Posts tagged spices

The Healing Powers of Common Kitchen Spices

You have a cabinet full of miracle medicine at home! I’m sure you realize that some of it is good for you, this sort of information has been all over the news. But the information is scattered and comes in small doses so that unless you keep a journal you will have trouble putting it all together. So I thought it might be handy to list every spice, explain how it works and give ideas for uses in your cooking. I will be posting in the future recipes that will help heal certain diseases. I am waiting until Winter because most of my recipes are too hearty for summer fare.

Although I have covered the subject in various ways and to a certain extent in previous posts, I am going to bring it all together now. Which spices can be used to heal what? And how do I use that spice in a meal? Here are the answers, in a simple list form:

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Homemade Potpourri Recipes

A few months back I ran a post on the basics of making your own potpourri. Admittedly, there are several methods of making potpourri, the easiest being the “dry method” and the most lasting and deeply scented, “the wet method”. Both will work in the short term. If you just want some lovely potpourri to last a weekend when guests are staying or you might need it to freshen a closet that has gone stale, then the dry method is quick, painless and effective. For those of you who are more dedicated to the craft or who would like to start making potpourri to sell or give as gifts, I will run a post in the near future on the detailed process of the “wet method”.

With the holidays coming up and finances being tight, I am trying to run some posts on homemade projects you can do for little money that will be lovely during this time of year. Handmade potpourri can give beauty and aroma to your home while entertaining this season and you don’t have to keep buying new. Also, consider making up some really nice stuff, bagging it and giving it as gifts. This has zero carbon footprint, is light on your wallet and says something special to family and friends. So if you are interested in learning how to make this lovely stuff and make it to your own preferences, such as certain colors or scents, then keep reading. I have some easy recipes for you.

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Herb Up Vinegar and Oil

I know this was like a little craze a few years back, to make or go out and buy herbal vinegars and oils. Then there was a case of poisoning because of rancid garlic in oil and this craze just fizzled out. But the products that came out of the momentary fad were really fantastic and there is no reason to avoid these great items. You can make it yourself and do it carefully so that no one will get sick. And some the recipes make such good vinegars and oils that once you eat them you won’t want the grocery store stuff again.

So just for the fun of it I thought I’d share some of my favorite recipes and see how you like them. They are really easy to make, they only need a few common ingredients and they are worth the wait as they age. My personal favorite is Raspberry Vinegar. It is so good that I’ve drank it down by itself, like it were a sauce or a fruity wine. Seriously. So get out the pots and pans.. and bottles! It’s time to make some very cool and very delicious homemade vinegars and oils.

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Cinnamon Fights Mold!

Here is a great little news piece from the NY Times. I know that herbs and spices are among God’s miracles but now science is busy proving it. Mankind started out using herbs for remedies and germ fighters only to end up synthesizing their properties instead of using the original. I know this may be easier, faster and cheaper and provide for larger quantities over time but is it always wise?

And food manufacturers have been relying on all kinds of chemicals and additives to inhibit mold growth on food and extend shelf life. This is especially true of baked goods like bread and donuts. But now they have found the mold fighting properties in this wonderful spice and we are now looking at a new era in baked goods where natural mold fighters like cinnamon take over for dangerous chemicals and additives.

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Cooking With Herbs Part I

Herbal Vinegars and Oils

Most people are familiar with some aspect of cooking with herbs. Everybody grew up adding Coriander to Pea Soup or Basil to Tomato Sauce or some other great herb to some family favorite. Mom’s recipe books all the way back to Betty Crocker had pages of references to various herbs and spices and what they best accompanied. Everyone knows that the Italian herbs are Basil, Oregano, Garlic and Thyme. Most people also know that Indian spices include Curry, Coriander and Turmeric. And many more know to use “Taco Seasoning” with their Mexican dishes but not too many of us realize exactly what spices and herbs this entails. Still, most of us are more or less somewhat familiar of the art of using herbs and spices in our cooking.

