Saturday, December 18, 2010

We're Jammin'

We're jammin'I wanna jam it with you
We're jammin', jammin',
And I hope you like jammin' too

I've been on a jammy excursion. A tasty one, though, as I've "invented" three of my own herbal jams, and the results have actually been pleasant. I now have Christmas gifts to give to people!

I've come to the conclusion that using pectin is completely unnecessary if you use apples when jam-making, because apples have natural pectin. I love using local Granny Smith apples when making jams (picked off apple trees in Troutdale... free apples FTW!), and you can add a variety of herbs for that extra "kick" of flavor.

Anyway, when researching the internet for basic jam recipes to tweak into my own creations, I came across a recipe that sounds quite interesting: A Caramel Apple Jam invented by Mr. Robert Atwood. I gave his recipe a try, with some modifications: I used less white sugar and replaced it with honey; I used lemon juice, and slightly more butter. All in all, it's a decent jam, and the cinnamon truly makes this jam taste like apple pie.

Apples freshly picked off trees in Troutdale, OR. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Herbal Preserves

Well, Thanksgiving is over, and everyone's being good consumers and strengthening the economy with their holiday shopping (and providing free entertainment by fighting over socks), and I'm still in a feasted-stupor. Alas, I won't be venturing out on Black Friday.

But, it's good to be relaxing at home, because lounging around lazily -- still in my pajamas at 6:00 PM -- actually has its productivity: I get to contemplate Christmas gifts!

I like to give people Christmas gifts that are actually useful and functional, and what's better than to give something to spread on toast in the morning? Unfortunately, I missed Huckleberry season and didn't have a chance to hike in the Mt. Hood National Forest to pick those yummy berries, so homemade Huckleberry preserves are out of the question this year. However, herbal preserves and the similarly-related are, basically, the next best thing (at least, in my humble opinion). For an herb jelly, you can use thyme, lemon thyme, lavender, rosemary, mint, or lemon balm with this basic recipe:

Herb Jelly:

2 1/2 lbs. (5 cups) tart apples
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
Juice of one lemon
3 tbsp. chopped fresh herbs
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar (optional)

Lavender is great to add to honey.

Another great idea to jar is to make herb honey.

I'll make little baskets containing these jarred concoctions along with herbal sachets and other little goodies. Then, I'll hand them out merrily as I dance around in a santa hat.

I guess I better get in the kitchen soon!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Soapwort Shampoo

I was pleasantly surprised when my mother told me that my dear Irish grandmother would use soapwort (saponaria officinalis) -- a perennial herb -- as a means to make a natural laundry detergent. Using the boiled concoction of soapwort roots and leaves makes a natural soap; a hygienic practice used since ancient Rome.

I recently made my first batch of shampoo using the boiled concoction of Soapwort with several drops of Rosemary essential oil added, and then bottled. It's as backwoods as you can get as it's not as soapy as I had hoped, but I also didn't boil so much of the roots (as I should have), and the roots are especially soapy.

A shampoo can also be made with dried Soapwort and egg yolk:

1 cup hot water
1 tablespoon dried soapwort
1 egg yolk
lemon juice (optional)

Pour the hot water over the Soapwort, whisk or stir well, and and allow to cool. In a seperate dish, whisk the egg yolk and lemon juice, and then add to the soapwort infusion. Store in the fridge. Be sure to rinse your hair well when using this recipe.

Soapwort. Photo (c) S. Waters.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rose and Vanilla Perfume

First blog post!

My interest in herbalism has prompted me to explore natural and herbal perfumery.

Since retailing perfumes contain toxic indredients, a truly natural and homemade perfume is worth exploring.

Using herbs and essential oils to make perfumes is an art and science. I'm currently fermenting an organic rose and vanilla perfume which consists of key ingredients. While perfume making is a total blast, it is also a time-consuming process. My developing concoction has sat in a jar for two weeks now, and this particular perfume won't be ready for several more weeks, as the combined scents take considerable time to blend and mature.

How to make your own perfume? Start by pouring some vodka in a small glass bottle, one that you can cork. To the vodka, add an organic vanilla bean. Slightly crush it and allow it to sit for a week, then strain and re-bottle. Add a tablespoon of rosewater and about ten drops of rose essential oil, and about ten drops of oil of vanilla. (If you seek a great oil of vanilla, check out Ananda Apothecary's vanilla oil choices.) Also add about five drops of ylang ylang essential oil. Allow the perfume to blend for a month; strain the mixture again before using.

Apothecary Rose from my garden.