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Stuffing blinds

Releasing this one a few weeks late, but a few weeks ahead of waterfowl and archery season. Jeff, Blair, myself, and 3 of my family finally crushed a waterfowl hunt on camera. 84 birds in 2 hours, exactly half and half Canadas and mallards. The plan was to base an entire episode around this hunt, but as sometimes happens we ended up with more material than expected later in the season, and so the cameras follow us and our haul of birds down to the grasslands to see through the original plan of revisiting the grasslands for mule deer for the first time since S1. The birds kinda got in the way, and we’re glad they did.

Mule deer and archery figured prominently in S1, and not at all in S2. It was a regret. In part because archery offers some really interesting variety in tackle, in part because the grasslands are such a fascinating ecoregion, and in large part because my family has been hunting from that same spot since 1972 or thereabouts, so there’s some serious tradition and family heritage that were being ignored. That place and its wild things are now baked into the production plan for S3/4/5+. S3E9 & 10 will make up for some of that lost time, and really dig into mule deer cookery in a big way. Trailer below.

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First Brook Trout

My first success with brook trout

The second half of our adventure with Hank found us back at Elbow Lake in Kananaskis. The smoke had eased up, and the bear closures didn’t impact the hike in. So much more to say about all that, but will leave it to the From The Wild episode. I happen to be a salmonid lover. When asked to choose a favourite protein, strictly from a hedonism standpoint, I’ve been known to choose salmon. It’s delicious.

Brook Trout, an introduced species in Alberta that tends to out-compete our native species [cutthroat, bull], happens to be in the char family. Bull trout, a zero keep fish in Alberta, is also in that family. The rest of the lot are trout, and everything but the west slope cutthroat is introduced – brown, brook, rainbow, lake. That’s my understanding. It’s also my understanding that if you’re going to eat one based on deliciousness, the char family wins. And since we can’t eat bull trout here, look out brookies.

It’s probably worth mentioning that despite growing up fishing, I had zero trout fishing experience prior to the very first episode of From The Wild. Zero. None. I knew perch, pike, and walleye as a kid, that’s it. This whole trout world is still new to me, and I find it fascinating. One of my favourite foods in the planet was hiding in plain sight.

Senger fishing Elbow for Brook Trout

It’s also worth noting that in Alberta there’s been what I’d call ‘aggressive’ moves by wildlife management to remove brookies from some water systems. Google it up and you’ll find stories about electrocuting streams to remove them, and government permission for a select few anglers to remove as many as they could – all highly managed. I know a lot of the biologist folks managing wildlife, and have yet to meet one that isn’t sharp, or that doesn’t give a shit.  The rest of us follow the regulations of course, but it certainly makes me not feel badly at all about taking a limit of them out of a lake that’s teeming with them. It’s a bit of a perfect storm really culinarily: arguably the best tasting salmonid in our province is abundant to a fault, and an introduced species. Game on.

Jeff tending Hank’s cooking fire on the Solo Stove, frying up some Brookie bones.

This day happened to be my day with a fly rod. I was able to land 5 fish, my best trout day ever, and best fly fishing day ever. Super grateful that the next step was eating them with some of the best wild food folks in the planet, all while pointing cameras. Oh, and we didn’t just fry them up – we really dug into their potential, Hank did 4 preparations, one of which he claims on camera is the best thing he’s cooked all year. Season 4 of From The Wild is shaping up to be a stunner.

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Meeting My Headwaters

A candid moment on the cliff our camp was on, photo by Jeff Senger.

Some topics the internet does a fine job of covering, and the Ram River fishing experience is not one of them. Way back in season 2 of From The Wild, we fly fished the Granby tributaries and fell in love with fly fishing. Ever since, I’d wanted to have a similar experience, but it made no sense to me to drive super far to find a stream with trout. I live in a river city – the North Saskatchewan. And every river has headwaters. I wanted some intimacy with the tributaries that sent water past my house. And thus the Ram River.

We were supposed to fish the river in S3 with Brayden Kozak from Three Boars/Wishbone, but got rained out and never left home. It wasn’t on the schedule for S4 because we had just come off a big pacific trip, but Hank Shaw was incoming, wild fires were burning near Kananaskis, and trail heads were closed due to Grizzlies. Options narrowed, and the Ram was in an area not inundated with smoke, closed, burning, or under fire ban.

