Pre 1900 Cooking Challenge #1: Pine Needle Tea

Pine Needle Tea from the 1600s as used by Huron Indians
In December my friend and fellow food blogger Colleen Greene  suggested that those of us in the Cook Something group on Facebook prepare 12 dishes from pre-1900. This means we have to find and create those dishes from old recipes, then serve them.

I've had a lot of fun looking over cookbooks and recipes from the 1750s on, but I am starting with Pine Needle Tea. Pine Needle Tea was something that the Huron Indians (also called the Wyendot) on Georgian Bay prepared in order to prevent scurvy. When the Jesuits arrived and began construction of Ste. Marie Among the Hurons in 1639, the natives showed them many natural foods from the wild.

Pine Needle Tea was one of those shown to the French missionaries. It is rich in Vitamin A and C so helpful for colds, flu and has other medicinal uses.

Spruce Trees on our property
Hubs and I are very interested in living off the land and we like to get back to basics in our food whenever possible.  We believe in being self-reliant and so we have learned about various edible wild plants that grow in our area.

Since I live near Ste. Marie Among the Hurons and am very familiar with the site and history, I thought this would be a very appropriate recipe to use for Challenge #1.  My husband has made this tea before and he loves it.

First you find a pine tree. We used a Spruce tree with short needles. You want to look for fresh bright green needles on your tree. Some pine trees are poisonous so be sure you know what you are gathering! Luckily where we live there are no poisonous pine trees. You also don't want to drink gallons of this tea at one sitting as it can be harmful in large quantities. We use spruce but others have told me they have used Balsam, White Pine and Pitch. I cannot vouch for these varieties as we have not tried them.

You can rinse the needles with cold water if you wish. We don't. Then you chop the needles into short pieces. The shorter the better.

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil on the stove, then add 1 to 2 Tbsp. of chopped needles. Simmer this for about 20 minutes or until the needles start to sink to the bottom.

When the pine needles start to sink to the bottom of your pot, the tea is ready. You can also tell by the colour. The darker the tea, the more nutrients you are getting and the stronger the flavour

This is plenty for 2 cups of tea

Chopping the needles into small pieces

We used a short needle Spruce but still need to chop
Add needles to water on stove
Tea is almost ready. A beautiful colour!

You can now strain the boiled tea into your teacup or you can let it sit and steep for another 10 to 15 minutes. A little side note - the strainer I'm using here was my great-grandmother's.
Pine Needle Tea
Hubs likes to add milk and sugar to his, but the natives and Jesuits would likely only have added maple syrup or perhaps a bit of sugar to theirs.