Cranberry sauce is synonymous with the holiday season. Right before Thanksgiving, you see it line grocery store shelves along with other boxed American treats such as boxed stuffing and canned pumpkin pie. Millions of Americans buy canned cranberry to add some fruit to an otherwise starchy meal. Like most pre-packaged stuff, it is simply opened and plopped down onto a plate. The jiggly concoction is passed around the dinner table where most people generally slather it on starchy sides to add some color. But cranberry sauce doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it can be versatile and delicious!
For Thanksgiving, we delved into preparing our own cranberry sauce from our highbush cranberries we harvested in the fall on one of our many weekend adventures around Kenai Peninsula. Any type of cranberry will work fine, but if you plan on using traditional (i.e. “low bush”) or store-bought cranberries, you might want to reduce the sugar in this recipe, as the high bush variety are potently tart.
Highbush Cranberry Sauce
- 3 cups of highbush cranberries, cleaned of stems and debris
- 1 cup of sugar
- Half a large apple
- Half cup of blanched almonds
- 1 orange
- Pinch of cardamom
- Pinch of cinnamon
- In a large bowl, crush cranberries using potato masher or other crushing device.
- In a saucepan, combine crushed cranberries, sugar, spices, and almonds. Cut and cube apple and add to mixture.
- With a grater, grate about a teaspoon of orange peel into mixture. Cut up orange and squeeze juice from entire orange into sauce. Discard rest of orange.
- Over medium heat, bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to simmer and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Skim surface of mixture.
- Pour mixture into storage container. Allow to cool to room temperature before refrigerating, or put outside in snow.
- Refrigerate overnight and enjoy the next morning.
It is that magical time of year again where Thanksgiving has passed and for some reason it is immediately Christmas. While the rest of the Lower 48 (and Anchorage) fist fights for smokin’ hot Black Friday deals on crap they don’t need, we embarked on the quest to find the perfect Christmas tree. This is first year we’ve ever pursued the idea of getting a Christmas tree. Why? Beaches both of us grew up in California where acquiring a Christmas tree meant driving to a once-empty parking lot or Christmas tree farm where you walked around to find the right tree that you then purchased. In Hawaii it was worse: you went to a shipping container in a mall parking lot where you picked out a dry, overpriced tree direct from Oregon, some 2,500 ocean miles away. For the past several years the “buy, buy, buy” mentality of all things Christmas has been sort of a turnoff on the whole holiday in general. As a protest we both decided against a tree for many years.
A few weeks ago Bixler was browsing Costco in Anchorage when he came across a chainsaw. The heavens opened up and shined a bright light on said chainsaw. Bixler bought it and upped his man points. We even cleared some wood in his mom’s yard that is now nicely seasoning for our boat heater. As Thanksgiving approached, Bixler thought “what else could I chop down down with my chainsaw?” And thus the Christmas tree idea was born.
The Chugach National Forest, which encompasses most of the Kenai Peninsula, is open to Christmas tree cutting at one tree per household. Unlike many places in the world, Alaska does not have a shortage of trees, so we went for a drive to find the perfect Christmas tree.
Of course this is all easier said than done. Seward is a temperate rainforest that grows very large trees for the latitude. Our best bet was to find a swamp or something else that restricts the growth of the tree without sacrificing those cute little branches to hang ornaments on. On Christmas Tree Cutting Day it was 13F (-11C) in Seward with 30 knot winds (effective wind chill temperature of somewhere around -7F (-22C; I bet our Australian friends were wishing they were here). We started the day out with a drive-thru coffee where a flock of crows were awaiting those warm cars to stop so they could warm their feet.
We headed out the Seward Highway to find a swampy area to find two trees: one for us and one for Bixler’s mom. Our trek took us down a side road to an alder patch where some nice stunted-growth spruce were just waiting to be cut down.
Bixler donned his man gear: Filson jacket, hardhat set (you laugh, but trees have a tendency to fall on their cutters and the saws are loud), and chainsaw. Krystin broke trail on snowshoes and we found the perfect little tree for us. Bixler cut it down. The ambient temperature was hovering around 5F (-15C).
We decided on a bigger tree for Bixler’s mom’s house because she has more room. Krystin spent some time off-piste with the snowshoes looking for the perfect tree. We settled on cutting down a larger tree and cutting the bottom off to shorten it. Again, out came the chainsaw and thus we had a second tree.
We dragged them through a snowy trail to the car where with all of our engineering skills, we managed to finagle two trees atop our CRV.
