Sunday, December 19, 2021

Foraging for winter chanterelles

Nature alone is antique, and the oldest art a mushroom. – Thomas Carlyle

NOTE: Never eat anything you forage unless you are 100% sure that it is not poisonous, and is not growing in a polluted spot. I am in no way professing myself to be a mushroom expert. So always consult an authoritative source. Joining a local mycology Facebook group would be useful as well. 

It’s a little late to forage this mushroom now. We’re in the middle of a good old-fashioned Nova Scotia snow storm today. But up until just a few days ago, if you found yourself in the woods with the right conditions, you could probably find winter chanterelles fairly easily.

I’m new at mushroom identification, but winter chanterelles are what’s referred to as a “beginner mushroom”. There’s really nothing poisonous that looks like them if you know the identifying features. Those features allow you to harvest with relative confidence.

Winter chanterelles (Craterellus tubaeformis) are an edible mushroom that are quite common in the woods of Nova Scotia. In fact, they have a very wide distribution including all of the temperate/cold regions North America and Europe plus a few other areas around the globe.

Locally, their preferred habitat is moist moss underneath spruce, pine or hemlock trees. From the top they have sort of a “fall deal leaf yellow/brown” colour, which makes spotting them tricky until you zero in on your first one. Then – like magic – you seem to see them everywhere. Once your eyes zero in on them they’re actually difficult not to see.

They have four significant identifying features:

1. a yellow stalk (another name for them is yellowfoot chanterelle)

2. branching ridges/veins under the cap as opposed to sharp gills

3. a hollow stem

4. a slightly frilled funnel shape (depending on the age of the mushroom)

Even though in the same family of their more desired cousin the golden chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) to my taste I prefer these. We first stumbled across these in October, a while after their season (fall through winter) had begun. Since then we’ve dropped them in a few dishes with wonderful results. 

Winter Chanterelles have a sort of peppery, mild taste – fortunate since they’re so common. They’re so common it’s hard not to want to dry some, and once dry the smell can only be described as very “mushroomy”, like the classic mushroom smell of cream of mushroom soup. We air dried several pounds, the result being only a few hundred grams. They dry very well due in part to their hollow stem. Unfortunately this hollow stem also allows for hemlock needles to fall down the funnel shaped top. So careful cleaning is called for before using fresh or drying.

Mushrooms are invariably better and cost more when fresh, but even dried they are a valuable resource - both in the culinary and monetary senses. We had a bit of a drying factory going in our sunporch with these. We dried an amount in value (if purchased dried) of close to Canadian $200. So a good thing to have in your pantry for free. Rehydrate those suckers and you’re off to the races. They are great with meats, in soups or with pasta dishes.

Here’s a tip about using fresh wild mushrooms in general, once you have identified their edibility 100%. Wild mushrooms are full of water, unlike most mushrooms you purchase in a store. So you have to do what is called “dry sautéing” before use. Essentially you put them in a dry pan and sauté until the liquid in them comes out and evaporates. Only then should you add any fat and brown them. The taste improves greatly (for fresh) if treated this way.

It’s nice to be sitting at my kitchen table watching the snow come down and knowing that in the pantry is a wonderful addition to meals that will last me through winter and quite probably spring and part of summer. I may even venture selling some fresh or dried next season. I’m certain I’ll have some takers.

#foraging #wildmushrooms #chanterelles # freefood


©2021 Docaitta Lifestyle. Feel free to disseminate on any and all of your social media orifices. The more the merrier. :-)

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Lemon Glazed Cranberry Walnut Loaf

"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is time for home."

- Edith Sitwell

It’s December 5th and Christmas in only 20 days away. Where has this year gone? The humid days of summer slipped into a warm autumn and then in the blink of an eye they, too, were gone.

We had our first real snowfall last night. It was only about an inch or less, but on the dog walk this morning everything was covered in a quiet white blanket. It’s funny how even a little snow seems to mute the noise of daily life. It’s like the world has paused and taken a breath.

With the snow comes temperatures below 0°C. And when you’re not used to it, it can take you aback. A’back all the way to bed under a woollen blanket. But no such luck for me. If I sleep during the day I do not at night. I seem to have enough trouble with that these days without the extra help of a nap.

So what does one do to get that feeling of warmth without a trip to bed? I find baking does the trick. The feeling you get from a warm blanket is the feeling of home, of love, of comfort. The same holds true for a tried and tested old time recipe. My copy of this recipe is stained from use and scribbled on as I modified quantities and ingredients to get it to where it is today.

Living in the country has many benefits (as well as drawbacks). But one of the greatest benefits is the wild food you can find, if you’re willing to look. The foraged part of this recipe is the cranberries. Living close to a lake with many pockets of bog you’re bound to find cranberries. They're best after a frost or two has hit them. A few weeks ago I picked about 4-5 cups on a dog walk with my boy. He had the benefit of running around off-lead exploring to his heart’s content, and I had the benefit of harvesting some free fruit.

Nothing tastes as good as food you have harvested yourself, or something fresh from the oven made with your own hands. Couple that with a very easy recipe (yes, cake can be easy), and you have something to warm your heart as you warm yourself by the fire.


Lemon Glazed Cranberry Walnut Loaf

1 cup fresh cranberries
1/3 cup small walnut pieces
1 tbs flour

Loaf batter:

1-2/3 cup flour

1/2 cup softened butter

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tp salt

1/2 cup whole milk

grated zest of 1 lemon


 juice from 1 lemon

enough icing sugar to make a thin glaze that runs

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9” x 5” loaf pan.

Wash the cranberries and gently shake to get rid of most of the water. Place them with the walnut pieces in a small bowl. Toss with the tablespoon of flour to coat. This step helps the nuts and berries stay suspended in the batter when baking and not all sink to the bottom.

Mix together the flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the eggs and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy. This may take up to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat to incorporate after each addition.

Then add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix just until it is incorporated. Then add 1/2 the milk, then repeat with remaining, 1/3 flour, 1/2 milk and 1/3 flour. Do not over-beat. Mix at each stage until the ingredient is just combined. Then fold in the nuts/cranberries mixture and lemon zest.

Scoop the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top, taking care to make sure the batter fills the corners of the pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Without removing the cake from the tin, poke holes over the to with the toothpick. Mix together the lemon juice and icing sugar. Brush the glaze over the top of the loaf. Let cool and remove from the pan. If you can’t get the loaf out that’s perfectly fine. Individual slices come out easily. 

If you do want to present the loaf at the table uncut, remove it from the pan onto a serving dish before glazing. But if you do, some of the glaze will just drip off the loaf. 

#comfortfood #cakerecipe #cranberry #cranberryloaf


©2021 Docaitta Lifestyle. Feel free to disseminate on any and all of your social media orifices. The more the merrier. :-)