May Wine

Excerpt from the May Day holiday e-book

May Wine is served on May Day. In Germany, May Wine is the quintessential summer drink. It is usually flavored with Sweet Woodruff (Waldmeister or Maikraut), perhaps because it improves the taste of thin, new wine. May wine is also the name for any wine punch flavored with herbs, fruits, berries and occasionally flowers.

To make May wine, pick sweet woodruff that does not have open blossoms several days before you want to serve the wine. Tie the stems with cotton thread and hang until dry so the sweet vanilla scent of the herb emerges. Then immerse the dried herb in a bottle of wine, usually Rhine wine, although Adelma Grenier Simmons uses champagne or a mixture of half Rhine wine and half champagne.

Some recipes advise you to leave the woodruff in the wine for days, even weeks. Others suggest removing it after ten or fifteen minutes, probably because woodruff contains coumarin, an anticoagulant and may cause headaches. However, it is probably not dangerous, unless you are pregnant or taking anticoagulants.

Michael Moore, writing about Northwest medicinal plants, suggests using vanilla leaf, another herb containing coumarin, to create a substitute for Polish sweet vodka, by putting a handful of the dried leaves in a fifth of vodka and steeping it for at least a month. He says it gives a nice green tint to the vodka, as well as a sweet flavor. Anyone want to try this with woodruff?

And Adelma Grenier Simmons says that a German friend of hers steeps woodruff in brandy year round, then adds the flavored brandy to the May wine. I have to say a little bit of woodruff goes a long way, and I probably wouldn’t leave it steeping in the brandy for much more than a week. Woodruff can also be used in the same way to flavor milk or apple juice if you prefer a non-alcoholic May drink.

The traditional Mai Bowle also has strawberries in it. Simmons garnishes her May bowl with fresh woodruff, Johnny jump-ups and violets. In Germany, the Mai Bowle is served every day during the month of May.

You can find more May Day food ideas, including a special minestrone and frittata served for May Day in Italy and a yogurt dish served for Hidrellez (the Persian celebration of May 1) in my May Day e-book.

References:

Rose, Jeanne, Herbs & Things, Grosset & Dunlap 1972

Simmons, Adelma Grenier, Herb Gardening in Five Seasons, Plume (Penguin) 1990

First published April 19, 2010

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Food for Nowruz

It’s spring, flowers full and happiness in the green-grass vine
All the blossoms are blooming except mine
Lose not heart, free spirit, on New Year’s day
I heard from the lips of a lily today
Do not sing the seven illusions this New Year’s eve I beg thee:
Complaint, curse, corruption, cacophony, clumsiness, chaos & cruelty.
The seven symbols make, of serene greenery, scented hyacinth and sweet apple
Senged, samanou, salway and song spell.
Send the seven symbols to the table of a lover.
Throw the seven illusions to the door of an ill wisher.
It?s New Year’s eve: rid the heart of darkness
Eventually this black night will turn to light and brightness
Carry out the New Year tradition and God willing
Bring back the feeling to that of the excellent beginning.
— Bahar

When I first learned about Persian New Year, all I knew was that it was customary to eat seven foods whose names started with S. Since I didn’t know the Farsi words for the foods, my daughter and I celebrated for years by eating spaghetti squash, spinach salad with sunflower seeds, smoked salmon and strawberries and shortbread for dessert.

In recent years, thanks to the internet, we’ve enjoyed traditional recipes like kookoo sabzi (an herb frittata recipe I’ve included in the Eostre packet) and a yogurt and spinach dip (the white and green colors symbolize spring). This year, also thanks to the internet, I was able to find a book about Persian cooking, Food of Life, by Najmieh Batmanglij, which provided me with the poem above, and some new information for Nowruz.

According to Batmanglij, meals are traditionally served on a sofreh, a cotton tablecloth embroidered with poems and prayers, of course, in the beautiful calligraphy of the Iranian language. This idea fascinates me as I wonder how I could create a sacred cloth that would embody prayers and poems. English words are not quite as visually gorgeous. Perhaps I could make a tablecloth embroidered with spring flowers to use every Nowruz.

As with the Easter and the Passover table, setting the table for Nawruz is part of the ceremony. Each item has its symbolism. Batmanglij says the seven S’s — sabzeh (sprouts) samanou (a dish of wheat germ or lentils), sib (apples), sonbol (hyacinth), senjed (jujube), seer (garlic) and somagh (sumac) — represent the seven good angels, heralds of life and rebirth, health, happiness, prosperity, joy and beauty.

Whenever I see the buds appear on my neighbor’s contorted filbert, I know that Nowruz is approaching as that is the gnarled branch I always pick to put on my table to represent the twisting paths of life. Batmanglij says I should have seven branches from gnarled trees (olive and pomegranate) on my table.

According to Batmanglij, Iranians always eat noodles at the start of anything new. They represent the choice of paths that life offers us. Picking your way through the tangled strands symbolized picking out the best paths in life. So noodles are eaten on Nowruz, the New Year, and also on the third day after friends or relatives have left on a trip (to help them find their way. Eating this soup on the eve of Nowruz will make a wish come true. The traditional noodle soup is called Ash-e Reshteh. You can find a recipe for it here.

Another dish served on the eve of Nowruz is Ajeel-e Moshgel Goshah (which means unraveller of difficulties), a mix of seven dried fruits and nuts: pistachio, walnut, hazelnut, pumpkin seed, peach raisin and fig.

Fish is another traditional dish served on Nawruz because it brings good luck. Batmanglij provides a recipe for a dish called Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi, or Rice with Fresh Herbs and Fish.

