Kitchen Apothecary Feed

Milady's Pantry & Stillroom ~ Lilac Sugar

I'm a Midwestern witch through and through and there is nothing that captures those memories of an Ohio spring like the extraordinary scent of a glorious French lilac in bloom! Alas, it's also one of the hardest of scents to capture because unless you are working with a natural perfumer, most of the lilac perfume that you will encounter is synthetic.

I've discovered though that one of the best carriers for this elusive scent is good old fashioned cane sugar, so when the lilacs are blooming I beg , borrow and steal enough of the fragrant blooms from all of my friends and neighbors to create a sweetly perfumed lilac treat. The end result is a beautifully tinted and infused lilac sugar that I can use to make jellies, syrups, love spells and tea sugars. 

Kitchen Apothecary~ Lilac Sugar

The process is simple. Take as many lilacs as you can find and pick the blossoms off of the stems. Put them into a bowl and add a bag of white sugar. Toss and cover and allow the blooms to infuse the sugar. The next morning take the cover off of the bowl . The sugar will smell amazing, but it will be damp. Place all of the sugar and lilacs evenly on dehydrator trays (or cookie sheets if you are using a low oven) and allow it to dry for about 2 hours and then put all of it back again into a covered bowl. Pick another large bunch of lilac blossoms and put them into the dehydrator for about 3 hours (no sugar this time). When they have begun to really dry but not yet lost their scent, take them out and stir them into the already infused sugar. 

Kitchen Apothecary~ Lilac Sugar

Let it  air dry (or you can use a very low oven~ careful, you don't want caramel!) for about 6 more hours and put it all up in an air tight jar. The scent is astonishing and the sugar is delightful when you use it in tea or sprinkled on cookies or other confections. It makes a gorgeous gift packaged in a pretty cut or porcelain glass sugar bowl. I wouldn't use metal because you don't want any sort of bitter chemical reaction , a common chemistry problem between metal and flowers. 

One warning...really make sure that you dry it properly..keep checking the flowers. It takes lilacs a while to dry properly. You want the color and scent to still be there but not too much of the moisture otherwise your sugar will end up with a brownish tint!

I use this sugar to make several bottles of a luscious love philtre every year. I only make three bottles and they go very quickly!  It is quite an effective heart opener & aphrodisiac when used appropriately.  I won't be making them until early May , but please email me at beth.gehring@stirringthesenses.com if you are interested in purchasing one of them. 


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.

Royal_worcester_lavinia_cream_bone_oval_serving_platter_P0000087993S0036T2 

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 : Sel Fou or Fools Salt!

Milady's Pantry: Sel Fou
Sel Fou

Every year in October , the Western Reserve Herb Society holds an Herb Fair and this year because I'm in charge of Ways and Means I'm one of the chairmen! It's a colossol job but it's also a wonderful job. It takes a huge committee to put it on and we all learn so much from each other. Everything that we make comes from the huge herb garden that we lovingly tend. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the days that we spend in the garden and the summer is spent harvesting fresh herbs every week.  My friends and I just got done harvesting thousands of historical rose petals for potpourri and vinegar and now we're harvesting fresh oregano , lavender, thyme and basil actually we're harvesting whatever is ready in the garden and that changes every week! In autumn we'll be harvesting fresh quinces to make membrillo, which is a luscious Spanish fruit paste that is eaten with marcona almonds and cheese and apples to make pulp for spicy apple pulp pomanders! I encourage all of you if you have the time (and even if you don't!) to do something nice for yourself and join your local botanical garden and if you have one a local Herb Society. You can join the Herb Society of America even if you don't have a local one. Trust me. You'll enjoy it alot! I am fortunate that The Herb Society of America is housed close to  Cleveland where I live. I love to go out to their beautiful location in Kirtland Ohio and explore their library for hours. 

The-Herb-Society-Library

One of my jobs this year is Culinary chairman and I'm having a ball coming up with different things to make and sell at the fair. I'm working on a line of slow cooker blends and a apple cider/ maple Manhattan mixer.  I decided that this year it would be fun to throw a few exotic things into the mix. Hence this recipe for Sel Fou, which means Fools Salt and if you didn't know what it was you'd be fooled indeed!

Sel Fou is a classic French seasoning salt and it is my understanding that every French woman has a recipe that is very much a reflection of her own cooking style. It's very simple to make. This is my personal recipe! Yours might be different! 

