Sloes Featured - Foraging - CrawCrafts Beasties

A Beastie Foraging Feast!

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.
Autumn Flowers - CrawCrafts Beasties

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…
Moss in the Hedge - CrawCrafts Beasties… And turned up some sloes clinging to the branches of its neighbour!
Foraging for Sloes! CrawCrafts BeastiesFor 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.
Friends in the field - CrawCrafts BeastiesThis little lady calf was especially keen to come over and say hello. But wait a sec, what’s she spotted over there?
Curious Calf, Foraging Helper! CrawCrafts Beasties– GASP! –

It’s a monster mushroom!
Monster Mushroom ahoy! CrawCrafts BeastiesWhat a beauty! And we were so sure that mushroom season was over!

“Look! It’s nearly the same size as me!”
Monster with Monster Mushroom - CrawCrafts BeastiesYum! But what should we do with it?

Back in my own Unphotogenic Kitchen…

Cutting Mushrooms - CrawCrafts BeastiesExplorer 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!
Dinner - A Foraging Feast! CrawCrafts BeastiesMushroom 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!
Gin Gallery - Foraging - CrawCrafts BeastiesAs 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!

Good hunting!

Explorer Beastie in Autumn

On the road again...

A couple of weeks ago, Explorer Beastie and I had a chance to head out West and enjoy a little quiet time. Autumn is far and away my favourite season, and I’d argue that the Irish countryside looks its best at this time of year. We definitely got more than our fair share of “mists and mellow fruitfulness”, as you will see! Our first discovery was a toadstool among the fallen leaves in the garden…
Explorer Beastie with Toadstool

Then we headed out into the fields to see what natural goodies we could harvest!
Exploring the Fields

I was particularly keeping an eye out for sloes on this expedition, but I needn’t have worried. The blackthorn trees were weighed down with these super-bitter berries, which, like a lot of us, become a lot mellower and nicer to be around with the addition of a little gin. My sloe gin stocks have been sorely depleted after two consecutive bad years, so I was pleased (or relieved) to see such a bumper crop! Picking the sloes is usually an arduous task, involving multiple scrapes and jabs from the vicious thorns that give the trees their name, so it was good to have a little extra help this time around.
Explorer Beastie Picking Sloes

We were also on the lookout for more immediately edible treats – blackberries! We took these home and used them to make miniature apple and blackberry pies…
Explorer Beastie finds Blackberries
… Once Explorer Beastie had finished gadding about in the brambles.
Explorer Beastie's Bramble Trapeze

There were plenty of other natural treats to be found along the way… unfortunately, I lack the equipment and expertise to make these beautiful hedgerow fruits into something tasty! Maybe next year…

After that, we had just enough time to say hello to the cows…
Explorer Beastie with Cows
… And take a few artsy shots of glistening mist-spangled spiderwebs…Spiderwebs in the Mist

…Before heading home to toast our toes by the fire!

How do you spend a perfect autumn day? Let me know in the comments!