I love the idea of foraging, but it also scares me. I don’t trust myself. Or others. When I am hiking in the woods with friends and they hand me a red berry or leaves to eat, I ask that they eat it first. If they do, I will still refuse to eat the thing they want me to try. Who are these persons who discovered what was edible and what was not? I have to assume these people were very hungry and lucky. If they were not lucky, they died.
But there is an easily identifiable and abundant flora I like to forage: wintergreen berry (or teaberry). It is a low-lying ground-covering shrub with smooth bright green leaves and bright red berries that ripen in the fall and persist through the winter.
I spent a afternoon foraging with my pup, filling three bags full of wintergreen leaves and berries, as well as juniper and some moss and plants to refresh my terrariums. (My pup later shook open the moss bags, spilling moss, soil and all the bugs that were in that soil all over the house.)
The infusion in this recipe takes a couple of days to prepare, but the time it takes is worth it. You can do so much with infusions, especially a light, tasty one like the wintergreen cordial.
MAINE WINTERGREEN CORDIAL INFUSION
Start with a high-proof spirit. A great one to use is Twenty 2 Vodka High Proof Spirit, at 150 proof.
Add wintergreen leaves and juniper at a ratio of 3 to 1 wintergreen to juniper. I filled a 1-quart ball jar with 1 cup of foraged wintergreen, and 1/3 cup juniper berries.
Let it infuse for two to three days. I added a half cup of sugar to give it more of a root-type liquor taste.
FORAGED MAINE WINTERGREEN COCKTAIL
3 ounces Maine Wintergreen Cordial
Juice from 1/2 lime
Simple syrup as needed (start with 1/4 oz)
Top off with club soda and garnish with a wintergreen sprig and lime
Jessie Lacey resides at the heart of downtown Portland with her border collie puppy Josie, making cocktails and trouble.