The bell peppers were diced and placed in a single layer on cookie sheets and then frozen for a couple of hours. Then, it was time to separate any pieces that had stuck together and put portions of 1/2 cup each into small freezable bags. The whole process took less than two hours and, now, I'm ready for spicy winter meals.
Solar Herbal First Aid Salve
Remember, the lasagna herb gardens I put in last year? Well, they have done themselves proud, this year, and it was time to do more than dry the herbs for cooking. Time to make some healing salves. My binders would be lard, because the skin absorbs animal fats so much faster than mineral (liquid petrolatum) and vegetable oils, and beeswax for its antibacteriant and emollient benefits. And, don't worry. By the time it's done, you can only smell the wonderful blend of herbs.
There's a bit of the alchemist in me, I think, because I so thoroughly enjoy creating my own organic salves and cough remedies (think hot toddy with homemade brandy!). So, into my old recipe files I went and found this all-round first aid mix that we loved and decided to try the magic in my solar oven, this time 'round.
The herbs are chosen specifically to blend their particular benefits together to handle most cuts and bruises, muscle aches and pains, and insect bites. Definitely an all-purpose non-toxic salve for most injuries. And, if your pet or small child should decide they want a taste, they'll discover soon enough that it tastes terrible and will leave it alone.
My herbs of choice: Pineapple sage, Rosemary, Spearmint, Lavender, and Thyme. Since it's so easy to Google these herbs for their benefits, I'll just give a brief summary of why I chose them for my healing salve. If you do your own search, you'll discover multiple benefits, but mine were for their more specific elements. Pineapple sage as an antioxidant, antibacterial herb; rosemary for its pain relief; spearmint as an analgesic to reduce itching; lavender as an astringent to reduce inflammation and help the skin heal itself; and, thyme, as an antiseptic to destroy disease-causing bacteria. The lard binder to help my healing herbs be readily absorbed into the skin and beeswax that is naturally absorbed into the skin to help solidify the salve. The ratio is approximately 8oz. of lard to 2oz. of beeswax. You won't improve it by adding more beeswax, you'll just make it too hard to use.
Step One: Clean and dry all herbs, thoroughly, before preparing your salve. Using a dehydrator or your solar oven to dehydrate them won't take more than a day. By letting the door of the oven rest on top of the side latches and keeping the oven turned just enough away from the sun that it doesn't get above 175F, you can dehydrate most anything. In fact, Sun Oven International now offers a dehydrating kit specifically designed for their oven that makes the whole process very easy. My next post will tell you all about it. But, for a quick peek, go here!
Rinse all herbs to remove any protein (bugs) hiding midst the foliage. You can choose to remove all the leaves from the stems before dehydrating or just wait until they're done. You're going to be chopping this all up to add to the lard, so it doesn't matter. But, if you do remove the leaves, the drying time is less. Now, that you have thoroughly dried herbs, you can move to...
Step Two: You'll need to liquify the lard, first, by placing it in a pan/glass jar that will fit inside another pot. Then, add at least three or four inches of water and heat over very low heat until the lard is totally melted. I do this inside and prepare the herbs whilst the lard is melting.
Step Three: Finely chop all your herbs. I take a gallon-sized plastic bag and simply use a rolling pin to crush the herbs, then give it a serious shaking to combine them. Snip off a corner to create a funnel that will let you slowly pour the herbs into the melted lard. Stir it with a wooden spoon and keep adding herbs till you can barely move your spoon. You want the dried herbs totally submerged in the lard, so stop when there is about 1/4" of liquid above the herbs.
Step Five: Assuming that you have all your containers ready, it's time to strain that wonderful salve over a bowl with a spout. Line your strainer with at least four layers of fine cheesecloth, an old t-shirt, or two layers of paper towels. You'll be able to really squeeze the cheesecloth/t-shirt for those last drops but not the paper towels. They'll just disintegrate. Let it slowly drain so that you don't force any debris into your liquid. Move the herbs around to help it along so that it doesn't thicken during the process. [NOTE: Just thought of this! Not too late for the next batch, though. If it does thicken up, you can always use your hair dryer to liquify the herb-lard mix. Tada!] Isn't the green a beautiful shade for the salve!
Step Six: Discard the drained herbs. NOW, you can use your microwave! This is when you'll add the beeswax and give it short spurts of 20 seconds on med-high (6-7) in the microwave untill all the beeswax has melted. Don't think adding lots of beeswax is better. It will simply make your salve impossible to use. Keep with the ratio. This will take some adjustments because you DON'T want to add any water to the mix. Ever! Get your containers ready and fill each to 1/4 inch of the top. I've used 1.5oz screw-top jars and a larger one for my medicine cabinet.
Finish: Now, you can make your labels and share with loved ones.
To prevent introducing any bacteria into the salve during use, I like to use either a craft stick or cosmetic spatula to remove what I need. Kept in a cool place, this salve will last up to two years. This is such a great thing to know that I've also linked to the following great blogs: It's a Keeper Thursday: Recipe & Project Linky and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways. Check out all the other great blogs, recipes, and crafts -- and, don't forget to leave some comment love.