Category Archives: Books/Articles

March Meeting of the Maumee Valley Herb Society

The March meeting of the Maumee Valley Herb Society will be at 9:15 AM on Wednesday, March 20 in the Conference Center at the Toledo Botanical Garden.
Topic is Jams, Jellies, Vinegar and Vodka.
This will be a “how to session” on the making of jams, jellies, and herbal vinegars for Heralding the Holidays and also how to make herbal and other liqueurs for your own pleasure and for gift giving.
Come and learn the methods used for each. You will find this topic to be both interesting and enjoyable. As usual, our meeting will be open to the general public.

Herbal Liqueurs

Several years ago, I attended a lecture at the Michigan Herb Associates Conference in March on making herbal liqueurs. While I found the topic interesting, the speaker really got my attention when she passed out several samples of her homemade liqueurs at the end of her talk. Thus began my adventure into making herbal liqueurs.
Liqueurs are sweet, alcoholic drinks that are flavored with a variety of different ingredients. Because of the addition of water and sugar, along with fruits, herbs and spices, they have lower alcohol content than most alcohol. ‘Liqueur’ is derived from the Latin word ‘liquifacere” which means to melt or dissolve, since the herbs, spices and other flavorings are dissolved in the base alcohol.
During the 13th and 14th centuries, physicians and chemists believed that herbal liqueurs could treat and prevent illnesses. Many modern medicines are based on plant extracts and some still have alcohol bases today. Benedictine is an herbal liqueur produced in France which uses 27 plants, herbs and spices.
Liqueurs can be made out of most any alcohol base. Pure grain alcohol, 180 to 190 proof is the best, diluted with equal parts water. Next is vodka and brandy or Cognac, a type of brandy that is produced in the Cognac region of France. Rum, tequila, whiskey and gin are a few other alcohols that can be used.
When choosing your base alcohol, remember, the better the quality, the better the liqueur. It isn’t necessary to buy the most expensive; many good quality alcohols are in the low to medium price range. It is smoothness that you want and you will not get that with cheap alcohol. If using vodka as your base, use 80-proof or 100-proof vodka and be sure you buy U.S. vaarieties, since they have to be colorless, odorless and have no flavor of their own.
Use distilled water since it has no taste to compete with the flavors you use. Your fruits and herbs should be fresh whenever possible. Frozen, dried or canned fruits can also be used. The same goes for the herbs and spices that you use.
The flavor of almost all liqueurs improves during storage. Fruit and berry liqueurs should be stored for at least six months for maximum taste. Cream-based liqueurs need to be refrigerated and used within two to four weeks, so make these in small amounts. Aging is essential for good quality and taste of the liqueur. it mellows the liqueur and gives it a professional quality.
Liqueur making does not require the distilling of liquor, which Federal and most state laws prohibit. The base alcohol is already produced, licensed and taxed when you purchase the brandy, cognac, vodka or other spirit to be used.
Making the liqueur consists of a process of adding flavors to a base alcohol to create a new beverage. It is unlikely you will have any problems if you simply add herbs, spices, coffee, tea or fruits to it to change it to a liqueur. Liqueur making dilutes the strength of the base, producing a lower alcohol-by-volume beverage. Also, liqueurs are not usually produced in large quantities; usually no more than one or two bottles at a time. “While you may make liqueurs as gifts, it is illegal for you to sell them”.
The two basic methods are the steeping method and the simple sugar method. Steeping involves adding fruits, herbs and spices to an alcohol and then shaking it every few days to help blend the flavors. The simple sugar method involves making a simple sugar; two parts sugar to one part water, boiling it for a few minutes until the sugar dissolves and adding the cooled syrup to your alcohol and other ingredients.
There is no “right” taste to a liqueur. Your goal is to make something you and your friends like the taste of.
Elderberry Liqueur
1 pint fresh elderberries
1 quart vodka
Half a lemon rind, pith removed
Put the elderberries into a quart glass jar and pour over the vodka
Add the lemon rind with pith removed. Seal and put in a dark cupboard for at least a month or two. Pour the vodka through a strainer lined with cheesecloth into another jar and add sugar, anywhere from 1/4 to 1/3 cup or more. shake to combine and put back in the cupboard. After a few days or weeks, the sugar will completely dissolve and the elderberry liqueur is ready to drink.
Tangerine Liqueur
3 cups 80-proof vodka
1 cup distilled water
2 dozen ripe tangerines
4 cups sugar
1 dozen whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
fresh basil or rosemary sprigs
Wash and peel the tangerines. Remove any large pieces of pith remaining on the inside of the peel. Section the tangerines and then cut each section into two or three pieces. Put the pieces and peel in a jar with the vodka, water, cinnamon and cloves. Add white sugar and shake vigorously until the sugar is dissolved. Place in a large glass jar and let the mixture set for a couple of months. Then strain and let the liqueur settle until clear.
Fresh basil and rosemary can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores.
From the Herbal Messenger, Newsletter of the Maumee Valley Herb Society January 2013
Article by Brenda Sheely