Senger’s tent on the right, Hank and I tucked a few feed into the trees. One of the most stunning camp locations ever.

Some information you should know if you’re headed to the Ram. There is some climbing to do. See above photo. It is no leisurely stroll through a braided stream system, and box canyon segments are frequent. See photo of Hank below, fishing a pool below camp. Access to pools was not easy, nor frequent. Doable, but challenging. Hank did particularly well in settings like this with his spincast gear, our fly set ups let us down over and over in this water. You might want to bring both setups. Hank would often latch onto a fish or two right off the bat, but then they’d get wise. Then off to the next pool, which was never an easy task.

Hank fishing the box canyon, sitting on icy cold rocks after a horrid overnight in the backcountry.

Because the river narrows so hard, and there’s some serious waterfalls, you get to know the horse trails in the bush that will guide you upstream. Handy, but the horse trails also tend to stray quite far from the river…most of the time. So we’d hike, then at some point decide to make our way through the bush to see if there was a fishable pool yet. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. We walked a lot of miles on those horse trails, and from time to time would be rewarded with a spot like the one below – this one’s up Ranger Creek. Ranger Creek seemed to have a good reputation online, so I had high hopes, and I also thought it was going to be a super long hike. It was neither far, nor a big difference from the Ram. Kind of more of the same, really.

Hank & Jeff fishing one of the best pools we found up at Ranger Creek, which flows into the Ram

Hank with one of the bigger Cutthroat

I left the Ram with a strange array of feelings. I left a piece of me there, and it certainly took some of my gear by force. It offered some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve encountered in our home province, and holds beautiful fish – but on this trip, all undersized for the pan. Having just come off an intensely productive trip to the pacific, the scarcity of food in this alpine region was humbling. The place is austere. And hard. And stunning. And unforgettable. And it’s my home turf.

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Testing new Microgreens

Rather hot out to be growing the microgreens right now, but we received our new seed order and are anxious to taste the new varieties that we will grow this year. The real growing starts in mid-September and ends at middle of next July, but we need to give them a taste to see what mixes might work well, by seeing which ones have similair growing times and which flavours would work well together.

They don’t all go into mixes of course. Two of the favourites last year were Pea shoots and Sunnies (sunflowers), which will keep on going, along with a few others.

Here are the new varieties just starting out (only 4 days old).

Red Cabbage – These will give a pop of colour to your salad or sandwich! One of the most nutritious.
Wasabi Mustard – Hot, but a nice addition to sandwiches or salads.
Kaiware Radish – A beautiful fast-growing radish with a bright white stem and large leaves.
Bok Choy – a spicy tasting sprout from the cruciferous (cabbage) family.
Sandwich Booster is a sprout mix of clover, alfalfa, radish, and mustard.
Ruby Beets – Challenging to grow, but we’ll give it our best shot… Beautiful addition to salad.
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Fermenting root veggies

We have just started fermenting our own root veggies

I must admit that I never really liked foods like store-bought Sauerkraut. We had both tried Kimchi at Korean and Japanese restaurants and were not impressed. So when I started reading and hearing about how important our gut bacteria is, to not only only our digestive system, but the healthiness of our entire body, we were both rather skeptical.

Then we realized that fermented foods we have eaten previously sometimes contained vinegars, which is what gave them such a harsh flavour. Looking into fermented foods further, and talking to family that grew up with fermented foods, we realized that “real” fermented foods were much simpler.

On to YouTube to look at some videos and away I went with trying out my first fermented food trial. We happened to have a few turnips in the cool room that were getting towards the end of their storage life. We picked up a small celeriac (celery root) to go with the turnips and also added ginger root, mustard seed and Himalayan salt.

All I did was put grated ingredients together, pound them for a bit to get juices coming out and put them into an earthen bowl. There was not quite enough liquid to make sure veggies were fully covered (otherwise there will be spoilage), so I poured small amount of previously boiled water over the mix.

A lid from another bowl fit in upside down to give a partially sealed cover. I also added a few extra plates on top to make sure it stayed down on first batch. Didn’t need it on this one. Then I just covered it up and put it in a dark corner of kitchen for a week or so.

It tasted great! It wasn’t harsh like the vinegar-based products at all and the ginger gave it a nice little kick.

