Make Herbal Lollipops for Gift Giving

Make Herbal Lollipops for Gift Giving

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, Herb Society of America

Every Christmas I craft gifts for family and friends. In previous years I’ve made scarves, herbal sachets, infused liqueurs, jams and jellies. This year, my family and friends are getting colorful, handcrafted lollipop bouquets.  With herbal flavors

20171217_094512It started with a Liquor Lollipop book I found at Horizontal Books in Cleveland.  I was reading it in bed one night in October when the idea of bourbon lollipops got stuck in my brain.

I made them. They were good. And the Great Lollipop Project began.

Playing with sugars was sweet. I got stuck on the process. Soon, I was tweaking the basic recipe and adding herbal influences. More than 300 lollipops later I’m sharing what I learned.

20171217_094142-e1513522917422.jpgWhile Lorann brand drams are typical flavoring choices, I also found flavor emulsions at Home Goods and Joann stores.  I used lavender oil (the tiniest amount) and rosewater. Even with standard flavors I did a little twist. I grated nutmeg onto eggnog suckers. I created cordial flavor mixing chocolate, cherry and vanilla.  I needed to infuse my creativity into these lollipops.

After a bit, I had dozens of lollipops and  wanted to share them with everyone I knew. Thus, Christmas gifts. To impress recipients (and feed my ego) I wanted credit for new experiences. So, I dug back into the Liquor Lollipop book with herbs, not spirits, in mind.

My thought was to infuse the spirit with herbal goodness, then make the lollipop. The alcohol would carry the flavor. And, in most cases it worked.  I made lemon thyme, blackberry sage, herbal tea and other unique flavors.

Here’s what I learned

  • 20171217_094454Choose silicon molds. I learned that the hard way. They release the candy every time. They cost a little more, but reduce frustration.
  • Add flavoring and coloring last. They may burn or cook off if added while cooking.
  • Herbal oils are potent, use small amounts.
  • Sprinkle in ground chile pepper – chipotle-chocolate, watermelon-jalapeno – when using, at the very end.
  • Infuse vodka/bourbon/others with herbs overnight.
  • Use only true spirits. Flavored or sweetener-enhanced liqueurs are unpredictable and may burn.
  • Temperature rises quickly after 260 F. I putter around the kitchen while cooking the syrup, until 260 F. Then, the syrup needs close babysitting.
  • Color lollipops for edible appeal.
  • Be willing to fail. Improvisation sometimes fails. Trash bad results and move on.

 

BASIC RECIPE

  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup liquor, infused
  •  3 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon infused liquor OR other flavoring
  • Coloring

Prepare molds with sticks.

Place sugar and first three liquids into heavy-bottom sauce pan. Boil until temperature reaches 260 F. Then, continue to boil, watching closely until 300 F. Remove from heat. Stir in flavoring and coloring.

Working quickly and carefully, pour into prepared molds. Wait at least 20 minutes until set.

Remove, wrap in small bags and secure with twist tie.

20171217_094058MORE IDEAS … For the holiday add crushed candy canes (mint) to the molds before adding mint- or chocolate-flavored candy … Instead of herbs, add chile pepper powder to molds and cover with hot candy … Use herb-fruit combinations like blackberry sage … Enhance lemon-thyme infusion with lemon flavoring … Sprinkle dried herbs or fruit into molds and cover with hot candy … Substitute rosewater for water. Add dried rose petals to molds.

RESOURCES … In addition to the garden, craft shops and herb suppliers consider

 

 

 

Herb Society Open House Nov. 19, 2017

Herb Society Open House Nov. 19, 2017

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Join The Herb Society of America from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, November 19, 2017, for an Open House full of holiday cheer with a wonderful selection of holiday herbal-themed gifts. Items and vendors include:

  • Wood Road Farm – Fresh Wreaths & Table Arrangements
  • Natural Skin Revival – Natural Skin Care Products
  • Thistle and Twill — Handcrafted Keepsakes and Gifts inspired by Nature
  • Sandi’s Kitchen – Culinary Herb & Spice Blends
  • Western Reserve Herb Society — Herbal Gifts & Culinary Delights
  • O’Neil’s Handmade Artisan Chocolates – Delicious Herbal Chocolates
  • Storehouse Teas –Handcrafted Certified Organic and Fair Trade, Artisan Loose Leaf Teas
  • Cupcake Me — Decadent Cupcakes and Cookies
  • The Herb Society of America – Holiday & Herb-related GiftsStorehouse tea

The Herb Society of America
440.256.0514
http://www.herbsociety.org
9019 Kirtland-Chardon Rd.
Kirtland, Ohio 44094

7 Tips for Packaging Herb Liqueurs

7 Tips for Packaging Herb Liqueurs

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

20170829_181123It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas … in my kitchen. As I harvest the goods, I’ve been making Christmas gifts for family and friends. Some of my favorites are liqueurs. They’re deceptively simple and make elegant presentations.

