Teri’s Fire Cider

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Teri is a Fire Cider Pusher–or, at least, that is how she’s been described.  Since she finds this spicy, folk cold & flu remedy so tasty and potent, she tends to offer a taste to anyone who comes over in hopes of converting them to its natural powers.  Of course, it isn’t for everyone, but we make up batch after batch and use it to boost our immune systems and ward off the sniffles (or worse) during this time of year when it seems everyone around us is getting sick.  There are lots of recipes for Fire Cider out there and we’ve created our version from a few inspirations (including Rosemary Gladstar’s basic recipe). Some folks add extra herbs like rosemary, turmeric or sage, but we go for basics and we go for organic ingredients.  You can take this straight as Teri does (she takes a shot glass full every morning) or add it into salad dressings, marinades or recipes (Kori sneaks some into her tomato sauces during the Fall and Winter months.)

Teri’s Fire Cider Recipe

You’ll need one quart Mason jar for steeping and a pint jar for storing the cider once it’s done.

1 onion

6-8 cloves of garlic

1-2 jalapeno peppers

Horseradish root

Ginger root

Organic apple cider

Raw, local, organic honey

Discard peel and slice or chop onion and put in jar.  Peel and coarsely chop garlic and add to jar.  Chop peppers and add (you can add the stem, seeds and all), Grate 1/2 to 1 cup of horseradish root and add to jar. Grate 1/2 cup ginger root and add.  Cover the whole mixture with organic apple cider vinegar. Cover with a non-corrosive lid (plastic or we use wax paper held with a ring) and let steep out of direct light for 4-6 weeks.  Strain (compost the vegetables) and add 1/4 cup honey (or to taste) and store in a pint jar with a non-corrosive lid.  This can be stored at room temperature or you can refrigerate it, if you’d like.  Shake before using and take 1-3 Tablespoons each day as a preventative measure or as desired when you feel a cold coming on.

NOTE: You can add extra healthy ingredients like Rosemary, Hibiscus, and Rosehips. We’ve also been known to substitute organic Horseradish root powder when we couldn’t find good horseradish We get our herbs here.

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Tea for Two (or Two New Teas)!

 

Life has been a bit hectic lately and this inspired us to create two new tea blends for Raggedy Hen Farm.  We realized that while we love Hilda’s Herbal Tea, we were craving something spicy and better suited to cool weather sipping; something that would be warming and a little festive.  We also wanted a calming, relaxing tea that was different than the simple minty-chamomile blends on the market–a tea not just for bedtime, but for anytime.  We think we’ve come up with a couple great blends that fit the bill perfectly…

DSCN7920Marilla’s Vanilla Spice~Named for our Plymouth Barred Rock, Marilla, this blend incorporates some wonderful respiratory health herbs like marshmallow and nettle root, with some delicious wintry spices and vitamin-packed fruits. We added organic elderberry and orange peel for extra cold & flu fighting, but this tea is so delicious with its subtle vanilla, ginger, and cinnamon goodness, you’d never know you were drinking something that was good for you! We also add a few gorgeous Star Anise pods to each bag for good measure.

DSCN7918Settle Down Herbal Tea~There are a lot of sleepy, dreamy, bedtime teas out there for the choosing, but sometimes, a person wants a calming, rejuvenating tea that isn’t just meant for sleep induction.  We had stress and tension in mind when we created this aromatic, soothing, and downright pretty blend of organic herbs.  Sure, it’s the perfect tea for your pre-bedtime ritual, but it is also great for a hectic morning or when you just need to regroup and remind yourself of all that is lovely in the world.  A combination of organic lavender flowers, rose buds, dried hops, catnip, spearmint, passionflower, chamomile and hibiscus create a calming way to settle down.

You can find these teas in our Raggedy Hen Farm shop (along with Hilda’s Herbal Tea too) and, as always, they are created using all organic herbs and spices (what we don’t grow ourselves, we source from Mountain Rose Herbs.)

Super Simple Syrups & Cordials

WP_20130929_001Making syrups is one of the most delicious ways to preserve some of nature’s tastiest and healthiest offerings.  By taking herbs, berries, roots, and spices and creating these concoctions of goodness, you can extract the wonderful properties, vitamins and health benefits and make very useful syrups.  These can be used for making cocktails and mixed drinks, sweetening tea, coffee and cocoa, drizzling over ice cream or even using in an icing or a pancake and waffle syrup.  Some even work well as medicines–soothing a sore throat or combating a cough.

To take the syrup up a notch, mixing it with alcohol like vodka, bourbon, whiskey, or rum helps to turn it into a cordial or liqueur–perfect for sipping as a sweet, after-dinner treat.  We’re going to share our basic recipe, along with some tips on how to customize and experiment to create your new favorites!

To start the process, you are basically making a very strong tea.  Add 1 cup herbs, berries, roots or whatever you want to decoct to 1 quart of water.  These can be fresh or dried.  Some of our favorites include: licorice root, dried rosehips, fresh mint leaves, fresh or dried rose petals, lavender petals, fresh basil leaves, and dried elderberries.  (We get most of our dried ingredients from Mountain Rose Herbs, we’ve included a link, but you can source from a place you trust.  We like knowing everything is organic!) Bring this mixture to a slow boil over medium high heat in a sauce pan with no lid; and then turn down and let simmer for 1/2 hour to 45 minutes.

Strain this mixture and compost the herbs, berries, etc. Pour the strained liquid back into the pan and add 1/2 cup raw, local honey or sugar for every pint of liquid. Stir until dissolved.  You shouldn’t need to cook this mixture any further unless you want a very thick syrup.  For honey, we prefer to NOT cook it since many of the beneficial enzymes can be destroyed by cooking.  If you are using sugar and want a thick syrup, you can bring the mixture back to simmer and cook until it is the consistency you want.  Once finished, you can decant to a jar or bottle.

