Alicia Bayer

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since Oct 13, 2017
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books homeschooling kids cooking purity trees
I'm a writer and a homemaking, homeschooling mother of 5 kids (ages 6 to 19). Our family does a lot of foraging of wild foods, organic gardening, homesteading and preserving. I am also the author of several books about foraging and nature studies, and I run a number of blogs and Facebook pages about foraging, homeschooling, natural living and living well on less.
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Recent posts by Alicia Bayer

I'm in SW Minnesota, zone 4.  

Perennial fruits that we grow in our yard and garden include:

Strawberries (plant)
Rhubarb (plant)
Cherry (tree)
Nanking cherry (bushes)
elderberry (shrubs)
black raspberries (brambles)
raspberries (brambles)

Fruits that we forage in our area include:

Mulberries
Elderberries
Gooseberries
Choke cherries
Chokeberries
Sumac berries
Raspberries
Black raspberries
Apples
Pears
Wild plums
Crab apples
Wild grapes
Rhubarb (at abandoned properties or local homes that don't harvest theirs, with permission)

If you're interested, you can see a list of all of the wild plants we foraged in 2018 and some photos of some of the fruits here: Our 2018 Foraging Wrap-Up or check out a typical summer month's foraging with photos and information about how we use them here: Our June Foraging Wrap-Up.



2 weeks ago
Yeah, I like to take an occasional shot and just call it medicinal.  :)  It is not that different from elderberry tincture, after all.  This time of year we always have elderberry syrup in the fridge, too, and the kids and I do a morning spoonful of that.

And yes, it makes a really nice gift.  It's potent though.  You can dilute the recipe with simple syrup (dissolved sugar in water) to make a milder, sweeter elderberry liqueur that's nice for sipping straight.
1 month ago
I thought I'd share this easy recipe from my elderberry book,  (affiliate link: Elderberries: The Beginner's Guide to Foraging, Preserving and Using Elderberries for Health Remedies, Recipes, Drinks & More ).

This is a beautiful, deep purple schnapps that is so simple to make with either fresh or frozen elderberries.  If you add it to drinks that are acidic (like lemonade) it turns them a gorgeous pink. See the directions at the bottom of the recipe to use dried elderberries.

You make elderberry schnapps in a similar way to elderberry liqueur (the recipe for elderberry liqueur is in the book too), but no sugar is used for elderberry schnapps and the berries are frozen first. This is said to improve their sweetness (I can’t tell much difference, to be honest). Schnapps recipes also use far more elderberries and far less vodka than liqueurs.

You can serve elderberry schnapps at room temperature (it’s potent!) or mix it in cocktails.

Ingredients:

   One pint jar of fresh elderberries, cleaned and stems removed, frozen for at least a week
   80 proof vodka

Directions:

1. Remove your jar of frozen elderberries from the freezer and pour in vodka, just to cover the berries.

2. Put the lid tightly on the container and shake. Put aside and let steep in a dark place for 1-4 weeks, shaking periodically.

3. Strain through a muslin-lined strainer, pressing to remove all of the juice from the berries, into a clean glass container with a tight fitting lid.

4. Allow to age in a cool, dark place for at least 2 more months before using.

To use dried elderberries:  Fill a pint jar 1/3 full of dried elderberries.  Fill the jar the rest of the way with vodka (leaving one inch of head space) and freeze for one week.  Then proceed with steps 2-4.

1 month ago

Dee Rose wrote:
I heard the american variety grow very easily and the berries are okay to eat right off the bush (and hey, if we don't like them, I'm sure the myriad of birds will enjoy them. Just saying that you again. Bookmarking and stalking that site now :-D



Just chiming in to say not to eat them raw.  Some folks can eat elderberries raw without harm but many people will get terrible digestive discomfort (vomiting, diarrhea, cramping).  Elderberries contain seeds that are not good for you and they should always be fermented or heated (gently if you are using them for anti-flu remedies) before ingesting them.  Also, if you're looking to expand your elderberry patch, you can also take cuttings or transplant young runners from elsewhere.  Enjoy your elderberries!
1 month ago
I like to make acorn flour crackers and also use the basic recipe to use whatever flour I have on hand.  We're GF too, so all the crackers I make are GF.

