April 25, 2012

Not so suburban anymore….

The suburban forager has seasonally moved the base of operation from the graffiti ridden suburbs of Copenhagen and to the beautiful west coast of Denmark. Working at an idyllic inn in Henne, the suburban forager now has the chance to roam the fields and marshes of Jutland, the part of the Danish kingdom that is attached to mainland Europe. At the inn there is a massive kitchen garden where we have been given a small patch of land for all kinds of bizzare experiments, more on that later.

So far the main forray has been nettles and the precious birch sap of which 30 litres or so have been gathered and stored in the freezer for later. Nettle beer was made from the nettles gathered and we hope for a better result than last year.

In abundance this time of year you can also find Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) commonly known in Denmark as Løgkarse. Garlic mustard is perfect with fatty meats like lamb or pork, the garlicky bitterness also works well with potatoes or pearl barley.

Photo by Greg Fewer

February 27, 2012

Is spring around the corner?

The discount supermarket has Israeli strawberries on its shelf. Insecure men ride their convertibles top down, whilst wearing their thickest of winter coats. And the crisp morning air on Amager is filled with the smell of jet fuel and horse shit. These signs I know, a sure indication that spring is most certainly coming to Copenhagen after a short, relatively snow less winter.

As I write this post optimisticly  announcing  the arrival of spring in late February, snow flakes landed on the window of my office/kitchenette. A harsh reminder that maybe over enthusiastic bloggers might be one of the earliest signs of spring.
February 27, 2012

The Suburban forager in CPH Meal winter edition

The Suburban forager is very proud to be a part of  CPH Meal publishing project. A humble little “zine” published seasonally and is meant to mirror the season at hand. Copenhagen natives can grab a copy at Ved stranden 10 for 30 danish crowns or you could order your copy from CPH Meal´s blog site. Alternatively read my 200 word or so contribution here:

Winter is not the foragers favourite time of year. The plants turn their energy down to the roots and rest until reawakened in the spring by the warm rays of the sun. Also, the past two winters in Denmark have left us covered in snow until mid March which makes foraging this time of year close to impossible.

After the first night frosts though, is ideal time to pick the berries of sloes (slåen), dog-rose hips (hyben rose) and hawthorns(hvid tjørn). The bite of the frost soften the fruits and bring out their sweetness. The sloes bitterness give fantastic flavor to gin but can also make an excellent jelly. Syrup or jam made from rose hips are a good source for vitamin -C and and can be quite helpful in preventing the winter ails. Haws are very rich in pectin, the chemical that solidifies jells, and can be used for thick jellies such as a Turkish delight.

Ones back garden usually holds a treat or two, for example the spruce. The evergreen champion of the Nordic forests that decorate our homes in December and gives us their delightful shoots in the spring, can be used for smoked spruce oil. When the branches have been trimmed of the tree simply burn them off a bit on a outdoor grill or fireplace and place in jar of flavour-neutral vegetable oil and allow to infuse for at least a day of two, but it just gets better with time. The oil is excellent to marinate meat and to flavour grilled vegetables.


January 23, 2012

Birch wine tasting

One of my first projects on this blog was a birch wine, brewed from the sap I gathered from unsuspecting birch trees in the suburbs of Copenhagen last March. I followed a recipe from Wild food by Roger Phillips and kept it maturing on the bottle for 8 months. It is a bit cloudy and tastes a little bit like it was made in the bathroom a mad man. How ever it has a mild fruity undertones and combined with the dryness and high alcohol level it remind a bit of a Fino Sherry. This is the first wine I make and I am quite pleased with the outcome, mistakes made will not be repeated on the 2012 vintage. It is very important to document every move you make in home brewing in order to hone your skill and, over time, perfect your brew.

October 12, 2011

Mushroom madness misses mushrooms

Hopefully the laziness of the suburban forager is in the past,  for now autumn is upon us. Berries, rose hips and most importantly mushrooms are now in high season and with my new found freedom through unemployment I now have the time to harvest these goodies.

Got on my bike and went to Kongelunden (Kings grove) on a hunt for some mushrooms to pickle, dry and fry. Needless to say I didn´t find much edible fungi, either they were to small, to worm eaten or to poisonous. It is very important to pick only mushrooms you can identify and just leave those you are not sure about, there are many poisonous species out there and even more that simply just don´t taste good. So I recommend any future mycophile to invest in in a good mushroom book, even two, one pocketbook for the field and one larger to keep at home.

I only got away with a few orange birch bolets (leccinum versipelle) in perfect size and condition. But after I  stumbled upon some psychos stash of stolen garden tools, bicycle fenders and helmets hidden amongst the spruce, I figured that maybe it was time to find another place to pick mushrooms in the future.

When I got home I thinly sliced my bolets and hung them on a twine to dry them out, this normally takes a couple of days but a quicker way is to arrange the slices on a baking paper and dry in a low oven for 2-3 hours, I chose the carbon emission-free method.

Stay tuned..

