Ojibwa Spring


At last, life returns to the North Woods.  Throughout northern Minnesota people gather surging maple syrup and the first carrots coaxed from the thawed soil, and combine them with the last of the supplies laid in for the winter, including wild rice, collected locally in the fall, and dried fruit.  Taken together, all this makes for a rustic yet delicate dessert, a springtime favorite of the Ojibwa, a tribe more traditionally known as the Chippewa.

Of course, some of the ingredients, like milk, turmeric, cinnamon and cardamom, weren’t always part of the Ojibwa diet, and they were introduced only later.  The Ojibwa have used nearly everything else, though, including the wild rice, for millennia.  A note about wild rice – though it’s a distant cousin of the more familiar tropical variety, wild rice is a seed of the grasses growing in marshy areas and lakeshores in the North Woods.  The grasses mature and produce grains in the late summer and early autumn, when the Ojibwa would gather them to help them through the harsh northern winters.

Having survived another season of snow, the Ojibwa sometimes had a few staples left.  What better way to use them than to combine them with spring’s first exuberant offerings?  There’s maple syrup, as mentioned, as well as carrots:Carrot II

Been a while since we’ve seen one of these, at least fresh, with flowing greenery.

The carrots, specifically their juice, make up the “broth,” which also features milk simmered with fragrant spices, including cinnamon and cardamom.  This sweetly warms the rice beneath, and enchants the maple-soaked fruit and hazelnuts.  No wonder Saveur included the recipe in its Summer 2019 issue.

There may have been revisions to the Ojibwa original, inspirations from the broader world, but the preparation warms the stomach and the soul as it always has.  A nice celebration of emerging from winter’s drear, and into the sunshine.

*****

Wild Rice with Warm-Spiced Carrot Milk

  • 2 medium carrots, finely grated
  • 1 and 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, halved
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup dried currants (*1)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 1 cup roasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

Line a small bowl with three layers of cheesecloth, then grate the carrots into it.  Tie with kitchen twine to form a bundle, and leave the bundle in the bowl.

Put the milk, cream, butter, sugar, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, salt and pepper in a small saucepan and whisk to combine.  Place the pan over a medium-low flame and bring to a gentle simmer.  Hold the carrot bundle over the pan and squeeze, expelling as much juice as possible.  Drop the bag into the milk and add any carrot juice that had collected in the bowl.  Simmer gently for eight minutes, occasionally pressing on the bag with a wooden spoon.  Turn off the flame and let mixture steep for twenty minutes.

Strain milk through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl.  Cover to keep warm until ready to use.

In a small bowl add the dried fruit, maple syrup, olive oil, lemon juice and one tablespoon of hot water.  Toss to mix, then let stand until the fruit begins to plump, about twenty minutes.

Put the rice in a small pot and add two cups of water and one teaspoon of salt.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then cover the pot.  Turn the heat to low and cook for twenty minutes.

Divide the rice among six shallow soup bowls, then pour on enough of the milk mixture to half-submerge the rice.  Sprinkle each bowl with some of the fruit and hazelnuts and serve.

NOTES:

1 – Don’t particularly care for currants, as they’re rather reminiscent of raisins.  Instead, dried cranberries are an excellent replacement, and they match the dish’s native North American theme.

 

14 thoughts on “Ojibwa Spring

  1. A generous dollop of heavy cream is never a bad thing. This soup looks so delicious and healthy. I’m sure it would have been great to eat in the cold of winter. Lovely also to read about the Ojibwa.

    Writing and developing recipes for a publications like Saveur would be such a dream job wouldn’t it?

    I’m taking mental health days. My mind has been a mess lately. I did a post for this week but then deleted it. I can still enjoy yours though and thank you for that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, JoAnn! Even in early spring, there still is plenty of chilliness for everyone. Without the chill, though, you can’t savor coziness, right? Lots of that this week.

      Yeah, those writers at Saveur must’ve been a happy lot. Being at the top of their profession, and living in that particular universe? Naturally. Saveur and Gourmet, you have the top spots in my heart. Fortunately, you’ve left many worthy successors, and all trace their lineage straight back to you.

      Glad to have provided much needed R&R, JoAnn! Almost as fun as dreaming about these recipes and making them reality. That’s why I’m super-ultra-mega stoked about the revamp, starting this summer.

      Sorry you decided against releasing your latest, but it never went away, did it? Back to the Inbox it goes, where it will meet new friends and it will acquire a gorgeous patina. Then, when the time is right, you’ll make the introductions.

      Sometimes, that’s a problem for people like us – our minds never stop. Unfortunate at times, but mostly, it’s a good thing. Like the richness you’ll add to that Almost-This-Week post over the coming days, weeks, etc. Maybe thar Great Idea which makes the article hasn’t occurred to you yet.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, just between you and me (and anyone truly bored) I need to make some BIG changes this year. Gotta stick to it and not fall through the cracks of inertia!

        Anyway, ah food magazines, as lovely for their mouthwatering photos and ideas as their actual recipes. Yes that would indeed be a great way to spend your life, eating and writing about it… and then getting paid! Nice.

        Revamp? Do you mean you are finally going to reveal yourself to be the famous food writer you are! Anthony Bourdain didn’t die after all. It was all a hoax just like Hitler and Elvis! I knew it! Wait this conversation seems familiar… 🤔

        Well, just don’t forget the little people! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah, New Year’s Resolutions in April. You’ve taken things far enough outside the box to show you really are serious. Not to mention the fact you’ve moved not just to another country, but very nearly to another hemisphere. I’d say you know what you’re doing.

        As for Elvis and Bourdain, don’t forget to add JFK to the list. Come on, you’ve read the Weekly World News. You’ve seen pictures of the 100-year-old Fitz shaking hands with an alien. Who can argue with photographic proof? It’s science.

        Much as I adored Gourmet – and for that matter, still do – one thing really bothered me. Namely, its writers took it for granted readers lived in Manhattan and consequently, that they had easy access to all sorts of completely obscure ingredients. Things which even now, in the era of Amazon, are impossible to source. Aside from a four-block stretch of the Upper East Side, that is.

        Still, for the 60% of recipes which mere mortals can hope to try, Gourmet was the best. And always will be.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Rachel! It’s not often we follow this particular path in the culinary forest, but we’re bound to visit all four corners eventually, and everywhere in between too.

      Cranberries were a fitting substitution, as the fruit is native to North America, and thus, the Ojibwa had to have been using them from the very beginning. Much more important, they have a pleasing taste which also meshes well with the other flavors. A good thing definitely is worthy celebration.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, I do have to give myself some credit. Thanks for reminding me to do that!

    The Upper East Side, ha ha, makes me laugh. I used to do little odd jobs sometimes in that area so I know exactly what you mean. The rest of the world might as well not even exist. Going to New Jersey would be like going to the moon. 😆🌙

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmm, not sure about that but it is where everyone thinks they’re famous but no one has a clue who they are, lol. Don’t question them about it either… they will fill up the next two hours of your life explaining why they are famous. 😹😹
        Bunch a comedians, really!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hey, they were on “Jersey Shore” for half a season, so, you know, everyone knows who they are. That person whom Snookie punched. Or maybe it was The Situation. Or maybe it was both of them.

        Just like something which proclaims itself to be “World Famous.” If you have to ask, you must be some kind of ignorant hick.

        Liked by 1 person

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