Golden Milk Spiced Chai

golden milk spiced chai

Ask a room full of herbalists what the first anti-inflammatory herb that comes to their mind is, and invariably you will hear the world “turmeric” among the replies.  In fact, I attended an herbal conference where the session speaker asked just that.  Nearly everybody in the room responded with a collective “turmeric”.  Well, somebody said Curcuma longa.

It might have been me.

Not confirming or denying.

So while it is no great secret that turmeric has some great anti-inflammatory potential, the knowledge of how we can reap the benefits of this ocher herb is a little more elusive. While a daily curry meal may be appetizing to some and not others – a golden milk spiced chai has a nearly universal appeal.

This is to say, I have not served this to a single person without them loving it.

Very well, then.

golden milk spiced chai

Turmeric Bio-availability

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has long been recognized in Ayruvedic tradition as an extraordinary healing herb.  So profound is the anti-inflammatory potential of turmeric, even the most conventional of MDs seems to be aware of its benefits.  That said, the active constituent of turmeric called curcumin is notoriously “unavailable”, biologically speaking.  Figuratively speaking, turmeric is just not that into you.  Real world translation: popping a capsule full of turmeric powder just isn’t going to do the trick.

So what’s an herbalist to do?

Make a Golden Milk Spiced Chai, actually.

golden milk spiced chai

In order to make curcumin more biologically available, we need to bring a few things to the picture.  In this case we will use fat, heat and black pepper.  Heat tends to volatilize stubborn constituents, and fat helps to emulsify the goods, essentially.  Black pepper brings the spicy piperine to the party, potentially increasing the absorption rate by an astounding 2000% in humans (see the case study here).  So, in the process of slowing simmering this golden milk spiced chai in a full fat milk of your choice, you are greatly increasing the nutrient availability and the healing benefits of turmeric.

golden milk spiced chai

Turmeric Herbal Energetics and Golden Milk Spiced Chai

Turmeric is a somewhat spicy, pungent warming herb with an astringent, slightly drying quality.  Teamed up with other warming spices like ginger, black pepper, cardamom and cinnamon, this golden milk spiced chai is like a visceral campfire, spreading comforting warmth throughout the body. The type of warmth that loosens stiff, cold joints and aching muscles. Additionally, these spices, along with star anise and sweet fennel seed, offer great stomach soothing benefits, and antispasmodic action on the reproductive organs and lower gastrointestinal tract.  If this weren’t encouraging enough, turmeric offers astounding liver supporting action, helping to facilitate both phases of the liver’s natural detoxification process.  People with colder constitutions will find this golden milk spiced chai especially nourishing and comforting.

golden milk spiced chai

Golden Milk Spiced Chai includes organic black tea for gentle stimulating benefits.  Although I have never found black tea’s natural caffeine to be a problem if I decided to have a cup at night,  you might prefer a decaffeinated variety of black tea or an herbal variation such as honeybush or red rooibos.  I purposely kept the ginger and black pepper content in the below recipe modest to make it crowd pleasing.  Spices can be adjusted or substituted to your preference. Personally, I like it SPICY, adding roughly double the ginger and black pepper than I indicate in the recipe. I formulate this tea in larger particle form (as opposed to powdered herbs), then strain through a tea strainer before serving.  Sweetener was not included in this recipe so people can adjust the chai to the personal tastes.

Golden Milk Spiced Chai Recipe

Golden Milk Spiced Chai
Author: nitty gritty life
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
This viscerally warming blend of turmeric and traditional spices makes this golden milk spiced chai a soothing, comforting tea latte with healing benefits.
Ingredients
  • 5oz Assam black tea (or tea of your preference)
  • 1.5oz turmeric granules
  • 1oz cinnamon chips
  • .5oz cardamom pods, crushed
  • .5oz ginger granules
  • .5oz star anise, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper (or more depending on your taste)
Instructions
  1. Combine the black tea, herbs, and spices and store in an airtight jar in a cool dry place.
  2. To prepare, simmer one heaping tablespoon of blend in 8-10oz of a milk of your choice for 15-20 minutes. Strain through a tea strainer into mug, sweeten to taste and enjoy.

Wild Rose Turkish Delight

wild-rose-turkish-delight

Can you be nostalgic for something that you have never experienced?  A time, a place, a flavor, a love?  As I child I forever had my nose in a book.  I loved whisking away to whatever world that was being shaped by those letters and pages.  I could live, walk, feel, and taste with those characters.  Maybe I became acutely aware of this phantom nostalgia phenomenon when I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  I was transfixed the moment the White Witch lured Edmund with her enchanted Turkish Delight.  Truth be told, I have no idea if I had ever had Turkish Delight before I shared in the adventures of the Pevensie children in Narnia. But C.S. Lewis’s ethereal narrative had me as enchanted as poor Edmund.

Naturally, as an adult now, I try to indulge these memories when I can.  As one does. And foraged wild rose petals and juicy rose hips marry in magical ways with this Wild Rose Turkish Delight.

wild roses nootka rose

On reality versus fantasy

Lately, I am feeling the urge to suspend my disbelief, to escape into fantasy.  A lot, actually.  Not only have I the urge to dive into fantastic works of fiction while cozied up with tea and blanket by the fire, but the feeling extends to my very real world too.  Our children are growing up before my eyes – faster than I can comprehend.  Our oldest children are making college and career plans as they roll through their final high school years.  Even our youngest, at the gentle age of four, seems to be seeing the world with maturity beyond her years.

wild rose turkish delight

But, me – I am still a bookish young girl, gathering bits of this and that in the forest, quiet with my thoughts – right?.  How can this be so?  The reality of growth, aging, and mortality is heavy and thick, but my instinct is to add more fantasy and whimsy into our life.  Because I need the levity.

