Alaska Knit Nat


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Wild Alaska Salmon Poke

If you live in Southcentral Alaska then you’re probably keenly aware it is sockeye salmon season. My husband is getting his hipwaders and dipnets all ready for the coming week where he will camp out on the shores of the Kenai River and make the most of the everlasting daylight by fishing into the wee hours of the night.

We still have some vacuum-packed filets in the freezer from last year so to make way for this year’s bounty we are trying to find creative ways to use it up. Sure, there’s nothing better than simple grilled salmon with a drizzle of lemon, but my dad started preparing poke out of the frozen filets that tops any store bought ahi poke.

Poke is a Hawaiian salad made of cubed sashimi such as ahi tuna, soy sauce, sesame oil, onions and hot chili sauce. It’s a bit like spicy tuna sushi without the rice and seaweed.

Wild Alaska Salmon Poke | Alaska Knit Nat

Here’s my dad’s recipe, which uses fresh-frozen sockeye, a.k.a. red, salmon. Keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration recommends freezing fresh fish and thawing it before consuming it raw because this kills any parasites. This is how sushi-grade fish is prepared in America. The FDA also says cooking seafood is the safest way to consume it, so prepare poke at your own risk. If you are pregnant or are at risk for food-borne illness, then please be cautious about consuming fresh-frozen fish.

With that disclaimer out of the way, here’s my dad’s recipe!

Wild Alaska Salmon Poke

As featured on Anchorage Food Mosaic

makes about 4 cups

Wild Alaska Salmon Poke | Alaska Knit Nat

Ingredients:

2 pounds red salmon, previously frozen and thawed in the fridge overnight

1 bunch of green onions, finely chopped

1/2 cup finely chopped white onion

2 Tbs. Nori Komi Furikake rice seasoning (optional)

2 Tbs. soy sauce

3 Tbs. sesame oil

2 Tbs. chili garlic sauce

2 tsp. sugar

1 Tbs. sesame seeds

Wild Alaska Salmon Poke | Alaska Knit Nat

Wild Alaska Salmon Poke | Alaska Knit Nat

Wild Alaska Salmon Poke | Alaska Knit Nat

Directions:

Using a sharp filet knife, remove the skin from the salmon filets. If there are any pin bones, carefully remove them with needle nose pliers. Cut the salmon into bite-sized cubes.

Wild Alaska Salmon Poke | Alaska Knit Nat

Add all the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly. If you are not using the rice seasoning, add salt to taste. If you like a little more kick, add an extra tablespoon of the chili garlic sauce.

Wild Alaska Salmon Poke | Alaska Knit Nat

Serve immediately or refrigerate for later. Serve with sesame or rice crackers.

For more tasty Alaska recipes, check out my dad’s website.

 


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Tokyo Tie Bag — Free Pattern and Tutorial

A few years ago I went sewing machine crazy and sewed a couple dozen Tokyo tie bags. I was inspired by a pattern on Darling Petunia’s blog. I never got around to posting my own pattern because I was too caught up in sewing them. My pattern, which I tweaked slightly from Darling Petunia’s, sadly sat in my craft pile for a few years until someone from Mexico emailed me last month and asked if she could buy one. I sewed it, shipped it and was reminded how easy and fun it was to make.

So here I am, three years later, ready to offer a full tutorial and pattern for the Tokyo tie bag. I hope you enjoy making them as much as I do!

Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project.

Tokyo Tie Bag

An easy sewing project that can be completed in an hour

Materials:

3/4 yard each of lining and outer fabric (100% cotton is recommended)

fabric scissors

rotary cutter and board (optional)

Tokyo tie bag pattern 1 & Tokyo tie bag pattern 2 printed at 100% to match the indicated dimensions, cut out and taped together

 

Directions:

Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project. Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project.

1. Iron your fabric and cut out two pieces of the pattern from the lining and outer fabrics. If your fabric is directional (meaning it looks different upside down) be sure you cut your pattern so the bottom of the pattern is on the same edge for both pieces. You should have four pieces.

Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project.

2. With right sides together, sew each edge of the lining with a  3/8 inch seam allowance. Repeat for outer fabric.

Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project.

3. Iron open the seams.

Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project.

4. Turn your lining right side out and slip it inside the outer fabric.

Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project.

5. Make sure the seams from the outer and lining fabrics match up in the middle and pin all around the top edge and handles.

Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project.

Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project.

6. Sew all around the top edge, along the handles and back down again. Your seam should end at the same place you began as you’ll be sewing in a giant loop.

Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project.

7. Trim the corners of the handles so there is less bulk.

Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project.

