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In July 2021, our friend Brittany Ducham released Be a Kitchen Witch: Missives from the Community Cauldron On Crafting Herbal Medicine at Home. Edited by Brittany - who is herself an herbalist, author, zine maker, and licensed massage therapist - BAKW is a collaborative zine made to educate and empower those interested in making herbal medicine at home. An indispensable guide for anyone looking to deepen their herb practice. The zine features step-by-step recipes and medicine stories from a diverse group of seventeen herbalists and healing practitioners, including our very own Lauren Haynes!

While the beloved zine is currently sold out - we hear there might be a third printing in the works - we got permission from Brittany to share Lauren’s contribution to BAKW on oxymels. Without giving too much away, oxymels are a very old preparation and are still wildly popular. Our own Fire Cider and Elderberry Elixir are both oxymels in fact!

 

"Oxymels" from Be a Kitchen Witch

I love oxymels because they taste like liquid candy with an herbal twang. Think melted sour gummies, but medicinal. The word oxymel is derived from Latin, “oxy” meaning sharp, sour, acidic, and “mel” for honey. Just like the name, oxymels are made from half honey and half vinegar, though the ratios can be adjusted to taste. While this vinegar and honey brew is medicinal on its own - traditionally used to support respiratory health- it typically makes up the menstruum, or extraction medium, of the finished concoction. Herbs are steeped in this syrupy liquid for weeks, creating a finished product that’s a treat to take and is sure to be one of the most delicious medicines you’ll ever create.

Oxymels are great for people who might be averse to alcohol, and kids especially love them. They’re so fun and versatile - you can mix fruits with herbs, like juicy peaches with chamomile, or sun-ripened strawberries with rose, and blueberries with lavender. They make great additions to sparkling water for something to sip on a hot summer day. You can tone down the honey and make a more savory blend, like Fire Cider, or bump up the honey for a syrupy syrup, like an Elderberry Syrup. The range of experimentation is vast, but the result is always delicious. Of course you can make oxymels with just herbs as well, and brew up some fine potent herbal formulas for anything you can imagine.

Vinegar excels at extracting alkaloids, polysaccharides, volatile oils, and minerals. Herbs I love to use in oxymels include nettle, thyme, oregano, lemon balm, chamomile, rose, burdock, red raspberry leaf, catnip, oatstraw and milky oats, hawthorn berry, mugwort, and so many more. The only herbs I avoid are minty mints, as I think the minty flavor clashes with the tart vinegar... But then again, you might totally love it. So just experiment, don’t be afraid, and find an herbalist that you can ask questions. Happy medicine making!

How to Make a Peach Chamomile Oxymel

This oxymel is the perfect calming, cooling addition to a sweltering, humid summer day. Peaches are full of electrolytes to keep you hydrated, and chamomile is a classic calming nervine, taking the edge off effectively in the most gentle way. The flavors of peach and chamomile are so complementary - both sweet as can be. Reach for this potion when you’re feeling frazzled, when you need a sweet treat, when you crack a fresh Gerolsteiner, before bed, or when sunbathing naked.

Yield 

8 ounces of oxymel

Ingredients

  • Two ripe peaches
  • One cup fresh chamomile blossoms, or half a cup of dried
  • 1 cup raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup wildflower honey

Instructions

  1. Wash and dry a pint sized mason jar
  2. Peel your peach, and either compost the skin or add it to your mason jar. (We can include the skin in the oxymel, but we want to peel the peach flesh to maximize the surface area that’s in contact with the vinegar and honey menstruum, so that weextract as much peach flavor as possible.)
  3. Cut your peach in small pieces over a bowl, then add all the pieces alongwith any juice caught in the bowl to the mason jar.
  4. Add in your handful of chamomile.
  5. Smell the contents! Just for fun.
  6. Next add your honey to the jar and let it settle to the bottom.
  7. Top it off with vinegar.
  8. Before you cap the mixture, add a piece of parchment paper in between the lid and jar to reduce spillage as you shake your oxymel. Then screw the lid on tight.
  9. Shake the oxymel briskly, and then set on a sunny windowsill for a few days to let the sun warm the honey and the honey meld with the vinegar.
  10. Label the jar with the name of the oxymel, a list of ingredients, and the dateyou made it. You can add any other information like what sign the moon was in, wherethe ingredients came from, etc.
  11. Steep for two weeks.
  12. Strain and bottle in a clean jar or amber bottle. Enjoy!

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