I wrote this DIY post for a local group of handmade artisans here in Philadelphia, for the Handmade Philly blog. But what could be a better project for my own readers than herb-infused honey, using readily available sprices from your kitchen cabinet and herbs fresh from the garden? Pop on over the Handmade Philly and check out the post.
While the cool weather lingers, here in the early months of Spring, out comes the milk pot. I adore my Swiss-made red-enameled milk pot. To me, it means steaming hot frothy milky beverages that when poured, will not result in a milky mess all over the stove top or counter. To my daughter Maeve, Mr. Milk Pot means “vanilla milk”, “cinnamon milk”, “honey milk”, or “hot chockie”. To me, it means any number of milky beverages. Let me give you an example. Back in January, I made a fresh batch of organic lavender infused organic honey for ecoknits, a wonderful etsian who makes the most adorable little hats. Anyway, at the end of the process, I was left with a mass of organic lavender buds soaked in the most lovely clover honey you’ve ever tasted. My thought? Mmmm..this would be good in warm milk. I thought, why not throw in some organic fair trade earl grey tea while I’m at it? So I did. I let the milk come up to a near-boil (but not), called “scalded milk”. You can tell when it’s right because you see this hint of frothiness around the edges of the pot and the milk has not yet come to a simmer/boil.
Some tea shops, such as Infusion, an independent coffee shop in Mt. Airy (Philadelphia) has been making tea-infused milk drinks, called cambrics, for years. Other places have more recently introduced the tea latte, an infusion of tea in water, made extra strong and topped with lots of steamed milk (i.e. frothiness at its best). I love steamed milk. (I’m a steamed milk nazi because I worked at a coffee shop in Dublin for three months and was forced to master the skill, but that’s another story. I digress.) The ones who own the origin of the true tea latte are the ancient Indians, I guess, as milk is considered to be a perfect food in India. “Masala Chai tea“, or what I think of as “yogi tea” is a blend of black tea and energetically warming, aromatic spices such as cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, ginger root, and pepper traditionally infused (via heating to a near simmer or simmer) in milk and water for a warming, soothing drink. Other possible additions include saffron, nutmeg, and even rose petals, depending on the region of India. That said, you can experiment with this concept. Lavender and black tea or earl grey (bergamot-flavored) tea are sublime with milk, as is black currant flavored tea. One of my favorite tea blends is my “Sunrise Sunset“, which includes red rooibos ‘tea’ (an herb, really), rose petals, hibsicus, cloves, cinnamon, and a touch of orange peel, an herbal tisane which is superb when prepared with warm milk and honey. I also love herbal root blends prepared with a mixture of water and milk, such as my Ishtar tea (shatavari root, ashwaghanda root, dandelion root, burdock root, and cinnamon bark), or even just a mixture of Shatavari root and cinnamon bark. It is a nourishing, vata-clearing tonic that is so very nourishing to the spirit as well.
I am sure my readers will come up with all kinds of beautifully creative ways to infuse milk and create lovely winter treats for both themselves and their children. I want to hear about them! In the meantime, you can start with my lavender and black tea milk (and keep in mind that you can infuse the milk you use to make chocolate pudding, cream of wheat, oatmeal…you name it!). If you use tea leaves or herbs in your milk, you will need to use a fine mesh strainer to strain out the organic material from the milk as you pour into your mug. In the photos for this post, I just used cinnamon sticks and honey in the milk, so a strainer wasn’t really necessary.
RECIPE: Lavender & Black Tea Infused Milk
1 tsp lavender blossoms
1 Tbsp. black tea (darjeeling, english breakfast, earl grey)
1.5 cups whole milk
Put all of the above in a milk pot or small saucepan and starting at medium heat, bring slowly to warmth, removing from heat before boiling/simmering. You will see a softening, frothiness around the edge of the milk, and a gentle steam will be rising from the milk. Add honey if desired!
Want to know more about my thoughts on milk nutritionally? Read on. If not, stick to the recipe above and enjoy!
Myth: Saturated fat clogs arteries (i.e., “whole milk is bad”)
Truth: the fatty acids found in artery clogs are mostly unsaturated (74%) of which 41% are polyunsaturated (Lancet 1994 344:1195)
Sally Fallon is an important figure in the Weston Price Foundation, a non-profit organization that advocates the nutritional (dare I say, evidenced-based) philosophy of Weston A. Price, who wrote a fabulous book called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, which chronicalled his research among various cultural groups in the 1930′s whose diets were still ‘untainted’ by modern foods such as jams, jellies, white (refined) flours and sugars. He discovered that the facial (skeletal) structures, dentition, physical health remained superior generation and generation only when individuals consume nutrient-dense whole foods and fat-soluble activators found exclusively in animal fats. Physical degeneration would appear in only one generation once modern foods were introduced to a cultural group. Sally Fallon, the president of the foundation, wrote a wonderful cookbook called Nourishing Traditions, which outlines much of the nutritional basis of what the Weston Price Foundation advocates for through research, education, and activism. Much of the nutrional ‘message’ is quite opposite to what most dieticians preach, though much of this (peer-reviewed, scientific) research is beginning to gain ground in the public eye. Namely, that saturated fats and cholesterol rich foods are not at all the enemies they are made out to be, and are, in fact, vital to a healthy diet. All of this is to say…sigh…that whole milk is good. (P.S. And FYI …soy milk…not so good.)
