Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Witch's Brew? But Good for You!

I've known Quinn Wilson for quite awhile now. She's a terrific chef, a wonderful cooking teacher, and just a good person. But I have to admit, my eyebrows have been raised since I heard about this new business she started called Balanced & Bright. It's a result of an interest she developed in traditional foods a couple of years ago. As her business card says, it's all about health, wellness, and radiance. And it comes in the form of a bone broth that is her new product. Now, if you Google bone broth you'll find it referenced as a magical elixir with healing benefits. I tend to be a skeptic about these things, but I also grew up with a grandmother who relied on a lot of homemade, what we might today called homeopathic, remedies. And I have to think that bone broth tastes a lot better than her boiled grapefruit--although not nearly as good as honey and lemon for a sore throat.

Quinn is also making another product, which is what I recently got to see her make, along with our friend Julie Darling. It's a master tonic that is touted as being able to put the kabosh on viruses (once you see what's in it, you'll get behind that), but also said to maximize blood circulation, detoxify the blood, and even "turn around the deadliest diseases." Okay, that's pushing it as far as I'm concerned. But as someone raised on Jewish penicillin, I can see how an herbal mixture brewed with apple cider vinegar can be a formidable opponent to the common cold.

I tasted Quinn's bone broth and it's quite lovely. The boiled mixture of beef bones from pastured cattle, water, apple cider vinegar, and a secret ingredient (I know what it is but was sworn to secrecy) has a gentle, sweet flavor. The fat, collagen, gelatin, and vitamins and minerals drawn from the bones by the vinegar are said to help with joint issues and digestion. Quinn noticed that after making it at home for herself her skin became smooth and supple, her hair shinier, and her nails stronger. Quinn drinks it like a tea, but also cooks with it. In fact, she recently sauteed apples in the broth which she baked into an apple pie. She also adds it to her dog Honey's food,which she says has made the dog's coat soft and shiny. In fact, Quinn is working with a dog food company to add it to their food.

You can make bone broth at home, of course, but Quinn emphasizes that the key to making a quality bone broth that lives up to addressing medical issues is that the bones must come from pastured cattle. She gets her bones from Da-Le Ranch, Sage Mountain Farm, and Homegrown Meats. And, she suggests that for general health and healing, a person must drink between three to four pints a week, and six pints a week after having surgery. You can order it by the pint on the website Big Cartel. It comes frozen, so defrost it overnight in the refrigerator before using and be sure to skim off the fat on the top--but use it to cook with, too.

Now for the Master Tonic. This witch's brew literally took my breath away. And Julie's and Quinn's. And made their eyes run. Why? Because the ingredients are limited but oh, so potent: fresh horseradish, fresh chiles, onions, ginger root, and garlic cloves. All in equal parts. All chopped or grated as the ingredient warrants.

I remember my grandfather peeling, then grating fresh horseradish for Passover seders when I was a kid. This was no more fun--there's a reason why most of us buy it prepared at the market. Between that, the jalapeños, and the onions, Quinn and Julie were vying for the goggles. And I was reeling, too.

You can buy the tonic from Quinn but, should you want to make this yourself, here's the recipe they use. Note, wear gloves and goggles when making it.

Master Tonic

1 part fresh chopped garlic cloves
1 part fresh chopped white onions (or the hottest onions available)
1 part fresh grated ginger root
1 part fresh grated horseradish root
1 part fresh chopped chiles (cayenne, jalapeños, serranos, habaneros, African bird peppers, or any combination of the hottest peppers available)
Raw, unfiltered, unbleached, non-distilled apple cider vinegar

Fill a glass jar 3/4 of the way full with equal parts of the fresh chopped or grated ingredients. Then cover completely with the vinegar.

Close and shake vigorously. Then top off the vinegar if necessary. Keep the jar in a cool, dark place for two weeks. Shake the tonic daily a couple of times.

The recipe calls for beginning the formula on the new moon, then straining and bottling the mixture on the full moon two weeks later. Filter it through a clean piece of cotton, coffee filter, or colander, then bottle and label.

Don't toss the solids. Think of what you have there! It's the makings of a marinade or salad dressing or dip. Julie added some to a mashed avocado to make guacamole.

As for drinking the tonic. I tried a shot of it and rather liked it, except for the whiff of fermentation it gives off. It's strong and spicy, as you'd expect. The suggested dosage is 1/2 to 1 ounce two or more times a day as needed. Perfect in a shot glass. Store your master tonic in a dark place. It won't go bad (given the ingredients, could it ever?). I can absolutely see how it would give a cold or flu a good fight. My nana would have loved it!

You can contact Quinn at balancedandbright@gmail.com to order the tonic.

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