01 December 2012

Pagan Living, Winter 2012

So, yours truly has another article in Pagan Living's newest issue.  I am including it here in it's entirety because there was some sourcing left out.  I feel that Eliz Kirkland Sickles must be acknowledged for her amazing contribution to the article with her Earl Grey infused pound cake, a devout and experienced pound cake baker, I knew she would not disappoint. Thank you Eliz!!

There is nothing quite as comforting as a steaming mug of freshly brewed tea on a cold Winter's day.  The pleasing scent and flavor pulled from brewed tea leaves has been a mainstay of western culture for about four hundred years.  In that time, not only have we found a variety of ways to expand the flavors of tea leaves, we have also found creative ways to incorporate it into our meals.  Tea covers a wide range of brews, technically tea involves brewing tea leaves and "tisanes" are the result of brewing various herbs and plant parts in hot water.  For the sake of this article, the term "tea" shall encompass both.

Black tea was first documented in 10th century BC China, where it is said the leaves of the tea plant were blown into a hot cup of water.    The Camelliasinesis, or tea plant, is the source of the widely popular black, white and green teas. Black, white, green and Oolong teas all come from the same plant.  Their color, flavor, caffeine and antioxidant contents all result from their varying duration of oxidation before being processed.  White and green teas both have minimal "curing" or oxidation process before they are dried while black tea has the longest. Oolong is processed in a midway point between the green and black teas, which gives it a milder flavor than the black but a bit more of a flavor than the green tea.  Black tea varieties have expanded throughout China, Japan and India especially and are also now grown in many other parts of the world where the climates that support the growth of the tea plant. By the 17th century tea had made it's way across Europe and the United Kingdom to Colonial America.

The variety of teas also come from where the tea is grown and to what the leaves are exposed to while growing as well as after harvesting.  The much-loved Earl Grey tea is the result of black tea leaves being combined with the essential oil of the bergamot orange, giving it a unique scent and flavor that tends to be an acquired taste. Jasmine tea comes from exposing tea leaves to the heavy scent of blooming Jasmine. Store shelves carry a very large amount of varieties to choose from, breakfast tea varieties are a stronger blend of black teas from different regions throughout the Far East.  Black teas are also infused with a variety of spices or fruit flavors, these teas are useful in adding variety and dimension to food recipes.  The tannins in black teas are wonderful for tenderizing meats or adding contrasting astringency to sweet dishes. When using tea in your culinary repertoire, consider how the tea will compliment or enhance the dish you are preparing.  Sweet dishes work well using spicy or fruity blends, the popular Chai blend of tea brings a punch of flavor to many winter dishes as well as being an ideal warming beverage during the darkest and coldest part of the year.  Teas also work well when added to the hot liquid used in cooking rice, quinoa, amaranth, and oats or poaching meats.  

Teas are also an ancient resource of healing.  "Tisanes", or herbal teas, are a more ancient source of beverage brewed for either culinary or medicinal purposes.  Tisanes are infusions made from flowers, seeds, leaves, bark and/or roots of plants.  For example, herbs like catnip, rosemary or peppermint are brewed and served hot to relieve symptoms from colds or stomach upset.

Teas are also utilized in magical practices, various herbs, flowers, plant parts are added to a base of black tea leaves for use in rituals or spell workings.  It is highly recommended to research the herbs you wish to use to be sure they are not toxic.  Also look for possible allergies as well as drug interactions with any medications you may be taking, because even something as seemingly harmless as lavender or lemon balm make react badly with medications.  Please do your research!

Once your research is complete, there are combinations with a wide variety of roots, leaves and blossoms of flowers and herbs that can be combine with black tea for delightful infusions to help bring love, joy, peace, purification into your everyday life.  To learn more of this practice, there are a variety of websites across the internet and countless books-one of my favorite resources for information about magical workings using teas is Ann Moura (Aoumiel)'s book Green Witchcraft: Folk Magic, Fairy Lore & Herb Craft

Tea is also used in divination, not only are there a variety of blends used to enhance receptivity the tea leaves are also used in the art of 'fortune telling'.  Tasseography, or tea leaf reading, typically uses loose leaf tea from the Camellia sinesis, brewed and poured for the drinker.  After drinking most of the liquid, the cup of tea is then used to read patterns in the tea leaves to tell the fortune of the person who drank the tea. It is uncertain as to where the practice originated, however it is said to have followed the path of tea from China to the west and has spread across Europe and has been found to be quite prevalent throughout Ireland, Scotland and England especially.

However you prefer your cup of tea, it is a versatile beverage with ancient roots and a devout following throughout history to modern day where it is now a multi-billion dollar business. Loose leaf or bagged, tea enthusiasts take great delight in the wide array of teas now available (as well as tea accessories!).  Whether you take yours black, with milk or with lemon and sugar, as a tea lover's know that there is nothing like a hot cuppa to warm the bones and soothe the soul. 

Cranberry Spice Tea

1 orange
12 whole cloves
2 inch long cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
4 black tea bags, your choice
4 cups boiling water
1 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Stud the orange with the cloves and cut into 6 or 8 sections. Place them in the teapot, squeezing each slightly as you do so. Add the cinnamon, tea and boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes and strain. Stir in cranberry juice and sugar.  4-6 servings.

