The photos below picture two of the flavored butters we sampled at the Sandpoint Library in September 2010, at the Herbal Pantry Staples and Fall Comfort Foods demonstration, above. There were over 2 dozen folks who attended, and it was a lot of fun. Here are two recipes, neither of which are in my book The Wild & Weedy Apothecary.
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup raspberry puree (from unsweetened fresh or frozen berries sieved for seeds)
1-2 tablespoons honey
Garlicky Dill Butter
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill leaf
1-1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic, about 3 or 4 cloves
2 teaspoons lemon juice, optional
The method of preparation for the Garlicky Dill Butter is the same as for most other flavored butters, that is, let the butter soften at room temperature, add the other ingredients, whip it good (into shape!), and either place in a pretty crock or roll into a log on some waxed paper and then chill to make rounds or pats (the process is messy but good). Just about everyone at the class loved the garlic-dill butter, but I wouldn’t use the lemon juice option unless you’ll be using it on fresh steamed veggies; if it’s just for bread or rolls, I think it tastes better without the lemony flavor, but that’s just me.
For making the Raspberry Butter, I used a food processor, because there was no way the puree was going to blend willingly with the butter. It made a real mess whether I used a spoon or a wire whisk. However, the effort and experimentation was well worth it, because the result tasted sort of like raspberry whipped cream. In other words, Excellent.
Please share your own favorite flavored butter combinations with me, I’d love to try them out!
Soon we will be facing the longest night of the year, it will be here sooner than we realize! Creating new traditions out of old ones is something that can bring a feeling of satisfaction to our lives. As we connect via invisible airwaves, it is comforting to know we are still nourished by the same things that sustained our ancestors. In this case, The Apple.
Here is a short excerpt from my book, The Wild & Weedy Apothecary, about the tradition of Wassail – both the verb and the beverage.
The curious custom of Wassail — from the Anglo-Saxon wes hal, meaning “be whole” or to drink “to the health of” — is a midwinter toast to the apple orchard, and possibly dates back to the fifth century; some believe it is a relic held over from Roman sacrifices to Pomona, goddess of fruit. It was certainly practiced in the West Country of England up until very recently, and many neopagans and period-revivalists still do so — and why not?
The tradition took place on Twelfth Night, usually around January 5. A biscuit or cake doused with cider was laid on a tree branch, doused again, and then all the folks who had gathered in the orchard would sing carols or hymns — “Hats full! Caps full! Bushel-bushel-sacks full!” and bang pots and pans together, with the men sometimes shooting their guns into the air, generally making a great noise to ward off uninvited bad spirits and to let the beneficent spirits know where the apple trees were.
The wassail bowl was sometimes passed around and shared as a “loving cup” or was brought door to door to wassail the neighbors and their homes. Sometimes even beehives were wassailed. Proclaiming a toast to those things in life that are vital and necessary, such as food and friends, makes a lot of sense, and we can see that wassail is an activity as well as a food item.
Some recipes for wassail feature baked apples floating around the punch bowl. Most wassail recipes include brandy, stout, or some kind of alcohol, although you could certainly make it without.
Here is a recipe that takes a little bit of time and fussing, but the results will be fun to share with your fellow revelers.
12 small red apples
3 each, whole cloves, allspice berries, and cardamom seeds
1 cinnamon stick
2 quarts good English ale
1 teaspoon each ground ginger and nutmeg
2 cups natural sugar
1 fifth bottle dry sherry or port
6 eggs, separated
Bake apples at 350-degrees for 20 minutes, set aside. In a large saucepan, place the whole spices, 2 cups of the ale, and the ground spices, and slowly heat for 10 minutes. Strain ale into a bowl, discard spices, and return ale to the pan. Add remaining ale, the sugar, and the sherry or port, heating on low for about 20 minutes; do not boil! In the meantime, beat the egg whites until firm, beat the yolks until creamy, then fold in the whites. Slowly beat the hot ale mixture into the eggs until smooth (you can see why you don’t want it to boil). Carefully pour the hot liquid into a heatproof bowl. Float apples on top. Serve warm in heated mugs.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too!
Horseradish was once believed to ward off scorpions!
Horseradish is the rhinoceros of the garden – aggressive yet sweet, earthy yet existential. Not exactly a featured specimen, horseradish is nevertheless a valuable member of the homestead or yarden on account of its culinary and apothecary uses. Native to southern Europe and western Asia.
