A Bunyol is a Spanish sugared fritter, so these are Staghorn Sumac Sugar Bunyols. Imagine a warm doughnut (without the hole) rolled in a silky lemony tasting icing sugar and you’ve got the idea. A bunyol (or buñuelo) is a small yeasty bun traditionally enjoyed in Spain on All Saints Day (Nov.1st) which is dedicated to the memory of the deceased and honouring the ancestors. And I’m telling you when you taste these bunyols rolled in Staghorn Sumac sugar you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven!
It was a lucky day I discovered this glorious tart fluffy sugar! Staghorn Sumac’s fuzzy crimson seeds (drupes) cluster all over the cone and are coated in an extremely tart resinous “powder” that tastes like rhubarb and lemon combined – only gone hyper. They’re high in citric, malic and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) all of which happen to be extremely good for you.
Staghorn Sumac is high in malic acid which has numerous health benefits, from hastening the process of muscle regeneration and repair, to improving physical and cognitive performance and acting as a natural chelator for detoxifying heavy metals. By throwing the drupes in the food processor with granulated or icing sugar you can absorb all those delicious tangy acids right into the sugar!
Staghorn Sumac is also plentiful in antioxidants and research suggests like other members in the Sumac family, it is antiviral and anti-inﬂammatory, improves circulation, helps lower blood pressure, assists in rheumatoid arthritis and gastritis. And it also seems to help reduce nervousness, anxiety, headaches, improves concentration and reduces mental fatigue!
Staghorn Sumac, Rhus typhina, is a native tree (shrub) in Eastern Canada and parts of the US, and indigenous peoples from both Canada and America used it medicinally for a wide variety of ailments. It generally grows in open sunny places such as forest edges and clearings. Here in the PNW, it is a very popular ornamental tree found growing in most rural and urban neighbourhoods. Each leaf is composed of several leaflets with serrated edges, arranged in opposite pairs along a stalk and they turn a radiant red or orange in the fall. The thick branches are hairy and resemble the velvety antlers of a male deer (stag), hence the common name of “staghorn.
Its always a good idea to check if you might have a reaction before consuming, especially if your allergic to pistachio, cashews and mangoes (same family). Just rub a tiny bit on the skin and wait an hour or so. Another caution: please be sure you are not harvesting Toxicodendron vernix, commonly known as poison sumac. It’s hard to mistake the two as they look nothing alike, poison sumac has round creamy white berries which hang down in clusters.
You can harvest Sumac right up into late October, but once they’ve been bitten by the frost – they will sear and blacken. They’re easy to harvest and snap right off the branches. You want to take a good look and make sure the drupes are still moist but no rot has set in. Some people say Sumac can get buggy late in the season, so check for that too, but I have never yet had that problem.
You can use them right away or just set out to dry for a week or two. I put mine out on straw baskets and once dried I store in a plain brown paper bag that keeps off the dust but allows them to breathe. They’re good for a year – until it’s time for a new harvest!
Staghorn Sumac Sugar
First comes the sugar. You’ll need to separate about one cup of drupes from the cones. They will come off easily. You can use a knife to scrape them off or just pick them off with your fingers. Put 1 cup sugar (you can use icing sugar or granulated sugar according to your preference) in a food processor with 1cup of drupes.
Give it a really good whir. After a while you’ll notice the sugar becoming pink and that the seeds in the centre of the drupes will separate out and become visible.
Next, place your sugar mixture into a large sieve over a large bowl. Then slowly shake and press the sugar through, leaving the seeds behind in your sieve. The result is a heavenly pink fluffy powder that will have you eating out of the spoon
The sugar will be moist and crumbly. You can use it right away – I did. But for fine sugaring, it would be a bit sticky and clumpy. If you want it really powdery let it dry for a few days, then resift again before using. The result with icing or confectioners sugar is almost ethereal!
Staghorn Sugar Bunyols
Makes about a dozen
• 1 cup of milk
• ¼ cup of sugar (for extra flavour you could add some sumac sugar!)
• ¼ cup of unsalted butter
• 1 lemon, zest only
• A cup of self-raising flour
• 4 eggs
• ½ cup of elderflower liqueur or syrup ( or use whatever flavoured syrup or liqueur you have on hand)
• 1 pinch of salt
• vegetable oil, for frying in a deep pan (or deep fryer)
• 1/2 cup staghorn sumac sugar (see directions above)
- Bring the milk to the boil in a saucepan with the sugar, butter, pinch of salt and the lemon zest. Once boiling, add the flour and stir well with a wooden spoon. When the dough is smooth and no longer sticks ’ to the sides, remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool.
- When the dough is still warm, add the eggs one at a time and combine thoroughly. Add the elderberry liqueur and mix into the dough. Let the dough rest for 30 min or so.
- Heat the oil in a deep frying pan and take a tiny portion of the mixture with a metal spoon and work into a ball with the help of another spoon
- Drop the ball carefully into the oil and fry until golden. The bunyols will puff up. But be careful not to have the oil too hot, otherwise the bunyols will overcook on the outside. The bunyols should turn on their side when cooked but keep an eye to flip those that don’t.
- Once the bunyols are cooked, remove them from the frying pan and place them on parchment paper to drain. While they are still ever-so-slightly oily, roll them in the staghorn sumac sugar. Let cool for at least an hour to set.
Note: This is an excerpt from an upcoming Gather Victoria Cookbook. I’m adding some new Staghorn Sumac recipes shortly so I thought I’d share this recipe with y’all as it is high Staghorn Sumac season right now! You can access a whole lot of other recipes and previews by becoming a Gather Victoria Patron. Click the big red button below and learn more!