Crème di violette and lemon herb liqueurs are two of my favorite. This year, I am trying something new – a crème di lavender liqueur. I’m making an infusion using ½ cup lavender and 12 ounce of vodka. After three days, I’ll strain and spike with simple syrup until the sweetness is balanced. I’m still debating the addition of food coloring for presentation.

To make simple syrup, bring one cup water and one cup sugar to a boil and dissolve sugar. Then, turn off the burner. Cool before use. Keeps in refrigerator for a few weeks.

Packaging the final product is as important as producing it. Do I want vintage decanters to present larger quantities to close friends? Cruets with cork stoppers for liqueurs in smaller quantities? Or maybe Mason jars with chalk labels? Perhaps I should buy brand new bottles from Amazon?

20170831_070024The problem with my creativity is my ideas run rampant and I struggle to choose. I want packaging in harmony with product. Here’s what I’ve learned over the years … some of it practical, some artistic.

  1. Select glass bottles to avoid off tastes from plastic.
  2. Source smaller bottles – 5 to 8 ounces – to stretch product and tease friends with a sample or two.
  3. Choose colored bottles if the product is an odd color and you’re not using food coloring. For example, I packaged my crème di menthe in green.
  4. Seal with screw tops or swing tops (not corks) to prevent spillage. Or be careful with cork.
  5. Finish with a heat-shrink plastic capsule for elegant presentation. These come in many colors, but I choose black.
  6. Use white markers, not chalk, on chalkboard labels, so they won’t smear.
  7. Write product name and date on label at the very least.

While I’m ordering my first batch of “Woozy” bottles from Amazon and picking up chalkboard labels/hangtags at Joann.com, I will be watching the “dot” section at the entrance to my local Target. Throughout the year they’ve sold a number of bottles and labels that made lovely presentations.  And, if my budget feels more generous, I may check out the Bormioli Rocco Swing Bottles at Sur La Table.

Cheers!

Ideas to Make Herb Garden Markers

Ideas to Make Herb Garden Markers

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

I love herbs and I love making things, especially simple craft projects with immediate gratification. Combining them in the garden makes me happy.

This year, I’m overwhelmed by garden marker ideas. So many choices that I may choose different styles for pots and gardens.

I thought, for this post, I’d let pictures tell the story. Each craft is fairly self-explanatory and different approaches will appeal to different gardeners or different locations.

Corks star twice, first on skewers with names written in permanent marker. And, perhaps more decoratively, on fork tines with my best printing in black ink.

20170511_191210Silverware makes a second appearance with names stamped on flattened spoons. This is perhaps the most time consuming of my efforts. My dad flattened the cutlery in his workshop and I bought the stamping supplies at Joann stores. I’ve also seen them on Amazon.com.

Speaking of spoons, last year I painted wooden spoons and printed names on them. Bright red added a festive touch to our patch of kitchen herbs and peppers.

 

Craft - Spoon markers (14)

20170515_180816And, finally, it felt a bit like cheating, but I stalked the “dollar spot” at Target and found a variety of different options. These chalkboard stakes were among them.


Show us your favorite garden markers – handmade or purchased.

Packaging Herbal Tea: Presentation Matters

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America 
 20161028_145833
When I dried this year’s mint and lemon herbs for handcrafted herbal tea, I considered how to package and store my blend. I know tea should be kept in a non-plastic, airtight container. And, that the container should be stored in a dark, cool, dry place free from strong odors.  So, I eliminated the possibility of paper bags or cardboard boxes.
I also know that presentation is important in generating an emotional response.  And, as these teas would be gifts, I wanted something warm and homey.
20161028_145718Canning jars were a no brainer; they’re nearly a culinary hug. What started as a container for grandma’s homemade strawberry-rhubarb jelly or grandpa’s apple pie moonshine, has become repurposed for wildflowers at a country wedding, water at a BBQ restaurant or candles along a garden path. Mason jars are ubiquitous symbols of connection.
I will use 4- and 8-ounce jars to package herbal teas for gifting.
My creative skills don’t stop there. I’ll need lids and labels. Traditional two-part, metal
canning lids don’t work in this situation. That’s why I was happy to find Timber Tops Bamboo Storage Lids from Masontops. They’re reusable, leak-proof and made from fast-growing, highly renewable bamboo. Better yet, they add flair.
20161031_122519
The next item in my supply box is twine. I’ve found it in natural, black, blue and pink at the dollar section in Target stores as well as other craft suppliers and online. Check out your local hardware store or amazon.com if you can’t find it easily.
Finally, I need labels to identify the tea blend and year it was grown. Again, over the past months I’ve found a variety of tags in the Target dollar section… wood, burlap, and metal. These can also be found at craft and office stores. Even the canning jar company Ball sells wood hanging tags.
My favorite tags, which go well with the stylish bamboo look, have blackboard paint. I print information on them with a white chalk marker and hang them around the neck of the jar.  Viola, class in glass.