July 27, 2011

Rasberry vinegar

Let me begin by apologizing for not posting anything here for too long of a time but a busy work schedule and overpowering laziness has kept me away from my foraging adventures.  But after pulling myself up I took off  to Kongelunden  (Kings grove) on Amager in search of chantarelles. I had found earlier this spring some thing I can only describe as chantarelle corpses, blackened and mouldy mushrooms from last year. After being swallowed by the mosquitoes and accidentally bicycling through a nettle patch I returned home with only two handfuls of raspberries.

I put the delicious raspberries in an airtight jar, covered them with a quality cider vinegar and left in the fridge for 5 days. Afterwards I strained it through a cloth and bottled it.

It´s not much but it tastes fantastic.

May 30, 2011

Spruce -and ginger beer tasting

Tasting the spruce beer today and I am quite happy with the results. Tastes like a Christmas tree in a glass, not fizzy enough but I blame that on the the bottles I bought at the hardware store. quite dominating taste of spruce but low on acidity and not to dry, can´t really feel the maltsyrup there but still it tastes ok 🙂
I also made another ginger beer batch the other day, I wasn´t too happy about the last one since it wasn´t gingery enough. This time I used 110 g of ginger ,instead of 30 g, and nothing else. And it is quite spicy now, I did tough leave it a bit long fermenting in the demijohn so it is a little dry and sour now, but I believe I will have mastered the ginger beer in the next batch. I am very satisfied with the out come this time and have all but forgotten about the nettle beer f*ck up.

May 23, 2011

Spruce beer

Just went to the woodland area of Kongelunden (Kings grove) and picked some fresh spruce shoots, both for use at my work at The Paul and for my Spruce beer project. While I was there I spotted some dead mushrooms which I belive were Chantarells, left over from last year, black as coal and plenty of them, a spot worth looking at few months from now.

Back to the spruce, I am yet again using a recipe from Roger Philips Wild food book and that one called for 100 g of Treacle, which I had to google.  Fairly certain that there was nothing like that readily available and fearing another nettle beer incident, I instead picked up malt syrup from an organic supermarket which I hope to give more of a “beery”  taste. The beers I am making are nothing like the product we commonly know and love as “beer” which is made from malted barley and hops. My stuff is also called beer, like Nettle beer, Ginger beer ect. because of it has the same alcohol percent as beer and is a bit fizzy.

The recipe I used was a slightly altered form Philips book and is following:

  • 40-50 Young spruce twigs
  • 400 g Sugar
  • 50 Malt syrup
  • 4.5l water
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient

Boil the sprigs lightly in water for 30 minutes and strain. dissolve the sugar and malt syrup in the warm liquid and allow to cool. Add the yeast and the nutrient when the wort is at body temperature. Allow to ferment in a bucket for 6 days and for at least a week in the bottles.

May 18, 2011

Nettle beer-The downfall.

Nettles( Urtica diocia) are available in such abundance that is a shame it is not used more for food, most likely the stingy spikes put people off. Stinging nettles are very nutritious, they are rich in iron, protein and vitamins A and C. Nettles can be made into a nutritious soup or fried in some butter like spinach, the little spikes brake of when cooked but I must recommend that you wear gloves when handling the plant.

I picked my back pack full and started a large batch of this allegedly refreshing drink… which I never got to enjoy.

After I got home I realized that I was seriously understocked with Cream of  tartare and after some  internet research I found a blogger that stated you could use something called “Vinsyre” (wine acid) in danish and is available in some supermarkeds. Time was of the essence and this  was my best bet at this point because I get my supplies from an internet shop, since I have not yet found a homebrewing shop in Copenhagen area and the chemist nowadays only sells you make up, perfume and  crappy sunglasses. This did however result in a product so sour it made my teeth shrink. The lesson here is that brewing is so much more scientific than the cooking that I am used to (and that you shouldn´t trust strange men on the internet). The path to home brewing is long and filled with thorns, few weeks ago I had to pour down a large batch of much anticipated ginger beer as I had failed to start the yeast properly and the mix was too cold for the yeast to wake up and start doing its thing. Thankfully there is still plenty left of the stinging nettles around and behind that terrible acidity there was a promising taste so there will definitely be a take 2 on Nettle beer.

May 3, 2011

Dandelion flower wine

Easter Sunday morning I went on a dandelion(Taraxacum officinale) forage. Dandelions are extremely common and regarded as weed and discarded along with other weeds.  Needless to say it didn´t take me too long get what I needed. But then came the tedious work of picking away all the tiny flower pedals.. enough to fill 1 litre. I used a recipe from Wild food by Roger Phillips, a book simply filled with information on harvesting, cooking and storing food from nature.

  • 1 litre of Dandelion flowers
  • 2 litres boiling water.
  • 2 Campden tablets

Pour the boiling water over the flowers and add crushed Campden tablets and let sit in a bucket, covered with a towel for 2-3 days. I went for 3 days.

  • 2.5 litres water
  • 1 kg sugar( I used demerara which made the mixture a bit too dark)
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 tsp yeast

Cook up the water and sugar until it dissolves, remove from heat, add orange zest and juice and mix with your flower water and strain to a demijohn. Start up the yeast and add to mixture when it has cool down to body temperature. Fit the demijohn with an airlock and leave until fermentation has stopped, may take 6-8 weeks. This wine gets better with time, so look out for a taste report coming up in 1-2 years.