Thursday, July 24, 2014

Balsam Poplar Infusion

Yesterday I strained my jars of balsam poplar infusion that had been sitting in the sun since early spring.
(though we didn't have much sun in May or June....)   This batch has a lovely fragrance, but it is a milder scent compared to the first batch I made which I let steep for over a year.  This infusion was put together in late March/early April.  

So the lesson I learned is to put this infusion together and forget about it like I did the last time.  
However, the strong infusion sometimes puts people off with its pungent scent.  (My kids can always tell the minute I open the jar of salve I made last year.)  My original batch was VERY concentrated.  I'm interested to see if family and friends react to this batch differently.  I tend to think medicine might as well be strong.  But a gentle approach also has its place.  If people are more willing to use the recipe because the scent is not so sharp, then that matters too.

I used organic olive oil for the infusion.  But I haven't decided if I will experiment with a new recipe this year.  Since there is more than 3 quarts to work with, I can play with the original recipe if I want to.  I call the original recipe, Healing Salve.  It is excellent for wounds, scrapes, sores, and bruises.  

"Native Americans used resin from buds to treat sore throats, coughs, lung pain, and rheumatism. An ointment, Balm of Gilead, was made from the winter buds to relieve congestion." 

One of my friends, a piano teacher, applies it to her hands as "good medicine" to ward off stiffness.

Me?  I just like the smell.  I think it smells like spring... and walking through the swampy section of our driveway to the school bus in the early spring mornings of my childhood.  I loved the smell of "bombagillian", the Northern Minnesota slang for Balm-of-Gilead.  I always knew that beautiful fragrance must be good for something.  So I was delighted when, as an adult, a friend shared with me how to infuse the buds and make a simple salve.
I like to use my salve on my hands and feet in winter time.  My skin is dry and cracks easily.  The salve is very healing and effective on broken skin.


Spinners End Farm said...

That is one of my favorite scents too. I never thought of infusing it for a salve! :). I think a bath soap scented with it would be lovely as well.

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

If you want the scent just steep your swollen but unopened buds for 8-12 weeks. If you want a concentrated medicinal salve, steep for about a year. Use glass jars to steep, because the resin is impossible to wash away otherwise. And the buds will swell in size after a couple of days contact with the oil. So leave plenty of room in the jar for that or it will overflow. I like using the gallon size pickle/olive glass jars that are thoroughly washed to remove the pickle smell. :) Usually the buds are ready to harvest in late March. The best buds with the most resin are highest in the tree on the new growth branches. I've been taking advantage of the fact that we have some mature balsam poplar that needs thinning. I make Clancy wait to cut them down until I can see the buds swell.

Becky Utecht said...

Sabrina, would you have any balsam poplar saplings available?

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

There are hundreds of them up here in the ditches and edges of fields. I've never tried transplanting them though. Are you interested in planting them, Becky? They are, in my opinion, an ugly, short-lived, fast growing tree. But they do stabilize raw ground quickly and have that lovely resin. :)

Becky Utecht said...

Yes, yes, yes! I'd love to get some to transplant. My friend is really into plant medicine and he had some but they were small and his cats killed them. Maybe we could run up there this fall...

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

Not that I don't want you to visit... But balsam poplar is widespread and grows like a weed in wet or abandoned areas. You probably have some by your pond. Or very near by. Just let me know if you want to come get some though. :)