You will need:

3 tablespoons of fine sea salt

1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch

1/2 tablespoon of confectioners sugar

1 tablespoon of powdered horseradish

1 tablespoon of garlic powder

1 tablespoon of onion salt (do not use shallot salt- too moist)

1 tablespoon of dried thyme

1 tablespoon of dried marjoram

1/2 tablespoon of dried dill

1/2 tablespoon of dried chives

That's it! I put all of it into a jar and shake it well and then whisk it with a fork. You must use the cornstarch and the sugar because it works as a stabilizer, keeping everything dry and mixed well. Decant it into a salt pig or a covered jar and keep it by your stove. This is a wonderful secret ingredient. I use it in stews , soups and braises of all kinds and it will turn an omelet into a gourmet meal. Sprinkled onto a salad which has been dressed with a simple oil and vinegar dressing...Unbelievable!  Do yourself a favor and make some.  If you come up with a different mixture , please share your creation with me on Facebook at My Outlander Love Affair - Milady's Pantry and Stillroom!

 


Bubbling in the Cauldron ~ Corn Pudding with Cheddar, Maple Syrup and Sage


I love corn pudding and this is my favorite recipe. It's much lighter than most, using corn as it's primary ingredient and not too much filler! It smells so good when it's cooking and tastes even better. Corn pudding is the perfect midwinter dish and can be served by itself with a salad or with a pork roast, ham or sausages. Hard cider or winter beer is the perfect accompaniment. If you can find the dehydrated corn use it..it's absolutely delicious, sweet as sugar and feels very rustic. I reconstitute it in buttermilk and it's almost better than fresh!

 You'll need:

Two bags of frozen sweet corn( I use one white and one yellow) or reconstituted dried corn (about 6 cups)

2 cups of diced onion

2 tablespoons of fresh minced garlic

3 tablespoons of maple syrup

1 cup of diced sweet peppers

1 tablespoon of dried sage

1 large wedge of hard cheddar  (shredded)

1 bunch of green onions  (Chopped)

2 cups of organic buttermilk

4 organic eggs 

Salt and pepper to taste

Place the eggs and buttermilk in a bowl and whisk until frothy. Add the remaining ingredients  and fold together. Place the blended ingredients into a baking dish and bake at 350 until firm, approximately 45-50 minutes. My preference is that you use a cast iron skillet or baking dish because for some reason cast iron bakes the pudding very evenly.  Serve with  slices of country ham or sausage. 

 

Picture of corn from http://www.thespicehouse.com/


Reaping the Harvest ~ Fried Green Tomatoes!

 

Reaping the Harvest~ Fried Green Tomatoes!

A bumper crop of tomatoes means a lot of things to me. Pasta Sauce,tomato and goat cheese tarts,tomato sandwiches, BLTs AND FRIED GREEN TOMATOES!

If you've never had a fried green tomato then you're missing out on one of lifes greatest treats. This is seasonal food at it finest... FGT's just don't taste right at any other time of the year. I was making a slow cooked garlic chicken for dinner tonight and the dish was just crying for a crunchy fried tomato dipped into a creamy Parmesan Sriracha sauce!

Out into the garden I went and brought in several fine specimens. I sliced them and dipped them into a trio of deliciousness ..first a buttermilk and Sriracha mixture, next a beaten egg and last but not least cornbread mix blended with chili seasoning .

To fry them I filled my cast iron skillet 1/4 of the way full of Canola oil and turned the heat on underneath it. I waited until it was hot enough ( the tomatoes should begin to fry as soon as they hit the oil!) and fried the tomatoes in several batches, flipping them several times until I got the right shad of golden brown. Take them out of the pan and lay them on paper towels to soak up the excess oil .

You could serve them with horseradish sauce but I mixed up a sauce of buttermilk, mayonnaise , garlic, shredded parmesan, cayenne and Sriracha .

Serve these while hot... I promise that there's nothing like the creamy taste of the tomato bursting through underneath the crunchy cornmeal coating. Be sure to make enough... They disappear quickly! A platter of these and a ice cold IPA is a summertime feast!

 

 



Reaping the Harvest ~ Fresh Peaches, Barbecued Salmon, Loreena McKennitt & Thou

Sep 4, 2013

I love late night summer porch dinners and last night was no exception. The air was cool (I'm always wondering how a chill just automatically comes to be in the air on those first days of September! ) and the street was beginning to smell of woodsmoke.  There was gorgeous wild salmon on sale at Whole Foods so I bought two pieces.  I then marinated them in a bourbon , maple barbecue sauce ( easy, easy to do.. get your favorite hickory sauce and add bourbon, cinnamon and maple to taste!)   sauteed them until done and set aside.

The white peaches are still lovely so I sliced them and mixed them with some fresh berries, pineapple mint, basil , fresh stevia and then drizzled them with a dressing of agave and honey orange balsamic !

Zucchini steamed and then sautéed in buttermilk then sprinkled with herbs and Parmesan and some end of summer sweet corn completed the meal. Truthfully, this meal took no more than 30 minutes to create from start until finish. Simple ingredients like these prepared without fuss are sometimes the best medicine for a long and drowsy sort of day! A glass of Syrah and some Loreena Mckennit on my jambox made the evening so very sweet, then off to bed , snuggled under the blankets with the windows open wide to let in the cool, sweet autumn air!