But there are also many Americans who prefer plain to spicy and just won’t eat anything ethnic. This is like my father, who won’t eat Chinese or Thai foods because he thinks they are too spicy or weird for his taste. He likes Cajun food, of course, because it’s sort of “macho” to eat hot peppers. As a rule, though, he and most of my family are happiest with a Steak and a Baked Potato. And if you watch them carefully, they push the vegetables around a bit but few of them end up on the fork. So how do cooks like myself, who are vegetarian and herb loving, put together food that is harmonizing, rather than polarizing? How do you get the meat and potatoes crowd to the table when you use Rosemary on the Chicken? How do you pass along great herb dishes to people whose tongues are trained to love plain? I admit it’s hard… but it’s not impossible! Herbs can be made to be polite… they don’t always have to be rude! And there are many other reasons to slip herbs into food other than just one taste or the other. Healthy, curative reasons to slip the herb into the meal and get it past the fussy eater.

I am going to address the addition of curative herbs to foods in a lot of my future posts about herbs and cooking. You will look at herbs differently in your meal plans and reach for a few you never thought of before, all in order to make your family healthier without them ever being the wiser! Some of these foods are just so darned delicious that they won’t turn them away.. and they will never know they aren’t traditional or “ordinary”. I promise to post some awesome recipes that you won’t be able to resist trying. And for those you free spirits who are free to eat whatever you like with no resistance or input from others, then you can just climb right on the proverbial herb tree and go out as far as you like on the limbs!

One of the easiest and most traditional ways to introduce herbs and spices to the family is with salads and salad dressings. Although most Americans are blue cheese and Iceberg lettuce lovers, they can be trained to eat interesting greens more easily than they can be forced to try spicy rice. You want to start out slowly, maybe by adding a little color to the dish with some red lettuce or some dandelion greens, but not too much and not too obvious. Just sort of mixed in with the lettuce, onions and tomatoes. Perhaps you can even throw in a few sprouts or seeds without blowing every body’s appetite. And then, once the door has been cracked, you can ease it ever open and add actual herbs to the mix! Just by adding a little everyday Garlic and few extra Onions to the mix, you are helping the heart patients in the family and protecting the healthy from heart disease. Garlic and Onions will also help to keep Asthma at bay and can curb future attacks. And you will be amazed at what herbs you can add to a salad and what good they can do for you and your family!

A little Cayenne or Ginger mixed into the dressing can help ease Bursitis, Arthritis and sore muscles. Substitute Reiki or Shitake Mushrooms for the bland button kind and this will help stave off Chronic Fatigue and is an overall energy booster. A combo of Astralagus leaves and Reiki Mushrooms will help anyone suffering from fatigue. But if the family is suffering from the Flu, add a few Astralagus leaves, a little Echinacea and some extra Garlic. If someone is constipated, slice in a few slivers of Papaya. If someone has diarrhea, then don’t add Papaya but toss in a handful of Blackberry or Raspberry leaves. For Diabetics, add in some Fenugreek leaves.

If loved ones have trouble with gas after eating salad (a common complaint) then just add some Fennel Seeds or a few slices of fresh Ginger to the mix. Dandelion leaves are a natural cleanser and diuretic and will help people with Cystitis, Gall Bladder disease, Nephritis, Edema and High Blood Pressure. They are also really tasty additives to any salad and are often used in Gourmet restaurants. Always add as much Garlic as your family can stomach as this will stave off fungal infections, blood pressure abnormalities, heart disease, high cholesterol, clogged arteries, blood clots, Renaud’s Phenomenon and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Today’s recipes will address the making of Herbal Vinegars and Oils as Salad Dressings for my regular salad recommendations. I will post in the near future complete salad recipes and even more detailed information on how these improve your health and help with curing existing problems. But I absolutely love making Vinegars and Oils and can’t use them enough so I am excited about sharing them with you. Talk about making me drool! Wait until you try Raspberry Vinegar mixed with a Savory Oil. Yum Yum. Pour it all over your salad and I dare you to leave a drop behind… I have been seen scooping up the dressing with a spoon and sucking it down long after the greens are gone! And believe me, once you get this down, you will be doing the same!

In the recipes, I will try to group them together, as a compliment. This means that I will list a recipe for Vinegar and then follow it with a recipe for Oil and that I recommend these two as a great blend. But you don’t have to mix the Vinegars and Oils in this way, you are free to mix them anyway you choose, with any blend. I think you will find some of the Vinegars so darned delicious on their own that you will be adding them to everything! So let’s get started, so you can dig in!

