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The Monday afternoon before Christmas I was watching an episode of Ricardo and Friends on Food Network Canada called Ski Trip.

ice cider

ice cider

The group of friends enjoyed dessert with a glass of an apple ice cider (apple ice wine) called Neige. It really caught my interest. In the episode, Ricardo visits La Face Cachée de la Pomme, the winery where Neige is made.

The winery makes some ice ciders where the apples are left to freeze on the tree and the process actually cooks the apples. For Neige the apples are pressed into a cider and left to ferment in the cold winter weather of Quebec. It takes a lot more apples and effort than I could have imagined to make just one bottle of the apple ice wine. The process is called Cryoconcentration. There are specific standards that have to be achieved for a cider to be classed as an ice cider.

It just so happened that my husband was in Montreal until December 23 and I asked him to pop by the Quebec store called SAQ to see if he could find a bottle of Neige for us to try on Christmas Eve. He managed to get the last bottle that they had.

On Christmas Eve, after our 7 year old went to bed, Bryan poured us each a glass. We snuggled by the Christmas tree reminiscing about the wonderful Christmases we’ve had together over the past 17 years. It was wonderful.

Of course, you will want to know more about this ice cider. I was expecting the sweetness of an ice wine made from grapes. I am not a fan of ice wine usually.

Neige is different. It has a great apple flavor and a tartness that I did not anticipate. I could see why Chef Ricardo paired this with a Rustic Apple, Pear and Date Pie as it would go beautifully.

If you get the chance to try Neige, I highly recommend it. It is an unusual and delicious beverage to serve with a dessert or to enjoy on a romantic evening by the glowing lights of the Christmas tree or a crackling fire.

I love pomegranates as they remind me of Christmas and my childhood. Santa always left one in the toe of my stocking. Yesterday when I went to the market they had bags of 5 pomegranates for $1.00. A great deal considering they are usually $2 or $3 a piece here. These were on the reduced rack because the skins weren’t looking so great. They were still nice and firm and heavy. I knew that they would be juicy and ripe.

For years I have struggled with the frustrating task of removing the seeds from their protective pith.

Yesterday when we came home I was watching a holiday special on Food Network Canada. I missed the name of the program but some of the Canadian Food Network Chefs were hanging out and cooking a meal together. Laura Calder, from French Food at Home fame, was preparing an endive and mâche salad with a pomegranate vinaigrette. When preparing the fruit she did it differently than I had seen done before. I tried it this morning and it worked beautifully.

Laura filled a bowl with cool water and then cut the fruit in quarters. She gently removed the fruit under the water. Why this works so wonderfully is that the little gems of fruit sink to the bottom and the pith rises to the surface. Brilliant!

I highly recommend this method. It doesn’t make near as much mess as happens when you tap the fruit out over a bowl.

Our dear Italian friend, Antonietta, makes these at holiday time. A few years ago she graciously shared the recipe with me. These cookies are delicious and gluten free.

Of course, I’ll be making a batch of amaretti really soon. When I do, I’ll post a photo or two.

amaretti cookies

1 1/2 cups sugar (and 1/3 cup extra sugar for rolling)
1 whole egg
2 egg whites
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
3 ounces almond extract
3 1/2 cups finely ground almonds
whole almonds

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Beat the whole egg and the egg whites with the sugar. Add cocoa and almond extract and mix to combine. Then add the ground almonds. Form into small balls and roll in sugar. Push a whole almond into the top of each cookie. Bake for 15 minutes.

Note: If you can’t find ground almonds you can grind your own. Start with whole almonds and grind to a very fine meal but not to the point they become a paste. If the almonds are too coarse your cookies with flatten.

When I was younger I used to use sourdough starters and friends used to give me friendship cake starters and the like. I had one starter that lasted over a year.

My first batch will be from Chef Emeril Lagasse’s recipe for a Potato Water Sourdough Starter. If it works for me then I will start playing around with my own ideas. I have a few concerns because our house is an 130 year old, drafty, Victorian gem.

Once I get through doing this at home then I will try using sourdough to make bread on a backpacking or paddling trip.