Harvesting Anchorage: Mama’s Blueberry Jam

Having been raised harvesting Alaska wildberries you’d think I would be a pro at making jams and jellies. Truth is, I really stink at it. It always comes out syrupy. It’s like you have to have some sort of instinctual jam-making knowledge passed down through the generations.

But in reality all it takes is a lot of stirring. My mom has been making jam since she moved here in 1982. I turned to her for this segment of “Harvesting Anchorage.”

It was a bluebird day in Anchorage as we made our way to our super-secret blueberry spot. The only downside of picking berries on a sunny day is they are harder to see — but I’m not complaining!

Harvesting Anchorage: Mama's Blueberry Jam | A recipe from alaskaknitnat.com Harvesting Anchorage: Mama's Blueberry Jam | A recipe from alaskaknitnat.com

Mama’s Blueberry Jam — a free recipe

Cooking time: about 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups blueberries
  • 4 cups white sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon (optional)

Continue reading Harvesting Anchorage: Mama’s Blueberry Jam

Alaska Flag Hat – A Free Pattern

Earlier this summer I made a patriotic hat that I just knew I’d wear at least once before fall. Sure enough it was cool and rainy on the Fourth of July. I was finishing up the pom pom of my Old Glory Hat last month before meeting with my friend Fernanda about some flower arrangements. She lit up when she saw the stars and stripes; she was gaga for the giant pom pom.

She offhandedly suggested I made an Alaska flag hat. I was up for the challenge.

I started this hat on a road trip to Homer where I would be meeting Fernanda and a group of people on Yukon Island for a writing retreat with Julia O’Malley.

By the time my carpool arrived in Homer I was finishing up the North Star.

I think I’ll be making quite a few of these babies.

Alaska Flag Hat | A Free Knitting Pattern from Alaskaknitnat.com

Alaska Flag Hat — A Free Knitting Pattern

Materials:

  • Lamb’s Pride bulky in Lemon Drop and Blue Boy
  • Size US 10 circular needle
  • Size US 10 double pointed needles
  • Darning needle
  • Place marker

Alaska Flag Hat | A Free Knitting Pattern from Alaskaknitnat.com

Abbreviations:

  • CO – cast on
  • K2, P2 – knit 2, purl 2
  • st st – stockinette stitch
  • K2tog – knit two stitches together

Alaska Flag Hat | A Free Knitting Pattern from Alaskaknitnat.com

Directions:

CO 72 st. K2, P2 ribbing for 13 rounds. Place marker.

Switch to blue and knit in st st for 36 rounds or until piece measures 8 inches total length.

Begin decreasing as follows:

*K2tog, k6*, repeat till end of round.
K 1 round
*K2tog, k5*, repeat till end of round.
K 1 round
*K2tog, k4*, repeat till end of round.
K 1 round. While doing this, transfer to the double points as you go so there are about 11 stitches on each needle (four in all).
*K2tog, k3*, repeat till end of round.
K 1 round
*K2tog, k2*, repeat till end of round.
K 1 round
*K2tog, k1*, repeat till end of round.
*K2tog*, repeat till end of round. Cut yarn leaving an 8-inch tail. Weave in all ends.

Big Dipper Motif:

Stitching motifs as I knit is hard for me because I end up pulling the yarn too tightly behind the work. Instead, you’ll be top-stitching the design. It’s super simple to learn. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t learn this technique sooner as it’s much easier than fair isle or intarsia when it comes to non-repeating motifs. I recommend the tutorial from Wool and the Gang (pronounce “wool” with a British accent and it then it’s a play on words).

Alaska Flag Hat | A Free Knitting Pattern from Alaskaknitnat.comI made this chart by layering the actual constellation on top of graph paper. Yay science! That being said, you can rough it a little if you feel as though the spacing isn’t quite right. I ended up shifting the front star slightly. This is really a guideline.

I started with the lowest star on the dipper. It really doesn’t matter where you start the motif, but I eyeballed it so that beginning of the round was in the back. Some of the stars I did individually, gently double-knotting the ends as I went. But for the handle of the dipper I was able to continue without breaking the yarn. Triple knot the ends on the inside of the hat and trim.

Giant pom pom:

I used a small book to make the pom pom. Wrap yellow yarn around the book several times till it’s borderline too bulky to handle. Be sure not to wrap it too tightly so that you are able to slide it off the book easily. Gently remove the book. Take a 24-inch piece of yellow yarn and double it over. Tie this around the middle of the loops as tightly as possible. Double knot it. Use fabric scissors to trim pom pom to your liking, but be sure not to trim the long pieces you used to tie it together. Use these long pieces to sew the pom pom to the hat using the darning needle. Tie ends on the inside of the hat and trim.