8. Cut notches at the center curves so the seam will be more smooth when turned right-side out.

Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project.

9. Turn the bag right-side out and use a chopstick to push out the handles. Stuff the lining down into the outer fabric. It should now look somewhat like a bag but with the bottom unfinished. Iron the whole bag flat.

Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project.

10. Lay the bag flat so the side seams are now in the middle. Make sure these seams line up on the bottom and then iron the bag flat.

Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project.

11. Using a rotary blade, cut the bottom edges of the bag so it’s all even. Sometimes things just aren’t lined up well and a good fresh cut will make it turn out better. This step is optional.

Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project.

12. With the bag right-side out pin along the bottom edge, starting at the center seams so they line up on both sides. Sew along the edge with the shortest seam allowance possible.

13. Trim closely along this seam and turn inside out.

Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project.

14. Pin the now sewn shut bottom edge again and sew a new seam with 1/4-inch seam allowance. You have now created a French seam. Hurrah!

15. Turn your bag right-side out and iron one more time.

Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project. Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project. Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project.

16. Join the two handles by tying a square knot.

Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project.
17. Admire your work. You’re a super sewer!

Tokyo Tie Bag -- Free pattern and tutorial from Alaska Knit Nat. Great beginner project.


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Lina + Bill: A Midsummer Kaleidoscope

Last year my knitting friend Lina asked if I would design the flowers for her wedding. When she described the colors she wanted there was no way I could say no. She envisioned a wild, rainbow bouquet.

Midsummer Kaleidoscope Wedding | Alaska Knit Nat

 

Midsummer Kaleidoscope Wedding | Alaska Knit Nat

 

I created a slightly unkempt bouquet of peonies (from her own garden), Japanese asters, mini sunflowers, green trick dianthus, bupleurum, gerber daisies, spray roses, wild daisies, wild grass cattails and wild yarrow.

Midsummer Kaleidoscope Wedding | Alaska Knit Nat

Midsummer Kaleidoscope Wedding | Alaska Knit Nat

Lina had saved pussy willow branches from the spring, which I used on the boutonnières.

Midsummer Kaleidoscope Wedding | Alaska Knit Nat

The groom’s boutonnière mimics the bridal bouquet with a small band of lace wrapped around the fuchsia stem.

Midsummer Kaleidoscope Wedding | Alaska Knit Nat

 

 

Billy balls are the perfect accompaniment to fuchsia spray roses and iridescent fuchsia ribbon gave everything a polished look with great pops of color.

Midsummer Kaleidoscope Wedding | Alaska Knit Nat

Because the bride selected so many types of flowers I was left with an excess of product. I decided to make flower crowns for her daughter and niece who were flower girls. My mother models it here.

Midsummer Kaleidoscope Wedding | Alaska Knit Nat

Marigolds and pale pink rosebuds from my garden were a necessary addition to the garlands.

Marigolds and pale pink rosebuds from my garden were a necessary addition to the garlands.

I had yet even more product, including a full peony (no way I was wasting that!) so I created a draping arrangement in an antique orange vase, which I left on the dining table in the wedding party’s bed and breakfast.

Midsummer Kaleidoscope Wedding | Alaska Knit Nat

Pink, fuchsia, orange, green, purple and yellow — a magical array of color for a perfect summer day.

Congratulations, Lina and Bill!

I was lucky to find pale pink yarrow growing wild in field by my local grocery store.

I was lucky to find pale pink yarrow growing wild in field by my local grocery store.


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Anchorage thrift stores — dressing for success without breaking the bank

Yesterday I had the pleasure of guest posting on GretchenLovesAnchorage about thrift store fashion shopping in Anchorage. It was refreshing to post something a little different from what I normally write and it brought back memories of working as the features editor for The Northern Light.

In case you missed it, here’s my thrift store advice. And for those non-Anchorage residents, you still might learn a thing or two about how to dress to the nines without spending the tens — of thousands…ok, I am done trying to be clever. Enjoy! And if you have a chance, take a look around Gretchen’s blog. It’s happy, insightful and hopefully will make you want to come visit our fabulous city.

Anchorage Thrift Store Fashion Guide | Alaska Knit Nat

I have been thrift store shopping in Anchorage since I was 12 when I bought my very first Kurt Cobain-style flannel shirt at Value Village on Boniface (the Dimond location was Fabricland and Nerland’s furniture store). Since then I’ve furnished my dorm room, first apartment and current home in second-hand décor. I have also created a fun, colorful wardrobe that I can say I’m pretty proud of.

