Happy New Year, friends! I’m just poking my head out of my hibernation cave to offer the first “hello!” of 2015. As is my nature, I am hunkered down in contemplative mode making plans for the new year, assessing strides against last year’s goals, and tending to the softest parts of my self. One of the great blessings of not having a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 grind is permission to be present and respond to the season at my feet.
I’m not a witch by accident: my path reflects my natural tendencies to not only celebrate the seasons, but also follow them energetically.
I don’t really begin to emerge until the light returns in earnest, right aboooooooout NOW.
I am a quiet, curled up bear in winter of necessity; I simply don’t muster the same energy for short, cold days.
I make myself useful in more meditative ways: knitting, baking, planning, organizing, researching, writing, and doing what seem to be epic piles of laundry. I build my enthusiasm for the spring to come, when the garden opens up to me, the trees ache with buds, and the driveway doesn’t need shoveling. And I greet the spring like a hungry bear, ready to devour opportunities and eager to work for the rewards of my garden, my grounds, and my life.
But now, with snow softly falling among the bare alder branches and a foot of snow on the pond, I am still all tea and slippers, crumpets and jam, snuggles and sighs.
I look for comfort and count my blessings in the covey of fat quail that visit my porch and the finches at the feeders. I enjoy subtle reminders of my garden in the form of dried herbs baked in breads, infused oils to warm and nourish my skin, and sweet, canned fruits that spread summer’s light over everything from pastries to oatmeal. I light candles, take impossibly hot aromatic baths, and drink still more tea. And so it is that I emerge from the huddle just long enough to share a quick trick for making one of my winter go-tos: thyme-infused honey.
You can, of course, infuse just about any herb into honey with varying degrees of success and tastiness. I’m partial to thyme (Thymus vulgaris) in my winter honey because of its unusual flavor and its penchant for supporting wellness in the chest and respiratory system in this season of sore throats, coughing, and bronchitis. I also appreciate its association with courage (as courage is what’s called for when I am staring down three hundred yards of four-foot deep snow to the road…). Of course, I also have thyme ev-er-y-where around my house in the summer, so there is a bounty for me to pick and pickle at my leisure during my more active months.
While most infused honeys are best when crafted the slow way (without direct heat, over 2-3 weeks in a sunny and warm location as in the photo at left), now is not an easy time to find a warm, sunny windowsill whereupon to set your jars, at least not in these parts.
If I happen to run out of the infused-honeys from summer’s sill, I make a replacement batch in winter using the following “quickie” method. It’s equally delicious and sublimely satisfying.
- 2 cups of raw, organic local honey
- 1/4 cup dried thyme leaves
- 1 or 2 whole sprigs of dried thyme for the jar, if desired
- Heavy bottomed pan
- A clean, dry glass pint jar with a tight-fitting lid
- Cheesecloth or fine mesh screen
- Combine two cups of honey and herbs in your pan and heat over low heat until all of the honey is warmed. Note: Be sure that it does not come to a boil. (Boiling honey compromises both the flavor and health benefits).
- Once heated through, remove from heat and allow it to cool.
- Strain the honey through a fine mesh sieve and/or cheesecloth into your clean glass jar. (You might want to staring into a wider-mouth measuring cup first to reduce mess.)
- Discard the “spent” thyme leaves.
- Add whole, dried thyme sprigs to the jar for decoration, if desired.
- Label your jars and store in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight.
If you like, you can of course substitute other fresh herbs according to your taste. I recommend using a bit less rosemary as it can get too strong and a bit less lavender as it can taste, well, kinda soapy.
Thyme-infused honey is ridiculously yummy in a host of ways:
- stirred in green, herbal, or black tea
- gooped over fresh-baked bread with a bit of butter
- used in place of plain honey in barbecue sauce or slow cooker recipes (←this is why we always run out!)
- mixed (2 tsps) with hot milk as a wholesome sleep aid before bed
- drizzled on oatmeal with almonds (seriously. try it.)
- and, no laughing, as a dip for warmed, leftover pizza crust. (I know. TRY IT.)
I hope you’re warm and cozy wherever you are with natural delights to comfort and sustain you. I’ll be back with more soon as I grow with the light…
Bless and blessed be!