Alaska Flag Hat | A Free Knitting Pattern from Alaskaknitnat.com
The perfect slouch

And, because I’m feeling patriotic, here’s the Alaska state song depicting our glorious flag.

Alaska’s Flag
Written by Marie Drake
Composed by Elinor Dusenbury

Eight stars of gold on a field of blue –
Alaska’s flag. May it mean to you
The blue of the sea, the evening sky,
The mountain lakes, and the flow’rs nearby;
The gold of the early sourdough’s dreams,
The precious gold of the hills and streams;
The brilliant stars in the northern sky,
The “Bear” – the “Dipper” – and, shining high,
The great North Star with its steady light,
Over land and sea a beacon bright.
Alaska’s flag – to Alaskans dear,
The simple flag of a last frontier.

Harvesting Alaska: Smoked Salmon Roe

Every summer I look forward to the week of our wedding anniversary; and not because I’m a hopeless romantic — because it’s sockeye salmon season on the Kenai River.

My husband is never here to celebrate our anniversary during the second week of July because he’s dipnetting three hours away.

And although I love a good fresh grilled salmon steak (last night we grilled them over alder branches), it’s the roe that I crave. We usually brine the roe in a simple salt and water solution and serve them with crackers and white wine. You can read my post from last year about wild salmon caviar.

Today, though, a friend dutifully gave me his roe from the silver salmon he caught in Seward over the weekend. When I went to process them I realized they were too small and delicate. Pushing them through a metal grate was ruining them. I didn’t want to waste them so I thought outside the box. Or inside the box, rather, as my dad had just removed some red salmon lox from his smoker.

I found this incredibly simple recipe for smoked salmon roe and decided to give it a try. It turned out splendidly! A friend told me it tasted a bit like smoked oysters. I will definitely try it again, but I might rinse the eggs of their salt brine before smoking them as they are a bit on the salty side.

Harvesting Alaska: Smoked salmon roe | a simple recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

This recipe assumes that you know how to use a smoker. I only say this because my dad is the smoke master in my family and I haven’t learned to operate one. All I can say is we cold smoked the eggs since heat would ruin the texture altogether.

Make sure the roe is fresh, fresh, fresh. That means it’s either been in a freshly caught fish or if the fish was processed on the beach that the eggs were kept on ice the entire time for no more than two days.

Smoked Salmon Roe

Directions:

Rinse the salmon roe skeins in fresh cold water to remove any grit. Pat them dry with paper towels and dredge them in kosher salt.

Harvesting Alaska: Smoked salmon roe | a simple recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Place them on a rimmed baking sheet in the fridge for 20 minutes. In the meantime, turn on your smoker.

Remove the skeins from the fridge and rinse them again under cold water. Pat dry. Rinse off the baking sheet and wipe dry. Place the skeins back on the tray.

Place your baking sheet on the top shelf and leave the smoker door slightly ajar. Smoke for 30-45 minutes.

Place roe in fridge until cold. Use a butter knife to scrape the eggs away from the skein membrane. Store in a jar for up to 5 days (but they shouldn’t last that long, really). Enjoy on crackers or in any way you deem fit. Today I made sushi with the smoked roe. It was fabulous.

Harvesting Alaska: Smoked salmon roe | a simple recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Harvesting Anchorage: Fireweed Honey + Wildflower Tea

My old friend Ivan Night is a man of many talents; he’s a musician, an educator, a sound technician, a beer brewer, but for the sake of this blog post we’ll stick to just one of his titles: an apiarist.

Harvesting Anchorage: Honey + Wildflower Tea | A profile of Ivan Night, Alaska beekeeper and mead maker

Ivan has been keeping bees for about eight years. His family has owned and operated Alaska Wild Teas for more than three decades, so honey is a natural side project. Check the bottom of this post for a homemade tea recipe.

Recently I visited Ivan’s home to see how he harvests honey from his busy little bees.

Harvesting Anchorage: Honey + Wildflower Tea | A profile of Ivan Night, Alaska beekeeper and mead maker

Harvesting Anchorage: Honey + Wildflower Tea | A profile of Ivan Night, Alaska beekeeper and mead maker

Continue reading Harvesting Anchorage: Fireweed Honey + Wildflower Tea

Alaska Weddings: Peter + Philly

Oh, how I love Alaska weddings! There’s something about an Alaska bride. She loves to incorporate her home state into her most special day. Philly was no exception. Her vision was simplicity for the bridal party and big and wild for the bridal bouquet.

The photos can’t do this bouquet justice. There are peonies from every angle. The wholesaler’s peonies were small, but thanks to an old friend with a big peony garden, I was able to compensate with two HUGE blooms, which are what take up most of the photos. While snipping these two gorgeous flowers I sneaked a couple of poppy pods, which add some vintage green to the arrangement. I foraged many wildflowers including clover blossoms, yarrow, cow parsnip and grass berries. Wrapped in lace and twine and you’ve got a soft beauty with a twinge of wild. Utterly romantic.
Alaska Weddings: Peter + Philly | Bridal bouquet with peonies, poppy centers, eucalyptus, veronica, chrysanthemums, wild clover blossoms and various wild grasses and flowers. Design by Natasha of alaskaknitnat.com

Alaska Weddings: Peter + Philly | Bridal bouquet with peonies, poppy centers, eucalyptus, veronica, chrysanthemums, wild clover blossoms and various wild grasses and flowers. Design by Natasha of alaskaknitnat.com Continue reading Alaska Weddings: Peter + Philly

White Chili – a simple weeknight meal

I’ll never stop promoting Costco rotisserie chicken. It’s only $5 and not only is it delicious hot off the shelf (I sometimes don’t even bother with a plate or silverware), but the leftovers can be used for myriad dishes such as pesto lasagna roll ups,  quick matzo ball soup and homemade chicken stock.

Tonight on the menu is white chili. My friend Danielle introduced me to the notion of non-tomato chili about eight years ago and when I thought of the dish for tonight I was surprised I hadn’t blogged about it yet.

This one-pot wonder has similar flavors to traditional chili. With the addition of salsa verde and sour cream you give chili night a new twist.

White Chili | A simple weeknight dish from Alaskaknitnat.com

White chili with chicken

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 1 can diced green chiles
  • leftover rotisserie chicken meat, shredded
  • 1, 16-oz. jar salsa verde
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cans great white northern beans, drained
  • 1 cup sour cream

White Chili | A simple weeknight dish from Alaskaknitnat.com

Directions:

Heat oil in a dutch oven. Sauté the onions and peppers till onions are soft, about 7 minutes. Add the chiles, chicken, salsa, stock and spices. Bring to a simmer, turn to low and simmer one hour.

Add the beans and cook another 10 minutes. Add the sour cream just before serving. Top with cilantro sprigs and shredded cheddar cheese.

White Chili | A simple weeknight dish from Alaskaknitnat.com

Pizza on the Grill

My old college friends are here for a visit this week and of course they arrive on the first cloudy day in two weeks. This morning we had planned on making my creamy tomato tortellini soup, but by mid-afternoon the sun finally came out and it was evident that soup was inappropriate. We decided on pizza on the grill.

This is a dish my mom is an expert at preparing. She makes the dough from scratch, but we didn’t have the time. I discovered that my grocery store sells balls of pizza dough in the bakery section for just $3. This makes pizza a quick, easy dish.

Good pizza tends to be cooked in a really hot oven and my oven just doesn’t get hot enough. My gas grill, though, can heat up pretty well. Pizza on the grill is easy and the crust comes out wonderfully crispy. The secret is to use a pizza grate, which looks a bit like a fan filter and only costs a few bucks at a restaurant supply store. The other secret is to grill the rolled out dough on one side before adding the toppings.

Pizza on the grill | A simple recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Pizza on the grill

Ingredients:

  • 2 balls of pre-made pizza dough
  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • simple tomato sauce
  • toppings of choice such as Italian sausage, mushrooms and Kalamata olives.
  • Pizza grate (can be purchased at restaurant kitchen supply stores)

Pizza on the grill | A simple recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Directions:

Let the dough sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Heat gas grill to hot for 15 minutes. Turn down burners to medium-hot.

opizza2

Flour and roll out the dough till it’s pizza size and place on pizza grate. Place on the grill and close the grill for about 3-5 minutes, until the side down is browned. Flip and remove from grill. Add tomato sauce, cheese and toppings and place back on the grill until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 5 minutes and bottom of the pizza is browned.

Pizza on the grill | A simple recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

Slice and serve with a simple garden salad.

Pizza on the grill | A simple recipe from Alaskaknitnat.com

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