I am a dreamer. One day I get it in my head that I want to live way out in the hilltowns, the next I'm planning my move to the city. I have about 500 new business ideas a week. As I dream, I keep catching myself thinking someday (when I'm in the country with my wood stove and pigs) life will be easy. What a joke that is! If anything it gets continually harder as my capacity to handle challenges grows. I have to consciously remind myself to step out of the illusion and face the bitter truth - life's not going to get easier. The challenges I face may evolve, they may ebb and flow, but turning away from those challenges is not an option if I want to be any kind of interesting person. A person who grows.
Life is full of feelings and flavors, each beautiful in their own way, including all the "good" and "bad" ones. So a good question to ask yourself is how can I take a step back and look at all of life's joys and challenges from a more neutral place - without becoming partial to one and rejecting the other? It's similar to asking, how can I taste the flavor of bitter and appreciate it for what it is as opposed to saying "blech!" and reaching for something sweet?
Foods that taste bitter have amazing medicinal properties. In general they are cleansing and grounding. When humans ate more wild and forged foods, their diets were much higher in bitter secondary metabolites (which are the medicinal properties of plants). In our modern diets we are accustomed to sweetness and the bitter flavor tends to taste unfavorable.
A great and easy way to reintroduce the medicinal benefits of the bitter flavor into your diet is to make bitters. Buying cocktail or digestive bitters can be a strain on the wallet and by making them you can experiment with fun flavor combos. The recipe below was a total experiment - I wanted to use the orange peels I had dried - and it came out tasting fantastic! The basic formula is a bittering agent (a bitter herb like gentian, artichoke leaf, the white pith of citrus peels, dandelion etc), aromatic herbs for flavor, and high-proof alcohol. You leave that mixture for 3-6 weeks then strain it. Some people even add a tiny bit of honey after straining to increase the depth of flavor. I did not and I love the flavor of mine, but it is an option.
In a pint jar combine:
- 1 cup dried orange peels (how to make your own here)
- 2 Tbsp. dried Gentian root
- 2 Tbsp. cardamom seeds (or pods, crushed)
- 4 Tbsp. organic dried rose petals (non-organic roses tend to be sprayed heavily)
- 2 tsp. organic rose hips
- 1 tsp. whole cloves
- 1 tsp. whole coriander seeds
Fill the jar to the top with :
- 40%/80 proof brandy or vodka (I used brandy)
Cover (it is a good idea to place wax paper under the jar lid so the alcohol does not corrode the lid) and let sit for 3-6 weeks, giving the jar a good shake every few days. During this time, taste the bitters frequently until the flavor is to your liking.
Strain through muslin or cheesecloth and press out as much liquid as you can, then bottle. Enjoy your bitters on their own, with seltzer or in mocktails and cocktails!