Saturday, 24 November 2007

Elderberry Cordial

Our current favourite on the cordial-front is Elderberry - simple to make and delicious!

The ingredients? Dried elderberries (available from home brewing stores), Sugar, Water, and Campden Tablets as preservative.
I'm still busy working out the exact amounts, which I"ll post as soon as I have them.

The method? Warm the elderberries and water together in a saucepan (I usually do this on a gentle heat for about an hour), then leave them overnight. The next day I strain out the elderberries then warm the liquid again before adding the sugar, tartaric acid and campden tablet. Then allow to cool and decant into bottles.

Once I have the amounts, I will compare the price to popular cordials such as Ribena. When I first tasted this Elderberry cordial I liked it just as much as Ribena, so I'll be interested to see the difference.

More to follow...
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Sunday, 8 July 2007

Hand Cream

This is also an aromatherapy recipe from 'The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy'.

I made this hand cream for one of my friends who does a lot of work for his hands and needs a really effective cream. It contains:

1/2 ounce of cocoa butter and 1/2 ounce of beeswax melted together in a dish in a water bath.

Then add:
3 tablespoons of almond oil
5 drops evening primrose oil
5 drops carrot oil

I then chose the following essential oils:
5 drops rose
2 drops lemon
1 drop geranium
2 drops sandalwood

As it cooled I gave it a good stir every so often with the handle of a wooden spoon to avoid it going lumpy.

I'll update once I have feedback...
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Daytime Face Oil

I've started experimenting with essential oils and aromatherapy recipes. This one is for a daytime face oil for normal skin (whatever that is)! I mixed 2 tablespoons of almond oil with:

15 drops rose
5 drops chamomile roman
5 drops lavender
5 drops lemon

That's it! I love the simplicity, and the scent. I've used it for the last couple of days now and so far, so good. You only need a tiny bit in the palm of your hand, and then once you've applied it to dab off any excess with some tissue. This is from the book 'The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy'.
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Monday, 2 July 2007

Tooth Powder

This is a recipe for tooth powder from our friends in South Africa. Bottom line: it does the job much better than any toothpaste I've ever bought! Here's the recipe:

1 rounded teaspoon of table salt
1 rounded teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
12 drops tea tree oil
2 drops clove oil
3 drops cinnamon oil
15 drops spearmint

Mix well with either a wooden skewer or with the handle of a teaspoon. Keep sealed when not in use otherwise the oils wil evaporate and the bicarbonate of soda will go flat.

We use it with electric toothbrushes, by just dipping them lightly in the mixture and then brushing. It makes you drool a lot, so pacing around the bathroom whilst brushing isn't an option! LOL It's strong and a bit honky when you rinse your mouth out but IT WORKS!
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Cordial Chemistry

This post is about some of the ingredients typically found in soda/ cordial drinks. So far I've just used citric acid and campden tablets (sodium metabisulphite E223, Polethylene Glycol) in the cordials I've made, but I want to get an understanding of what's out there so that I have a better idea of what I'm doing/ need to do.

Sodium Citrate (acidity regulator) is the sodium salt of citric acid with the chemical formula of Na3C6H5O7. Sodium citrate possesses a saline, mildly tart, flavor. For this reason, citrates of certain Alkaline and Alkaline Earth metals (e.g. sodium and calcium citrates) are commonly known as sour salt (occasionally citric acid is erroneously termed sour salt). Sodium citrate is chiefly used as a food additive, usually for flavor or as a preservative. Sodium citrate is employed as a flavoring agent in certain varieties of club soda. Sodium citrate is common in lemon-lime soft drinks, and it is partly what causes them to have their sour taste.
More about sodium citrate on Wikipedia >

Citric Acid is a weak organic acid found in citrus fruits. It is a natural preservative and is also used to add an acidic (sour) taste to foods and soft drinks. In biochemistry, it is important as an intermediate in the citric acid cycle and therefore occurs in the metabolism of almost all living things. It also serves as an environmentally benign cleaning agent and acts as an antioxidant. Citric acid exists in a variety of fruits and vegetables, but it is most concentrated in lemons and limes, where it can comprise as much as 8% of the dry weight of the fruit.
More about citric acid on Wikipedia

Sodium Benzoate (E211, preservative), also called benzoate of soda, has chemical formula C6H5COONa. It is the sodium salt of benzoic acid and exists in this form when dissolved in water. It can be produced by reacting sodium hydroxide with benzoic acid. Sodium benzoate is used as a preservative, effectively killing most yeasts, bacteria, and fungi. It is effective only in acidic conditions (pH < 3.6) making its use most prevalent in foods such as preserves, salad dressings (vinegar), carbonated drinks (carbonic acid), jams (citric acid), fruit juices (citric acid), pickles (vinegar), and Chinese food sauces (soy, mustard, and duck). It is also found in alcohol-based mouthwash and silver polish. Sodium benzoate is used in many soft drinks and can be identified on the label of the bottle or can as 'sodium benzoate' or E211. The taste of sodium benzoate cannot be detected by around 25 percent of the population, but for those who can taste the chemical, it tends to be perceived as sweet, salty, or sometimes bitter.
More about sodium benzoate on Wikipedia

