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Milady's Tinctures, Tonic and Teas: Claire's Herbs - Elderberry

 

“Well, it’s no usually the first thing in my mind when I take ye to bed, Sassenach. Far from it. But then…” His hands cupped my breasts softly, and his lips closed on one nipple. “I’d no just say she was completely wrong either. Sometimes…aye, sometimes it would be good, to be inside again, safe and…one. Knowing we cannot, I suppose, is what makes us want to beget. If we cannot go back ourselves, the best we can do is to give that precious gift to our sons, at least for a little while…” He shook himself suddenly, like a dog flinging water from its coat.

“Pay me no mind, Sassenach,” he murmured. “I get verra maudlin, drinking elderberry wine.”

Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “Outlander.”  

 

Elderberries-reduced 

When I was a little girl my mother made me become a Brownie in the hopes that I would follow in my sisters footsteps and become a Girl Scout.  My mother was a beloved troop leader and was just thrilled that she had one more chance to do it again! She spent my Brownie year choosing amazing things for us to do and wonderful places to go.  I don’t remember most of it because it was all overshadowed by the one place she chose that was perfect.

One of her best friends when she moved into the Orange School District was a woman named Dolly Temple.  My mom was the youngest PTA  member and Dolly was the oldest, but the two looked at each other and became instant friends. It was because of the huge  Navajo Squash Blossom necklaces that each was wearing around their necks in a community that was a hotbed of diamonds and Mikkimoto pearls.  As my mother told it, she walked into this thoroughly stuffy group of very fine 50’s housewives and then there was Dolly.  She and mom gravitated to each other immediately because of those necklaces  which at that time absolutely no one understood or valued.  My mother looked amazing when she wore her Indian Jewelry and so did Dolly. Both were incredibly strong women, with  striking features and even stronger personalities. The Indian jewelry that neither of then were ever without simply mirrored the strident boldness that each of them carried within.  Both wore black during the day way before it was acceptable to do so!

They were just fabulous , the last of a generation of  the “they just don’t make broads like that any more”. (Sort of like Claire!)

Dolly was a transplanted southern girl who owned 36 of the most incredibly beautiful  acres in Moreland Hills Ohio, complete with a gorgeous Georgian mansion,  horse barns, orchards and pastures. She raised the most beautiful Arabian horses and had several lovely little Welsh ponies that she drove as teams.  

Dolly Temple was my first mentor, the very first women who ever put me on a horse.  My mother in an attempt to keep her youngest daughter interested in the “Silly Brownie Stuff” as I called it took us out to Dolly’s farm.  She should have known ...I took one look and was smitten.  The day came to cross the Brownie Bridge and approximately 5 minutes before it was to be my turn I looked at my mom and said, “I don’t EVER want to be a Girl Scout…I want to go back to that place with the horses and learn to ride. “ My mother  simply smiled and called Dolly.  If she was disappointed she never let it show. Her generosity that day completely changed my life. I don't live well without horses. My mother knew that and let it be. 

From that day on I practically lived at the Temples and at least 4 times I week I would go there after school, catch and brush the horses, saddle up the ponies, have my lesson and then go riding around her woods. I’d come into her house afterwards for homemade hot chocolate and huge slabs of crusty warm homemade bread with her home churned butter.  Sometimes I’d walk in and she’d be plucking a duck or a chicken that she’d just killed herself and the end result that day would be the most incredible homemade chicken and dumplings which she served on lavish Royal Worcester plates with her mothers gorgeous sterling.

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Once or twice I accidentally walked in on her in the middle of the butchering process, but I actually didn’t mind because she walked her talk. Nothing was wasted.  Dolly was very wealthy, but she did everything herself. She used everything that she raised from fruits and vegetables to the animals that she kept.  She taught me to forage on her property for food and was the first woman to teach me about the value of eating wild plants.  I adored her.  She had blueberries everywhere and raspberries and plum tree surrounding the riding ring. There were French chestnuts that lined one of the lanes and the pastures were filled with apples tree. Everything had a purpose and was in just the right place.  She let me explore all of it as if I were her own child.

One day in the spring when I was riding   I noticed one of the most beautiful bushes that I’d ever seen. It was growing down along   the driveway and it was the filled with the heaviest clusters of creamy flowers that I’d ever seen ,  draping on beautiful purple stems with thick green leaves. It was also emitting a very strange musky sweet aroma that reminded me a bit of my grandmother not in a bad way, but more like a bottle of vintage violet perfume that’s turned a little bit dark and dirty. I later learned that the beautiful blossoms were Elderberry flowers and that the plant although most parts are filled with more than a little bit of cyanide was one of the most beneficial of the wild tonics.  Dolly made wines , cordials and syrups out her Elderberries and she also took some of those flowers and made wonderful  fritters, covered in a very light batter and dusted with a bit of confectioners sugar. They were amazing, the heavy flowers were delicious prepared that way although definitely not for anyone who suffers from a battle with seasonal allergies!

If you’ve access to some elderberries of your own you should try to make the fritters and at the very least the syrup! You can buy elderberry syrup in any health food store and it’s absolutely indispensible during cold season for helping to beef up your immunity. One of the best tonics that I know of is a simple tea made from the syrup and a bit of chopped up crystallized ginger. I use this when anyone in my house is recovering from a nasty upper respiratory infection and it was my staple drink when I was stricken with a bout of pneumonia 15 years ago.  Elderflower has been documented by herbalists for centuries as possessing the ability to be able to inhibit a virus and truly shorten the duration of a very nasty flu by several days. I always keep some form of it in my stillroom.

St Germain

The very same syrup makes a wonderful iced tea in the summer laced with cinnamon and a bit of fresh mint. You can also use it to make a marvelous martini and a bit of elderberry syrup drizzled over berries and homemade vanilla bean ice cream is a wonderful treat. One of my favorite finds of the last several years is a golden liqueur from France made of Elderflowers named St. Germain. Although not nearly as heady and wild tasting as the homemade syrup it’s a delightfully fragrant addition to a glass of champagne.

If you’d like to try to make your own syrup you should definitely do so but remember that all parts except for the flowers and berries (including the seeds) are potentially toxic.  Start with a lot of the ripe berries (about 2 lbs of them) and cook them gently in about 4 cups of water until they are soft.  Some people put them through a food mill but I prefer to  GENTLY mash the berries and let the weight of them strain the juice through a chinoise or a fine mesh strainer. Put the juice back into a saucepan , add a cinnamon stick, some crystallized ginger and a cup or two of maple syrup. You can also use honey if you’d like or plain old sugar.  Gently reduce the syrup until it’s as thin or thick as you like, taste and bottle. That’s it. Make this once and you’ll never reach for another bottle of Robitussin again!

  

 

Elderberry Photograph courtesy of ThriftyLiving.net 

St. Germain Poster courtesy of St. Germain

 Lavinia Platter Courtesy of Replacements


Milady's Pantry and Stillroom: Incense and Peppermint

 

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“I unlaced the front of my robe and rubbed my body quickly with handfuls of the lavender and valerian. It was a pleasant, spicy smell, distinctive and richly evocative. A smell that, to me, conjured the shade of the man who wore its perfume, and the shade of the man behind him; shades that evoked confusing images of present terror and lost love. A smell that, to Jamie, must recall the hours of pain and rage spent wrapped in its waves. I rubbed the last of it vigorously between my palms and dropped the fragrant shreds on the floor.

With a deep breath for courage, I picked up the vial of ammoniacal spirits. I stood by the bed a moment holding it, looking down at the gaunt, stubbled face. At most he might last a day; at the least, only a few more hours.

“All right, you bloody Scottish bastard,” I said softly. “Let’s see how stubborn you really are.” I lifted the injured hand, dripping, from the water and set the soaking dish aside."

Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “Outlander.”  

Incense and Peppermint

Please enjoy this lovely chart! Click on it, blow it up and print it out! I don't know who to attribute it to but I'm very grateful that it showed up on my personal facebook page.  It's one of the best tools that for creating incense that  I've seen in a long time! I love incense and I make my own and burn it often for healing, conjuring or simply when I just want my home to smell simply wonderful.  There are all kinds of glorious combinations that you can use when you want to provoke different emotions, for example, an incense of cinnamon, rose petals, cloves, dried apple, basil, lavender buds, vanilla bean , cardomom and sandalwood sprinkled with a couple of drops of essential oil of rose is one of the sexiest love potions that I know...... 

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Abolone shell with white sage smudge stick/ origins of photograph unknown

 It's truly easy to create your own.  Take a flameproof bowl and fill it 1/2 way with sand. I use a beautiful abalone shell that I bought years ago because it does have a wonderfully feminine vibe! Then get a pack of incense charcoal disks and lay one on top of the sand. Light it and let it burn until you're sure that it's ready (It will be ashy and glowing, not flaming!) and scatter any combination of herbs and spices around and on top of it. Please be sure to only use leaves , petals , spices and woods  that you know have not been treated with pesticides and have fun....the magic's even more personal if you've gathered them yourself. Just be sure to gather conciously. Never take an endangered species . Don't take to much of any one plant and be sure to ALWAYS leave a little love token for the fey folk !

You don't want to upset them you know:)

image from home-school-coach.com

 My husband laughs because he does the laundry (love that man!) and he's always emptying my pockets which are filled with offerings of seeds, pennies and pretty stones. You can even add a couple of drops of any essential oil that you love, provided that it's organic. Please don't use perfumed oils. Perfumed oils are generally derived from petroleum products and other nasty things. They will produce a horrid black smoke when you light them and the magical correspondences are not  present in chemically produced scents. My favorite? A combination of White sage, Lavender , Bourbon Rose,  Bay and Pine.  Please write me at My Outlander Love Affair/Milady's Pantry and Stillroom  and let me know yours!

Now for fun:)

 


Creating Magical Environments & Seasonal Celebrations ~ Please Join me on Monday Evening for a cozy "Fireside Chat"!

 

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I have been so honored that many of you have been asking me to set up a chat session so that you can get some tips and tricks for setting your tables or planning  your Thanksgiving meal!   In response to those requests I've set up a virtual "Fireside Chat" so that we can do just that!

I'll be hosting it on Monday evening at 7:00 pm until 8:00 pm (ET)and if you'd like to participate please let me know by emailing me at  lifesmagic@merlinsdaughter.com and I'll send you all of the information that you'll need. If you're interested please respond as soon as you can because space is limited, but don't worry, if there is enough request I will quickly set up another one! There is absolutely no charge to participate!

Please know that I'm really looking forward to meeting you!

We'll have fun so bring a cup of your favorite tea , your softest blanket and all of your questions!

All the best,

Beth Schreibman Gehring

The Windesphere Witch