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Boiling wine, cider and syrup.

COUNTRYSIDE: In the Nov/Dec 2004 issue a letter from B. Galioto intrigued me.

The "boiled wine" spoken of in the letter was probably like our New England "boiled cider" or cider syrup, and is probably done the same way. Different liquids need different boiling times. Maple syrup is boiled for a very long time and the volume reduction ratio is 40:1. (40 gallons of sap are boiled down to one gallon of syrup.) Most liquids are only in need of being reduced by boiling to a syrupy consistency for 20-45 minutes at a rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly to prevent the natural sugars in the wine from caramelizing and sticking to the bottom. Wine is probably reduced by 1/2 to 3/4. In other words, a quart of wine will produce a pint to a cup of boiled wine. It thickens as it cools so keep stopping the boiling process and letting it cool to room temperature until you get the consistency you want.

It used to be that all our syrups were made that way, but progress told manufacturers that wasn't cost effective--true, it isn't--but now they add some vaguely defined "modified food starch" and "high fructose" syrup that both elevate our blood sugar levels and prevent our bodies from reducing the insulin our bodies need to process the higher blood sugar levels. And now we wonder why the incidence of diabetes in this country is skyrocketing to staggering proportions.

On second thought, don't get me started on my campaign against the food industry--it'll take up the next 10 issues!

So, cider syrup or "boiled cider" as it is being sold in the Baker's catalog, would be a great thing to make if you couldn't sell all your cider. And if you find your apples going bad this winter (or your wine starting to turn and you don't need gallons of vinegar) it makes a wonderful mid-winter project. And this becomes a "new" product to sell at your fruit stand or farmers market next summer.

If you can gather wild cherries, you can make a good cough syrup for the kids and people like me who are allergic to chemical quaiffinesin found in over-the-counter cough syrups at the pharmacy. The best recipe I found is in Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons.

Take a cup of blossoms of red clover (Trifolium praetense), 1 cup of finely cut sprigs of new growth white pine (pinus strobes), 1 cup of finely chopped leaves of mullein (Verbascure thapsus, now endangered but you can grow your own from seed from Richter's Herbs, Goodwood, Canada), and 1/2 cup of finely chopped inner bark of any of your wild cherries, the best bark is from a mid-sized branch, not a twig or the trunk.

Put all four ingredients in a saucepan and cover with I quart of water. Simmer gently for 20 minutes, then strain out the herbs and add 1 pint of honey to the liquid. Bring this to a boil, then pour into sterilized bottles and cap tightly. Take I teaspoon whenever needed for cough.

Use a carpenter's knife or scraper held perpendicular to the surface of the bark to get at the inner bark. When a section of the live, inner bark is exposed, shave off as much as you need.

I was given a hunk of that inner bark last winter for a cough. It tastes like wintergreen and just that works wonders if you are walking in the woods and are near a wild cherry tree. A friend gave me bark from a small twig, so I think the reason Mr. Gibbons used a mid-sized limb is because it's easier to gather a half cup of the stuff from one branch, rather than girdling the tree and killing it or dealing with a thousand little twigs.

Another remedy Mr. Gibbons wrote about was made by a friend of his who owned bee hives: The man had one hive in the middle of a wild horehound field. He'd watch the horehound and just before it bloomed, he'd put fresh frames in the hive after removing and saving the old ones. After bloom, he'd remove most of the horehound herbal honey and give the hives back their old frames. This honey he'd scrape out and save (I would keep it raw for myself) and give a tablespoon at bedtime for a cough. He claimed it had a sedative effect and the sufferer would get a good night's sleep.

I haven't had a flu shot since 1989 and I haven't had the flu since then. I'd always get the flu from the flu shot. They said that is normal; that it was what the flu shot was made of. I worked with the public for many years and was exposed to everything, but nothing made me sicker than that darn flu shot! (Except my bronchitis, which was cured by an herbalist friend with mullein tincture, and had started after a flu shot, which was why I quit getting them.)

Anyhow, as Garrison Keillor says, "Be well, do good work and keep in touch,"[R] at the end of his writer's almanac each day of the week on public radio.--D. D., New Hampshire
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Title Annotation:Country conversation & feedback
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Mar 1, 2005
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