Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park

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We’ve been exploring different parts of our province this summer, checking out places I’ve been meaning to visit that don’t require a huge driving commitment. Turns out there’s a whole lot more to see around here than I thought. I had heard mention a few times over the past year of a provincial park I’d never visited before – Writing-on-Stone, which is south of Lethbridge, almost at the US border, and apparently quite stunning. We took a drive. It was long, but beautiful-I love driving through the prairies, especially when we get the chance to pass grain elevators. There aren’t many left.

Grain elevators 2
Grain elevator 1

The drive took us through Nanton (Bomber Command Museum! epic candy store with antiques in the back!) When we were getting close, I had to keep checking my map; the landscape still looked like barely rolling, grassy farmland. There was no sign of hoodoos or badlands – until suddenly, at the turnoff indicated on my map, there was. The ground dropped away to reveal some of the most stunning rock formations I’ve ever seen.

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Sunken into the prairie grasslands of southern Alberta, Writing-on-Stone/Áísínai’pi in Milk River valley contains the largest collection of First Nation petroglyphs and pictographs in North America.

(There was a fantastic story in today’s National Post on Writing-on-Stone, as well as nearby Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.)

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There are also medicine wheels – large stone circles ranging in age from 250 to about 5000 years old – in the area, including the Sundial Medicine Wheel. If you’re into local history, this is a great way to spend the weekend.

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The campground, shaded by cottonwood trees and located right beside Milk River, is open year-round, and in the summer there are showers! (It’s the little things. W has become enamoured with the idea of camping lately, and I’m enamoured with the idea of camping where the grizzlies are at a minimum.) Note: last week, there was a contaminated water advisory issued for Milk River at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park.

We stayed overnight in Lethbridge, and en route back took a detour to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, an archaeological site and one of the world’s best-preserved buffalo jumps.

WOS collage 1

If you do have camping plans this summer – at Writing-on-Stone or elsewhere, bannock is easy to back and mix up at your campsite – you can even do it right in the bag. It’s a simple blend of flour, baking powder and salt, with a little oil rubbed in – the combination is very similar to Bisquick or other baking mixes, and in fact turns out a pretty good scone. At the campground, all you need to do is add water, stir until you have a soft dough, then pat into small rounds (or one big one, to cut into wedges) and cook in a hot skillet over the fire, or shape the dough into ropes to twist around sticks and roast over hot coals. I’m always looking for new things to roast over hot coals.

bannock

Serve your bannock warm, with butter and jam. (I lean toward saskatoon. Very prairie.)

Bannock

There are so many versions of this recipe – this is a version of a traditional Métis recipe, and came from the Parks Canada website.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup canola or other vegetable oil

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt; rub in the oil until well blended and pack in a zip-lock bag. When you’re camping, add 1 cup water and mix to a soft dough. Pat or roll balls of dough to cook over the campfire, or twist ropes around sticks to roast. Serve warm, with jam.

Saskatoon Jam

Adapted from Bernardin.

5 cups lightly crushed saskatoon berries
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 pkg. pectin
5-6 cups sugar

In a large, deep pot, bring the saskatoon berries, lemon juice and pectin to a boil. Measure out the sugar and set aside.

Once the berry mixture is at a full rolling boil, add all of the sugar. Return to a full, hard boil (one that can’t be stirred down) and boil hard for 1 full minute, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and skim off any foam that rises to the surface.

Ladle the jam into hot, freshly washed jars. Seal with lids and cool completely; store in the fridge or see the Bernardin website for instructions on how to further process for longer-term shelf storage. (It also keeps well in the freezer – use plastic or zip-lock freezer bags.)

Makes about 6 cups.

I love showing off the province I live in – thanks to Travel Alberta for helping me do it! As always, words and opinions are my own.

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July 29 2015 | bread and breakfast | 6 Comments »

Super Simple Blueberry Tarts

Blueberry tarts

I made these last weekend, when we were invited over at the last minute to have dinner in our friends’ back yard. I wanted to make a pie, but there wasn’t time – and my crammed freezer had half a package of frozen tart shells left over from something or other that I kept having to move so I could close it, so I decided to solve two problems at once.

Most berries are sweetened and thickened with sugar and flour or cornstarch before being baked in a pie; in this case, the tart shells get a quick 10 or so minutes in the oven to get toasty while you simmer some berries on the stovetop with those same ingredients, reserving half the berries to stir in at the end so that they burst and pop and retain their juice. You then satisfyingly spoon the berry filling into the tart shells, and you’re done.

You could, I’m sure, spike the filling with lemon zest or spoon it over lemon curd, or top your filled tarts with a dollop of cream. But they were perfectly awesome straight up, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream – so awesome in fact that I made another batch a couple days later, when my parents were stopping by for dinner. It’s the sort of dessert that demands – or rather politely asks, in a casual, summery sort of way – to be eaten outside.

Super Simple Blueberry Tarts

1 dozen frozen tart shells

Filling:
3 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
pinch salt
2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 375F. Put the tart shells on a baking sheet and slide them into the oven for 10-12 minutes, until golden. Take them out.

Meanwhile, put half the blueberries into a medium saucepan. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add to the berries along with the lemon juice and bring to a simmer; cook for a few minutes, until the berries burst and soften and the juices thicken. Once it comes to a boil, make sure it cooks for a full minute to maximize thickening potential and make sure it’s not starchy.)

Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining blueberries. Let sit for a minute to cool slightly, then spoon into the tart shells, piling them high.

Makes 1 dozen blueberry tarts.

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July 27 2015 | dessert | 4 Comments »

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