A quick ride back to Seward and we set up the tree in Bixler’s mom’s house before setting up our own.
Remember how we said we’ve never really gotten a tree? That means we don’t have ornaments, yet. As we grow old and build memories we will likely acquire an ornament collection. In the meantime the tree will sit in our place with lights while we dig through Bixler’s mom’s reject ornaments before starting our collection.
Jupiter, the cat, only marginally approves of the tree. We had to move his cat condo to make room. Sorry Jupiter.
Diesel or wood? When your boat is “pre-propane” you don’t have too many options for a permanent heat source. This was the question we’ve been asking ourselves ever since we purchased Carpe Ventos in April 2010. For the past few summers we’ve learned to live with a humid cabin and a portable propane heater that eats 1 lb propane bottles. Last summer we were spoiled by excellent weather, but we still had instances when the ceiling of the boat was dripping water everywhere. Needless to say, it gets old after a while and in the late summer Carpe Ventos becomes mold central. So after hemming and hawing over which type of heat, we finally settled on * drumroll please… *
In 12F (-11C) weather we installed a Dickinson Solid Fuel Stove, mostly to specification (the flue is a tad bit short). Our choices for choosing wood over diesel are as follows:
- The diesel stove is considerably more expensive, requires more moving parts, and requires electricity.
- We developed an affinity to wood stoves during our many visits to public use cabins.
- Wood smells nice, is very Alaskan, and virtually everywhere along the coast.
- Wood is awesome.
After a successful installation using the scant instructions in the manual, we had a stove warming party aboard the boat. Krystin made a pot of salmon chowder and we brought down mulled wine and hot buttered rum (both homemade, of course) and burned about half of a 5-gallon bucket of wood. Friends dropped in periodically and the wind was howling at 30 knots, but the stove proved to be a trooper. The cabin was warm and dry, and if we didn’t have all of our sails stored up in the v-berth, we would have probably stayed the night aboard.
Ah, looking forward to spring sailing!
We get a lot emails from people through Alaskagraphy. The vast majority are either planning a trip to Seward or already live in Alaska and want to hook up with us, talk sailing, and buy us a beer. Oh, and lots and lots of spam.
The other day, however, a producer from a New Jersey TV show called Chasing New Jersey emailed us and wanted to use our bear chili photograph. We said of course, and offered use of our bear meatloaf and bear sausage photos as well. Why? Because there is bear hunting in New Jersey and Chasing New Jersey wanted to do a bear hunting segment and feature some bear recipes – probably to quiet those ever-present anti-hunting activists who claim people actually don’t eat bears (hint: we do and so do people in New Jersey).
The video segment and article can be found here.
We flew into New Jersey once a few years ago. Our recollection of the short train ride from the airport to New York City was an area highly populated and industrialized area – hardly bear territory (though they would probably enjoy the numerous trash cans). Reading a bit deeper into the subject, recent conservation efforts have ballooned the population (around 3,000 bears) and opened up a restricted bear hunt. The hunt is a lottery and lasts only six days, ironically in December when all the Alaskan bears are well into hibernation. Though we might be spoiled with our year-round hunting opportunities, this doesn’t mean bear hunting will be any easier in New Jersey. Best of luck to those hunters back east. Oh, and if you are successful, bring some chili by the Chasing New Jersey set on our behalf!
After months of filming, weeks of organizing clips, days of editing, and hours to upload, we present to Boat, Beaches, & Bears 2: Another Year in the Last Frontier. This feature length movie (you need to set aside a good chunk of time to watch it) is the sequel to Boat, Beaches, & Bears: 5 Months Sailing in the Last Frontier which has reached some 21,000 views to date on YouTube.
This movie continues to show more of Alaska’s beautiful scenery, but is more a filmed narrative instead of voice-over. As Robert McKee in Adaptation says: “…and God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends. God help you. That’s flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write a voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character.” Unavoidable in the first film, you will see that voice over is not present in the second film.
We had several working titles for this movie including Boat, Beaches, & Bears 2: A Summer of Maintenance; Boat, Beaches, & Bears 2: Bixler; Boat, Beaches, & Bears 2: Now With More 7 Fathom Hole; and our personal favorite Boat, Beaches, & Bears 2: Cirrhosis of the Liver.
We continue to feature ambient background soundtrack from mobygratis, Moby’s free music site for aspiring filmmakers. This year we are featuring tunes from Gertrude’s Hearse based out Seattle. Two of the band’s members come up to Seward every May for harbor opening to help rig sailboats.
