Here is another sweet treat for the holidays – a dark honey nougat flavoured with preserved spruce tips. I have written about foraging for pine or spruce needles, both in the winter and the summer. My favourite in the winter are white pine as written in this post because they are so easy to identify. My other favourites for cooking are the spruce tips collected in early spring which I preserve in either salt or sugar, a 1:1 ratio as described here.
I should add here that soon after I made this sweet preserve, I read somewhere that it was better just to salt them, as for some reason they taste bitter when mixed with sugar. Luckily I didn’t chuck them or use them for a while, and the next time I tasted them, they were perfectly sweet – so it is a question of giving them time to age in the sugar.
Always on the lookout for ways to use these preserves I was delighted to find this recipe from Gather Victoria for a Grand Fir Dark Nougat. Being on the west coast their evergreens are different from ours, but I saw no reason not to use my own, and wherever you live, as long as there are some sorts of edible evergreens, you might want to experiment with them. And if you are wary of making your own sweets, this one is a super easy one to start with you will be amazed at the difference of flavour from the store bought ones.
I had to alter her recipe just a bit, as I already had my spruce preserved in sugar, so I mixed some of the sugar with the honey.
Dark Spruce Honey Nougat
1 cup honey
1/2 cup spruce tips in sugar
2 cups roasted almonds (or hazelnuts)
a little butter
Mix and heat the sugar and honey stirring often. While this is cooking, roast the nuts in a pan on medium high heat. When the syrup reaches the hard ball stage, or 235 degrees F., add the roasted nuts and stir. Pour it into a buttered pan 50-60 square inches – any shape. Allow to cool and cut into squares.
As suggested by Gather Victoria, I served it with a light nougat, in the case my maple walnut nougat.
It is quite soft and toffee like, and I recommend you don’t pile them up as they do have a tendency to stick, but can be separated with a sharp knife if need be.