Pagan Blog Project 2014 – B for Brewing

I’m still a little behind with the Pagan Blog Project , but I’m trying to catch up.  Today’s topic is BREWING.

Brewing is a favourite hobby of mine, and I feel that it relates to my path because I am taking the substance of the earth, and turning it into a euphoric drink, which I then in turn – drink with, cook with, return back to the earth in the form of offering, and which I gift to friends (who are also of the earth).

While I have yet to try beer-making, I have made mead, dandelion wine, port and cider (both of which are in the process of being made as we speak).

According to Wikipedia, archaeological evidence suggests that brewing has been around for over 9000 years (over 9000.  I thought it too.)  That’s 9000 years of taking a sugar (be it honey, fruit, dextrose, or sucrose), letting it sit in water in a jug, and leaving it be, up to the fates of the wild yeasts that float around in the atmosphere, and then coming back to it sometime later and finding a product which is drastically different, and positively intoxicating.

It’s only natural that one would want to repeat the process, and give thanks to the gods, who took their pot of honey, and turned it into nectar.

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(from last summer)

PBP2014d

Pagan Blog Project 2014 – B for Brewing

Summer Solstice Cordial

Taken from the lovely people at Mountain Rose Herbs: I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks delish!

(feed me port…)

 

Summer is here and it is time to celebrate. I love to create special drinks for special occasions! Learn how to make herbal cordials and you will always have the most interesting parties! People stop asking you to bring food to the potluck and request that you bring the drinks instead!

Summer Solstice is the perfect occasion to capture the season in a delicious herbal cordial. It is so fun to get together with a friend and make a cordial that will add that extra touch to your summer feasts. Get yourself some small cordial glasses and toast your health and happiness this summer with this delicious Summer Solstice Cordial.

 

Summer Solstice Cordial

2 tablespoons dried organic elderflower

2 tablespoons dried organic rose buds

2 tablespoons chopped dried peaches

1 tablespoon fresh or dried organic lemon peel

1 teaspoon organic fennel seed

2 cups port wine

Steep herbs and fruit in the port wine for one month then strain the herbs from the wine and enjoy. Make a summer party cooler by putting this cordial over ice and adding seltzer water and fresh squeezed lemon or lime.

 

How to Make Summer Solstice Cordial

1) Put dried herbs into a mortar and pestle and mash them as much as possible

2) Chop dried peaches into small pieces with a knife

3) Put herbs, fruit and wine into a sterilized jar.

4) Let sit in a cool, dry place for one month

 

Decanting the Cordial…

After one month you will participate in the ancient art of decanting (Fancy term for straining out the herbs from the alcohol).

To decant your cordial you will need a clean sterilized glass jar, funnel and cotton muslin.

1) Place a funnel into the jar and lay the cotton muslin on top of the funnel

2) Pour the wine and infusing herbs and fruit through the muslin and funnel being careful not to let the herbs spill over the side of the muslin into the funnel and jar

3) If the herbs spill out of the muslin into the jar, get a clean jar and start over

4) When all of the liquid has drained through the cotton muslin cloth and funnel into the jar, then squeeze the rest of the liquid out of the dried plant material through the muslin into the jar.

5) Discard the strained out herb material into the compost or just put it on the dirt in your garden. The liquid left behind is your herbal cordial.

Cordials are alcoholic herbal drinks that have a variety of uses. Cordials can be sipped before and after dinner as digestive tonics. Cordials are perfect for toasts at special occasions and to pair with foods and desserts. Herbal cordials are also great cooking companions. Add them to cakes and desserts just as you would vanilla extract. Use them in marinades and glazes and put a dash into drinks. We add Summer Solstice Cordial to homemade whipped cream and put it on fresh summer fruit. Cordials can be stirred into jams and other dessert sweeteners or sprinkled onto yams and vegetables before baking. Add some cordial to your next batch of chutney or pie filling or put a tablespoon or two into morning pancake batter and French toast egg batter. During the cooking process the alcohol precipitates off leaving behind a melody of flavor for you to enjoy.

