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Archive for December, 2011


Vinarterta - Churchill Wild Christmas Recipes

Vinarterta Yummy!

Vinarterta comes to us compliments of Helen’s Icelandic heritage. It has been handed down through her family for generations, and is served only on festive occasions.


 Shortbread (6 layers):

  • 1 cup butter (no substitute) 250 mL
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar 375 mL
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp. cream OR evaporated milk 30 mL
  • 1 tbsp. almond extract 15 mL
  • 4 cups flour 1L
  • 1 tsp. baking powder 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom seed 5 mL


Prune Filling:

  •  12 oz. pkg. pitted prunes 340 g
  • 1/2 cup water in which prunes have been boiled 125 mL
  • 1 cup white sugar 250 mL
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon 15 mL
  • 1 tsp. vanilla


Butter Icing:

  • 1/4 cup butter (4 tbsp.) 60 mL
  • 2 cups icing sugar 500 mL
  • 1-2 tbsp. milk 15-30 mL
  • 1 tsp. almond extract 5 mL



1. To make the shortbread layers, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well each time. Add cream and almond extract and beat well.
2. Sift together flour, baking powder and ground cardamom and add to creamed mixture a little at a time. You will “need” to “knead” the flour into the mixture. (A dough hook is a great boon in today’s kitchen.)
3. Divide the dough into 6 equal parts.
4. Line a 9″ (23 cm) square baking pan with foil. Pat 1 part of the dough into the pan. Remove foil with dough, and place on a cookie sheet. Repeat 5 times. Bake the final piece of dough in the cake pan.
5. Bake the shortbread at 375°F ( 190°C) for 10-12 minutes, until just lightly browned on the edges. Turn over carefully onto a cooling rack; let cool with the foil on for a couple of minutes, then remove the foil and let cool completely.
6. To make the filling, cover the prunes with water and boil until soft. Add more water if necessary during cooking. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup ( 125 mL) of water.
7. Put prunes and 1/2 cup ( 125 mL) of water in a blender and process until smooth. (Helen’s grandmother never had it so easy!) A hand blender also works well.
8. Add sugar, cinnamon and vanilla to pureed prunes in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Let cool.
9. Layer cooled shortbread with cooled prune filling, beginning and ending with a shortbread layer.
10. To make the butter icing, mix together all the ingredients until creamy. If the icing is too stiff to spread, add a bit more milk, 1 tsp. (5 mL) at a time. This icing should be a bit on the stiff side.
11. Ice the top of the cake.
12. Wrap the cake in foil or plastic wrap and keep it airtight for 3-4 days. This gives the shortbread layers a chance to soften up.

Makes 72 slices.

SERVING SUGGESTION: Slice ½” (1.3 cm) slices and cut each slice in 2″ (5 cm) pieces. (Cut in small pieces like a fruit cake.)

 NOTE: This will keep for a month in a cool place. It freezes well for longer storage.

Nan’s Trifle

Nan was a dear Scottish friend who came to Canada with her husband many years ago. They landed up in Churchill, where Nan took over the books in my parents’ store. They had no family here and since we had plenty to go around we soon adopted each other. Nan passed away in the late 80s but she handed this recipe down to our family. It has replaced Christmas Pudding as our traditional Christmas dessert. — Helen


  • 3 oz. pkg raspberry or strawberry gelatin
  • 1 Sour Cream Pound Cake (see below) or store-bought jelly roll
  • 3 tbsp. sherry or port
  • 1/2 cup black currant or raspberry jam
  • 2 cups cooked tapioca pudding
  • 8 sugar cookies (purchased or homemade)
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips or grated chocolate
  • 1 recipe Warm Custard (see below)
  • 1 cup whipping cream



1.  Make up a package of gelatin according to the package directions, place in refrigerator to begin setting.
2.  Line the bottom of a glass serving bowl, preferably clear, with ¼” slices of Sour Cream Pound Cake or jelly roll. Pour about 3 tbsp. of sherry or port into a small bowl and brush it over the cake slices with a pastry brush.
3.  Spread jam over cake slices then spread tapioca pudding over jam.
4.  Place a layer of sugar cookies over the tapioca. Sprinkle with the chocolate chips or grated chocolate.
5.  Spread warm custard over the chocolate so that it will melt the chocolate. Allow to cool.
6.  Spoon the partially set gelatin over the custard. Refrigerate until serving time. Allow at least 2 hours for the gelatin to set. Whip the cream and spread it over the gelatin layer.

