If I haven’t posted lately, it’s because several things have been happening at once. 1. It’s started snowing and more snow is in the forecast. 2. We got our first frost on the 21st. 3. I’ve been madly picking lingonberries (i.e. low-bush cranberries). 4. I’ve been unpacking. (One day, I do hope to be done with number four.) 5. I’ve been on the hunt for winter clothes for my baby.
The snow, thankfully, did not stick. But I was concerned for a little while there, as the flurries were fast and furious. There are still some trees with leaves on them, and snow now would not be kind to those trees. But those snows delivered the cold temperatures that brought the first hard frost to my backyard overnight, which is what I was waiting for in order to begin picking lingonberries.
Now, every nap time, I am to be found either outside picking more berries, or inside washing, sorting, and freezing berries. Berry picking is backbreaking work. And the actual berry picking is only a part of that. It’s nearly as time consuming (especially with an infant) to remove all the leaves, stems, bugs, and other debris out of the berries once you’ve picked them.
But, the carrot hanging down in front of me is all the things I can make with my lingonberries (and high-bush cranberries and chokecherries). My mother has a killer cream cheese lingonberry bread recipe, which I have fond memories of growing up with. It was a yearly tradition to wait for the first frost, then go out behind our property to a nearby lingonberry patch and pick until our hands were numb, or our bags were full.
I’ve missed that bread since leaving Alaska.
So about four hours of squatting in the leaves, kneeling on the ground, digging in leaves, sticks, and other debris, staining my jeans and hands with cranberry juice, chapping my knuckles until they bleed, and allowing my son to nap in the backpack carrier, led to about two gallon bags full of lingonberries in the freezer.
To someone from “Outside,” this may not seem like a lot. But lingonberries are much smaller than their Thanksgiving cranberry cousins. Perhaps 1/3 to 1/4 the size of the typical Ocean Spray fresh cranberries you find in Fred Meyer in November. And oh, so much better. It’s true that small fruits often pack more flavor, and these are flavorful little berries.
Although the demise of fall and the snow in the forecast makes me incredibly sad, I try to focus on the benefits of this first frost. The lingonberries are quickly falling off their stems and rotting, and so I return to the crisp days out of doors to pick some more, ignoring the pain in my knees and back so that I can stock up my berry supply. Because once that snow falls, it’s not leaving for a very long time.