It is always exciting to find and experiment with something new. I made three oxymels this year, each using a different type of fruit-oranges, currants, and hawthorn berries. An oxymel is an infusion of herbs into vinegar and honey (see also shrubs, kvass, kombucha, switchels and other similar fermented “sodas”/drinks ). Plants easily give up their vitamins and minerals when added to vinegar. The raw honey serves as a powerful antibiotic when not exposed to heat. The yummy result can be mixed into salad dressing, braises or marinades. A tablespoon added to carbonated water or iced tea makes a refreshing drink. Because of a hiatal hernia I am highly sensitive to both the acid and spices in a typical fire cider. I can safely and comfortably consume a small amount oxymel and some of its health benefits (nutrients, medicinal properties, pro-biotics, acid).
Currant and Thyme Oxymel
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups blueberry juice
2 cups of fresh black and or red currants (mashed)
1/4 cup of dried tyme
2 cups of raw honey
Combine all ingredients in a very large canning jar. Put a piece of plastic wrap or baking parchment between the lid and jar lip. Seal tightly. Let sit six weeks in a a cool dark place. Shake and invert weekly. Press and strain to remove any solids or seeds. Divide up into smaller bottles which can be stored or refrigerated. With proper storage an oxymel will last for at least a year.
Currants are one of my favorite medicinal plants. I am a big fan of red currant jam and traditional English “black currant tea”. The fruit is high in the vitamins and anti-oxidants that our circulatory system loves. The berries have 4 times the amount of Vitamin C as oranges and 2 times more anti-aging properties than blueberries. The leaves are a strong astringent for use in external skin care. The variety I grow has a spicy taste similar to juniper berries, so it works better in savory dishes or simple syrups rather than dried, jam or in a dessert.
You will find black currants as a rare cultivar in a few states in America. Importation of plants has been banned and growing illegal in the US as the plant can carry a fungus known to kill pine trees. The plant grows as a wide, untidy bush of long shoots, 4-6 feet high. The leaves are textured, alternate on the shoots, palmate, with 3-5 lobes and double serrate. Drooping racemes of yellow or white flowers appear in mid spring, a favorite of bumble bees. The berries are almost black, ripe when large, almost bursting their skins, and no longer hard. I know to pick mine when they start falling onto the ground or disappear when the animals start to eat them.
An infusion of black currant leaves stimulates the kidneys and historically has been used to treat gout, inflammation, liver issues and heart disease. The berries in can be used to treat kidney disease, high blood pressure, colic, glaucoma, eye strain, and rheumatism. The fruit and leaves can be consumed as tea or juice for bad coughs, sore throat, gum disease, and laryngitis. If you have diarrhea or organs that need toning a tea of black currant leaves might prove useful. The essential fatty acids in the oil from the seeds is thought to(internal use) prevent and repair damage to joints or (external use) relieve eczema and psoriasis.
Contraindications:clotting/bleeding disorders, surgery.