So let me delve into the Anchorage thrift store scene and give you some tips and tricks of the thrifty trade.

Recently my friend, Karen, asked me to be her “thrifty style adviser.” She wanted a little more pizzazz in her wardrobe without spending a lot of cash. I accepted the challenge, but gave her a few ground rules.

First, you have to be persistent and diligent. You can’t expect to waltz into a secondhand shop and immediately flick to the perfect, most amazing item you’ve ever seen in your life. You have to trudge through a whole lot of, well, crap. People often literally donate trash to thrift stores. I’ve spoken with former Salvation Army employees who have told me they toss a majority of donated items because they aren’t suitable to sell. Be prepared to visit thrift stores more than once and to dig, dig, dig to find the good stuff.

My other tip is to take fashion risks. Try on things you wouldn’t normally wear. You never know — that Las Vegas cat shirt might be the perfect level of ironic for you to pull it off.

Do some research. Analyze your closet inventory and figure out what articles of clothing you want or need. I always keep a mental list of items I’ve either worn out or really want. For instance, I NEEDED salmon-colored jeans and — ta-da! — I found some the other day for just $2. Also on my recent list was a pair of plain black heels. Mission accomplished when I found a brand-new pair of Sofft brand black patent leather pumps for $25 — a little pricey by my thrifty standards, but since they were originally $110 I felt it was worth it.

Pricing1

A great resource is Pinterest. I’ll often type in an article of clothing I already own and see what Polyvore experts have put together. From “black blazer” to “chevron maxi dress,” you can create a mental file of what to keep an eye out for.

My goal as a thrift store clothing shopper is to find good quality clothes that will complement my current wardrobe. Sometimes I go out on a limb and buy something wacky and wild just because I love the item. I don’t feel remorse when it doesn’t work out because I really didn’t spend much on it.

Now let’s get started. Anchorage thrift shops are not all alike. Some are great for furniture, others are better for clothing and some have really great dishes. Today I’ll discuss the good clothing stores in town.

Salvation Army — Northern Lights Blvd.

Anchorage has three Salvation Army thrift stores – on Dimond, Mountain View and the oldest location on Northern Lights Boulevard next to Crossbar. My mom used to take me to this store when I was just four years old (thrifting runs in the family).

This Salvation Army is great for most clothes. Target donates unsold items to the city’s Salvation Armies, so if you like Merona, Converse and Mossimo brands you can often find them here for $4-6 with the tags still attached. They are usually stored on their own racks.

Salvation has an endless supply of shirts.

Salvation Army has an endless supply of shirts.

Karen was looking for colorful tops and cute mini skirts so we split up and started flipping through the racks. The shick, shick, shick of hangers quickly passing by can be exhausting, but I made a game of it by holding up the most horrifying of frocks and joking that “this Victoria’s Secret top is so old it’s actually fashionable again.”

I found Karen a few pretty shirts, a lovely blue dress with pockets, and she came up with a floral skirt and some indigo straight-legged jeans. It’s off to the fitting room. Keep in mind that not all thrift stores offer such a luxury. Employees have told me it has to do with homeless people using them as public toilets. The Mountain View Salvation Army only has a full-length mirror, so be sure to wear a camisole and leggings if you want to see how things look on you.

I stood outside the fitting room as Karen broke a mild sweat.

“Nobody said you didn’t have to work for it,” she said as she tried on several unexpectedly frumpy shirts. True that, Karen; true that.

She came away with the blue dress, a striped mini skirt, a comfy Gap sweatshirt and jeans. I found a couple of pairs of perfect-fitting pants and red patent leather flats.

patent leather flats

Karen models her Salvation Army finds; total cost, about $5:

Karen

Quick tip: check the rack of recently tried-on clothes. Often times people do the hard work of digging for you and don’t end up buying what they find. That’s where I discovered some awesome Vigoss pedal-pushers.

sale

It was our lucky day because *almost* everything was 50 percent off, so we walked out with an armload for under $20.

S.P.C.A. Thrift Shop — Arctic and International

SPCA

This gem is nestled in a strip mall on International Airport Rd. with Guido’s and Partycraft. Enjoy a saketini at The Dish and get your thrift on because the S.P.C.A. won’t disappoint. Psst! Here’s a secret: a beloved local consignment store often donates their unsold items to this place. I’ve found designer brands here for mere pennies. Plus, your purchases go toward helping animals so what isn’t there to like?

Most of the clothing follows a flat pricing list, save for a small rack up front with “fancy” clothes. The items on this rack range from $10-20. A few weeks ago I spotted a cashmere argyle sweater vest from J. Crew for $10. Pretty good deal!

