Tuesday, August 17, 2010

back to the elderberry patch

Last year at this time, I put together a post with a lot of recipes using elderberries, and just to save anyone looking a little time (including me...) am reposting the link here: http://theessentialherbal.blogspot.com/2009/09/el-der-berry.html
Later on last fall, I started making candy with elderberries and some other herbs, and put the recipes and instructions together in an article for the Jul/Aug issue of The Essential Herbal. Since it is time to get busy on some of these, and they are so much fun to make, I'm going to post that here, too.
A Spoonful of Sugar - Making Herbal Candy
A couple of years ago, Marty Webster wrote about making horehound lozenges, and the instructions were very inspirational for me. Before I knew it, all kinds of ideas were running through my head!
Oh, it started simply enough.... what about elderberry? Maybe something relaxing? Oh! And Holy Basil "on the go"!
All you need is a candy thermometer, a large, heavy pan, and an afternoon. A helper for cutting in the end helps too.
When I was a kid, one of my best friends was from a large farming family, and they had an interesting side business. They made hard candies in about 15 flavors. On candy making nights, I would often stay overnight and help, because many hands were needed. In their basement, they had a stove, and would set 4 kettles filled with sugar, water, and Karo syrup to boil. There was a ping-pong table (probably reinforced) that took up most of the room, and we were stationed all around the table with heavy shears. The table was dusted with confectioners sugar. The father would heave a marble slab up onto the head of the table. As the first kettle reached the right temperature, he'd pour the molten mixture onto the slab, and work it with paint scrapers. Then he'd add the color and flavor and continue to fold the sweet, thickening mixture together. Finally, he'd start to cut it into fat 1/2" wide strips, and toss them out to us to cut into bite-sized pieces. It had to be cut quickly before hardening, but those first few strips were soft and very warm. We would always sample a piece or two. Quality testing at its finest. By the end of the night, there would be bins full of candy, and a bunch of kids high on sugar.
These memories also inspired me. I'm sure that that production set-up would not satisfy today's regulations, but it sure was fun.
The recipe I use is:
3/4 to 1 cup of strongly infused herbal "tea"
2 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
I have not had a chance to experiment with honey, and I believe that one could use all sugar, but this recipe worked well for me. You may want to try a few variations if the corn syrup is objectionable.
To make the tea, I put the herbs, berries, etc., in a pint jar and covered with boiling water, allowing it to steep for several hours. Then I strained it and squeezed the dickens out of the pulp to get all the good stuff. If there is less than a cup of liquid, that's fine.
Put the liquid into a large (at least 2 quart) pan. It bubbles up a lot during cooking, so you need a lot of space.
Add the corn syrup and stir to blend. Add the sugar and turn on medium high heat. Stir only until the sugar is dissolved. Set the thermometer on the side of the pan, with the tip in the liquid, but not touching the bottom of the pan.
Let 'er rip!
While it cooks, grease a 10 x 13 glass cooking dish and put down plastic wrap on a surface where you'll be doing the cutting - probably 2' x 3' is sufficient. Sift confectioners sugar or cornstarch over the plastic wrap.
When the temperature of the candy reaches 300 degrees, turn off the heat and stir briefly.
Pour it into the baking dish. Have something under the dish to protect the counter from heat.
Wait a minute or two, and lift the edge of the candy to see if it can be lifted to cut. When this is possible, use scissors to cut a strip, and toss it out to a waiting helper who will cut it into pieces. This really is difficult to do alone, but it's possible. Keep cutting the strips until it is finished.
If the candy in the baking dish hardens before you've finished, you can place it into the oven and heat it, but it will probably stick to the dish. I've taken out the whole piece that is leftover, melted it in another pan, and repoured it into the original baking dish. Clean-up is easy, hot water dissolves the candy.

Here are the infusions I started with:

Elderberry Bits
1 cup fresh elderberries
2 slices ginger
zest from one lemon

Lemon Balm Bombe
3/4 cup freshly picked lemon balm
1/4 cup freshly picked passionflower leaves, flower, tendrils
1/4 cup blueberries
zest from one lemon
20 drops of lemon eo just before pouring into baking dish
Tulsi Twist
3/4 cup freshly picked holy basil
1/4 cup dried goji berries
1/4 cup freshly picked chocolate mint

Herbalicious Medley
juice and zest from one orange and one lemon
1/4 cup holy basil
1/4 cup elderberry
2 slices ginger
3 rose geranium leaves
sprig of lemon thyme
sprig of rosemary
sprig of lemon verbena
1/4 cup mint
2 pods cardamom

I hope you give herbal candy making a try, and if you do, let me know what you made!

6 comments:

Aim-eh said...

Great recipes!

I'm new to herbs and what a great way to experiment. Thanks for sharing.

comfrey cottages said...

you read my mind tina! lol i was just wishing your blog had a searchable box as i was going to start looking for your post from last year! thanks for posting it :) you rock:)

Carol said...

These sound so yummy... think I'll have to try them this weekend.

juliecache said...

must try this. my kids read a book about the plague, and a sweets shop did something similar, so they'll like this.

Liz said...

Your blog is so beautiful! Thank you for such a lovely place to visit.

Sarah said...

I like the way you think! Great ingredient combinations. Thanks!

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