Summer Solstice Cordial

Arnica Oil, Three Methods, and an Ointment

(this was meant to be posted a few weeks ago when I actually made the arnica ointment. sorry…)

Medicinal Oils:

Making infused oils with plants (fresh or dried) is an easy way to preserve their medicinal properties. This works because many plants contain oil-soluble components, such as essential oils, resins, basalms, waxes, and vitamins which can be extracted when placed in a carrier oil for a length of time. These infused oils can last up to one year, depending on the type of carrier oil you use. Olive oil is a classic example, because it has a long shelf life, and is readily absorbed by the skin, but many other options are available. Lighter oils, such as almond, jojoba, or sunflower oil can be used, or they can be blended together to utilize the benefits of multiple oils at once. Squeezing the gel out of a vitamin E (tocopheral) capsule, or adding tea tree oil can also help to preserve shelf life. Even hard vegetable or animal fats can be used, if heated with the herb.

A good list of the shelf lives of various carrier oils can be found here.

* If using freshly foraged herbs, make sure to let the herb wilt for a few hours to evaporate any excess moisture, which could cause mold and spoilage later on. A good preventative for spoilage is also to cover your jar, not with a tight-fitting lid, but rather with cheesecloth, or a paper towel and elastic, so that any excess moisture can escape.

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* When using dried herbs, remember the rule of thumb is to use half the dried amount versus the fresh amount. So if a recipe calls for 2 quarts of -insert herb here-, remember to use only 1 quart.

As a general rule, use 1 cup (250mL) fresh herbs (or 1/2 cup dried herbs) to 2 cups carrier oil. Add anywhere between 1mL and 5mL vitamin E oil as a preservative after straining.

1) Traditional Method

Begin by making sure every utensil you’re using is clean and dry (moisture is bad, if you haven’t gotten the message yet!)

Take your plants and break them up (called garbling) by hand. This helps bruise the plant and make it more readily release its volatile oils.

Pour carrier oil over top of your plant, making sure to cover it completely. Exposed plants can cause spoilage. Cover your jar with a piece of cheesecloth or paper towel and an elastic to secure it.

Place in a dark, cool location, and shake or stir daily for anywhere between 2-4 weeks. Make sure to keep an eye on your oil and watch for any changes – cloudiness, or molding. If this happens, strain immediately (if it doesn’t smell off, it should be okay).

After 2-4 weeks, strain through a cheesecloth, or muslin, or a coffee filter, and add vitamin E or other essential oils for preservation. Pour into a clean glass container (preferably dark) and label with the date and what the infusion is. Store in a cool, dark place out of sunlight.

2) Sun Infusion Method (my favourite)

Follow all the directions of the Traditional Method for preparation.

Store jar on a windowsill in direct sunlight, allowing the heat of the sun to infuse the herbs into the oil. Steep for at least two weeks, before straining, adding vitamin E or essential oils, and storing.

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* It’s especially important with this method to make sure not to put a tight-fitting lid on your infusion. The sun heats the oil, which causes condensation, which can ruin your entire batch if it’s left to mold.

3) Double-Boiler Method

This is a really good method to use if you need your oil faster than 2-4 weeks away, or if you don’t have the time to steep it slowly.

Fill the bottom portion of a double boiler with water (not too much though). Break up your herbs by hand into the top portion of the pot. Heat on low – if your heat is too high, you can burn your oil.

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Pour the oil over your herbs and bring water (in the lower pan) to a low simmer.

Heat slowly for 30-60 minutes, stirring occasionally (although I’ve read sources that say as long as 2-5 hours). The lower you heat your oil, the longer it can infuse without ruining the quality of your infusion.

Let the oil cool to room temperature, and then strain through cheesecloth. Add vitamin E or essential oils, and then bottle and store in a dark, cool place.

* I don’t own a double boiler, so I used an oven proof dish inside of a large saucepan.  It works, but be careful not to drip water in the dish!

* To make any of these infusions stronger, add a batch of fresh herbs to the infused oil, and repeat.