3 cups of long-grain (preferably basmati) rice
1/2 cup chopped chives or scallions
1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped parsley
1-1/2 cups chopped fresh dill
2/3 cup butter
1/2 tsp ground saffron, dissolved in 2 T hot water
3 whole cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 whole leeks, thoroughly washed
1 large white-fleshed fish, about 3 pounds
1/2 cup flour for dredging
4 T oil
Juice of 2 bitter oranges, or 2 lemons

Cook the rice. In a pot, heat half the butter with a drop of the dissolved saffron. Add 2 spatulas of rice and 1 spatula of the herbs, garlic cloves and leeks. Repeat, arranging the rice in the shape of a pyramid. Pour over it the remaining butter, and half the saffron and hot water. Place a clean dishtowel or paper towel over the pot and cover with a lid. Cook 10 minutes over medium heat and then 50 minutes over low heat. While the rice is cooking, clean the fish (if necessary) and cut into six pieces. Wash and pat dry. Dredge in a mixture of flour and salt. Brown fish in the oil in a skillet, over a low heat. Remove the saucepan of rice from the heat and allow to cool for five minutes. Open the pot and remove 2 T of the saffron-flavored rice and set it aside for a garnish. Using a spatula, gently remove the rest of the rice and set it on a platter, without disturbing the crust at the bottom of the pan. This golden crust is a prized part of the meal and is set on a separate platter. Arrange the fish on a serving platter and garnish it with the bitter-orange or lemon juice and the remaining saffron.

Sweets are also an important part of Nawruz, as decorations on the table and a way of invoking sweetness for the coming year, so baklava would make a great dessert. Here’s a recipe from Batmanglij (she mentions in her book, but not this recipe, that you can use purchased filo pastry dough instead of making your own).

Here’s a great article (complete with recipes) which tells more about the traditional foods eaten on Persian New Year.

References:
Batmanglij, Najmieh, Food of Life, Mage Publishers 1986

First published march 12, 2012

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Flower of June: Roses

 

Venus Verticorida by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Venus Verticorida by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

As I write this page, I am swimming in the sweet, spicy scent of the ruffled pink rose sitting in a vase of water on my desk.. Having recently been introduced to the serious art of wine tasting, I am educating my scent palate to register smells like tar and tobacco in wines. And I find the same acuity extends to flowers. Roses no longer just smell like roses; some are black cherry and others have the spiciness of carnations. This pink rose, however, is all rose: but on the peppery edge of rose.

The name rose simply means rose, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, although other sources derive it from Rhodes (where, apparently, roses grew) or from a Greek root meaning “red.” The word for Rose in Avestan, the language of Zoroaster, is vareda and in Armenian it is vard; and we see this root in the name of the midsummer festival Vartavar, the Flaming of the Rose. The Persian word for rose is gul, which also means flower, and is close to ghul, the word for spirit. Rose water is called gulab, as is a beverage made from water and honey or syrup, from which (via Arabia julab) we get the julep in mint juleps.

I have found more confusion in flower lore than anywhere else in my research. Of course, part of the problem with flowers is that it’s often hard to tell which plant is referred to by which name. But that seems hardly likely for roses. Still of the twelve books about flowers on my desk, every one tells a different (unattributed) story about the early references to roses.

What is clear is that the rose was cultivated by the Greeks. One source says Venus pricked herself on a thorn of a white rose and stained it red. Or that Cupid spilled red wine on it. But I can’t find these stories in my usual source for Greek mythology, Robert Graves.

stylized roseThe Romans adored roses and used them liberally in festivities, so liberally it is said that at one party, the guests were actually smothered by rose petals falling from the ceiling. This is not the origin of the term sub rosa. That comes from the Roman practice of hanging a rose over a conference table, which was supposed to indicate that everything spoken there would be held in confidence. For many centuries, roses were carved or painted on the ceilings of dining chambers to indicate that the diners could talk freely.

Horace in the Odes said: “Nor let roses be wanting to our feast.” The Sybarites slept on mattresses stuffed with rose petals. The rose garden of King Midas was one of the wonders of the ancient world. Apuleius in  Metamorphoses, gives them as decoration to Venus, who after an evening of revelry is described “Heavy with wine and all her body bound about with flashing roses.” Many legends aassociate the rose with Venus. It is her flower, par excellence.

For a while, because of the bad reputation roses had acquired under the Romans, Christians did not allow the rose in church, but eventually it was adopted into Christian iconography. Christ is shown crowned with rose thorns and Judas supposedly hanged himself from a rose tree. Mary is addressed with various rose titles, including Rose of Sharon, the Rose-bush, the Rose-garland, the Rose-garden, Wreath of Roses, Mystic Rose and Queen of the Most Holy Rose-garden.

To the Arabs, roses signify masculine beauty. It is said that the white rose sprang from the sweat of Mohammed on his journey to heaven.

In Germany, the rose is under the protection of the dwarfs or fairies and you must ask their permission before picking one, this is the mistake Beauty’s father made when plucking the rose from the Beast’s garden. In a reversal on this motif, other legends tell of people who were enchanted and turned into animals who regained their human form by eating a rose, for instance, Apuleius in the Golden Ass and St. Denis, the patron of France.

For many centuries in Greece, Rome and China, the rose was a funeral flower. In Switzerland, the cemetery is sometimes called the Rosengarten. In England it is customary to plant a rosebush on the grave of a lover who dies before the marriage, thus combining the themes of love and death. Seeing the petals of a rose fall is a sign of death for the Germans although it can be counteracted by burning some of the petals.

An Indian legend tells about a quarrel between Vishnu and Brhama about the most beautiful flower. Brahma insisted upon the lotus (the flower of July) until Vishnu showed him a rose.

A Brief History of Roses

rosa canina

Rosa canina

Roses have been cultivated in Greece and China for over 3,000 years. The earliest rose is the dog rose (Rosa canina). Fossils of this species from 35 million years ago were found in Montana. I just smelt a dog rose as I strolled home in the midsummer sunshine and it has the most intense fragrance of any rose.