Sodium Metabisulphite or sodium pyrosulfite (American spelling; English spelling is Sodium metabisulphite or sodium pyrosulphite) is an inorganic compound of chemical formula Na2S2O5. The name is sometimes referred to as disodium (metabisulfite, etc). It is used as a sterilizer and antioxidant/preservative. It is used as a food additive, mainly as a preservative and is sometimes identified as E223. As an additive, it may cause allergic reactions, particularly skin irritation, gastric irritation and asthma. It is not recommended for consumption by children.
More about sodium metabisulphite on Wikipedia

Polethylene Glycol Pure polyethylene glycol HO(CH2CH2O)nH (PEG) have been characterized as clear viscous liquid (molecular weight less than 200), wax-like substance (molecular weight 200 ÷ 2000) and as opaque white crystalline solid (higher molecular weight). Polyethylene glycols are soluble in most organic solvents, such as benzene, carbon tetrachloride, chloroform, dimethylformamide (DMF), acetonitrile. PEG is perfectly soluble in water, but solubility decreases with molecular weight of polymer increasing.
More about polethylene glycol at
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Sunday, 1 July 2007

Aloe Lotion

A friend requested this lotion by way of something that would help soothe the skin after being in the sun. I tried it myself before letting it out the house, and it smells and feels really good.

It's a simple combination of aloe vera gel (1/2 cup), chamomile tea (1 tablespoon), vitamin E oil (1 tablespoon), 2-3 drops of peppermint oil. The gel and tea are mixed and heated gently in a water bath. Once they cool you add in the other ingredients - et voila!

I haven't had any feedback yet, but I'll add it once I do!
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Basic moisturizer with rose

I made my first basic moisturizer in the last couple of days. I usually use Oil of Ulay which is a very light daytime moisturizer as I hate the feeling of the skin being clogged up by the cream. So this is also the quality I'm looking for in my homemade version.

The recipe was for Basic Moisturizer from Janice Cox's 'Natural Beauty at Home':

1/4 cup mineral oil or light vegetable oil (I used a light sunflower oil)
1/4 cup stearic acid powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons glycerine
1 cup distilled water
I also added about 10-15 drops of rose essential oil (I don't have a 100% one at the moment)

You basically combine the oil and stearic acid in one cup, and the soda, glycerine and water in another, and heat both in a water bath. Once the first mixture is clear, and the second is almost boiling, you slowly pour the water solution into the oil solution, stirring all the time. I then whipped it with an electric mixer and added the essential oil.

It looks great, a white fluffy mixture, and stays this way once it cools down. It feels good on the skin although I found it a little oily afterwards - this may be because of the oil I chose to use, or perhaps that I put on more than I needed.
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Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Shampoo, Shampoo, Shampoo!

Let me bring you up-to-date with my shampoo making efforts - oh boy have I been having some fun! Ok so I did expect that I was going to make the perfect shampoo first time round, so the first disaster was a bit of an...errr surprise. LOL But I've really started enjoy the journey. :)

Have you ever looked at the ingredients on a commercial bottle of shampoo? Oh my! There's a list as long as your arm of weird and undesirable sounding chemicals. I'm not a chemist, so I won't go there, but the one that most people have heard of is sodium laureth sulfate which is used to create the lather (and is also used to clean commercial garage floors! Yuk!). So I thought it would most likely be healthier, much more liberating, and a great deal of fun to see if I could make our own shampoo. :)

Recipe No.1

After hunting around on the internet for a while, I found the following recipe which sounded quite appealing:

And here's the recipe:

A simple castile shampoo is made with 4 ounces castile soap flakes and one quart water. Bring the water to a boil. Turn off the heat and pour water over the soap flakes. Stir until the soap flakes dissolve. Once the mixture has cooled, store it in a plastic bottle.

You may vary this recipe by adding essential oils to the shampoo. Lavender is very calming and makes a good addition to the shampoo. Peppermint and citrus are invigorating. Experiment with different oils to find the ones you like best. If you wish to add essential oils to your shampoo, mix 4 to 8 drops of the oil in a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol. Stir it into the soap mixture just after all the soap has dissolved.