Karen didn’t find much on our visit — just a Merona denim-colored skirt. But I found two Columbia brand skirts — with pockets — and an unusual sequined belt.

Full-body selfies are the worst!

Full-body selfies are the worst!

Don’t forget to remind the cashier to give you a punch card if you spend more than $10. I don’t remember what happens when you fill it up, but it’s a perk nonetheless.

Value Village — Dimond or Boniface

The “Buy more, spend less” mantra isn’t always accurate and I hesitate to say that Value Village is a good thrift store. Often its knickknacks are grossly overpriced and they have a pathetic furniture selection. But they do stock an unbelievable number of jeans and tops at reasonable prices, which is why I’m including it on today’s list. Skip the dresses at VV because most of them are priced at $30, and that’s just crazy! Pricers here understand the value of a designer label and won’t hesitate to mark a Calvin Klein top with holes in it at $20. But most of the tops and jeans are about $7-10, which I can handle.

pendleton

I went solo on this Value Village trip and came out with black cropped dress pants from Banana Republic for just $7.

pricing2

Karen and I had a medium-good thrifting day. I had to remind her not to give up. Thrifting can be rewarding, especially when you find just what you’re looking for at a good price. She definitely bulked out her wardrobe with a dress, skirt, pants and shirts without spending more than $25. I call that a thrifting success!

What thrift stores do you visit to find great duds? How do you fill your clothing cravings without overspending?

Visit my blog at www.alaskaknitnat.wordpress.com and keep any eye out for the rest of my Anchorage thrift store series.


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Alaska Guide to Boletus Mushrooms

It’s nearly mushroom season in Alaska so I thought I’d repost my boletus mushroom guide from my old blog. With a little knowhow, you can join the foraging movement and become a mushroom hunter.
Alaska Guide to Boletus Mushrooms | Alaska Knit Nat

Here is my DISCLAIMER: I’ve been foraging for mushrooms my whole life and I am positive that what I’m picking is edible. I am not a mushroom expert but I can give you great advice on how to discern boletus mushrooms from inedible ones. Pick at your own risk, but honestly, boletes are easy to detect and as long as you cook them thoroughly before eating, most mushrooms in Alaska will not kill you (but they might make you have some bad stomach problems). When in doubt, throw it out!

Feel free to contact me and e-mail me photos of your finds if you ever have any questions. There are quite a few edible mushrooms in Alaska, but I’m only knowledgable about boletus.

So here we go:

Alaska Guide to Boletus Mushrooms

There are several types of boletus mushrooms and you can find many of them in the Anchorage area. Most are edible and the ones that are poisonous will let you know by their scary color.

The U.S. Forest Service has a great Alaska mushroom guide. I highly recommend taking a look at it.

The two inedible boletus you will find in the Anchorage area are the boletus satanus (note the “satan” in the title) and boletus coniferarum. The satanus has bright red flesh like a red flag saying “don’t eat me!” The confierarum has yellow flesh that when bruised or cut will rapidly turn inky blue. Keep in mind that many edible types of boletus will oxidize, but not nearly as quickly as the coniferarum turns from yellow to blue. It looks pretty cool, but tastes extremely bitter (but will not kill you if eaten).

*Note: a mushroom enthusiast commented on my old blog that the photo below is actually the Boletus luridiformis, which he claims is edible. I would just avoid it if you find it. I’ve never seen one before, but my father took the photo below so it’s definitely out there in Southcentral Alaska.*

Satan’s Mushroom — avoid!

 

Coniferarum oxidizing

Ok, now that we have the inedibles out of the way, let’s start becoming mushroom detectives. Before you go out and pick these mushrooms, let me prepare you…

  • You will probably get dirty and wet
  • You will probably encounter bugs
  • You will probably encounter little maggots (baby bugs!)

You’ve got to get over these factors if you’d like to carry on.

OK? ok….

First, all edible boletes have sponge under the caps instead of gills. Boletes are the only mushroom in Anchorage forests that have sponge instead of gills besides the hawks wing mushroom, which has hedgehog-like spines underneath (and it’s edible if you boil it). You can exclude any mushroom with gills because it will not be a bolete. This one fact makes bolete hunting reassuring because there is so much you can rule out. There are deceptive mushrooms that really look like bolete caps, but when you turn them over and see gills, just let them be. They tricked you!