Rosa gallica by Pieree Joseph Redoute

Rosa Gallica by Pieree Joseph Redoute

The next oldest rose is the  rosa gallica (gallica officinalis), a symbol of the sun in the 12th century BCE. It has a rich cherry color and flowers the size of a field poppy. This was the rose used as a symbol of Lancaster during the War of the Roses. A striped Rosa Gallica called Rosa Mundi commemorates Henry II’s mistress, Rosamund, hidden by him at Woodstock near Oxford, and murdered by jealous Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. It is also known as the apothecary rose because it was used by herbal healers.

The next distinct rose type comes from 1000 BCE and grew at the Temple of Aphrodite at Samos. It has loose petals, voluptuous and scented, and was known as the damask rose in England, supposedly because it came from Damascus. Because of its wonderful scent, it was used primarily used to make rose water.

Rosa damascena by Pierre Joseph Redoute

Rosa damascena by Pierre Joseph Redoute

Another early rose is the sweet briar or eglantine (rosa rubiginosa), which is mentioned by Chaucer and also appears in The Song of Roland:

On white carpets those knights have sat them down,
At the game-boards to pass an idle hour—
Checkers the old, for wisdom most renowned,
While fence the young and lusty bachelors
Beneath a pine in eglantine embowered.

translated by CS Moncrieff

I believe this is the rose in the rose hedge observed by Richard Jefferies, a naturalist, near a farm at Wick in Wiltshire:

Some of [the] briars stretch forth into the meadow, and then, bent down by their own weight, form an arch crowned with flowers. There is an old superstition about these arches of briar hung out along the hedge-row: magical cures of whooping-cough and some other disease of childhood can, it is believed, be effected by passing the child at sunrise under the briar facing the rising sun.

Chinese roses first arrived in Europe near the end of the 18th century. These were the tea-roses, possibly so-called because they were imported along with tea. In China they were often named for poetic concepts, like “Clear Shining after Rain,” while in France, new varieities were usually named for men, wives and mistresses. When crossed with hybrid perpetuals, these roses produced most modern roses.

The rose is a member of the Rosacae which also includes strawberries and raspberries, apples and almonds, plums and apricots.

For a much more thorough discussion, see:

http://www.csulb.edu/~odinthor/oldrose.html

 

Rose Holidays

There are many holidays associated with roses, many of them in June. And in fact, June is national Rose Month (so declared in America in 1969).

Rose Monday is celebrated in Germany on the Monday before Lent begins, with parades, masked balls, parties, satirical speeches and other Carnival events.

Several saints with feast days in June are associated with roses. The yellow rose is the symbol of St. Nicomede whose feast day is June 1st. And the three-leaved rose is associated with St. Boniface on June 5. And on St. Barnaby’s day, June 11, it was customary in Great Britain to decorate churches and houses and even clergymen (who wore chaplets of roses while officiating)with Barnaby garlands of roses and sweet woodruff. Red roses are associated with St. George, whose feast day is April 23.

Ginzburg citing studies by Nilsson and Ranke says that the Christian festival of Pentecost derives from the Rosalia (a Roman ceremony honoring the dead, celebrated on May 10 and May 31). According to posts at several web sites that study ancient Roman religion, the standards of military units were brought out on these days and decorated with a garland of roses, presumably to honor soldiers from the unit who had died in combat.

The day before Pentecost is a day when many Christians visit and decorate the graves of their loved ones (and it may be the precursor of Memorial Day). And on Pentecost in Messina, according to Urlin, great quantities of roses wee dripped from the ceiling of the church during the singing of the famous Come Holy Spirit.

The Armenians have a festival called Vartavar or Flaming of the Rose. Originally a Midsummer festival, it is now celebrated at the same time as the Transfiguration, 98 days after Easter, but still involves the pagan customs inherited from the older holiday: decorating churches with roses, spraying each other with water and releasing doves.

Rose Water

The 16th century English herbalist, Gerard, recommended rose water for “the strengthening of the heart, and refreshing of the spirits and likewise for all things that require a gentle cooling. The same being put in junketting dishes, cakes, sauces and many other pleasant things, giveth a fine and delectable taste.”

Jean Gordon in her book, Cooking with Roses, provides instructions for distilling rose water:

Gather about a pound of fresh rose petals [be sure they have not been sprayed] from fragrant roses. Fill an aluminum tea kettle half full of water, strew rose petals thickly over the surface. Close the kettle and set over a low heat. Attach a clean rubber hose to the spout of the kettle and place the other end in a glass jar on the floor. Arrange the rubber hose so part of it is submerged in a pan of cold water. The essence of the rose petals will be extracted by the heat and carried off with the steam generated by the water. The vapors, on passing through that part of the rubber hose which is under water, are condensed and run into the glass jar in the form of rose water. Be certain the temperature is low, the petals do not clog the spout and that there is no obstruction in the tub, as the pressure of the steam may force the lid from the kettle and scatter petals over the walls and ceiling of the kitchen. Aside from this danger, rose water is not really difficult to distill. The first attempt may take time and patience, but after that success is almost certain.

When using rose water in cooking, Gordon suggests adding it near the end as the flavor is delicate and easily lost during baking and boiling. Add rose water to cakes, to frosting, to cookies (especially those with a delicate flavor like shortbread or sugar cookies).

Arabs use rose water with honey and butter to glaze a roasting chicken. In Greece, it flavors candies and pastries. In Turkey, a bottle of rose water sits on the table and is sprinkled over food for flavor. This same sprinkler is called attardane in India.

Rose water has also been used for baptisms and to purify mosques and temples. The Romans used rose water in their fountains.

Eating & Drinking Roses

Why not design a rose meal? You could serve rose sandwiches (rose petals and cream cheese), scones with rose jam or rose butter and rose tea (made from adding a few dried petals to black tea when steeping in the pot). For dessert, baklava or rose-flavored shortbread cookies or a rose cake decorated with crystallized rose petals.

