Homemade Holiday Herbal Bitters (Recipes Included)

by Charlotte Walker
Make Your Own Holiday Herbal Bitters (Recipes Included)

Digestive bitters are ancient medicinal herbal extracts, used through the ages to treat digestive ailments and flavor alcohol.

Bitters are made from a combination of bitter & aromatic, barks, roots, seeds, fruits & flowers. These herbs are then infused in alcohol.  Homemade Holiday Herbal Bitters make lovely culinary gifts and are surprisingly simple to make.

What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise. ~Oscar Wilde

Bitter foods have fallen out of favor in a lot of cultures however our bodies crave bitter foods. Our bodies need bitter foods for balanced health. In the good old days, our ancestors would have naturally consumed wilder bitter tasting plants. Think of the dandelions that are spread across North America. This bitter green was brought over by European settlers and used as an important food and medicine for centuries before we deemed it a nuisance weed.

Homemade Holiday Herbal Bitters (Recipes Included)

Bitters Not Just For Cocktails

Bitter tonics are resurging in popularity for use in alcoholic beverages. One only has to think of the famous Manhattan or During the great depression and also during prohibition, bitters were often used to make moonshine palatable. This is certainly one good way to use them but they can also be mixed with water, juice and other liquids as a pre or post meal digestive aide.

Bitters and Digestion

When taken before meals, bitters are said to aide with:

  • Stimulating the digestive enzymes in the digestive tract
  • Increasing one’s appetite and help to stimulate gastric juice
  • Providing a general tonic action on digestion, stimulating self-repair mechanisms

Bitter plants contain liver-boosting nutrients such as sulfur, along with fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Bitters work by stimulating the bitter receptors in the mouth and throat, which in turn increase the production of saliva, gastric juice, and bile. Bile is needed for optimal digestion and to help the liver work at prime level. For your liver to work its best to filter out the bad stuff, it needs to produce sufficient bile. If you aren’t consuming bitters you are making it difficult for your body to do this properly. source

Quick & Easy Way To Get Bitters In Your Diet

If you aren’t used to bitter foods you can begin by incorporating some bitter greens into your salads and soups a bit at a time. Dandelion and chicory are two great options.

If you don’t want to make your own, you can purchase digestive bitter tonics. They seem to be available all over the place online. I still remember my first discovery of bitters years ago when I bought a package of Underberg bitters. They come in these tiny one serving bottles wrapped in paper – I honestly didn’t even know what I was buying, the bottles were just really cute. Once tried it though and read up on it, bitters became really interesting to us.

Make Your Own Digestive Bitters!

To create tinctures containing bitters, you will want to chop up all of the ingredients and put them in a jar, cover with alcohol and allow to steep for 3-4 weeks. You should shake and test on occasion until you are happy with the results.

Generally, the bitter component of this concoction should be about 30-40% of the brew and the rest should be made up with aromatics. Bitters are very strong!

Homemade Holiday Herbal Bitters (Recipes Included)

Bitters

Bitters are often comprised of bark, roots and citrus peel (with the white pith). there are a lot of options and this list is not exhaustive by any means.

  • Bark cassia, cinchona, birch
  • Roots Gentian, Ginger, Burdock, Dandelion. Barberry, Angelica, Elecampane, roasted chicory root
  • Citrus Peel Orange peel, grapefruit peel, lemon peel
  • Plants Feverfew, Horehound, Mugwort, Sarsaparilla, and Wormwood.

Aromatics

To balance the bitters you want to add some aromatics. Here are some common options.

How To Make Digestive Bitters – Recipes

  • Chop up all of your herbs, roots, citrus rinds finely. Avoid using powdered herbs as they can’t easily be strained out.
  • The rule of thumb is that your herb to alcohol ratio should be 1:3. Fill 1/3 of your jar with herbs and the rest with alcohol and you are set. 40% of the herbs we use are bitter and the remaining 60% are aromatics. Bitters are quite powerful so you don’t want to be too heavy-handed, especially when just starting out.
  • Pour the alcohol over the herbs, they should be well covered. Secure the cap and shake well. If using a metal lid place a paper cupcake liner or parchment paper under the lid to prevent erosion.
  • Label with the ingredients and the date and store in a warm sunny spot.
  • Give the jar a good shake every day for two weeks and up to four weeks. Test and continue to macerate if you would like a stronger infusion or strain, bottle, and label.

Bitters are well ….very bitter. These are quite strong tinctures and are best when diluted. Add a dash of bitters (5-20 drops) to your favourite beverage.

Homemade Holiday Herbal Bitters (Recipes Included)

Herbalist Courses for all levels
These are some of the bitters that we currently have macerating in the kitchen.

Ginger Burdock Digestive Bitter

Brandy to fill a container (or vodka or other chosen alcohol)
2 Tbsp burdock root
1 Tbsp Ginger root
1Tbsp roasted chicory root
2 Cloves
2 Tsp orange peel

Burdock, Peach & Rose Digestive Bitter

Brandy to fill a container (or vodka or other chosen alcohol)
2 Tbsp Burdock root
1 Tbsp Roasted chicory root
2 Tsp peaches
6-8 Rosehips
5 Cardamom pods

Turmeric Ginger Digestive Bitter

Brandy to fill a container (or vodka or other chosen alcohol)
2 Tbsp Turmeric root
1 Tbsp Ginger root
1 Tbsp Orange peel
3 Star Anise

Hibiscus Rose Digestive Bitter

Brandy to fill a container (or vodka or other chosen alcohol)
2 Tbsp ginger root
1 Tbsp Roasted chicory root
12 Rose hips (fresh)
1 Tbsp hibiscus
2 Tsp Orange peel
1/2 tsp rose petals
3 Cardamom pods

 <a href="http://theherbalacademy.com/product/becoming-herbalist-mini-course/?ap_id=walkerland" target="blank" >Free Becoming an Herbalist Mini Course</a>

If You Love Crafting With Herbs

If you are looking to further your herbal knowledge, I highly recommend the Herbal Academy. They offer informative and enjoyable, online, at your own pace way to learn about botany and wildcrafting. They’ll help you learn how to identify and become more familiar with common wild edibles, herbs, how to craft tinctures, salves and so much more. They also provide many wonderful recipes and tutorials on their website that you can quickly get started with. You can learn more here!

The Herbal Academy is also offering a Free Becoming an Herbalist Mini-Course, which is an informative primer for beginners. I discovered some local resources that have been really helpful through taking this course.

Cautions

Always consult a herbalist or doctor if you have health conditions, take other medications or are pregnant. If you have gall stones bitters should be avoided.

Please use caution when ingesting herbs. Study them, and be certain of what you are gathering. Information shared here is for educational purposes only. I make neither medical claim, nor intend to diagnose or treat medical conditions. You must do your own research concerning the safety and usage of any herbs or supplements.

Further reading

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-bitters-159271950/

http://www.eclecticherb.com/blog//bitters

http://www.katolenyardley.com/Digestive%20Health.pdf

http://www.healthyhildegard.com/18-bitter-healing-plants/

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