Friday, January 30, 2015

What's Growing in January in Tennessee?

Several days ago I took a walk in one of my favorite parks, Harlinsdale, to see what is growing in one of the coldest months of the year for Tennessee.  I found thriving watercress, field pennycress, wild mustard, motherwort, chickweed, wild garlic, clover, dead nettle, ground ivy and plantain.  Here are some of the photos!

Field pennycress, tastes mildly spicy with a hint of garlic. It is really starting to come in season.
English plantain, can be eaten as a green or made into a wonderful salve for the skin.
White avens, Geum canadense, in the rose family.  The roots have been used as a chocolate substitute and for flavoring beer.  It has also been used in Indian medicine for digestive disorders. 
Wild garlic, can be used like you would use chives.

Young purple dead nettle, member of the mint family though it is not minty.


More wild garlic, one of my favorite spring edibles!  It's popping up everywhere.
Wild mustard, starting to sprout out!  It's spicy eaten raw but mild when cooked.
Ground ivy, in the mint family and makes a great herb.  It's flavor is a cross between sage and rosemary. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pine Needle Simple Syrup for Mixed Drinks!

Not everyone likes the flavor of pine needles and not every pine tree tastes good.  I enjoy it as a tea and my 14 year old son will bring back handfuls from school (where it grows abundantly) so that I can make him some as well.  Here is a way to add the flavor to mixed drinks.  It is something fun to do during the winter season when all the wild spring plants are still weeks away from showing up!  Check out my post on pine needle tea to learn more about pine needles and which ones to choose.  Some pine trees should not be used.  I like the White Pine which has five needles in a bundle.  An easy way to remember is that the word white has five letters.

Pine Needle Simple Syrup


1 cup chopped pine needles
2 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 quart jar


Rinse pine needles and allow to dry.  Chop.  Place in bowl.   Bring water to boil.  Remove water from heat and wait two minutes.  Pour over pine needles.  Allow to steep over night covered. You do not want to boil the pine needles because that may make it bitter.

The next day, strain needles from water. 

Put water into saucepan and bring to boil.  Add sugar and mix until sugar is dissolved and liquid is clear.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Pour into quart jar. 

Simple syrup can be used in mixed drinks, tea or mixed with carbonated water.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Canning Goose

If you have never tried goose, it is a very tasty bird! To me, it tastes like the dark meat of chicken. It is very tender, and the skin is thicker. The wings are longer and have practically no meat at all on them.  I prefer goose legs to turkey as there is more meat, and they are not nearly so stringy. I like canning goose after it is baked rather than canning raw. Once baked, you dice it to the size you prefer and it stays that shape after canning. Being that it is a more oily meat, it makes great barbecue for sandwiches!

Canned Goose Meat


2 geese, thawed
Favorite Seasoning (I used garlic salt, ground sassafras leaves and ground ivy)
Broth or water
4 quart jars

(optional for dog food from leftover skin and organ meat)
4 pint jars
8 tablespoons of dried beans (any variety)
4 tablespoons of vegetables (not onions)


Clean and season each goose.  Place in large pan.  Also add organ meat and neck to bottom of pan. Cover with aluminum foil. Remove aluminum foil one hour before cooking is complete. Bake your geese at 325 for four to five hours until done. Be sure and check fluid released from the bird as it cooks.  It may run over and you will need to remove some mid-way.  Allow to cool enough to touch.

Meanwhile, if you choose bone broth, when you start the geese, begin your broth.  By the time the geese are cool enough to handle, the broth will be ready.  I collect bones and odds and ends of vegetables in my freezer just for this. Let it simmer on your stove while the birds cook.

Have two bowls and four quart jars available when removing the meat from the bones. One bowl is for the bones, the other is for the skin and organ meat.  You can use the diced skin and organ meat to can dog food if you prefer.  Otherwise, save it with the bones to make future broth. 

Remove the meat, dice and place in quart size jars. When you have filled your four quarts, add the broth to one inch headspace. Wipe rims with a paper towel that has water and vinegar on it. You will want to remove the oil from the rims for the best seal. Add tops. Place in pressure canner.

If you want to use the leftover diced skin and organ meat to can dog food, now is a good time.  Place the leftovers equally into four pint jars.  Add two teaspoons of dry beans (any variety) to each.  Add another tablespoon of any additional vegetables that you have.  I like to add small pumpkin or potato cubes. Add water or broth to one inch headspace. Wipe rims and add tops.  Place in canner with your quarts. My dogs love home canned dog food!

Pressure can quarts for 90 minutes at 10 lbs pressure. If using all pints, pressure can for 75 minutes. If mixed sizes, pressure can for the largest size. It will not harm the pints to go longer. Remove from canner and allow to cool overnight.  Wash cans and rings in soapy water before putting away.

Freeze the bones for the next round of bone broth!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Cooking with Tea Candle Lights!

How would you cook if the electricity went out for an extended period?  Grilling or roasting over a fire is great but requires a lot of wood, and if you want to keep your efforts unnoticed, not the optimal choice.

My daughter and I tried an experiment today, cooking by tea light! Amazingly, it works great. I am very impressed. I bought the cooking tea light frame (looks like it used to hold a casserole) and the camp chef charcoal lighter basket from Goodwill for about $4. I used five tea candles for each.

The beans (beginning with dry - not soaked) were hard but edible after two hours and done at about five hours.

My daughter tried the cake in the camp chef. We mixed the cake in a metal bowl and put it in the camp chef basket with a top on the bowl. Then added to foil over it to retain the heat. The cake was done after about 2.5 hours. I think it would be excellent for a chocolate lava cake which I usually make in a crock pot.

The camp chef basket is perfect because it has just the right amount of room beneath it for candles. Needless to say, I just ordered a ton of tea candles from Amazon! Nice to have in an emergency.