Recipe # 1:

Lemony Herb Vinegar

Ingredients:

One large bunch of fresh Lemon Thyme
One large bunch of fresh Lemon Balm
A smaller bunch of fresh Lemon Balm
Juice of one small Lemon
One peel of Lemon Zest
Clean, sterilized Glass Bottle with Stopper
Enough Cider Vinegar to fill the bottle
Non-aluminum Cooking Pan
One long sprig of fresh Lemon Thyme
Fine Strainer or Sieve

Method:

Step 1: Sterilize the glass bottle by filling it with boiling water and then soaking it overnight in hot water with bleach. Rinse well until no more bleach smell remains.

Step 2: Wash the Herbs thoroughly in fresh water until no dirt or debris remains. Then, Pack the bottle with the first two large bunches of fresh Lemon Thyme and fresh Lemon Balm.

Step 3: Pour the vinegar into the non-aluminum cooking pan and heat on medium high heat. DO NOT BRING TO A BOIL. When the vinegar just starts to steam and the first bubbles begin to rise from the bottom of the pan, turn off the heat.

Step 4: Pour the hot vinegar immediately into the bottle, over the Herbs and then stopper. Place bottle with vinegar and herbs into a cool, dark place like a closet. Allow to settle for two weeks.

Step 5: After two weeks, remove the bottle and strain out the Vinegar. Rinse out the bottle until of the Herb residue is removed. The water should run clear. Retrieve the smaller bunch of fresh Lemon Balm and pack it into the bottle. Refill the bottle with the strained vinegar and stopper.

Step 6: Place the bottle with vinegar and herbs on a sunny windowsill and leave for another week.

Step 7: After the week, add in the one long sprig of fresh Lemon Thyme, the fresh squeezed Lemon Juice and the Lemon Peel Zest. DO NOT STRAIN. Stopper and store in a cool place.

NOTE: Shake before use. This is best kept cold in the refrigerator.

Now, try it with this oil:

Recipe # 2:

Garlicky Basil Oil

Ingredients:

5 Cloves of Fresh Garlic, peeled
One large handful of Fresh Basil
A small cupful of White Wine Vinegar
Clean, sterilized Glass Bottle with Stopper
Strainer

Method:

Step 1: Place the Garlic Cloves in the Vinegar and leave to soak overnight. Sterilize the Glass Bottle at the same time by filling with boiling water and leaving to soak overnight in hot water and bleach. Rinse thoroughly until no bleach smell remains. Remove the Garlic and lay it out to dry. Wash the fresh Basil and also lay it out to dry.

Step 2: When the bottle is thoroughly dry and the Garlic and Basil are also dry, add everything to the bottle. Fill it with the Oil and stopper.

Step 3: Place the Garlic and Basil Oil on a sunny windowsill and leave for a week. Shake it frequently, checking the temperature to make sure it does not get too hot to touch. If it does, move it to a cooler spot still in the sunlight.

Step 4: After a week, strain out the Basil and Garlic through the strainer and stopper. This Oil may served as needed either at room temperature or after chilling.

If you like this combo, wait until you try my favorite:

Recipe # 3:

Raspberry Vinegar

Ingredients:

One Pint pkg of fresh Raspberries
One clean, sterilized Glass Bottle with Stopper
Enough White Wine Vinegar to fill the bottle
Non-aluminum Cooking Pan
Strainer with Coffee Filter

Method:

Step 1: Sterilize the glass bottle by filling with boiling water and then soaking overnight in hot water and bleach. Rinse completely until no more bleach smell remains.

Step 2: Push each Raspberry into the bottle one at a time until the bottle is full or all of the Raspberries have been added. Be careful when adding them or you will have an enormous amount of seeds to remove later.

Step 3: Heat the vinegar up in the non-aluminum cooking pan over medium high heat. DO NOT BOIL. Heat until the vinegar just begins to steam and the first bubbles begin to rise from the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat.

Step 4: Pour the hot vinegar immediately into the glass bottle, covering the Raspberries.

Step 5: Stopper the bottle and place it in a cool, dark place like a closet. Allow to remain there for 6 weeks.

Step 6: After 6 weeks, remove the bottle full of vinegar and berries. Strain out the Vinegar carefully, removing every last Raspberry seed and as much of the flesh as possible. The Vinegar should run as clear as is possible. It will be darkly colored Rose. It will look like wine.

Step 7: Once the Vinegar is rosy and clear, stopper the bottle and place in a cold place like the refrigerator. Shake before serving. This is best very cold and tasty all by itself.

Although this stuff is delicious all by itself, may I suggest blending it with the next recipe? You’ll love it!

