When the holiday season rolls in, we welcome the freezing temperatures and warmth of wood stoves that the month of December represents. On one weekend, we creep onto arriving ice and wander the snowy forest; the next, we gather with family and friends, but what links the two? Surely it must be good food and hot beverages.
For us, welcoming winter is a process of being out, near or on the ice, and finding our first feed of freshwater trout from the cold lakes in our backyard. The meal makes those dear to us wish they were here when we fire up the wood stove in our canvas tent, gather the ingredients, and bake a fresh trout. A forest tea heightens the meal, and sometimes, we even enjoy a hot chocolate with a little extra spice. Here’s what we look forward to in the lead-up to the holidays.
We are so grateful to have excellent fisheries at our doorstep in Northwestern Ontario, so we prefer the harvest of freshly caught trout, but a store-bought fish will work the same. Just as we thoroughly enjoy cooking on the edge of a lake over an open fire or under our portable wood stove, a kitchen range will also get the job done.
- Skin on, bone-in fillets of trout (rib cage removed) seasoned liberally with dill powder, garlic salt, and lemon pepper
- Cubed potatoes tossed in olive oil, seasoned with Cajun spice and chipotle Tabasco
- Finely chopped red cabbage, grated carrots and ginger, finely chopped garlic and red onion, and a little mayonnaise
- Mix the potatoes and seasoning, fry in a non-stick pan or bake in the oven until soft through and golden
- Season the trout, place in the oven or a non-stick frying pan with a little butter and a lid, bake until white fats appear from the meat. Trout size can vary greatly, so cook until the meat is flakey but moist.
- In a bowl, add the finely chopped red cabbage, grate in the carrots and a medium chunk of ginger (mainly for the juice), and add the finely chopped garlic, red onion. Add a little mayo to give it a creamy texture.
Plated, this meal is colourful like the holidays. The salad provides a zesty pop of flavour from the ginger and garlic, the purples and oranges adding a welcome vibrance during the dark days of December. The potatoes add a slight heat to warm you and give weight to the meal, something to stick with you through the winter ahead. Best of all, the trout, perhaps drizzled with a freshly squeezed lemon, is the lean protein punch that helps us walk one water all season.
When we are winter camping, we love to bring our favourite ice cream for dessert because, after all, if you’re living in a freezer, why not bring ice cream?
We usually make a tea of gathered green needles and dried berries to top the meal off. Our favourite is harvested and dehydrated mint and rose hips steeped with fresh cedar or balsam boughs. The tea provides the nutrients we need in the winter.
Every now and again, we treat ourselves to hot chocolate for adults. We add hot chocolate mix to taste with a dash of Fireball and Baileys. The drink is a blast of warmth and fills the tent or room with notes of cinnamon and plenty of smiles. With a warm abode, winter isn’t so bad, as long as there’s delicious food, hot drinks, and good company.
Words and photos by David Jackson - Canadian Photo Journalist and avid winter explorer and ice fisherman, based out of Thunder Bay, Ontario.