For the past two winters, about a dozen women in my family have participated in a gift exchange we call Forage Fest. We all like to forage for berries or mushrooms or other things outside, and many of us grow gardens, too. The idea of the exchange is to make an item, one each for everyone in the group, that includes some element of something you harvested in the outdoors or in your garden.
It can be food, a body product, a household gift, whatever you want as long as it includes some element of something you grew or foraged. While having a creative challenge like this is a fun way to think about how to create with Alaska’s bounty, it’s just as fun to see how many cousins and aunts interpreted the task.
Last year, we were able to do this event in person. I made blueberry zucchini muffins and cranberry cookies. There were chaga and cottonwood salves for sore muscles, cranberry rose hip tea, honey rose hip vinegar, a juniper berry wreath, raspberry marshmallows, spruce tip salt and more.
This year, with the pandemic, we had the added challenge of having to mail some items to family in Kenai, Idaho and Washington. My sister and I collaborated on our project, which was homemade dark chocolate bars filled with raspberry jam, smaller Lego-shaped chocolates topped with rhubarb salt, all wrapped up in a blueberry- and cranberry-dyed napkin that I sewed.
In return, we got a 100% beeswax candle from my aunt’s hive, cranberry bread from my parents, a moss garden, plum jam from Washington family, a woven pine needle basket from family in Idaho, cranberry tea, morel salt, spruce tip syrup and fruit leather. Last week, we all gathered on Zoom to talk about the products we made, our process and gushed about each other’s creativity.
This week’s recipe will be the raspberry chocolate bars, however, I wouldn’t say they are a particularly easy or fun process.
A homemade chocolate is sure to make a great gift for someone this holiday season. Keep in mind you’ll need to buy some sort of mold to pour your liquid chocolate into. A double boiler, or a glass bowl that fits on top of a small pot of water is needed to melt the chocolate gently. Patience is also key, as there is lots of waiting for things to set.
Raspberry chocolate bars
15 ounces of dark chocolate
1. Place a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Toss the chocolate into the bowl and stir around until it’s melted. Once melted remove the pot from the heating element.
2. Pour the chocolate into the molds, filling it about halfway. Use a spatula to make the layer even. Pop in the freezer for 10 minutes or until well set.
3. Have a spoon ready for divvying out your jam into the chocolate, or place it in a piping bag. Once the first layer of chocolate is set, spoon or pipe dollops of raspberry jam into the center of the mold. Flatten the layer of raspberry jam out and pop in the freezer to set for a few minutes.
4. Repeat the second step and pour the last layer on top of the raspberry jam layer, covering it completely and filling the mold. Set in the freezer for 10 minutes or so.