This time I am using sweet potatoes, carrots and ginger, along with mustard seed and salt. Next time, I may even add some onions and garlic!

Try it out for yourself. It is very good for your health and adds a flavourful condiment to your meal as well. Don’t eat too much in a day to start or your digestive system might not be too happy. Also, if you have health issues, or an overbalance of bad bacteria in your system, you may experience die-off like I did.

Be sure to sterilize everything used in process, and don’t use any veggies with molds on them.






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The Root Cellar Garden

The rocky hills of Trondheim, Norway were under a foot of fresh snow, and I found myself on a biodynamic veg farm filming with the Cook It Raw Norway team. I’d filmed a lot of veg farms, but none this picturesque, and certainly never in winter. Pretty tough to find something interesting to talk about on a veg farm in winter that isn’t a greenhouse – unless you’re into root cellaring.

It wasn’t long into the interview with farmer Elin before we were talking about how vegetables change in texture and flavour through the winter, and most interestingly, about the gift that are the sprouts that roots produce. Shortly thereafter we were under her beautiful european farmhouse, exploring the contents of her cellar. Despite the snow outside, she had bins of root veg, sacks of potatoes, and even some soil with chard plants growing in the dark. Fascinating. I left inspired to explore shoots more at home. But it wasn’t over. Later in the trip we’d visit a couple different extremely well respected restaurants that would present me with an elegant dish featuring only a vegetable, using the shoots as an element on the plate that used the root, usually 2 or 3 different ways. It made so much sense it hurt, and the finesse they could apply to vegetables dishes was embarrassing.

This rutabaga is from my garden. I learned in Norway that 1] they call them ‘Swede’ and 2] they don’t let them get this big, because the texture gets compromised, they’re hard to work with, and they’re just not as nice. The win. So now, when something like this emerges from the cellar, rather than the shoots being discarded, they’ll be thoughtfully dressed or otherwise prepared, and go atop or aside whatever preparation the root is destined for – offering a different texture, flavour, and experience utilizing precisely the same plant. Perhaps most beautiful of all: whatever dish that might be speaks entirely of the late cellar season, something entirely not duplicable at other times of year. So exclusively pedestrian. I adore it.

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Field Kitchen Kit

Earlier in the week I was cooking a few courses of wild game with Jeff Senger for Knifewear’s annual manager’s meeting in Calgary, and I hauled along my field cookery kit – I was in a hurry and know this kit will bail me out when it’s time to feed people. It needed some repacking and restocking so I figured I’d empty it out and share a photo of what I take into the field. A breakdown:

