The book I have my students reading for our book discussion is The Wild Medicine Solution by Guido Masé which I am very much enjoying, myself. It is fun to read something for the first time with them, because we are all discovering its wonderfulness together. Guido rocks the bitters section in this book and it has really supported a lot of what I think about in terms of bitters mitigating modern diet and environmental conditions.
I think my first exposure to the importance of bitters came from Jim McDonald who is a veritable font of information on the subject. His Blessed Bitters is an amazing introduction to the subject, so my purpose in this post is not to explain their importance, but rather to share my ways that I incorporate Bitters into my diet.
As longtime readers know, we cook our own food around here and I am a very large proponent of eating your herbs. I incorporate them into my food whenever possible because honestly I am not going to remember to take 20 tinctures a day. So while it is nice to have a bottle of warming bitters to be able to tuck in my bag when I am out traveling, at home I prefer to figure out ways to cook with them. I also run pretty cold. So even though the classic bitter greens are a hugely important part of my diet, I need to find ways to warm them up a bit. I eat eggs and greens for breakfast almost every morning braised with seasonings. Similarly, if I make chamomile tea chances are I am going to add some orange peel and fennel to warm it up. I attribute that bit of brilliance to Darcy Blue.
One of my favorite ways to get bitters everyday is to put them in a seasoning mix that I make ahead of time and keep in a cute little crock by my stove.
To begin making this I grind equal amounts of what I jokingly call na Tríonóide Naofa of Seeds: milk thistle, nettle and burdock seed.
To that mixture I add an equal amount of the warming bitter fenugreek, mushroom powder and a good amount of rosemary. You can use any mushroom powder you enjoy but my teacher Sean recommended this 14 Mushroom Powder that is just divine and I’ve heard good things of the owner from many herbalists.
To this combination I add long pepper (because it is less drying than black pepper), sea salt, and oregano in equal amounts. My purpose is to try to round the flavors out in a manner similar to the way a churna would be made. You can easily substitute in other culinary herbs that balance out your energetics. Perhaps you need more drying herbs? While not a traditional churna because it is quite heavy on the bitters, I use this frequently to cook with and to season my food.
My Personal Bitter Seasoning Blend Formula
1 part milk thistle seed
1 part burdock seed
1 part nettle seed
1 part fenugreek
1 part dried mushroom powder
1/2 part rosemary
1/4 part sea salt
1/4 part long pepper or black pepper
1/4 part oregano
If you have this made up and easily accessible, it makes it a lot easier to quickly add bitters to other preparations. For example, the recipe below is the bone broth recipe I’ve been throwing together, lately. I drink it as a beverage, use it for soups and cooking rice for a quick pilaf. For vegetarian dishes, I have been making my garlic-astragalus broth with the seasoning blend.
2 lbs. marrow bones, chicken bones
1/2 cup chopped chicken livers
¼ cup infused vinegar (I like burdock root or sage)
2 onions chopped
2 cups chopped herbs from the garden
Garlic to taste. I usually use a whole head
½ cup dried burdock root
¼ cup dried seaweed.
¼ cup dried mushroom
3 Tablespoons of your personal seasoning blend
4-6 astragalus sticks
I make this recipe in a very large crockpot. You may want to adjust the recipe according to the size of your pot. There are many different ways to make bone broth. I don’t always make it exactly like this. A lot of people like ginger in their bone broth but we are dealing with some dryness around here so I prefer to use copious amounts of garlic.
Place bones and liver (cut up into small pieces) in stock pot or crockpot and fill 2/3 full with water. Add vinegar and let soak in cold water for about at least an hour. 2 or 3 might be better.
Add the chopped vegetables, dry herbs and spices. During the winter you can use things like beets, carrots and sweet potatoes. During the rest of the year I like to use foraged greens and herbs from the garden. Right now dandelion greens, chickweed, chives and cleavers are all abundant.
Turn on the heat to low and let it go for a at least a day. If you make big batches like this, you can freeze it. A friend of mine freezes hers in mason jars and I think that is brilliant because you thaw out a quart a day and make sure you drink it or use it, every day. I also hate plastic. Just don’t a hot mason jar in the freezer. Wait until the broth has cooled to room temperature to avoid the risk of the glass shattering.