Whenever, however…

Rose Hips

Turkish Delight with Foraged Rose Hips and Petal

Wild Rose Turkish Delights are a truly magical treat. One can easily see why Edmund would be so captivated by a mere candy. Soft, sweet and otherworldly.  I layered rose hips, rose petals, and rose water in this recipe ensuring that each and every bite of this Turkish Delight sparkled with the ethereal rose flavor.  I prepared a decoction of fresh rose hips, in which I also steeped dried wild rose petals while cooling.  During the latter stages of preparation, I added rose water in order to preserve its delicate aromatics.  The resulting confection boasts a rosy glow and deep, enchanting rose flavor.   An addition of pistachios is a traditional, but not altogether necessary ingredient if you are nut adverse.

wild rose turkish delight

Perhaps my Wild Rose Turkish Delights won’t whisk you away to Narnia, but I promise they taste of wonder and amazement.  When the realities of our modern world are too harsh, I, for one, will be retreating into nostalgia and fantasy for a much needed escape.

Wild Rose Turkish Delight Recipe

wild rose turkish delight

 

Wild Rose Turkish Delight
Author: nitty gritty life
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: varies
If nostalgia, magic and wonder had a flavor, it would be like that of this Wild Rose Turkish Delight. Layers of rose flavored, candy confection. NOTE: This candy is simple to make, but time consuming. The final cooking stage may take upwards of two hours depending on conditions and will require monitoring and frequent stirring.
Ingredients
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup fresh rose hips (or 1/2 cup dried rose hips)
  • 1 cup dried rose petals
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons rosewater
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped pistachios (optional)
Instructions
  1. To make rose hip decoction, bring water and rose hips to a low boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove from heat and add rose petals, stirring to combine (the petals only nee to steep for a few minutes until the color and aromatics have diffused into the rose hip decoction).
  2. Strain rose decoction into a large pyrex liquid measuring cup. It should measure four cups. Add more water or pour out to adjust accordingly.
  3. Add 2 cups of rose decoction, lemon juice, and sugar to a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil and continue to heat without stirring until the sugar mixture reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer (adjusting heat on burner to keep the mixture from bubbling over or burning). Remove from heat.
  4. Meanwhile, mix remaining rose decoction, corn starch and cream of tartar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium high heat until mixture becomes extremely thick and almost paste like. Remove from heat.
  5. Once the sugar mixture and the cornstarch mixture are ready, carefully combine the two in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, or by careful whisking the two together. CAUTION: The sugar mixture will be very hot. If your mixture remains lumpy, pulse it in a blender until the mixture is smooth.
  6. Prepare a 13×9 baking dish by lightly greasing with butter or coconut oil, lining with plastic warp, then grease plastic wrap as well. Then sift one tablespoon cornstarch and one tablespoon powdered sugar into baking dish, rotating dish to spread powder throughout pan. Set aside.
  7. Return mixture to a heavy bottomed, medium saucepan. Over low to medium heat, continue to cook this mixture for 1.5-2 hours, stirring frequently. Carefully monitor temperature to ensure the candy does not scorch. The mixture will become very thick and almost stiff. As the mixture reaches this point, you will need to stir constantly to prevent it from burning. It is ready when a spoon drawn through the bottom of the pan separates the mixture and spoonful of mixture dropped in ice water remains very firm and holds its shape. At this point add the rose water and optional pistachios. You may need to cook the mixture just a little longer to drive off the moisture introduced by the rose water.
  8. Remove from heat and pour into prepared dish. Smooth with a silicone spatula and pat into corners as the mixture will not likely spread very easily if you have cooked it long enough. Cool at room temperature for one hour, and then chill in refrigerator for at least another hour. Cut into squares and roll in equal parts cornstarch and powdered sugar that have been sifted together. IF, at this point, the candy is too soft to hold its shape return to saucepan and cook until until the mixture is stiffer, testing in ice water again.
  9. Store in an airtight container in cool, dry place to avoid candies sticking together.

Sacred Heart Tulsi, Rose and Hawthorn Chai

Tulsi, Rose & Hawthorn Chai

Some days it’s just hard to be hopeful.  Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s the bills, maybe it’s the news, maybe it’s social media, MAYBE it’s everything.  Sometimes life in general can be stressful, over wrought, and downright disheartening. Perhaps it is my role as an herbalist, but I find myself serving as the sounding board for a lot of people’s gripes and troubles.  I don’t know a lot of things, but I do know that people feel tore down, chewed up, and spit out these days.  I also know that there are some herbs that can help soothe and nourish a world weary heart.  How about some tulsi, rose, and hawthorn chai to lift the heavy veil and let your sacred heart shine?!

Tulsi, Rose & Hawthorn Chai

The Healing Ritual of Tea

Tea is powerful medicine, my friends.  Not just in that tea delivers the gentle healing action of your chosen herbs, but in its ritual too.  Preparing tea with intention can itself be an act of self care and indulgence.  I encourage you to embrace the rituals of preparing yourself a cup of tea – choose a favorite mug, inhale the aromatic steam, and quietly reflect while sipping your tea.  Taking just a few moment to disengage from work, social media, or whatever else consumes you to simply just “be” with your tea is itself an act of healing.  I don’t mean this in a hippy-dippy, esoteric way – tea, in this case, is both the tool of healing and the excuse to take care of you.

Hawthorns - Spiced Hawthorn & Rose Hip Mead

Tulsi, Rose and Hawthorn Benefits

I formulated this tulsi, rose and hawthorn chai with the notion that I wanted this tea to act on the heart.  Tulsi, also known as holy basil (Ocimum sanctum), is a beloved nervine herb which promotes a sense of greater well being and reduces the perception of stress. Rose (Rosa spp) is a gentle hypotensive herb, helping the lower elevated blood pressure and strip away that sense of overwhelm. Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) is a much heralded cardiovascular tonic – strengthening, toning and nourishing the heart muscle while improving circulatory function.  I have use hawthorn leaf, flower, berries (wildcrafted at different times of year) here to employ all its heart loving benefits.  Traditional chai spices such as cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, star anise, and fennel bring warmth and wonderful aromatics, as well as their own unique herbal actions.  I even added some not-so-traditional coriander to elevate and brighten the blend.