For beverages, serve rose punch or rose wine, and use roses for cups. Lucy Maria Boston gives parties where she asks each guest to choose a globular rose to drink from. “It is rather a dribbly business,” she writes, “the roses leak, but utterly delicious; also long drawn out, the process can’t be hurried.” Shekinah Mountainwater suggests sprinkling rose petals in a cup of red wine or rose water. As you sip from it, the petals will caress your lips and the scent your nose.

Rose Blossom Punch

This punch recipe, which I believe comes from the Evelyn and Crabtree cookbook, features roses both visually (frozen in a block of ice) and with the flavor of rosewater.

3 pink unsprayed roses with about 6-inch stems, rinsed
8 cups dry white wine, chilled
1/2 cup kirsch
1 to 2 T rosewater
To serve:
small pink unsprayed rose petals and leaves, rinsed, and patted dry

To make the decorative ice cube:

The day before you plan to serve the punch, thoroughly rinse a cardboard milk or juice carton. Cut off the top and trim the sides to 7 inches. Put the roses in the carton and fill it to within one inch of the top with boiled and cooled water. Freeze overnight or until solid.

To make the punch:

Combine wine, kirsch and rosewater in a punch bowl. Remove the cardboard from the rose-studded ice cube and place in the bowl. Float small rose petals and leaves on top. Serve in long-stemmed wineglasses.

Rose Wine

The Gulistan, a collection of Persian wisdom, mentions a rose wine so strong that “a glass could make the sternest monarch merciful or make the sickliest mortal slumber amid his pains.” The Siberians make a bright red sparkling wine from the leaves of the wild rose, called Shimpovka.

1 quart dried rose petals
2 oranges
4 quarts water
2 lemons
2 pounds sugar
1 1/4 oz yeast cake

Add 2 quarts of water to the rose petals and boil for 20 minutes. Cool. Add lemons and oranges sliced very thin, the sugar and yeast dissolved in warm water. Add 2 additional quarts of boiled water. Let stand 8 to 10 days, stirring 2 or 3 times daily. Drain and put in a jug, lightly corked, until through working. Strain and pour into sterilized bottles and cork.

Rose Petal Jam

Gordon got this recipe from the Turkish Information Office.

1/2 pound red rose petals
1/2 pound white rose petals
3 pounds sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Place the red rose petals in a large jar in alternating layers of petals and sugar until all the petals are used. Press and pack tight. Using a different jar, repeat this process with the white rose petals. Set aside the remaining sugar for later use. Pour 3/4 cup hot water into each jar and cover each with a piece of damp cloth. Let stand for 3 days.

Strain the juice from the jar of white petals; discard the petals. Take the remaining sugar and add enough water to dissolve it; boil in an enamel saucepan to make a heavy syrup. Add the juice and petals from the red-petal jar and the juice of the white-petal jar. Bring to a boil and simmer until the mixture reaches the consistency of honey. Add the lemon juice and stir. Cool the jam and ladle into screw-top jars.

Every country has a slightly different way of preparing this treat. In Greece, 1 pound of rose petals are kneaded with 1 pound of sugar. This mixture is left to stand for a day. The following day, it is put into a pot, along with 3 pounds sugar, the juice of 1/2 a lemon and 3 glasses of water and boiled until it becomes a thick syrup.

rose nougatRose Conserve

There is also a way of making an uncooked rose petal preserve or conserve which seems very appealing to me. In Persia it is called Gulkanda, from Gul (for Rose) and Kanda (the same word which gives us candy). In India, a similar concoction is called Goolakund.

1 pound rose petals
3 pounds sugar3 pounds sugar

Crush the rose petals. Place a layer of sugar in a large jar and alternate with the crush petals until you’ve used all the sugar. Close the jar tightly and leave in the hot sunshine several days until all the sugar is melted. Serve as a jam.

Since it may be hard to obtain a pound of rose petals, you can reduce the quantities and use a cup instead. You can also use brown sugar instead of white. This was called Rose Tobacco in Colonial days.

Old Rose Recipes

Rose Butter

I love old recipes, both for the language and the technique. This one is over a hundred years old.

Wash rose petals and put them in a stone jar, sprinkling them with fine salt. Next day gather some more and repeat until the jar is almost filled. Keep the jar well covered at all times with a lid and also wrapped in a coarse cloth. When you plan to make rice pudding or cake, weight the butter you intend using and put it in the jar on top of the rose petals overnight. By the time you take it out, it will have absorbed a very fine rose flavor, superior to that of rose water. Rose petals may be kept in this way for a year, until they bloom again.

Rose Conserve

This recipe is even older. It comes from the 16th century English herbalist, Gerard.

Take Roses at your plesure, put them to boyle in faire water, having regard to the quantity; for if you have many Roses you may take more water; if fewere, the lesse water will serve: the which you shall boyle at the least three or foure houres, even as you would boile a piece of meate, untill in the eating they be very tender, at which time the Roses will lose their colour, that you would thinke your labour lost, and the thing spoiled. But proceed, for though the Roses have lost their colour, the water hath gotten the tincture thereof; then shall you adde unto one pound of Roses, foure pound of fine sugar in pure pouder, and so according to the rest of the Roses. Thus shall you let them boyule gently after the sugar is put therto, continually stirring it with a wooden Spatula untill it be raw conserve, as well for the vertues and goodnesse in taste, as also for the beautifull colour.

Rose Treats

Baklava

1 package phyllo dough
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 t mace
1 cup ground almonds or chopped pistachios
rose water or Baklava Rose Syrup (see below)

Lay a paper-thin sheet of phyllo dough on a buttered cake or pie tin and spread with melted butter, using a brush. Add five or six additional sheets, buttering each, then spread a mixture of the sugar, mace and nuts on top. Add 5 or 6 more layers and repeat. Do this until the baklava is about 2 inches high. With a sharp knife, cut crisscross slits on the top, about 1-1/2 inches apart. Bake in a 250 oven for about 1 hour. After you have taken it out of the oven, sprinkle it with rose water or Baklava Rose Syrup. Serve it with black coffee.

