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Sunday, September 20, 2015

autumn berry tincture

Berry Tincture! This one is SO easy, SO yummy, I don't know why I haven't made this post sooner.

It doesn't matter if you know virtually nothing about herbs -- you can make this.
I will talk you through the steps nice and simply, providing variations for fresh, frozen, or dried fruits, and different menstruums (liquid bases).

You will need
  • a large pot with a lid and a low heat source OR a slow cooker/crock pot 
  • 2 glass pints jars and sealing lids 
  • stainless steel or wooden spoon 
  • clean hands 
  • cheese cloth for straining 
  • cling film 
  • your selection of berries 
You will also need (of fresh, frozen, or dehydrated -- the choice is yours)
  • hawthorn berries
  • red rose hips 
  • blackberries 
  • raspberries 
  • elderberries  
  • vegetable glycerine 
  • apple cider vinegar 
  • water
You are going to be making two tinctures and then mixing them together. This is because different properties come out of herbs and foods at different applications of pressure or heat, so a cooked tincture mixed with a cold tincture I feel has a more well rounded and potent result than one alone.

For the cooked tincture,
take your large pot and add 1 1/2 cups vegetable glycerine. Add one handful (approximately 1/4 cup) each of dried berries, or twice as much (1/2 cup) if you are using fresh or frozen whole berries. You will also need to add a small amount of water. If you are using mostly or all fresh/frozen berries, you only need a little water, about 1/4 cup. If you are using all dried berries, use 2/3rds of a cup water. For a blend, settle somewhere in the middle. 

Place the pot -- with lid on -- over a medium-high heat and begin to cook the berries. Bring the liquids to a light simmer. Now reduce the heat to low and leave to cook for 2 days, or 48 hours. Approximately. Right now, I use the warming oven of the Aga, the gorgeous old fashioned giant stove we have. You can also use a crock pot, or place your lidded pot on a counter top electric warming plate. Just something with a steady heat to keep it ticking over. The berries will gradually soften, burst, mush, and turn the liquid to a dark reddish purple color with a strong berry fragrance and flavor. That's good. If you reach this point sooner than 2 days, great. Take it off the heat and proceed with straining. If you have to turn your heat source off overnight, you might need to go for 3 days instead of 2. Just smell it, taste it (with a clean spoon each time), and see what you think.

Once the berries are fully macerated, allow them to cool enough that you could comfortably immerse your hand in the pot. (I say "could". But don't. Unless you have very, very clean hands...which you really should anyway!) Place a cloth over a bowl and pour the maceration into it, catching all the goop in the cloth. Lift the cloth, twist the ends and sides up out of your way, let the juice all run down into the bowl and then give the pulpy cloth a good squeeze to get as much good liquid out of it as you can.

Reserve the liquid. There's your first tincture done! You can stop here if you really want. Glycerine tinctures are excellent for children and little ones as they do not alter blood sugar levels the way honey does, and the natural sweetness is appealing. I do find that my own little boy (turning 4 tomorrow! yelp!!) really loves glycerine tinctures cut 50-50 with vinegar tinctures. The sweet and sour taste of them seems to hit the spot, curb those cravings he gets during growth spurts especially, and I do find I like the sweet-tart blends better myself, too.

So, on with the apple cider vinegar tincture. Using the same berries, stuff roughly equal parts of each, again, into a glass pint jar. Pour apple cider vinegar (ACV) over the top, almost to the very top of the jar. I like to leave about 1/4 inch head space. Place a double layer of cling film over the top of this, just to protect the lid from premature rusting due to the vinegar, and then cap the lid on top as well. Give it a good hard shake.

Store the ACV berry tincture in a dark, cool place for the next 2 weeks. A kitchen cabinet works well. Pop it next to your coffee or tea mug and you can give it a shake every morning before you get your mug down.

Again, once the two weeks are up, you should have a darkly colored, fragrant, flavorful liquid with a lot of goopy berry pulp. To strain this off, do the same as with the cooked tincture. Place a cloth over a bowl and pour the maceration into it, catching all the goop in the cloth. Lift the cloth, twist the ends and sides up out of your way, let the juice all run down into the bowl and then give the pulpy cloth a good squeeze to get as much good liquid out of it as you can. Reserve the liquid. This is your tincture.

Now, the part I like best! Mixing and tasting! As I mentioned, we prefer 1:1 blends of glycerine:ACV tinctures. This autumn berry tincture is no exception. You use your discretion and blend up what suits you best.

Autumn berry tincture is fabulous for supplementing your diet with vitamin C and antioxidants, as well as the many other vitamins and minerals naturally found in these berries. In addition, hawthorn berries help to stabilize the collagen in the heart muscle and veins, providing cardio vascular support. Elderberries provide immune support against viruses. All together, this tincture is considered safe for regular, even daily use. We use it consistently through the winter and spring months as a dietary supplement, typically 15-30 drops a day. As usual, please exercise your own discretion and do some backup research into the berries before using them.

Some alternatives to consider. Of course. Because there is never just one right way of doing these things.

  1. Use a different menstruum. Instead of glycerine, you can use honey. Instead of vinegar, you can use vodka or brandy. What suits you the best? In what form are you most likely to take your medicine?
  2. Change up the berries. All kinds of edible berries can be used.
    Blackberries. Raspberries. Hawthorn berries. Red rose hips. Elderberries.
    Blueberries. Cranberries. Goji berries, also known as wolf berries. Strawberries.
    Gooseberries. Bilberries. Black and red currants. Mulberries. Raisins (dried grapes).
    Cherries. Huckleberries.
    Yeah, I know. Some of these "berries" are not actually berries by botanical definition. But you get the idea, right?
  3. Add some different spices or herbs. You don't have to stick only to berry fruits. You can add other flavorings as well.
    Citrus peels. Cinnamon sticks or chips. Ginger root. Cloves. Allspice chips. Vanilla bean.
    Or focus on immune building properties and add eleuthero root, astragalus root.
    Pregnant or postpartum mamas can add red raspberry leaf, alfalfa, and nettles, and the berries will remain the most predominant flavor.
Make this autumn berry tincture yours. Make it yummy. Make taking your vitamins a happy experience, not a pinch-your-nose part of the day.

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