Recipe # 4:

Sweet Savory Oil

Ingredients:

Two handfuls of fresh picked Savory
Clean, sterilized Glass Bottle with Stopper
Enough Very Light Virgin Olive Oil to fill the bottle
Saucepan

Method:

Step 1: Wash the Savory thoroughly and lay it out to dry. Sterilize the Glass Bottle by filling it with boiling water and leaving it to soak overnight in hot water and bleach. Rinse thoroughly until no bleach smell remains.

Step 2: When both the inside of the bottle and the herbs have dried and there is no water left there, put the fresh herbs in the bottle. There should be no condensation from water left on the leaves or the inside of the bottle.

Step 3: Heat the Olive Oil in the saucepan very slowly. Warm it over medium heat, checking it frequently to be sure it does not get hot. DO NOT BOIL OR ALLOW TO SMOKE.

Step 4: When the oil is very warm, pour it into the bottle and stopper it. Shake the bottle every so often while allowing it to cool.

Step 5: When the bottle is cool to the touch, store in the refrigerator and use as needed.

Now, here’s an interesting blend for the more adventurous palate. If you enjoy something spicy, sweet and definitely different, give this combo a try.

Recipe # 5:

Mint and Savory Vinegar

Ingredients:
A small handful of fresh Applemint or Lemon Mint Leaves
One large bunch of fresh Savory
Clean, sterilized Glass Bottle with Stopper
Enough Cider Vinegar to fill the bottle
Strainer
Non-aluminum Cooking Pan

Method:

Step 1: Sterilize the Glass Bottle by filling with boiling water and soak overnight in hot water and bleach. Rinse thoroughly until no more bleach smell remains.

Step 2: Wash the Herbs carefully by placing in the strainer and running over with water until all dirt and debris have been removed. Then, fill the bottle with the handful of fresh Savory. Add a pinch of fresh Mint. Set aside the remainder of the Mint.

Step 3: Heat the vinegar in the non-aluminum Saucepan over medium-high heat. DO NOT BOIL. Heat the Vinegar just until it steams and the first few bubbles begin to rise from the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat.

Step 4: Immediately pour the hot Vinegar into the bottle, filling it to cover the Savory. Stopper the bottle and place it in a cool, dark place like a closet or cabinet shelf. Leave for 2 weeks.

Step 5: After two weeks, remove the bottle. Bruise the remaining Mint leaves to release the aroma and create an oil on the surface of the leaves. Add to the Vinegar. Cork again and place back in the cool dark place for one more week.

Step 6: After the last week, retrieve the bottle and strain out the liquid through the strainer. Strain until all of the Savory and Mint Leaves are removed. The Vinegar should be lightly colored and clear.

NOTE: Stopper and store in the refrigerator. Great on Summer Salads. Try it with Chicken.

And now make up this great oil and try the two of these together for a real change of pace!

Recipe # 6:

Clove Pink & Rose Petal Oil

Ingredients:

One large handful of fresh Rose Petals
One large handful of freshly picked Clove Pinks
One small pinch of fresh Peppercorns
Clean, sterilized Glass Bottle with Stopper
Enough Light Virgin Olive Oil to fill the bottle
Strainer

Method:

Step 1: Rinse the Flower Petals thoroughly and leave them out to dry. Sterilize the Glass Bottle by filling with boiling water and then soaking overnight in hot water and bleach. Rinse the bottle thoroughly to be sure no bleach smell remains and then allow to dry.

Step 2: When both the bottle and the flowers are dry, add the Clove Pinks to the bottle. Bruise the Peppercorns lightly in a mortar and pestle and add them as well.

Step 3: Pour over enough Oil to fill the bottle and stopper. Leave the bottle in a sunny spot for 10 days, shaking frequently and checking often to be sure it is warm enough but not too hot. Too hot to the touch is dangerous because this will cause the oil to cook.

Step 4: After 10 days, strain out the Pinks and Peppercorns through the strainer. Add in the freshly washed and dried Rose Petals. Stopper tightly and leave in a sunny, warm place. If the Rose Petals are added to your salad when you use this Oil, all the better. They taste great.

And now for the really gutsy stuff! You got a boyfriend or a friend who likes to eat hot stuff? You know somebody who thinks he or she is hot stuff? Well, make up these hot spicy treasures and pour them on some lettuce and dare your gutsy friends to wolf ’em down! I’ve tried these and I can attest to their 5 alarm fire effect! I like hot stuff, I eat fresh hot peppers, even Thais. But this stuff sends smoke outta my ears. So imbibe at your own risk! Consider yourself warned!!