Tulsi, Rose & Hawthorn Chai

I encourage you to engage in these small rituals of self care on a daily basis, and especially when times are trying.  This tulsi, rose, and hawthorn chai is a perfect way to honor your sacred heart.

Tulsi, Rose & Hawthorn Chai

Tulsi, Rose and Hawthorn Chai

Sacred Heart Tulsi, Rose and Hawthorn Chai
Author: nitty gritty life
Honor your sacred heart with this tulsi, rose, and hawthorn chai. This warming, relaxing blend of herbs and traditional chai spices will soothe and protect.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dried hawthorn leaf and flower
  • 1 cup dried hawthorn berries’
  • 1 cup dried tulsi (holy basil)
  • 1 cup rose petals
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon chips
  • 1/4 cup dried ginger (granules)
  • 1/4 cup fennel seed
  • 1/4 cup lightly crushed cardamom pods
  • 1/4 cup lightly crushed star anise pods
  • 1 tablespoon dried coriander
Instructions
  1. Mix all herbs and spice together and store in tightly sealed container in a cool dry place.
  2. To make tea, use a tablespoon of chai blend to 8-10oz of water. Bring water to a rapid simmer and remove from heat. Add herbs and steep for about 10 minutes. Strain into your favorite mug and enjoy.

Spiced Hawthorn and Rose Hip Mead for a Joyful Heart

Spiced Hawthorn & Rose Hip Mead

Fall has most certainly arrived.  Heavy Pacific Northwest winds and rains have rendered most of the deciduous trees naked and skeletal for a couple weeks now.  It is a welcome sight to look beyond the barn, into the pastures, and see the familiar red glow of the hawthorn berries and rose hips on the otherwise bare limbs and canes.  A couple scarlet reminders that the foraging seasons is not quite over yet.  As the march to the holiday season hastens its pace, I am thinking about ways to honor this great abundance with which I am blessed.  Spiced hawthorn and rose hip mead will a joyful heart make, I think.

Truth is, in another lifetime I “should” have been a winemaker.  I went to school and studied enology – even excelled in both the academic and practical applications of the program. I should have been great – I had skill, instinct and a good “nose”.  But, a troubling lack of confidence sent me in the direction of hospitality and marketing.  Seven years in the wine industry left me feeling pretty unfulfilled, but the wine making bug never really left me.

freshly harvested hawthorn berries

I am going to admit that I am pretty late to the home mead making trend.  Coming from a background of stainless steel tanks, must pumps, forklifts, and labs – I was intimidated by the thought of reducing fermentation to a scale which I could handle in my home with minimal investment.  This last summer I started playing with wildflowers and foraged berries and made my first flavored meads with really great results.  Creating this spiced hawthorn and rose hip mead with two of my favorite foraged medicinal seemed quite in order.

 

Hawthorns - Spiced Hawthorn & Rose Hip Mead

Hawthorn Medicinal Benefits

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp) is a thorny, often shrubby, tree that bears sweet smelling flowers in the spring and red berries in the fall.  While both the leaves and flowers also have medicinal value, the berries offer anthocyanins, bioflavoniods, vitamins and minerals.  Hawthorn is a well regarded cardiovascular tonic.  It is thought to strengthen and fortify the heart muscle, and is often indicated for use with conditions such as high blood pressure, atherlosclerosis, and high cholesterol.  I look to hawthorn when people share with me complaints of stress with physical tension, heart palpitation, edginess, and anxiety.  A bit sweet and sour, the hawthorn berry is considered slightly warming energetically.  Hawthorn’s action in less “stimulating” than it is encouraging – like a gentle but persistent friend who always knows what you need.

Rose Hips - Spiced Hawthorn & Rose Hip Mead

Rose Hip Medicinal Benefits

Rose hips (Rosa spp) are the fleshy crimson fruit of the ever lovely rose.  One is more likely to find rose hips on wild varieties, due to pollination, but all roses are capable of producing hips.  Rose hips are almost translucent and jewel like compared to the earthen autumnal hues this time of year.  Practically dripping with vitamin C, rose hips are often included in cold and flu care protocols.  Like hawthorn, rose hips are consider both sweet and sour, and slightly warming energetically.

Spiced Hawthorn and Rose Hip Mead

The concept of spiced hawthorn and rose hip mead was born from the desire to create a festive beverage that offered the added benefit of medicinal value.  Perhaps I am not alone in admitting that the holidays can be very stressful, so maybe adding a little heart protecting, antioxidant action is just what the herbalist mead maker ordered.  The fact that these two fruits are available to forage at the same time seems to give my intuition evidence that these garnet hued beauties are meant to be together.  I decided that the flavors of cinnamon sticks and whole allspice berries would add to the merriment of this spiced hawthorn and rose hip mead without over powering the honey and fruit notes.

Spiced Hawthorn & Rose Hip Mead

Now, down to the nitty gritty!  You want to make mead like a wine maker, huh?  You are going to need a few things before making this spiced hawthorn and rose hip mead — besides the hawthorn berries and rose hips.  Choose a honey that you really enjoy as the aromatics and flavors really make a difference in the resulting mead.  I especially think that an orange blossom honey would do well here.  I advise performing the “cold soak” as detailed in the recipe below, to maximize the hawthorn and rose hip extraction.  Because this mead is fermented with intact whole berries, I like large mouth gallon size jars fitted with a lid/airlock combination like this.  As you will need to “punch down” the cap every day or so, these jars make the process easy and the post ferment clean-up a breeze.  To “punch down” the cap created by the berries and yeast, simply push through the cap with sterile spoon, stirring slightly and ensuring that the cap is evenly moist. As I like my wines and mead on the dry side, I chose this champagne yeast from Lalvin (EC-1118) because it has a higher alcohol tolerance and can take this mead to dryness.  Should you want a sweeter mead, I would suggest this yeast.  Both hawthorn and rose hips are extremely high in pectin, so you will DEFINITELY want to use this pectinase enzyme to break the fruit down, and assist in the clarification process.  Cuz, nobody likes a clumpy, thick murky mead.  After fermentation and settling, I like to rack into swing top bottles like these.  I use a simple tube to siphon, but that can be messy if you are not careful.  You might prefer an auto-siphon like this.  Remember to keep all your equipment clean and sterilized to ensure a healthy ferment.

