Home Cooking Recipes
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Quick & Easy
By Beverly Barbour


Have you considered eating your Christmas tree?

Much as we love our holiday evergreen trees we still get rid of them quickly once the season is over. Three or four days into the new year the trees hit the streets for recycling.

Isn't that too bad? Mother Nature takes a lot of time and effort to produce a tree that we enjoy briefly. We eat most of the plants on earth, why not the evergreen? At a restaurant in Denmark, chef-owner Rene Redzip says, "That is a shame, because evergreens are delicious. At my restaurant we use their needles as a spice. You can cook with a bit of spruce or fir as you would a sprig of rosemary or thyme. Wouldn't it be beautiful if families gathered after Christmas to festively remove the decorations then cut off the tasty needles to flavor their food?"

Ways to use evergreen needles in cooking

Remove the needles and spread out to dry. Once dried crush them into a powder and store in small jars with tight lids. Jars that previously held spices and dried herbs work well, of course. The powdered needles make a light, citrusy and very aromatic spice. Here are a few suggestions for using your mysterious new seasoning ingredient:

1. Sprinkle a little of the powder into cookie dough.

2. Add a pinch or two to rice or pasta as you cook it.

3. Rub it on chicken or game before using.

4. Dried needles can even be used to smoke meat.

5. Add a few needles to the fire when grilling.

6. Use the tree's wood in the fireplace for heat and perfume.

Even small branches can add flavor

Add a bit at the last minute to give a light aroma and a lemony feel to some dishes. It shouldn't be any surprise that game meats respond especially well to these flavors, considering how animals like to eat the tender, bright-green shoots in spring.

1. Delicious when steaming spinach, chard, or other greens.

2. After cooking steak in a pan, flavor the cooking butter with a fistful of spruce needles.

3. All game dishes respond especially well to this flavor. Add near the end of the cooking period when roasting, grilling, frying or stewing.

Spruce and fir both work in other dishes

1. Needles work especially well in oils and vinegars that are used for salad dressings or sprinkled on fresh vegetables before serving.

2. Fresh fish, salted for a day and covered in fresh needles, absorbs the forest aroma and emerald color into the flesh.


Spruce Butter

Try this on vegetables and meats. If you don't have lemon thyme just add a bit of thyme and a bit of lemon juice or rind.

7 ounces of butter
3 1/2 tablespoons of minced pine needles
Sprig of lemon thyme or a bit of each
Mix in blender for 8 minutes until soft and green. Pass through a sieve.
Spruce Oil

Use as an ingredient in salad dressing or as a dipping sauce for bread. As there are 16 ounces in a pound and a pound equals 2 cups you would want to use 1/3 cup to a scant 1/2 cup of pine needles.

3 1/2 ounces of pine needles
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

Blanch needles for 4 minutes and then spread out on paper towels to dry. Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pass through a sieve.


Spruce Vinegar

Can be used as an ingredient in salad dressing or as a marinade for game. You might try it as a marinade for pork as well. As there are 8 ounces in a cup you could measure 1/3 cup pine needles and there are 16 tablespoons in a cup, you could use a third cup of vinegar.

3 1/2 ounces pine needles
3 1/2 ounces apple cider vinegar
Mix in a blender and then seal in a container overnight. Pass through sieve.

Each year more than 100 million trees are produced for Christmas worldwide. Considering it takes 8 to 12 years to produce a middle-sized tree, it seems criminal to simply discard this bounty after only a few weeks of using it to bring the holiday spirit to our homes. Why not give it a try?

Put your holiday tree to work in the kitchen.

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