Thursday, May 17, 2012

Making Garlic Mustard Vinegar

Back in March, I posted about making Spring Pesto with greens from our yard, especially using highly invasive garlic mustard (Allaria petiolata).  As a member of the Brassicaceae family, garlic mustard contains many healthful and medicinal qualities, so please see that post.  Herbal vinegars are truly an excellent way to preserve the goodness of nutritious, tonic herbs and to create a valuable nutritional supplement.  I am not talking about the 'culinary vinegars' decorated with a few sprigs of kitchen herbs like rosemary or thyme, but rather concentrated herbal formulas using nutrient-dense herbs and wild foods like Burdock, Nettles, Dandelion and other wild foods/greens.  The Spring Pesto post from March has great foraging and plant identification books listed.

In April, while harvesting to make yet more pesto - YUM! - I saved the roots and crowns (the part where the stem meets the roots).  Then, after gently washing away the dirt, I chopped them all into small pieces using a scissors since the some of the roots are thick and dense. 

(Wise Woman Tip:  Remember that you should be in a good mood when working in your kitchen and using medicinal botanicals.....    Set the tone with music, etc., whatever puts you in good spirits because the act of creating adds your own energy to the process and the items you make absorb your positive energy.    The same principle applies to making meals:  prepare them with positive, loving, healing thoughts and vibrations, and your family will receive that love two-fold!)

This is the simpler's method for making an herbal vinegar, so you will fill the jar twice

Put the pieces into a clean canning jar and fill to the top, gently compressing but not packing the roots down.  Add organic apple cider vinegar and fill the jar to the top again.  Since the jar has a metal lid, place a piece of wax paper between the jar and lid so the vinegar does not react with the metal.

After turning the jar several times to release trapped air bubbles, top off with a little more vinegar, and place the sealed jar on a small dish.  Be sure to check the next day and top it off again because the fairies will take their portion!  <wink>  Next, leave the jar to steep for about six weeks in a cool, dark place.  Check on it about once a week, turn it over to see if there are any more air bubbles - if so, then add a little more vinegar.  Remember you can add positive thoughts and give gratitude to the plants for their contribution to helping your family stay healthy.

After about six weeks, line a funnel with cheesecloth and decant into a similarly-sized clean jar.  Squeeze the cheesecloth to get out as much vinegar as possible, and add the used roots and crowns to your compost.  Label your vinegar appropriately - with date decanted, herb used, what type of vinegar, etc. and store in a cool dry cupboard or refrigerate.  A general rule of thumb is that herbal vinegars can keep from 3-7 years, however, I generally try to use mine within two years.

What is so great about Vinegar?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Free Screening and Discussion of Tom Shadyac's film, "I AM"

On an Environmental note, join me and other like minded folks concerned about the environment, global warming, sustainability and peak oil at this month's Transition Newton meeting on May 17th. Held on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 7PM... at the Unitarian Fellowship located at 1 West Nelson St., Newton, NJ.

This month is a free screening and discussion of Tom Shadyac's film "I AM". "I AM is an utterly engaging and entertaining non-fiction film that poses two practical and provocative questions: what’s wrong with our world, and what can we do to make it better? The filmmaker behind the inquiry is Tom Shadyac, one of Hollywood’s leading comedy practitioners and the creative force behind such blockbusters as “Ace Ventura,” “Liar Liar,” “The Nutty Professor,” and “Bruce Almighty.” However, in I AM, Shadyac steps in front of the camera to recount what happened to him after a cycling accident left him incapacitated, possibly for good. Though he ultimately recovered, he emerged with a new sense of purpose, determined to share his own awakening to his prior life of excess and greed, and to investigate how he as an individual, and we as a race, could improve the way we live and walk in the world."

More info about the movie: http://www.iamthedoc.com/

More info about Transition Newton: http://transitionnewton.wordpress.com/events/

Monday, May 14, 2012

Making Risotto with our Shiitake Mushrooms!

As you know, we have been waiting, watching, and waiting some more since January 2011 for our mushroom logs to produce shiitake mushrooms. (Did I mention that we've been waiting?)  The logs started showing signs of emerging mushrooms back in the beginning of March, (see post) and as you can see, they are finally here! My daughter and I ceremoniously harvested the three mushrooms with care and reverence, and then promptly made Mushroom Risotto for our dinner on Mother's Day.  Since we only had three fresh mushrooms, we added some diced baby portabellas and rehydrated the dried porcini mushrooms from the pantry.  YUM!

The stems were so dense, that I decided to make a mushroom vinegar with them, and they are now steeping in organic apple cider vinegar.  I will continue to add the stems as more mushrooms bloom. 
If you remember, shiitake are incredibly nutritious and wonderfully medicinal!  To recap briefly from my original post from January 2011:  
  1. From a medicinal perspective, shiitake - taken in the form of LEM - has antiviral, antifungal and immuno-modulating properties, and studies have shown tumor inhibiting properties as well.
  2. From a food standpoint, shiitakes are a nutritional powerhouse.  As with most mushrooms, one gains the maximum nutritional benefit only upon cooking them.  They contribute a wide range of essential amino acids, are low in fat, high in fiber and provide a wide range of vitamins including Vitamin D, thiamine, niacin, ascorbic acid, riboflavin and biotin.
And of course I just love trivia: