Sumac is a spice used mainly in middle eastern cooking. It adds a sour note and a beautiful red color to food, much like lemon peel adds sourness and yellow. I find that Sumac's sourness is much quicker to fade and has almost no aftertaste.
Not surprisingly, the spice Sumac comes from the plant Sumac. So let's start
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Step 1: Collect Your Sumac and Supplies
Warning Do not eat any wild food unless you can positively identify it.
Sumac is one of the easier wild foods to identify though. It has red clusters of berries rising above the foliage. Don't worry too much about poison sumac, for while it shares a name, it has white berries, not red ones.
You will want to collect the clusters during a dry period, as rain can wash out the acid that makes them sour.
Collect as many as you think you will need, but keep in mind that 1 cup of berries is only about 1 1/2 teaspoons of spice. It shouldn't take very long to collect all the berries you need for a years cooking.
Let your berries dry in a cool dark place for a week or two, as this makes the spice much easier to seperate from the seeds.
You will need,
1- sumac clusters
2- a sifter, strainer, or colander
3- a blender, herb grinder, or food processor
Step 2: Grind Your Sumac Berries
Put the berries in a food processor, or blender. I am using a cheap herb grinder. You don't need to worry too much about power, as you are knocking the dry fruit off of the seed. Pulse them in the blender for a while until the seeds are mostly yellow and there is red dust seperate from the seeds.
This red dust is your spice.
Step 3: Strain the Seeds Out of Your Sumac
Put the mixture through a strainer, colander, or mesh. I used a flour sifter, as it moves the seeds well and lets the spice fall through. This red spice is Sumac. If you taste it you will notice that it is very tart, but the sourness fades quickly.
You can use it as is, sprinkling a little on chicken breasts or fish. It is also delicious on vegetables or kabobs.
Or you can make red lemon pepper with it.
Step 4: Make Red "lemon" Pepper and Enjoy
Mix the Sumac with freshly ground pepper, 1/3 pepper to 2/3 sumac. It will have a tendancy to clump somewhat, but don't worry too much about that. Put into a spice shaker and use just as you would lemon pepper. Delicious on zuchinni or grilled veggies.
Here is some Red-lemon pepper on a steamed chicken breast. It made a normally bland meal delicious.
I hope that I have given you some ideas on how to use this wild edible, and I hope you have found that this expands your options in the kitchen.
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