Serves 12


  • 1 cup butter or margarine (room temp.)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup sour cream



1.  In a large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extract. Total beating should take about 10 minutes.
2.  Mix together the flour, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with the sour cream, starting and ending with the flour. Be sure to beat well and scrape down the sides of the bowl after each beating.
3.  Pour the batter into a greased 10” tube or bundt pan. Bake at 325°F for 1 hour or, until a toothpick comes out clean.
4.  Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and let cool on a rack.


  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. vanilla



1.  In a medium saucepan, mix together sugar and cornstarch; gradually blend in milk. Place over medium heat; stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil and thickens.
2.  Beat egg yolks slightly; stir a little hot mixture into yolks then return yolk mixture to hot mixture in saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly for 2 minutes or, until thick and smooth. Remove from heat, add vanilla and cool slightly.

Exceptional guides critical to success of ground-level polar bear photography workshops on Hudson Bay coast

Churchill polar bear walks towards photographer at Churchill Wild's Seal River Heritage Lodge.

I'm getting closer...

You just can’t take spectacular photos of polar bears without having excellent guides to watch your back.

That’s according to professional photographer Bob Smith of Elk Meadow Images, who organized a photography workshop for 14 people this fall at Seal River Heritage Lodge. Smith’s group were taking part in Churchill Wild’s annual Polar Bear Photo Safari and were there to snap ground-level shots of polar bears in their natural environment on the coast of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada.

“The guides are so important,” said Smith. “They’re the real key to getting great ground-level shots of polar bears while at the same time making as little impact as possible. We respect the bears and don’t want them to feel threatened. We don’t want to disturb them when they’re feeding and if they’re resting we want them to rest.”

“The guides know the bears and they can get us set up in the best position possible to use our equipment,” continued Smith. “If we have to move to get a better angle, we depend on the guides to help us do it in a safe and efficient manner. And they also make sure there are no bears approaching from behind.”

Polar bear photography Churchill Wild style. Photo Credit: Gary Potts

Smith has been organizing photography workshops for over 20 years and says he likes to search out locations that are “off the beaten path.”  The 55-year-old from Denver, Colorado has held photography workshops in Antarctica, Alaska, the high Arctic and Africa.

“We do two or three workshops a year,” said Smith. “Our locations attract an elite clientele and we make it easy for them – we do the advance planning, make the arrangements, set up the itinerary and plan the on-location daily schedules.”

Smith’s photography workshops include instruction on both photography and computer skills.

“Wildlife photography is combination of art and a science, “said Smith. “Effectively capturing wildlife in its natural environment requires knowledge of animal behavior as well as an understanding of how and where to take a photo that will best portray different elements such as strength, size, motion, behavior, interactions within the species etc. There are also different methods of using natural light to enhance photos.”

Computer skills featured in Smith’s workshops include those needed for processing and sharing images, creating photo albums and more.

Smith has three workshops planned for 2012 that include photographing grizzly bears in Alaska; large mammals in Botswana, South Africa and endangered whooping cranes in southern Texas with Popular Photography Magazine.  For more information on Smith’s upcoming photography workshops please visit his Web site at: or e-mail him directly at:

Smith is currently working on a new book of his photography that will include grizzly bears, eagles and narwhals in Alaska; walrus, bearded seals, ice and polar bears in Svalbard, Norway; and the polar bears at Seal River Heritage Lodge.

The Polar Bear Photo Safari at Seal River Heritage Lodge takes place in the heart of polar bear country on the rugged and wild coast of Hudson Bay. It caters to dedicated wildlife photographers who are willing to spend the hours required to get up close and personal with polar bears and other arctic wildlife. Polar bears can be photographed on the ground in their natural environment of ice and snow along the Hudson Bay shoreline amidst a background of dramatic seascapes and landscapes. More examples of the type of polar bear photos that can be taken at Seal River can be seen in Churchill Wild’s 2010 Photo Contest Gallery.

“Photographing polar bears in Churchill doesn’t give you the same experiences as the ground-level photo opportunities available at Seal River Heritage Lodge,” said Smith. “The workshop participants were enamored with the polar bears and the unique access to them. Many of them told me it was the best trip they’ve ever been on.”