Preparing for winter

Preparing for winter

Joined: December 19th, 2007, 10:46 am

October 5th, 2008, 4:46 pm #1

Autumn is always an anxious time for me - trying to gather in the last of the harvest to make sure I have enough medicaments to cope with whatever winter throws at us.

Having been away much of September, I have missed most of the blackberries and elderberries, but on Thursday, while the sun shone and the police cordon around the Birmingham International Convention Centre had been removed, I ventured up to the canal towpath and found some black, juicy elderberries and a few rosehips. That night I made up two jars of elderberry elixir using Kiva Rose's new recipe. I didn't have any osha (warming) or orange peel (bitter) so I substituted some cinnamon bark and the rind of a lemon. The elixir should be ready in the middle of November.

We've heard a lot on the news recently about the novovirus (tummy bug) closing hospital wards. For most people it is a ghastly but self limiting illness, but to people with weak immune systems and other problems, it can be life threatening. Amongst the American pioneers, the cure for diarrhea was blackberry root - something we seem to have forgotten over here, although Penelope Ody, I think, mentions using a blackberry leaf tea for stomach disorders.

I've made two batches of bramble root vinegar this year - one solely with roots and the other with roots and young leaves. Back in August,Tammy, a US grandmother, told of easing her husband's problems with bramble leaves ... -diarrhea/ and recently Michelle wrote about curing her stepson's condition with blackberry root tincture ... e-harvest/

Jim MacDonald has suggested making a blackberry syrup using a similar recipe to elderberry syrup for people who won't take either bramble root or leaf concoctions and I really wanted to try it. The recipe he recommended was Ellingwood's, which is up on Henriette's website, but I couldn't find it, so after gathering a small amount of blackberries and rosehips yesterday afternoon in the blustery winds, I decided to make up my own.

Blackberry and Rosehip Syrup
Small bowl of blackberries and rosehips
1 inch of fresh ginger root peeled and chopped (or you could grate it whole)
3/4 nutmeg grated
1 cinnamon stick broken up
4 cloves
runny honey
Juice of a lemon
alcohol of your choice (brandy, sherry, a good whiskey, vodka etc)

Wash the blackberries and rosehips (depending on whether you live in the town or the country). Place in a heavy bottomed saucepan and cover with water. Simmer over a low heat for half an hour. Mash the blackberries and rosehips to a pulp with a potato masher and cook on the lowest heat for another 15-30 minutes. Strain the liquid through a plastic sieve and measure the volume. Wash out the saucepan. Return the liquid to the pan together with a lb of runny honey for every pint of liquid. Heat gently until honey is dissolved. Add juice of a lemon. This can now be poured into clean, sterile bottles and sealed and kept in the fridge to use with children and anyone who doesn't like/can't have alcohol. To preserve the syrup without keeping in fridge (but in a cold place) add alcohol to taste. I had a pint of liquid originally to which I added a lb of honey which gave around 2 pints of syrup so I poured out one jar then added about 1/2 pint of madiera to the remaining syrup. I probably could have added less. Both taste wonderful!

There's still time to collect hawthorn berries to make either hawthorn brandy (a really nice winter toddy even if you don't have high blood pressure or heart problems) or hawthorn vinegar (which tastes wonderful!)

Sarah ... rvest.html (my latest blog posting about elderberry)

Joined: December 18th, 2007, 1:07 pm

October 21st, 2008, 12:50 pm #2

Hi Sarah

Like you I've made up my elderberry elixir, I've stocked up on some of the herbs and spices I use most during the winter months for medicinal and culinary purposes, e.g. echinacea, cinnamon, ginger, sage and thyme, and made a batch of the Cold n Flu tea ready to use at the first sign of a sniffle. Using the elderberry elixir, c n f tea and echinacea capsules last year I got rid of a cold inside a week, they usually take 3 weeks or more to go in the ienter when I get a cold.

I've been collecting soup recipes to try, I've found a recipe for garlic soup that they make in France, so I'll be having a try at that and a couple of other allium based soup recipes I've discovered for winter lunches. My theory is if we eat our medicine before we get ill, we won't get ill! 

During the summer I made peppermint tincture and yarrow tincture and with the elderflower vinegar you so kindly put up for me, I'm going to try a c n f vinegar/tincture variation for colds as well. I also have the honeysuckle honey I made in early summer to help with sore throats, wish I'd made rose petal honey though after smelling yours! Ohhh and the honeysuckle wine is ready to bottle and its delightful! The only things I have left on my must do list is make a cherry & cinnamon syrup (to use just to make a pleasant winter drink), and make some blackberry oxymel. I do have some elderberry vinegar to decant and I may have a go at turning some of that into an oxymel as well.

I've brought all the tender herbs into the greenhouse, I'm hoping by doing so I'll be able to still use the scented geraniums and lemon verbena in recipes well into the winter. Other than the above I have some gift items to make, spiced cranberry sauce, Apple Spice Chutney, some homemade lavender polish to go with the lavender vinegar I made earlier in the year, for a homemade herb cleaning gift I'm making for my auntie. Making up some winter pot pourri, one of the blends I make I'll be demonstrating at the next mercian herb group meeting. I've gathered and dried the last of the herbs that were going over and begun the late autumn/winter tidy up. I hadn't thought I'd done much until I just read this post through lol, what's everyone else been up to?