Monday, November 21, 2016

Elderberry Tea and Syrup

During this time of year, it seems that colds and flu are running rampant. Thankfully, due to my family's diet and use of doTERRA essential oils, we hardly ever get sick; but I am always on the look-out for natural immune boosting items I can use. I had heard of elderberry syrup before, but I never really looked into it until we moved up to Idaho. Elderberries grow wild everywhere around here, and it seems like all my friends are praising the health benefits of using these tiny berries. Some of their most important benefits are their ability to boost your immune system and protect against bacteria and infection. You can use this tea (or syrup) every day as a preventative, or use it multiple times a day when you are feeling under the weather. Hearing all of this, I had to find out for myself what all the fuss was about. 
     The plants look somewhat like lilac bushes, with clumps of berries that have a white coating on the outside. Once the berries are washed they look either blue/black/purple (the ones I have) or red. The fresh berries grow anytime between July and November, depending on the climate. If you decide to go out looking for your own, make sure you research it a bit. I have a book on foraging for wild berries and I studied that, as well as researched online, quite thoroughly before I went out and picked any for myself. I didn't want to accidentally pick the wrong thing. My father-in-law also picked a cooler full of elderberries from our yard while my in-laws were visiting a few weeks ago, so I had a lot to work with. The recipe at the end of the post is only 1/5 of what I am showing you in the pictures, so don't fret when your pot doesn't look as full as mine. You can totally make an elderberry syrup with only 3 ingredients (water, berries and honey), but this recipe has some additional ingredients as well. All of these ingredients have immune boosting and antibacterial/antiviral properties, and they happen to taste really yummy as well. (Aside from the rose-hips that don't really have much flavor on their own.)
    Another important fact to note is that the only edible part of the elderberry plant is the juice from the berries. The leaves, stems and seeds are all toxic, so you have to be very careful when preparing them. (You can also use the flowers, but that is another post.)
     The first step to preparing the fresh berries is to remove the stems and rinse them. Then, just put them in a pot.

Another plant that grows like crazy around here is rose-hips. When they are in bloom, a lot of people call them country roses. They are extremely high in vitamin C, so I added them to my tea as well, but if you can't find any then you can leave them out. It's an optional ingredient. If you are able to harvest your own rose-hips keep in mind that the brighter they are, the more vitamin C they have. As they get older, they turn softer and darker, and loose a lot of their vitamins.
I just cut the top and bottom off the rose-hips and put them in the pot with the berries. You'll want to add 2-3 fresh rose-hips for every 1 cup of berries. (Or you can use 1 Tbsp ground rose-hips.) Or you can just skip it all together.
Next comes the citrus. I used lemon, but orange works really well also. You can zest 1 clean, whole organic lemon, or just cut it in slices like I did.
Add in some organic cinnamon sticks.
Then add the clove. I didn't have any fresh organic cloves on hand, so I added the ground version. I know some people are very adverse to using cloves, so if you are one of those people, just leave it out. You won't get the antioxidant or anti-septic benefits, but the syrup is still very beneficial without it.
Next comes the ginger. You need 2 Tbsp. It's more potent if you grate it, but I was in a hurry and just sliced it into coins.
I also added some fresh organic turmeric root. It is a good anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredient. Again, it is more potent if you grate it in, but I just sliced it into coins. (It's the small circles that look a little like carrots.) If you can't find fresh turmeric root, you can use the powdered version.
The last ingredient is water. The typical ratio is 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of fresh berries (1/2 cup dry), but I wanted to make it stronger, so I only added 1 1/2 cups for every 1 cup of fresh berries. I had 5 cups of berries, so I added 7 1/2 cups of water.
Bring the mixture up to a boil, and then turn it down to a simmer. Get a potato masher and gently smash the berries, so release all the juice.
Simmer the mixture for 20 minutes until it reduces and thickens a bit.
Then just let it cool, and strain it out. (If you are going to can the syrup for later use, just leave it hot and jar it up as you would any other juice. DO NOT add the honey before you can, because the heat will kill alot of the antibacterial/antifungal properties in the honey.)

Once the mixture is cool, then you can add in the raw, organic, unfiltered honey. The more raw and unfiltered it is, the better for you it is. It will last a few weeks in the fridge. The syrup is very sweet by itself, so if you find it hard to take straight-up, you can always enjoy it as a tea by adding luke-warm water to a mug and mixing in some of the elderberry syrup. My hubby actually just mixes the juice with water, and a small amount of honey for his tea. It is more bitter this way, but that's the way he likes it.
Here's the recipe:  As I mentioned earlier, you can make a simple elderberry syrup by boiling 1 1/2 cups water with 1 cup of fresh berries. Smash the berries and simmer for about 10 minutes. Strain out the berry pulp and let it cool. Once cool, add an equal amount of raw, unfiltered honey. The other ingredients in my recipe are all beneficial, and tasty, but if you find you want more or less of an added ingredient know that you are free to change up the recipe to your liking.