I posted a pic of a batch of acorn flour crackers (mixed with other GF flours) on Instagram recently and folks asked for the recipe.  This is the reply I typed up, if it's helpful.  I don't use a recipe for crackers and do it more the grandma way of toss in this and a bit of this.  :)

Anyway, this is the basic recipe that I posted....

The thing I like about making crackers is that you don't need a recipe-- just use flours, seasonings, water, a little olive oil (optional) and whatever suits your tastes. You can roll them and cut them with a pizza wheel or leave them in a sheet and break them up after baking or shape them into little circles or whatever. Dot them with the tines of a fork to help them bake evenly and not bubble up. Bake in a low oven on a greased baking sheet until golden and dried (time varies by how thick they are, how much liquid and so on-- these took about 20 minutes). I have a basic recipe and more instructions in my acorn foraging book (affiliate link) but it really is simple.

These were acorn flour, buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, dried roasted tomato skins and chives from last summer's garden, garlic, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, olive oil, water. Daryl and the kids loved them. Rhia said she liked the way the sweetness of the acorn flour comes through first and then the garlic and spice comes through.

At my acorn presentation last month I brought acorn crackers that were much more basic. It's all up to you. Healthy, simple, thrifty and delicious.




2 months ago

Simon Allins wrote:Thanks Alicia

The cold water leaching worked very well, made some tasty pancakes and cookies with the dehydrated flower.
according to a Portuguese girl I met there are oaks that have the same leaves as cork oak, but have no cork bark,and they have sweet acorns!
I found some of those oaks, but they are rare. So I am experimenting with ways to collect and process the bitter acorns as efficiently as possible, for own use and as chicken feed...



I'm so glad, Simon!  That's neat about your local oaks, too.  You'll find that each tree's acorns also taste different even among the same species, too.  Acorns are pretty amazing little things.  :)  If you have access to a clean running stream you can also just put them in burlap bags or sturdy pillow cases and let the water leach the bitter ones over time for you.
2 months ago
Sorry people are having issues with bitterness.  As mentioned, do be sure that you always drain your acorns from boiling water to boiling water, never to cold to heat up again since that will lock in the tannins.  

I would either resign myself to more boilings (nice if you need an excuse to heat up the house or add some humidity) or switch to longer term cold water leaching in the fridge.  Be sure to coarsely chop the acorns first with that method, and pour off the water twice a day being careful not to pour off the wonderful starch that will settle on top.  It will take longer but it's quite an easy method and will ultimately result in mild acorns.  (See pic below)  

For whole acorns that have already been processed, you might want to roast them and grind them, and then use them in recipes for just a part of the flour.  Roasting deepens the acorn flavor but not the bitterness, and when combined with other flour the bitterness should be largely masked and still let the acorn flavor shine through.  Avoid using spices like cinnamon if you bake with acorns that have any bitterness, as cinnamon also contains tannins and will exacerbate them.  If you roast your acorns at 350 until dried and browned, you can make them into flour in a flour mill or a coffee grinder.  Add your acorn flour in exchange for 1/3 of the flour in a bread or muffin recipe and see if it shines that way.

Also, if anybody is interested a newspaper reporter wrote up a very detailed write-up of one of my recent acorn presentations at a library last month: The Nutty and Nutritious Benefits of Cooking with Acorns  She includes my recipe for racahout (an ancient sweet hot drink that inspired modern hot cocoa) from my book, along with a summary of hot water and cold water leaching.  I brought three different acorn treats to that presentation -- rustic acorn crackers, racahout (which we made right there) and acorn spice cakes with cream cheese frosting.  All of them were a hit and it was a fun day.  

3 months ago
I was curious as I've never heard of that so I looked it up.  Wikipedia did say that, but it was about leaching tannins from driftwood for aquariums and not for acorns as food.  While it may work, I would wonder how it would affect the nutrition and taste of the acorns.  I've always avoided cooking beans with baking soda even though it helps soften them because it destroys some of their nutrients.  I went looking for more information on that aspect and found some information that adds to the discussion.

