How To: Warming Winter Garlic Oxymel
Do you like garlic? You better if you want to try this brilliant cold and flu fighting oxymel. Harnessing the immune boosting power of garlic, caraway and fennel seeds, this simple and let's face it, stinky concoction is easy to make and handy to have ready in the fridge for when you start to feel the effects of a cold or flu coming on.
What is an oxymel anyway? An oxymel is essentially a herbal tonic made from honey and vinegar. The vinegar acts as a solvent for medicinal plants and the honey adds flavour as well as demulcent and antimicrobial properties, helping to soothe mucous membranes and preserve the vinegar mixture. It's more common to use alcohol as a solvent these days however oxymels make use of easy to find ingredients and are great if you're avoiding alcohol.
Garlic is known far and wide as the king of boosting the immune system. My mother used to eat it raw as soon as the weather turned, and it's often included in various commercially available herbal cold and flu preparations. Garlic contains high levels of the sulphuric compound allicin, which lends to it's strong antimicrobial and antioxidant effects.
This oxymel also makes use of a lesser known herb, caraway, or more specifically, the seeds of this often overlooked plant. My first experience with caraway was in the form of those strange cat's claw shaped seeds sprinkled throughout Polish rye bread which was a staple of our household growing up. Their taste is difficult to describe; earthy, with a slight aniseed tinge. They feature throughout Eastern European cuisine, including breads and ferments, most notably with sauerkraut. Caraway seeds offer mild antiseptic action, so will help fight off any invading infections and also have expectorant properties, helping clear up any congestion caused by cold and flu. In addition, the seeds aid digestion with their carminative and antispasmodic action and are also included in this oxymel to help curb any unpleasant digestive issues as a result of ingesting such a high concentration of garlic.
Fennel seeds are also included and these are very similar to caraway seeds in their properties, unsurprisingly so as they are both from the Apiaceae family. Fennel seeds also act as a tonic, giving the immune system a boost and supporting the overall health, nutrient absorption and functioning of the body. They also act as a stimulant, aiding in flushing out toxins and fighting fatigue.
As you can see this handy little concoction packs a lot of healing attributes. The herbs included are designed to work together in helping your body fight off marauding cold weather bugs, without any unpleasant side effects. If you are not down with the idea of smelling like a garlic plait, I will soon be posting an elderberry syrup which is much kinder on the nose. This oxymel is great though for people who are trying to cut down on sugar and prefer a more savoury flavour.
- 10 garlic cloves
- 1 heaped tsp caraway seeds
- 1 heaped tsp fennel seeds
- 100 ml apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp honey
- Pour the vinegar into a saucepan. Gently warm the seeds in the vinegar over a very low heat for a few minutes. Strain and reserve the liquid.
- Add honey to the liquid and gently warm to combine. It's very important to keep the temperature very low not to affect the medicinal properties of the honey and vinegar (especially if using an unpasteurised cider vinegar).
- Peel and crush the garlic, then add to a jar. Pour the mixture over the garlic and let steep. The longer you let it stand, the stronger the mixture will be.
- Once you feel it's ready, strain off the liquid and store in a glass jar in the fridge. Depending on the steeping time, you will have a mild or highly concentrated oxymel.
I like to steep mine at least over night and as this produces a very concentrated mixture, sometimes I like to add a little extra vinegar as I use it up to extend the amount I've made. Worthy to note as well, your garlic might turn a bright neon blue. This is a totally normal chemical reaction caused by the anthocyanins in the garlic being exposed to the acid of the vinegar. Enjoy!