Can you guess why I'm sipping yarrow herbal tea (Achillea millefolium)?
This is a plant (flowers and leaves) that I've picked for years to make herbal tea. I normally have some hanging up in my kitchen drying for exactly this kind of moment.
I have a cold.
A snotty, head, sore throaty kind-of cold. I don't feel my best and having my hands around a hot cup of yarrow tea is helpful. It's not just the heat, but the properties of the herb itself that could help me. As can extra sleep, good food, a hot water bottle and lots of TLC (that's 'tender loving care' if you're reading this from abroad).
Named after the Greek hero Achilles, yarrow has been used since, well possibly forever, though written texts show that it was used in the 1500s. It's properties are numerous, and with my current head-cold I don't have the energy or brain-power to go into all of its medicinal abilities. I talk a little more about in in my yarrow creme brulee recipe post (yes medicine can also be dessert!).
Today, I'm sipping yarrow tea to help my cold and throat. Yarrow basically dilates the pores and blood vessels, making one perspire and release body toxins. It can calm coughing and has antiseptic qualities for tackling viruses and infections. It's best to harvest when in flower.
I'll be filling my mug a few times as I write this blog. Pouring hot water over the leaves and flowers and letting it stew. Steep, is the technical word, let my herbs steep.
A jar of dried yarrow leaves and flowers that I'll be using during autumn and winter. Yarrow is one of the plants I cover sometimes on foraging courses and on my forage, sing and taste courses. Always consult a medical herbalist if you are using herbs for medicinal reasons.
Schnapps is a flavoured and distilled alcoholic drink, the flavour is often fruit, the alcohol often brandy. I came across a hawthorn schnapps recipe a couple of years ago, I can't quite remember where. I'm often looking for different recipes for the plants that I pick regularly and this sounded like a great idea to try.
Why make Hawthorn Schnapps??
The berries of the hawthorn tree (Crataegus monogyna) are renown for their health-giving properties, especially for the heart. Hawthorn supports the heart's physical functions and is safe to use to help prevent or recover from a heart attack. The berries also contains vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B17 and vitamin C. Always seek advice from a medical professional before using hawthorn if you have; a heart condition, are pregnant or have low blood pressure.
There is a history of heart issues on both sides of my family, and my darling, aging dad continues to struggle with his under-performing heart. So I find myself eating, using and rather passionate about hawthorn berries. From a personal point of view, a second motivation for making this recipe is that my dad really enjoys a tipple, especially at family gatherings and special occasions. With Christmas on the way, and knowing how experiencing pleasure is so, so good for our health, I definitely wanted to make this!
I've enjoyed commercially made Schnapps a handful of times. Once, when hiking in Austria and I received the news that my friend Hilary had just given birth back in the UK. I celebrated that evening with a strong Peach Schnapps and later with a few variations offered by a group of German climbers I befriended there. I've also enjoyed it with a German friend of mine who now lives here in Cornwall. Notice a theme? The word Schnapps actually derives from Germany, its meaning being 'strong alcoholic drink'. Fruits used to flavour schnapps are often: pear, apple, cherry, peach or plum. Hawthorn berries felt like a good, wild berry to try as a replacement.
Schnapps is normally drunk in small, shot glasses. It's strong!
How to make Hawthorn Schnapps or Hawthorn Tincture
This is so simple to make. Here I share a few tips that might be useful. Just to be clear, this isn't a distilling recipe, this is a recipe for flavouring alcohol and extracting the goodness of the hawthorn berries into brandy. If you prefer, you can use this recipe as a tincture, and take five drops to a teaspoon instead of a shot!
- Bottle of brandy
- Hawthorn berries
- Sugar (optional)
I like my brandy medicinal, so I literally just use brandy and hawthorn berries and don't add sugar. Do add a little sugar if you'd prefer a hawthorn liqueur. Steep the berries in brandy (fill a jar or bottle 2/3 full with berries and cover with the brandy) for at least 2 weeks. I completely forgot about mine - I'm not a big drinker - and left it for one year! It still works and tastes great. Strain off the berries and decant into a clear bottle or brown bottle.
My brandy turned brown (orangey when strained) because I picked the berries when mature and late in the season. If you would like a cleaner colour use berries before they go soft and a dark red, and pick in September rather than November!
Other hawthorn recipes
You might want to take a look at this fantastic Hawthorn Berry Ketchup Recipe, or this Hawthorn, Apple and Honey Fruit Leather Recipe. I also share my latest recipes, processes and knowledge on my wild food foraging courses and regularly post on my facebook and instagram pages.