This cooking site has information about why baking soda makes vegetables look greener but why you shouldn't use it:

"So why not take advantage of this known quality of bicarbonate of soda and use it in cooking to improve the appearance of your green beans?

The answer is simple and direct: the chemical reaction that produces the carbon dioxide also destroys the nutrients in food, and in particular the vitamins. You are trading nutritional content for the sake of appearance. And it is a severe trade; almost total loss."

And this cooking site had information about baking soda destroying the protein (to some extent) and vitamins (to a larger extent) when added to beans:

"While baking soda speeds cooking and can reduce flatulence, it also has negative impacts on nutrition. Ku et al. (cited above) noted protein destruction when cooking tripled when baking soda was added. But the more significant concern is B vitamins. Again from the Seker bean article:

   [A]lkali condition may cause further destruction in the Vitamin B contents, especially thiamin and riboflavin (Swaminathan, 1974). Therefore tap water might be a good alternative to protect vitamins and have a moderate decrease for the flatulence factors."

Also, be sure when you do hot water processing that you always transfer from boiling water to boiling water.  Never drain your acorns and put them in cold water to heat up again or you'll lock in the tannins.  I assume you know this but I thought I'd mention it.
3 months ago

Jason Hernandez wrote:Do you get different results from different kinds of acorns? I read in books about California Indians that they used some kinds for bread, and other kinds for gruel.



The taste can vary a bit, but in general, no.  The flavor, fat content and proportions of nutrients will vary from species to species and even from tree to tree, but any oak variety will yield similar results.

You do get different results if you use hot water leached acorns or cold water leached acorns, since using the boiling water method gets rid of more of the fats and starches.  For maximum thickening like you'd want for something like porridge or polenta, cold water processing is best.  Also, the taste will vary depending on whether you dry the acorn meal or use roasted acorns.  I often use roasted acorns processed with boiling water for this recipe.  Roasted acorns lead to a deeper flavor and color that is nice in baked goods.  Here's a picture of the difference in flour that has been dried or roasted.  These are tasty with acorn flour no matter how you process it or what type of acorns you use, though.  :)

3 months ago
I thought I'd share my recipe for acorn muffins, since it's such an easy recipe and doesn't require a lot of acorn flour.  We have these every fall and they're wonderful to use as the bread in stuffing because you really get that acorn flavor.  These are very mildly sweet, like a corn muffin.  The sugar helps with lightness but you could substitute honey or try leaving it out.  I use different flours every time and have not found a flour it doesn't work with.  The flavor changes somewhat depending on what you use with the acorn flour, but most mild flours allow the flavor of the acorn flour to shine.  You can also stir in fruit and make these as breakfast muffins.  Elderberries are especially nice.  These are wonderful with honey butter.  

You can use either hot water leached or cold water leached acorn flour for these muffins.  If you use flour from roasted acorns they'll have a more robust flavor.  Either way is delicious.  I go into the ways to leach, process, dry and roast acorns in my acorn foraging book (affiliate link) and have 70 or 80 other recipes in there, including many other recipes for breads and muffins along with desserts, drinks, savory dishes and more.

Quick Acorn Muffins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 24 muffin tins or prepare 24 cupcake wrappers in cupcake pans.

Cream together:

1/2 cup sugar
4 TBS shortening, lard, butter, coconut oil, vegetable oil or a mixture of these

Add:

4 eggs

Beat well.  In a separate bowl mix together:

1 cup acorn flour
1 cup wheat flour, rice flour or gluten free flour blend (add 1/2 tsp xanthan gum if not using wheat flour, optional)
1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder

Add dry ingredients above to mixture and add:

1 cup milk (regular or non-dairy)

Beat well until well blended.  Fill muffin tins a little over half full (I use an ice cream scoop to make it go quickly).  Bake about 20 minutes, or until they spring back when gently touched.


3 months ago