This sounds simple, I think to myself, and immediately go hunting to find a suitable supplier, which turns out to be The Soap Kitchen. So I make the recipe and it looks to me like it's quite thin, so I pour it into some lovely blue glass bottles I've found on eBay and leave it to cool. Uh oh... it didn't stay thin for long. I turn the bottles upside down and have a bit of a Heinz ketchup moment. LOL! But to no avail. My friend Onnik helpfully suggests microwaving the bottles, which we do and manage to extract the shampoo, after a few volcanoes which cover the microwave in the lovely rose shampoo I'm feeling so proud of. I now unceremoniously dump the stuff into little pots to give to my friends to try out. Anyway, to cut a story that is becoming long a bit shorter, it's terrible. It doesn't really clean the hair, and it doesn't lather. After cooling off from my disappointment, I leave it in a bowl by the sink to use as hand soap. Eventually it gets sacked even from this humble role. Oh well, it was fun and I have at least learnt something - about what not to do! :)

Recipe No.2.

So I look around for another recipe and find a lovely book that comes with great recommendations on Amazon: Natural Beauty at Home by Janice Cox (you'll find other recipes from her book scattered about my blog). So I try her herbal shampoo recipe. This is a mixture of the basic shampoo recipe, plus your herbs of choice (funnily enough):

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup liquid soap
1/2 teaspoon light vegetable oil

Mix together all the ingredients above. Then take 2 tablespoons of dried herbs (I tried lavender and chamomile as two separate shampoos) and steep them in 1/2 cup of water for at least 20 minutes. Then add this to the shampoo mix along with 2 tablespoons of glycerine.

It smells gorgeous and looks good, but again it doesn't lather or really clean the hair properly. So I come to the conclusion that I need to find a recipe that doesn't use soap, as this just isn't suitable for cleaning hair, and (dare I say it) is a bit more complex or sophisticated.

Recipe No.3

Ok, so I hunt around again and find a recipe online that uses a combination of different oils and one chemical, lye, to create a gentle shampoo. I haven't tried it yet, but I will in the next couple of days, and report back. I have a good feeling about this one...

Update 19/07/07

My puppy-like excitement about finding a lovely, natural homemade shampoo is history! LOL I'm going through a chemical revolution (see my latest post about Sodium Laureth Sulfate). But the shampoo quest continues in full force!

The last recipe I found was, in fact, in an eBook from costing $24.00. I know, it's a lot of money for a recipe. I can honestly say that by the time I produce a shampoo that I'm satisfied with, it will be the most expensive bottle on the shelf. LOL

This recipe was fairly complex to make, and was based on heating and combining different oils (safflower, soy, coconut and peanut), along with a little bit of help from Potassium Hydroxide and Borax. It turned out to be really thick, so I had to re-heat it and add more water before we could use it. It was very effective at cleaning the hair, and lathered up a treat. But when we came to rinsing it off it felt a bit like petrol. :( I tried adding honey to improve this and it did help, but not enough. When you dry your hair, it felt OK, if a little thick. My other complaint was the smell of this shampoo. Despite the addition of essential oils, it retained a pretty undesirable smell. Very "natural" one might say, but not actually all that pleasing on the nose buds.

So by this time I was coming to the conclusion that all this natural stuff was fun, but it just wasn't enough. I then came across a very interesting web site call Aromantic which sells both recipes and ingredients for cosmetic products. They use certain chemicals, which I need to find out more about, and some more natural products. I'm just about to make my first batch...
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Lavender Cordial

I'm just trying this recipe out as I write! I came across this on a discussion forum: and just loved the enthusiasm of the participants. :)

The recipe is:

110g Golden Granulated sugar
50 lavender flowers
300 ml water

Put the water and sugar into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved completely. Add the lavender flowers and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat; cover the pan and leave to infuse for 30-45 minutes. Strain the liquid into a pan and reheat, stirring all the time, until the mixture is syrupy. Cool completely. Pour into a sterilised bottle, seal tightly and leave to cool. Store in the refrigerator. Dilute with chilled sparkling mineral water.

Ok, so here are the results. Personally I don't like it, it's just too flowery and sweet (and I'm quite a sweet tooth). As my friend Alexandros said, it's a bit like drinking pot pourri. LOL I'm wondering though if it might work when mixed with a completely different flavour. I tried squeezing half a lime into a glass of the cordial with sparkling water. It's a bit better, but still not right. Hmm... mint perhaps?

I'm also wondering if it would be better with some citric acid in. The best cordial recipes I've seen so far are the ones from Thorncroft (see my post on Nettle Cordial as an example) that all contain citric acid. Wikipedia says that citric acid "is a natural preservative and is also used to add an acidic (sour) taste to foods and soft drinks." This might help with the floweryness. If, and it's a big IF at the moment, I try this again then I'll definitely add in the citric acid.
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Rose Cordial

From the cordial-making experience I've been gaining (see Quest for Ginger Ale and Nettle Cordial posts) I decided to get adventurous and try out my own recipe! I used similar quantities of sugar, water and citric acid as the Nettle Cordial recipe, but instead of the nettle and blackcurrant leaves, I used dried rose petals and a tiny bit of vanilla. I let this brew for a week. The colour is great and the taste is quite nice, if a bit on the subtle side. I'm thinking that the delicate rose flavour needs another flavour to contrast and complement it.