Raw Milk Warmer Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions
1 1/2 cups raw milk
2 Tbsp carob powder
2-4 Tbsp maple syrup OR 1/4 tsp stevia powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp chocolate extract
1-2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
Place all ingredients in a glass container and mix well with a wire whisk. Place in a pan of simmering water and stir occasionally until the mixture becomes warm. Do not overheat!
Raw milk is another story, as is the story of cultured milk products and their benefits to one’s health. What are your thoughts about milk?
Raw, unprocessed honey is ideal for treating oily, blemished skin. Even better, an herbal-infused honey can add more ‘punch’ to the already wonderful qualities of raw honey. Generally speaking, honey’s antibacterial properties, combined with being a wonderful humectant, serves to moisturize the skin without clogging pores or contributing to excess oil production. A ‘humectant’ attracts moisture, actually drawing water right out of the air, and thus, honey has fabulous hydrating abilities. Jeanne Rose, the famous essential oil distiller and aromatherapist, recommends a “honey pat” or a facial mask (best done in the bath tub!), wherein raw honey is applied to the face and then tap-tap-tapped with the fingers until it becomes tacky (‘type your face like a keyboard’). When you remove the mask with warm water, best done with a warm washcloth, you will find your skin to be supple and soft. Adding cosmetic clay to the mask provides more drawing & detoxifying properties, thus increasing the cleansing potential of the mask.
Honey & Clay Mask
2 Tbsp raw, unprocessed honey or an herb-infused honey (with antiseptic herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage)
1 tsp cosmetic clay (French Green, Bentonite, Fuller’s Earth, Rhassoul, or Dead Sea)
2 drops lavender essential oil (soothes inflammation, antiseptic, healing
Bonus: If you have it, try adding a tsp of seaweed (powdered or ground in a coffee grinder) to benefit from seaweed’s balancing, mineral rich properties too!
Many aromatic herbs, or herbs that have a high concentration of essential oils, are carminative, which means that they aid digestion by helping to expell or reduce gas and reduce stomach spasms. These herbs are ideal for helping with indigestion and are great to utilize before or after a meal. A lot of these herbs are also mildy anti-viral and are therefore great for regular use during the cold/flu season and a great addition to lemon & ginger tea when you do have a cold.
Some herbs you can use:
Cinnamon (carminative, spicy, flavorful)
Lemon Balm (emotionally calming, antiviral, carminative)
Spearmint or Peppermint (carminative, stimulating)
Orange Peel (carminative, flavorful)
Ginger root (carminative, anti-nausea, antiviral)
Lavender (calming, antiseptic, analgesic -pain-relieving, relieves headaches)
Rosemary (antiseptic, stimulating, carminative)
Thyme (antiseptic, anti-viral, carminative)
Take between a half cup and a cup of fresh herb and 2 cups of honey. Red clover is an especially therapeutic honey. It’s also a good idea to try to buy raw, natural honey from a local source, as bees are under a lot of distress right now and I personally feel as though sick honey comes from sick bees. Not only that, but commercial honey comes from bees who are often fed sugar water ~ not healthy for little bees.
Bring the honey and herbs to a slow boil over low heat. And watch that pot! It won’t take much for it to suddenly boil over and make a BIG mess (believe me). As soon as it starts to bubble around the edges and you believe it’s coming to a boil, remove the honey from heat. Let it cool down and then repeat this process again, bringing it to a boil or near boil. Heating it gently in this way will not alter the benefical enzymic content of the honey, so don’t worry.
Repeat again if you want (for a stronger honey) or feel free to strain the honey at this point and pour into clean, sterilized (boiled for 10 min) glass jars. I find it is easiest to pour the honey while it’s still hot. I also like to stick a spring of the herb in the jar before pouring it when appropriate. This is easiest to do with cinnamon or rosemary but not so much with the more fragile herbs of lemon balm or mint.
Stick on a pretty label, tie a ribbon around the jar, and there you have it! A wonderful home-made gift that is also something with herbal benefit and flavorful taste.