photos and recipe by Calvin Rossouw
Birch and Spruce Glaze
3/4 cup spruce needles
2 ½ cups water
1 sage leaf
5 Tbsp Birch Syrup (early harvest, if possible)
1 Tbsp red wine
1 Tbsp brown sugar (if using late harvest syrup)
Cranberry and Spruce Rice Pilaf
½ cup wild rice blend
½ cup chicken stock
½ cup spruce tea (made from simmering the
1 tsp turmeric
¼ cup wild cranberries (frozen from last summer)
2 diced dried apricots
½ diced Bosc pear
1 finely diced shallot
1 finely diced clove of garlic
2 quartered button mushrooms (or morels, if
you’re a high roller)
To make the glaze
First make spruce tea by simmering the spruce needles, sage, and water for 12-15 minutes, or until there’s a noticeable change in colour and taste. Strain out the needles. Reserve a half cup of tea for the rice.
Combine the other two cups with the remaining ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer to allow the sauce to reduce by at least half. It should be noticeably thick. Let it cook on low while you prepare the rest of the meal.
To make the rice pilaf
Cook the rice with the stock, tea, and turmeric until cooked all the way through, around 15 minutes. As it is cooking, sauté the garlic, onions, and mushrooms until slightly browned. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix. Salt and pepper to taste.
To Cook the Chicken (or ptarmigan, spruce hen or
The glaze can be used on chicken wings, drumsticks, thighs, and slow cooked in a crockpot, or slow roasted in the oven. But most people prefer a whole hen, or ptarmigan to themselves. If eating a whole bird, stuff it with the rice pilaf and cook covered for about an hour at 400 C. Glaze again and cook uncovered on high heat for a few minutes until crispy and delicious. Let it rest for 5 minutes, then dig in!
Tip: Using brighter, younger-looking spruce needles will yield a sweeter tea. Serve with roasted potatoes and a vegetable medley.