Readers receive 10% off at the Masontops store until December 15, 2016. Use the code HERBSOCIETY10.
Keep a Garden Journal

Keep a Garden Journal

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

20160427_190502This year I’ll keep an herb garden journal.  During May, I expect to put a lot of energy into my personal diary of garden activity and results.  As summer progresses I expect to slow garden journal 2down.


My journal will be creative and whimsical, as well as a truly strategic tool to improve my future gardens. I’ve kept records, but this year I will be more comprehensive and organized.  
I looked at journals on Amazon.com and in Barnes and Noble. Then, viola! I spent $3 at a garage sale for a three-ring binder covered in handmade paper and dried flowers.  I prefer a three-ring binder because I can add, remove, shuffle pages.

Next step? The journal interior.

An internet search turned up downloadable journals as well as software options.  I prefer to keep records while sitting on the porch. So, I built my journal with different pages from 20160427_095704different sites.

2016 Garden Journal, from ARBICO Organics

Frugal Living Garden Journal

Each page I chose to use, I printed on heavy card stock from an office supply store. I put these pages in plastic sleeves. Three-hole punches are another option. I find plastic sleeves superior when filing drawings, seed packets a
nd other scrapbook items.

 Potential pages for any Garden Journal include

  • Goals, for each plot
  • Drawings, for each plot
  • Shopping list
  • To-do list
  • Weekly
  • Seeds pockets
  • Seed planting notes
  • Transplant pockets – for soil picks
  • Transplant notes, source of plants
  • Soil analysis
  • Fertilizer application date and type
  • Weather of note
  • Weekly reflections
  • Monthly notes

garden journal 1As needed, I will add idea pages torn from books and magazines. And, pictures as my garden plots progress through the weeks. These will be important to cheer me in the winter and, like my weekly reflections, help me plan for 2017 and beyond.


How do you keep garden records? How do you journal?

 

Violets Infuse Vodka for a Delightful Cocktail

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

20160328_173928While we waited to see Book of Mormon at Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, we settled onto bar stools at Bin 216. I ordered the Aviation Cocktail- a mixture of gin, crème de violette, luxardo and lemon — because I’d never heard of the violette liqueur and I love new culinary experiences.

The drink settled into the back of my mind until the book Eat Your Roses reminded me that the violets were edible.

And, I’m compelled to make everything I can from scratch. At least once. Consider, in my 20s I thought about raising chickens so I could control the quality of my chicken stock, but I couldn’t decide what would come first – the chicken or the egg.

Laugh if you must, but the thought crossed my mind.

So, why not make crème de violette?

Problem was my obsession started in February, after a foraging trip through the mountains surrounding Asheville, N.C. Unable to find fresh violets in late winter, I bought the purple liqueur. For the budget-conscious, it comes in a classy package and, again, costs less than buying your own packaging and making it.

But that wasn’t the point. I grew up in a family where from-scratch food was de rigueur. Store-bought bread? Verboten.

20160326_155718So, when on Easter 2016, I found violets growing in my boyfriend’s yard, it was time. When you eat (and drink) with the seasons you act before the window closes. I was on a mission.

It didn’t take long to realize accumulating enough of these little fairy blossoms was going to be onerous. So, I made like Tom Sawyer and turned it into a game with my boyfriend’s grandchildren. With the help of four girls we lightly filled half of a quart mason jar.

The glass jar was a delightful way to collect because we were ch20160326_155708armed by the way the sun illuminated the delicate petals through the glass and the perfume was a promise of things to come.

I was almost reluctant to cover the vibrant violets with vodka. For a few seconds at least. Glug, glug, glug and the violets were giving up their soul to the spirit.

20160329_181527_001After marinating (macerating?) overnight the purple leached into the tasteless liquor. And, the flavor went with it, creating an almost berry-like balm. I knew because I’d sample every few hours. I call that quality control.

By day three, when the flowers were nearly colorless I strained the fledgling liqueur into another mason jar spilling precious drops onto the counter. I refrained from licking the liquid straight from the granite. It wasn’t five o’clock somewhere. Yet.

The sketchy instructions I’d found on the internet claimed their infusion was a light lilac. Mine was, but it oxidized to a light gold after a few days.  How could I improve the coloring? The purist in me resisted food coloring, but I may give in. Again, we eat first with our eyes.

I decided to make another batch and another and another. I tried six different vodkas. Not to belabor the details, but the flavors were all slightly different. I preferred the barely there hint of fruit from Ciroc vodka – made from grapes – as it married with the violets.  My second choice was Kamchatka, a lower-priced vodka.

Next step? Adding an equal part simple syrup.

Then, shake and serve over ice, splashed into bubbly or crafted into a cocktail.

Cheers!


NOTE: Simple syrup is a mixture of equal parts sugar and water, simmered until sugar is dissolved. After cooling I added it to my violette infusion.