Evergreen trees have two “flowers” which are useful and edible- the cones and the tips. Pine nuts come from pine cones and they are laborious to acquire. The tips of evergreens, like spruce, however, are far more readily foraged. Using evergreens might seem odd, but think of these as rosemary’s much stronger cousin. Most things you would use rosemary in, spruce tips can be substituted.
When picking these tips, choose the bright green portions only. Some will still be covered in paper as they emerge. There should be a clear distinction between old growth and new growth.
2 cups red wine vinegar (unfiltered apple cider vinegar can be used for up to half the recipe as well)
1 cup spruce tips, roughly chopped
1 tsp black peppercorns
Put all ingredients into a large glass or ceramic container and stir. Cover with cheesecloth and secure with twine. Find a dark, dry place and leave it for 2 weeks. Every few days, take the cover off and stir. Replace the cover and wait. Taste the vinegar at the end of the two weeks. If it isn’t the strength you want, leave it for two more days. Taste it again. Keep tasting every two days.
Side note: Roughly chopped spruce tips can be added to salt to make a spruce salt. Which is delicious on roasted potatoes and french fries.
The vinegar can be used to make a lovely vinaigrette. And for marinades. Which can lead to a lovely dinner. A lovely, romantic dinner. Pro-tip: No matter HOW much love is in the air because of all the killer food, don’t drink the vinegar straight.