Spiced Elderberry Oxymel (a herbal cold and flu medicine)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

14837696670_8bd85ded78_z

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.

Enter your email address here to get new recipes and blog posts from The Nourishing Hearthfire.

How to Make Butter

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

_A282281-480.jpg

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.

_A282284-480.jpg

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!

_A312303-480.jpg

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,

Enter your email address here to get new recipes and blog posts from The Nourishing Hearthfire.

Strategies to move away from cities: Market gardening in small spaces

8426173326_da8d6b0976_z

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.
Continue reading

An easier way to make soft cheese

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Chévre. After fermenting for 12 hours you can see the curd has separated from the whey.

Chévre is pretty easy to make to begin with, but it usually begins with boiling water and sterilising everything in the boiling water, which adds extra time and hassle to the process.

I’ve been getting massive cravings for chèvre, so much that I even looked at soft goats cheese in the shop (before quickly moving away, knowing that I can make better stuff at home) and knew I had to make some soon, so instead of my usual method of boiling water, sterilising everything that’s going to touch the milk with the boiling water, then heating cold milk up in a saucepan to the right temperature I just added some milk kefir (around 2 tablespoons) and diluted rennet (the tiniest amount possible, a drop or less diluted in a bit of water) to a jar of fresh milk warm from the goat, moved the jar around a little to mix it in, then left it to sit for around 12 hours, before draining for around 6 hours, mixing salt through, and letting it drain for a little longer. Great cheese with less trouble than the other way.

We’ve sold the cow. I have mixed feelings about this, but it’s something we had to do, and I’m glad she has a good home with another family. I have one hard cheese aging in the makeshift cheese cave that I made from her milk, an asiago with a natural rind. I’ve never been successful with natural rinds before, mainly from forgetting to brush them every week, but this one seems to be going well, and we can probably start eating it next month.

This post is a part of Simple Homestead Blog Hop

Enter your email address here to get new recipes and blog posts from The Nourishing Hearthfire.

On work

“I once knew an old lady who lived by herself in the Golfen valley of Herefordshire. She was one of the happiest old women I have met. She described to me all the work she and her mother used to do when she was a child: washing on Monday, butter-making on Tuesday, market on Wednesday, and so on. “It all sounds like a lot of hard work,” I said to her. “Yes, but nobody ever told us then,” she said in her Herefordshire accent. “Told you what?” “Told us there was anything wrong with work!”
John Seymour

Continue reading

Mulberries

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I don’t think there’s anything that gives a feeling of abundance more than fruit trees.  To watch the tree first awaken in early spring, the incomparable colour of soft green buds, and then the fragile pastel flowers bursting into life, covering the tree in the archetypal colours of springtime.  We moved onto this rental property in winter, when the trees stood bare and skeleton-like in the frosted landscape.  We had no idea of what would happen to these trees in springtime.  Now that it’s summer and they’re in fruit, it feels like such a blessing to have seen this unfold over the seasons, it makes me wish I had planted fruit trees at the houses we’d rented in the past, for other people to be able to appreciate in this way after we’d gone.

This mulberry tree had a different way of coming to life than the other fruit trees around here.  When the other trees were covered in blossoms, the mulberry tree was still leafless, very late in spring we noticed some leaves forming, and then soon after, the berries appearing.  We watched as they grew and changed colour, beginning to eat the very first ones that we thought were ripe enough.  Now as the leafy canopy protects us from the harsh summer sun, we pick them at their blackest, when they are at their height of sweetness and juice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Mulberries are full of ripe fruit for several months of the year.  They’re a good tree to have wherever chickens are roaming, because they will constantly drop delicious and nourishing fruit on the ground for chooks to eat.  They’re a good tree to have around children, as they provide both low hanging fruit, and branches at a decent height for climbing, to reach higher fruit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The leaves from the mulberry tree are good to have for larger livestock, the leaves are a natural way to rid animals of worms, and you can either bring a few leaves to the paddock for the animals to eat, or plant trees around the place for the animals to harvest themselves.

Mulberries will also grow from cuttings.  I haven’t tried this myself but plan on taking some before we move.  Linda Woodrow recommends using water with willows steeped in it, to help the cuttings grow roots.

Here are some of my mulberry recipes:

Mulberry Crumble

Mulberry Honey Jam

Mulberries with Créme Fraiche, Honey, and Paleo Granola: Put mulberries in a bowl, top with around half this amount of créme fraîche, drizzle with a teaspoon or two of raw honey and sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of paleo granola or chopped nuts.

Enter your email address here to get new recipes and blog posts from The Nourishing Hearthfire.