Oregon harvest holiday

This appeared in the December 2014 issue of the Register-Guard’s monthly Home and Garden section. I got to sample everything displayed here including the homemade nocino, which was not an official part of the article.

Oregon harvest holiday
Master Food Preservers show how to flavor Christmas season with easy-do hazelnut, cranberry recipes.

By Vanessa Salvia
Dec 11, 2014


November and December are the only months of the year in which we gather expressly to be grateful for the bounty in our lives, and to share it with others. It feels even more meaningful when the meals we share celebrate local and seasonal ingredients.

Robert Cecil and Molly Schwarm, both of whom are certified Master Food Preservers through the Oregon State University Extension Service, make a habit of preparing fresh, seasonal foods. Much of what they make is given as gifts during the holidays, or tucked away to nourish their family and friends throughout the year.

Cranberries and hazelnuts, two Oregon crops, are abundant and easy to come by this time of year. Schwarm makes a quick microwave nut brittle. Cecil makes cranberry chutney and cranberry hazelnut bars. He also may throw together a hazelnut pasta dough — made with ground hazelnuts to partially replace flour — in his fresh pasta recipe.

Nut brittle may seem like an intimidating dish, but Schwarm proves it’s not. “If you have 10 minutes and a microwave, you can do it,” she says. After preparing the mise en place (French for “putting in place”) for her ingredients, Schwarm cooks her brittle in a microwave oven for four minutes. A quick stir is followed by another four minutes in the microwave. Afterward she spreads out the mixture on a silicone mat placed in a cookie sheet, and finally smooths it out with a spatula. That was that.

All of the ingredients for Cecil’s cranberry chutney are added to a pot all at once, then it cooks down on the stove. “This just takes a few minutes,” Cecil says. “You can be doing something else while this is cooking.”

Cecil became a Master Gardener a few years ago, and a Master Food Preserver in 2014. “We eat what we produce, and we preserve what we produce,” he says. His downtown Eugene home is surrounded by growing things. He and his neighbor have taken over every available inch of soil in the yard and easement, pulling out grass and replacing it with food plants.

Schwarm grew up with a mother who canned and preserved, and has been a Master Food Preserver since 1995. She canned 21 cases of tuna this year. Cecil, too, has a well-stocked larder. This year, he canned the fruits of 37 San Marzano tomato plants, making sauce, paste and homemade ketchup. He also has cans of peach pie filling, lots of pickles and other yummy things. His barbecue sauce and baked beans were award-winning dishes at the Lane County Fair this year.

Cecil’s holiday gift list includes homemade nocino, a rich, dark-brown liqueur made from walnuts and herbs steeped in alcohol, and homemade lemon curd. Guests are likely to get his cranberry hazelnut cookie bars, an easy and adaptable recipe. The original recipe calls for figs, but any fruit will do. “I’ve also made this with plums,” he says.

For the cookie bars he’s making today, Cecil chose “Craisins” brand dried cranberries. “But I have dried my own cranberries, and that certainly works, too,” he says.

Food safety and preservation questions by OSU Master Food Preservers are answered year-round. Leave a message at 541-344-4885. Register for food preservation classes at

Writer Vanessa Salvia can be contacted at

Microwave Nut Brittle

(OSU Extension Service)

1 cup sugar

1 cup raw peanuts, hazelnuts or nuts of your choice

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

Cover cookie sheet with foil or silicone mat. Butter top of foil or mat. In a 2-quart microwavable glass container, mix the sugar, peanuts and light corn syrup.

Microwave on high for 4 minutes. Remove, stir, and return to the microwave for
4 more minutes.

Remove from microwave, add vanilla and butter. Stir. Microwave 2 more minutes. Remove from microwave and add baking soda. Stir until brittle is golden brown color. Pour onto buttered foil- or mat-covered cookie sheet. Break into pieces when cool.

Cranberry Orange Chutney

(OSU Extension Service)

24 ounces (6 cups) fresh whole cranberries

2 cups chopped white onion

2 cups golden raisins

11/2 cups white sugar

11/2 cups packed brown sugar

2 cups distilled vinegar (5 percent)

1 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons grated orange zest

4 teaspoons peeled, grated fresh ginger

3 sticks cinnamon

Rinse cranberries well. Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy-bottomed pan.

Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the cranberries are tender. Stir often to prevent scorching.

Remove cinnamon sticks.

Fill hot, clean half-pint or pint jars leaving 1/2-inch head space. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rims of jars with a damp paper towel, apply lids and rings.

Process in a boiling water canner in pints or half-pints for 10 minutes. Check seals. After processing, take canner off heat. Remove lid and wait 5 minutes before removing jars.

Yield: about six pint jars

Fabulous Fig Bars

(OSU Extension Service with adaptations
by Robert Cecil)

16 ounces stemmed, chopped dried figs (substitute dried cranberries)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (Cecil omitted the nuts)

1/3 cup sugar (no sugar necessary if using pre-sweetened cranberries)

1/4 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons hot water

1/2 cup margarine, softened (Cecil used butter)

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 large egg

11/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

11/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil or spray a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan.

Combine figs (cranberries), walnuts (if using), sugar (if using), orange juice and hot water in a mixing bowl. Set aside. Beat together margarine (or butter) and brown sugar until creamy. Add egg and mix until smooth.

Mix flour and baking soda. Stir into egg mixture. Blend in oats to make a soft dough. Reserve 1 cup of the dough for topping. With floured fingertips, press the remaining dough into a thin layer on the bottom of the baking pan.

Spread the fruit mixture evenly over the dough and pat firmly. Crumble reserved dough over the top, allowing some fruit mixture to show through. Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely in baking pan. Cut into 1-inch by 3-inch bars. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.

Yield: 36 servings

Spicy Cranberry Salsa

(OSU Extension Service)

6 cups chopped red onion

4 finely chopped large Serrano peppers. (Caution: Wear plastic or rubber gloves, and do not touch your face while handling or cutting hot peppers. If you do not wear gloves, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before touching your face or eyes.)

11/2 cups water

11/2 cups cider vinegar (5 percent)

1 tablespoon canning salt

11/3 cups sugar

6 tablespoons clover honey

12 cups (23/4 pounds) rinsed, fresh whole cranberries

Combine all ingredients except the cranberries in a large kettle. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat and gently boil for 5 minutes. Add cranberries, reduce heat and simmer mixture for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.

Fill hot, clean pint and half-pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rims with a clean, damp paper towel. Adjust lids and rings.

Process in a boiling water canner in half-pint or pint jars for 10 minutes. Check seals. After processing, take canner off heat. Remove lid and wait 5 minutes before removing jars.

Yield: about 6 pint jars

– For information on local Master Food Preserver classes, contact Nellie Oehler through the Oregon State University Extension Service at 5411-757-3937. For 2015 classes, see



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