honeyed ginger

Devoted readers may remember that in the early days of spring I prepared gingered honey. Quite inadvertently, I stumbled upon something finer still.

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Accidental candied ginger! Ah, the honey infused the ginger just as ardently as the ginger infused the honey, and sugared it over, without syrups, completely raw. Oh, the gorgeous stuff!

honeyed ginger with chocolates

Naturally one must introduce honeyed ginger to dark chocolate. My loved ones are now wondering why I didn’t share (blushes) and so I must hurry to make another very large batch. I should think it will be ready for winter, will you try this too? A wide-mouth mason jar should be about right for extracting the ginger, and the honey left is an excellent medicinal. Now, do check back soon, as I have something else gingery and rather exciting to show you.

gingered honey

Have you escaped the springtime sore throat going around? Each of us caught it, one after the other. You might like to keep this quick traditional medicinal recipe mixed up nearby, just in case. Seeing as we were just talking about honey! Raw honey is a fine remedy for sore throats. Sometimes I mix it with lemon, or submerge elderflowers in it. This time, I gingered it.

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Extraordinarily basic, this. Chop ginger root roughly, small enough to fit into whatever sterile jar or bottle you have available. Pour raw honey to cover it. Now and then you might give it a turn. I just leave it out, securely capped, for my children to enjoy turning, they’ll accomplish the same work of infusing ginger throughout the honey.

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I like a dollop of gingered honey in a cupful of water hot from the kettle, perhaps with a squeeze of lemon. Woolly socks, a good book, a long rest, and I’m ready for spring days out. Do you have a favourite medicinal that you make and use each year?

rosehip cordial

Last year we made a rosehip infusion, sweetened lightly with a little stevia, and used within a short time like you would fresh juice. This year we wanted to preserve rosehip cordial to use medicinally throughout the winter. Gathering rosehips to make a vitamin C-rich cordial was encouraged during wartime in Britain. We’re growing very fond of the tradition. We used a combination of rosehips, including apple roses like the ones Alÿs Fowler showed us. We’re so fond of nibbling round those fresh, but they were starting to go, so we hurried to collect a bowl of them.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Give the hips a rinse,

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Then remove the stems. Aren’t they just gorgeous?

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Chop them roughly. Keep in mind that the seeds are used for itching powder! You needn’t remove them though.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Toss them in a pot of boiling water using just less than double the volume of water as their weight – so if you have 400 grams of rosehips, use about 700ml of water. Bring it all to boil again, leave it to cool somewhat, and pour through a scalded cloth.

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Hang up your muslin or jelly bag full of rosehips and let them drip for a while, and repeat the whole process again. This time leave it to hang overnight.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Combine the infusions and measure them. The River Cottage Preserves recipe calls for 650 grams of sugar to about 1 litre of juice.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Slowly heat til the sugar is dissolved, then boil for a couple of minutes.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

I sterilise my cordial bottles in the dishwasher and if I can’t time it well to have warm bottles ready, I fill them with hot water while they’re waiting, then quickly pour the water out just before ladling in the hot syrup and corking them. Preserves says to use within 4 months. This won’t be a problem over here. Sterilise in a water bath if you want to keep it longer, and keep refrigerated once opened. We love a couple of splashes of rosehip cordial in a glass of water and we’re very much looking forward to having it all through the cold seasons.

apothecary

One day, during my summer in Vancouver, I went to study a bit of herbology at the local apothecary. Gaia Garden Apothecary has a devoted following of those who want to understand old knowledge and natural remedies, who like knowing exactly what’s gone into their medicine. The apothecary works like a compounding pharmacy, preparing creams, tinctures and herbal formulas.

apothecary © elisa rathje 2011

I love the tradition of treating yourself or your family for everyday illnesses, making sure you have a good kit, or at least know where to find wild herbs safely. In Vancouver, folks wildcraft lemon balm, horsetail, plaintain, shepherd’s purse, yellow dock, red clover, nettles, red raspberry, dandelions. It’s good to have the apothecary if you don’t have that knowledge or the time to gather your own herbs, if you need advice about what to take, and if you have a naturopath supporting your health who can prescribe herbal medicine. The master herbalist at Gaia has helped me so much over the years. He showed me a page in one of his favourite books, which shows all the known medicinal properties contained in ginger root. There were over three hundred!

apothecary © elisa rathje 2011

Row upon row of dried herbs, plants that have been used for thousands of years. There’s an herb room in the back where Gaia’s teas are made, and they do mail order and wholesale herbs.

apothecary © elisa rathje 2011

Row upon row of tinctures. These are alcohol and water extracts, one part plant material to three parts liquid. Wild cherry bark and passion flower sound delicious! The apothecary makes tincture formulas for patients, like going to a pharmacy and getting a prescription.

apothecary © elisa rathje 2011

apothecary © elisa rathje 2011

Essential oil is usually steam-distilled, and needs very special equipment. With infused oils, put the plant material in an oil base for a couple of weeks, strain and use, or you can give it a little bit of heat for a couple of days instead. I’m going to try this! Gaia would need a separate distillery for each oil, required microbial testing is far too expensive to do small batches of tincture, so they work with a company that produces oils on a much bigger scale. Besides making my own infused oils, Kathleen, my herbology teacher for the day, has inspired me to make tinctures:

If you ever wanted to make a tincture at home they’re actually really easy to make. One of the best alcohols to use is vodka, mostly because it doesn’t really have a smell of it’s own and isn’t going to interfere with the herbs you put in it. You just need a big jar, put plant material in it, pour the alcohol in so it covers the plant material. A couple of weeks, shake it every day, strain it, bottle it up, that’s it you have a tincture! Very simple really. Making tinctures like that is a method they’ve used for hundreds of years, the monks used to make digestive bitters with alcohol the same, and we’re still using those herbs, like frangelico… made as medicinals.

Fascinating that some of the infused liqueurs we have now were orginally made as medicinals. I imagine it’s fairly recently that we’ve even abandoned the idea of having alcohol in the house for medicinal purposes, especially when you didn’t have antiseptics and painkillers. Thank you to Kathleen, for showing me round the apothecary, and to everyone at Gaia Garden for welcoming me into your beautiful space. I’m so glad that you exist, supporting natural medicine.

Come and see my first tincture. If you’d like a look at what I have in the works for the future, don’t miss the postcards! Sign up for appleturnover’s first newsletter, out for the equinox this week.

elderflower honey

It’s elderflower season in England and we’ve begun with the simplest recipe, elderflower honey. We made this for the first time last year, and the honey proved to be such a great remedy when we were suffering from a terrible cough in the winter. I’m doubling the recipe this year, just in case.

elderflower honey © elisa rathje 2011

The children like to make this by themselves, so they went out foraging with a friend, carrying a trug. Pick the elderflowers as they are just beginning to bloom, and bring them straight home. Fill a jar three quarters full with honey; we used our local raw honey. Shake any insects off of the flowers, and plunge the umbels in. I use four or five per jar.

elderflower honey © elisa rathje 2011

Top up the jar once you see how much room the blossoms need, and close it up tight.

elderflower honey © elisa rathje 2011

Turn the jar once or twice a day, for about a month, to help the flowers infuse. Strain out the blossoms. I’d like to decant the elderflower honey into little flip-top bottles again to make it easy to pour the honey when we need it. Oh, it’s nice to have these seasonal recipes become familiar, annual affairs. Now we’re brewing elderflower champagne, and the scent is heavenly.