Source: unknown

There is nothing more inviting than a hot breakfast waiting on those chilly winter mornings!  When incorporating tea into the oatmeal-making process, the possibilities are endless! Fruit flavored teas, spicy teas in addition to your favorite oatmeal add ins-dried or fresh fruits.The key is to substitute brewed tea for the water before making your oatmeal to bring it added flavor. Be sure to bring the water to a boil and then pour the boiling water into your mug or measuring cup that contains the tea.  Cover the mug (or saucepan if you wish to make larger batches) and allow to steep at least 5-10 minutes.  Then use tea in place of the water when preparing your oatmeal.  This recipe uses the longer cooking oats-steel cut Irish oats result in a less gluey end result. If you are feeling really adventurous try toasting the oats lightly in a dry pan over medium to medium-high heat until slightly tan before adding to the slow cooker, the toasting gives added flavor to the dish.

This recipe is prepared the night before, turning the slow cooker on before you go to bed.  Please keep in mind that all slow cookers run differently which will result in varying cooking times. Mine has the oatmeal cooked in 7 hours, after that there is a risk of burning.  If I think I'll be sleeping longer I'll add an extra cup of liquid. Upon waking I add the spices of my choice, you can add the spices the night before but the slow cooking tends to cook out most of the flavors they impart to the oats.

Slow Cooker Tea-infused Oatmeal

4-5 cups of water
4 tablespoons of loose tea of your choice (or 4 tea bags) (this time of year I favor warming, spicy teas)
1 cup steel-cut Irish oats
2 TB butter
1-2 TB sweetener of your choice (brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, no sugar added preserves (like the Polaner All-fruit), agave nectar)
1 cup milk (your choice, I prefer almond)
spices of choice (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, allspice or clove)

Depending on your tea choice you can add 1/2 cup of various nuts or dried fruits and/or 1 cup of fresh fruit. If the fresh fruit is more watery and prone to mushiness you may wish to add it before serving. 

In a saucepan, bring the 4 cups of water to a boil, add the tea and cover. Allow to steep for 5-10 minutes.  Strain, let cool and pour liquid into slow cooker. Before bed, add the oats, butter, sweetener. Cover and turn on low.  Allow to cook at least 5 hours.

Milk may be added when you serve the oatmeal, or add it as the extra cup of liquid if your slow cooker runs hot.  The milk makes the oatmeal more creamy, if you prefer to add it the night before.

Spiced Baked Apples

4 firm baking apples, peeled and cores scooped out until about 1/4 inch from bottom.
1/4 cup demarera sugar, plus 2 TB
4 TB butter, softened
1 cup of brewed Bengal Spice tea (I brew 2-3 bags of Bengal Spice tea in 1 cup of boiling water)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated allspice
pinch of ground cloves.

Preheat oven to 350*. Place apples in an 8x8" baking dish. In a small bowl, mix spices and butter.  Split butter/sugar mixture into fourths and fill each hollowed out apple. Add the sugar to hot tea, mix well and pour brewed tea over apples.  Cover baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and cook an additional 5 min.  Serve immediately.

Smoky Orange-marinated Chicken

4 boneless chicken breasts
5 cups water
3-4 TB loose tea Lapsang Souchong (depending on your brand of tea and your preference for level of smoky flavor)
2 TB sea salt
1 orange, grated and juiced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 shallots, sliced into thin rings
1 TB tamari
1 TB honey
1/4 tsp ground cayenne
1 TB black peppercorns

Bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and add the Lapsang Souchong.  Allow to steep for 5 minutes and then strain leaves from liquid.  Allow tea to cool to room temperature, set aside one cup for later use in the recipe. 

In a non-reactive container add 4 cups of the tea, 2 TB of sea salt, the garlic, peppercorns and the peel and juice of one orange.  Add chicken breasts and allow to marinate for at least one day (two days is better if you want that really smoky flavor). When ready to bake, remove breasts from marinade and discard the marinade.

Preheat oven to 350*  Transfer chicken to baking dish.  In a small non-reactive mixing bowl mix remaining 1 cup of tea, shallots, tamari, honey, cayenne, salt and pepper to taste.  Mix and pour over chicken breasts.  Bake chicken for 20-30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165*.

Serves 4

Earl Grey Pound Cake with White Chocolate Glaze

2.5 sticks unsalted butter
8 Tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea (this does not mean emptying out tea bags. This is buying the loose tea)
1/2 cup shortening
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups flour
1 cup milk (you can substitute soy milk)

Heat the butter until it is just melted. Turn the stove down to low and stir the loose tea into the butter. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove butter from stove and let sit for 5 minutes before pouring the mixture thru a fine sieve. You will have to press on the tea leaves to get as much butter out as possible. The goal is to end up with 1 cup of butter. Allow the butter to cool down to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 325*. Butter and flour a bundt pan and set aside.
Combine butter, shortening and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Beat well after adding each egg. Add in vanilla.
In another bowl, sift together the salt, baking powder and flour.
Add milk in thirds, alternating with flour mixture, to the butter mixture.
Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan. Bake at 325 for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Test cake for doneness. When the cake is done, remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before inverting the cake onto a cake plate.

White Chocolate Glaze

3 bags of Earl Grey tea
1/2 cup cream, heated
4 oz white chocolate

Put tea bags into heated cream and steep until cream has cooled to room temp. Finely chop the white chocolate and place in small bowl. Remove and discard the tea bags. Reheat cream in microwave and pour over the white chocolate. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, then stir until creamy. Drizzle over warm pound cake.

Source: Eliz Kirkland Sickles

Copyright © 2012 Stephanie Libby