Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Red currant jelly

 It all started with two huge bowls of red currants that Martin picked from a bush in the garden. The freezer was already full of them, so we decided to make jelly, which is to me the most natural next step for a picked berry of this kind. Alena who is also staying here, had done it before so she guided us along the way. No need for recipes when you have friends with knowledge!

It's really simple,
1. Boil the red currants (stem and all), in water until soft and a bit mushy.
2. Mash the berries through a strainer, making sure to get all the juice out of them. (We added a little bit of the cooking water in this step to make it slightly thinner).
3. Admire the colour, it's gorgeus!
4. Weigh the berries, and add equal amounts of sugar. (We used jam sugar with added pectin, which is not nessecary but makes the process easier). Bring to a boil and keep boiling until it had reached it's setting point. Test this by putting a small amount of the jelly on a cold plate and let it sit in the fridge for some minutes. Push your finger through the edges, if it wrinkles up it's done!
5. Can it.

I don't know about all of you people out in the world, but in Sweden we eat currant jelly with food, not only as a a sweet. It would be perfect together with this or this, both recipes from Our life in Sandarna, who cooked traditional Swedish food for a whole month last vegan mofo.

 Where I am right now? On the countryside in Devon, England! There's three of us who're WWOOFing/housesitting a small farm with 2 horses, 2 mini ponies, 2 dogs and a chicken. When the weather allows we're having breakfast on the driveway, like above. My 5 month summer holiday is going pretty well, I must say. What are you guys up to? Anyone nearby in Devon or Cornwall?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Interview with David Cottrell, cranberry farmer in Greyland, WA.

During my travels in Oregon and Washington, I got the pleasure to stay a few nights with David, a cranberry farmer living outside of Greyland. During these two days David opened up his farm to us and gave us an insight in his work, himself and the society he grew up in. I remember those days with a smile on my lips, and I will never drink cranberry juice again without recalling the Friday night we spent driving his home made railroad over the cranberry bog.

I wanted to share some of what David told me during these days, so here is an interview ( I know it's long, but I didn't want to cut something out, so please hang in there!), just for you!

David, how come you're a cranberry farmer?
My grandfather started growing cranberries about 1940. When he died, my father took over the farm and expanded it. I grew up working on the farm every day, until I went off to college. Even then I came back to help at harvest (sometimes skipping classes if necessary). In my 20‘s I traveled a lot and saw a lot of the world, lots wonderful things and people, but I found that I missed the cranberries and the community that goes with them, and I discovered that some of the happiest people I met were people with roots. So 27 years ago I came back to cranberry farming in partnership with my brother, and I have been here ever since.

How's life on a cranberry farm?
Life on the farm revolves around the weather. Cranberries are a wetland plant. They need lots of water, and, like most plants, they need sun. We live on the edge of a rainforest which gives us a mix of both.

When the weather is nice, there are 100 things to be done: weeds to pull, sprinklers and thermostats to check (we use them for frost protection as well as irrigation), water levels to monitor, areas to fertilize, areas to replant, ditches to clean, wood to cut, grass to mow, more weeds to pull....the list never ends, but it changes from season to season.

In the course of a week we will walk over most of our land as we go about our different projects, so we know every foot of our cranberry bogs as gardeners would know their gardens. It’s very personal, which is how growing food should be (in my opinion.)

When the weather is rainy, there are always projects in the sheds and shops to keep us busy, repairing buildings and equipment or building new things. During the winter when it is cold and stormy and the cranberries are sleeping, my brother and I can take turns tending the farm while the other one travels to interesting places.

Please tell me about harvest, it seems like such an event!
Our cranberry harvest starts about September 20 and goes into November. It’s the most exciting time of the year. Everything we’ve done all year long has been building to this one event. Often our cousins and friends come to help us bring in the crop and celebrate.

We pick the cranberries with a small machine called a Furford Picker, invented by a local man about 50 years ago. It is powered by a small motor, and you walk behind it like an old style plow as it runs its fingers through the vines, like a comb through hair, picking off the berries as it goes.

The picking machine drops the berries into burlap sacks which are left behind it in the field. Then somebody carries them over to the small railroad track that runs through the field and stacks them on the cart, which takes the sacks into the warehouse. There they’re cleaned, graded and sent off to the cannery to be made into cranberry juice, sauce, craisins, or packaged as fresh fruit.

When the weather is good and the berries are ripe we’ll pick until the last rays of sunlight have faded, and then we’ll pick up the hundreds of sacks of berries that are still left in the field by the light of the moon. Those days are magic!

On the other hand, by November the days are short and it’s often cold and raining sideways. Then it’s a race with Winter to get the berries in before it floods and they float away, or it freezes and they’re ruined. Those are hard days, but the finish line is in sight, and that is its own kind of fun!

I think anybody who has ever raised a garden knows this joy, but when it’s been a part of your whole life, and your father’s, and your grandfather’s before him, it takes on even greater depth.

Me, getting to drive the cranberry railroad!
What do you like to do with the cranberries?
Do you mean eating them, or other things, like juggling them?

I eat many of them fresh and raw, or add them to things when cooking. I also make cranberry juice by boiling them with a little sugar and pressing them, then sweetening the left-over pulp to make a sauce. My mom, who is 80, has many more advanced recipes, but I’m a simple cook.

As for other things, many people string cranberries for Christmas decorations. Also, did you know that cranberries are one of the few fruits that bounce? If you want a challenge some time, try playing ping pong with a cranberry. It works! Just think, you could never do this with a strawberry, a banana, a pineapple, or a melon!

How does the coop Ocean Spray work?

The Ocean Spray co-op is made up of cranberry growers of all different sizes from all over the USA and Canada. If you are a member of the co-op you promise to send all your cranberries to Ocean Spray, and in return the co-op promises to guarantee a market for everything you grow. Then as the profits come into the co-op over the next year, the money is divided equally among the cranberry growers proportional to the amount of cranberries they shipped.

It is a very fair system which prevents the big farmers from competing against the little family farmers and slowly forcing them out of business, as has happened to so many other small farmers. Instead we are all working together to sell the best product we can, and then we all share in the value.

Although it has grown into a big company, Ocean Spray Cranberries is still run by a board of directors of 11 farmers elected from all the different growing regions of USA and Canada, and one hired manager, so the company is still very much run by farmers for farmers. As a small family farm, we are very lucky this way!

What is the pros and cons with farming the "old school way"?
Well first of all, I don’t know that I can claim to be truly “old school”. Those old guys were tough! They cleared acres of land with nothing but a shovel and a hoe. They pushed their carts through the bogs by the strength of their backs and legs, or had their wives do the pushing, and they picked their berries with their own fingers. I like having a picking machine with a motor and I like having a tractor! If there’s a way I can get more done in a day and have fewer sore back-muscles when I go to bed, I’ll give it a try even if it’s not the way my grandfather would have done it.

But one of the things I like to think I share with the old timers is that I farm according to the economy of nature rather than the economy of money. The “modern farmers” I know seem to worry a lot about profits and losses, investment and debt, dollars and cents, as if it were just another kind of business investment that you could walk away from.

For us and many of our neighbors though, the commitment is a little greater. Our calculations are mostly about soil and water, sun and rain, the health and sickness of the farm. For those of us who think this way, the farm is a member of the family that you would never sell, unless to pass it on to somebody who can take care of it.

While you have the stewardship of the land you take care of it as best you can, and it will take care of you. For me, that sums up “old school” farming, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

David and George, a breeding stallion he saved from slaughter. 
 Thank you David! I hope everyone got the chance to learn something new, and maybe some of you will share your favourite cranberry recipe?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Individual Deep Dish White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I managed to bring a whole pound of vegan white chocolate chips with me back from Seattle, but when I got home I had no clue what to do with them. I realized that the best idea might also be the most obvious one - chocolate chip cookies. I know everyone is raving about the ones from Vegan with a Vengeance/Vegan cookies invade your cookie jar, but to be honest, they always comes out either to puffy or to oily for me, so I started searching for a different recipe.

I almost immediately stumbled into a blog called The Caramel Cookie, which is not a vegan blog, but it features some vegan recipes. That's where I found something totally new to me, deep dish chocolate chip cookies! The photos where beautiful, the comments where positive and the concept was new and exciting - I knew I had found my recipe. I halved the recipe, made them in individual serving cups and used my white chocolate instead of dark. They came out FANTASTIC! A cookies that you can eat with a spoon - yes please! I will make sure to experiment with deep dish cookies in the future. You'll find the recipe here.

What's your favourite recipe for chocolate chip cookies?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Seattle offered lots of good food, here's what we had time for:

Bacon burgers at Sage Bakery & Café. A bit pricey but delicious.

We also bought two day old sweets from there, a coconut cupcake and a cranberry muffin.

On Saturday morning we went to a farmers market with our couchsurfing hosts.

After they had stocked up at the farmers market, we went for breakfast at Wayward Vegan Café. They had an extensive breakfast menu and almost everything sounded good. We went for a breakfast burrito and the hillbilly omelette. One of our hosts went for the daily special - mac and cheese pancakes! I'll have to try make that at home someday.

Right across the street were the vegan store Sidecar For Pigs Peace and got some stuff to bring home.

We had to have pizza at Pizza Pi, the all vegan pizza place. I must say that I can actually get better vegan pizzas in my home town in Sweden, but I was impressed with the cheese stuffed crust.

Of course we had to visit Fremont. We had a lovely day there, visiting the Sunday market, walking along the water and hanging out in Water Works Park. We also stopped at Flying Apron Bakery, only to be quite disappointed.  We weren't really feeling like ordering anything, but went for a slice of the cake. It turned out to be quite expensice, and only  OK, but not fantastic.

Pasta salad in a bag for lunch.

And that was that trip! We flew back home and when you read this we're already gone again - to England this time to try out WWOOFing. I'll update you on how that is soon!

Sunday, July 10, 2011


After almost a month of small city life, we found ourselves in Olympia, the capital of Washington. The city doesn't even have a population of 50,000, but it felt like a big city for us. Longer distances, buses everywhere and the parks were sadly grey. However, as long as cities goes, Olympia was very nice.

We went our for lunch, to Saigon Rendez Vous, a Vietnamese-Chinese restaurant with a huge vegetarian menu, even during lunch hours. The price was low, and service quite bad, but the food was great. They relied heavily on tofu, fake chicken and fake beef, something I love. Maybe it's only me, but when the only vegan option is stir fried veggies with rice, I leave.

We couldn't finish the fake chicken with lemongrass, so we got a box with it to go, and I ate it some time later in a park.

I finally got to go to a Farmers Market. Except for asparagus and cherries, I was excited for the Blue Heron Bakery that had a booth there as well. They had so many choices! Here's a chocolate mocha cake.

 Some fudgy peanut bar.

We made lentil soup for dinner one day.

Onion bagel with vegan cream cheese, fried zucchini and tomatoes.

Vegan macaroni and cheese - straight from the freezer!

Martin went to the store to "buy some candy". He came back with two containers Rice Dream (Mint Carob Chip and Swiss Almond), two bags of candy and a package of Oreos. That's a man I like.

We wanted to make dinner for the woman we stayed with, so we made asparagus with vinaigrette, potato spinach squares and corn on the cob.

In the evening she wanted to take us to a place to watch the sunset and the bats that lived there. Little did we know that there would also be a team of volunteers catching and studying the wings for damages, then releasing them of course.We got to help and got to see them really up close, so cool!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Blueberry muffins on the farm.

It's afternoon, and I'm walking over the fields towards the house after a long day of weeding on the farm. It's raining, and I'm cold, wet and my hands are aching. For some reason, I come to think about blueberry muffins. And I'll be damned, when I open the door to the main house and steps into the kitchen, I'm greated by Wei Wei (the woman of the house) and Hans (a young German boy staying here with his family), making vegan muffins.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Port Townsend

We only stayed in Port Townsend one night, but we got a long afternoon to walk around the adorable city. First, we went to the coop to buy some lunch.

Ain't this wall lovely?
We bought Tofurkey sausages and salsa verde and ate with the rice we had brought.

We found this lovely soda fountain where we drank some soda and lemonade.

We stayed with a woman who lived in a rebuilt catholic church, pretty cool house. Before going to the bus in the morning, we had yoghurt and granola which we had bought at the food coop the day before.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Dartmoor Organic Blueberries, North Harton Farm

I havn't even posted all my posts about my travels to Oregon and Washington yet, but I'm already away on new adventures. This time I'm WWOOFing on farms in south-western England for six weeks in total. First out is A blueberry farm in Dartmoor, which is a wonderful setting for anything. I'm staying in a wonderful turfed stonehouse surrounded by green hills, and so far it's been amazing. The weather is just wonderful, the people here are funny and the food has been great.
 The only thing I don't enjoy is the nettles. They hurt me at least 4 times today and I just hate the feeling!
 The main task today was relaying the pipes for water.
 Unfortunately, most of the blueberries are unripe still.
But every once in a while, there's a ripe one!

Have any of you done WWOOFing?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sautéed New Potatoes en Persillade

 I bought an issue of Vegetarian Times while in the U.S, it was a farmers market special and it featured this lovely recipe for sautéed new potatoes en persillade. You should try it!

Friday, July 1, 2011

San Juan Islands

We spent a little bit over a week on the San Juan Islands, and managed to visit the 4 main ones, Lopez, San Juan, Shaw  and Orcas. I love couchsurfing so much, how else would we have gotten to stay with the islands nurse on Lopez, with a hobby farmer on San Juan and attending a huge fancy house warming party on Shaw?

Our first stop was Lopez. We stayed with a lovely woman and her family there, and the first thing she did was giving us a cookie. She was off to a good start.

The dump on Lopez is wonderful. Instead of trashing stuff that still works, they collect it and arrange it like a thrift shop - but it's free!

Blossom Grocery in Lopez Village. The natural food store with a good selection but high prices.

We went on to San Juan. 3 day old goat cuddling with the dog.

We were walking around downtown Friday Harbour when we saw a place that had these kind of daily specials where it was all you can eat-something. We were lucky, the next day was deep fried veggie sushi rolls and we couldn't resist it. To our surprise, it was very tasty.

We found some Rice Dream ice creams in the food store.

We went on to Shaw Island, probably the least visited of the 4 since there are very limited arrangements for tourists there. We enjoyed the small island life to the limit though, thanks to our wonderful host. Here is her cute dog.

We went to Orcas over the day and I had kumquats for the first time in my life. I loved it!

Actually, it was my birthday, so I baked a peach cobbler in the evening to celebrate. The next morning we went back to the mainland.