Sunday, September 5, 2010

Finally Time to Strain and Bottle!

I'm finally back to the blog!  Hurricane Earl passed through Halifax yesterday leaving us without power for the better part of the day.  I'm very thankful to report that we are all safe and sound; however, I am sad to report that a few tree friends on our property were uprooted by Earl.

During my time sequestered in my home, I decided to strain and bottle some of my tinctures, oils and vinegars that have been brewing for at least 6 weeks now (much more in some cases!).  Our stove runs on propane so, even thought the power was out, I was able to boil some water and clean my jars before filling them with deliciousness!  I put a wide-mouth funnel in the bottle and open my jelly bag to "line" it and then dump my herbs in to strain ( you can also use cheese cloth).  Once the bulk of the liquid is strained, I gather up my jelly bag (or the corners of the cheese cloth) and I squeeze the heck out of it to get every last drop of goodness!  Proven - this is great for relieving anger, stress and tension! LOL!  Here's the beautiful result...
My St. John's Wort Oil and Chive Flower Vinegar

I was thrilled to find that the St. John's Wort oil worked perfectly this year after following the suggestions found in this article by Laurel Vukovic where she suggests covering the bottle of steeping oil with cheesecloth (secured with a rubber band) to keep moisture from causing the oil to spoil - worked like a charm!  I was also careful to use only the biggest, plumpest buds just ready to open and let them wilt overnight.  My earliest bottles turned red right away; my later oils took nearly 6 weeks to turn a nice deep red - but they did turn red!  The chive vinegar also turned a gorgeous pink color from all of the chive blossoms I tucked into the mix!

This is definitely the most rewarding part of the whole process!  If you still have your harvests steeping and they're ready to strain, take a few minutes to strain them - it's soooo exciting!

  • Just make the amount of product you will be able to consume this year and make fresh next summer.  If you have extra, it makes a wonderful gift in a pretty bottle!  
  • Label and date all of your products.  Include proportions and ingredients; saves time next time and also makes adjustments easy.
  • The suggested life of a medicinal oil is about a year when stored in the fridge or about 6 months when stored on a cool, dark cupboard shelf.  The olive oil base hardens somewhat in the fridge but melts instantly when touched by fingers or slightly slower when set on the counter to warm a bit. 
  • Plain oil will eventually go rancid, thus, so will your oil products.  You will know by smell if the oil has gone rancid - it will have a sharp smell.  However, I have some older than a year and they are still fine (although less potent medicinally).
  • Vinegar is a natural preservative but it does not keep indefinitely.  To extend the life of your vinegars, keep them in the fridge or on a cool, dark cupboard shelf.  I'm a rebel - they're lined up on my dining room windowsill as a reminder to use them at every meal; this window does not get direct sunlight.
  • Experiment!  Use your vinegars to make interesting salad dressings, flavourful marinades, tasty soups and interesting drizzles - don't forget those beauty products too!  Use your oils alone or in combination with other oils (and essential oils) to make salves, lotions, massage oils - don't forget to incorporate the edible oils into your cooking with your vinegars!
Now that we have some delightful oils to work with, we can explore those even further in upcoming posts - stay tuned!

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