Wednesday, December 3, 2008

We called them Black Oaks.

If any of the photo's remind you of Humboldt County, it's okay, the California Black Oak is a very common tree here on the north coast. They only grow on the north coast and the western slope of the northern Sierra Nevada mountains. They are straight and leggy when growing in groups, or in shade. They usually have two main trunks after they leave the main trunk. (What the loggers called a "Schoolmarm". I'll let you figger out why. Hint: The loggers liked to talk dirty!) They have darker bark than a White Oak, but it would be hard to tell, because they are usually mostly covered in moss. They have large watermelon shaped acorns. They are probably the meatiest acorn of all of the Oak trees. The ones that I gathered last year were some of the largest that I've ever seen. I laid five of them end to end on a tape measure and they measured eight inches.

Sometimes we called the Black Oak the "Mountain Oak", because they grow on the side-hills and near the ridge-tops. The White oak sometimes called the "Valley Oak". One of the things that the old-timers noticed, that few of the newcomers do, is the difference in the flora and fauna of the valley as compared to the mountains.
There is a "Mountain Quail" and a "Valley quail". A "Mounntain Jay" and a "Valley Jay" (Stallar Jay and Scrub Jay). There is "Mountain Manzanita" and "Valley Manzanita". The Mountain Manzanita is a lighter color, the stems have hair on them, and the blossoms are white. The Valley Manzanita is darker in color and has no hair on the stems, and the color is a beautiful pink and white. Did you get that Robin? Check to see if your Oregon Manzanita, that has white blossoms, has hair on the stems. If so, It’s a “Mountain Manzanita.”

The wood of the Black Oak is dark brown, about the color of Root Beer, almost the same color as Black Walnut. It makes fair lumber. The white oak wood is a tan color and the wood is unstable, and not very good for furniture because it likes to warp and change shape with the weather and humidity.

The Black Oak is said to be one of the favorite trees for acorns for the Indian people. It's funny, but I have heard that same thing about every single oak tree, except the Live Oak, and the only thing wrong with the Live Oak is that the acorns are to small to bother with, but when times were tough, you can bet that the Indian people were gathering live oak acorns.

When used as fire wood it burns long and slow, and leaves a moderate amount of ash. It's a good log to put on the fire before going to bed at night. It will burn slow all night, keep the chill off, and all you have to do in the morning is add wood and open the draft. That's way more fun than waking up to a cold house and having to build a fire.

A lot of people won't agree with me, but Black Oak is one of my favorite woods to use for smoking pork sausage. It has a honey sweet maple flavor to it. When I split Black Oak for firewood I spend more time picking it up and inhaling the sweet smell than splitting.

If you want to try it, here you go:
Gramma's breakfast pork sausage mix.
2 lbs. ground pork. Use good meat, like shoulder meat.
1 Tbls. brown sugar.
2 tsp. dried sage.
2 tsp. salt.
1 tsp. pepper.
½ tsp. garlic powder, I'd probably use more, but I like Garlic.
½ tsp. onion powder.
1/4 tsp. dried marjoram.
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, or if you’re lazy, ½ tsp. Tobasco Sauce. I'd probaly use more but I like hot sausage. It's best to add you own hot sauce later, that way everybody can enjoy your sausage.
Stuff it into a 1/2" sausage casing and smoke with Black Oak over night and eat for breakfast. Be sure to invite Ernie!


ross sherburn said...

ernie,could you refresh my memory about tan oak?there would be men coming in after the tan oak bark,after the doug fir was logged off.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Okay, tomorows oak will be tan.

Anonymous said...

Ernie...your fauna and flora topics have been answering so many of my unanswered questions. Thanks.

Ernie Branscomb said...

You know how I always say that it is okay to comment off subject?

Well I'm glad that I allow it, because Suzy Blah Blah just did a post over on Indies blog.

She gives a whole new meaning to the term "Getting Pissed".

Big City Poz said...

Ernie, thanks for this great post. I just learning about the different types of firewood and its great to know about the trees too. I'm burning some black oak right now.

Do you take requests? I'd like to learn about madrone.

ross sherburn said...

I LIKE MADRONE TREES!!!i used to climb on them all the time when i was a kid.this was in the U.B.L.G. area.

Ernie Branscomb said...

BCP, yes I’ll do a post on the Madrone. It is a very important tree to the north coast, and it is one of the favorite trees of the local people. It will be a few days though, because I’m working on other projects.

Ernie Branscomb said...

I couldn't stand it. I made a batch Gramma's breakfast sausage tonight, and in place of the crushed red pepper flakes I used Tapatio Sauce. As predicted, I got it to hot for my family, which is easy to do, but I think that it is delicious! I made them into patties, and skipped the smoke house. If anybody out the likes good spicy breakfast sausage try the recipe! YUMMMMMMM……

Eel River Ernie said...

Last week a friend and I went up to Oakland, Oregon, just north of Roseburg, to pick up a half beef. On our way back we stopped at Taylor Sausage in Cave Junction and picked up some of their spicy sausage, it's to die for. I am anxious to try making up a batch of your "Gramma's" sausage for comparison as the ingredients sound similar.

Indie said...

Thanks for the sausage recipe, Ernie. I've never done it but I'm going to try just as soon as finals are over.

Robin Shelley said...

Hair. Got it! Thanks.