Posts like these often get me into trouble; I’ve learned that some people take offence when cooking with non-traditional ingredients and/ or I write somewhat tongue-in-cheek. People become very hesitant around the safety of them; compared to what is sprayed on most consumer vegetables in North America or what is placed into the ingredients of many food-like products, I have no personal concerns about having used a small part of our Christmas tree for dinner. If you’re concerned, you’ll want to consider if your tree was sprayed, what type of soil it lived in and how it was shipped to your house and from where. Yes, this is a real recipe and yes it was awesome. I also realize that if you wanted to eat your entire tree this way you’d need to eat approximately 22 pork tenderloins a day for a decade. And please, whatever you do, don’t use an artificial tree for this recipe. Edit: I initially posted this as spruce before being reminded that this looked like a fir twig, which it indeed is – sorry for the confusion (reminder to self: drink more coffee before posting!)
A few months ago Dana and I were out for a walk with a new friend, Tama Matsuoka Wong when she b-lined for a pine tree with a small saw in her hand. Although her next words appeared to be a question, there was no option provided in her query, “Wanna taste?”
And Suddenly I found myself eating part of a tree.
Tama is a master forager and I’ve been studying her book and technique since I saw her speak last year.
We’ve brined pork before (it keeps it moist) and we’ve used wood chips to make our own ‘bitters.’ This recipe combines the two techniques. The evergreen needles are bitter (which is augmented through heating them and extracting their oils) but pleasant. We used about a teaspoon and you could add more if you wanted a more pronounced flavor. The final result was served cold over lentils and was fantastic!
- 2 pork tenderloins
- 1 Cup of salt
- 4-5 bay leaves
- 4.5 liters/quarts of water
- 1 teaspoon or more fir or pine needles
- Mix 1 cup of water with salt and dissolve over medium-high heat on stove.
- In a large bowl, mix the salt-water with the remaining water and allow to cool to room temperature (the addition of the other water will do most of the work).
- Toast the evergreen needles in a pan on medium heat. Watch closely and move them around the dry pan often. They will become noticeably oily.
- Add the pork and pine to the brine.
- Cover and place in fridge for 12 hours.
- Rinse well (it’s ok if some needles stick to the pork).
- Preheat oven to 325.
- Sear in a heavy pan (cast iron prefered) over really high heat. When you think it’s about to burn, wait a few more minutes before flipping it. Hint: if it’s stuck to the pan, it’s nowhere near ready to flip.
- Assuming your pot is oven-safe (if it’s not, use a different one), transfer to oven. Cook until complete (the USDA says 145 degrees is enough; we take ours out about 10 degrees early and keep a thermometer in to make sure it reaches the required temperature).
- Wrap in foil and let rest at least 30 minutes before serving. If you’re going to serve it chilled, allow it to cool considerably before placing in fridge!