Hardy perennial 2-3’ tall and wide, long strappy leaves can be smooth or crinkly, with a tall stalk bearing typical “radish” flowers (remove to send energy to root). Do not feed leaves to livestock (the volatile oils can cause severe stomach inflammation ) ; instead, use in compost or make into a “tea” to use as a fungicide.
Start horseradish in early spring or late fall, in fertile, well-drained moist silty soil, in full sun. They like a fairly neutral pH. Plant small pieces of the root 2-3’ apart. “Big Top Western” and “Common” are two popular varieties, the first one being more resistant to viruses, and having a nice root.
Harvest in early spring or late fall; some folks say the flavor is best after a few frosts. When digging it up, the root pieces that remain readily sprout, so these are the pieces you want to find and use for re-planting. You can also plant in a large container and bury the container in the ground for moisture retention and to keep the root from spreading.
APOTHECARY – Fresh root is the part used. Do not use internally if you have peptic ulcers or kidney disorders, IBS or hypothyroidism.
The sulfur compound called isothiocyanate found in fresh horseradish root offers defense against bacterial infections including Listeria, E. coli and Staphylococcus. The component sinigrin (glucosinate) is an anti-oxidant and immune stimulant, inhibiting the mutation of healthy cells from free-radical damage and boosting the production of white blood cells.
Horseradish is diuretic, it stimulates urination and the flushing of metabolic waste, and useful for UTI’s. The potassium in horseradish helps regulate the passage of fluids between cellular membranes. As a digestive stimulant it encourages peristalsis.
Horseradish is diaphoretic, eating it (or using an herbal extract) opens the pores for sweating. Use a horseradish syrup if you have mucousy cough and bronchitis.
Make a horseradish tonic – horseradish, beetroot, garlic, ginger, parsley and cayenne macerated in apple cider vinegar.
A freshly-grated horseradish sandwich is said to be a remedy for hay fever.
Do not “over-consume” horseradish. It can be very stimulating. However, modest consumption such as 2-3 tablespoons with other food makes a good appetite stimulant and liver tonic.
Horseradish is one of the Five Bitter Herbs used during the Passover Feast (Seder): horseradish, nettles, coriander, horehound, and lettuce/chicory. Great with brisket.
Stir finely grated horseradish into creamy mashed potatoes. In fact, mixing horseradish with a dash of cream or sour cream is a preferred way to serve the vegetable.
ELDERBERRY – Sambucus spp. Black Elderberry, Blue-berry Elder, “Old Friend” “Food, Physic and Folklore”
The Elderberry is not normally considered a “healing herb for the garden” but I would like you to consider it indeed as deserving of a spot somewhere along the edges of the yard, garden, or enclosure since it offers not only culinary and medicinal use, it also offers horticultural interest when placed “just so”.
Native to central Europe and North America, the Elderberry, or simply Elder or even Sambucus, is a vigorous tree-like shrub, 10-30’ tall, and a member of the Honeysuckle family. Leaves are pinnate on long 10-12” stems. The tiny flowers are borne in cloud-like clusters, and followed in late summer by blue/blue-black berries (red berries are toxic and used only for ornamental purposes). Many people say the berries taste better after a frost.
Elderberry is a good plant for background sites (similar to spirea), informal group plantings, and does well where it can sprawl. It likes full sun to partial shade, and rich moist soil, but is fairly forgiving as long as it has drainage and moisture (S. caerulea is more drought tolerant).
Cut out old stems and suckers when dormant, and trim new growth to a few inches.
North American species include American Elderberry, S. canadensis; and Western blue-berry elder, S. caerulea. Black Elderberry, S. nigra, is the European species. There are many cultivars including “Black Lace” (finely dissected leaves), “Black Beauty” (pink flowers, dark purple leaves), and “Variegated” (white and green, gold and green). Suitable varieties for North Idaho include “York” (productive large berries), “Nova” (a good pollinator), and “Adams” (large fruit) [available at All Season’s ].
Remains of Sambucus have been found in archaeological sites dating back to the Stone Age. Before harvesting any flowers or berries, be sure and ask permission first from the Elder Mother who inhabits the tree, she can be very touchy if you don’t show respect!
Roots, stems and leaves contain cathartic compounds (accelerates defecation) – do not ingest! The leaves, however, have a history of use externally in balms.
Elder Flower Tea has many uses. Combine with equal parts yarrow flower and peppermint and use for relieving flu symptoms, 1tsp. dried herbs/1c. boiling water 3xday; this blend is diaphoretic – it will make you sweat, helping break a fever and reduce achiness. Plain Elderflower Tea is useful for spasmodic cough, and it helps remove metabolic waste associated with arthritis.
Flower decoction in the bath is used to ease dermatitis, eczema, chicken pox, anxiety (a good choice for children). A decoction is like a tea only it’s simmered several minutes before steeping, making it stronger.
Elder Flower Water is as much a delight to make as it is to use: Take 1qt. fresh flowers, place in a clean canning jar, cover with boiling water (leaving a little headspace), and let cool; add 2oz. 100-pf. Vodka; cover with cloth overnight, strain the next day, keeps 2 weeks. Use as a gentle skin toner, and especially on blemishes, sunburn, eczema, psoriasis, dandruff.
Dried Elderberries have a history of use which is somewhat pleasant, they are mulled with cinnamon in red wine and said to chase away the flu. Crushed dried elderberries make a healthful cup of tea, containing – among other things – quercetin and anthocyanins, flavonoids that enhance immune function by boosting the production of cytokines (metabolic messengers).
DO NOT EAT RED BERRIES (whether they be unripe berries or of the red variety)
DO NOT EAT RAW BERRIES
It’s not difficult to make ripe black or blue elderberries safe to eat – simply cook them first as in for pie, jam, syrup and wine (sublime), or dry them first and use them like raisins.
Fresh elderflowers are edible and choice, and their aroma is somewhat spicy. Use them in muffins and cakes (shake well to dislodge any insects, and then remove from the green stems). And by all means, make them into fritters!
I am so excited to share this trendy version of a grain-free pizza with everyone. I found the recipe on Facebook, and wanted to fix it at home for, like, ever… except that up until recently my husband was not eating dairy – no cheese, yogurt, cream – for years… was allergic to it I guess; he’d get a headache from even a pinch of Parmesan.
Then, a couple weeks ago, on account of a seemingly unrelated health crisis, we discovered he was diabetic. The drastic weight loss, neuropathy in his feet, and other symptoms… we should have known (hindsight). Now we are working with insulin and counting carbs… Oh! the carbs we count. And his numbers have begun to drop a little, so something is helping.
We have also discovered a way of eating called the ketogenic diet, which encourages comsuming higher amounts of healthy fats and protein, using the fat to slow the absorption of glucose into the blood. The hubster is not the typical type II diabetes profile… he is very thin, on account of his body using his fat reserves (instead of sugars) to produce energy, and he could actually use these fats for skin, eyes, brain, and other organs.
Thus the bliss of enjoying this delicious Cauliflower Crust Pizza for our Friday night supper. It’s easy to make, everything can be prepped in advance, and it’s completely grain-free. I figured about 20g. carbs per serving, and that’s not net carbs either (subtracting the grams of fiber from the total carbs). You don’t have to be counting carbs or even avoiding grain to enjoy this veggie delight. Here’s the recipe:
Cauliflower Crust Pizza
2 cups cooked cauliflower, finely chopped (I used a food processor – do not turn it into mush), see Note, below
2 or 3 eggs, depending on size
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon each dried oregano and basil
a shake of garlic powder
1/2 cup tomato sauce, or to taste
any sort of topping, such as bell pepper, onion, mushroom, olives, pepperoni (we use nitrate-free), etc.
Preheat oven to 450-degrees F. Beat the egg, add the cauliflower, and stir in the cheese and the dried herbs and garlic. The mixture will be thick and only a little soupy.
Press into a greased pan. You will see from the photos that I used my handy “muffin-top” pans, which are very versatile, I’ve used them for all sorts of things besides muffins. This recipe made 12 mini-pizzas. Distribute the tomato sauce evenly over the unbaked “crust”. Next, arrange your favorite toppings on the pizza.
Bake until browned and set and the cheese is bubbly, about 15 minutes or so (it may take longer). This is so delicious, I challenge you to try and not eat all of them. We had 2 leftover, which made a great mid-morning snack.
Note: try and wring some of the water out of the cooked cauliflower (use a towel) before processing or chopping, too much moisture is not your friend.