The past few weeks have been crazy busy at our cabin. Our days spending time at work and with friends have been punctuated by moving boxes and bubble wrap. Izzy is a nervous wreck. If she sees a suitcase, she glues herself to either Chris’ or my side. Multiply one suitcase by dozens of boxes, and you have one freaked out pooch. Izzy came to live with us when she was 2 years old and ours was her third home. People in Alaska often move, or in the very least travel, a ton. Often, they see they can’t take their dog with them for one reason or the other; hence, a two year old dog is passed around from home to home, leading to pretty epic bouts of separation anxiety. Izzy is pretty much the reason why we’re driving to Maine. She absolutely loves riding in a car and I can’t bare the thought of her drugged up in a crate in the bottom of an airplane. Cleary, she’s making the move with us and will most definitely be spoiled along the way.
I was driving into work the other day and Denali (Mt. McKinley) was painted perfectly along the horizon. The purples and pinks of the sunrise were hitting it so it looked less like a mountain but a watercolor of one. I admired its beauty and then my mind went to a place of regret and a bit of panic: there’s still so much I want to see and do in Alaska and I don’t have the time. Work and life took so much energy out of me the past several years. Now, I regret that I didn’t suck it up and bare it because the time to leave is quickly approaching.
I needed something to lift my spirits, so I drove straight to Creamer’s Field, my go-to spot for nice long trail runs and peace. Creamer’s is a 200,00 acre Migratory Waterfowl Refuge in the middle of Fairbanks. At one time, much of the land was owned and operated by a family who homesteaded and raised milking cows in the Gold Rush days. Soon, the homestead blossomed into the largest dairy in Interior Alaska and found its way on the National Registry of Historic places. One barn and the farmhouse still stands, the latter is the Visitor’s Center for the refuge. Instead of cows roaming the pastures, thousands of Sandhill cranes and Canadian geese take a rest in the fields this time of year to get their fill before heading South for the winter. It’s always a treat to hear them fly overhead. They’re loud birds, but when you hear them flying above, you know it’s they who are announcing that fall is on its way.
I didn’t have my camera this particular day because it was an impromptu visit for me to ease my stress, but I did find some pictures from last year of the cranes in the fields.
When I got home that night, I pulled some cranberries from my fridge, a parting gift from my landlord. Tis the season for cranberries. In Alaska, we have highbush and lowbush. Highbush are really seedy and work much better for jellies. Lowbush are good for eating outright or in breads, cakes, salads, and sauces, and are usually a little sweeter then their highbush counterparts.
I consulted one of my cookbooks to figure out something I could do with them and I found this in my 50s Better Homes and Gardens cookbook:
In a 6 -to – 8-quart kettle or Dutch oven mix 8 cups fresh cranberries (2 pounds), 4 cup sugar, 1 1/2 cups water, 2 teaspoons grated orange peel, and 1 1/2 cups orange juice. Bring to boiling. Cook, uncovered about 5 minutes or till cranberry skins pop, stirring once or twice. Stir in 1/2 cup slivered almonds, if desired. Ladle hot relish into hot clean half-pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Adjust lids. Processing in boiling water bath 5 minutes (Start timing when water returns to boiling). Makes about 8 half-pints.
I had a wheel of brie in my fridge and an extra roll of puff pastry. I wanted to make a real autumnal dish. Cranberry sauce screams autumn, yeah, but it needed something more. I glanced out my kitchen window and saw the curried colored leaves rain from their branches, and I was immediately inspired.
Come to find out, cranberries and curry go together like instant gratification and a pint of Haagen Dazs. I didn’t have four cups of sugar on hand because we don’t have sweet teeth in our house. I used honey instead and the curry powder gives it some aromatic sweetness, too. This would be great to serve at Thanksgiving, and it is so easy.
- 1½ cups fresh cranberries
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tsp. mild curry powder, divided
- 1 wheel of brie, rind on
- 1 prepared puff pastry, room temperature
- 1 egg + 1 Tbsp. Water, beaten together
- In a small sauce pan, add cranberries, honey, water, and 1 tsp. curry powder. Heat over medium, stirring often until the skins on the cranberries have popped open, between 4-6 minutes. Add more water 1 tbsp at a time if necessary. (My cranberries produced plenty of juice, so I didn't need to.)
- Once cranberries have cooked down, remove from heat. Add 1 tsp. of curry powder and stir to incorporate.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Meanwhile, roll out the puff pastry being careful not to tear it and lay on a flat surface. Place wheel of brie, rind intact, in the center of the puff pastry.
- Once cranberry sauce has cooled slightly, spread cranberry relish generously on top of the brie.
- Gather up the edges of the pastry and press around the brie and bring ends together at the top. Pinch the dough at the top. Place in an oven proof skillet or casserole.
- Brush with egg wash and bake for 20 minutes or until pastry is golden brown and crispy.