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

Elderberry the Herb of the Year 2013

The name elderberry was derived from from the Anglo Saxon Ellaern or Aeld which means fires or kindle and this wood was used to keep fires going. There were others who believed that if this wood was used, you would see the devil. The generic name, Sambucus, dates from early Greece and may be a reference to sambuke, a harp made from elderwood. Pipes were made from the branches, perhaps even the original Pan pipes. Flutes and other musical instruments were made from elderwood in countries in Eastern Europe.
Elderberries, which were used more often by our pioneer ancestors than in present day are a tasty fruit that we can use in making jellies, jams, chutneys, pies, and wines. The dried blossoms are using in various blends of teas and in making cordials. Elderflower syrup made in France is used in the United States in making marshmallowa. Fanta makes a soft drink called “Shotaka” from this syrup that can be found in fifiteen countries. The Italian liqueur Sambuca is flavored with oil obtained from elderflowers. In Germany, yogurt desserts are made from both berries and flowers.
Elderberries were in use as long ago as the Stone Age. Throughout history they have been believed to be harbingers of both good and evil. For example, in ancient times, no carpenter would make a cradle of elderberry wood fearing this would somehow harm the baby. In some countries, witches were believed to dance around elderberry bushes and in other countries it was believed that planting an elderberry bush outside of the back door would keep witches out of the house.

February 2013 Meeting of the Maumee Valley Herb Society

Our next monthly meeting will be on Wednesday, February 20 at 9:15 AM in the Conference Center of the Toledo Botanical Garden. The program will be a “Make and Take Mini Album”. Each member should bring 10 photos that are 4 x 6 inches in size to use in making a mini album. These can be pictures of your garden, your family, or whatever. Bring a pair of scissors with which to cut and shape your photos. There is also a $5.00 charge for materials for each member.
A membership directory that contains a list of all meetings for 2013 as well as information for contacting each member will be available at this meeting. The list of meetings will be posted on this website as soon as they are available.
Anyone interested in herbs is welcome to attend our meetings.

Rose Water Sugar Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
4 and 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon rose water
In large mixer bowl cream butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy, scraping sides of bowl often.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream and rose water, beating at low speed until blended.
Divide dough into thirds and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for four hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
On well-floured surface, roll 1/3 of dough at a time until dough is 1/4 inch thick. Cut into shapes with a floured 3 inch cookie cutter. Arrange cookies one inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Sprinkle with colored sugar.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on rack.
Yield: 5 dozen cookies
Michigan Herb Associates Journal Fall of 1996

Uses of Rose Hips by Native Americans

Rose hips were used in many different ways by Native Americans. They were eaten fresh, dried, cooked or roasted. The juice was extracted, boiled, and then mixed with other juices. In Alaska rose hips were frozen and stored for later use. They were also mixed with dried salmon eggs to enhance their flavor.
Medicinal teas were made to use for coughs and sore itchy throats. This use was especially for babies. Decoctions of rose hips were drunk by people with rheumatism, colds, sore throats, fevers, indigestion, and kidney ailments.
Rose hips were chewed by women in labor to hasten delivery.
Firm hips were used as beads and made into necklaces and bracelets that were often worn by children.
The rose was also used in floral designs created with materials such as dyed porcupine quills and beads made from bone. These designs were then used to decorate clothing. Originally the floral designs represented medicinal plants. These plant designs were believed to bring power and good medicine to the individual wearing this clothing.

2012 Herb Plant Sale

Flowering herbs in the TBG Herb Garden

We, of the Maumee Valley Herb Society, are busy getting ready for the Toledo Botanical Garden’s Spring Plant Sale. The dates and times are Thursday, May 10 from 4-8pm for TBG members only, and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May 11-13 from 10am-5pm for the general public. We will have more than 200 varieties of herbal plants available that will be arranged at the sale in the following categories: culinary, fragrant, and decorative. Our members will be available to answer questions and assist you in making your purchases. Here is the list of herbs that will be available this year.

In addition, you will find perennials, trees, and shrubs for sale by other members of the Toledo Botanical Garden. Come and talk with us to learn more about herbs and to receive guidance in making your selections.

Remaining 2012 Programs for the Maumee Valley Herb Society

Unless otherwise indicated, all meetings will be in the Conference Center of the Toledo Botanical Garden.

Wednesday, March 21 9:15am – Noon
Herb Garden, Way Back When
Olga Einfalt, Lois Young

Tuesday, April 17 7:00 -9:00 pm
The Rose, Herb of the Year 2012
Helen Beddoes
Conference Center, Stables Room

Wednesday, May 16 9:15 am -Noon
Make and Take Containers
Hoens Garden Center
Details in the Herbal Messenger

Wednesday June 20
Annual Trip
Details in the Herbal Messenger

Wednesday, July 18 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
If you feed them, they will come”
Annual Picnic TBG Picnic Area
Details in the Herbal Messenger

Wednesday, August 15 9:15 – Noon
Herb Drying 101
Karen Start, Susan Mason

Tuesday, September 18 6:00 – 9:00 pm
Details in the Herbal Messenger

Wednesday, October 17 9:15 – Noon
Heralding the Holidays Workshop

Wednesday, November 14 9:15 – Noon
Heralding the Holidays Workshop

Wednesday, December 19 11:00 am – 2:00 pm
Christmas Potluck and Gift Exchange

Rose Herb of the Year 2012

Rose water, a byproduct of rose oil production, is widely used in Asian and Middle Eastern cusine. In France, rose syrup is widely used, most commonly made from an extract of rose petals. In the United States, Frenceh rose syrup is used to make rose scones and marshmallows. Rose hips, the fruit of some species, is used as a source of Vitamin c. Rose hips are occasionally made into jam, jelly, and marmalade, or are brewed for tea. They are also pressed and filtered to make rose hip syrup. Rose hips are also used to produce rose hip seed oil, which is used in skin and makeup products. The fruits of many species have significant levels of vitamins and have been used as a food supplement. Many roses have been used in herbal and folk medicines. Rosa chinensis has long been used in Chinese traditional medicine. This and other species have bewen used for stomach problems, and are being investigated for controlling cancer growth.
From The Herbal Messenger, Newsletter of the Maumee Valley Herb Society, January 2012

Toledo Grows Seed Swap February 25

The Seed Swap will be at the Erie Street Market on Saturday, February 25 from noon to 3 pm. As you come in the door, free tickets will be handed to you that can be exchanged for free seed packets. If you bring seed packets with you, then you will receive additional tickets and extra seeds. There will be garden displays and workshops for you to enjoy. Maumee Valley Herb Society members will be at the table where herb seeds are distributed. Come and join us.
For additional information, visit the Toledo Grows website at http://www.toledocf.org/grantee-stories/toledo-grows/

MVHS February Meeting

Our February meeting is at 9:30 am on February 15 in the Conference Center at the Toledo Botanical Garden.
Our speaker will be Bernie Place from Wild Birds Unlimited. The topic is: Did You Know? Cool, Winter Bird Fun Facts.
Come and join us for an interesting presentation and a chance to converse with our members.

Educating and spreading the love of herbs and herb gardening