Elderberry Syrup

1 cup fresh elderberries (or 1/2 cup dried)
1 1/2 cups filtered water
1 stick organic cinnamon
6 whole organic cloves (or 1/2 tsp ground - optional)
2 Tbsp freshly grated organic ginger (or 2 tsp dried)
2-3 fresh rosehips (or 1 Tbsp ground rosehips - optional) 
1/2 Tbsp freshly ground turmeric (or 1/2 tsp powdered)
Zest of 1 organic lemon, or orange
1 cup raw, organic, unfiltered honey

Combine all the ingredients EXCEPT the honey, in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer. Using a potato masher, smash the ingredients to release the berry juice. Simmer for 20 minutes until the mixture reduces and thickens. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. You should have 1 cup of juice.  (You may can the juice at this point, while it's still hot, if you are making a larger batch and want to have it shelf stable to save it for later use.) 
Let it cool, and add the honey. Store it in a mason jar, or other air-tight glass container, in the fridge. It can keep for up to 2 months in the fridge because of the high sugar content from the honey, but you will most likely use it up before then. 
Take 1 Tbsp daily as a preventative, or 3-4 times a day to help you get over an illness. 
You can serve it as a tea by adding 2-4 Tbsp of syrup to a mug and fill the cup with lukewarm water. (Hot water is not good for the honey.)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Mama's 100% Whole Wheat Bread

I needed to make bread (for sandwiches and what not), and decided to take a couple after shots for you all. I was originally thinking to just tack these on to a post on my white bread, but I looked through all my posts and I was shocked to find that I haven't shared my white bread recipe with you yet! (I'll have to remedy that in the near future.)
So, I'm sorry that there are no step-by-step pics but I promise to do that when I post my white bread recipe. (I'm still baffled that I haven't blogged that already.) If you've made bread before, then it's no big deal. You know the drill. Mix the ingredients. Let it rise. Deflate it, shape it and let it rise again. Bake. Cool and eat. For those of you who are attempting to bake bread for the first time, I'll say this: it's not that hard! The hardest part is letting it rise and that does it all on it's own - you just have to judge when it's the right time to put your loaves in the oven. (I coincidentally let my loaves rise a little too long when I went to pick up the kids from school this afternoon, so that is why thy aren't as perfect looking as they should be.) But, even if you do happen to mess up, it's no big deal. The results could still be delicious. If not as sliced bread, a baked failure could be used to make croutons, bread crumbs and bread pudding. All delectable options for sub-par homemade bread. 

I like thick slices . . .

Another evidence of my over-rising is the large-ish air pockets in the bread. It still tastes yummy. It's just harder to make sandwiches with since the condiments could seep out of the holes. Next time will be better.
Here is the recipe:  *I added in 1 cup ground flax seed meal in place of 1 cup of the flour for added nutrition, but it's completely optional. I left that out of the recipe, because it's not something I do every time, but it's there in these pictures. In case you wanted to know. :)

Mama's 100% Whole Wheat Bread

3/4 cup warm filtered water (105F-110F)
2 Tbsp dry active yeast
1/4 cup raw, organic honey

In a large bowl, or stand mixer, whisk these ingredients together first. After the yeast has started to foam, then add:

2 2/3 cup warm, filtered water (105F-110F)
3 Tbsp organic, grass fed, unsalted butter, melted (can sub any oil if needed)
3 cups organic whole wheat white bread flour**(plus another 5-7 cups) 
1 Tbsp salt

Whisk it all together until there are no lumps and it's elastic. Switch to a dough hook (or a wooden spoon and your hands if not using a stand mixer), and gradually add 1 cup of flour at a time until the dough comes together. **Depending on the day, you will add anywhere from 5-7 more cups of flour (for a total of 8-10 cups of flour in the recipe - I only added 8 cups today.). Add the flour slowly, and only add enough until the dough comes together and is slightly sticky, but smooth and elastic. Let the dough sit for 30 minutes, so the whole wheat can absorb the liquid properly. Knead for 15 minutes, only adding more flour if it becomes too sticky. (If you add too much flour, the resulting bread will be dense.)

Place in greased bowl, making sure the entire dough ball is greased. Cover and let it rise until doubled. Punch down the dough in the bowl and divide into thirds. Take each third out and place on a flat work surface. Work with one third at a time. Using your knuckles, press out any remaining bubbles. Fold the dough over on itself into thirds (like a wallet or bill fold). Evenly distribute the bubbles and for into a loaf shape. Place into a greased standard loaf pan and let rise until the dough is just 1 inch above the rim of the pan. (It usually more than doubles in size, but don't let it get too tall. If it rises too much it will deflate in the oven and not be so pretty.) 

Bake all 3 loaves in a 380F degree oven on the middle or bottom rack. (Every oven is different. If you know yours burns everything when put too low, then use the middle rack.)
When the loaves are browned on top and bottom, and sound hollow when tapped, they are done. Turn out the loaves onto a flat towel and brush the tops with butter. Cover with another towel and let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting.