fir needles

Fir Mousse and Sea Buckthorn Cocktail

Sea buckthorn, fir needles, vodka, sugar and gelatin

We aren’t completing these recipes in any particular order, so we have finally gotten around to making the very first recipe of the book! This recipe was a challenge for us as we had no idea where to find sea buckthorn berries. Since a number of ingredients in the book are foraged, we put off doing this recipe until we could find a reliable source (or at least until we knew where to forage!). We were lucky to learn that some friends of ours knew where to find a sea buckthorn shrub, and were kind enough to able to nab us a branch of the berries before the birds and the cold got to them.

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With the most difficult ingredient of the recipe sourced, we took the dog out for a long walk to forage for fir needles. It’s nearly impossible to estimate how many needles is equivalent to any particular weight, so we brought quite a lot home.

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We measured out a comparatively small amount of fir needles than we had on hand and added sugar and water.

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The mixture was brought to a boil in a pot and then steeped for 15 minutes to incorporate as much of the flavour as possible. While the needles were steeping, we bloomed gelatin in cold water.

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Next, we strained the needles from the liquid and combined the conifer tea with the bloomed gelatin.

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After the mixture cooled to room temperature, we poured it into a siphon, charged it with N2O and put it in the fridge overnight.

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Next, we prepared the base of the cocktail–a sea buckthorn syrup which was prepared by boiling the berries in a simple syrup until they started to pop. We crushed the berries in the pot to release all of their flavours, a step which was not mentioned in the procedure for this recipe. The resulting syrup tasted super-sea buckthorny, so we were happy with that!

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Finally, the sea buckthorn syrup was strained using a coffee filter and cooled in the fridge. The following day, we prepared the flavourful cocktail by combining the syrup with vodka and siphoning the fir mousse on top of the beverage.

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We finished the cocktail with a singular sea buckthorn berry (which surprisingly didn’t sink in the foam) and some of our many leftover fir needles.

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The resulting cocktail tasted very strongly of the berry, which we loved! If you’ve never tried these berries before (like us prior to trying this recipe) they have a tangy, citrus-like flavour. The fir mousse was a big surprise for us because it complimented the flavour of the berries really well! This is a flavour combination we’ve noticed is used quite a bit in this book (we paired citrus with fir needles in the Chicken Casserole and Jar of Pigeon recipes) and so far it has yet to disappoint! We can’t wait to see what else this book has in store for us!

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Maple Syrup Caramelized White Asparagus

White asparagus, Maple, fir sugar

White Asparagus Final Dish

Since all of the recipes we’ve done up to this point have been either fish or chicken, we decided to try a few dishes Melissa could also enjoy. The first was this recipe for maple syrup caramelized white asparagus.

The recipe required some more Balsam Fir in the form of “fir sugar”–luckily we planned for this in advance and made the fir sugar after last week’s forage. This involved grinding together some fir needles and cane sugar which resulted in a bright green mixture with a pleasant aroma of fir needles.

We prepared the white asparagus by bending the stalks to allow for them to snap at the point where the woody asparagus starts. We had previously read about this practice but had always cut the ends flush at an arbitrary point for nicer presentation. Having snapped them this time around, the cooked asparagus had a uniform texture with no fibrous sections–it really is a great technique!

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The cooking process involved blanching the asparagus in a pot of salted boiling water. I’ve been cooking for a while now, and I still have no idea how much salt to add to the water when blanching or boiling food. I’ve read that the water should have the same degree of saltiness as sea water, but that seems a little arbitrary since water from the Black Sea is ridiculously salty and differs greatly from the salt content of the sea in Jamaica (this is based solely on my tasting experiences of oceans). This also seems to be of little help since different foods absorb different quantities of salt. In any case, I added some salt to some water.

After a quick blanch, the asparagus were sautéed in butter and maple syrup until they were glossy with the maple caramel.

Cooking Asparagus

We then seasoned with the asparagus with salt, pepper and fir sugar.

Cropped Asparagus

The final dish was great, and we really loved it! The maple syrup and butter made it taste more like a dessert than a side dish of vegetables (this would be a great dish to trick your kids into eating asparagus). As we had leftover asparagus, I made this dish again the next day as an after-work snack–it’s quick and delicious!