Baklava Rose Syrup

2 cups water
2 cups sugar
juice & rind of 1/2 orange
1 T rose water

Mix together the water, sugar, orange juice and rind. Boil for 3 minutes, then add the rose water.

Candied Rose Petals

2 cups fragrant rose petals
1/2 pound sugar
1 cup powdered sugar

Boil the sugar in 2 cups of water until the syrup spins a thread. Set on ice to cool. When the syrup starts to crystallize, dip the petals in with wire tongs or tweezers, a few at a time. Then take out and spread on waxed paper. When they begin to dry, dust with powdered sugar on one side and then on the other. Store in airtight containers.

Crystallized Rose Petals

Beat the white of one egg to a foam. Dip a small pastry brush (or use your fingers) in egg white and brush well over the sides of the rose petals. Be certain that no surplus egg white remains on the petal but that both sides are moist. Shake granulated sugar on both sides and place on a tray to dry in the refrigerator.

Rose Sugar

Bury a small fragrant rose in a screw-top glass jar full of sugar. Set on a windowsill that gets sun for several weeks. The scent of the rose will permeate the sugar.

Rose Fragrances

A story is told that the secret for making attar of roses was discovered by a princess at her wedding feast when she noticed that the rose petals floating in the water were leaving behind an oily residue as the sun made the water evaporate. This oily deposit was skimmed from the surface to make rose oil. Sixty thousand roses were required to make a single ounce of oil.

Tincture of Roses

Place the petals of fragrant roses, without pressing them, in a bottle. Pour some good spirits of wine over them. Then close the bottle and let it stand until required for use. It will keep for years and smells similar to attar of roses, which is much more expensive and difficult to make.

Attar of Roses

Fill a large glazed earthen jar with rose leaves, carefully separated from the cups; pour upon them spring water, just sufficient to cover them, and set the jar with its contents in the sun for two or three days, taking it under cover at night. At the end of the third or fourth day, small particles of yellow oil will be seen floating on the surface of the water. In the course of a week, these will have increased to a thin scum. The scum is attar of roses. Take it up with a little cotton tied at the end of a stick (sounds like a Q-tip to me) and squeeze it into a vial.

Rose Toilet Water

Press rose petals from the most naturally fragrant roses into a bottle. Add glycerin and keep tightly corked for four weeks. Strain or use directly from the bottle. A few drops added to rainwater make a fragrant rinse.

Rose Crafts

Roses and Rosariesrosenecklace

Many of you have probably heard, as I have, that rosaries were originally made from rose beads. But that is actually a fanciful derivation. The original rosaries were probably knotted ropes, and for gentlewomen, lovely strings of precious stones, much like the lovely Goddess rosaries Lunaea Weatherstone makes and sells.

But you can make beads from roses and one of my Living in Season friends, Eyln MacInnis, has created a Kindle book and a website devoted to explaining this craft. The rose bead necklace in the photo to the right is one she made.

References

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc, Holford-Strevens, The Oxford Book of Days, Oxford Univ Press, 2000

Boston, L.M, Memory in a House, Macmillan 1974

Castleman, Michael, The Healing Herbs, Rodale Press 1991

Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, first published 1653, reprint version published by Wordsworth Editions (Cumberland House, Crib Street, Ware, Hertfordshire) 1995

Digby, Sir Kenelm, The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened, ed by Anne MacDonell, London: Philip Lee Warner 1910

Frazer, Sir James, The New Golden Bough, abridged by Theodor H Gaster, New American Library 1959

Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend, edited by Maria Leach, Harper & Row 1972

Gerard’s Herbal, edited by Marcus Woodward, London: Senate (Studio Editions, Ltd) 1994

Ginzberg, Carlo, Ecstasie: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbats, translated by Raymond Rosenthal, Pantheon 1991

Gordon, Jean, The Art of Cooking with Roses, Walker & Company 1968

Goudge, Elizabeth, The White Witch, Popular Library 1958

Kightly, Charles, The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames and Hudson 1987

Luard, Elizabeth, Sacred Food, Chicago Review Press

Martin, Laura C., Garden Flower Folklore, Globe Pequot Press (Chester CT 06412), 1987

Mountainwater, Shekinah, Ariadne’s Thread: A Workbook of Goddess Magic, Crossing Press 1991

Perlman, Dorothy, The Magic of Honey, Avon 1971

Rago, Linda Ours, The Herbal Almanack, Washington DC: Starwood Publishing 1992

Rodale’s Encyclopedia of Herbs, edited by Claire Kowalchik & William Hylton, Rodale Press 1987

Spicer, Dorothy Gladys, The Book of Festivals, The Woman’s Press 1937

Urlin, Ethel, Festivals, Holy Days and Saints’ Days: A Study in Origins and Survivals in Church Ceremonies and Secular Customs, Gale Research 1979

Ward, Bobby J., A Contemplation Upon Flowers: Garden Plants in Myth &Literature, Timber Press 1999

Wells, Diana, 100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill 1997

Web Sites:

On Roman festival of Rosalia:

http://www.ancientworlds.net/aw/Post/347224

For sources:

http://omega.cohums.ohio-state.edu/mailing_lists/CLA-L/2006/05/0435.php

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Drinking Flowers

The lavender in my garden is finally blooming which means it’s time for lavender vodka tonics  (recipe found here). I only let myself drink them during the time the lavender blooms because I like them so much. Luckily lavender will bloom far into October.

When I first began my project of writing about the flowers in my neighborhood, three years ago, I set aside the month of July for drinking flowers. I had in mind beverages like linden tea and lavender lemonade but I was also contemplating combining flowers with alcohol, a time-honored tradition.

