Monday, February 18, 2019

Ras El Hanout Incense, Three Ways

Ras El Hanout Incense, Three Ways
I ran out of my Ras El Hanout mixture (which I always make myself, using very peculiar spices from my overflowing spice rack). You can see some of them in the images below (how many of them can you guess?).
Ras El Hanout

Ras El Hanout

Ras El Hanout
Most of the grinding is done the old fashioned way using mortar and pestle, as it should be. I believe it is a more direct connection to the material because this way I can smell them as I crrrrrrrush them! Whatever I'm unable to grind fine enough, I will pass on to the electric grinder. I kept most of it for my cooking (nothing beats a homemade couscous topped with a homemade couscous stew spiced with my very own Ras El Hanout!). But some I just felt compelled to burn as incense.
Ras El Hanout Nerikoh Snake
My first idea was making it into nerikoh (kneaded incense, which is not actually burnt but placed on a hot micah plate). Nerikoh traditionally uses honey or plum paste. For this experiment I used a combination of dates and honey. I named these Oasis Nerikoh.
In the picture you are seeing the incense dough shaped as a spiral, and waiting to be hand-rolled into tiny balls.
Ras El Hanout Nerikoh
Ras El Hanout Nerikoh (kneaded incense balls), rolled into a mixture of ras el hanout and sandalwood powder.
Ras El Hanout Incense Sticks
My second attempt at making incense sticks! Practice will eventually make perfect I hope.
 Ras El Hanout Incense, Three Ways
The whole line up, from top to bottom: Ras El Hanout Incense cones, norikoh, incense sticks.
Ras El Hanout Incense, Three Ways
Here they are, all dried up and ready to use! The ornamental brown ceramic dish in the background is my aromatherapy diffuser, which I use to heat up nerikoh.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Playing in the Orchard

Despite the cold and stormy days (hail, thunderstorms and loads of rain) - Spring is here very early if to judge by the wonderful bridal gowns the almond trees are wearing, and the scent of citrus blossoms emanating from my tiny organic orchard. The copious amounts of blossoms on my organic pink grapefruit tree has been quite staggering, so I did not feel one bit guilty thinning them out and experimenting with them.
Grapefruit Blossoms
Pink Grapefruit Blossom Enfleurage Experiment
Naturally, I was curious about using the vegan enfleurage technique on them. I'm afraid the results were not particularly impressive. The flowers seemed to have "cooled down" too much in the solid fats and keep the scent to themselves, releasing only the cool and clean notes rather than opening up and releasing their more honeyed and fruity-sweet notes of methyl anthranilate.
Grapefruit Blossom Darjeeling Tea
So I kept playing with them, and layered Darjeeling black tea with organic Grapefruit Blossoms. The result here was much better, with the tea allowing them more space to breathe than the fat. I did several charges of the blossom layering. The finished result turned out magnificently springy, astringent and complementary to the floral qualities of the Darjeeling tea.
Frankincense (Boswellia dalzielii) Grapefruit Blossoms Enfleurage
Last but not least, I tried my hand with resin enfleurage of Boswellia dalizielii. I have to see how this will play once burnt, but the resins definitely absorb the fragrance beautifully.

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Monday, February 11, 2019

Narcissus Enfleurage, Part II

Narcissus Enfleurage
Yipee! Lucky for me, despite the low numbers of blooming narcissus bulbs in my garden this year, the resultant enfleurage from my meagre one-charge-batch is highly fragrant and gorgeous!
If you can imagine me doing a happy dance, this is exactly my reaction to this surprising success. It takes a long time to grow, pick and enfleurage the flowers. And then the fat needs to be soaked in alcohol and left to macerate for several weeks. Today I've finally strained it. The result is a filtered extrait (the term for the enfleurage fragrant tincture, before removal of the alcohol to produce an absolute - a stage I decided to forego due to my low yield and technical limitation), which I promptly added to Narkiss perfume, adding another layer of authentic narcissus to the absolute from Narcisse de Montainges from France that is already in there.

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Spiny Broom Enfleurage Experiment

Spiny Broom
The spiny broom has been early to rise this year, creating yet another challenge in realizing my dream to extract it. It is still cold, rainy and I can't for the life of me figure out when is the best time to harvest this thorn. I did one harvest, and discovered yet again that the scent is too faint, perhaps the flowers are also a bit too old and worn-out. The ones I picked which were fragrant lost their odour by the time I got to the studio to place them in the fats for enfleurage extraction. It is becoming rapidly more evident to me that knowledge of the exact harvest time is key to success in enfleurage. I did a small trial, but the scent did not stick around at all. Considering the painstaking process and how much pain is involved (if you're not careful and get stung by the thorns it literally hurts) - I think it would rather wait till later in the spring when the non-spiny (read: thornless) broom is in bloom. Wish me luck please!

Spiny Broom Enfleurage Experiment

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Monday, February 04, 2019

Local Kyphi

Local Kyphi Ingredients
In preparation for the Kyphi class I'm teaching February 21st, I've decided to experiment with making Kyphi with as many local ingredients as possible. I tried to use mostly plants and materials that I either grow or wild-harvest, or can be found locally theoretically speaking.
Some were included because they were traditionally part of the materials traded Incense Route and therefore have penetrated the local cuisine and pharmacopeia and are almost inseparable from the culture (such as Frankincense and Myrrh), and also I've included them because although the specimens I have are not grown locally - there is now a farm near the Dead Sea that grows them. The same is true for mastic (which although is from Greece, I can harvest my own - just wasn't patient enough to wait till next summer when I can collect enough resin!). And so on, for most of the resins. So this is not a strictly local product, but it carries the spirit of the landscape I now live in, and reflects its plant aromatic profile.

Local Kyphi in the Mortar
I began by soaking organic uncultured grapes in wine from the local vintner, and then set off to pound all the herbs I picked in the mortar and pestle. If you can recognize any of them in the pictures, and post a comment - you will be entered to win a little jar of my local Kyphi once it is made! It ended up very green and balsamic smelling, and with energy that is very vibrant and sweet, not unlike the Venus incense pastilles I made last year.
Local Kyphi in the Drying Basket
Here it is drying in a basket layered with a gauze fabric (okay, more like an antiquated baby diaper, remember those days? If you do then you're either very old or getting there!).

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Four Sages Incense Cones

Clary Sage & Incense Wands
An order that came in for my Four Sages incense cones prompted me to make more. I only had a few left which I made with my dedicated student cum friend Jenny Amber. She is the one who gifted me with much missed aromatics from BC (Sagebrush, Coastal Mugwort, Redcedar Leaf, and more). This incense blend feels very special to me as it combines sages of both the West Coast and the Western Galilee - the two regions that I call home.

I was a bit unwell when the order came in so had to wait till I felt better. And even then I felt like I needed a little energy boost - rolling incense cones is labour intense and sometimes it is much more enjoyable in good company. So I summoned my brother Yotam to the task. We sat on the eastern deck this morning, enjoyed the gentle yet warm, wintery morning sunrays, listened to his choice of Ceremonial music and rolled the cones you see in the picture below.
Four Sages Incense Cones & Smudge Bundle
These are potent cones, small yet pack a punch and seem to clear any negative energy within minutes.  They contain Coastal Mugworth, White Sage (Sagebrush), which are both types of artemisia, a pinch of wormwood and clary sage from my garden, and of course - three-lobed sage that is the iconic scent of the Galilee.
The cones are now available and in stock again and you can order however many you wish via the online boutique.

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