Recipe # 7:

Hot Chili Pepper Vinegar

Ingredients:
Three cups of fresh Chili Peppers
One Clove of Garlic
Clean, sterilized Glass Bottle with Stopper
Enough White Vinegar to fill the bottle
Non aluminum Cooking Pan
Small Saucepan
Rubber Gloves

Method:

Step 1: Sterilize the glass bottle by filling with boiling water and then leaving to soak overnight in hot water and bleach. Rinse thoroughly until no more bleach smell remains.

Step 2: Add one cup of water to the small saucepan and place over medium high heat. Heat water until simmering and add the one Clove of Garlic. Blanch the Garlic for a full minute, to kill any bacteria that could spoil the Vinegar. When done, drop the Garlic Clove into the glass bottle.

Step 3: Wearing Rubber Gloves, wash each of the Peppers carefully and then cut them in half lengthwise, up to the green top. Stuff these Peppers into the glass bottle until the bottle is full or all of the Peppers have been added.

Step 4: In the non aluminum Cooking Pan, heat up the vinegar on medium high heat. DO NOT BOIL. Heat until the Vinegar just begins to steam and the first bubbles begin to rise from the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat.

Step 5: Immediately add the hot Vinegar to the glass bottle, covering the Peppers. Do not shake. Be careful adding the Peppers so that not so many seeds are dropped. Cork the bottle and store in a cool, dark place like a closet for 6 weeks.

Step 6: After the 6 weeks, remove the bottle and place it in the refrigerator. Do not shake before serving. USE WITH CARE. THIS IS VERY HOT. Do not strain out the Peppers.

Try using this hot stuff with this easy oil:

Recipe # 8:

Basic Herbal Oil

Ingredients:
Two large handfuls of your favorite dried Herbs
Clean, sterilized Glass Bottle with Stopper
Enough Vegetable or Cottonseed Oil to fill bottle
Pinch of dried Allspice Berries
Pinch of fresh Peppercorns

Method:

Step 1: The Herbs you select should be dried and either powdered or crumbled.

Step 2: Sterilize the Glass Bottle by filling it with boiling water and then soaking overnight in hot water and bleach. Rinse thoroughly so that no bleach smell remains.

Step 3: When the bottle is completely dry, begin filling the it with the Herbs. Lightly bruise the Berries and Peppercorns with a wooden spoon and add them too.

Step 4: Pour enough Oil into the bottle to fill it. Stopper it and place it in a sunny window or on an outside ledge. You want it to have as much sun exposure as possible but you do not want the oil to cook or turn rancid. Check it often to be sure the bottle is warm and not too hot. Shake frequently.

Step 5: After several days of warmth, the Herbs will be floating in the oil. You may leave them there. Taste the Oil in a small amount and see if the flavor has imparted. If not, then set it back in the sunlight for a few more days. You may keep the Oil in the refrigerator but this is not necessary.

Stay tuned to my blog. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting more material on cooking with Herbs and how to use herbs and spices in foods as curatives for many kinds of disease and illness.

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DIY: Homemade Potpourri

How To Make Potpourri


My current project for you is to make your own homemade Potpourri. If you read this post, follow the instructions and get the right materials for a chosen recipe, you will have your own potpourri in a matter of days. It will be the same quality of potpourri you would purchase in the store.

Potpourri is essentially a personal pleasure. You will always choose your floral or herbal ingredients according to your own preferences for fragrance and color. You may like to attempt a blend to match a perfume you wear or a color match to a bedroom or living room scheme. And what more romantic a way to preserve petals from a Bridal or Mothers’ Day bouquet?

Some of the best scented additions to any Potpourri include Roses, Carnations, flowering Tobacco, Honeysuckle, Sweet Peas, night-scented Stocks, Orange Blossoms and Clove Carnations. Some of the prettiest additions that are nicest when dried: Lily of the Valley, Jasmine, Sweet Violets, Verbena, Hyacinth and Lavender. Always pick off the flowers or florets to dry. Other flowers that can be added fresh or dried, mostly for color and beauty are: Forget me Nots, Delphinium, Larkspur, Goldenrod, Bachelor Buttons, Pansies, Marigolds, Clematis and Zinnia.

