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!