My interest coincided with a revival of flower spirits. Some of the traditional floral flavored liqueurs, like Creme de Violette and Elderflower cordial, started showing up in fancy cocktails. Then bartenders began creating their own concoctions, infusing herbs and flowers into vodka. The latest trend is artisanal bitters and “today listing house-made bitters on the menu and displaying dozens of homemade tinctures is a benchmark for most serious bar programs,” writes Brad Thomas Parsons in his book Bitters.

So when I heard about a cocktail tasting focusing on drinks from your garden, I signed up. The class was offered by Cicchetti and featured the artistry of Jay Kuehner, bartender from Sambar. Jay calls himself a forager, and is not so much interested in using the commercially produced floral or herbal liquors, as in gathering what’s available in the garden or the neighborhood to make drinks that are perfect for the time and place. He gave us a list of plants he would consider using which included: bay laurel, rosemary, fennel, lavender, angelica, nettles, roses, mint, lemon verbena, lemon balm, thyme, rhubarb, chicory, basil. For this tasting, Jay made four cocktails, each one highlighting a different technique and a different fresh ingredient, and these were paired with delicious small plates prepared by the Cicchetti chef.

Jay’s first offering was a dill-infused aquavit, perfect with a lightly smoked salmon and a goat cheese tart. Infusing is the simplest way to get the flavor of an herb or flower. Tea, for instance, is an infusion. You simply add hot water to the herb and the flavor, color and chemical constituents of the plant are diffused into the liquid.

Alcohol is another excellent way to extract flavor and other chemical constituents from plants. Since it is also a preservative, alcohol infusions can last for a long time. Jay recommended infusing an herb for three days in a cool, dark place to develop the flavors. He used aquavit, a neutral grain spirit, because it provided a blank canvas for the flavor to develop. Vodka is another favorite choice for infusions since it doesn’t have much flavor of its own.

Jay’s second cocktail employed the use of simple syrup. The most common recipe for simple syrup is one to one parts of sugar to water. Then you add your plant materials and let it boil for a few minutes, then take it off the heat and let it cool with the plant material still in it. Strain the plant materials out using a sieve, pressing them to release all the flavorful liquid. You can make simple syrup with any herb or plant. If you don’t drink alcohol you can add the syrup to soda water or combine it with lemonade or freeze it and turn it into a granita or sorbet.

Jay created a rose simple syrup from roses he had gathered that morning. I have also made rose simple syrup and I love it that every rose tastes different. The pale pink and white flimsy rosa rugosas that are blooming right now have an almost earthy (I think bread-like) flavor while the darker, older roses that used to grow in the vacant lot across the street from me had a perfumey quality.

Jay combined the rose simple syrup with muddled cucumber and Hendricks gin (which is distinctive among gins for its more herbaceous qualities including rose and cucumber notes). It was the favorite drink of the cocktail tasters, except for me. I preferred the next drink, probably because it featured one of my favorite floral flavors: lavender.

 

 

Jay infused a pisco (Peruvian un-aged grape brandy) with lavender blossoms for only a few hours. The liquor turned a brilliant purple and the lavender flavor was intense. He added a rhubarb compote (rhubarb cooked with water, sugar, lemon and orange), a splash of dry vermouth and some lemon juice, served it in a cocktail glass and garnished it with a curly rhubarb twist. The chef paired it with a lavender crusted pork loin and a fig in a rhubarb sauce. Heavenly.

A compote is made from fruit combined with water and sugar and cooked over heat, in other words, stewed fruit. Once strained, it can be added to a drink as a flavoring.

The final cocktail featured a combination of cachaça (the Brazilian sugar cane spirit), fennel simple syrup and lemon tree leaves, with angostura orange bitters and black pepper. This drink employed crushing aromatic leaves to impart flavor to a drink. Mint juleps use this technique with mint, but Jay mentioned other leaves that could be used, for instance, basil or bay laurel, lemon balm or lemon leaves. Even lavender leaves which he said imparted the same flavor as the flowers. I need to try this.

Our homework assignment for us was to find something within 30 feet of our homes and use that to develop our own signature drink to serve friends on a hot summer day. I send you forth to do the same.

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Moon Cake Recipe

For serving on the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival
From Chinese Seasons by Nina Simond

Filling
1/2 cup chopped dates
1 cup chopped dried apricots (softened in hot water for 1 hr before chopping)
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup raisins
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

Combine the ingredients and mix well.

Crust
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 t vanilla extract
2 T water

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Using a large whisk or an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar for about 10 minutes, until a ribbon is formed. Add the melted butter, the vanilla extract, the water and the dry ingredients and stir until a rough dough is formed. Use your hands to press the dough into a ball. Form the dough into a long snakelike roll about 1-1/4 inches thick. Cut into 24 pieces.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Using your hands, press each dough section into a 3-inch circle, with the edges pinched thinner than the center. Place a portion of the filling in the center, gather up the edges of the dough to meet in the center and pinch to seal. Roll the cake into a ball and flatten it to a 3-inch round. Carve a decorative design on top or press the cake, joined edges up, in a lightly floured moon-cake mold. Invert the molded cake onto a cookie sheet. Continue until done. Arrange the cakes 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Prepare a glaze (by beating one egg) and brush the surface of each cake lightly with it. Bake the cakes for about 30 minutes until golden brown. Remove, cool and serve.

From my Harvest Holiday guide, available from my store.

Photo taken by Junelee. I found it on Wikipedia.

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Lemon Chicken Soup

By Kate May-Price

It’s getting colder and darker, so I hunger for something full of light and life. Like this holiday season, lemons are distinct, there is sparkle and life. And you can’t beat chicken soup if you are chasing away the dark. A lemon chicken soup seemed an obvious comfort for the time of year where we expend so much energy for others and yet indulge ourselves beyond “dessert with dinner.” This time of year we do so much to give joy to others that we find the sometimes desperate need to nurture our own soul through the holiday process.

This is a quick and easy chicken soup taking advantage of a grocery store rotisserie chicken. It’s made nourishing by the addition of stirred in egg and light by lemons and green peppercorns.  I know it may be a bit much to expect you to buy green peppercorns, but I promise it’s worth it for this distinct soup.  You can use the leftover peppercorns in any dish or sauce that you want to be mildly spicy and yet, green and fresh – salad dressings, fresh pasta dishes and vegetable soups.  This is a very unique spice that is woefully underused. Can’t find them at the supermarket? Don’t worry, just omit it and add black pepper to taste. Its still very tasty, but also very different.

During this time of the year, take a moment to bask in a nourishing light.

The Chicken and the Egg Lemon Zest Soup

Serves Four

Before everything else, take the eggs out of the fridge, so they can come to room temperature.

3 pound grocery bought rotisserie chicken (approx. 3 cups of cooked meat)
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups sliced sweet onion
6 cups of chicken broth
1 cup chopped carrot
½ tsp green peppercorns, finely crushed
½ tsp ground sage
2 eggs, whisk until yolk and whites are fully incorporated
¼  tsp green peppercorns, finely crushed
½ tsp ground sage
2 heaping tsp lemon zest (from approx two lemons)
juice of one small lemon, approx 3-4 tablespoons
8-10 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

Melt two tablespoons butter, add onions and cook on medium low until soft. Add broth and carrots.  Bring back to a boil.  Then add the green peppercorn and ground sage.  Simmer until vegetables are soft. In the meantime, remove meat from the chicken, as well as zest and juice the lemons.

When vegetables are soft, add the chicken meat. Bring back to a simmer.  Then turn off the heat and slowly stir in the eggs.  Then add the rest of the green peppercorns, ground and fresh sage, lemon zest and juice. Stir to combine and serve immediately.

To serve: very thinly slice a lemon, placing one slice in each bowl on top of the ladled soup, just before bringing to the table.

Kate May-Price is an educator, artist, gardener, and cook carrying on her family’s culinary history by following her nose. She currently resides in the San Francisco Bay area. Her websites are Pen, Trowel, & Fork and Mozart’s Nose.

Photo by Kate May-Price

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Broccoli Pomegranate Salad

by Kate May-Price

Last week I reached into my fruit basket from the farm and expected an apple, what I got was a pomegranate. I imagined all the seeds – commonly described as jewels – that added a pregnant heft. There is so much potential, so much to be thankful for.  Its natural to be thankful for all that you already have in life, but we usually stop there.  What if we were so thankful that we could see beyond what we have, moving towards being grateful for all the potential our times on this earth hold.

November holds an obvious meaning – after our ritualistic meal together, we are reminded to be not only to be thankful for the harvest, but also for the seeds that hold promise next year.

I think the pomegranate must be among those fruits that have the most seeds compared to the amount of flesh. A husky, honeycombed bowl is all that is left after the broken juice is poured and the promise of new possibilities, each darkly beautiful, is removed… carefully preserving the sweetness.

Many Blessings Broccoli Pomegranate Salad

Be sure to wear an apron when removing the seeds from the pomegranate fruit! I halve it with a knife and then, gently breaking apart and splitting open, remove the seeds as I go.

Serves 2 (large portions)

2 cups of minced raw broccoli
2 handfuls of pomegranate seeds (one fruit usually has 6-8 of these servings)
4 cups of red leaf lettuce, in a rough and wide chiffonade
For the dressing
2 (really heaping) tsp lemon zest, from an organic lemon
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar, I use Fini brand
1 and 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp caraway seeds (aids digestion of the raw broccoli)
S&P to taste

Mix half of the dressing with the broccoli.  In each bowl make a “nest” with the lettuce, add broccoli to the middle and sprinkle pomegranate seeds, concentrating some in the center of the salad.  Pour the remainder of the dressing around the edge of the lettuce “nest.”

If leftovers, store the broccoli mix and pomegranate seeds separate from lettuce.

Kate May-Price is an educator, artist, gardener, and cook carrying on her family’s culinary history by following her nose. She currently resides in the San Francisco Bay area. Her websites are Pen, Trowel, & Fork and Mozart’s Nose.

Photo by Kate May-Price

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Spiced Pumpkin Bread

Photo by K. May-Price

by Kathryn May-Price

In late October, the earth is strewn in fallen leaves, spread like skirts around the bases of trees to die. Their slow breakdown will nourish another season’s growth. This is when the end leads to a beginning in nature.

I’m especially reflective in the autumn and I hunger for foods that are nourishing to the soul as well as the belly. I love this time of year so much, I got married in late October. And no, I don’t miss the significance of my marriage (a new beginning) falling around the time when we celebrate the Day of the Dead or Halloween.

Like any celebration, there are food traditions – and Halloween is much more than king-sized candy bars (though delicious). In the Day of the Dead tradition, we cook for those loved ones we have lost.  This can mean laying out altars (ofrendas) of favorite and fragrant foods meant to entice the old souls with a wafting supplication – “Come and visit for few days.” When we feast on such foods in our loved ones honor, we are reminded that not only are we nourished by the food, but we were (and continue to be) nourished by the presence of those loved ones in our lives.

“The Secret to Marital Bliss,” AKA Spiced Pumpkin Bread

Adapted from the Bon Appetit recipe

2 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs

1 16oz can pumpkin

2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp of each – cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking soda

½ tsp each – salt and baking powder

½ cup each – chopped walnuts and chopped dried dates

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour two 9x5x3” loaf pans.  Beat sugar and oil in large bowl to blend.  Mix in eggs and pumpkin.  Sift flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt, and baking powder in another large bowl.  Stir into pumpkin mixture in 2 additions. Mix in walnuts and dates.  Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake until fork inserted into center come out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes.  Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes.

This is one of our favorite recipes to usher in the autumn season. Eat one loaf immediately, wrap the other in aluminum foil and freeze for up to one month.

