The Winter Woods Collection: Birch + Marshmallows, the Smoked Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich, Cedarwood Vanilla, Oregon Fir, and Black Walnut Divinity, and in the foreground, the Smoked Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich.

I don’t think there is a better symbol of enduring love than a tree—or a forest full of them. Our new Winter Woods collection, which we just had to release in time for Valentine’s Day, draws inspiration from our love of America’s forests and a select few of their lovely, hardy inhabitants. It is composed of four tree ice creams and a smoky chocolate ice cream sandwich, and it would make a wonderful Valentine’s Day gift for anyone you feel a connection to.

Cedarwood Vanilla, part our very popular holiday collection a few years ago, has a flavor that’s warming and very rich. Wood is a base note in perfume and it’s also a note in many wines, coffees, and chocolates. I add a small amount of Peru balsam (extracted from an Ecuadorian wood) to Cedarwood Vanilla to gives it an opium scent.

CEDARWOOD VANILLA:

Oregon Fir is has the aroma of sweet, resinous pine. Pine is more of a middle note and is also found in coffee, wines, and chocolates as a part of the overall flavor profile. We love this flavor in frozen ice cream form. It blooms in your nose.

OREGON FIR:

The black walnuts in Black Walnut Divinity are so full of scent that they permeate the cream. I think that this flavor more than any other reminds me of the woods. It smells like the forest floor in Autumn, and it is a vintage American ice cream flavor that many of the older generation will swoon over.

BLACK WALNUT DIVINITY:

Birch + Marshmallows, my favorite of the collection, tastes like the foam on top of a root beer float. Our handmade vanilla bean marshmallows are the one and only perfect accompaniment to the wonderful cool and warm flavor of the birch. I think this is one of the best flavors that we’ve ever made.

BIRCH + MARSHMALLOWS:

And our Smoked Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich, like our fire in the center of the woods, is a perfect companion to winter ice creams made with trees. And it’s delicious beyond words.

DARK  SMOKED CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM MACAROON SANDWICH:

Smoked Dark Chocolate Macaroon Ice Cream Sandwich

This collection sprang from my memories of all the time in the woods when I was little. My grandparents Enid and Jim Britton owned a 10-acre swath of woods that was a part of a very large old growth forest in the middle of Illinois. My grandfather, a fan of Thoreau, spent every day there with his three dogs. One year he built a cabin in the woods with a wood burning stove and cot for napping.

The woods were my Eden. My sister and I were there in every season, no matter how muggy, snowy, rainy, or buggy. In the summer we kept honey bees and had honey and butter sandwiches for lunch. We had a garden in every spot, where the sun shined through the trees and the blueberries we froze from the harvest would populate our pancakes for the rest of the year. We found wild gooseberries, which we ate in situ. There was a wonderful creek for swimming and for chasing crawdaddies. We collected penny toads in our pockets.

In the winter we had a long wooden toboggan for sledding down the very large hill and a long-burning bonfire at the bottom that would scent the whole forest with the warm smell of crackling firewood. We would cook our lunch over it. We tapped the maple trees and hung metal buckets from them which collected sap that would later be boiled into the maple syrup that soaked our pancakes for the rest of the year. The woods were Heaven.

We left home at 5 a.m. to drive to the woods in my grandfather’s old Ford truck. The evening before, I always packed a satchel with essentials. A tape recorder (in case I ran into gnomes or other humanoid forest creatures who might sit for an interview), a sketch book, and two pencils. I brought a granola bar in case of emergency because I always wanted to get lost or left in the woods, and tried, but never did.

I knew every single tree in the forest, and I can still see, feel, and smell them all. I had a special one that I would visit by myself during our mandatory rest alone time in the afternoon. It was a large, old growth oak that sat at the top of the big hill in a clearing just off the path. The roots were so big that I could nestle myself up under them. They were completely furry with lush green moss in the summer. I was absolutely sure that there were gnomes living in that old oak (THIS was my favorite book back then).

I believed to my very core that if I had a good heart, the gnomes would not be afraid of me. Season after season I sat there under the tree very still, sometimes talking gently to them, sometimes just concentrating on being a good person worthy of the gnomes. I thought they would sense my benevolent energy. They never did come out.

Now the tree is gone and there are condos there. I wonder where those gnomes went. Probably to another forest, where kids right now are falling in love with the trees.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone,

Jeni

My daughter Greta and me during a recent trip to the “big trees” in Muir Woods.