New England’s Answer To Alaskan Homestead Nettle Bread
Sitting here, in the wood stove’s warmth, I can see the trees, they look cold and stressed by the winter. Perhaps it is the unwinter like warmth lately… It is February, usually a month of blizzards this year a month of mud. And I keep hearing we shouldn’t be concerned about climate change…. Right… I am literally sitting here, watching the seasons shift. First winter started to begin later and later in the season. Now it is all but gone in it’s entirety. With moments of super cold temperature, sudden white out blizzards lasting 5 minutes, then gone… Now the plants and animals can not return to their normal phase when they are supposed to due to winter being pushed into Spring. That means, vegetation that feeds bees can’t happen as it used to and so many other issues for wildlife and the bugs we depend on for all kinds of things we don’t even realize we depend on them for. These things being the base for all food production in the region. Soon the food we live on will go the way of the extinct animals dying in droves lately. Then what will we do? It isn’t just happening here either. It is happening across the country. As far off as Alaska even. It is happening across the world. And I am “fortunate” enough to have a front row seat to watch the earth die in real time. While I eek out a life on my 5 acre homestead in the Bay State. Sitting here today, I smell mud when I should smell snow.
I have been gone a while. Sorry about that. The blog had some issues. And I am not a techy. I am a farmer, a baker, an herbalist, a bit of a musician, an inn keeper, a homesteader, an archaeology enthusiast, a stay home wife, a daughter, a sister, a crafter, the manager of a small book club…. Mom to my 3 fur babies, an avid hater of Donald Trump, and a fresh bread enthusiast…. Among a range of other things. I wear many hats, it’s just part of this beautiful homestead lifestyle. The blog passed away, so I have been gone. Fortunately (well actually unfornately) the friend who built this site for me got the current on going plague. He got locked up by his beautiful wife, and he got very very bored. So, he fixed it all for me. And I am beyond over joyed. I love this little piece of cyber space. Truly. I love it. Because it is mine. Because I get to make sense of my life here. Because I can stop and think about my homestead here, I can plan and dream, and process it all here. This site, has been such a gift for me. I realize I am likely the only one who really reads it. Maybe once in a while family pops by. But I am guessing I have no other real readers and I really do not even care. I don’t write this for anyone but me. For my own record keeping, and as said, it helps me immeasurably in so very many way. So having this space back… It means everything. I really could not have fixed this site on my own even had I wanted to. Which means, my web designer could always opt to pop in here and make a post explaining what he did to make the site work again. Some might say not good for security reasons. Honestly… From a guy who described seeing 2 lines on his covid test as a learning he was pregnant, security be damned. I think it would be absolutely hilarious what he might post explaining it all. So, I gonna live with that “security risk” happily enough.
Today I thought I would talk about one of my favorite herbs and a kind of bread that seems to be a homestead staple in Alaska. Well, I am not in Alaska, so my version is a little different. This is what makes homesteading homesteading. The art of making due with what we have on hand. Which can mean lots of substitutions in our cooking style. It also means we try to grow as much as we can ourselves and be as self sufficient as possible using what is natural to our area. So I have adapted a recipe from Alaska, for a New England, homestead kitchen.
Nettle (Urtica Dioica,) is native to Europe, Asia, Northern Africa, and North America, are an herbaceous perennial that flowers and can be found along trails in the woods or through meadows. It can cause a rash and is known to sting due to it’s hairs. I could explain all that stinging science but I am much too lazy. And I am far more interested in discussing other aspects of it. Such as it’s utilization as food. It is very high in nutrition but it must be properly processed so it doesn’t sting on the way down. When cooked it loses it’s sting. It can be steamed and eaten like spinach, it can be dried and used in teas. It modulates the inflammatory pathways in the body and does good things for the respiratory system. There are scientific studies that support the use of it’s root in relation to prostate health. A rich source of antioxidants, high in vitamin C it is known to impact cancer, and to support the immune system. High in Vitamin A, it likely has a strong impact as an eye health supporter. It has also been used to fight arthritis with good results. Contains UD-1 and has been used to help control blood sugar as UD-1 acts similarly to insulin though this use is one science is still studying. It is a great source of a number of wonderful minerals including Calcium, making it good to fight kidney diseases and useful against osteoporosis.
If you are a forager, make sure to blanch the leaves before freezing them to save for future use. Cook by boiling. And dry and use in tea, or in this case in sour dough bread. Use gloves when foraging for this stuff. it can cause rashes. So work with this one with care.
For this sour dough bread, I used crushed up pulverized dry leaves. (like tea.)
You will need:
A large bowl
A wooden spoon
An oven for baking
Dutch oven with lid
For Sour Dough Base:
3 cups warm water
3/4 teaspoon dry yeast
1 table spoon maple syrup (honey works too, as does maple sugar, or standard sugar.)
1/2 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
(or in place of these 2 flours you could use 1 whole cup of rye flour.)
2 cups all purpose white flour
1 cup of dried crushed up nettles
In the evening, in your large bowl, start by adding the warm water. Add the yeast in next. Wait a few minutes see if it begins to bubble. Make sure you are working with live yeast. Mix in the maple syrup. Add the spelt and brown rice flour, 2 cups all purpose white and the cup of nettles. Mix it together well into a mush. Cover it with saran wrap or a shower cap, or some other kind of bowl cover. Set it aside to sit over night.
For The Bread:
2 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups all purpose white
1 3/4rs teaspoons pink salt
in the morning, add these ingredients to your bread gradually. Start by mixing the salt into the mush. Add in the whole wheat, at this point it should begin to become a soft ball. Keep adding flour half a cup at a time until you reach a point where it is a sticky ball that holds together well enough to knead. Remove from bowl, and knead it doing pulls and folds. Keep adding flour till at least the full 2 cups whole wheat and 4 additional cups of white are kneaded and well mixed in. Once tacky, but not sticky and a semi firm ball that holds together, tip the bowl upside down over it and let it rise for half an hour. At the half hour mark, turn on the oven to 450 preheating to bake the bread. Place the dutch oven with lid into the preheating oven allow it to heat up for a half hour while you continue allowing the bread to rise for another half hour. Remove dutch oven from oven where it is heating up, remove lid. sprinkle the dough ball with some flour to help prevent sticking, and score it on top. Place it scored flat side up in the dutch oven. Replace the hot lid on top of the dutch oven. Stick in the oven to bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven, and remove dutch oven lid before putting the bread back in the oven to continue baking for about another 15 minutes. Remove from oven, check if it is done, tape the top see if it seems hollow. If not, put back in for a few more minutes. If it seems hollow, turn it out on a rack to cool for a bit.
This stuff tastes great, offers all sorts of health benefits, and it smells incredible baking.
I like to cut mine in quarters. Usually I put 3 of the quarter in freezer safe bags in the freezer. We start with 1 quarter out in our bread box and we go through it over the next 2 to 3 days. We follow it up with the next quarter, or we take a break and eat some other kind of bread for a while until we once again find ourselves craving this nettle bread. At which point we break out the next quarter, and then the next and the next. It tastes as good as it feels to be back here blogging. To everyone who made the blog possible to begin with and to everyone that has spent time fixing it over the time I have been using it thank you. Next time you come visit, I will make sure some of this bread is hot and fresh from the oven just for you.
Thank you all for reading
I know the first paragraph might sound depressing…
And I guess on one level it is.
But this way of life, being out here doing this…
It makes me so very happy and gives me such a sense of health and well being most of the time.
It is just unfortunate that more can not be done to preserve this planet this way of life is so dependent on.
Enjoy the bread!
Amanda of Wildflower Farm