m sure it’s a mistake you’d only make once though 😂 I don’t suppose you’ve found some free blueberries on your own foraging trips recently?
Cheers for swinging by! 😀
Oh, you’ve opened up a can of sloe-eating worms with this one! I’ll try to contain myself, but here goes: Sloe-ly but Surely, Sloe Burn (must listen to David Bowie while drinking it though), Sloe Boat to China, Sloe on the Uptake, Slow-poke. Okay, stop, just stop!! As far as I know, we don’t have sloe berries here, but I do have honeyberries that look similar (and are perfectly edible). As for mushroom foraging, I only do that in the grocery store ;)) Okay, one more: Sloe-er than Molasses.
Hahaha! YES! This list is going to keep me in batch names for years to come! I think I’m actually going to have to decide this by drawing a name from a hat… All the suggestions that are coming in have been brilliant so far. And now I’m off to see if honeyberries are a thing on this side of the pond. They sound AMAZING! Cheers for stopping in, Tammie!
Aw, the magic Decision Hat…the best hat ever. Honeyberries are a type of honeysuckle. They taste like blueberries and they’re great because they ripen in early spring even before the strawberries so you get a little berry hit early in the year. Although I’ve never harvested enough for booze production. 😕
I MUST HAVE THEM! Anything that combines elements of blueberry and honeysuckle has to be good… And honeyberry wine? That could have fallen right out of the pages of a Harry Potter book! I hope this coming spring’s harvest finally gives you the chance to make a batch… But know that if it does, the Beasties and I will be over at your place for drinks!
I always thought honeyberry wine had more of a Hobbit sound to it 😆
That works too! Part of me wishes that Bilbo had stayed at home and just recorded Hobbit dining habits in minute detail… I would absolutely read that!
I’m sure he’s been drafting that very book for the past eleventy-one years. There and Back Again totally sounds like it was meant to be about all-you-can-eat buffets.
Hahaha! Now you mention it… 😂 And maybe it is… Perhaps the whole story should be read as a fable about the merits of not piling your plate with carbs on the first serving? 🤔
After I finally looked up sloe I thought ‘booze’ … and here we go the Irish also turn these awful tasting berries into liquid goodness. 😊
And I thought only germans forage the woods for anything they can turn into alcohol. 😂😂😂
Hahaha! Nice to know we’re not the only ones plundering the countryside for boozy ingredients! Still, anything we can do to make the winter a little warmer, right? Cheers for dropping in, Ivonne… And are there any other hedgerow specialties that are popular in Germany? If they grow here too I could expand my repertoire! 🤔
Well, some people also use elderberry and sallow thorn to make booze. Sweet woodruff works as well but needs to be harvested in spring I think.
By the way do beasties sing when they are drunk? 😁
Ha! Some of them do, but they reeeeallly like to dance!
As for the booze-making, my dad makes a rather excellent elderberry wine, but sallow thorn and sweet woodruff are unfamiliar names. I’ll have to do some research!
Thanks for another great account
Hahaha! I like it! Into the hat it goes. Thanks for stopping by, Mariss!
What beautiful photos in this post! Looks like a gorgeous adventure. And I’m extremely impressed with your culinary skills!! Get outta here!!!! I know I’m late to the game, but I’ve got Sloe Dance and How Sloe Can You Go. Mmmmmmmmmm it’s so tasty, isn’t it?? My father-in-law always makes a batch to enjoy when we’re down in Devon. We’ve actually got a dusty bottle from his 2016 collection in our kitchen currently–you reckon it doesn’t go off with the homemade bottling?
Oooh, I’m so glad (sloe glad?) that I didn’t choose a name for the batch yet! Those ones are definitely going into the hat! And yes, it’s sooooo very tasty. As for your 2016 bottle, speaking from a standpoint of no scientific knowledge whatsoever, I reckon it’s probably fine! I have bottles dating back to at least 2014 in my collection, and I will happily sample them to put your mind at ease! You know, in the name of science 😁 Cheers for stopping in, Weekes!
If you don’t hear from me, assume I’ve died a sloe death-by-old-berry on your advice! JK I’d obviously be safe and make B take the first sip to check for poison.
Ohhhh noooooooooooo, this was 2 days ago… Weekes? WEEKES!
Time to start looking up countries with no extradition treaty with Ireland I think… 😳
Hahaha I’m still aliiiiiiiiiiiiive!!!!!! Kinda!
Ok, you HAVE to elaborate on that “kinda”! 😆 And now we’re sure that you’re (broadly) still in the land of the living, the big question is – does sloe gin improve with age?
(If not, my plan for the day has just become “drink all bottles that are 2+ years old”)
That’s my input.
We had a rubbish year for blackberries in Hertfordshire but awesome for sloes. Today for me was the best day yet. The bushes looked like they were in a fog there was so many!
And it’s a good ‘un! Thanks, and cheers for finding us! 😁 Lucky you, having a top sloe harvest… Any plans for that bumper crop?
I would like to attempt sloe gin. What else can be done with them? I’ve put them in fruit tea before. Can’t taste the bitterness then.
Interesting, I’ve never thought of sloe tea! The only other thing I’ve heard of is sloe wine… My dad makes that every year and it’s delicious! It calls for a bit more time, equipment and space than I can spare though, so I’ve always stuck with the gin 😉