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Arnica Ointment, taken from The Boreal Herbal, by Beverley Gray

1 cup (250mL) arnica flowers

1 1/2 cups (375mL) sunflower oil

1/2 cup (125mL) olive oil

1 TSP (5mL) vitamin E

1 oz. (30mL) beeswax

Add beeswax to a double boiler on low heat (or use an oven proof dish inside of a pot filled with water). Stir often, until beeswax is fully melted. Add full volume of infused arnica oil, and stir until fully combined.

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I’ve since used it, and it works like a charm!

Sources:

http://whisperingearth.co.uk/2010/04/26/potions-group-making-herb-infused-oils/

http://www.anniesremedy.com/chart_remedy.php?prep_ID=30

http://mountainroseblog.com/making-herbal-infused-oils/

The Boreal Herbal, by Beverely Gray

Arnica Oil, Three Methods, and an Ointment

Oat and Honey Vodka

This is the last liquor post for a while, promise!

To complete the wedding trifecta of liqueurs and liquors, is an Oat and Honey Vodka, I found at The Chow, which I’m really hoping tastes like breakfast.  not quite, but it does have a really smooth oat flavour to it.

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Oat and Honey Vodka

330mL vodka (use some reasonable stuff, not Smirnoff!)

75g local Bulkley-Valley honey

3/4 cup organic rolled oats

Infuse in a glass jar for between 5-10 days, stirring daily. Strain through a cheesecloth, and then again through a coffee filter (if it’s still cloudy, you can strain it again after this)

I found the vodka a little overpowering still, so I added 1TBSP honey to the finished product to help sweeten it up a bit.  Delicious otherwise!

Serve chilled on the rocks, or make a Quaker Shaker

  • Ice
  • 2 ounces Oat and Honey Vodka
  • 1 ounce half-and-half
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine vodka and half-and-half. Shake until well chilled, then strain over ice into an Old Fashioned glass.

(Or if you’re lactose intolerant like me, don’t do it! It’s a trap!)

a note: sorry about the weird volume of liquid – I was using up the last of a bottle of vodka, and that just happened to be how much I had. I adjusted the recipe accordingly, but for something that makes a little more sense, click the link I provided!

Enjoy 🙂

Oat and Honey Vodka

Cacao Nib Brandy, and a Chocolate Love Potion

Another liqueur from the closet was ready for straining today. I can’t remember if I mentioned in my last liqueur post or not, but I’m heading east for a wedding in a few weeks here, and instead of buying a gift, I’ve decided to make some liqueurs. I know the two brides are definitely wine drinkers, and while I don’t know them well, I thought “Who wouldn’t want handmade alcohol for their wedding?”

Cacao Nib Brandy, adapted from Here

1 cup brandy

1/4 cup cacao nibs

2 inch vanilla bean

Infuse in a glass jar, in a dark, cool cupboard for 4-5 weeks (I did four, exactly). Strain through a cheesecloth, and again through a coffee filter.

Can be drank neat, on ice, or as Alicia from Boozed and Infused suggests:

“[try] the cocoa nib brandy in a classic Sidecar. I also think it would be nice mixed with vanilla vodka and a few muddled strawberries. To turn it into a highball, you could add some club soda or ginger ale.

and a note: The cacao nibs do impart a mild bitterness to the brandy, so if once you make it, you find it too bitter, you can try adding a simple syrup (1:1 sugar:water) to mellow it out and turn it into a liqueur. Because of this, I wouldn’t recommend infusing the mixture for longer than 5 weeks. You’re welcome to try it, but I found four weeks to be perfect!

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Chocolate Love Potion

The chocolate love potion is actually just a slight variation on the original recipe. I doubled it from what you see above, in part to share with others, and in part because I actually ran out of brandy making the first batch. For this batch, I had more available.

2 cups brandy

1/2 cup cacao nibs

2 TBSP damiana

1 TBSP muira puama

4 inch vanilla bean

Same process as above – infuse for 4 weeks, and then strain twice.

Tasting Notes: bitter and medicinal tasting.  Not entirely unpleasant, but it does remind me of jägger, or cough syrup, or something.  Which makes sense, I suppose, since this is technically a tincture.  I might add simple syrup to it to mellow it out, I’m not sure.