I look forward to updating this post in two to three weeks as my spiced hawthorn and rose hip mead completes fermentation.  I am hoping to give a few bottles away as gifts and to stock pile a few for myself.  Or a lot for myself. Because, holidays…

Spiced Hawthorn & Rose Hip Mead
Author: nitty gritty life
Serves: 1 gallon
A beverage for a joyful heart! Spiced hawthorn and rose hip mead marries herbal medicine with fermented libation.
Ingredients
  • 3 cups fresh hawthorn berries, cleaned and destemmed
  • 1 cup fresh rosehips, cleaned OR 1/2 cup dried rose hips
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon whole all spice berries
  • 2 lbs honey
  • 6 cups un-chlorinated spring water
  • 1/2 packet yeast (see notes in post about type)
Instructions
  1. Bring water to a simmer in a large stock pot. Remove from heat and add whole hawthorn berries, rose hips, cinnamon sticks and all spice. Cool completely, add 5 drops pectinase enzyme, then chill in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours.
  2. Remove from refrigerator and gently heat on stove top until the liquid reaches about 90-100 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in honey. Meanwhile, re-hydrate yeast for 20 minutes in about 1/2 cup warm water (about 100 degrees) and a small pinch of sugar.
  3. Carefully pour berries and liquid into fermentation jar. Add re-hydrated yeast and stir well, adding more water to fill the jar to about 1″ head space, if necessary. Place lid fitted with airlock onto the jar. You should see bubbles forming and active fermentation withing 2-24 hours.
  4. Place fermentation jar in a warm spot and allow to ferment 2-3 weeks, or until all bubbling of the airlock has ceased, performing a daily “punch down”. The berries cap may “fall” to the bottom of jar when fermentation is complete. To increase clarity, add five more drops of pectinase enzyme. Using a tube or auto siphon, rack mead off spent must and yeast lees into a fresh jar for additional settling.
  5. Once satisfied with the clarity of the mead, rack mead into swing top bottles for serving and storage.

 

Remains of the Garden: Lacto-Fermented Hot Sauce with Nasturtiums

lacto-fermented hot sauce with nasturtiums

The gardening season is pretty much over now.  Sure, there will be some cabbages, beets, and Brussel sprouts to harvest in the coming weeks, but the potatoes, squash, corn, and carrots have long been absent from the garden.  My hopes of a pantry full of salsa and stewed heirloom tomatoes have been dashed by the ever persistent rains.  The few batches I did get through won’t be enough to satisfy our appetites through the winter ahead.  However, strangely unaffected by the Pacific Northwest rains, my row of hot peppers remained productive well into these colder, wetter weeks.  Without the tomatoes for more salsa, I had to find an alternative use for these precious peppers. Lest I let them rot away into the ground.  Inspired by my friends at Gather and Grow Forage Cook Ferment, I decided on an herbal-y twist to lacto-fermented hot sauce.

A simple gaze out my kitchen window gave me just the initiative to make something wonderful.  Like the peppers, the nasturtiums are still stubbornly blooming in the planter outside my studio.  If you never tasted nasturtiums before, both leaves and flowers have a peppery, piquant zing that is truly remarkable.  With enough peppers for a couple quart sized batches of lacto-fermented hot sauce, I decided on two blends.  First, a scorching hot batch of fully ripe red peppers (mostly red jalapenos, serranos, a few paprika and other assorted varieties) with the nasturtium flowers.  Then, a comparatively milder, but still intense variation of green peppers (Anaheim, mole, and green jalapeno) with the nasturtium leaves.

From an herbalist’s perspective, both hot peppers and nasturtiums are stimulating and viscerally warming, full of vitamins, minerals, anti-inflammatories and antioxidants.  Flower essences made with nasturtium are said to clear and focus an overly busy mind, energize a tired brain, and arrest over thinking tendencies.  This is a hot sauce with some major therapeutic action.

Lacto-Fermentation

Lacto-fermentation is a unique process that preserves the bounty of a season’s harvest.  It also encourages the presence of beneficial bacteria that promote proper gut health and immune system function when consumed.  Lactic acid forming bacteria, such as lactobacillus and pediococcus, are present on virtually every natural thing and will flourish in the right environment.  These lactic acid bacteria are responsible for foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and others, and serve to out-compete infectious bacteria in the gut.  And they make things taste really good.  Lacto-fermented hot sauce may be a little intense for the more sensitive types, but it carries a healthy dose of both soul warming heat and beneficial bacteria.

lacto fermented hot sauce with nasturtiums

Lacto-Fermented Hot Sauce

I chopped each batch’s peppers, garlic and nasturtium in the food processor until the mixtures were fine and paste-like.  After packing into quart jars, I added sea salt, spring water, and whey from a recent yogurt batch.  The whey isn’t necessary, however the addition helps to kick-start the fermentation process).  It is best to use fermentation weights like these to keep the solids submerged (preventing the formation of mold) and air lock lids like these.  Heck, there are even entire kits devoted to lacto-fermentation like this.  I intend to let my hot sauces ferment for 2-3 weeks, until the mixture takes on a noticeably lacto-fermented flavor – somewhat vinegar-y, but fully developed and “rounded”.  After that I will bottle the lacto-fermented hot sauce up in bottles like these and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Lacto-fermented hot sauce with nasturtiums is incredibly easy and a fast project to spice up a rainy, fall afternoon.  Or any afternoon, for that matter.  The only problem is that it isn’t ready immediately – my kitchen smells amazing right now, so this wait simply isn’t fair!