For a cordial, you will basically just be adding alcohol to your syrup (or syrup to your alcohol).  Let the syrup cool completely (if you add alcohol to hot syrup, the alcohol could “cook” out of the mixture.) I like to add about 1/2 cup of vodka, whiskey, bourbon, or white rum per quart of syrup.  You can make it stronger or weaker depending on your tastes.  Combine this well; bottle and cap.  You can store cordials and syrups made with honey in a cool, dark place, but, they will last longer if you refrigerate them.

It is really that easy!  You can make combination syrups if you like (elderberry and wild cherry bark is one of our favorites for a medicinal syrup) and you can add spices, essential oils or extracts for added flavor.  There are so many possibilities and this is such a delicious way to preserve some of those herbs and fruit growing in your garden.  These make wonderful and gorgeous gifts as well. Happy sipping!

Gifts from the Forest

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Cedar tips and fir resin infusing in the sun.

We spent this past weekend deep in the woods in one of the magical, old-growth forests we have here in the Pacific Northwest.  We were saying “goodybe” to Summer by spending a few days camping with some of our grown kids.  Since we tend to take Raggedy Hen Farm wherever we go, we spent a little time ethically wild-harvesting some wonderful natural ingredients that we will be using in our soaps–cedar tips and conifer resin.

I grew up calling the super sticky stuff that can be found on conifer trees like fir, pine, cedar, and spruce trees “pitch,” but have since learned that is not exactly correct.  This resin is what the tree makes and sends to areas where there is injury to the tree to help heal those wounds.  Because of this, we are careful and only take a little bit of the older resin from several different trees and we harvest it with just our hands and a dullish knife, so we don’t cause any further injury to the tree. Over our camping weekend, Teri and I gathered a bit while on an afternoon hike; and our daughter Lucy and her boyfriend, Alex, gathered a bit too while they took a long half-day hike through another part of the woods.  We mostly harvested from fir trees, but gathered some cedar resin too.

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Teri is taking just a little hardened resin from this fir tree.

The resin smells amazing and has wonderful healing properties.  It is also fat soluble, so when we bring it home, we put it in a jar and cover it completely with olive oil.  This will infuse for several weeks before we strain it, and then use the oil in making soaps like our Forest Pine. Resin is not the only gift we brought back from the woods, however, and we also gathered some very aromatic cedar branch tips.  These smell just like Christmas to me!  We’ve also tucked those in a jar and covered with olive oil and we’ll have a deliciously infused oil from this in a few weeks too.

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Kori carefully gathering resin.

While we will mostly use these oils in soaps, you could actually use these in cooking.  Resin is also used in making incense and it can be dissolved in alcohol too. Since we are dedicated to using only all natural botanical ingredients and organic whenever possible in our soaps, we are learning ways to tap into the the goodness that the natural world has to offer.  Besides, there is something that feels a bit magical knowing the beautiful, old-growth forests high in the mountains (we were at almost 3,000 feet elevation), growing along a clear, spring and snow-fed stream are giving a little of themselves to folks all over the U.S. who use our soaps.

Making Delicious Medicine~Elderberry Syrup

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Elderberries ready for harvesting

Growing up on a very rural plot of land on the side of a mountain, I never gave much thought to the native Elder berry “trees.”  The berries were so small and grew up high in the tree and, besides, the folk myth was that they couldn’t be eaten raw and children should stay away from them.  I do remember there being some elderberry wine and jam making by some of the older folks in the community, but that was about it.

As an adult learning about eating locally and healthy wild and native foods, I became enamored with elderberry.  It is full of antioxidants, flavonoids, and all sorts of other good-for-you stuff that I understand very little about.  This year, after scouring nurseries and plant stands, we found a native elder berry (Sambucus caerulea ) and planted it mid-spring.  It is doing well and has grown to about a foot since being plopped into our front garden.

As the fall approaches, and we are busy preserving and preparing, this is also the perfect time to make syrups and vinegars that can be used as foods and medicine.  Elderberry syrup is wonderful as a cough syrup or taken by the spoonful at the start of the sniffles.  It is also wonderful poured over pancakes or waffles or used in a hot or cold beverage.  Since we tend to be food-as-medicine sorts of people–preferring to create healthy teas and add good-for-us herbs and spices into our daily cooking, elderberry syrup is a delicious creation to have on hand.

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You can find myriad versions of this syrup in recipe books and online, but here is how we like to make it:

Raggedy Hen Farm Elderberry Syrup

1 cup dried, organic elderberries (we get ours from Mountain Rose Herbs) or 2 cups fresh elderberries

4 cups water

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or 2 cinnamon sticks

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 teaspoon ground ginger or 2 Tablespoons grated, fresh ginger

1 Tablespoon dried orange peel

Put all these ingredients into a sauce pan and heat to boiling.  Once the mixture boils, turn the heat down and simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Pour the mixture through a sieve into a large Pyrex pitcher or glass bowl.  The sieve will catch all the berries and bits of unground herbs.  Press down with the back of a wooden spoon on the berries just to make sure you get all the juice out of them.

Now add 2 cups local, raw, organic honey and stir into the juice mixture while it is still warm (but not too hot.)  You can now pour this into a jar and keep it in the fridge, or even can it in a hot water bath.  This makes about 5 cups of syrup–enough to fill a quart jar and have a little left to use fresh and warm on morning pancakes!