Here are the types of boletes you’ll come across in Anchorage forests:

Admirable Bolete — these are forest boletes that have dark brown caps and their stems sometimes look dirty, even though it isn’t dirt. Their most recognizable feature is the yellow tint to the spongey gills. The flesh of this bolete will oxidize blue to black over time. That’s ok!

Boletus_hortonii_89799
Admirable bolete

Aspen Scaber-stalk — these are found in birch and spruce forests, typically around moss, low-bush cranberry and crow berry bushes. They have sienna-colored caps with dirty-looking stems (almost looks like the texture of a terry-cloth towel). The flesh also tends to oxidize and turn black when cut.

*Note: a person commented on my old blog post that the scaber-stalks can cause gastric upset. I have been picking and eating this mushroom most of my life and never experienced upset stomach, but I thought I should let it known.*

Aspen scaber-stalk

 

Stem of most forest boletes

Alaskan Scaber-stalk — these look a lot like the Aspen scaber-stalk but darker with a narrower stem.

Alaskan scaber-stalk

King bolete — this is the purest, most prized bolete and is the equivalent of a wild porcino mushroom. These have light brown caps and white stems with no terry-cloth look to them. The sponge will turn yellow with age.

Freaky melded-cap king bolete. Still delicious
King boletes

In addition to the U.S. Forest Service, here is another great site about Alaska boletes.

All right, now let’s set out to find some mushrooms! But where, might you ask? Well, boletes like to grow near spruce roots, birches and in mossy areas. You can often find boletes growing in people’s yards. You usually won’t find them in areas with long grasses and ferns or anywhere with tall vegetation. The trail system in Anchorage is a great place to start. You could also try Thunderbird Falls, Bird Creek and Girdwood.

The best time to pick boletes is from late July to mid-September. Over the years I haven’t found a true rhyme or reason to how boletes grow. Sometimes you’ll have a summer with hundreds of pounds and others you won’t find any. Usually they grow during the rainy and damp times of Alaska summers.

Boletes can grow to be pretty huge, but it’s best to pick them when they are just a couple of days old because bugs love boletes as much as humans do. They will flock to them pretty much as soon as they surface. It’s rare to find a bolete that hasn’t been lived in by a beetle or some sort of fly eggs, but if you pick them early on it doesn’t affect the quality or taste of the mushroom. I’ll show some photos later.

This large bolete was literally teeming with insects and maggots. Didn’t take this one home!

Fresh boletes should have firm stems and caps, but it’s ok if the cap is slightly soft. If you find a really squishy bolete, let it be because the bugs have laid claim to it. Sometimes you’ll find a bolete that’s firm on the cap, but when you look underneath it looks like bugs have taken it over. Not always true! Sometimes the bugs just get into the sponge part of the mushroom, which can be easily removed. Break the cap in half. If the flesh is white and has no holes in it, then keep it. Baby boletes are the best. Their cap and stem are both firm and delicious. They also look totally phallic. I just had to put that out there.

I recommend field dressing your mushrooms as you go. This means bringing a pocket knife along and whittling away the dirty root. I’m lazy and usually don’t do this. It just means I’ll have more trash to throw out at home.

Boletes are sturdy so you can collect them in plastic grocery or garbage bags, five-gallon buckets, or if you’re feeling whimsical, in a lovely basket. It’s up to you. Most will say that mushrooms should never be stored in plastic bags (I can see Laurie Constantino shaking her head). I find it easier to tote large quantities of mushrooms around the forest in a plastic bag and it doesn’t seem to affect the quality of my mushrooms. Do not store your boletes in plastic bags for long periods of time. This will create too much moisture and cause them to rot.

When you find a good bolete, pick it by the base of the stem, not by the cap, as you will probably break off the cap and tear away the flesh by accident.

The great thing about picking mushrooms is they literally pop up overnight so many people could pick the same spot and still find a good share. You can usually tell if another bolete hunter has been in the area by the discarded caps and overturned trickster mushrooms. On a recent quest we covered the same ground as another hunter and still came out with nearly 40 pounds of mushrooms!

Once you’ve collected your mushrooms, you’ll have to process them. Here’s how it goes:

Start by whittling away the root of the mushroom to remove any soil. If you come across any bug-eaten mushrooms, either toss them or cut into the stem or cap to see if it’s salvageable. Sometimes the bugs will have only gotten to half the mushroom, so why waste the whole thing? Once you’ve removed the big pieces of dirt, you can run each mushroom under cold water and lightly scrub with a nail brush to remove excess dirt. Only rinse them if you plan to use them right away. Rinsing them and then storing them in the fridge may cause them to rot.

