I watched Food Unwrapped on TVO this week. They were looking at Christmas foods. Mostly traditional fare but one odd, to me, thing they explored was cooking your Christmas tree. Pine is edible & in Finland it is used in cooking as a flavouring & as a beverage. Pine tea. I recall a family in Cape Breton than made Spruce beer every December. So I decided to try it.
I cut a small branch off the pine tree in my backyard. The tree is hone to bluejays, robins, cardinals & what I think are chickadees(?). If it wasn’t such a bio-home we would have cut it down several years ago as it is huge.
I washed the branch, cut several tips off & boiled them for half-an-hour. Let it cool. the ‘broth’ had a strong pine taste & the needles weren’t really edible. I left that cooling on my front porch overnight. I also started my stuffing. The recipe changes slightly every year.
The base is always raisin bread, with green grapes, apple, pear, orange, & this year dried cranberries added, plus a couple of onions. Spiced with black pepper, nutmeg, & all spice. I mix these dry ingredients as best I can & let it stand overnight as well. Next day its’ ready for stuffing the birds. Our tradition Rock Cornish hens. I cook them Christmas eve day so I don’t have to worry about cooking on Christmas day while I’m unwrapping my gifts 🙂
I make loads of dressing. What is cooked in the hens is called stuffing, what is cooked outside of them is called dressing. I add some of the cooked hen stock to the dressing to add to the flavour of it. This year I moistened the dressing with the pine broth, placed the birds on a bed of pine already in the pan. Added some of the pine to around the legs as well.
Once the hens were cooked I halved each of them, removed the stuffing, Removed the cooked pine twigs but left any needles that stuck. The result is very pleasant. But the proof will be when they get served to my guests on Christmas day. If the pine works out it’ll become another tradition.