A handful of our friends make short appearances:
- Jack and Barbra of Bandon with the blog CutterLight. When they aren’t on their boat or teaching in Point Hope, they are squatting in our apartment.
- Mark (the most interesting man in the world) of Sun Wah from Australia/Hong Kong. He got bogged down in Seward en route from Hong Kong to the US West Coast and has now become a member of our sailing community.
- Willie, a former charter boat captain who recently moved out of state with his wife to start a folk school (we didn’t know what it was either).
- Neil, also a charter boat captain who now has the privilege of saying he’s captained a sinking vessel.
- Sue, Bixler’s mom who frequently acted as ballast during our summer racing events.
- And of course, our small and nimble friend Larissa who helped saved Carpe Ventos from a watery grave at the bottom of Resurrection Bay.
Due to the high concentration of hateful comments from the last movie due to the bear hunting scene, we’ve included a disclaimer at the start of this movie. If hunting, fishing, meat processing, profanity, alcohol consumption, personal opinions, and a slight bout of gastrointestinal distress bother you to the point where you need to write us a poorly-thought out comment, DO NOT watch this movie. First off, if you take the time to write said comment on YouTube, you probably aren’t intelligent to begin with, so no matter how much you “wish us dead” or call us “murders,” we will always have an educated, detailed argument to shut you up.
Enjoy the movie.
We wanted to book two nights at the Devil’s Pass public use cabin, but settled on one night as someone beat us to the second night. That was fine, though, because not only did we experience awesome scenery and aurora borealis, but we beat a massive storm on our trek down from the cabin. Now we sit snugly at home, our car is safe from icy roads while the current cabin users are no doubt trudging 10 miles through fresh, wet snow.
Devil’s Pass is one of the few access trails to the Cooper Landing-to-Hope section of the Resurrection Pass Trail. At 10 miles long, it starts down at the Seward Highway and follows a creek up to the actual pass, where it meets with the Resurrection Pass Trial, roughly 17 miles from the Cooper Landing side and 21 miles from the Hope side. Right near the junction lies the Devil’s Pass public use cabin, the first cabin we’ve stayed at that is a) right on the trail and b) has an oil stove instead of a wood stove. The reservation site for the cabin notes that this cabin does not afford much privacy and based on the logs we can tell that people just randomly drop in or squat in the cabin. Luckily for us, November isn’t a high use month for the trail and the temperature was in the teens at the cabin.
Our trek up 10 miles was incredible with beautiful clear skies and the low winter sun on the horizon. The higher elevations at Devil’s Pass had a dusting of snow. We saw no wildlife (other than a few porcupines on the way down), but there were some large wolf tracks on the trail.
The clear skies continued, meaning it would be a cold night for us. The thermometer outside the cabin dropped to about 16F (-9C) quickly after sunset. We had hauled up two gallons of stove oil (kerosene) for the stove and got the cabin nice and toasty. This was a nice touch because we kept going outside to photograph both the sunset and the aurora borealis overhead. What a show!
Two restaurants in Seward offer competing Gyro (pronounced YEER-oh, not JY-roh) pizzas, composed of basically the same elements: gyro meat, red onions, tomatoes (that Krystin always picks off), mozzarella, feta, an olive oil base, each restaurant’s “secret” pizza dough recipe, and a side of tzatziki sauce. This pizza is awesome, and whenever we consume this greasy calorie bomb to its entirety we usually writhe around in pain afterwards. With our fresh goat meat, we decided to adapt this recipe to make it a bit healthier and keep some of the classic toppings intact.
Here is the recipe:
- Goat (or lamb) steak, thinly sliced
- Gyro meat seasoning: cumin, thyme, marjoram, garlic, salt, rosemary, oregano
- Pizza dough – we use Safeway’s premade dough out of laziness, but you can make your own too
- Mozzarella cheese, grated
- Red onions, chopped
- Sweet mini or bell peppers, chopped
- Olive oil
- Poor man’s harissa
- Tzatziki sauce
1. Preheat oven to desired temperature (usually around 400F or 425F). Thinly slice goat or lamb steak and toss in blend of seasonings. Set aside.
2. Roll out pizza dough to desired size. Spread poor man’s harissa as a base. Top with grated mozzarella cheese. Arrange peppers and onions on pizza.
3. In a hot skillet with oil, lightly saute seasoned meat. You do not need to cook it well done as it will continue to cook in the oven.
4. Place cooked meat on pizza. Place pizza in oven and cook until cheese is bubbly and pizza dough is done all the way through. Serve with tzatziki sauce.