Find out how to make Christmas tree cream (made with spruce, fir, or other edible conifer needles). This is a simple base recipe that can be used as an ingredient in a wide variety of other foods and drinks to add incredible, unique flavor.
Using and making Christmas tree cream (or milk)
Christmas tree cream & milk are base recipes we recommend in our How to Eat Your Christmas Tree Guide.
You can use these infusions as a base to add Christmas tree flavor to other recipes like pudding and custard, ice cream, eggnog, or any cream-based recipe where the unique rosemary-citrus flavors of edible conifer trees will work. You can also make Christmas tree whipped cream as a topping for other desserts.
On the beverage side of things, use Christmas tree cream or milk to make unforgettable eggnogs, hot chocolates, or even add a bit of holiday cheer to your morning cup of coffee.
Cream or milk?
Both Christmas tree cream and milk are made the same exact way, as we’ll detail below. The difference is as simple as the name implies: cream is used for one infusion and milk is used for the other. Regardless of which one you’re making, we recommend:
- using organic grass-fed dairy products,
- using the mature needles of edible conifer trees (see warnings below).
We detail three warnings in our How to Eat Your Christmas Tree Guide that we’ll briefly outline again here (read the guide for more info):
- You should know what type of tree you’re planning to eat (especially when foraging) because there are poisonous evergreen species. For instance, yews are deadly poisonous, although yews are not used for Christmas trees or ornamentation in the US.
- Commercial Christmas trees may have synthetic pesticide residues on them. In some locations, organic Christmas trees are available. Synthetic pesticides are not permitted on organic farms.
- Like any food, some people may have sensitivities/allergies to edible conifer needles. Especially if you’re prone to food allergies, try a small amount to make sure you have no averse reactions before eating larger quantities.
What are the best conifer needles for Christmas tree cream and milk?
The types of edible conifers/Christmas trees that will make the best Christmas tree cream and milk are:
- spruces (Picea spp.)
- firs (Abies spp.)
- Douglass-fir, which is not a true fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
- hemlocks (Tsuga spp.)
Some species of pines (Pinus spp.) would also work in a pinch, but the trees listed above will work better. Keep in mind that each genus/species of edible conifer tree listed above has different, unique flavor characteristics.
To find out more about the various species of edible conifers plus how to ID, harvest, and process the needles, please give our How to Eat Your Christmas Tree Guide a read!
Regardless of which edible conifer species you use for this recipe, we’d recommend using fresh, green mature needles for best results.
Two ways to make Christmas tree cream and milk, depending on your preferences
Regardless of which infusion method you use below, we’ve found that a 1:4 ratio of fresh Christmas tree needles to cream/milk works best. Example: 1 cup of spruce needles to 4 cups cream.
Option 1. Cold infusion
Making Christmas tree cream or milk via a cold infusion process produces the most intense flavor (read: best), but it takes more time to make (3 days is ideal).
- Put your needles and a quarter of your cream into a blender and blend until the cream thickens too much to continue blending. Then add another 1/4 of your cream and repeat the process until you’re out of cream. By then, you basically have unsweetened *whipped cream full of partly chopped up needles. (*Whole milk or lower fat milk options will not whip; they maintain a liquid form throughout the infusion process.)
- Put the mixture in a jar/container in your fridge, and stir for 30-60 seconds twice daily with a spoon. With cream, each time you stir, more of the tiny bubbles in the partially whipped cream are broken down helping to return the texture to more of a cream-like consistency. Stirring also helps extract more flavor from the needles with either cream or milk versions.
- Cream only – After three days, remove from fridge and place cream over low heat in a sauce pan for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly to make sure things don’t get too hot. You’re not trying to cook it; you’re simply trying to get the cream to the point where all those little bubbles collapse and you’re able to easily strain it through cheese cloth or a mesh strainer to remove the needles. You may need to strain multiple times to remove all the needles.
- Milk only – After three days, remove from fridge and strain through cheese cloth or a mesh strainer to remove the needles. You may need to strain multiple times to remove all the needles.
Once the needles are strained, you’ve got cold-infused Christmas tree cream or milk. Store in your fridge for later or use immediately.
Option 2. Hot infusion
Making Christmas tree cream or milk via a hot infusion process produces less intensely flavored cream/milk, but it takes way less time to make (~40 minutes total).
- Put your needles and a quarter of your cream into a blender and blend until the cream thickens too much to continue blending. Then add another 1/4 of your cream and repeat the process until you’re out of cream. By then, you basically have unsweetened whipped cream full of partly chopped up needles. (*Here again, with milk version, you can simply blend needles and milk together without them whipping.)