And I haven’t had a chance to test it out yet, but I’ve created a drink for the love potion, actually a variant on the classic champagne cocktail, that I’m going to call

“The Bacchus”

  • 1 sugar cube
  • 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Champagne
  • 1 oz brandy

Preparation:

  1. Place the sugar cube in the bottom of a Champagne flute.
  2. Use the dashes of Angostura bitters to saturate the sugar cube.
  3. Add the brandy.
  4. Fill with Champagne and watch the sugar cube dissolve in a fountain of bubbles.
  5. Drink.

*Note: I am not a medical doctor, nor a licensed herbalist. Always research herbs before consumption, and consult your doctor prior to ingestion if you are on any medication, or suffer from heart problems, or are on blood thinners (aphrodisiacs increase blood flow).

Enjoy!

Cacao Nib Brandy, and a Chocolate Love Potion

Dandelion Oil

You’re going to have to deal with the fact that there will be a high volume of dandelion related posts for the next little while.  I would apologize, but…

I’m not sorry.

This only took maybe ten minutes of my time.  I went outside, collected one cup of dandelion petals, picked out the bugs, and put them in a jar with some olive oil.  Now I’m going to let it sit in the sunny windowsill that is my kitchen for the next six weeks, and strain it.  Automatic ‘good for you’ massage oil.

Dandelion Oil

It is easy to make a lovely golden oil from dandelion flowers, to be used directly on your skin, or add to salves and lotions.
Dandelion flower oil is good for the skin.
It can also help heal minor wounds and alleviate pain. Some herbalists use it for shoulder pain.
Susun Weed, noted herbalist, suggests using dandy flower oil for breast massage.
I like ‘dandy flower’ oil because I think it helps bring you the energy of the sun.

What you need:

  • a clean jar with a lid
  • a cup or so of dandelion blossoms (or as many as you want)
  • a cup or so of olive oil, almond oil, or other vegetable oil of your choice

On a beautiful, sunny day, when dew or rain have dried off the plants (usually late morning) grab a basket or paper bag and go harvest dandelion flowers.

Pick flowers that are almost all the way open or are fully open.
If they’re starting to look a bit wilted or raggedy around the edges, don’t bother with them. They’re past their prime and there are sure to be plenty of younger flowers near by.
Look at your flowers, and shake off any insects. Ants especially like to crawl into the petals and won’t appear until you have the flowers home.
Be aware of where you are picking! Do not take plants closer than a few yards next to a highway or busy street, or from an area you know or suspect is contaminated with lead or other chemicals/heavy metals or dog/animal droppings.
Remember that whatever goes onto your skin gets absorbed into your body to some extent.

When you get home, make your infused oil as soon as possible. The longer the flowers sit around, the faster they will close up and go white, tending toward seeds.

I cut off the stem end of the flower, so that the petals fall apart. I leave the sepals, the green part, with the petals.

Loosely pack the flowers/petals into your clean jar.
Pour in the oil to a little above the top of the plant matter, then take a skewer or chopstick and stir to get air bubbles out.
Screw the lid on tightly.

Label your jar with the date, the herb, and the kind of oil you used.

Check the jar the next day and add more oil if necessary, because the plants may have absorbed some and the level may have dropped. Make sure plant material is completely covered, because any plant matter that is above the oil, in air, can easily cause molding.
You can shake the jar to get the petals and oil to combine more completely.

Depending on your preference you can leave your oil on a sunny windowsill or place it in a dark cupboard.
Either way, put it on a plate or something oil-resistant! Some of the oil will inevitably ooze out of the jar and you don’t want oil stains on your surface!

Let this mixture brew for six weeks (if you’re in a hurry, 4 weeks will do), checking it occasionally and stirring out air bubbles.
But after six weeks, your oil may go bad, so don’t wait too long!

Using cheese cloth or clean muslin (don’t use a coffee filter or paper towels, the pores are too fine and will clog up), strain out the plant matter.
Squeeze out any leftover oil from the plant matter.

Put your infused oil into another clean, dry jar.
Label this jar also.

The oil will last for several years, especially if you keep it refrigerated or in a cool place.

Dandelion Oil