  • THE BOX – Mine’s an open topped posh wine case [far left]. Everything fits in it. Pros: it’s the right size, and looks nice for film. Cons: it’s a bit under built (surprisingly), and there’s no top so when packing a vehicle it has to go on top of things.
  • ENAMELWARE – We’re normally a crew of 3 in From The Wild, so we carry plate/bowls, cups, and a small pot. Pros: they don’t break, look nice, and you can warm them up next to a fire to keep food hot when it’s freezing out. Cons: you have to wash them in the field. The pot top-right ended up in the kit because the solo-stove pot is only one pot, and sometimes you need to make 2 elements to a plate.
  • BLADES – the santoku on the left is my first-ever japanese knife back from when my brother lived there almost 20 years ago. If there’s one knife I have in the kitchen kit, that’s the one. I use the white knife guard on its left. The black Kurosaki knife is my default big game skinning knife – it’s often in my side bag, not the kitchen box, but it’s always in the field. The small Moritaka blade far right is my favourite prep knife at home – doesn’t always make it into the field, but often does. The hatchet. At one time I thought it useless in the bush, far too undersized. Until the day we used it to break down grouse. It’s great for all bird butchery. It’s handy when you need a cleaver for fish. It now lives in the field kitchen box.
  • FLAVOUR – I carry nalgenes of Vancouver Island sea salt, Malabar black pepper, canola oil, and a tiny bit of apple cider vinegar for when something desperately needs a touch of acidity (not often found in the field). I always carry a spice blend – I have one for big game, one for waterfowl, one for white meats, some others in development. I love ‘Epices de Cru’ but in this case its my own blend in their handy tin (non-breakable). In the baggies: dried shaggy parasol caps [for when you need umami], dried garden thyme/sage/savory, and organic wheat berries from @goldforestgrain. I normally also carry lentils and wild rice – all 3 of which would be pre-seasoned into just-add-water high energy staples to go aside the ubiquitous proteins. For allium, freeze dried shallots in the jar [silk road], and some garden garlic.
  • EATING – I’m a big fan of my light weight cutlery on a carabiner, but often we’re using chopsticks. Fashioning chopsticks in the bush is fun, but when you just want to eat or are on a frozen lake, or in the grasslands, grabbing from a $1 bag of wood chopsticks and throwing them in the fire after the meal is super satisfying. They’re mixed in with some bamboo skewers, for when you need to get small bits – say mallard hearts or fish cheeks – onto the grill.
  • CLEAN UP – nalgene of dish soap, a scrub pad as things cooked over the uneven heat of wood fire can be unkind to pans and pots. A major omission from this photo that I hurriedly resolved after taking it: paper towel. Paper towel is essential. I often carry the tough blue variety, both in my kitchen kit, in my vehicle, and pretty much stash it everywhere. Also infinitely handy are wet wipes of any variety. My only criteria is that they come in a small pack [red plastic far left]. There’s also a black dish towel, that honestly, doesn’t get used a lot [paper towel], but it’s there in a pinch, and serves the useful function of preventing the solo stove and pot clanging around in the kit – annoying, and we drive a lot to locations and back.
  • SOLID FUEL STOVE – although we don’t use it all the time, the Solo Stove can be the only option much of the time. Backcountry when you want to leave no trace. When you’ve run out of propane. When you don’t want to start a campfire to boil water. When you’re on the ice. The solo stove takes wood/grass/any combustible, so you always can start a fire and cook. It’s well built [aside from the grill inside wanting to pop wires often, thankfully easily sorted out]. I normally carry a small bag inside it with birch bark and a lighter. Another omission I need to sort out. There’s also a 1L container of charcoal – this is a luxury item that stays in the kit. Sometimes wood isn’t handy, or is wet. Sometimes charcoal needs to flavour a dish. Sometimes you just want the Solo Stove to burn a long time at low heat without refuelling. Another omission is that I now have the charcoal container nested into a few other empty 1L plastic containers, with lids. Sometimes you make too much food in the field, and need somewhere to put them. Sometimes you’re butchering a fish or bird and need a container to hold pieces. Super handy.
  • PARACORD – far more handy than you’d guess. Don’t have a rotisserie? No problem, ‘a la ficelle’ it. Need a tripod to smoke or hang meat from – no problem: paracord. Butchering an animal that needs parts hunt in a tree? Need to wrap a handle on that black skinning knife? A lash on the prospector tent broke or missing? Endless.

This kit has evolved, will continue to evolve, and items are added/removed depending on the trip. But as of this week, this is where it’s at. Any must-haves you carry? Any questions about any of the kit?

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Season 3 Release of From The Wild

from-the-wild-s3-vod-posterWhat an intense journey. Getting to season 3 means 38 episodes, about 130 days in the field. I’ve already greyed in the beard since the early episodes, and the project is doing exactly what I’d hoped – it’s documenting and diarizing a crazy amount of life experience memories that would be impossible to cram into a single person’s head. The more we do the series, the more the series becomes our life. The poster artwork and thumbnail are of the old house in southern Alberta, one of two places I grew up hunting. Season 3 included a personal journey for Senger and I towards family heritage, appreciating our elders, and connecting with personal history. You can tell we’re getting middle aged.

It was also a season of ridiculous bounty. When we started the series we weren’t sure whether we’d be able to make anything dead or into food every episode. In S3 we were drowning in abundance, every time. Fish, birds, ungulates, bears, you name it. It was crazy.

It’s hard not to be overwhelmed with gratitude when wrapping a season. We’ve had so much support and love from so many people that participate, share, and watch the show. If you’ve had any part in any of it, THANK YOU.

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Brazilian Black Bean Soup

Brazilian Black Bean Soup Recipe
Brazil's cuisine often features smoky, grilled meats, but this healthy vegetarian bean soup recipe is completely meat-free. Instead, blackened jalapeños, fire-roasted tomatoes and smoked paprika provide the Brazilian flair. A little molasses adds a sweet-toasty note, and the kale, while not traditional, bumps up your daily veggie count.