Spiced Elderberry Oxymel (a herbal cold and flu medicine)

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Here is a simple way to make a healthy medicine for the cold months ahead. I can’t say enough good things about elderberries, and this way of preserving them for the winter can be used either as a daily boost to health to prevent colds and flus, or as something taken when you are sick to relieve the symptoms and get rid of the cold or flu quickly. This recipe is cheap to make, using stuff that’s always in my kitchen.

You will need:
Elderberries
Optional spices (see step 3)
Raw apple cider vinegar
Raw honey

1. First you will need to find an elderberry tree in fruit. I found these in the first month of autumn and in the garden of an old homestead we were visiting. Sometimes trees are on the side of the road, or branches are hanging over someone’s fence. Elder trees are beautiful to look at and many people have them growing in their garden as ornamentals that don’t end up being harvested. They’re supposed to be quite easy to grow, and the leaves and branches are good goat food.

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Photo credit: here

2. Carefully harvest the bunches of fruits off the trees, gather as much as you’re likely to use. I started with around 2 litres of loosely packed bunches and ended up with around 1300ml of oxymel.

3. Wash the berries and gently strip the berries from the twigs into a cooking pot, it doesn’t matter if a few small twigs get in too. Mix in a small amount of water (for around 1200ml of berries at this stage I added half a cup). Add some spices now if you wish, I added 1/2 inch of grated fresh ginger, a pinch of ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.

4. Bring the berries to the boil with the lid on, then remove the lid and continue to cook, while squashing the berries with a wooden spoon to extract the juice and evaporate some of the water. Do this for 10-20 minutes, being careful to not evaporate too much of the liquid, until it looks like you’ve squashed the berries as much as they can be squashed.

5. Filter the juice through a fine mesh sieve, then continue to squash the berries into the sieve to extract the last of the juice. Pour the juice into a measuring cup or jar to see how much you have. I ended up with 400ml of juice. Allow the juice to cool down to a blood-warm temperature.

6. When you can put some of the juice on the inside of your wrist without it hurting, pour the juice into a mixing bowl and add the same volume of raw cider vinegar and raw honey, so that you have 1 part elderberry juice, 1 part cider vinegar, and 1 part honey.

7. Pour into sterilised jars and store in a fairly cold and dry place. Take 1 tablespoon at a time, either on its own or mixed with water. It’s also good mixed with boiling water as a hot drink.

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Peas

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“I am very good at hide and seek and so are peas, that’s why I’m so good at finding them”

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Zucchini Pickle

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There’s not much that gives a feeling of abundance like zucchini does. It grows easily and prolifically, some people complain that it provides too much food, and then end up gifting some of their harvest to me. I end up picking most of mine before the flowers have dropped off, eager to make all kinds of zucchini cakes, zucchini gratin, minestrone and other soups, and making this zucchini pickle to accompany cheese and cold meats for the year ahead.

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Ingredients
1.3kg zucchini
200g onions (2 small-medium ones)
150g salt
Water for rinsing the salt off
5 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon dry turmeric or 3 teaspoons freshly grated
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried
85g honey (around 2 tablespoons)
500ml cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

Grate the zucchini and finely dice the onions. Mix with the salt in a bowl and set aside for at least half an hour, or overnight. Drain the liquid, rinse the vegetables, and then drain again, squash them into a fine sieve to remove as much liquid as possible.

Sterilise some jars and lids and keep them warm.

When the vegetables have been drained and rinsed, put them in a pot with the spices, vinegar, and honey. Bring to the boil with the lid on, reduce the heat, and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for another ten or twenty minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the onion tastes cooked. Put into the sterilised jars, put the lids on, then turn them upside down for a few minutes. Turn the right way up again and leave them to cool.

This pickle will taste best after it’s been in storage at least a month. It keeps for around 12 months in the cupboard. I’ve opened ones that were two years old and they were still good.

One day I hope to have enough zucchini to make this recipe and this recipe. This year we’ve had two plants, next year I think we will have four or more.

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Nostalgia

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We’ve moved into our house in the forest. We haven’t built the mud room/wood storage area yet so every morning I tromp towards the door in my muddy boots and leave bottles of fresh goat milk on the doorstep before taking my boots off.

