Celeriac nettle soup.
A really tasty soup.
We had a week or two of really warm weather - enough to get the birches fully leafed out - but things have cooled off again. Enough to have to worry about apples, cherries and plums (and bilberries), which are in full flower - with possible night frosts, and no pollinators about, cos it's too cold all of a sudden.
And our wild veggies have arrived.
So far, I've picked lots (LOTS) of young nettles (Urtica dioica). Some folks over here like to pick them when they're really teeny tiny (1-2" tall), but I like mine a bit larger: lazy as I am I get to fill my basket in next to no time, where they have to pick for an hour or two to get as much greens.
You need gloves to pick'em, at least if you pick lots, at least if you don't want tingly fingers well into next week. It's of course possible to use scissors or a knife to cut the stalks, but at this time of year they're still soft and rather easy to just break off. Nettles are a yarn crop, and later in the year those scissors are a must, if you want longer leafy stalks to dry for tea, or fully ripe seeded stalks to dry for their seeds.
There's not too much moving protein on them at this time of year, but still, it's a good idea to put them into a sinkfull of cold water, possibly with a little salt added. That'll get all the various spiders, larvae and other manyleggeds to come out of hiding, within about 10 minutes or so.
Then, put a wooden spoonful at a time (of the nettles, not the various proteins!) into boiling water and let the nettles boil until the leaves are limp and very dark green and the stalks are a light yellowish green. That's when they lose their sting.
Next, take that spoonful of limp nettles out of the kettle with boiling water and put it somewhere for later cutting, when it has cooled off.
Do the next wooden spoonful, and the next, and the next, until all your nettles are done.
Go do something else for an hour or two, and then cut your nettles into very tiny bits. I have a cool 5-blade round cutting thingy which is impossible to find - lemmesee: oooh. It's a "Ritter Schneidboy", and it's a rarity, nevermind that the same cutter, with another name, has been sold in one or the other of our local TV-shops within the last 10 years - or so I'm told. I got mine from my grandma, and I expect it's an original, from the 1960s.
Larger nettle bits feel rough in the mouth, so really try to get things tiny. I expect that a vitamix, or whatever other fast way you have to really mush up largish amounts of food, would work too.
I freeze my nettles in small 2 dl (½ pint) freezer jars, and, once frozen, transfer them to plastic baggies. One such frozen nettle thingy per soup is just about right.
The stock: put some nice bone bits (perhaps 500 g / 1 lb) with a few of the too-tough onion skins that you usually throw into the compost, about 10 black peppers, one laurel leaf, the shavings etc. of one celeriac (that's the root of celery) into a suitable pot. Cover with water, add a dash of vinegar and 1 teasp. salt. Let simmer for 15 minutes, and, cos you're in a hurry, strain the liquid into your soup pot and add more water'n'salt to your bone pot. Bring to a boil again and let simmer on and off until you need more stock.
The soup: add the cut-up celeriac, one frozen cube of chopped-up boiled nettles, all the tomatoes that you bought a week ago which aren't quite bad yet (mmm. Nicely ripe tomatoes.) (say about a dozen). Also add a dash of butter or a tablespoon or three of the drippings from the bacon you fried a week or three ago. Throw in a chopped-up smallish young cabbage (it's much milder in taste than winter-stored cabbage), add a pint jar of frozen sweet pepper strips, and add any further veggies you fancy (go slow on the taters and carrots, though, they're just simple carbs). Put in one or the other meat - for instance half a kg of bratwurst, or whatever you like (I like a handful of chopped-up metwurst for meat, in my soups and stews, but the metwurst has too strong a taste for this celeriac (wow!) soup.). Let things simmer for perhaps half an hour to an hour.
I also boil'n'chop'n'freeze the young tops of fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) and the young leaf of goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria). They, too, do well in one or the other soup or stew, at one 2 dl frozen cube per potful - you can do more than one cube in one pot, but I wouldn't do just one sort then - one fireweed plus one nettle or one goutweed plus one nettle would be just fine.