Thursday, July 16, 2009

Entertaining the Electuary

One of the most pleasant ways to prepare and take herbs is in an electuary, which is a fancy-pants name for a sweet herbal paste or jam. In times past, many bitter-tasting and downright unpalatable herbs were likely prepared in this way to 'help the medicine go down". In its simplest form, an electuary consists of honey and powdered herbs; however, I've seen a variety of interesting additions in recipes: fragrant flowers (fresh rose petals come to mind), wine, brandy, herbal vinegar or medicinal tinctures; fruit or herb syrups, jams or conserves.
The gamut of possible combinations in recipes of electuaries can run from the very simple to the extremely complex. The great Greco-Roman physician Galen's Theriac electuary had over 64 different ingredients! Well made, electuaries will keep for a very long time. Many actually mellow and improve with age. Precious pots of herb and honey blends have been found intact in the burial tombs of many of the great pharaohs of Egypt. Apparently they were considered a valuable necessity to have in the afterlife!
The standard 'dose' for a sweet herbal paste is usually a teaspoonful taken as needed, depending on the electuary's potency. They may be stirred into hot complimentary teas to be ingested or taken straight off the spoon. Truth be told, my favorite vehicle of choice is a piece of buttered whole grain toast! But, I digress...
My favorite combination for an electuary is an assortment of warming carminitive and aromatic spices. This particular blend is particularly useful in the event of digestive cramping, nausea, intestinal gas, diarrhea and other uncomfortable disorders of the digestive system. Many of these same spices are also strongly antibacterial in the case of digestive upset caused by ingesting microbial nasties. Some may be surprised, if not skeptical, of the potent medicinal power of these common kitchen cupboard spices. If the medicinal value of this tasty electuary hasn't sold you yet, make this simply to stir into a cup of hot water or hot black tea and cream for an instant chai tea! And please, don't forget to try the buttered toast. It's heavenly.

Here is my own recipe for this excellent electuary. Be sure to use whole spices to start. Commercially powdered spices may have already lost a good part of their 'zing' and with it, a good part of their medicinal value.   

*3 tsp cardamom seeds
*2 tsp whole black peppercorns 
*2 tsp fennel seeds
*1 tsp coriander seeds
*1 tsp whole cloves
*1 tsp ginger ginger root pieces
*3 tsp cinnamon chips
*1 TB ground turmeric 
*pinch of sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place whole spices into a pie tin and roast in the oven for about 5 minutes or until the spices are fragrant. Remove and cool.

Grind whole spices together in a mortar and pestle (or an electric coffee grinder if you have one) until quite finely powdered. Blend in the ground turmeric and a pinch of sea salt. Stir into 2 cups of honey. The finished electuary should be rich, dark and nearly paste-like in consistency.  Store in a clean jar and cap tightly.


Gail Faith Edwards said...

Wonderful! Thanks for sharing your recipes!

Karen Vaughan said...

Oh, what a delightful combination of flavors!

nettlejuice said...

Susan, thank you for this inspiring post. I have been experimenting with electuaries since I read it and recently posted about it on my blog here...

I'd love to make it up to one of your classes soon.


Pamela said...

I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.


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