Now comes the part where you need to figure out what you’re doing with your mushrooms. They can be stored in the fridge for a couple of days, but you’ll want to prepare them as soon as you can. If you must store them, be sure to keep them in paper bags so they can breathe.

Boletes should not be eaten raw. They will probably give you an upset stomach. If I’m not cooking with them right away I either sauté the mushrooms in butter, vacuum pack and freeze them or put them in a food dehydrator for a couple of days, bag them up or grind them into porcini powder.

Either way, you’ll need to slice them up. This is where you do most of the work. You might find that lots of your mushrooms are bug eaten. I tend to toss caps that are eaten even in the slightest, but really it’s not gonna kill you so this is a matter of personal preference. You’ll be able to tell if the mushroom is too rotten to eat cause it will look totally gross. But as I said before, you can always try and cut away the nasty bits and keep the good bits. I mentioned before that you can remove the sponge. I do this with most mature boletes because the sponge ends up becoming slimy when cooking. With really new boletes, the sponge is firm and doesn’t need to be removed. It’s a bit like getting to an artichoke heart — the sponge will peel off easily and you’ll be left with the yummy cap.

This king bolete stem has been eaten by bugs. Not salvagable

 

This aspen cap is nasty. Didn’t keep any of it.

 

This Alaskan stem was soft and dark as soon as I cut into it. It was not good.

 

This stem was deceiving because it felt great from the outside, but was eaten up on the inside.
This cap had maggots in the sponge, but the actual flesh was just fine.

 

See? Looks great! Peel off the sponge and you’ll be fine.

 

This is the inside of a good king bolete. Some parts have been eaten by a  bug, but I wasn’t horrified by it so I kept it.

 

This Alaskan bolete has oxidized. It’s fine to eat!
This is a fresh king cap. The sponge is thin and firm. It doesn’t need to be peeled off.

Once your boletes have been processed the world is your mushroom! Boletes are great in soups and sauces, but your best bet is to do a Google search for recipes for porcini. If you’ve decided to dry your mushrooms, they will need to be reconstituted when you’re ready to use them. Boil a couple of cups of water or chicken broth and pour over the dried mushrooms in a bowl. Let sit for 20 minutes and reserve the steeped water for your soup. It’ll deepen the flavor even more.

So, that’s my guide to Alaska boletes. Please contact me if you have any questions, comments or even corrections.

And remember, if you’re not extremely positive about a mushroom, don’t eat it. Better safe than sorry!

For more Alaska mushroom information, check out this short film produced by the Alaska Teen Media Institute for the U.S. Forest Service and this terrific article by Laurie Constantino for Alaska Dispatch.


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Wild Porcini Orzo with Grilled Portobello Caps

Last year we picked hundreds of pounds of boletes — wild porcini mushrooms. We dried them and have since not consumed many of them; so before we hit mushroom season this summer we decided we better start using these earthy, flavorful morsels.

Wild mushrooms pair well with risotto. I had a half box of Barilla Orzo pasta, which look like grains of rice. I thought the orzo would taste super with portobello and porcini with a hint of lemon and garlic.

Costco sells a four pack of portobello caps for just a few dollars. I lightly marinated them in oil and vinegar then grilled them over high heat and topped them with roasted bell peppers and chèvre. The fresh arugula salad was the perfect accompaniment to the meal with a simple lemon vinaigrette.

This is a quick meal that’s hearty and vegetarian too.

Porcini Orzo with Grilled Portobello Caps and Baby Arugula Salad | Alaska Knit Nat

Wild Porcini Orzo with Grilled Portobello Caps and Baby Arugula Salad

Serves 3

Ingredients:

4 portobello caps

1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms

4 Tbs. butter

Olive oil

2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar

1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

1 cup dry orzo pasta

2 cloves garlic

zest and juice of one lemon

1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese

1/4 cup crumbled chèvre

3 mini bell peppers

salt and pepper

 

Directions:

Bring a cup of water to boil. Pour over the dried mushrooms and cover. Set aside for 15 minutes. Remove the stems from portobello caps and set aside. Remove the gills with a spoon. Lightly score the tops of three of the caps with a paring knife. Reserve one cap for the orzo. Combine 1/3 cup olive oil, the vinegars, one minced clove of garlic salt and pepper to a one-gallon ziploc bag. Carefully add the caps, seal and gently toss to coat the caps. Let sit 30 minutes to an hour.

Chop the stems and one portobello cap. Remove the porcini mushrooms and reserve the liquid. Chop the porcini. Set aside.

