It rained, it finally rained! After what has been a very hot and dry summer, we finally had some rain over the weekend and it felt good, really good. The smell and sound of the rain and freshness of the air was so comforting and calming. While we are back to sunshine today, I can certainly feel fall creeping in. The days are noticeably shorter, the morning air is cooler and the light is changing. My wee summer garden is also slowing down in its production. Late summer is the time of year where I really feel the call to squirrel away bits of summer to enjoy on those dark, wet and rainy days that are characteristic of fall on the west coast.
I am always looking for new (to me) kitchen experiments and ways to preserve the summer season in a small apartment in the city. I love having things brewing, soaking, fermenting and infusing around the kitchen. I find these practices to be grounding and it is fun and powerful to connect with old traditions and wisdom around food and medicine making.
When I met with Natalie Rousseau in Pemberton on a hot summer’s day about a month ago for a story I was creating with her, she shared a lovely and refreshing drink with me when I arrived. It was a hawthorn berry oxymel mixed with sparkling water. It was the perfect summer drink with a lovely balance of sweet and sour which I love and find very hydrating. Natalie also sent me home with some of the oxymel and guidelines for how to make it.
An oxymel is an herbal preparation that combines vinegar, honey and herbs. The version I made here uses a large amount of fruit and less herbs, which makes it more of a cross between a drinking vinegar and an oxymel. Regardless of its name, it makes for a refreshing and hydrating summer drink with bubbly water and is tasty in salad dressings and marinades as well. The prep time is quick but you will need to let it infuse for a minimum of 10 days and up to a month. As with many of these old herbal recipes, the recipes are quite flexible and fun to play with. The basic ratio is 1 part honey to 3 parts vinegar and you will want to fill your jar about 2/3 of the way with your chosen combination of fruit, herbs and or spices before covering with the honey and vinegar. Fresh and/or dried herbs and spices work in this type of preparation. If you want to make a stronger herbal preparation, you can reduce the amount of fruit and increase the proportion of herbs and spices and you can also play with the balance of vinegar and honey depending on your palate.
I currently have another batch infusing with blackberries, coriander seed, chamomile, lemon peel and dried orange peel. I am excited for this one! Also thinking about what fruits are in season at the moment, I love the idea of a coronation grape version with rosemary and a plum version with rose petals and cardamom. The possibilities are endless. The recipe I provided makes quite a bit but if you want to try making several different types, feel free to makes smaller batches.
Enjoy the sweet sorrow of these last few beautiful weeks of summer and taking the time to preserve a little of that sweetness for the darker days ahead. September is one of my favourite months of the year as we transition from the outward, busy time that is summer into the quieter, more introspective time of fall.
A big thank you to Natalie for sharing this recipe idea with me and inspiring new creations in my kitchen. If you would like to read more about Natalie and her reflections on food and self-care, hop on over to the story here.
- 2-3 large peaches (about 3 cups), chopped
- 1½ cups apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup raw honey
- 2 Tbsp fresh ginger, chopped finely
- 1 Tbsp dried lavender
- Fill a sterilized 1 litre glass jar with the peaches, ginger, and lavender, you want it to be about ⅔ full.
- In a glass measuring cup combine the honey and the apple cider vinegar. Pour over the fruit and herb mixture. You want the fruit and herbs to be covered by the vinegar/honey mixture. Seal with a plastic lid (if using metal be sure to place wax paper between the lid and and liquid as the vinegar will corrode the metal and ruin your oxymel) and shake gentle to combine. Leave the mixture on the counter for 10 days to 1 month, giving the mixture a gentle shake each day.
- Once the oxymel has steeped for desired amount of time, strain off the solids from the liquids using a fine sieve. Store the oxymel in a clean glass jar in the fridge.
- For a refreshing summer drink, mix about 1 Tbsp of the oxymel with bubbly water to taste and top with your favourite herbs or edible flowers. It would also be delicious in salad dressings or marinades.