WISDOM FROM THE WILD CHILD GARDEN: NOVEMBER 2022: HERBAL BREWS: PART I:
HERBAL BREWS 101: There is nothing better than a cool glass of herbal home brew. It is so satisfying to drink an herb-infused beverage made by hand, especially when most of the herbs have been foraged in the area around your home and have amazing health benefits. For those into sustainability, preparedness, or survivalism, herbal home brewing is a great hobby to start learning now. Home brews are a great way to use natural resources to create a medicinal and delicious beverage.
HERBAL BREWS: BEER: beer is defined as, “an alcoholic drink made from yeast-fermented malt and flavored with hops”. Since herbal beer does not contain hops, it’s technically not a beer. The correct term for an herbal beer is a “gruit,” which is an herb mixture used for bittering and flavoring beer, popular before the extensive use of hops. Some brewers still choose to call it “beer” because that is what it was considered in ancient times until Reinheitsgebot, a law that was passed by the Bavarians in 1516, that stated beer should only contain three ingredients: hops, barley, and water. The law was introduced to prevent price competition with bakers for other grains. The restriction of barley as the beer grain ensured that bread would remain affordable, as wheat and rye were for the bakers to use. When beer was first created, it was known to be sacred. The alcohol content was extremely high, psychotropic, and contained many herbs. Ancient people used these fermented beverages in sacred ceremonies to communicate with their ancestors, and to address physical, mental, and spiritual needs. They would often reach altered states of consciousness in a safe space to work out their inner demons, to shapeshift into a more consciously elevated part of themselves and remove or prevent the hardening of their minds. Our ancestors believed that everything was alive and interconnected, from the rocks, plants, and trees to the yeasts that fermented these sacred ales. To them, ingesting these brews was as if they were ingesting the sacred essence from the divine.
THE ART OF MAKING HERBAL BEER: ancient people didn’t have yeasts in packets they could buy at a store. Instead, they collected wild yeasts by setting out a sweet offering for yeasts to come feast on. These wild yeasts were less controlled and tended to be more potent. Our ancestors created a ceremony to prevent these wild yeasts from spoiling the brew. These wild yeasts were protected and preserved in families with great care. So beloved, these wild yeasts were shared with a newly married couple so they could create their own strain to be passed down through their family.
Today, craft breweries are everywhere, and making beer is appreciated as a true artisan craft. Aside from the actual enjoyment of drinking beer, the pure bliss that comes from creating and brewing herbal beer is magical. The joy of making beer doesn’t just stop at bottling. The exhilaration that comes from sharing the creation with family and friends is fun, and it fills the room with a vibe that is created by connecting through this ancient beverage. Drinking an herbal home brew with others is powerful and sharing in this communal event is a sacred ceremony. Everyone is a bit lighter, happier, more open, joyful, and relaxed.
HERBAL BEER INGREDIENTS: Humans have been brewing beer for millennia, and in that time, we have incorporated countless ingredients into our ferments. From bright, citrusy witbiers to rich herbal gruits, there’s a flavor profile to suit most any taste, and many of the ingredients to achieve it can be found in the home apothecary or kitchen spice rack. Examples of herbal beer ingredients include cardamom, cinnamon, fenugreek, ginger, grains of paradise, hibiscus, honey bush, orris root, and peppercorns.
SUMMER RED HERBAL SAISON:
• 1 cup dried lemon balm (Melissa officinalis).
• 3/4 cup dried lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora).
• 1/2 cup dried hibiscus (Hibiscus spp.).
• 1/4 cup dried linden (Tilia spp.).
• 1-pound brown sugar.
• Safe Ale US-05 Dry Ale Yeast.
• Big pot for boiling water.
• 1-gallon glass carboy/brewing vessel.
• Beer bottles/caps.
• Bottle capper.
• Star San sanitizer.
• Sanitize the equipment with the Star San sanitizer.
• Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil. Remove from heat.
• Add all of the herbs.
• Cover and steep for one hour. Strain and cool.
• Once cooled, add sugar and dissolve.
• Do a gravity reading and log it with the date and details.
• Pour the wort, or sweet infusion, into the carboy.
• Only fill to the base of the bottle’s shoulder.
• Add yeast and put the airlock in place.
• Put the carboy in a dark, cool place.
• Check daily to see its activity.
• Taste to see if the sweetness is gone when bubbling stops.
• If so, do a gravity reading again to compare alcohol readings.
• Sanitize beer bottles, caps, and auto siphon to prepare for bottling.
• Prime the beer bottles with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar prior to filling.
• Using the auto siphon, fill the bottles.
• Leave 2 inches of air space in the bottle.
• Cap, label, and store in the fridge.
• In two weeks, enjoy!
HERBAL BREWS: CHAMPAGNE: “Champagne” is a legally protected term reserved for sparkling wine made from grapes grown in the Champagne district of France. The U.S. government limits the crafting of “sparkling wine” to 100 gallons per adult per household. The law also says that wine must be for personal consumption, not for selling, and a gallon equals 5 standard-size wine bottles. With this in mind, we use prosecco to craft herbal champagne cocktails.
There are a wide variety of herbs and fruits that pair well with champagne. Examples are grapefruit & sage, blackberry & thyme, orange & rosemary, and pear & ginger.
