Foraging is a trendy word that many chefs are tossing around these days. Because "eating local" is so popular, chefs employ foragers to search out wild ingredients from the woods such as morel mushrooms, ramps, a type of wild onion, berries of every description even rose hips and honeysuckle blossoms. But Cloverfields Farm & Kitchen's Janine Washle says, if it's an edible, these foragers will bring it back for top dollar. While it may be very hip to forage, the woods have been open to anyone who was willing to put in the time.
In the spring, the Kentucky woods offer many wild mushrooms including the delicious morel. But in the fall of the year nuts become available, persimmons start ripening after the first heavy frost, and if an Indian summer happens, more mushrooms like hen of the woods, and oyster mushrooms can be found.
Black walnuts and hickory nuts are the most common nuts to be found. They take time to crack and yield their meat but for a baker it is worth the effort. The mild hickory nut has an agreeable flavor, but the black walnut seems to divide camps. People either love them or hate them. It is hard to find anyone who sits on the fence about the distinctive flavor. The fall fruit, persimmon, has a jammy flavor after the first hard frost. When they are their ugliest is when they taste the best. Any inexperienced forager who has seen the beautiful fruit dangling from the tree has probably made the disgusting mistake of biting into it only to be forced into a pucker from the enzyme in the skin of an unripe persimmon. Besides the uncontrollable pucker, a white film covers the inside of the mouth that only goes away after several swipes of a cloth.
When the leaves start falling and the mornings are covered in a white frost, take a few hours to walk the woods with a basket or sack in hand. There is nothing more satisfying than picking up what Mother Nature offers, putting in a little elbow grease to yield nuts or pulp then turning them into delicious treats for the holidays.
Hickory Nut Pie
1 9" unbaked pie shell
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 TB sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 TB all purpose flour
1/3 cup water
1-1/2 cups hickory nuts, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Blend together eggs, vanilla, sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl. In a small bowl blend the flour and water then stir into the egg mixture. Stir in nuts then pour into pie shell. Bake in oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degree and bake an additional 35-40 minutes until filling is set.
Persimmon Ice Cream
NOTE: Make sure the persimmons are completely ripe. Even one slightly unripened one will spoil the whole bunch with it's astringency.
2-1/4 cups sugar
6 cups milk
3 cups heavy cream
2 TB vanilla
¾ cup persimmon pulp
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
Beat eggs in a medium saucepan. Add sugar and milk. Cook over medium high heat stirring constantly until mixture thickens and just reaches boiling. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Add cream, pulp, and spices. Mix well. Chill in refrigerator. Pour into freezer can and churn according to manufacturer's instructions. Makes 3-1/2 quarts.
NOTE: Apple Butter Ice Cream: Switch persimmon pulp for apple butter and make the recipe as directed.
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CloverFields Farm & Kitchen
3720 Mt. Olive Rd.
Hardin Springs Area
Big Clifty, KY 42712
Janine Washle and her family live at the Cloverfields Farm and Kitchen in Big Clifty, Kentucky in Hardin County. CloverFields Farm & Kitchen, part of a century old farmstead, is our home and business. The McGuffin house, the original farmhouse, is a registered state landmark. CloverFields Farm has a prosperous farming history. They are continuing this rural story in their own unique way by the addition of CloverFields Kitchen a place to explore the past through food and merge it with our modern lifestyles.