I'm crazy like that.
I crave autumn. It is definitely my peak season. Some folks hit their peak in the spring, coming alive as the earth reawakens with fresh growth after a long winters rest. Not me. I get my wake up call as the temps begin to ease off, the colors of the earth deepen, and the days grow shorter. I won't bore you with the details...like that special color the sky gets just before sun set. Or that deepened orange glow just as the sun rises. Or the scent of the fields as the farmers pull in their harvest. Or that crispness you feel in the air, growing each day until the trees have all changed their colorful robes and begun to drop their leaves back to the earth. Or the woods...the smell of pine and drying leaves, the way it comes alive with a flurry of activity no other season can compete with, the almost anxious nature of the woodland animals as they gather the last bits of food and housing needs for the season. The sights and sounds are just different in the autumn.
Or the smells and tastes of the season...the pumpkins, the tart juices apples, hot cider with cinnamon, dried herbs and flowers hanging, barn lofts filled with hay...
If you've visited me before, you just know all these things give me such a lift deep in my soul. Sigh. I wish autumn was forever... This season fills a need in my soul that spring and summer never will.
I'm still rolling along with my own "school" work. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have started the Herbal Academy of New England's Intermediate course. I've also started taking the Essential Oils for Families course thru Vintage Remedies. So far I have really enjoyed the lessons and look forward to learning more as I continue on. I have added more reference books to my own library here at home. You can never have too many good reference books, right?
This weekend we put together some recipes to prepare our herbal medicine pantry and move us even further from traditional OTCs and meds. One recipe we put together was Rosemary Gladstar's Fire Cider...
This is a warming winter tonic, though some swear by it no matter what the season. The ginger root and horseradish are traditional go-to remedies for rich foods, and will help aid digestion, especially during the cooler seasons where the richer, heavy foods are a mainstay and digestion is sluggish. The onions and garlic are proven immune-boosters, always good to have as the weather changes and all manner of virals start creeping into the community. The cayenne and spicy peppers will spur on the digestive juices as well. There's just nothing 'bad' in this mix. Everything serves a purpose and works together to give you some extra boost and immune-system recharge during the months we need it the most.
I did tweak my recipe here a bit, pulling bits and pieces from several online recipes, but that's the beauty of Fire Cider (and most herbal remedy blends, really). You can adjust and substitute herbs to suit the needs of your family. Here's what I did...
!/2 cup fresh grated horseradish root (I peeled, some say it's not necessary)
1/2 cup fresh grated ginger root (I peeled, some say it's not necessary)
1 large white onion
10 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon (I grated for the zest, then just cut the lemon into thick slices and squeezed the juice in, then tossed in the slices)
5 good sized sprigs of fresh rosemary (can use 2 TBS dried)
1 TBS tumeric powder
1/4-1/2 tsp ground cayenne (start with 1/4 tsp and add more if needed for your taste)
I bottle of Bragg's (raw, unfiltered, with "mother") Apple Cider Vinegar*
I didn't grate my roots, but sliced them, then diced up. I came across several recipes where these were simply sliced thin and used that way as well.
Start throwing everything into your jar. For our recipe, I used a 2 quart mason. I started with the roots, then the rosemary springs, lemons, onions and garlic, jalapenos, spices. It makes no difference which way you choose to add items, just get them in the jar and lightly pack. if needed.
Pour in your ACV. The obvious health benefits of a good, raw vinegar aside, you could make this with regular apple cider vinegar, or even white vinegar. You need enough to cover the mixture by a couple inches, yet still leave room for shaking/stirring daily.
That's it. Label it and let it sit there on the counter, and give it a shake or a stir every day or so when you see it.
There's about as many suggestions for the time frame it needs to steep together as there are recipes for making it. It's up to you and your needs I imagine. Most suggest at least 2 weeks, some go as far as saying several months. My plan, gleaned from several blogs and sites I looked at, will be to decant around 6 weeks or so.
The decanting: Strain out your herb and food goodies, then add honey to the remaining juice. This again is to your personal taste. Some don't even add honey, they prefer the kick of the recipe as is. I've sampled ours already...it is amazingly delicious as-is, but perhaps a bit much of that 'kick' for the children, so I will either add some honey to the batch once strained and jarred for the pantry, or we will simply add our 'dose' to tomato or vegetable juice when taking. Yes, it is that versatile. The perfect family winter tonic I'd say!
Now,. when you decant and you've got all those great herbs and foods there, you don't have to send them to the compost...USE THEM! There is still a great deal of goodness in that batch of half spent tonic fodder. I already have ideas to run the mix thru the food processor and coarse chop to make what Rosemary refers to as Fire Cider Chutney :-). Coarse chop the mix, add a bit more vinegar if it's too dry, add a bit of honey to sweeten, maybe a bit more cayenne to taste and voila...a wonderfully potent add-on to scrambled eggs, fried rice, vegetables, etc. If it lasts long enough to get used that way and not simply eaten by the spoonful :-)
Another great way to use those goodies is in Fire Cider Onion and Honey cough syrup:
Slice onions into half moons and place in a sauce pan. Pour honey over just to cover, then heat slowly on low heat *bring just below a simmer, and definitely do not boil* Cover with a lid set slightly ajar to allow steam to escape, and cook gently for about 40 minutes. Want an added immune boost? Add chopped up garlic to taste with your onions! They syrup is delicious as is, but you can puree the goodies you strained from your Fire Cider and blend them into the syrup as well. This concoction will help ease and loosen even the deepest bronchial symptoms. There are many stories about this onion and honey syrup being a mainstay in the kitchens of previous generations.
My Next batches of herbal goodies for the weekend were infused oils. I set up some herb blends to make an arthritis salve, a muscle rub, and a gentle baby ointment. I filled the jar about 1/3 full, then covered with sweet almond oil. I capped the jars and placed them in my Excalibur dehydrator to heat gently for 3 days. I'll strain them off and jar up my herbal oils tomorrow. Later on I'll be turning those oils into salves and balms to add to my shop and offer locally.
All the while, building my herbal pantry and preparing for the seasons to come. What projects have you been working on lately? I'd love to hear about your canning, essential oil, herbals and more! Drop a link to your blog in the comments!