{I will be updating this post to include post fermentation notes on this hot sauce}.

Lacto Fermented Hot Sauce with Nasturtiums Recipe

lacto-fermented hot sauce

Red Lacto-Fermented Hot Sauce with Nasturtium Flowers
Author: nitty gritty life
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 quart
Intensely hot and spicy, this lacto-fermented red hot sauce with nasturtium flowers is not for the faint of heart!
Ingredients
  • 3 3/4 cups finely minced, assorted red peppers (red jalapeno, serranos, etc)
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10-12 nasturtium flowers
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoon whey (optional)
  • spring water
Instructions
  1. Clean and rinse peppers. Remove stems and tops from peppers. Remove seeds and membranes if you prefer a milder hot sauce, otherwise leave intact.
  2. Pulverize peppers, garlic and nasturtium flowers in a food processor.
  3. Pack pepper mixture into quart jar. Add sea salt and optional whey. Pour spring water into jar until the only one inch headspace remains, poking mixture with a skewer or butter knife so that no air pocket remain.
  4. Place fermentation weights on mixture and an airlock lid on the quart jar. Ferment at room temperature for 2-3 weeks.
  5. After fermentation, you may re-blend for a smoother consistency, adding more spring water for a saucier texture, if needed. Bottle and store in the refrigerator.

 lacto-fermented hot sauce

Green Lacto-Fermented Hot Sauce with Nasturtium Leaves
Author: nitty gritty life
Prep time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 quart
Milder green option uses nasturtium leaves for an herbal-ly spin on hot sauce
Ingredients
  • 3 3/4 cups finely minced, assorted green peppers (Anaheim, mole, jalapeno, etc)
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10-12 nasturtium leaves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoon whey (optional)
  • spring water
Instructions
  1. Clean and rinse peppers. Remove stems and tops from peppers. Remove seeds and membranes if you prefer a milder hot sauce, otherwise leave intact.
  2. Pulverize peppers, garlic and nasturtium leaves in a food processor.
  3. Pack pepper mixture into quart jar. Add sea salt and optional whey. Pour spring water into jar until the only one inch headspace remains, poking mixture with a skewer or butter knife so that no air pocket remain.
  4. Place fermentation weights on mixture and an airlock lid on the quart jar. Ferment at room temperature for 2-3 weeks.
  5. After fermentation, you may re-blend for a smoother consistency, adding more spring water for a saucier texture, if needed. Bottle and store in the refrigerator.

 

 

Amazing Apple Pie Filling & the Perfect Pastry Crust

Amazing Apple Pie Filling & the Perfect Pastry Crust

I think my husband resolved to make me his wife the first time I made him an apple pie (although it would take us years before we actually tied the knot, because procrastination).  It seems that my special brand of apple pie with a buttery crust left him cozy with nostalgia.  Sometimes he gets a certain look in his eyes, and says “You know what?  You should make an apple pie.”  But it isn’t always apple season, and sometimes I am short on time.  So this year I got wise, and started to can apple pie filling.

Now I can have an apple pie in the oven in 5 minutes.

And, I can do this fast pie trick exactly nine times before I run out of filling.

It will not be enough.

I need more apples…

Amazing Apple Pie Filling & the Perfect Pastry Crust

Blessed with an abundance of free apples courtesy of our neighbor’s overloaded trees and armed with this fantastic apple peeler, canning apple pie filling was a remarkably easy task.  At least, once I set about to do it.  Because, procrastination {again — sensing a theme here, no?}. This acquisition of said apple peeler made the process of peeling, coring, and slicing dozens of apples fast and simple.  Brown sugar lends a decidedly  caramel-y flavor, while the cinnamon, allspice, clove, nutmeg and even a pinch of black pepper (trust me, black pepper is super here) brings lots of traditional spice and aromatics to the apple pie filling.  Wanting to make the filling universally appealing to my gluten free friends (for whom I make apple crisps), I chose to thicken the base with tapioca starch.  The resulting apple pie filling is glossy and thick, without any hint of glue-like goo (as I notice with flour and corn starch thickened fillings sometimes).  Lastly, a little lemon juice keeps the flavors bright and the pH safe for water bath canning (testing around 3.4 with this freshly calibrated pH meter).

Amazing Apple Pie Filling & the Perfect Pastry Crust

Apple Pie Filling

Amazing Apple Pie Filling
Author: nitty gritty life
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 3 quarts
Makes 3 quarts of apple pie filling
Ingredients
  • 12 cups peeled, cored, and slice apples
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove
  • pinch of black pepper
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed stock pot. Cook over medium heat until the apples have softened slightly and the juices have become thick and syrupy, about 20 minutes.
  2. Ladle hot filling into sterilized quart jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Wipe rims and screw on prepare lids and rings, finger tight. Process in a water bath canner at a full boil for 25 minutes.
  3. Remove jars from canner after processing and allow to cool for 24 hours. Check for seal and store in a cool dark place for up to a year.

Amazing Apple Pie Filling & the Perfect Pastry Crust

Perfect Pastry Pie Crust

Wait!

What?

You didn’t think I would leave you hanging, did you?  Can’t have all this apple pie filling without a pie crust now, can we?  Here is is my never fail (almost never) pie crust.  It is buttery, flaky, delicious, and easy to work with.

