These cranberry orange muffins burst with flavour and natural goodness, especially delightful during the cold winter months. Made with hand picked kimmingnat (arctic cranberries), a traditional Inuvialuit comfort food, they’re a delicious and bold way to start your day! Plus, they’re easy to make and freezer-friendly, so they make for a great after-school snack. For me, these muffins are a taste of home and a way to share my traditional food and culture with others. I enjoy mine with a good cup of tea.
Kimmingnat, or arctic cranberries, grow on the tundra, across the arctic. It was and still is an important food source for Inuvialuit, the Inuit of the Canadian Western Arctic. Each fall, we wait with anticipation the time for cranberry picking. Usually around the first snowfall the berries are ripe, plump and perfect for picking. Though tiny compared to cultivated cranberries, kimmingnat are packed full of nutrients like vitamin C, omega 3, 6, 9, fibre, minerals, antioxidants and are beneficial for oral, kidney and bladder function. Naturally tart, they pair perfectly with other traditional Inuvialuit food and are easily incorporated into modern recipes.
In my culture, it’s a sign of love to be given traditional food. You know you’re loved when you receive a bag of berries. We understand that it’s labour and time intensive to hand pick, only seasonally harvested in cold, damp conditions; therefore, they are a precious and valuable food. Eating and sharing our traditional food is an important way to maintain our cultural connection, provides a sense of belonging and benefits our health and well-being as contemporary Inuvialuit. My parents and my aunt tell stories of my Inuvialuit and Gwich’in grandmothers picking 45-gallon drums of berries not only for their families yearly supply but to trade with other families and communities. I have fond childhood memories of berry picking with my mom and extended family. Last fall I was able to share this joy with my own children, they were quite excited to do some of the same things our ancestors did! While there is nothing like eating freshly picked cranberries directly from the tundra, we pick an abundance and freeze them to last throughout the year.
During the fur trade era, our diets changed to include new ingredients like flour, sugar, baking powder and tea, and as a result, new ways to prepare traditional foods. One of my favorite recipes is cranberry orange muffins with orange glaze. I appreciate every bite, and it’s extra delicious knowing that they’re baked with kimmingnat that my mom picked especially for me. Mamaqtuq! (Delicious!)
Arctic Cranberry Orange Muffins
Preheat oven to 375 °F.
Grease muffin pan or line with paper liners.
Prepare orange zest and juice. Use a zester or small grater to grate zest off the orange before juicing. Roll orange on countertop to release juices. Cut in half and squeeze out the fresh juice using a citrus reamer or juicer. Use ¼ cup for muffin recipe and reserve 2 tablespoons in a separate bowl for the glaze.
Mix dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gently stir in orange zest and cranberries until they’re coated. Set aside.
In a large bowl with a hand mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add egg and mix until smooth.
Mix in vanilla and orange juice.
Fold in half of flour mixture and half of the milk. Add remaining milk and remaining flour mixture, gently mix until just moistened. Do not overmix so as not to crush the cranberries. Batter will be lumpy.
With a spoon, fill batter evenly into prepared muffin pan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. While they are cooling, prepare glaze.
For the orange glaze: Mix ingredients together and bring to light boil over medium low heat. Drizzle over warm muffins.