Father Winter is very active up here lately…his big heavy snow boots are leaving prints all over the terrain of this state. The rather balmy temperatures (highs in the upper 40’s…short sleeve weather up here!) that we’ve all been perplexed about was child’s play apparently, and the big man has decided enough is enough…true weather temperatures have been unleashed onto New Hampshire with all their windy snowy might.
Perhaps the state had enough of the dozens of politicians canvassing the state and decided to huff and puff and blow everyone out of town. Every pancake house, small town diner, and cute-as-a-button town hall has been being thumped and stumped by the hot air rhetoric that has saturated this state. Impossible not to become politically active up here with all of the enthusiasm and activity whirling through our small town of Warner.
So Old Man Winter drove everyone out. Enough hot air in those speech bubbles coming from the breath of politicians. It is time to embrace the beauty that is winter in the North and get outside…put the political and economic troubles aside… and do what people do best up here in winter time…PLAY in the snow!
So he started off by uncorking a grand snow storm that blanked the countryside with a thick coat of pure white snow. Inches and inches fell outside as we watched the feather-like flakes swirl, dance, and spin out of control through the frosty air.
I had heard about this place up in Lincoln, New Hampshire…up in the White Mountains that creates a dazzling sculpted Ice Castle that beckons adults and children to wrap up from head to toe and get outside to play in what can be described as a fairy land winter castle.
We were ready to head out into the snow and start having fun with the many winter activities that pop up all over the state. From ice block cutting festivals that take place right in the middle of ponds, to ice fishing villages that pop up out in the middle of frozen lakes, and winter carnivals that celebrate everything cold, snowy, and icy.
We kept hearing about this ice sculpted castle that is built in Lincoln, New Hampshire so we thought we would drive up there and see what it is like to visit a real ice castle in the middle of winter. Lincoln is situated on the western slopes of the White Mountain in between Mt. Moosilauke and Mt. Oseola. The castle was easy to get to, a stone’s throw right off the highway, which is a relief when thinking about driving further north in these northern months.
Hwy 93 heads straight north into the mountains. It parallels the Pemigewasett River and delivers car loads of families right into the White Mountains into the lap of the castle. We could see the Ice Castle from the main highway and it was ringed by a line of brightly painted rail road cars.
There was a cute little Snack Shack set up in front supplying cold travelers with hot chocolates and baked goodies. Princesses dressed in sparkly winter wear greeted children as they entered the fairy tale set built from layers and layers of ice and snow.
A team of ice sculptors start with water sprinklers to form icicles that begin the growth of the castle. They then “grow” and sculpt the icicles until formations are created, caves are constructed, slides are carved, and fountains bubble with cold water against the frozen structures. The entire area was about 1 acre.
Too bad we didn’t see it at night. There are lights embedded in all of the ice walls. When the winter sun slips down below the horizon, the lights all turn on and illuminate the castle against a backdrop of winter landscape.
We drove back down from the White Mountains, ticked the Ice Castles of Lincoln, NH off our winter to-do list and thought about sweet concoctions to make for this wintery Valentine’s Day weekend. I was watching Top Chef Jr. this season. The talent of these 8-12 year olds in the kitchen is amazing, right? In one episode the remaining kids were challenged to make soufflés. They were given milk chocolate, dark chocolate, raspberries, and strawberries to use in their desserts.
I thought I would make our Valentine’s Day meal special by opting for the raspberry soufflés. Soufflés aren’t very difficult to pull together. For me, it is the time in the oven that determines whether mine will be successful or not. In the oven is the make or break moments. Working with a new oven, I had to experiment with the exact time the soufflé needed for the perfect rise. One minute too long and each one crumpled and became mushy-looking. For my oven, 15 minutes exactly seemed to do the trick. The pink hue from the raspberries added a sweet holiday touch to this light and airy dessert. Savory soufflés are next on my list now that I think I have the oven figured out…
Onwards towards Easter holiday next. I’m getting to know the farms around us more and more. I’m setting my sights on preparing a beautiful Easter lamb roast for this year. I can already smell the scents of mint and rosemary together. I do love a beautiful Easter table and menu.
Winter breaks for all kids in school and college are coming up. That will mean some trips and exploration of new places as everyone either dives into winter activities even more or escapes to tropical climates for some desired warmth and less layers of clothing.
I am just fine enjoying winter time up here a bit longer. I don’t find myself pining away for spring just yet. I know it will be here soon with my long list of gardening chores to be done. I haven’t even been able to make it out to my composting bin behind the apple orchard because the ground was a sheet of ice for awhile. Speaking of apple orchard, all the trees will need to be pruned again…bulbs will need to be planted…mulch will need to be spread in the vegetable garden…
Yes, sitting here in front of my crackling fireplace with a pile of books on my side table that I haven’t even made a good dent into…I am just fine all bedded down for awhile longer. Watching the snow flakes swirl outside, experimenting with soufflés inside, and visiting ice castles in the mountains all encircle the winter season that I love to embrace until it will become a memory to be looked forward to once again.
- Raspberry Puree:
- 12 ounces frozen raspberries, thawed
- 4 egg yolks
- 2½ ounces granulated sugar
- 1.5 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 ounces raspberry puree (see above)
- juice of one lemon
- 4 egg whites, room temperature
- pinch of cream of tartar
- pinch of salt
- 1 ounce granulated sugar
- powdered sugar, for dusting
- fresh raspberries, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease four soufflé ramekins generously with butter, and then coat the ramekins with a thin layer of granulated sugar--shaking to remove any excess sugar (this step will help the soufflé rise and brown evenly). Place the ramekins on a small baking sheet and set aside.
- Prepare puree: Puree the thawed frozen raspberries in a blender until very smooth. Strain through a fine meshed sieve. Discard the seeds and reserve four ounces of raspberry puree to the soufflés.
- In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, the 2.5 oz of sugar, and cornstarch until thick and pale yellow in color. Whisk in the raspberry puree and lemon juice. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a whisk attachment, combine the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt, and whisk over low speed until foamy. Increase the speed to medium-high and slowly add the 1 oz granulated sugar. Continue to beat the egg whites until they reach soft peaks.
- Add a small amount of beaten egg whites to the egg yolk mixture, and whisk in gently. Fold in the remaining egg whites.
- Pour the mixture carefully into the center of the ramekins, and smooth the tops with a spatula. Run your finger along the edges of the ramekins to remove any excess batter from the sides (this can cause the soufflés to rise unevenly).
- Carefully place in the oven and bake at 400 degrees for 15 min (ovens vary though...so try one by itself first), or until golden brown on top. Remove, dust with confectioners sugar, and garnish with raspberries. Serve immediately.