Thursday, 29 October 2015

Healing winter drinks

(l-r) Hawthorn wine, Rosehip and vanilla syrup, Rosehip syrup, Sloe liqueur (last 2)
This autumn I've really got into foraging and making interesting things with the fruits of my labour. I began here with elderberry syrup for coughs and colds. Then I went a bit nuts collecting a kilo of rosehips the other day while really sick with a cold. Did you know pound for pound, rosehips contain 20 times more Vitamin C than oranges? Nature provides us with all our health-giving foods right at our door, how cool is that! It was nice to get out in the sun for an hour the other day though. I made sure to pull up my sleeves and face the sun for the extra Vitamin D synthesis, I've had very little sunlight the last week. So below are the various drinks keeping me busy over the past month, foraging, researching recipes, mixing ingredients, allowing them to sit, shaking regularly, and soon to be decanted and bottled for use through the coming months. Here is a great study on Vitamin C in rosehips and methods of processing. I'm reading these kind of things now as my Nutrition course has me really interested in getting the most nutrition out of our food. 

Sloe liqueur
Above are two containers of sloe liqueur in the making. I collected and froze the sloes (prunus spinosa) for a couple of weeks, to mimic the first frost, which breaks down the skin and flesh a bit. Then cover in vodka and top with granulated sugar and shake every day for two weeks. When I decant these I can then use the sloe berries again for another liqueur, or make them into a jam or jelly, nothing goes to waste in my kitchen! To identify sloes on a bush, see my foraging post here, though the leaves are yellower now. Here is a great link on all the medicinal benefits of the sloe berry, I'm after it primarily as a warming winter drink, but I like that it aids digestion, helps the immune system and detoxes the blood. I will probably add hot water to the liqueur to drink as one would a hot port, but it would be a nice aperitif on Christmas day too, or poured over ice cream.

Rosehip syrups
The above rosehip syrups are my current obsession, look at the colour, the most stunning rose amber. I foraged a kilo of rosehips, washed them very well in vinegar and water as they came from a roadside. Then I topped and tailed them and chopped them roughly in a food processor. Put them in a saucepan with enough filtered water to cover, then brought it to the boil and turned it off. I left this covered and sitting on the stovetop for a couple of days to get the most goodness out of the hips, then strained them through a muslin in a colander over a bowl. Twice more I added the rosehips back to the saucepan with some water, brought to the boil and strained. Once I had all the juice possible I added sugar and gently heated the liquid to melt the sugar. Some recipes call for the liquid to be boiled for a long while and reduced in volume by half, but I think that might kill off the Vitamin C. Rosehips are also rich in iron, help alleviate arthritis and clear up wheezing and asthmatic symptoms in children, win win. I've been drinking this diluted with hot water, the kids like it diluted with cold water, and it can also be used for a pancake topping, cake drizzle etc. The vanilla above on the left was my homemade vanilla extract bottle, which had almost run out, so I figured the rosehip syrup would be lovely sitting there infusing with the vanilla too, it tastes great.

Hawthorn wine
I got into herbal tonic wines last year, though it was just before I got pregnant, so I haven't had much chance to experiment with them. But a few weeks ago I bought a bottle of rose wine and only wanted to drink a couple of glasses out of it, so I decided to turn the rest into a tonic wine. I added hawthorn berries, cardamom pods, star anise, fresh ginger and cinnamon, and what I have is a lovely Christmassy flavoured wine with hopefully some healing properties of the above berries and spices. Hawthorn berries (crataegus monogyna) are a great heart tonic, it also relieves insomnia and helps sore throats. I decanted this today through a fine sieve, and enjoyed it with honey and hot water (below).

Hot hawthorn wine with Polish forest honey
When it comes to breastfeeding or pregnancy, please consult your caregiver before making any changes to your diet. (Though as I've come to realise it's probably safer to ingest most of nature's offerings rather than your local takeaway's MSG-laden food, but I still need to add that disclaimer so none o' yiz sue me)

So hours of fun, outdoor foraging, kitchen witchery and drinks to enjoy - all for the price of the alcohol and sugar. And you can use any wines or any spirits for these, so don't feel compelled to go buying anything new, use what you have. As the weeks have passed and I've foraged a bit more here and there, I've just opened the bottles and added the extra berries to the mixtures. 

Have you been tempted to make your own drinks this season? Please tell us below, or what hot drinks you're enjoying this year. 

Nee x

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