I am a bird-lover, yet blissfully ignorant of which is which and who is who, as a friend recently reminded me after I once again proclaimed that love. In other words, he intimated I should know a bit more about the objects of my affection. So, I am collecting information. I have my Birds of Maine book, purchased first thing when I arrived in Maine and visited the Audubon Center housed at Gilsland Farm in Falmouth. I am slowly ticking off my identifications. Another friend invited me to the Audubon Center to view the visiting outdoor sculpture show. In between magnificent sculptures of wrought iron, granite, re-bar, basalt and stainless steel, I spotted a red-winged blackbird. Check. I also saw two turkeys near the marsh. Check. Then it was a parade of animals, woodchuck (2), a chipmunk and squirrels — and to top it off, a turtle meandered along the drive as we made our way back to the car. Back in my office on Monday, I was visited by a sprightly American goldfinch — a bright yellow male. He sat on my windowsill for a few moments, enough time for me to look him up and verify. Check.
The bird theme dominated this weekend. Annabella and I joined a hardy group of volunteers at the Arboretum at Fort Williams Park along the glorious Cape Elizabeth coastline. We were charged with removing invasive weed species that threaten the now-shrinking bird population along our shores. We pulled up swallowwort and Asian honeysuckle. The latter wraps its wily vines around unsuspecting trees and plants creating dense thickets that block sunlight, and prevent new growth. Their berries are also a fake-out, offering up non-nutritional fare to birds. Cheetohs as opposed to kale. The heart of the matter is, the birds need nutritionally rich food to fuel their migratory travels and invasive species are putting the kibosh on said nutritional sources. So, we spent a couple of hours helping out the birds (and butterflies).
Speaking of nutrition. Beer is on the menu. I ran out of mustard the other day and was loath to buy a jar, when I know the homemade version is superior. It’s easy! And, if you buy a big enough bottle of Guinness, you can drink the leftovers, make Cheddar Beer Soup or use the beer for tempura batter. Unfortunately, after I whipped up the mustard and put it in a nice jar, it dawned on me, that it’s not gluten-free. Malted barley is the culprit. So, mustard-maker, beware. If you are g-free, there are gluten-free beers you can substitute here. Mustard, anyone?
Spicy Guinness Mustard
Makes 3 1/2 cups
1 12-oz bottle Guinness Extra Stout
1 1/2 cups brown mustard seeds
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 T kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1. Combine ingredients in a non-reactive bowl. Cover, and let sit for 1-2 days. This softens the seeds and lets the flavors marry.
2. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture thickens and it reaches the consistency you like. Process for at least 2-3 minutes. Put in jars and refrigerate. This should last up to 6 months. The spiciness will recede over time.
- This makes quite a lot of mustard. So, share some with a friend.
- Whip up a quick vinaigrette for all your summer salads. 3T champagne vinegar, 1t Guinness spicy mustard, 1/4 t each salt and pepper, 1 clove of minced garlic and 6 T olive oil. Whisk it all together. Add cream for a heavier dressing.