Fruits de Mer

October 15, 2016

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.”
― Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

“One single gift acknowledged in gratefulness has the power to dissolve the ties of our alienation.”
― David Steindl-Rast

“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite – only a sense of existence.  O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.”
― Henry David Thoreau


When The Artist and I moved here over 2 years ago, we didn’t fully understand how much we would grow to love the sea. We have enjoyed kayaking on it, walking along rocky shores, watching amazing sunsets and moon rises, been awed by tumultuous raging surfs, dazzled by the colors, smells and sounds. We have grown a deep affinity with the creatures that live near, on and in it and seldom does a day pass where we don’t interact with it in someway.

Lately, we are coming to understand and live in an abiding deep gratitude for it’s gifts as well and how it supplies enough to live a life on.

Today was spent in that space and relishing and being in gratitude for some of that abundance that she shares with us.

We spent some time gathering in her gifts and learning and understanding just how rich a simple life next to the sea can be.

We harvested some  rockweed to help enrich our garden soil and to use in making a soup stock and to dry for future times. One of the things we like to use it for is to grind it into a powder and add it to sea salt …. another gift that we get from the sea, as we evaporate the salt water and make our own sea salt. When we grind the two together, it makes a wonderful salt that is also rich in iodine and we use it to flavor almost all of our food …. even our popcorn!

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I also experimented with the culinary uses of our sea water today. The thought occurred to me, is why go to all the trouble (although it’s not!) to make sea salt, only to throw it into liquids to add flavor, when I could just use the sea water itself? Since the sea water here is pretty salty – about 4% salt by weight, I needed to find out exactly the best way to do this.

I gathered 2 gallons of fresh sea water and boiled it for 20 minutes just to make sure it was completely sterile and then “canned” it in glass jars for future use.

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After some trial and error, here is what I found suits our taste:

For cooking potatoes and pasta, a mix of 1 part sea water to 3 parts fresh water.

For making veggie stocks or soups, a mix of 1 part sea water and 5 parts fresh water.

For making seaweed or shellfish stock (which add their own saltiness), a mix of 1 to 8.

While we harvested rockweed today, we also harvest some other “fruits of the sea”!

We picked about 5 lbs of periwinkles to both flavor tonight’s stock and to have the snail meat for a couple dishes I’m planning on making in the next week or so …. a periwinkle chowder and periwinkle and wild mushroom risotto!

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We also wanted to try something new tonight to see how we liked it and how best to use it ….. green crabs!

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These are pretty small crabs that are an invasive species. Local biologist and fisherman are not very fond of these as they are starting to decimate clam and mussel beds (they eat the babies) and eat eel grass that small fish depend on for breeding, etc.

We cooked up one and found that it made the most amazing crab broth! …. sweet, salty and the essence of crab! The crab itself has a tiny amount of meat, not worth picking out. From this little guy we got less than an 1/8 of  a teaspoon. However, when they molt, they become softshells and then we can batter fry the whole thing and eat it .. can’t wait to try that!

We also found about a dozen mussels which we are cooking up tomorrow for a snack and to also make broth for the periwinkle chowder. There is a “red tide warning” in effect for parts of the island right now, but luckily where we got these is not in the warning area. During a red tide warning, you can’t safely eat clams and mussels.

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The main star tonight though, was the beautiful periwinkle sea snail. I boiled up some sea water/fresh water combo and boiled them for 7 minutes and drained to cool a bit.

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The next step is to remove the small covering over the entry to the snail shell called an “operculum”, which means little lid. It’s that tiny fleck on my finger you see here…

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Then it’s time to get the meat out. We have tried different ways to do this, but found that using a sewing needle is the bomb!

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The entire thing out … they are small, but pack a powerful punch of flavor!

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With The Artist and I both sharing in the experience, it took us just under an hour to do all 5lbs.

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The result: …. two dishes full of snail meat to pop into the freezer and enjoy next week!

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However we were not done yet with using these wonderful gifts. We then dumped the empty shells back into the cooking liquid and added a huge handful of fresh rockweed and the crab broth we had made from the green crab. After about 30 minutes of simmering, we had the most amazing soup stock that smells and taste of the sea!

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And to completely use these gifts, we are taking the used twice snail shells, crushing them up and adding to the garden to enrich our soil and make our veggies even more nutritious!

We are finding that the sea provides in ways we never imagined when we moved here. Along with the other wild foods we find (like mushrooms, acorns, berries, and leaves and tubers), the food we grow and the multitude of things we make from them, the items that we have to get from the outside world continues to shrink.

The Artist and I were talking this morning as we gathered another 30 lbs of acorns, that one of the things we find is the biggest gift of all is how there is this feeling inside of us that is growing as well and is hard to describe to others. It’s all mixed up with self sufficiency and eating wholesome natural food the way humans did for 1,000’s of years, but it’s much more than that.

It’s a feeling of why we can enjoy hours spent picking acorns off the ground one at a time, or periwinkles off the rocks and spending hours and hours to process them to gather small amounts of food that are just enough to live on.

And there is the best approximation of that feeling …. just enough. It’s not a glutinous bounty that rapes the land and is used as a money source. It’s living in a way that provides just enough through our own manual labor and doesn’t require outside resources.

Most importantly though, is that feeling is intricately tied to a deep respect and an even stronger gratefulness for what is provided for us.

 

 

 

 

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