 


Reaping the Harvest ~ Fresh Tomatoes & Buttermilk Bleu Cheese Dressing

Sep 1, 2013

 

Goddess I love tomatoes! I plant way too many .. at least 5 different varieties and they all grow up into a gigantic tomato jungle! I adore the smell of the crushed fresh leaves and I don't think that anyone will disagree with me when I say that a handful of fresh cherry tomatoes , sun warmed and right off of the vine is a better meal than can be found at any fancy restaurant . I feed them, ( organic chicken manure pellets) water them , sing to them and generally forget about them until late August when I suddenly have a bumper crop and it's time to harvest!

 

The Witches Kitchen~ Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing

The Witches Kitchen~ Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing

Yesterday I was out in the garden and I noticed an enormous heirloom tomato, perfectly ripened and begging for some attention. I hadn't eaten breakfast yet, so I picked it. Normally I'd just eat it straight off of the vine but this one was literally the size of two fists. So I picked it , brought it into the kitchen , sliced it and put it on a bed of vibrant baby kale . I was out if purple onion or there would have been some of that too!

It was luscious all by itself, but it was begging me for a light dressing. Suddenly, I was seized by the desire for some bleu cheese dressing!

Lately I've been obsessed with buttermilk as an ingredient and I just happened to have some...and I also had some exquisite Rogue Creamery Smokey Bleu cheese! From there it was easy. For one and a half cups of dressing I blended with a fork 1 cup of fresh buttermilk and a half a cup of bleu cheese . ( this would have been just as good with Roquefort !) then I added a couple of teaspoons of chopped pecans, a clove of mashed garlic, literally half a teaspoon of organic ketchup, a dash of cayenne pepper, 3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce and then seasoned it with salt and pepper.

The result was light, zesty, healthy ,delicious and so much better than you could ever get from a bottle! Just so you know, if you don't have access to the Smokey Bleu cheese you can use regular bleu cheese and add a couple of drops of organic liquid smoke which will provide the same flavor!

 




The Witches Kitchen ~ Creamy Leek Tart

What a wonderful evening we had last night! Just as Jim and I were about go out to Whole Foods to enjoy Foodie Friday ( our absolute favorite 8.00 date night ~ 5 wines and five foods!!) my darling neighbor Michelle leaned over the row of blackberries and said" do you and Jim have any plans tonight?"" Let me convince you to come over for dinner!" Then she began to regale me with descriptions of sliced fresh peaches, grass fed filet, fresh sweet corn and the piece de resistance.. A fresh leek and gruyere tart!

So began a delightfully spontaneous evening spent with dear friends and their adorable children, a couple of bottles of perfect wine and that utterly unforgettable tart!

It has only 5 ingredients; gruyere cheese, butter, cream , leeks and a crust.
Just take a store bought pie crust and mold it into a fluted tart pan. Set aside.
Then sauté 3 chopped leeks in 2 tablespoons of butter. Add 1 cup of cream and simmer for a minute and then stir in 1 and 1/4 cups of shredded gruyere cheese. Pour the leek mixture into the tart shell and bake for about 30 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven. Allow to sit for ten minutes, cut into wedges and serve!

You owe it to yourself to make this at least once! A simple side salad and a luscious glass of wine is all that's needed to turn this into a perfect meal!

The Witches Kitchen ~ Creamy Leek Tart

Kitchen Apothecary~ Herbal Soup Wreaths

Every year in October , the Western Reserve Herb Society holds its annual Herb Fair, a wonderful day awash in homemade jams and jellies, herb and spice mixes , breads, pressed flowers and so many other beautifully handmade herbal Products, all made by the ladies of WRHS!

Kitchen Apothecary~ Herbal Soup Wreaths

Yesterday was spent with my delightful friends from WRHS making herbal soup wreaths. A soup wreath is a delicate little wreath of soup and stew herbs that can be thrown into the pot and then fished out when they are no longer needed. It was a wonderful morning... There was something about sitting at the table that was covered with fresh herbs just cut from the WRHS garden that sent me spiraling back in time.

Kitchen Apothecary~ Herbal Soup Wreaths

Kitchen Apothecary~ Herbal Soup Wreaths

 

I looked around at my friends as we were quietly winding the herbs together and realized that I was taking part in a ritual that has been shared by women for centuries. It was such a magical experience . To make your own wreaths all you will need is some very strong undyed thread or twine and branches and stems of the herbs that you want to use. Rosemary makes the best base and chives are garlic chives are a wonderful wrap. Just wind everything together and wrap tightly with the thread. It will dry and be ready to use in a week or two. Remember that herbal flavors do concentrate so be mindful of the sages and oreganos... They can get very strong! To use, just throw one into  simmering pot of soup or stew. When your meal is cooked, just strain out the wreath and toss!

 

Kitchen Apothecary~ Herbal Soup Wreaths