During my husband’s childhood milk was still delivered each day in glass bottles, a layer of cream would rise to the top. The bottles would be washed and returned, reused again and again. In my childhood memory is milk still being delivered, but by then it was homogenised and in plastic-lined cartons. The old system of reusing the glass bottles was not done with any thoughts of sustainability, it was just the way things were. It made sense to reuse bottles rather than throwing everything into landfill, or throwing it in the recycling pile to be melted down and turned into another single-use plastic item with the use of a lot of energy. At some point in time it became so cheap to simply make new things all the time, and it became so easy to just throw everything in landfill without a thought that the culture of reuse stopped. This happened more recently with a raw milk farm we were buying from, the farmer decided it was taking too much time to clean the bottles and started using single-use plastic bottles. No thought is given to how much time it took for the oil to form in the earth to make this plastic, how long it will take to break down in landfill, how much time it would take to create these bottles if the specialised bottle-making machines were to break down, or what the end result will be of all the tiny particles of plastic seeping into our soil and water, all that is thought of is the inconvenience of washing something versus the perception of an easy and quick solution.

One of the earliest lightbulbs ever made still functions today. The businesses that made lightbulbs quickly realised that they would make more money if their products had to be bought again and again, rather than being made to last.

The other day I saw an advertisement on an ice cream fridge for a new flavour of ice cream. I could only see half the name and thought it said “red vegetable”. The corporation had become so desperate for new and exciting things that they were now trying to make vegetable flavoured ice creams, to appeal to people seeking new things for the sake of the newness of things. It turns out it wasn’t really red vegetable flavour, but I’ll remember it because it prompted some nostalgic thoughts about the amount of foods around when we were growing up. We had treats sometimes, but it was usually in small quantities, and it usually was a particular thing or another, to be eaten as a treat, rather than eaten because it was new and we had to try it. I don’t remember there being any overweight or obese children growing up in the 80s and 90s.

Autumn leaves now drift gently down from the trees while cold winds stir the evergreens, bringing cold gusts of air while the sun radiates the last warmth of summer. Night falls earlier and earlier every day. Soon our wood stove will be ready and our nights will be warmed with fire.

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How to Make Butter

All you need to make butter is a bowl, a whisk, and some cream.

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The cream should have no additives, just cream, and if it’s créme fraiche for making cultured butter, then it will have cultures as well (here’s my recipe for culturing cream at home).

Put the cream in the bowl and whisk. After a fair amount of whisking it will become whipped cream. Continue whisking and whisking and the whipped cream will become more yellow. Soon after this you’ll begin to see some liquid forming. Continue whisking, more of the buttermilk will separate from the butter.

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You don’t have to do all the whisking at once, you can come back to it every now and then. Or you can use a stand mixer or hand mixer.

Once it looks as though all the buttermilk that’s going to come out has been released, strain the butter over a mixing bowl, reserving the buttermilk for recipes.

Put the butter in a bowl of very cold water. Knead with your hands a few times to release even more of the remaining milk.

Drain the water and replace with more very cold water. Knead again.

Remove the butter from the water, kneading as much water out of it as you can. Shape it and store it in beeswax wraps or glass jars. Enjoy!

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Cultured butter with buttermilk scones, créme fraiche, and honey-sweetened jam.

This post has been shared with Wonderful Wednesday, Friday Favourites, Party in your PJs,

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Spinach Salad with Cheese

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I’ve never successfully made a hard cheese with a natural rind before.

On a biodynamic fruit day, back when we still had Buttercup the cow, I mixed some of her milk with some of our goats milk, cultured it, sort-of followed an asiago recipe (I am not so good with all the continuous stirring), pressed it, salted it, and put it in the makeshift cheese cave to age. Roughly once a week, mostly on other biodynamic fruit days, I would tend to the cheese. I would rub more salt on it, brush it, to keep the growth of some things in check, and to help it form a rind. For months I looked at this cheese every week, wondering what it would taste like.

After around five months I cut into it. It’s probably the best cheese we’ve ever tasted!

Today I made this salad with it. Feta is really good in this, as is any hard cheese, or you can use chopped walnuts instead. This is a good salad to make ahead of time, it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, just make sure the squash has fully cooled down before you add it to the spinach.

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Spinach Salad with Cheese
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Strategies to move away from cities: Market gardening in small spaces

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Photo credit: here

One of the things many folks struggle with when wanting to move to rural areas is income. Since the increased mechanisation of farming less people are needed to work in mainstream farming operations, and there aren’t many jobs available in these areas. People in cities often feel trapped in them, under the assumption that they need a typical ‘job’ in the country in order to move there.

For most people, a move to the country will involve needing to find a local source of income. Market gardening offers us the opportunity to create our own secure jobs in rural areas.
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