Hot spiced lingonberry juice – a magical potion.
When we were in Mongolia, we were served hot fruit tea, particularly sea buckthorn berry tea. Based on our experience with teas, we expected this drink to be made from tea leaves along with dried fruit. The tea we were served was not really tea, but heated fruit juice infused with spices. Although we’d both previously enjoyed hot, spiced cider, it hadn’t occurred to us to heat other juices and enjoy them this way. Thank you, Mongolia.
Fast-forward to the present. Now is the time to pick lowbush cranberries in Alaska. We’ve been told for years to wait until after the first frost to pick these bright red beauties. In Point Hope, the first frost often coincided with snow and the first Arctic blasts from points still further north. By the time this happened, it was painfully cold to go out and pick these gems. Chignik Lake lies at a much lower latitude, and mornings that begin with a glaze of frost have been warming up into the 50’s. So, we’ve been picking lowbush cranberries by the gallon. Lowbush cranberries, otherwise known as lingonberries, are the wild cousins of the big juicy cranberries that appear in stores around Thanksgiving. Because of my recent experience with Mongolian fruit teas, I processed my lowbush cranberries into juice, saving the remaining pulp to make delicious cranberry sauce to go with dishes such as roast turkey and grilled pork tenderloins.
Making the juice was easy. I combined four cups of berries with two-and-a-half cups of water. I brought the water to a simmer for about ten minutes. While the berries were simmering, I took a silicon spatula and stirred and squashed the berries. After ten minutes, I hung a piece of cheesecloth in a tall food storage container and placed the berry mixture in the cheesecloth in order to separate the pulp and the juice. I froze the resulting juice in ½ cup portions. I also froze the pulp to be made into cranberry sauce later.
After all this lingonberry processing, I was ready to sit down and enjoy a cup of hot berry tea! A steaming, aromatic cup of this juice spiced with warm wintertime flavors was a perfect reward for my work in the kitchen. I can’t adequately describe how satisfying this tea is. The aroma and flavor evoked the best memories of a warm, cozy home on cold winter nights, kind of like mulled cider. At the same time, I felt like I was pouring some incredibly healthy elixir into my body. It is something like the feeling, I imagine, of drinking a magical potion from a friendly witch.
Hot Spiced Lingonberry Tea
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 4 cups lingonberry juice
- ½ tsp allspice
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 6 whole cloves
- dash ground nutmeg
- Place juice and brown sugar in a pot. Whisk until well blended.
- Add allspice, cinnamon and cloves.
- Simmer 10 minutes.
- Ladle tea into mugs through a fine wire mesh sieve.
- Grate a dash of nutmeg onto hot juice and serve immediately.