Michele Genest lives in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, where she writes The Boreal Chef cooking column for Yukon, North of Ordinary Magazine. Her big enthusiasm is to find new ways to cook with northern ingredients, whether they live and grow wild in the boreal forest or its lakes and rivers, or are cultivated in northern gardens. She often wanders out of the north to explore ingredients and techniques from other cuisines, bring them back to the Yukon and create some great north-south kitchen mash-ups.
Why did you decide to partner up with Greenpeace?
Greenpeace is doing vital work raising awareness of and appreciation for the boreal forest as a key habitat for all manner of life. I especially like their approach to the forest as a cultural landscape that includes the people who live here, first and foremost Indigenous people, but newcomers as well. As someone who lives here, I appreciate Greenpeace’s boreal forest campaign, and wanted to help in the best way I can — through food. I don’t know if people generally think of the forest as a source of delicious wild foods, but my hope is that through these videos we’ve made together the forest will seem not just miles and miles of endless trees, but a source of beautiful sustenance.”
What inspires you to cook ingredients from the boreal forest?
When I first arrived in the North 25 years ago I got to know and love the boreal forest by going berry picking with friends. Those early experiences led to more foraging excursions into the woods, and as my knowledge grew so did my appreciation for this beautiful place. Creating and sharing dishes and recipes made with the foods of the boreal forest helps me connect to the land and to the people who live here. I love it.
2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
½ cup (125 mL) chopped red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp (2.5 mL) ground cardamom
½ tsp (2.5 mL) ground cinnamon
½ tsp (2.5 mL) salt
pinch of ground cloves
3½ cups (825 mL) low bush cranberries, fresh or frozen
½ cup (125 mL) sugar
2½ Tbsp (22.5 mL) balsamic vinegar
Sauté onion in oil over medium heat until translucent. Stir in garlic and spices. Add cranberries and stir until the cranberries begin to pop. Stir in sugar and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring often. Pour into hot sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
Makes about 2½ cups (600 mL) chutney.
Adapted from The Boreal Gourmet, Adventures in Northern Cooking, by Michele Genest. Harbour Publishing, 2010.