Imagine savoring the essence of time spent on Orcas Island in a little glass bowl. Icy sweetness combined with traces of fir bough fragrance, each bite a concentrated memory of long uninterrupted beauty and the sound of rocks skipping across ice.
I saw a recipe for Doug Fir Granita in Christina’s Cookbook and have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to make it. Christina Orchid is from Orcas Island and she knows a thing or two about local and seasonal foods. She created this recipe to serve as an intermezzo at the James Beard House in New York.
Just in case you’re not in the habit of making palate cleansers as part of your normal menus, think of this as a light, refreshing treat. Or better yet….how about an unusual component for a gin cocktail, maybe as a dollop on top.
I don’t know this for a fact but I would guess that the Douglas-fir is one of the most common trees in the San Juans. At the very least, they are some of the largest and are hard to miss while tromping in the woods. The easiest way for me to identify them is their thickly ridged bark. There are plenty of Doug Firs in the city too, so don’t hesitate to forage. Going out after a wind storm makes it your work even easier. Winter is the season to gather a couple of big handfuls of fir fronds on stems because once the weather warms up, the pitch will start running.
Rinse your fronds well in the sink. In a large pot, mix together 4 cups of water, 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup honey, 3 T apple cider vinegar and 1 T black peppercorns. Bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat to medium-low, place the fir boughs in the liquid, cover and simmer very gently for about an hour. If you happen to have a wood stove, that works well and is energy-efficient.
After an hour, remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, pour through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the solids. Freeze in a large, shallow nonreactive pan. Once it starts to freeze around the edges, stir with a fork to break up the ice. Continue to break up the ice every 30 minutes or so until it is completely frozen. It can be served right away for the best texture or scraped into a container and returned to the freezer to use later.
I’m home from Orcas but have a container of granita stashed in the freezer. When the urge to remember my hike through wintry woods strikes, I’ll indulge in a spoonful…….