Photos and Recipes by Amy Lam
Want to give something that is truly local this holiday season? The North provides an abundance of wild foraging opportunities to make wonderful DIY gifts. After all, when gifting, it is said that it’s the thought that counts and it doesn’t get more thoughtful than when the gift is homemade. Easy on the wallet, high on the impressiveness factor, and no need to think about the hassle of returns, these gifts will surely be winners.
What’s great about these ideas is that they can be made ahead to avoid the craziness of the holiday season. The orange, cardamom and cranberry shortbread cookie dough can be frozen and baked right before gifting. The yarrow, plantain and rosehip tea can be dried and stored in airtight containers and the jam keeps for at least a year if properly processed and sealed.
Orange, cardamom and cranberry shortbread cookies
Take your usual holiday shortbread cookies up a notch by adding orange, cardamom and low bush cranberries. The tartness of the cranberries complement well with sweet and buttery shortbread, while the orange zest and cardamom adds a warm spice to the cookie.
Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.
- 2 sticks of butter, room temperature
- 2 cups of flour
- 3/4 cups of icing sugar
- pinch of sea salt
- zest of two oranges
- 1.5 tsp of freshly ground cardamom
- ¾ cup of frozen low bush cranberries
- Prepare the cranberries by boiling in water until the skins burst, about 4-5 min. Drain and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in your oven’s lowest setting for about 10-15min.
- In a large mixing bowl, or an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat room temperature, softened butter with icing sugar until fluffy. Add freshly ground cardamom and a pinch of salt and mix until evenly incorporated.
- Mix flour into the butter and sugar until combined.
- Stir in cranberries. The cranberries will still be a bit moist at this point and will add nice red swirls in the dough when combined.
- Scrape dough onto a large piece of parchment paper, about 18” long. Shape dough into a log, wrap in the parchment and freeze for at least 30 min.
- Preheat oven to 300°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.
- When the dough is firm, slice into ¼” slices.
- Bake in a 300°F oven for 12 min and then turn off the heat. This will allow your cookies to continue to cook, but not burn or get too brown.
- Package cookies in clear cellophane bags with twine and homemade tags. Look for fun stamp sets to decorate your tags.
No Pectin lemon Saskatoon jam
Lemon is a great addition to Saskatoon jam for brightening the flavour of this favourite northern berry and for cutting the sweetness of the jam.
Makes approximately 6 x 125 mL jars.
- 4 cups of Saskatoon berries
- 3 cups of sugar
- ¼ cup of lemon juice
- zest of two lemons
- Place a couple of metal spoons in the freezer. This is to test the consistency of the jam later.
- Separate mason jars from its two-piece snap lid. Sterilize washed mason jars by placing them on a baking sheet and into a 225°F oven for at least half an hour. After half an hour turn off heat and keep them in the warm oven until ready for use. Simmer the sealing disc part of the snap lid in warm water until ready to use.
- Mash berries with sugar in a heavy bottom pot, stir constantly and bring to a boil.
- Add lemon juice, bring to a boil and stir frequently until thickened, about 20 min. Test the readiness of the jam by taking a scoop of hot jam with the spoon in the freezer. Place it back in the freezer for five minutes. You can tell if the jam is set if it does not run with the spoon is tilted.
- Stir in lemon zest at the end.
- Ladle hot jam into sterilized jars with a ¼” headspace.
- Centre sealing disc on top of jars and screw on rings until finger tight.
- Process the jam in a hot water canner for 10 min.
- Remove from the hot water bath, be careful not to tilt the jars, and let cool on top of a clean tea towel on a countertop undisturbed for 24 hrs. If properly sealed, the top of the lids should be concave and should not moved if pressed.
Make homemade labels and tags for the jars and decorate with hemp or bakers twine.
Yarrow, plantain and rosehip tea
Yarrow, plantain and rosehips grow in abundance around Yellowknife. Harvested and dried, they make a wonderful tea. Both yarrow and plantain helps with digestive disturbances and irritable bowel, and rosehips are a powerful antioxidant with its high level of Vitamin C.
- 3 parts dried plantain.
- 3 parts dried yarrow flower and leaves.
- 1 part dried rosehips.
Packaged in small mason jars or white craft bags, the tea makes for an excellent stocking stuffer that can be steeped for a soothing Christmas morning drink.