Chef, culinary instructor and cookbook author Michele Genest lives in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, where she writes the newspaper column her book is based on, The Boreal Chef (Harbour Publishing). As its name implies, Michele is enthusiastic about finding new ways to cook with ingredients hunted, fished or foraged from the boreal forest, and its lakes and rivers. She often wanders out of the north to explore ingredients and techniques from other cuisines, then brings them back to the Yukon to create, as she calls them, “some great northsouth kitchen mash-ups,” like moose cooked in Yukon-brewed espresso stout and finished with chocolate, lime and cilantro; Arctic char marinated in grappa and hot-smoked; or roasted spruce grouse draped in a sour cream and Madeira sauce. She shared one of her most requested recipes: sweettart low bush cranberry toffee, made from juicy berries foraged from the boreal forest. Thousands swooned over it at the Yukon Riverside Arts Festival last summer.
You really won’t believe this toffee, says Michele. It’s rich and brown-sugary as a good toffee should be, with the added tang of wild low-bush berries from the boreal forest. Low bush cranberries are similar to Swedish lingonberries. If you can’t find them, use bog cranberries and add 1/4 cup water to the pot as you simmer them.
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) low bush cranberries (or regular fresh or frozen cranberries)
1/2 cup (125 ml) whipping cream
3 tbsp (45 ml) butter
1 cup (250 ml) brown sugar
1. Put the cranberries into a medium saucepan (add 1/4 cup water if you’re not using low bush cranberries). Cook for five minutes over medium heat, just until the juice starts to appear.
2. Remove from heat, strain, blend and press through a sieve. (Use any strained liquid and the pulp for muffins, smoothies or mixed into your morning oatmeal.)
3. Combine cranberries in a wide saucepan with cream, butter and sugar and heat to boiling over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches a temperature of 240-250˚F on a candy thermometer, or the firm ball stage; this usually takes about 15 minutes.
4. Pour into a buttered 8-inch square pan. Cut into small squares before the toffee has completely cooled. Once the toffee has cooled, remove squares from pan and wrap in pieces of waxed paper cut into rectangles. Twist the ends of the paper to seal.
Makes about 64 pieces.
Adapted from borealgourmet.com
Originally published in ParentsCanada, July 2012