Obligatory First-Post-Disclamer: I have no idea what this blog will be or how it is supposed to change my life… (see the About page for more on that). I have an inherited (verging on compulsive) affinity for condiments, spices, sauces and other flavor-boosting agents. I like to explore the world of culinary medicine, thinking about how what we eat and grow treats and supports us, using whatever I have readily available along with ingredients chosen for particular properties. And so here we are, ready for the first post.
What’ve I got on hand? Well, at the moment I have a few items I’d like to use, either because I have too much or it’s approaching the Questionable Stage: lemon balm, hot chili peppers, turmeric, young garlic and garlic scapes.
Where’s the inspiration? After I left my job in early April (a whole other story, for a different sort of blog), I purchased three books in search of passion and inspiration. One of these was Rosemary Gladstar’s “Medicinal Herbs: A Beginners Guide”. I skimmed through the book in April–eager as a puppy, just as distracted and more easily defeated. I opened the book twice between April to July. Today, I remembered that she was the reason I’d purchased and planted Lemon Balm in the first place–yes! I love it when I actually come back to things I meant to do. Also, I recently purchased fresh turmeric root (which can be hard to find) and I really don’t want to let it go unused.
What next? Revisit Ms. Gladstar, learn about the medicinal properties of lemon balm and other on-hand ingredients; make something(s)!
I have a planter full of Lemon Balm and Rosemary thanks to RG, and it needed thinning. The balm is where I started, I then found several chili peppers in the fridge (fresno and cubanelle), turmeric root (admittedly purchased to make something medicinal and cool), young garlic & garlic scapes (early CSA share bounty). A pass in the garden offered sage leaves and lavender flowers–though these poor plants have not been prospering, I think they dislike how much moisture the hanging planters hold.
Anyway. I found inspiration in the Fire Cider recipe in RG’s book (thank you!), and decided to give it a whirl (with a couple substitutions). This experiment results in a beautiful and powerful medicine after about 4 weeks of extracting. Awesome. Now, what else can I make and eat today?
Quick pickles! I haven’t yet met a pickle I won’t eat. I don’t always love them (not a big fan of Bread ‘n Butter style), but I’ll always try them. Today, I took some of those lovely semi-spicy peppers, young garlic, scapes, herbs and some spices/seeds from the cabinet and made two jars of pickled treats. I plan to try these soon… probably in the next hour or two.
Flexible Fire Cider — for health and tangy bonus. (See the next post).
Two jars of quick pickles (refrigerator pickles) — for immediate gratification and fresh produce satisfaction.
Lemon Balm & Chile Pepper Quick Pickles
Strangely, I never wrote down what, exactly, I put into those jars or how little sugar I added… (It was almost none–I prefer a tangy pickle). But, these all made starring appearances: lemon balm leaves, fresno & cubanelle chiles, garlic scapes, young garlic, mini cucumbers and summer squash.
Supporting cast members included: apple cider vinegar (ACV), sea salt, lavender flowers, black peppercorns, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, pinch of sugar.
- Chop up all the staring ingredients
- Pack the ingredients down into the jars, so they are snug but not too tight.
- Nestle the supporting spices into the empty crannies (in my case, lavender flowers, peppercorns and seeds)
- Heat the ACV, salt and (if using) sugar on the stovetop to just under boiling.
- Pour the liquid into the jars, making sure to cover all of the ingredients.
- Cap the jars, wait for it all to cool down to room temp and throw them in the fridge (or devour immediately).
Turns out, pickled lemon balm is delicious! Why hasn’t anyone told me of the wonders of pickled herbs?!? The garlic scapes and chile peppers were also tasty treats, and the lavender flowers imparted an earthy, floral aroma that I liked. But, that lemon balm was the real revelation here… I can’t wait to see which other herbs might work–something with a strong flavor to begin with, rugged enough to withstand the heat and complementary to many ingredients… TBA.