From cocktails to butter cookies, how to use pine needles in the kitchen

My first memories of pine trees are the black and white trees painted in Chinese fairy paintings, which were hung on my grandmother’s wall. The calligraphy underneath the painting reads “xue sōng dung shòu,” which means “pine tree, longevity.” My grandfather’s name, Chang Sōng, translates roughly the same.

However, my grandfather died young of cancer long before I was born. I have no memory of him, but whenever we encounter the pine trees, my mother’s smile and sometimes tears, come to my mind. It was a complicated thing – I thought of a family member that my mother was very close to, but I never had the chance to meet. On the other hand, I appreciate Christmas nostalgia they represent. These trees, for me, are nostalgia, sadness and hope.

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But until recently, I was unaware of their culinary potential. My grandfather seems to be a devoted person eaters, live a life of tasting and trying new foods. If he were alive, he would be eager to experiment with pine in the kitchen.

According to Ann Ziata, chef instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, pine is an aromatic ingredient that you can easily incorporate into your cooking and baking.

“For me, the best reason is the taste,” says Ziata. “It’s very powerful, jungle and comfortable. That’s also what we can fodder because the. It’s always fun to use ingredients that we can go out and test for ourselves, maybe in the park or in the woods somewhere, and then take it home and start cooking. ”

Ziata shared some details on how to cook with pine, as well as a recipe for a sweet cookie.

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The pine needles and buds are both edible, but you need to make sure you’re getting the good stuff. The best flavor comes from fresh or freshly cut plants. Needles should be full and free of brown spots or debris.

“You can find them all over the Northeast. If you’re on the West Coast you can probably find something similar to Redwood pines, coastal redwoods that you can use a magnetic needle on.” , Ziata added.

Pine incense cooking oil

A great way to incorporate the unique flavor of pine into dishes is to cook with pine oil.

“With any tough herb,” ​​suggested Ziata, “you keep the oil and the herb until it boils gently. Turn off the heat and let steep until the oil cools and then strain the herb out. Most of the flavors. The taste in the pine is self-dispersing in the oil.”

If you’re not sure what to cook, you can try mushrooms. Pine and mushroom are a winning combination – both grow wild and have rich woody flavors. They can support each other without being too delicate.

“We are always looking for pairs that occur organically in nature,” says Ziata. “Things that grow together often culminate together.”

Sauté or roast mushrooms in pine oil, then add other root vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots. Toss the dish with ricotta cheese for an extra layer of flavor (though the mushrooms are already delicious enough to go well with rice or pasta).

Pine tea

The essence of pine tea is the traditional woody flavor. To make a pine needle, you just need to soak a few pine needles in water, then use the water to make tea. You can also sweeten it with maple syrup or honey. Ziata recommends adding a few extra seasonal spices, like cinnamon, pepper, and cloves. Anything that sounds like a “winter spice mix” or a baking spice blend tends to be great in tea.

Simple Pine Syrup

Pine drinks, like pine latte and pine cocktails, are just as festive as eggnog drinks. The key to making these is a simple syrup from the pine tree. The process is not too complicated: Simmer the pine needles in water and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Strain the mixture and add to the drink.

Pine desserts

Since pine is such a strong flavor, Ziata recommends a smaller dessert, such as a pine cone. The recipe, found below, is perfect for the upcoming winter months.


Recipe: Pine Paper Cookies with Citrus and Cinnamon
Courtesy of Ann Ziata, chef instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education
Generate 40 cookies

Cookie dough:

  • cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon small pine needles
  • 20 tablespoons butter
  • 1 orange
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon

Cookie dough coating:

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Raw sugar, for coating


1. In a stand mixer fitted with a stirrer, beat the sugar with the minced pine needles on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add avocado and orange peel; Mix on medium-high speed until buttery. This should take about 10 minutes, depending on the temperature of the butter.

2. Add salt and vanilla extract; Continue whipping cream until all ingredients are combined.

3. In a separate bowl, beat flour and cinnamon. Turn off the mixer and add the dry mixture. Mix on slow speed until the dough is just mixed in, using your hands to push down the bowl of dough to make sure all ingredients are combined.

4. Turn the dough out onto the counter and divide the dough into two halves. Roll each piece of dough into a log about 12 inches in size. Roll the log onto a piece of parchment and let the dough cool for 30 minutes.

5. While the dough is cooling, preheat the oven to 325F.

6. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and spread on a parchment paper. Coat the log with eggs, then coat the whole log with raw sugar.

7. Cut the log into 1⁄2 inch circles and place on a full paper tray lined with parchment. Bake for 8-12 minutes, until cake is golden brown.

Other Christmas cookie stories: From cocktails to butter cookies, how to use pine needles in the kitchen

Bobby Allyn

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