Saturday, September 26, 2009

Nantahala One Fly Competition

On the weekend of Oct. 17-18, the Nantahala Outdoor Center will host a unique Fly Fishing competition - the Nantahala One Fly. For those unfamiliar with fly fishing, this is a competition in which you get one fly to catch the most fish...break it off and you're out! For those familiar with fly fishing, you understand the challenge involved because of how easy it is to get caught up in a tree or pull off the fly in a fish's mouth.

The weekend will start on Saturday with a skills competition, including an accuracy and roll casting contest. The top ten anglers will advance to the actual fishing contest on Sunday. There is also a gear swap going on all weekend.

More information can be found on the NOC website: Nantahala One Fly Competition

See you there!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Canning and Freezing Your Own (Homegrown) Food

I recently wrote about how successful our garden was this past summer. We had an abundance of food…so what did we do with it all? We canned it, of course! I always thought that canning was something they did in the old days…we have grocery stores for that sort of thing, right?

Well, it turns out that canning is easy, practical and helps to save a ton of money. After borrowing a canner last year, we made the investment for our own for this gardening season. We also bought the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, which is THE authority for all things food preservation. After that, we got jars from parents, grandparents and wherever we could find them.

So far this year I have made raspberry jelly from berries on our property, blackberry jelly from farmer’s market berries and peach jam from Graham County peaches. I have also canned green beans and homemade marinara sauce. I have spent a grand total of about five afternoons on these projects, which is fine because it means I will have jelly, jam and veggies all winter…all locally grown and preservative free! Check out the pictures below.

Raspberry & peach jellies, marinara sauce and green beans!

Looks good enough to eat, huh?!

Another way to preserve your garden goodness is to freeze it. This is actually easier than canning because you hardly have to do anything! To freeze corn on the cob, simply boil it for about 10 minutes, drain and wrap in saran wrap before putting it in a freezer bag. I also have made creamed corn for freezing by cutting the kernels off and then scraping the cob to remove the juice (making it creamy)…super easy, cheap and way healthier than the stuff in cans.

With just a little effort, you can enjoy fresh-tasting veggies all winter long. You don’t have to grow your own food to preserve it. This fall, check out a local farmer’s market and stock up. Food preservation doesn’t make you old or old fashioned - it’s all about buying local, knowing what’s in your food and learning a new skill. Have fun and let us know how it goes!

WNC Gardening

We’re wrapping up another successful gardening year here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Am and I expanded our garden for this year with more room for our favorites and enough space to try out some new things. In four different plots we had green beans, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, three types of corn, cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkins and cantaloupe!!

We planted two different kinds of green beans this year to have enough for canning and freezing. One is a store-bought pole bean and one is what would be known as an heirloom variety known as “greasy beans.” This is an old line of bean local to the mountains, named for its shiny exterior. I got these beans from my Grandfather, who has been gardening and saving seeds for 40+ years. Greasy beans are excellent for cooking and canning and have large, meaty beans; none of this all-pod nonsense that you get with grocery store beans! An excellent article on greasy beans can be read here. We are saving our own seeds this year and next year it is back to all greasy beans, no more skinny pods with tiny beans for us!

Keeping a small garden is not the hard task that many people think it might be. If you can find a small (15 X 20 ft) plot that gets some direct sunlight, you can have a successful vegetable garden. This year I went completely organic…mainly because I was too lazy to do anything but pull weeds! I did not spray for bugs or dust for fungus, though I did add a little fertilizer when I planted everything. I know that using the pesticides or fungicides would help my plants to stay pretty, but I don’t really mind a few holes in the leaves and if it doesn’t help the taste, why do it?! All in all, it was another great gardening year here in the mountains. Look for a post about canning and freezing and some pictures of our harvest later on!

Here is just a few of our goodies:

Half-bushels of corn and green tomatoes.

Go State! Grow organic!

More corn and green tomatoes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Huckleberry Pictures

Here are a few pictures from our huckleberry picking adventures, just in case you don't know what they look like!

A delicious handful of big fat huckleberries!

Still quite a few unripe berries.

The bushes were just loaded down!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Hooper Bald Huckleberries

After a crazy busy summer, we’re back to catch up on the best WNC outdoors has to offer.

To kick off the fall, Am and I took a ride up the Cherohala Skyway to Hooper Bald in the far western part of Graham County to pick some huckleberries. For those not in the know, huckleberries are basically wild blueberries. They grow wild in much of the Appalachians, usually in elevations above 3,000 feet. The main difference in domestic blueberries and huckleberries is the size and sweetness. Huckleberries are much smaller and have a much sweeter taste to them.

We didn’t have to travel far off the main Cherohala Skyway to find plenty of bushes loaded with berries. If you park at the main Hooper Bald trailhead (map here) and follow the gravel path about a quarter mile to the bald, you’ll soon be surrounded by huckleberry bushes ripe for the picking…but you better hurry, the best berries will be gone by the middle of September!

Am and I picked for about two hours and brought home about 10 cups (almost a gallon) of berries. We froze most of them, but the rest we baked into one of the most delicious huckleberry desserts – a huckleberry pineapple crunch. For your enjoyment, the recipe is below.

Huckleberry Crunch

1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple
4 c. huckleberries (or blueberries)
1 c. sugar
1 box yellow cake mix
¼ tsp. salt
¼ c. sugar
2 sticks margarine, melted
1 c. chopped pecans

Use a 9x13-inch baking dish. No mixing is required.

1. Layer pineapple on bottom of dish
2. Place huckleberries over pineapple
3. Sprinkle 1 c. sugar over berries.
4. Sprinkle cake mix over all ingredients
5. Spoon melted margarine over cake mix.
6. Mix sugar and salt together and sprinkle over margarine.
7. Top with pecans, bake at 350 for 1 hour.
**Strawberries can be used in place of huckleberries when in season.