Green Wizardries: Winter Potions

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This winter has started very mild which I am joyful about.  There is nothing like waking up to Manitoba weather where every water bucket and water bottle on the farm is frozen.  It makes morning chores so much slower.  

Winter brings colds and bouts of flu.  To cure, or even to prevent colds, I like to make a pot of Nuclear-Noodle Soup.  To do this right, you need an old hen, preferably over two years old, to poach in a large pot of water with some onions and garlic added to improve the flavour.  Simmer for several hours to get the most out of the old bird.  When the chicken is falling-apart tender, your broth is ready.

A chicken you buy at the grocery store may be only weeks old and will never make a good chicken broth.  My mother in law tried to make broth from a supermarket chicken and, old farm girl that she is, decided it was too disgusting for words and threw it out.  

Once you have the broth ready, you take the chicken out to cool and separate the meat from the skin and bones.  Chop the meat up and add it back to the soup.  I like to add a quart of home-canned tomatoes, some broccoli I froze in the summer and a few noodles made from bean or lentil flour.  When the soup is ready to eat, I add four or five tablespoons of freshly chopped ginger and garlic.  If I have fresh chili peppers I would add the same amount of those too.  

The idea is to simply warm the spices but not to cook them as they have more healing power served raw.  You can see now why it is called Nuclear-Noodle Soup.  Give a bowl of this to someone who has a streaming cold and they, usually, get better quickly.

We grow elderberries and I froze some in the summer to make elderberry syrup which is a traditional European remedy for colds and flu.  You can find these syrups in any pharmacy in Europe and even some pharmacies here carry it.  But I like to make my own and it tastes great made with the fresh berries.  If you do not have elderberries in your garden yet, you can buy dried elderberries by the kilo from Harmonic Arts, a herb store in Cumberland where I buy all the herbs I need that I do not grow.  

For fresh berries, I put two quarts of berries into a pot with a quarter cup of water and simmer them gently until they are quite liquid.  I mash them to get the remaining juice and strain the solids out.  You can compost these but my hens just love them.  For dry berries, use one quart of dried berries and two quarts of water.  Simmer until you have one quart of juice and strain.

To this juice, add 1/4 ounce of freshly-grated ginger and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves and simmer until the juice is reduced by half.  Pour the juice into a measuring cup and add the same amount of honey and warm the honey and juice until the honey melts.  I like to add a 1/4 cup of rum at this time as a preservative.  I bottle the syrup and keep it in the fridge where is stays good for up to twelve weeks.  

Tree Eater Nursery on Denman has lots of great varieties of Elderberry to choose from and these bushes are beautiful and really good for wildlife as well as medicine.

I have noticed as winter draws in, that a lot of people are having trouble sleeping.  They might go to sleep fine but they wake up about 3 am and cannot get back to sleep.  I was given some marijuana ginger snaps by a kind friend and find them sovereign for getting to sleep and staying comfortably asleep.  

I grew a marijuana plant in the garden two years ago  and it was huge and had lots of buds.  I learned how to decarboxilate, (roast) marijuana in the oven and then to make an infused oil with coconut oil in the slow cooker.  I strained the oil and poured it into a silicone mold to make little pucks of oil which I keep in the freezer.

I made a batch of gingersnap cookies from the recipe in the Joy of Cooking, using the marijuana oil in place of butter.  The spices in the cookies mask the taste of the oil and the cookies are very tasty.  The recipe makes about forty cookies and the most I would suggest is half a cookie to get to sleep.  Indeed, one friend finds a quarter of a cookie gives him an excellent night’s sleep and when his alarm goes off in the morning, he silences it and goes back to sleep until about ten.   These cookies make excellent presents.