The Cranberry Queen, Helen Webber, on the shores of Hudson Bay at Seal River Heritage Lodge.
What do 5,000,000 Cranberries look like?
Why not ask the Cranberry Queen, who has personally handled each one of those delectable beauties. Helen Webber, the Grand Queen of the Webber/Churchill Wild empire, has spent the last 40 Septembers faithfully collecting buckets and buckets of incredibly tasty wild cranberries with which to complement the lodges’ Arctic cuisine.
It takes some real dedication to the needs of the palate to spend all those cold fall afternoons crouched over the berry patch all the while keeping a sharp eye out for wandering polar bears. Many recipes for our bestselling cookbook series Blueberries and Polar Bears were developed by Helen and friend Marie Woolsey using these marvelous berries to enhance a variety of meals at the lodges.
Additional cranberry pickers are always welcome! From L to R, Mike Reimer, Helen Webber, Krysten Martens, Karli (Reimer) Friesen.
Wild cranberries vastly surpass any tame grown berries for flavour, texture and gourmet pizzazz, and one taste of these tundra delicacies over snow goose pie or roasted turkey pretty much ensures the supermarket variety stays on the shelf. And let’s not forget one of our all-time favourites, Cranberry Cake with Butter Sauce!
Helen Webber. Cranberry Queen and Cookbook Author. At home on the tundra.
This past fall while cooking (yesssss, Helen is still working!) for the Arctic Safari at Seal River Lodge, Helen took a little time to harvest the bountiful crop of berries sprayed across the tundra near the lodge.
Along with her trusty assistants, Helen hauled in 300 cups of crimson berries in six hours, setting a new record for the foodie team and likely establishing Helen as the most prolific cranberry picker of all time! I’m thinking there must be a spot in the Guinness record books for this category.
Hopefully some of the kids and grandkids pick up on this talent, as Helen keeps threatening to hang up her bucket for good soon.
Delicious Goose Tidbits!
Tuesday, 06 November, 2012 05:04Written by Polar Bears with Pens
This was the first appetizer we learned to make at Dymond Lake Eco-Lodge over 30 years ago. We still make goose tidbits for every group that comes to Dymond Lake and they still rave about them. YVGB (young, virgin, goose boobies) are best. — Helen Webber
Lay the goose breasts flat on the cutting board and, with a sharp knife, slice along the top to make very thin slices.
Melt 2 tbsp. butter in a heavy frying pan over medium-high heat until it is sizzling.
Lay the goose slices in the frying pan and sprinkle liberally with DLS or seasoned pepper. They should brown quite quickly. If they do not, turn up the heat a bit. When they are nicely browned on one side turn them over, sprinkle liberally again with DLS or seasoned pepper. Brown for about a minute.
Splash in about ¼ cup of white vermouth. Let the breast simmer in the vermouth for about a minute.
Remove from pan and serve immediately, with toothpicks.
Sour Cream Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce. Delicious!
Note from the Chef: This recipe has evolved at our house over the years and has spread far and wide. We have served these pancakes to people from all around the world and they always have seconds. They are great served with maple syrup or heaped with sweetened strawberries and piled high with whipped cream. Add fresh blueberries to the batter or serve them with Blueberry Sauce (below).
Sour Cream Pancakes
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
½ cup sour cream
2 cups milk
In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt.
In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, sour cream and milk. Beat well with a wire whisk.
Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and beat with the wire whisk until the batter is fairly smooth. A few small lumps won’t hurt the pancakes.
Heat a greased griddle or heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Pour batter onto the hot griddle and cook until the top is bubbly and the pancake is slightly dry around the edges. Turn and cook on the other side until just golden brown.
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
½ cup white sugar
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
¼ tsp. nutmeg
1 tbsp. lemon juice
In a saucepan, mix blueberries, sugar, butter and nutmeg. Bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes. Add lemon juice and serve. Extra sauce can be stored in the refrigerator. Also good with waffles, or cold, over ice cream!
Cranberry Cake with Butter Sauce – A Churchill Wild Favorite!
Wednesday, 13 April, 2011 12:43Written by Polar Bears with Pens
Cranberry Cake with Butter Sauce - A Lodge Favorite! And it's even better than it looks!
Here it is! A Churchill Wild favorite re-posted by special request. A delectable dessert that results in past guests’ mouths watering whenever it’s mentioned. Jeanne Reimer swears the wild cranberries make all the difference but feel free to try it at home. This recipe and many more are available in the Blueberries & Polar Bears Cookbooks. Let us know what your favorite is we’ll post it in the future.
Cranberry Cake – Ingredients
3 cups flour 750ml
4 tsp baking powder 20ml
½ tsp salt 2ml
3 tbsp butter or margarine 45ml
1 ½ cups sugar 375ml
1 ½ tsp vanilla 7ml
1 ½ cups milk 375ml
3 cups wild cranberries 750ml
Butter Sauce – Ingredients
¾ cup butter OR margarine 175ml
1 ½ cups sugar 375ml
¾ cup evaporated milk OR cream 175ml
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.
Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla. Note: It does not get all creamy and fluffy as it does in a butter cake, as the ratio of butter to sugar is not high enough. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk, beating after each addition, just until it is mixed. Stir in the cranberries. (If you are using large commercial cranberries, chop them up a bit.)
Spread the batter in a greased 9 x 13” (23 x 33cm) pan. Bake in a 400°F (200°C) oven for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown and the top springs back when lightly touched.
The secret is in the sauce: combine the sauce ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Simmer for 2 minutes and remove from heat. A wire whisk is very helpful to keep the sauce smooth.
Serve the sauce warm over the cake. Serves 12.
Could President Obama and family walk with Churchill polar bears? Yes. They could.
Wednesday, 06 April, 2011 11:28Written by Polar Bears with Pens
Churchill Wild eco-lodge owners Mike and Jeanne Reimer say the Obama and Doer families would be more than welcome to do just that at their Seal River Heritage Lodge 40 miles north of Churchill on the Hudson Bay coast.
“It’s the only place in Canada where you can actually go out and walk with the polar bears in their natural environment,” said Mike Reimer, who has been stomping the terra with the polar bears for over 30 years. “We would absolutely love to have the Obama and Doer families visit our polar bear eco-lodges and take part in all the activities we have to offer.”
Polar bear intently watching Hudson Bay outside Seal River Lodge
That of course, would include walking with polar bears on the coast of Hudson Bay and snorkeling with beluga whales in Hudson Bay, not to mention eating gourmet meals straight from the award-winning cookbook series Blueberries and Polar Bears, which were co-written by Jeanne Reimer’s mother Helen Webber of Webber’s Lodges.
Helen is married to Webber’s Lodges owner and former Churchill mayor Doug Webber. She is certainly no stranger to hosting dignitaries at the Webber’s home in Churchill and preparing spectacular feasts for them, including Ambassador Doer when he was Premier of Manitoba,
First Lady Michelle Obama, who is promoting healthy eating as her platform while in the White House, would likely enjoy herself immensely in Churchill Wild’s family-run tundra kitchen, which prides itself on utilizing the freshest ingredients available from the surrounding landscapes.
Mrs. Obama launched her Let’s Move initiative to battle childhood obesity and improve the quality of food in U.S. schools in February, 2010 and on March 16, 2011 she reached an agreement with Crown Publishing Group to author a cookbook in which she will talk about the garden she established on the South Lawn of the White House. Due out in 2012, Mrs. Obama’s new cookbook will also explore how improved access to fresh, locally grown food can promote healthier eating habits for families and communities. You can watch the video about the White House Garden here.
“Last year we built the new dining room,” said Reimer. “Right now we’re hauling in a new gourmet kitchen. It was designed by Len Friesen and it will be the first of its kind in the arctic. We’re planning on having a Celebrity Chef Contest at some point with a combination of original creations and recipes from the Blueberries and Polar Bears cookbooks that will feature seal, caribou, moose, goose, arctic char, northern pike, lake trout, local plant garnishes, wild blueberries, cranberries and strawberries. In between cooking sessions we’ll be out on the tundra with the polar bears or swimming with whales. We would love for Mrs. Obama to participate!”
But seriously, fabulous food and cooking contests aside, what about safety and secret service and fighter planes?
Polar bear in fireweed. Photo Credit: Dennis Fast
“We’ve never had a polar bear problem in the 30 years that we’ve operated our lodges,” said Reimer. “It’s a unique, once in a lifetime experience and our guests love being able to get up close and personal with the polar bears. It’s one of the few places on earth where you can actually go out and walk with the bears, and there are numerous safety measures in place. I’m not sure what the bears would think of secret service agents and jet fighters. They probably wouldn’t even notice.”
Still, try to imagine the Turbo Beaver taking off from Churchill for Seal River Lodge accompanied by fighter jets. Or the curious looks on the polar bears’ faces when the secret service agents arrive with the Obama family. And what kind of boat would be required if the Obama and Doer families decided to go swimming with the beluga whales? Would the Zodiaks suffice?
“It would something very special for us,” said Reimer. “We would like to extend a heartfelt open invitation to both the Obama and the Doer families to visit Seal River Lodge any time. It would be an incredible honor.”