Perfect Pastry Crust
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
Makes a double crust.
Ingredients
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose, unbleached flour
  • 2 tablespoons organic cane sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, cubed
  • 1/4-1/2 cup ice cold water
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, and salt. Add cold butter cubes and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
  2. Add water in small increments, pulsing between additions, until the dough is evenly moist and hold together when pressed between fingers.
  3. Remove blade and turn dough out onto a well floured surface. Work into a cohesive mass, then divided in half. If your kitchen is warm or humid, work the dough balls into small disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling. If your kitchen is cool, roll out dough to fit your pie plate with an overhang of approximately one inch.
  4. Prepare pie dish by buttering and dusting with flour, shaking out excess. Place dough round in pie dish and fill with cooled pie filling.
  5. Roll out top round and place onto of filling. Trim any excessive over hang to approximately one inch and pinch bottom and top crusts together. Tuck edges under. Crimp edges using preferred method. Cut a small venting slit and dock the top crust 4-6 times to help release steam during cooking. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar if desired.
  6. Place pie dish on a baking sheet and cook in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 and continue cooking for 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
  7. Remove from oven and cool before serving.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Don’t go away yet!!!

I am not done.

DON’T throw out or compost those apple peels and cores.  Pack them into a large glass jar, fill with water and cover with a thin cloth or coffee filter fitted to the jar with a rubber band.  Stick that jar of apple bits somewhere out of the way and let it ferment  for 6-8 weeks, or until it smells and taste distinctly vinegar-y.  Strain and bottle. You can refrigerate and use this whenever raw apple cider vinegar is called for.

 

Delicious Cheddar Chile Bread

Cheddar Chile Bread

Bread was a hard one for me, y’all.  I mean, I REALLY struggled to make a good loaf of bread for an embarrassingly large about of years.  Some loaves were heavy, leaden and resembled bricks more suitable for masonry than sandwiches.  Still others were overly soft and delicate, shredding at the mere sight of a serrated knife.  Around five years ago I found myself watching an episode of America’s Test Kitchen, and my bread has never been the same.  It really is all about using the right flour — bread flour, that is.  Now, my sandwich loaves are springy and structured, just as they should be. I even entertain myself with the occasional “novelty” bread.  Like this Cheddar Chile Bread (another ATK/Cook’s Country inspiration).  Cheesy, and studded with spicy diced green chiles, this cheddar chile bread is a perfect complement to a roast chicken or a Southwest inspired soup.

Cheddar Chile Bread

This puffy golden coil of bread-y, cheese-y, and chile laden goodness looks far more difficult to create than it actually is. For convenience sake, I like using a small can or two  (depending on just how much chile action I want) of diced green chiles. Hot or mild depending on your personal preference. The green chile packed dough is soft and pliable requiring only moderate kneading.  After the first rise the dough is rolled to into a rectangle, covered in cheese, rolled into a doughy sausage and coiled into an oiled cast iron pan.  During baking, the fragrant loaf develops a golden crust and gooey, cheesy layers which nicely offsets the pungent heat of the chile peppers.  Cut into generous wedges and slathered with butter, this cheddar chile bread is sure to become a family favorite.

Cheddar Chile Bread

Cheddar Chile Bread

Delicious Cheddar Chile Bread
Author: nitty gritty life
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 6-8
Super cheesy and studded with green chiles, this cheddar chile bread is perfect complement to a roast chicken or Southwest inspired soup.
Ingredients
  • 1 packet or 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or honey
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
  • 1-2 4oz cans of diced green chiles (hot or mild)
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 12 oz cheddar cheese, in ¼” cubes, at room temperature
Instructions
  1. Combine yeast, ¼ cup bread flour, sugar or honey, and warm water. “Proof” until the yeasts are rehydrated and bubbly, producing a yeasty fragrance, about 20 minutes. If you prefer, you may use a 1 1/2 cups sourdough starter in place of the previous sponge and skip to step two.
  2. Add butter, chiles, chili flakes, salt, eggs and yolk to the yeast sponge and combine thoroughly. In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, start adding flour in ½ cup increments until it is a cohesive ball that pulls away from the sides of the bowl, but is still slightly sticky.
  3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes. The dough should be smooth, soft and slightly sticky. Place in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours.
  4. After the first rise, turn dough out onto a well floured surface. Work into a coarse rectangle, then roll to approximately 12” wide by 18” long. Sprinkle surface with the cubed cheddar. Tightly roll the cheesed studded dough lengthwise to form a long log. Pinch the ends and roll log back and forth a few times to seal seams.
  5. Coil log, from center out, in the bottom of a greased cast iron skillet. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise onto doubled in size, about an hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. After second rise, remove plastic wrap, and brush with a beaten egg if desired. Bake for 50 minutes, covering loosely with aluminum foil after about 25 minutes to avoided overly browning.
  7. Remove for pan and slice into large wedges, slather with butter and enjoy.

 

 


Soothing Cooling Elderberry Lollipops

Elderberry Lollipops

I am going to start this post by admitting that I tried to make elderberry lollipops last year and failed – miserably.   Like blooper reel fail.  Like catastrophic fail.  Like burned candied spattered on my tablet fail.

I was not proud.

Bound and determined to right my wrong and arise successful from my previous failure, I had plans for this year’s elderberry crop.  Well, the elderberry lollipops happened.  And the result was far from a failure.  In fact, it was a screaming success.  Er, omit screaming (because I did a lot of that last year) and replace with resounding.  I like that better.  The elderberry lollipops were a resounding success.  There you have it.  The elderberry lollipops are decidedly tasty, and as my littlest would say “healthy cause mommy’s plant medicine is in it”.  These elderberry lollipops are chock full of antiviral, antispasmodic and demulcent herbs to soothe and relieve painful coughs and irritated throats.

elderberries

Cough Qualities and Tissue State

Coughs can be lumped into one of two categories:  wet, heavy and loose OR dry, hot and hacking.  Wet, heavy coughs are often associated with allergies, asthma, bronchitis, COPD, common cold or flu, pneumonia, and tuberculosis.  They are frequently observed concurrent with runny nose and low grade fever in milder cases.  These elderberry lollipops are not well suited for a wet, heavy cough (but these horehound lozenges are).  Hot, dry coughs are often experienced with upper respiratory infections and are particularly troublesome in cases of croup or whooping cough. These coughs are often worse at night and when in a warm room.  I formulated these elderberry lollipops to address the discomforts associated with this specific type of dry, hot cough.

