This guest post was written by Laura Reinsborough. Laura is Founder and Director at Not Far From the Tree an organization dedicated to putting Toronto’s fruit to good use by picking and sharing the bounty. Laurea’s post is part of the part of the Apron Strings series, helping shine a light on our foremother’s food traditions. Visit the Apron Strings page to see other posts and the videos.
A decade ago, I spent a year as a high school exchange student in Norway. I learned the language. I learned how to knit. And, though I had been a picky eater at home, my politeness took over and I learned to love Norwegian food.
In one of the families I lived with, my Norwegian host mother Kirsti had a garden that cascaded from her house towards the fjord-like river below. Before I had ever heard of the word “permaculture,” I learned this gardening philosophy simply by witnessing her garden. It produced plenty of food – asparagus, strawberries, cucumbers, and so much more – though its greatest impact was that it was inviting. I wanted to be in that garden. There was even a peach tree growing delicately along the house wall, clinging to any extra warmth it could to survive the cool Norwegian climate.
Kirsti introduced me to a culture of food that extended well beyond the garden. Each day began with a feast of jams and jellies for breakfast, eaten on handmade bread that Kirsti baked fresh. There were picnics almost every time we left the house. My first time fishing was out on their boat in the fjord and we even took a trip to the Arctic Circle where we plucked cod from the fjord under the midnight sun. And every cross-country ski trip included a feast of coffee, oranges, and Norwegian chocolate in the outdoor living room that my host father Haakon would carve from the snow, complete with a fire pit to cook the hot dogs.
Treks in the mountains meant foraging for berries, which in turn meant a new batch of saft. Foraging is tradition in Norway, codified through the freedom to roam law called Allemennsrett, or “every man’s right,” whereby everybody has access to uncultivated land that is 100m from a dwelling. With the freedom to roam comes the freedom to forage and saft is the culinary result of this national pastime.
Saft is a juice concentrate, made by cooking berries and straining them, almost like syrup for a cordial. You can preserve the syrup and later dilute with water to serve. Most commonly made with lingonberries in Norway, saft can be made with just about any berry and even some fruits.
My first attempt to make saft was when Not Far From The Tree once picked an elderberry tree clean. Elderberries need to be cooked in order to be safe to eat, and so it was difficult to donate the berries fresh. I remembered the lingonberry saft I used to drink in Norway and found this tutorial to take me through the process.
Once your saft is ready, be sure to make a few Gleaners, Not Far From The Tree’s signature cocktail, developed specifically for our elderberry saft.
Created for Not Far From The Tree by Sharon Bergey of Jamie Kennedy Kitchens
- 1 oz. Not Far From The Tree’s phenomenal elderberry syrup
- 1 oz. vodka
- 2 oz. Bottle Green Sparkling Elderflower