Porcini Orzo with Grilled Portobello Caps and Baby Arugula Salad | Alaska Knit Nat

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the orzo for 7 minutes. Drain and set aside. Lightly toss with olive oil so they don’t stick together. Meanwhile, heat the butter and one tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes until some of the liquid has evaporated from them. Add the lemon zest and one minced clove of garlic. Cook for another couple of minutes, till garlic is fragrant. Add the orzo, 1/4 cup of reserved mushroom liquid and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Toss thoroughly and season with salt and pepper.

Set all burners on your gas grill to high and heat for 15 minutes. Chop the tops off the bell peppers and remove the seeds. Skewer them on a metal skewer. Turn grill burners to med-high and set the peppers and the mushroom caps, top side down, on the grill. Cover and grill for about 4 minutes. Flip and grill another 4 minutes. Remove everything from grill and slice the peppers. Serve the caps with sliced peppers and crumbled chèvre alongside the orzo, sprinkled with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Porcini Orzo with Grilled Portobello Caps and Baby Arugula Salad | Alaska Knit Nat

For the salad: Top baby arugula with sliced cherry tomatoes, blueberries and crumbed chèvre. Squeeze fresh lemon on top and drizzle on extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.


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Wild Salmon Caviar — a family recipe

Salmon Caviar | A Photo Tutorial

It’s salmon season and for most that means filets, steaks and smoked salmon. We love all that in our family, but as soon as we hear of a friend going salmon fishing we think “roe!” We request that all our fishing friends keep the salmon eggs when they clean their fish and store them diligently on ice until they reach our clutches.

I grew up knowing all about brined salmon caviar: they were stinky, fishy, gooey and gross. But then I grew up and so did my palate. Now they are glimmering orange jewels that pop and melt in your mouth in salty bliss.

My father is the king of salmon roe preparation, so I have decided to reblog his Caviar Mania post from his site sausagemania.com (it’s for real, people). Visit his site for full photo tutorials on preparing sausage, lox, kippered salmon, and pesto.

Fresh King Salmon Caviar

How to Make Delicious Salmon Caviar at Home. Easy Recipes From SausageMania.com!

The designation “caviar” is traditionally applied to the salted, unfertilized roe of wild Caspian Sea sturgeon, a rapidly diminishing resource as neither Russia nor Iran are able (or willing) to end poaching. While Russian and Iranian caviar is an expensive luxury, going for as much as $500 an ounce, lesser caviars, made from the salted roe of salmon, lump fish, whitefish, steelhead, trout and other species of sturgeon, are more affordable substitutes.

CaviarMania is here to teach you how to make Salmon Caviar, specifically, caviar from Wild Alaskan Salmon.

Salmon Caviar is ridiculously simple to make. The most difficult part is getting hold of fresh salmon eggs. Fortunately, here in Alaska, salmon eggs are often discarded, or rolled in Borax, frozen, and used as bait – to catch more salmon, of course. So during the salmon runs in June through August, fresh eggs can be had in abundance if you have the right connections.

If you do not, then you need salmon – fresh, whole, uncleaned, iced salmon, and then you hope most of them are hens, that is, full of eggs. You can do without the fish, if you can tap into a good supply of fresh eggs, which, in Alaska, the home of SausageMania, LoxMania, KipperMania and now, CaviarMania, can often be done if you have fishing friends who are wiling to save the roe for you. A word of caution, however: you must know and trust your roe purveyor to care for the roe. If the fish have been left in the sun for a few hours before being cleaned, or the roe is not immediately iced, you may find youself spending time, energy and salt to produce an inferior product!

Exposing the RoeTwo beautiful skeins of roe!

 

Removing Roe From a Female King Salmon

The roe is removed from the salmon.

A Bowl of King Salmon Roe

The only tools needed are a few bowls and a screen of 1/4″ or 5/16″ galvanized mesh to fit over one of the bowls, a large strainer and a 1-gallon ZipLoc bag. The only ingredients are the salmon eggs, salt and cold water. The most time-consuming part is pushing the eggs through the mesh. The brining time necessary to prepare the caviar varies from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the eggs and your tolerance for saltiness.

A few words of caution about salmon roe: handle the skeins with care. Keep them cold at all times. Never, never, never freeze salmon roe unless you’re planning to make fish bait. The same goes for the finished product: freezing wrecks the eggs, and is especially harsh on the sensual “pop-ness” of the individual eggs as you eat them. Fresh caviar has a unique texture: you can feel each separate egg on the tongue, and each egg pops with a flavorful explosion. Frozen caviar is “dead.” It’s slushy, slimy and inert.