HERBAL BREWS: COCKTAILS: There are nearly endless combinations for herbal cocktails based on what is available and on hand, and which flavors are appealing. Many traditional cocktail recipes call for simple syrup, which is a 50/50 ratio of white sugar and water stirred together over low heat until they form a sweet syrup. You can add an herbal element to the syrup by tossing in a handful of fresh or dried leaves, flowers, or buds, removing from heat, covering, and letting steep for 15 to 20 minutes before straining. For a healthier version, consider replacing half of the white sugar with local raw honey, creating a ½ part sugar, ½ part honey, and 1 part water. Be careful to not overheat the syrup as many of the beneficial compounds in raw honey are lost at higher temperatures. To cut out the white sugar altogether, make a simple herb-infused raw honey. Herbal honeys are delicious added to cocktails, tea, sparkling water, salad dressings, desserts, and many other recipes.
BITTERS: Bitters are used by herbalists and bartenders because of their wonderfully stimulating effect on the digestive system, and the way they add depth and complexity to a cocktail. Bitters are a traditional ingredient in old-fashions, Manhattans, and Mai Tais. Bitters help with the metabolism of alcohol by breaking down the by-products of fermentation.
Many bitter-tasting herbs support every stage of digestive function, including stimulating the release of saliva, digestive enzymes, stomach acid, and bile, increasing nutrient absorption, peristalsis, and the removal of metabolic waste. Mushrooms also have a bitter flavor, and the molecules that give them their bitter taste interact with the cellular receptors in the digestive tract. Examples of bitter herbs and mushrooms include burdock root, dandelion root, gentian root, licorice root, orange peel, Reishi, and turkey tail mushroom.
Bitters are surprisingly easy to make at home, and often call for common ingredients. Wild Child Herb Shop creates a delicious cocktail bitter recipe using an old ancestral folk method passed down through the generations.
DARK & STORMY MUSHROOM BITTERS: By the Herbal Academy: “This blend is a mushroom-based and traditional digestive bitter tonic. Taken with meals, the combination of bitter taste and warming aromatics can help to revitalize digestive function, while the spicy, chocolatey taste of this blend is especially welcome in the cooler months of autumn and winter. Note that the small amount used as a pre-meal digestive tonic is just a fraction of the dose needed to maximize the immunomodulant benefits of these mushrooms, but it’s a fun and tasty way to get your digestive juices flowing!”
· 1-ounce Reishi fruiting body dual extract tincture
· ½-ounce Turkey Tail fruiting body dual extract tincture
· ½-ounce Condonopsis root tincture
· ¼-ounce Damiana leaf tincture
· 1/8-ounce Cardamom seed tincture
· 1/8-ounce Ginger rhizome tincture or glycerite
· Combine all extracts in a sanitized 2-ounce dark dropper bottle.
· Shake well! Label and date for storage.
· Use 15-30 drops in a little water before meals.
· Use up to 1/8-ounce, 2-3 times daily for additional support.
· Also makes a great addition to sparkling water, cocktails, or mocktails!
TINCTURES: a concentrated alcohol infusion made by steeping an herb, spice, fruit, flower, or vegetable in high proof alcohol. Tinctures are powerful modifiers, and impart a concentrated single note flavor, so use them sparingly. A drop or two of a tincture is usually sufficient to add flavor to a cocktail. Tinctures can be mixed into cocktails, floated on top, or used in a spray to give a heightened aroma to the drinking experience.
Cocktails, mocktails, teas, and spritzers offer a creative and delicious way to consume tinctures, especially if masking the taste behind something sweet, citrusy, or herbaceous is desired. Add a dropperful or two to a cocktail, or create a custom blend with 1 part tincture and 1 part honey. Store the blend in the fridge and add to drinks when desired.
Tinctures are made by simply infusing a spice, herb, peel, fruit, flower, or other flavoring into a high proof neutral spirit such as vodka or grain alcohol. Herbs that are a delicious addition to cocktail tinctures include basil, mint, thyme, and lemon verbena.
MUDDLING: popular among bartenders, this technique smashes fruit or herbs in the bottom of the cocktail glass to release the juices and aromatics. When muddling fruit, it is ok to be fairly aggressive and really smash them up. When muddling herbs, however, use a lighter touch. The goal is not to smash the herbs, but rather to gently release the aromatic properties into the drink. This is a wonderful technique to utilize in the herbal kitchen, and to enhance even the simplest sparkling water or cocktail recipe. Fresh herbs and flowers that are excellent for muddling include Cilantro, Lavender, Rosemary, and Tarragon.
HERBAL ICE CUBES: For an extra special, crowd-pleasing move, freeze herbs and edible flowers into floral ice cubes! Examples include tulip petals, violets, lilacs, forsythia blossoms, peony petals, borage blossoms, fennel fronds, poppy petals, borage, mint, lemon balm, cilantro and thyme.
To make herbal ice cubes, fill silicone ice cube trays with herbs and edible flowers, top with water, gently arrange botanicals to the middle of the cubes with a toothpick, and freeze. Make batches a day in advance for best results.
HERBAL BREWS: MEAD: Mead, in its most basic form of honey and water fermented with yeast, has a long history. Greek tradition holds that it was a drink enjoyed by Zeus and lesser gods, and it played a hugely important role among ancient Druids, with many a chant and hymn composed in its honor. In Ethiopia, it has been produced since antiquity, and continues to play a pivotal role in sustaining community ties, particularly in rural areas.
Part of the appeal of this intoxicating beverage is its effect. The ancients discovered quickly that under the influence of ethanol, the alcohol produced by the interaction of yeasts and sugars, their anxieties disappeared, their fears receded, ideas came more easily, and lovers became more loving when they drank the magic juice.