Thursday, January 22, 2015

Make Your Own Elderberry Syrup

Aside from the pleasant flavor of elderberries and their flowers (used widely in European cordials and liquors, and appearing here in crepes), the properties of Sambucus nigra have been part of preventative medicine for centuries. 

I personally love the plant as a precious addition to a native landscape. The flowers are lace-like and fragrant, bees butterflies and other pollinators love them.

Medicinally, not just for its reputation in the prevention of and treating symptoms of flu, elderberries seem to also strengthen the immune system and help relieve allergies.  

The Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine published a placebo-controlled study on Sambucus nigra's effects on the "inhibition of several stains of influenza." The results showed: 

"reduced hemagglutination and inhibited replication of human influenza viruses type A, type B, and of animal strains from Northern European swine and turkeys,  and A in Madin–Darby canine kidney cells," 


"A placebo-controlled, double blind study was carried out on a group of individuals living in an agricultural community (kibbutz) during an outbreak of influenza B/Panama in 1993. Fever, feeling of improvement, and complete cure were recorded during 6 days. Sera obtained in the acute and convalescent phases were tested for the presence of antibodies to influenza A, B, respiratory syncytial, and adenoviruses. Convalescent phase serologies showed higher mean and mean geometric hemagglutination inhibition (HI) titers to influenza B in the group treated with SAM than in the control group. A significant improvement of the symptoms, including fever, was seen in 93.3% of the cases in the SAM-treated group within 2 days, whereas in the control group 91.7% of the patients 
showed an improvement within 6 days."

Here's the kicker:

"A complete cure was achieved within 2 to 3 days in nearly 90% of the SAM-treated group and within at least 6 days in the placebo group (p < 0.001). No satisfactory medication to cure influenza type A and B is available. Considering the efficacy of the extract in vitro on all strains of influenza virus tested, the clinical results, its low cost, and absence of side-effects, this preparation could offer a possibility for safe treatment for influenza A and B."

As comforting as this evidence is, it is not expensive nor off putting to take elderberry syrup as a daily regimen, unlike some other preventative measures (coffee enemas and garlic clove chaw anyone?). 

Even for non-believers, sipping the concentrated juice is a treat, much less a tonic. With the added benefits of cinnamon, fresh ginger, clove and raw honey, it's hard to be critical about such a means of prevention. And this time of year, when the flu is knocking people out left and right, it's important to take every means possible to dodge getting sick. Even kids are eager to slurp this recipe up, and gain from its tasty defenses.  

Elderberry Syrup: (From my friend Tanya)
*3 cups filtered water
*2/3 cup dried elderberries*
*2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
*2-3 whole cloves
*3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*3/4 cup raw honey

Place water, elderberries, ginger, cloves and cinnamon in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain contents through a mesh collander. Pour warm liquid into a jar and add honey. Tighten with a lid and 
shake until honey is dissolved. Store in fridge.

Take 1/2 to 1 full teaspoon per day for children and up to 1 full tablespoon daily for adults. Take every 4 hrs while fighting the flu virus.  

*Note: Dried elderberries can be ordered in bulk online or found at most health food stores.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year

A time to celebrate rest; to allow the hear's compass to meet quill and ink; and to prepare for the upcoming season of migration. 

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy Holidays And A Recipe for Homemade Marshmallows

Wishing you the warmest of celebrations this season, perhaps over a cup or two of hot cocoa dressed with homemade marshmallows. This recipe was a successful find from The Clever Carrot; made without corn syrup. 

Peace, health and prosperity throughout the holidays, winter solstice and into the New Year!

  • cooking spray
  • ½ c. water + ¼ c.
  • 3 tablespoons (3 packets) unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 2 c. sugar
  • ½ c. evaporated milk
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ c. powdered sugar
  • ½ c. cornstarch
Cooking tools:
  • clutter free workspace
  • stand mixer
  • non-stick 8x8 or 9x13 pan*
  • parchment paper
  • candy thermometer*
  • rubber spatula
  • sifter
  • sharp knife, pizza wheel or kitchen scissors
*I recommend using a non-stick pan, but glass or metal will do. For thick marshmallows, use an 8x8 pan. For thinner marshmallows, use a 9x13 pan.
    *In order for your marshmallows to set properly, the milk and sugar must be heated to approximately 250 F. Regular thermometers only go up to 220 F.
      1. Generously coat the bottom and sides of your pan with cooking spray.
      2. Cut the parchment paper to fit the inside of your pan. You should have about 2 inches of overhang on each side. These will be your 'handles' for easy removal.
      3. Pour ½ cup water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the gelatin and allow to soften, about 10 minutes.
      4. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, evaporated milk, and ¼ cup water. Whisk over low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
      5. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 247- 250 F, about 10-15 minutes.
      6. Add the hot syrup to the gelatin mixture and beat on low speed until incorporated.*See important note below.
      7. If using a vanilla bean, slice it in half lengthwise with a pairing knife. Scrape out the seeds using the blade of the knife. Add the seeds (or vanilla extract) to the bowl.
      8. Increase the speed to high and beat until thick, fluffy, and tripled in volume, about 10-15 minutes. Your marshmallows will be a glossy, creamy white color.
      9. Using a rubber spatula, quickly scrape out the mixture into the prepared pan. Lightly coat your spatula with cooking spray and smooth out the surface. Marshmallows set very quickly, so you will need to work fast. Do not worry about getting every last bit of marshmallow out of the bowl or making the top perfectly smooth!
      10. Allow the mixture to set, uncovered (not refrigerated) for at least 8 hours- overnight.
      11. After the marshmallows have set, combine the powdered sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Whisk thoroughly.
      12. Spoon some of the mixture into a sifter, and sift over the top of the marshmallows and a cutting board.
      13. Using the parchment handles, remove the marshmallows from the pan and place onto your board.
      14. Dust a large chef's knife, pizza wheel, or kitchen scissors with the powdered sugar/cornstarch mixture so that they do not stick to the marshmallows.
      15. Cut the marshmallows into 1-inch squares.
      16. Toss the marshmallows into the mixture to prevent sticking.
      17. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
      * Because evaporated milk is a tan color, your mixture will initially be brown. Do not fret- after 10-15 minutes of mixing on high speed, your marshmallows will become a soft, creamy white color.   

      Friday, December 5, 2014

      Homemade Chicken Patties

      Though I mostly brown-bagged my way through public school, chicken patty day was one I splurged on. Thank you Uncle Sam for giving us school kids something to show you care.

      I know it's gross. But I liked the super soft white bun, snow white whirl, and leaf of iceberg smothering the crisp, ultra salty excuse for chicken in a perfect round puck. It was like a chicken nugget sandwich. For a $1.95. What's not to like? (Don't answer). 

      Yesterday, with a fair amount of roasted dark meat in the fridge, and getting a little bored of the usual applications, I started thinking about my school days. So I went for it. 

      Warning: placing any amount of meat in a food processor may seem like a terrible, awful idea. And it would be if you just blended it up and dove in with a fork. But if you keep going and mix it with a creamy bechamel, grainy mustard and locally milled corn flour, then roll spoonfuls of the mixture in cracker crumbs then pan fry, you will be glad you followed through. You could even slap these bad boys on a fresh yeast roll and smother with some homemade mayo. Or make them smaller and serve with honey mustard as an appetizer. Sorry Uncle Samuel, these win. 

      Homemade Chicken Patties:
      *about 3 cups pulled roasted chicken meat, preferably dark meat
      *2 tablespoons butter
      *1/2 cup plus 1 heaping tablespoon flour, divided
      *1 1/2 cups whole milk
      *pinch grated nutmeg
      *sea salt
      *fresh ground black pepper
      *3 tablespoons grainy mustard
      *1 egg
      *1 cup quality corn meal
      *1 1/2 cups cracker crumbs or panko bread crumbs
      *olive oil for frying

      Place chicken meat in food processor and blend until uniform. Transfer to a mixing bowl and set aside. Make bechamel: Place a medium saucepan over medium heat with butter. Once melted add 1 tablespoon flour and whisk until incorporated. Allow to brown, whisking constantly. Slowly pour in milk while whisking. Bring to a simmer, and stir until sauce thickens. Season with nutmeg, sea salt and pepper. Remove from heat when sauce reaches a smooth pancake batter consistancy. Stir in the mustard. Adjust seasonings. 
      Place a large cast iron pan over medium heat and add enough olive oil to pan fry.
      Mix bechamel with chicken and egg. Add enough cornmeal to create a spoonable mixture. Stir together remaining flour and bread crumbs in a small bowl. Season with sea salt. Working in batches, gently form about 3-4 tablespoons of chicken mixture into a loose ball and roll in flour/crumb mixture. Gently flatten and place in pan. Brown each side of patty, flipping once halfway through. Transfer to a cooling rack lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and serve with some homemade honey mustard sauce. 

      Saturday, November 29, 2014

      Evergreen's Appalachian Journey Food Storybank Project And A Recipe For Chicken and Dumplings

      ~I was lucky enough to get to know a fine group of students from Evergreen Community Charter School  earlier this month, and discovered a story worth sharing. I was invited to participate in their Appalachian Journey Food Storybank project, an extension of Slow Food Asheville's oral cataloguing of local history and food memories. The 8th grade class was divided into small groups of 4, and were each assigned a person within the community to interview.

      The story printed this week in the Asheville Citizen Times and is one I feel proud to have been associated with. Kudos to the students and Storybank leader, Marin Leroy: a devoted team of trailblazers.~

      (Leader of chicken processing: Adam Billings of Four Feathers Farm)

      (Students, teachers and local farmers involved with chicken processing)

      This year, Slow Food Asheville and Evergreen Community Charter School teamed up to create the Appalachian Journey Food Storybank Project, an oral history of local food traditions.
      An extension of the school’s Appalachian Journey studies, guided by environmental education coordinator Marin Leroy, the project aimed to record stories from voices across the region while giving the students an opportunity to practice conducting formal interviews, to be archived at the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.
      Each group of eighth-grade participants collected reflections and recipes from interviewees nominated by fellow community members. The recipes were used by the students for their project’s finale, which included a shindig potluck featuring traditional Appalachian dishes they cooked themselves.
      Experiential education was the foundation of the project, with a focus on hands-on learning. The students even learned a valuable lesson about processing poultry.
      “They learned to make stack cakes using apple butter they made themselves, cooked collard greens in yesterday’s chicken fat, pickled beets harvested from our school garden, and made scratch-made chicken and dumplings using chickens they slaughtered themselves,” said Leroy. “Through the discovery of Appalachian flavors, the student’s connection with the curriculum has been profound in a way they could have never experienced through reading textbooks.”
      As part of a food culture often dotted with drive-thrus and rife with prepackaged convenience food items, Evergreen students chose to swing the pendulum in the opposite direction by getting their hands dirty and creating recipes from scratch.
      “For me, this experience was really beneficial with learning about how people used to always do things,” explained eighth grade Storybank participant Ili Wickliffe. “If a family wanted meat, they would have to harvest it themselves. Simply going to the store to buy meat wasn’t a very common option.”
      Students from Ili’s group opted to prepare their traditional recipe of chicken and dumplings from the very beginning. With the help of two experienced local farmers, the students processed the chickens themselves.
      “I was affected by the experience, because I witnessed something I never had before, and now I have a better understanding of where my food comes from,” said fellow group participant Gavin Reep.
      Although the chickens were harvested on one of the coldest mornings of the season, the group showed genuine devotion. They helped pluck the chickens and prepare broth from the harvest for their recipe.
      “This project has left many different impressions on me,” said Rebecca Molaro. “But the one that really sticks out the most is the element of reality that is added to what you’re eating when you actually slaughtered it yourself.
      “When you don’t see or know the process, it’s easy to just see the chicken on your plate and think nothing about it,” she continued. “Now that I have experienced this, I know how real the animal was and still is.”

      Students used their interviews to create written profiles of the interviewees, record recipes and better understand Appalachian history.
      The shindig served as a place to celebrate each group’s hard work throughout the project with good food, a video compilation of interview highlights, live music and festive contra dance. Reflecting on the project, student Drake Tomlinson said, “The whole thing was a really unique experience and I’m grateful that I got to participate.”
      As the shindig festivities continued in earnest, onlookers could witness the gap between field and plate, middle-schooler and baby-boomer diminish.
      A smiling teacher watching the students dance alongside fellow classmates, interviewees, parents and facility, turned to assistant administrator Sarah Shoemaker and said, “This is by far, the best night of the year.”
      For more information on the Appalachian Journey Food Storybank Project, visit
      (Ili, Gavin, Drake and Becca processing the chickens)

      (Becca, Ili, Marin, Drake and Gavin making the dumplings for their dish)

      1 whole pastured chicken, roasted, meat removed from bones
      2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
      1 small sweet onion, chopped
      4 celery stalks, chopped
      5-6 carrots, chopped
      3 garlic cloves, minced
      5-6 cups chicken broth
      Sea salt
      Black pepper
      1 cup frozen peas
      Place a large heavy soup pot over medium heat with olive oil or butter. Add onion, celery and carrots. Saute 5 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic. Saute another 2 minutes. Add all meat from chicken. Season with sea salt and pepper. Pour in the broth. Bring to a slow simmer, and cover. Allow to simmer for at 15 minutes. Season to taste. Meanwhile, make dumplings.
      2 cups all purpose flour
      1 tablespoon aluminum free baking powder
      1 teaspoon sea salt
      5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
      1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
      1 cup buttermilk
      Sift together dry ingredients. Cut in the butter and incorporate into flour mixture with fingertips until it resembles a coarse meal. Add parsley. Stir to blend. Pour in buttermilk and gently mix with a fork until all dry ingredients are incorporated. Working in batches, spoon about 3 tablespoons of batter into palm of your hand and gently form into a ball. Drop into simmering broth one at a time to create dumplings. Repeat with remaining batter. Dumplings should cover the top of the soup pot. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cover for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Sprinkle contents with frozen peas. Allow to cool before ladling into bowls and serving.

      Saturday, November 15, 2014

      Slow Simmered Heirloom Beans

      Thank you Ivy Creek Farm for the absolutely gorgeous bag of dried beans offered at market over the weekend, and for keeping heirlooms in the field and on the table.

      Pictured here we have Kenearly Yellow Eye, Tiger Eye, and Speckled Cranberry.
      After an overnight soak with a pinch of sea salt and a splash of cider vinegar they slow simmered for the better half of the day with sauteed sweet onion, garlic and chopped celery.
      Creamy, buttery, sweet, pretty to look at, and completely different from canned beans in every single way possible. With a wedge of buttered skillet cornbread, this is food you could live on, everyday.
      I did kick myself the whole way home from market for not searching out a ham bone.......but surprisingly, it wasn't missed (too much), and it's rare to say such a thing around here.

      Viva genetic diversity!