Elderberry Lollipops

Elderberry Lollipops

Perhaps I should mention that this recipe is more about function than the literal form.  Translation: feel to form this candy into any kind of drop or lozenge you prefer.  I decided on the lollipop form (I use these silicone molds), because I am rather uncomfortable giving my little ones hard candy.  Especially so when they are sickly, fussing, and given to coughing fits.  The candy on a stick form gives me a tad more confidence their safety.  It also allows them to leisurely suck on the lollipops, warming it to a syrup which coats their throats.  Generally, I prefer a different herbal medicine delivery method than sugar. But, then, there is no disputing the almost universal partiality to sweetness.  So if my “plant medicine” needs to ride to battle on the back of sugar (or honey,) so be it.

Elderberry Lollipops

Speaking of plant medicine – here is the low down on the herbs that I have chosen for these medicinal lollipops:

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra):  Eldberries are a powerful immune system stimulant.  Recent studies indicated that elderberry preparations may shorten the duration of cold cold and flu.  This flavorful antiviral serves as the foundation of these medicinal lollipops.

Marshmallow Root (Althaea officinalis):  Demulcent and anti-inflammatory, marshmallow root boosts the throat coating action of the candy while also simultaneously reducing the perceived heat and discomfort.

Wild Cherry Bark (Prunus serotina):  Undoubtedly the familiar flavor of few commercial brands of cough drops, wild cherry bark acts as a powerful antispasmodic, banishing hacking, tense, coughing fits.

Elderberry Lollipops

Candy Making Wisdom

A few words of wisdom about candy making. This is no time to multitask.  Candy making requires undivided attention – so keep kids, pets and pestering spouses out of the kitchen while you are in the process.  Prepare yourself to stand at the stove for quite a while as there is no way to expedite the cooking process without courting disaster (see first paragraph).  Slow and steady wins the race here.  Have your molds prepared and at the ready.  Wear long sleeves to protect your arms from splatter.  Furthermore, damp or humid weather will greatly impact cooking time and results.  A humid environment may result in particularly sticky lollipops.  Once cooled and set, the lollipops should be coated in corn starch, powdered sugar, or (if you are feeling especially herbal) ground slippery elm root to prevent stickiness.

These lollipops are easily and quickly prepared with fresh, frozen, or dried (see recipe for variation) elderberries, dried wild cherry bark, and marshmallow root.  Liberally dusted elderberry lollipops can be stored in a cool dry place in an airtight container, or just prepared at the first sign of the telltale cough.  Elderberry lollipops are a sweet and whimsical way to deliver some potent plant medicine to the young and old.

Elderberry Lollipops

Elderberry Lollipops Recipe
Soothing Cooling Elderberry Lollipops
Author: nitty gritty life
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2+ dozen
Makes approximately two dozen immune stimulating, soothing lollipops
Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blue or black elderberries (or 1/2 cup dried)
  • 1/4 cup marshmallow root
  • 1/4 cup wild cherry bark
  • 2 cups organic cane sugar or honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (to prevent crystalline texture)
  • corn starch, powdered sugar or slippery elm root for dusting
Instructions
  1. Gently simmer water, elderberries, marshmallow, and wild cherry bark for approximately 20 minutes. Strain away solids and discard. The resulting liquid should measure two cups exactly; adjust accordingly.
  2. In a 4 quart saucepan, combine warm elderberry liquid with sugar and cream of tartar.
  3. Over medium high heat, bring mixture to a gentle boil. DO NOT LEAVE UNATTENDED. Continue boiling until hard crack stage is achieved, about 300 degrees on a candy thermometer. (Some candy makers advise not stirring during this time, however, I have not experienced any seed crystallization issues using a wood handled silicone spatula)
  4. Pour into molds pre-prepared with lollipop sticks. Cool until set; about 30 minutes. Dust with preferred ingredient and store in a cool, dry place in an airtight container.
  5. Saucepan and tools are easily cleaned of residual candy with the use of boiling water.

Disclaimer:  Information contained in this post is for informational purposes only.  This information is not intended to cure, treat, prescribe, or diagnose disease. I am not a doctor and cannot dispense medical advice. Please consult your physician to discuss any health related concerns.

 


References:

Cough Symptoms and Treatment. (n.d.). http://www.parents.com/health/cough/cough/

Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Wet Cough – Symptoms, Causes, Treatments – Causes. (n.d.). https://www.healthgrades.com/right-care/lungs-breathing-and-respiration/wet-cough–causes

Wood, M. (n.d.). Study Guide to the Six Tissue States [PDF].

Slow Cooker Homemade Ketchup

Slow Cooker Homemade Ketchup {nittygrittylife.com}

Perhaps, your kids are like mine – and everything is better with ketchup.  Perhaps it is just an unquestionable fact of childhood (except I didn’t like ketchup as a kid – weird, I know).  But the simple fact remains that those plastic squeeze bottles of thickened, sweetened tomato purée are not very healthy.  And ketchup doesn’t qualify as a serving of vegetables.  And they are generally not very good.  Okay, those are actually three things and they are not precisely facts, but I digress.  In my DIY, made from scratch world, those Heinz 57 bottles just gotta go…  But what are we going to slather on our homemade fries and homegrown burgers?  This very yummy slow cooker homemade ketchup, I tell you.

Summer usually arrives kind of late in the Pacific Northwest and the tomato harvest really hits August through September, and sometimes into October, if the weather hangs on.  Because restraint is not my strong suit and tomatoes are a particular weakness, I have roughly thirty plants ripening fruits daily as a result.  In between batches of salsa and stewed tomatoes that I put up for the season, I like to make a couple batches of homemade ketchup to sustain us throughout the year.