- Ladle the cream-needle mix into a saucepan over medium low heat (3 on our stovetop). (Milk version will pour out.) Stir or whisk every few minutes to prevent sticking and make sure the cream or milk doesn’t get too hot. You don’t want it boiling. You’re going for a relatively slow, low temperature infusion that doesn’t produce off flavors or too much bitter from the needles.
- After ~30 minutes, remove from heat and strain out needles through cheesecloth or mesh strainer. You may need to strain multiple times in order to remove all the needles.
Once the needles are strained, you’ve got hot-infused Christmas tree cream or milk. Store in your fridge or use immediately.
Three other important recipe notes:
1. Regardless of whether you utilize the cold- or hot-infusion method detailed above, if you start with 1 cup of cream or milk, you’ll likely end up with about 7/8 cup of strained cream/milk after the needles are removed.
If you have a recipe that calls for 1 cup of cream, simply top up your infused cream with a bit of fresh cream to make up the difference. Same with the milk version.
2. Yes, we do blind taste tests with our recipe trials (and errors) when trying to decide between different versions. One such taste test involved various iterations of our Christmas tree crème brûlée.
One version used cold-infused cream, the other used hot-infused cream. Otherwise, the two versions were identical. Results from the three tasters?
Two out of three liked the more intense flavor of the cold-infused cream version. One liked the milder/less intense flavor of the hot-infused version.
Make of this info (from a three-person blind taste testing) what you will. If you don’t have time to make a more intensely flavored cold-infused cream but you still want maximum flavor, perhaps you could go for a longer heat-infusion (45-60 minutes) on your cream to extract more flavor without also extracting unpleasant notes.
3. By itself (read: unsweetened) Christmas tree cream and milk are rather savory and a bit intense. They’re not supposed to be consumed as-is; they’re a base ingredient to be added to other recipes.
However, once sweetened and made into desserts or beverages, they’re quite magical as you’ll soon find out!
Recipe: Christmas tree cream or milk
Christmas tree cream (made with conifer needles)
Turn your Christmas tree needles into Christmas tree cream to make outrageously flavorful puddings, custards, whipped cream and more.
- 1/4 cup freshly harvested mature conifer needles (fir, spruce, Douglas fir, or hemlock tree needles work best)
- 1 cup organic cream / whipping cream
Option 1: For COLD-infused Christmas tree cream:
Add needles plus a quarter of your cream into a blender. Blend until the cream thickens too much to continue blending. Add another quarter of your cream and repeat the process until all cream is incorporated and has a whipped cream consistency. (*Milk will not thicken when blended, only cream.)
Ladle into a covered jar/container and place in your fridge for 3 days, stirring twice a day for 30-60 seconds with a spoon. This helps break down bubbles in cream and extract more flavor from needles. If making milk version, we still recommend stirring twice daily to aid flavor infusion.
CREAM ONLY - On Day 3, remove cream from fridge and place over low heat in a sauce pan for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly to make sure things don’t get too hot. You’re not trying to cook the cream, you just want it warm enough to return it to a liquid state so it strains easily. Strain heated cream through a cheese cloth or a mesh strainer to remove the needles. Repeat the straining process as-needed (or use a finer strainer) until all needles are removed.
MILK ONLY - On Day 3, remove milk from fridge and strain through cheese cloth or a mesh strainer to remove the needles. Repeat the straining process as-needed (or use a finer strainer) until all needles are removed.
Option 2: For HOT-infused Christmas tree cream:
Add needles plus a quarter of your cream into a blender. Blend until the cream *thickens too much to continue blending. Add another quarter of your cream and repeat the process until all cream is incorporated and has a whipped cream consistency. (*Milk version will not thicken or whip.)
Ladle cream into a saucepan on medium low heat (3 on our stovetop) or pour in for milk version. Stir or whisk every few minutes to prevent sticking and make sure the cream/milk doesn’t get too hot. You don’t want it boiling. You’re aiming for a relatively slow, low temperature infusion that doesn’t cause the needles to produce off flavors or too much bitterness.
After about 30 minutes, remove from heat and strain out needles through cheesecloth or mesh strainer. (Or cook for another 5-10 minutes for more flavor intensity before straining.) Repeat straining process as-needed until all needles are removed, or do secondary straining through finer meshed strainer.
Now the fun begins – putting these flavorful ingredients to work in desserts and drinks. Enjoy!
Want to dig your fork deeper into edible conifers?
Start here: Tyrant Farms’ Edible Christmas Tree Guide
Additional Christmas tree/edible conifer recipes:
We’d also like to recommend two books for other Christmas tree eaters and food explorers; each contains delicious recipes you can make with your Christmas tree:
- How to eat your Christmas tree by Julia Geogallis, and
- Forage, Harvest, Feast by Marie Viljoen.
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