Into The Wild // December 2012 Mantry

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Because wandering alone into the Wilderness isn’t as fun as getting drunk with your family (usually). Mantry has scoured from Sitka, Alaska to the Sierra Nevada to uncover the top-shelf craft, artisan and small batch makers from places you’ve probably never been.

Douglas Fir Spring Tip Tea // Juniper Ridge // Sierra Nevada, California

Typically, if you discover a bearded guy distilling in a van in the remote foothills, you’re probably going to go blind if you drink whatever he’s serving, the exception is Juniper Ridge. Next to crafting award winning wild fragrances year round, JR harvests Douglas Fir Tips once a year, every Spring. When steeped for ten minutes, the precise timing results in a drink with a subtle citrusy, forest aroma that was historically the primary source of vitamin C for local Native Americans. That is before they started crushing Emergen-C packets.

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Birch Syrup Caramel // Kahiltna Birchworks // Palmer, Alaska

In some Birch Syrup equivalent of Hall and Oates the duo Dulce and Michael East have been cranking out smooth, silky goodness for over 23 years. This stuff is rare. Of the 3000 gallons of syrup being slanged worldwide, Kahiltna Birchworks accounts for half. This is probably because trees have to be hand-tapped in the freezing wilderness and it takes 100 gallons of evaporated sap to produce 1 gallon of syrup. Spoon some warm over coffee ice cream with a sprinkle of Alderwood salt and you too will be makin’ dreams come true.

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Alder Smoked Sea Salt // Alaska Pure Sea Salt Co. // Sitka, Alaska

One morning, Jim and Darcy Michener awoke to find salt forming on the surface of a pan of sea water they’d left on their cabin stove overnight. Luckily this sparked an idea (not a fire) and for the next 10 years the two tweaked turning buckets of pristine Gulf of Alaska water into a flaked salt that has graced the tables of some of the nations top restaurants. Jim, that old salty dog, was not only the Wilderness Survival Instructor for the US Coast Guard but NFL locker room legend. Indianapolis Colt Lineman Rick Demulling would often rile up his teammates telling the ’07 tale of a fateful fishing trip when Jim (his guide at the time) ditched his rod, gaffed a free swimming Pink Salmon and bit it’s head off. Jim, who happens to be a salt of the earth type of a guy, was “more impressed Rick drank 30 beers”.

Buffalo Strips // Gary West Meats // Jacksonville, Oregon

Other than the fact they don’t have to root for the Jaguars, the folks of Jacksonville, Oregon are thankful that they have one of the nation’s best jerky makers. Since 1966, Gary West Meats has been quietly shrinking, smoking and straight west coastin’ premium cuts of meat into hand-crafted strips of heaven. The product still adheres to the local recipes of the original pioneer town, using simple local ingredients and smoking over Pear and Hickory wood. If it’s Christmas morning… hide…this…now.

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Honey Lavender BBQ Sauce // Motherlode Provisions // Gold Hill, Colorado

Originally a mining camp (go figure), Gold Hill was the site of the first major discovery of Gold during the 1859 Colorado Rush. The dusty road, rocky mountain town 8,300 feet in the sky was also where local Leland Oxley unearthed one of the burliest uses of Lavender in recent memory. Slather on Baby-Back-Ribs or drop a nip into baked beans, it’s also a damn respected stain on your white t-shirt in mining country.

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December 2012 Mantry |“Into The Wild”

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