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Friday, January 7, 2011

Nature's Winter Magic

In a matter of days, the landscape around us has become magical. The trees are heavy laden with ice and flocked with snow, some bent nearly to the ground under the weight. The sunlight through the trees in our little forest literally glitters as it refracts against the ice-tipped branches. I expect to see the White Witch of Narnia in her horse drawn sleigh come gliding down the road at any moment.

Adding to the wild feeling of the place, our local owl sat in a tree just 20 or so feet from the house a few days ago and snatched a squirrel from the snow under the bird feeder before our eyes; his heavy wing beat impressions left in the snow.

Seed catalogs have begin to arrive, bringing news of the coming spring season but in this part of the world the garden is still five months distant. There is plenty of time to read up on the latest garden inventions and oldest heirloom tomatoes in the deep blue light of early evening. Most of our neighbors have left for the season, seeking out warmer climates. We will join them soon for a few weeks but for now I am loathe to leave. There is something about being nestled into the woods, snowed in and unable to let the world interfere with the quiet that I love.

It is in this Midwinter season, following the holidays, that I enjoy catching up with friends and celebrate nothing but our connection with each other. That ancient (vs. religious) notion of communion: breaking bread together and communicating as much through a meal as in our conversation feels right to me somehow.

Perhaps we will have time tomorrow to dig out the deep snow from around the fire pit in the yard for our annual cleansing fire. For years, sometime between the Winter Solstice and the end of January, we have built a fire to burn those things (either physically or symbolically) that we don't wish to carry with us into the new year. Add a little dried sage from last summer's garden to the fire for purity, the spirit of friends sharing its warmth, a little Caribbean rum and it becomes a wonderful beginning to the new year.

This is also the time of year when I am canning and sharing my most treasured kitchen concoctions. It took me years to come up with the idea of freezing fruits in the summer when they are ripe and I am furiously working in the garden. I can them in the heart of winter when the warmth and smells of summer fruit take you back to the day you picked them. Some fruits are elusive to me in small town Minnesota but some, like fresh Lingonberries, show up because of the deep Scandinavian roots of this place. When I saw them at Morey's Market in Baxter I bought them up and headed for my jam pot with glee.

Lingonberries are a cousin to the cranberry and grow in some of the coldest regions on earth. This tundra-hearty fruit is not inexpensive but is a wonderful accompaniment to game or just used as a spread on heavily seeded whole wheat toast on a cold morning. If you can find them fresh or frozen, you can easily waterbath can them and keep the jars in your pantry for use year round. If you can't find them, you can substitute those frozen cranberries in your freezer for the lingonberries.

Nutty Orange Lingonberry Conserve
A conserve is a type of chunky, whole fruit jam which often contains nuts. Marvelous on whole grain breads or served with meats or cheese.

1 c chopped seeded Orange, rind on
2 c Water
4 c Lingonberries
½ c Raisins
3 c Sugar
¼ c Port Wine
½ c lightly toasted Walnuts or Pecans

Combine water and chopped Orange in a saucepan and cook rapidly until tender, about 15-20 minutes.
Add Raisins and Lingonberries. Stir in sugar until dissolved. Slowly bring to a boil. Boil gently, stirring, about 8 minutes or until thickened. Add Port and Nuts. Cook 5 minutes more, stirring.

Jars of Lingonberry Sauce, Lingonberry Rum Relish & Lingonberry Conserve

Ladle into hot, sterilized jars, leaving ¼” headspace. Seal and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes for pints or ½ pints.

Makes about 4:½ pints.

1 comment:

  1. I was wondering if I could speak to you about permission to use a photograph from your blog?