Garden Lifestyle

What’s Cooking? Preserving? Fermenting? Infusing?

Tis the season; Thanksgiving Day officially sets off the holiday season!

An array of homemade herbal vinegars, tinctures, sugar, honey, cordials and dried herbs and chiles in process.
Photo/Illustration: susan belsinger

Tis the season; Thanksgiving Day officially sets off the holiday season! Today is an over-hyped day referred to as “Black Friday”–something that I am totally not involved in–other than to be sure and stay home.

I have been busy preserving, drying, fermenting and infusing for months now. I feel blessed to be able to grow a garden and lots of herbs, to harvest them and put them up for food and medicine during the months ahead and to share them as gifts. For me, it is rewarding and satisfying to give a homemade, heartfelt gift. It is also enjoyable to gather with kin or a few friends and have a session of creativity–it is easier and more fun to share in a productive group activity. Here are a few projects, I’ve been up to. How about you? 

I was gifted a large amount of assorted apple varieties, so I cooked them down with organic apple cider, a cinnamon stick, and a few allspice berries and mace blades until very soft and then ran them through my Mouli foodmill and made a tasty applesauce, adding just a bit of maple syrup and fresh lemon juice. I went through the canning process so I have a case of jars filled with amazing applesauce down in the coldroom.

Also, in jars, from the chile and tomato harvest, is a case of homemade salsa. I had a lot of red and green tomatoes to harvest, along with many chiles, right before a predicted frost. Although I kept many chiles whole in the refrigerator and green tomatoes in the coldroom to ripen slowly, I had to process some of them, so I made fresh salsa to consume within a few days. I also fermented salsa, as well as chiles in two different brines, which have finished fermenting and are now stored in the fridge in labeled, quart jars. Since, I only have so much refrigerator space, I made salsa, put it in jars and processed them in a hot water bath. Way better than storebought in texture and flavor.

The counter in my mudroom is where all of my infusions sit; I have to walk by them numerous times a day and so I shake them at least once a day to activate the ingredients. Many are ready to strain and bottle. Since Rubus is Herb of the Year for 2020, I have quite a few concoctions made with my own wineberries (like red raspberries only better) and some with local blackberries: raspberry shrub, wineberry cordial, and a wicked good wineberry and vanilla bean white wine vinegar. I had to make a second batch of blackberry brandy because the first batch was tippled early on–so I doubled the batch this time.

There are two different fire ciders macerating as well as elderberries in organic apple cider vinegar, which will eventually become elderberry shrub, once strained and combined with a little honey. There is also sage honey, Douglas fir honey, sumac sugar, homemade witch hazel, as well as a number of herb vinegars: savory, tarragon, nasturtium, basil and chive blossom. There is an arnica oil and a St. John’s wort oil, which I will use separately and combine for a great synergistic sore muscle salve. I am tincturing the following herbs and roots separately: lemon balm, lemon basil, orange mint, licorice root, ashwaganda root, burdock root. These will be used for remedies and cordials.

In the next few weeks, I need to strain, bottle and label all of the aforementioned. I will put some in the pantry and some in the apothecary and carefully wrap and choose which to give as gifts. I always write a description of the product, its ingredients and what is it used for. All of this takes a lot of time: it is a labor of love as well as gratitude for the plants and the process.

This weekend, my grandnieces Anya and Elena are coming for an herbal spa day. We will be creating lots of things to give as gifts (for preteen girls) from spritzers, sugar scrubs and roll-ons to bath bombs, herb and foot soaks–and whatever else we can imagine! (Of course some chocolate will be involved.)

Get inspired–it’s not too late to whip up some homemade herbal magic!




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