2012 The Year of the Rose

This year we honor the rose as the herb of the year. Perhaps you think of the rose only as a beautiful fragrant flower, but it is much more than that. The definiton of an herb is that it is a plant valued for flavor, scent, medicinal use, and having other qualities. There are many qualities that the rose is known for that characterizes it as an herb.
First, the rose, because of its beauty is the most popular flower purchased on Valentine’s Day. Roses are found in a variety of colors and each color means something different. The red rose signifies immortal love, the yellow joy and mature love, white stands for purity, and pink for innocence. The most popular rose is the red rose.
Secondly, there are many uses of roses. Some of the uses for roses are in lotions and creams, in perfumes and pot pourris, as decorations for cakes and other foods, and also the rose is actually used in cooking. There are many recipes for using rose petals and rose water. Some of the recipes I found use roses in making jellies, syrups, sauces, butters, vinegars, teas, cakes, soups and ice cream. In many Asian and Mideastern and African countries, roses are used to flavor foods much as we use cinnamon and vanilla here in the USA. A popular tea is rose petal tea.
Recipe: Rose Petal Tea Makes one quart
1/2 cup tightly packed rose petals*
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 orange, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 quart water
Place rose petals, nutmeg, sugar and chopped orange into a pitcher. Pour boiling water over petals and steep for five minutes. Strain. Serve hot or cold. If using pink petals, the tea will have a fine flavor and a nice dark pink color.
*When using roses for food, they should be free of pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers. Florists’ roses have been sprayed with pesticides and should not be used as food. Many have been imported from third world countries where pesticides and other chemicals are used.
The best roses to use for food are the fragrant, old-fashioned or antique roses such as the Cabbage Rose, Rose Gallica, and Damask Rose.
When using rose petals as food, always cut away the white portion at the base of each rose. This imparts a bitter flavor to foods and beverages.

Tussie-Mussies The Language Of Flowers

By Geraldine Adamich Laufer

Tussie-Mussies The Language Of Flowers

This beautiful book describes a tussie-mussie as a “talking bouquet”. A tussie-mussie is a circular nosegay made of fragrant herbs and flowers in a holder that tells a story according to the language of flowers. Such a bouquet may express sentiments as athletic victory, faith, friendship, forgiveness, generosity, good health, joy, love, protection, sympathy, wealth or wisdom. Eight pages of sentiments are found in this book. The word tuzzy mussy first appeared in the Oxford English dictionary in 1440.

Since the sixteenth century, these little bouquets have been considered essential. They were carried, worn in the hair, pinned to gowns, or suspended from chains. Where the tussie-mussie was worn changed its meaning. If worn in the hair, it meant caution, but when worn in the cleavage, the meaning was friendship. If worn over the heart, this was a declaration of love. So many sentiments could be included in these bouquets that dozens of dictionaries were published during the nineteenth century to help decipher the language of flowers. Continue reading Tussie-Mussies The Language Of Flowers

A Handful Of Herbs

By Barbara Segall, Louise Pickford and Rosa Hammick – published by Ryland Peters and Small

A Handful of Herbs

This book is divided into five sections. The first section, Super Herbs, profiles the authors’ choices of twenty super herbs. Their list includes Basil, Bay, Chamomile, Chervil, Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, Garlic, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Lovage, Mint, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Sorrel, Tarragon, and Thyme.

Gardening with Herbs suggests various ways to grow herbs both indoors and out, such as planting herbs among vegetables, making herbal hedges, growing herbs in containers, and other ways to add herbs to your garden.

Living with Herbs discusses making such items as potpourris, sachets, pomanders, and a winter wreath. Herbs are used to provide a pleasant aroma to a log fire, as decorations throughout the home, in making cleaning products, and bath and body products.

Cooking with Herbs includes recipes for vinegars, dressings, oils, butters, appetizers, snacks, entrees, salads, desserts, and beverages.

The A-Z of Herbs discusses more than 70 herbs and tells the height and spread of each, the zones they grow in, and culinary uses for each herb. This book is beautifully illustrated and I believe you will find it a good read.

Written by Marybeth Landis