Types of Base Materials for use in Potpourri

To a standard base of Rose Petals, a dry, spicy mixture might include Bay Leaves, Eucalyptus Leaves and Flowers, Ground Ivy, Walnut Leaves, Myrtle, Lovage, Thyme, Sage, Rosemary, Beans and Pods. For a lighter, more “summery” mix, you might add Melilot, Lemon Thyme, Costmary or Eau De Cologne Mint. For sweeter mixtures, it is common to add Bergamot, Violets and Rose Scented Geraniums.

Other base ingredients can also include: Angelica Root, Cedarwood, Juniper Berries, Citrus Peels and Rinds, Spices.

Always, you must start by collecting about 1 quart (or more) of fragrant, dried materials to form the base of the Potpourri. These include Rose Petals, Lavender, Pine, Cedarwood, Scented Geranium and other aromatic foliage or flowers. To capture the essence of a culinary Herb Garden, you should use dried Leaves, Flowers and Seedpods of Basil, Thyme or Mint. For a more “masculine” scent, you should start with a base of Mint, Pine or Lemon Balm.

The Base Materials of any Potpourri dictate the outcome of the blend. If you wish a woodland scent or a sweet scent or a spicy scent or perhaps are governed by color, you would choose the appropriate additives to ensure this result.

Always harvest fragrant petals and leaves on a sunny day, just after the morning dew dries. To catch flowers at their peak fragrance, snip them off cleanly with scissors just after they have bloomed. To quickly strip unwanted leaves from delicate stems, hold the stem upright with one hand while gently pulling downward along the stem with the other.

Always spread the clean, fresh materials on a screen and leave them dor dry in a warm, dark, well ventilated place away from sun or heat. Always leave them until “leathery”, which can take anywhere from several days to 2 weeks. Keeping a close watch is the only way to get it right.

Plants retain their most volatile oils, and, henceforth, their scents, when they are dried quickly. Do not use heat but encouraging quicker drying is to the benefit of the mix. If your climate is humid, for instance, use a dehumidifier to aid the process. Do not cry to a crisp, but always be sure they are dry as well as “leathery” or “limp”.

Choosing Flowers for Color and Scent

Best Flowers to add for Scent:

Acacia, Bergamot, Broom, Chamomile, Clove Carnations, Elder, Eucalyptus, Freesia, Honeysuckle, Hyacinth, Hyssop, Jasmine, Lavender, Lilac, Lily of the Valley, Linden, Madonna Lily, Meadowsweet, Mexican Orange Blossom, Mignonette, Mock Orange, Musk Mallow, Myrtle, Narcissus, Nicotiana, Orange Blossom, Peony petals, Phlox, Rose Petals and Buds, Rosemary, Stock, Sweet Marjoram, Sweet Rocket, Syringa, Violets and Wallflowers.

Best Leaves to add for Scent:

Angelica, Balm of Gilead, Balsam Popular Buds, Basil, Bay, Bergamot, Costmary, Eucalyptus, Ground Ivy, Hyssop, Lady’s Bedstraw, Lemon Balm, Lemon Thyme, Lemon Verbena, Lovage, Melilot, Mints, Myrtle, Patchouli, Pelargonium, Rosemary, Sage, Southernwood, Sweetbrier, Sweet Cicely Sweet Marjoram, Sweet Myrtle, Tarragon, Thyme, Violets, Wall Germander, Walnut, Wild Strawberry and Woodruff.

Best Flowers to add for Color:

Alkanet, Bergamot, Borage, Calendula, Cornflower, Delphinium, Endive, Feverfew, Forget-Me-Not, Foxglove, Flannel Mullein, Larkspur, Lawn Daisy, Marigolds, Pansies, Poppies, Primroses, Rosebuds, Sage, Tansy, Tulips, Vipers’ Bugloss, and Zinnias.

Best Spices to add for Scent:

Alexander Seeds, Allspice, Aniseed, Caraway, Cardamom, Cassia Buds or Chips, Cedarwood, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Dill Seed, Ginger, Juniper, Mace, Nutmeg, Pepper, Sandalwood, Star Anise and Vanilla Pods.

Best Herbs to add for Scent:

Angelica Root, Cowslip, Elecampane, Sweet Flag, Valerian and Vetiver.

Additional ingredients that add visual interest:

Angelica Root, Cedarwood, Juniper Berries, Citrus Peels and Rinds, Seed Pods, Nuts and Berries.