Slow Cooker Homemade Ketchup {nittygrittylife.com}

This slow cooker method of making homemade ketchup is just incredibly easy.  It requires very little prep work – and you get to just walk away from it for something like 18 hours…  This ability to dump and go is particularly appealing in my busy schedule.  I keep the sweeteners modest so that the end homemade ketchup isn’t overly sweet.  I particularly like the addition of paprika (smoked if you like a little BBQ flair to your ketchup) and coriander to liven things up a little bit.  A healthy dose of apple cider vinegar help to keep the flavor bright and the pH within a water bath canning method  safety range (around 3.2 on this freshly calibrated meter, depending somewhat on individual tomato variety acidity).  While the results are not a 100% match for the supermarket variety, I would argue that they are much, much better.

Slow Cooker Homemade Ketchup {nittygrittylife.com}

This slow cooker homemade ketchup is a grown up version of everybody’s (well, virtually everybody’s) favorite of condiments that even the kids will love.

Slow Cooker Homemade Ketchup

Slow Cooker Homemade Ketchup
Author: nitty gritty life
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
A grown up version of everybody’s favorite condiment: ketchup! One even the kids will love! Makes 2-3 pints.
Ingredients
  • 5 lbs tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ cup packed dark brown sugar or honey
  • 2 tablespoon molasses
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons paprika (smoked if you prefer)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker set to low heat. Cover and allow to warm for two hours.
  2. After two hours, remove lid and process with an immersion blender until smooth. Alternately, you can puree the tomato mixture in a blender or food processor in small batches.
  3. Place a lid only askew over slow cooker so that moisture may escape. Continue to cook and reduce the mixture on low heat for approximately 18 hours or until desired consistency is achieved.
  4. Ladle into sterilized pint jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Wipe rims and place prepared lids and rings on finger tight. Process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes at a full boil. Remove from canner and allow to cool, undisturbed for 24 hours. Check for seal and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Refrigerate after opening.

 


The Perfect Canned Salsa

Perfect Canned Salsa {NittyGrittyLife.com}

The first thing that I ever learned to can, and can well, was salsa.  Written on a piece of bank stationary circa late 1970s/early 80s, in my mother’s implausibly perfect script, was the recipe that I use to this day – now tweaked ever so slightly to accommodate my spicier salsa predilection.  That piece of paper spent years taped to a kitchen cabinet, now long since disintegrated or lost in a series of moves, but the recipe still lives on in my, admittedly intermittent, photographic memory. I think the time has finally come for me to share the classic salsa recipe with the world.  Because, frankly, I’m tired of everybody and their grandmother asking for it.

Just kidding, I am happy to share.

Because I don’t want your grandmother calling me…  (Yes, that has happened)

I can tell you that I literally can’t make enough of this salsa to satisfy my ever hungry family.  In fact, one year, I canned 17 quarts of salsa in the fall.  We were out by May.  And that is NOT counting the pints that I canned and gifted.  Not only is this salsa perfect, and I mean PERFECT, for tortilla chips – it is also a great flavor base for southwest inspired soups and a super yummy addition to rice or quinoa.

Perfect Canned Salsa {NittyGrittyLife.com}

For canning safety, it is highly recommended that you stick to the proportions indicated as it results in a water bath canning safe acidity close to 3.2.  That said, play with the peppers to suit your preferences.  I am not a big fan of green bell peppers and generally seek out other, more flavorful, and spicier chiles.  My family seems to love a blend of Anaheim/poblano/jalapeno at a rough ratio of 47%/47%/6%, respectively.  If I had my way that jalapeno quotient would be much higher. But we appease the masses, right? But even these seemingly low Scoville  points choices, this salsa does not lack for heat.  Instead of tongue searing, five alarm fire heat, it has a slow burn, visceral heat that warms your belly.

I prefer to use freshly ground spices to impart a high aromatic quality to the salsa, but work with “watcha got”.  You may find that a tablespoon of your favorite chile powder blend works just as well as my recommended spices.  Canned tomato paste is an important addition here.  The tomato paste gives the salsa a real chip sticking quality and textural viscosity that we really enjoy.  I have tried just simmering the salsa for an extended time to in order to reduce and thicken, but found the end result a bit mushier with a noticeable “cooked” flavor.  Not unpleasant, I just like the bite and brightness that results from the recipe as written.  I always add the cilantro at the last possible minute before I transfer the salsa to jars to preserve its flavor.

Well, now that I have divulged my secret family salsa recipe, do me a favor and make a few batches.  I don’t need your grandmother calling me for the recipe! 😉

Perfect Canned Salsa {NittyGrittyLife.com}

Perfect Canned Salsa

The Perfect Canned Salsa
Author: nitty gritty life
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Best classic salsa you’ll ever make. Makes 10 pints or five quarts.
Ingredients
  • 5lbs blanched, peeled and diced tomatoes
  • 2lbs finely chopped, assorted pepper (membranes and seeds removed)
  • 1lb finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic
  • 12oz tomato paste
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
Instructions
  1. To “blanch” tomatoes, fill a large heat safe bowl with tomatoes. Cover with boiling water and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Once you see the skins pucker and split, drain into a colander. Peel skins and chop. Transfer to a large, heavy bottomed stock pot.
  2. Finely chop onions and peppers. This maybe accomplished by pulsing in a food processor if desired. Add to tomatoes.
  3. Add all ingredients, EXCEPT cilantro, to the tomato/onion/pepper mixture and bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add chopped cilantro
  4. Ladle into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Wipe rims clean and place lids and rings on finger tight. Process in a water bath canner at a boil for 15 minutes for pints or 25 minutes for quarts. After processing, remove from canner and allow to cool for 24 hours. Check for seal and store in a cool, dark spot. Refrigerate after opening.