Kate is an educator, artist, gardener, and cook carrying on her family’s culinary history by following her nose. She currently resides in the San Francisco Bay area. Her websites are Pen, Trowel, & Fork and Mozart’s Nose.

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A Harvest Loaf

by Kate May-Price

The colors grow richer in these early fall days – even here in San Francisco, though it pales in the shadow of upstate New York’s autumnal fires. I can still sense the natural rhythm as the weather blows the golden grains on our California hills.

It is harvest time, but nowadays it can be hard to see the relevance of ensuring the winter stores. Traditionally, this was a time for reaping grains and preserving the fruits of summer. Some of us continue this work, but many of us do not.

There is however much more than seasonal harvest nostalgia, many of us are looking for a return to the lessons learned from traditional or indigenous diets. Let us then look to Jessica Prentice’s book “Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection.”

True to their personification, squirrels are clever – burying each acorn fools it into thinking its been “planted.” While the squirrel continues its gathering, the buried nut begins to release nutrients that are key to a germinating plant. In the spirit of coevolution,  these nutrients are exactly what is nutritionally required by the squirrel if it hopes to survive the barrenness of winter.

We can mimic this – increasing available nutrients – through the process of sprouting or fermenting grains. The recipe – without further ado.

From the “Full Moon Feast” book –

Sourdough:

Take 1 tablespoon of sourdough starter and mix it together with ½ cup filtered water and 1 cup freshly ground whole wheat (or spelt) flour in a clean jar. Let this sit for 8 hours at room temperature or between 48 hours and 1 week in the refrigerator before using in the recipe.  You can use it at room temperature, or cold.  Each time you cook with your sourdough, reserve 1 tablespoon of starter, mix with ½ cup of water plus 1 cup of flour, and store in the fridge for the next recipe. You can keep your starter going indefinitely this way.  Mine is about 15 years old.

The best way to get a good sourdough starter is from a friends or an artisanal bakery…The great thing about a real sourdough starter is that it is made up of wild yeasts – that’s what you want.  Try G.E.M. Cultures for sourdough as well.

You can also make your own starter.  Our hands have natural yeasts on them, so if we add the water, the flour and “get into the mix,” we have starter unique to ourselves. For more specific information, check out the new book, “The Lost Art of Real Cooking: Rediscovering the pleasures of Traditional Food One Recipe at a Time” by the Bay area’s own Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger.

“May we feel wonder for the gift of grain, which through dying is born again, or else gives its life to us.”

Kate is an educator, artist, gardener, and cook carrying on her family’s culinary history by following her nose. She currently resides in the San Francisco Bay area. Her web site is called Pen, Trowel and Fork.

Portions of this article reprinted from Full Moon Feast, ©2006 by Jessica Prentice, with permission from Chelsea Green Publishing (www.chelseagreen.com). All of the photos are courtesy of Kate May-Price.

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Nocino (Walnut Liqueur) and Honeyed Walnuts

Walnuts have magical properties at Midsummer in Italy and are used to make a special liqueur called Nocino. People go into the woods to collect walnuts on the night of San Giovanni (June 23) when the shells are still green and soft. They are collected in multiples of 21 (the 3 of the Trinity times the 7 virtues), immersed in alcohol with special spices or lemon rind and left for 40 days (the same amount of time St John wandered in the desert). Some say the green walnuts can only be harvested by women in bare feet with wooden scythes.

Anna Tasca Lanza in The Flavors of Sicily offers a recipe for Nocino, whose mysterious, almost medicinal flavor, she compares to liqueurs made by medieval monks. Once you have picked your green walnuts, cut them into quarters. (Wear gloves and protect your surfaces as green walnuts exude a colorless liquid, that upon exposure to air turns brown and dyes everything it touches, permanently.) For every ten walnuts use one cup of sugar, a small piece of cinnamon stick, two whole cloves, a tablespoon of chopped lemon zest and one quart of vodka. Combine these ingredients, seal in a jar, and leave in the sun for forty days. Strain the liqueur (you can adjust the flavor at this point by adding water if it’s too strong), bottle it and put it away in a cool, dark place to age until I Morti, All Soul’s Day, November 2.

For those of you who are looking for something a little lighter, here’s a recipe I found on the internet which combines walnuts with another midsummer treat: honey.

Combine one and a half cups sugar, a half cup honey, a dash of salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil then cook, without stirring, until a small amount of mixture forms a firm ball when dropping in cold water. This will be about 242° on candy thermometer. Remove syrup from heat and stir in eight ounces of walnuts and a half teaspoon of vanilla extract. Let cool slightly. Stir until thicken and creamy. Pour out onto waxed paper; using 2 forks, separate walnuts.

Found the great photo at this web site, Foreign Remarks, by Rebecca Helm-Ropelator. She also provides a recipe for nocino.

The photo of the jug of walnuts steeping in alcohol comes from this web site which also has a recipe and instructions.

Another great blog entry about nocino: she describes the look as similar to motor oil but the flavor as nutty and sweet and she says creates an odd sensation as it makes its way down to your stomach. It’s often used as a digestive, to soothe an upset stomach. It seems to be the perfect drink for winter which is when it’s ready to drink.

walnuttreegenestaPostscript: I was delighted in the summer of 2013 when someone who wanted to make nocino and found my blog post. wrote asking me where to find walnuts in the San Fernando Valley. At that point I had never made nocino and I wrote back suggesting he look in my old neighborhood (I grew up in a house in Van Nuys on the corner of Genesta and Stagg which used to be a walnut orchard). Serendipitously, I also found a walnut tree in my neighborhood in Seattle. My correspondent in the Valley found a walnut tree just down the block from my childhood home, got permission from the homeowner to harvest walnuts and sent me a photo of the tree and the nocino making process. Meanwhile I made nocino from the green walnuts I found in Seattle. It does indeed look like motor oil but a preliminary tasting was delicious. I think it should be mellowed by now (Summer of 2014).nocinomakings

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