Additional ingredients that add aroma:

Cedarwood, Juniper Berries, Pine Needles and Lemongrass.

Traditionally, flowers dominate any mixture, especially Rose petals and Lavender, as they retain their perfume the longest. For fragrance select perfect , whole flowers just before they open fully. Dry these flowers by laying flat as possible on stretched Cheesecloth to allow the air to circulate. Large-flowered Roses and thick-petaled Lilies and Hyacinths should have their petals separated. Small Rosebuds can be dried whole.

Using Fixatives and Essential Oils

If you grow your own Orris Root, you can make your own fixative. Dig up the roots, scrub them well, then split them into small pieces. Spread the pieces on paper or a screen to dry, then grind them to powder in an old blender or use the fine mesh of a food grater. It’s easier to do this while the pieces are still slightly moist. Store the powder for future use in a dark glass container.

Essential Oils are used in many kinds of Herbal Crafts. You can purchase Essential Oils in most craft and health food stores. You may also prepare your own at home (see below). To do this, you will need A LOT of plant materials, since the amount of oil in most herbs is minute.

To preserve the fragrance of your Potpourri, you will need to add a fixative to the base. Fixatives of Animal origin, such as Ambergris, Civet and Musk are expensive and hard to find. Plant-derived fixatives such as Orris Root, Vetiver Root, Rose Artar, dried Rosemary, Sweet Flag or Tonka Beans are less expensive and more widely available. They work just as well. Always stir in 1 tbsp of fixative for each quart of dried base materials.

Fixatives are available as powders and are used to absorb and hold the other scents so that they will last longer. Most have their own special perfume, which enters into the aromatic equation. The most popular vegetable-based fixative is Orris Root, as its’ “sweet violet” scent doesn’t affect a blend strongly– use 1 tbsp per cup of flowers and leaves. Gum Benzoin has a “sweet vanilla” scent– use about 1/2 ounce to 4-6 cups of flowers or leaves. The Tonka Bean from Dipteryx Ordorata also has a strong “vanilla” scent– use one or two crushed beans per recipe.

Some fragrances act as natural fixatives. These include Oakmoss, Chypre, Sandalwood, Sweet Flag Root, Sweet Violet Root, and Frankincense and Myrrh. Use 1/2 oz of these per 4 cups of mix.
In the case of Essential Oils, whether you make them yourself or buy them over the counter, limit your use to only a few drops per recipe. Otherwise, they will overpower your blend and ruin it.
Although this is not all of the knowledge I would want to impart, it is enough. I don’t want to overfill your head and drive you away from your first attempt. So here are several recipes and if you follow them to the “T” you will have some fine potpourri, indeed.

RECIPES:

Basic Kitchen Potpourri

Ingredients:

4 parts Lemon Verbena
2 parts Mints
2 parts Bay Leaves
1 part Tansy Leaves
1 part Lovagea few crushed Cloves
1 tsp powdered Orris Root

Method:

This mix will reduce Kitchen odors and also chase off Flies. Put all of the ingredients into a bowl, jar or container of your choice and mix well with a wooden spoon or by shaking. Place the bowl or jar in the Kitchen and shake it after cooking. Handle or mix the leaves frequently and as often as possible when Flies appear.

Roses and Spices
Ingredients:

4 cups fresh Rose Petals
1/2 lb “non-iodized” Coarse ground Sea Salt
1/2 lb “non-iodized” Finely ground Sea Salt
1 tbsp crushed Bay Leaves
1 tbsp crushed dried Orange Peel
1/2 cup powdered Orris Root
2 tbsp ground Mace
2 tbsp ground Allspice
1 tbsp ground Cloves
1 Nutmeg, grated
1 Cinnamon Stick, crushed
1 cup dried Rosebuds
Large Jar or Crock with stopper or lid

Method:

Dry the Rose Petals until mostly dry and leathery. Do not dry to a crisp! When they are leathery and mostly dry, begin to layer them into the Crock or Jar. Between each layer, sprinkle in a fine dusting of both kinds of Sea Salt, interchanging as you go. Alternate Salt and Petals every 1/2″ of Petals. Stand the Crock in a dark, dry, well-aired place for 10 days until caked together. If it begins to froth, stir daily and allow to ferment for an additional 10 days, or until “caked”.
Break up the petals into small pieces and mix in all of the other ingredients, except the Orris Root. Seal the container again and leave for a full 6 weeks to “ferment”. Stir daily. Add in the Orris Root after the 6 weeks and reseal for 2 more weeks, to complete the blending.
After 2 weeks, you can transfer the Potpourri to decorative containers or jars for display. When the mix is not on display, you should return it to a jar or container with a stopper or lid. It should be kept covered in a warm, airy place when not in use. This Potpourri will retain it’s scent for years if kept carefully in this way.

Fresh Citrus Blend
Ingredients:

2 cups Lemon Verbena
1 cup Lemon Thyme
1 cup Spearmint
1 cup variegated Applemint
1 cup young Bergamont Leaves
1/2 cup Basil
1/2 cup Pelargonium
1/2 cup Peppermint
1/2 cup Costmary Leaves
1/2 cup Thyme
1/2 cup Calendula Petals
20 crushed Juniper Berries
1/4 cup Lemon Peel
2 drops Lemon Oil
2 drops Oil of Orange
2 drops Essential Oil of Bergamot
Large Crock or Jar with stopper or lid

Method:

Gently combine the flowers and leaves, mixing them with your hands. Add in everything except for the Essential Oils and stir well. Once well mixed, tip the Potpourri into the Crock or Jar and stopper it tightly. Leave in a warm, airy place out of the sun for 6 weeks to “cure”.
After 6 weeks, open the Crock and add in each of the Essential Oils. Stir and shake well. Stopper and leave overnight. In the morning, you may transfer the Potpourri to glass bowls or jars for display. Keeping the mix in a lidded jar when not on display will length the life of the scent.

Elizabethan Mix

Ingredients:

2 cups of Lemon Verbena Leaves
2 cups Lavender Flowers
1 cup Bearberry Leaves
1 cup Sweet Myrtle Leaves
1 cup fresh Delphiniums
1/2 cup fresh Violets
1/2 cup Blue Mallow Flowers
1/2 cup crushed Roseroot
1 oz Rosewood
4 tbsp Orris Root
1 tbsp Gum Benzoin
Large Crock or Jar with stopper or lid

Method:

Mix all of the flowers and leaves together really well by blending with your hands. Mix and toss the Potpourri until it is well mixed and the color seems evenly distributed. Hand fill the Crock or Jar with these flowers and leaves and stopper. Leave to “age” for 6 weeks in a warm, dry, airy place out of direct sunlight.
After 6 weeks, open the Crock or Jar and add in the Orris Root and Gum Benzoin. Shake the blend until the powders have mixed downward into the mix and the leaves seems to be lightly dusted. Stopper and replace to “age” for another 4 days.
After 4 days, remove the mix and place it in bowls or jars for display. If you keep this mix covered or stoppered when not in use, the scent will keep for years.

A Classic Potpourri

Ingredients:

1 part fresh Rose Petals
1 part fresh Lavender Flowers
1 part dried Strawflowers
Several small Love in a Mist Seedpods
6 drops Oil of Rose
1 tbsp powdered Orris Root
Large Crock or Jar with stopper or lid

Method:

Mix the Roses, Lavender, Strawflowers and Seedpods together. Blend them in with your hands until well mixed and evenly distributed. Place the mix into the Crock or Jar and stopper tightly. Place in a warm, dark, airy place to “age” for about 6 weeks.
After 6 weeks, open the jar and add in the Oil and Orris Root. Shake very well, turning the Jar upside down to ensure full coverage from the Oil and Root. The leaves in the mix should look shiny and dusted with a fine powder. When this looks right, reseal and leave for 2 more days.
After 2 days, remove the mix and place in bowls or jars for display.

These are just a few of the many special recipes I have collected over the years. Some are my own invention, others are snitched from other experimenters. Many of these are considered classic or traditional and can be found in other publications.
Stay tuned for future posts with more information on the various methods applied in potpourri making and a lot of other great recipes.

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How Do Herbs Promote Health?

For centuries mankind has encountered herbs and spices and discovered their assets. Their earliest uses were to make bland and downright awful food taste better. Limited resources and difficult travel made getting foodstuffs not grown locally nearly impossible. Regions of Asia, India and Africa were limited to rice, beans, grains and wild meats. Spices and herbs made all of this more palatable and thereby became a tradition in certain regions. This is where cuisine came from. Also all regional cuisines are based upon the native foodstuffs enhanced with exotic herbs and spices.

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