OK, so now you have several skeins of fresh, cold salmon eggs from a reputable source. From which species of salmon? Eggs from sockeye (red) and pink (humpy) salmon are small, and require less brining time. Eggs from Coho (silver) salmon are larger and require more brining. Eggs from king (Chinook) salmon, and from chum (dog or keta) salmon are the largest, and need the longest time. (Keta eggs are prized by Russians, who feel they make the best salmon caviar.)

Whatever kind of roe you have, you will need a galvanized screen to separate the eggs from their membranous attachment. A galvanized mesh screen with 1/4 – 5/16” holes is the best; cut it to fit tightly over a large bowl. Then get hold of some non-iodized salt. Coarse is better than fine.

Spread each skein, membrane side up, on the screen and work the eggs through the screen and through the mesh with your fingers. Membranes will get caught in the screen, so every now and again, remove the stuck membranes and discard. From time to time, remove the screen, and gently scrape off the eggs hanging from the bottom with a rubber or plastic spatula.

Salt and Mesh For Making Caviar

ust one ingredient: non-iodized salt. Just one tool: a piece of galvanized mesh.

Pushing Salmon Eggs Through Mesh

A skein being positioned on the mesh. The skein will be rotated to put the egg membrane on top.

Pushing Salmon Eggs Through the Mesh

Push the eggs through the mesh.

Next, fill a large bowl with the coldest water you can get and dissolve enough salt in it until you have a saturated saline solution, meaning that there will be undissolved excess salt in the bottom. Pour the separated eggs into the cold brine and gently stir. Set a timer for 10 minutes.

After ten minutes, take a spoonful of eggs and place in a small strainer, then rinse them in running cold water to rinse off the exterior salt. Taste them. If not salty enough, wait another five minutes and taste again. When the eggs are salty enough for your taste, pour them into a large strainer and rinse them with running cold water, gently turning them over and over with your hands to wash off all the outside salt.

Soaking Salmon Eggs in Saline

Now put the eggs in a cold saturated saline solution for 10-30 minutes, depending on size of eggs and your taste for saltiness.

Rinsing Salmon Eggs

Once you’ve sampled the eggs, and gotten them to your level of saltiness, rinse in cold running water to remove surface salt.

At this stage, the eggs still have active osmotic cell walls, so, if you over-salted them, just soak them in cold water for several minutes, and the salt will travel back out of the eggs and into the water. Once you are completely satisfied with the saltiness of the product, place the egg-laden strainer in a large bowl and fill a gallon ZipLoc bag with cold water. Place the bag on top of the eggs and put the bowl with strainer, eggs and ZipLoc in the refrigerator overnight. The weight of the ZipLoc bag packs and compresses the eggs, which helps make them spreadable onto crackers or whatever you wish to spread them on. Now you have caviar! It will last 7-10 days in the fridge, after which it won’t spoil, but will acquire an unpleasant fishy taste. If you have a vacuum packer, you can vacuum-pack the jars, which will allow the product to remain decent from 2-3 weeks, if refrigerated, before becoming “fishy.”

Weighting Down Salmon Eggs

Weight down the eggs with a ZipLoc bag.

 

Salmon Eggs in Fridge

Store the weighted eggs overnight in the fridge.

Finished Caviar in Sink

The next day, the caviar is compacted.

Filling Jars with Salmon Caviar

A Pyramid of Caviar!

Punching a Hole in a Jar of Caviar

Unless you have a vacuum packer that will evacuate Mason jars, you’ll need to punch a hole in the tops of the jars to let the air out, and vacuum-pack them in bags. They will then keep in the fridge for up to three weeks.

Jar of Caviar in Vacuum Packe

Placing a jar of caviar in the packer.

Salmon Caviar in Refrigerator

The final product safe in the refrigerator.

Now that you’ve finished, what are you going to do with all that caviar? Well, it’ll go faster than you think. You can spread it on crackers, make Blini or Caviar Omelets (but don’t make them “hard” or you’ll ruin the caviar). If you make Blini, serve with iced vodka.

Blini made with Salmon Caviar

Preparing a plate of Salmon Caviar Blini. Blini are Russian pancakes, really the same thing as crepes.

Iced Stolichnaya Vodka

For the quantity of Caviar we just made, we’ll need a lot of Vodka!

Blini Made with Salmon Cavair - Ready to Eat!

Serve the Blini with a dollop of sour cream and some iced vodka. You’ll be surprised how quickly a quart of caviar goes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not yet brave enough for salmon eggs? Try my recipe for grilled cedar-plank salmon.

 

 

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