I came across one recipe suggesting rose and coriander: which I want to try. Here is the recipe:

1 quart rose petals
"a little more than 1 quart" water
Another quart rose petals
1/2 to 1 pound sugar
1 to 2 quarts brandy, vodka or grain alcohol
1 ounce broken stick cinnamon
1 ounce coriander

Pour lukewarm water over petals. Cover and let stand for 24 hours. Strain, squeezing the petals as hard as you can muster. Add the second quart of petals into the rose water. Stand for 48 hours. Strain and squeeze hard again. If you've got more petals, consider doing it another round or two until you have strongly rose-scented water. Then add all the other ingredients (obviously, add to taste, and your first attempt will be a blind guess). Stand for 3-4 weeks. Strain and bottle.

I'm also on the look out for other rose cordial recipes, but I only have dried rose petals available to me, which is never going to be quite the same.
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Nettle Cordial

I found a lovely recipe on the Thorncroft site for Nettle Cordial, and unlikely sounding but delicious drink.

Here is the link:

And the recipe:

100g freshly picked nettle tips
100g freshly picked young blackcurrant leaves
1 kg granulated sugar
40g citric acid
500ml boiling water

Add the sugar, citric acid and water to a large saucepan. Heat to 60 degrees C. Add the leaves and remove immediately from heat. Cover and leave for a week, stirring daily. Strain and bottle. Add one Campden tablet per batch or keep in refrigerator.

The nettle leaves are readily available at this time of year, and it just so happens that we have a blackcurrant bush in the back garden. I suspect it's the latter that really give this cordial it's great taste, but I'm going to try making it just with nettles to see what it's like. I have another reason for doing this: whilst the nettles are in abundant supply, I only have a limited supply of blackcurrant leaves, so I want to try some different substitutes. All ideas would be greatly appreciated! As usual, I'll update this post with any new developments I make. :)
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The Quest for Ginger Ale

What got me started on experimenting with cordial recipes, you may ask? Well, we drink a LOT of ginger ale and I was getting fed-up with being dependent on the supermarket to buy endless 1l bottles containing... well, what exactly? Flavourings, preservatives, colourings - not very uplifting! We use the ginger ale as a mixer to go with scotch whisky (strangely enough) so the end result we were looking for was something quite smooth and light.

So I set about making a ginger cordial that we could then mix with carbonated water (that's a whole other story!). So far, I have to report that I haven't found one that we really like, they all taste too fiery, or too lemony. Here are the recipes I've tried, I thought that the pink ginger one sounded promising, but my first take didn't come out pink. I will write off to Thorncroft and see if they have any idea why, and will tell me the secret. :) I'll update this post if/ when I get a response.

Recipe No.1

This was the first recipe I tried: I've summarised it here.

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 piece lime rind or fresh lemon rind (no white)
1 large gingerroot, chopped
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 cup lemons or lime juice

1. Boil the water, sugar, ginger, rind and cream of tartar for 5 minutes.
2. Add the lemon or lime juice.
3. Bring to the boil again.
4. Take off the heat, strain and pour into a sterilised bottle which will hold approximately 6 cups of liquid.
5. Use like ordinary cordial, either with iced water for a cooling drink, or hot water for a warming drink on a winter's night.

Too fiery and too lemony for our taste! How do you get a smooth, Canada Dry- type taste, I'm wondering?

Recipe No.2

Then I found the following recipe, which looked quite promising:

I was excited by the idea of replacing sugar with the natural substitute stevia. But, we found the stevia really didn't taste good. Perhaps it's the way I used it? If you have a different experience I would love to hear.

So, the recipe:

3 1/2 cups water
4-inch long piece of ginger, peeled & chopped
2 Tbsp vanilla flavoring
3 tsp lemon flavoring (non-alcoholic)
1/2 tsp stevia powder (or to taste)

Boil down the ginger in water for 10 minutes. Strain out ginger pieces and pour ginger juice into jar. Add vanilla and lemon flavorings and stevia. Let cool and store in refrigerator as a syrup concentrate. Add 1/8 - 1/4 cup of syrup to 6-8 oz of sparkling water and serve.

This one didn't really work out either, apart from the stevia, it was a rather strange mix of vanilla flavours and still the fieriness of the ginger. Are we just being too fussy? LOL So the quest continues with...

Recipe No.3

Next I found a recipe for Pink Ginger, which sounded very promising: My first take of it definitely isn't pink and doesn't live up to their description " It has a superbly refreshing flavour, not at all fiery". However, I'm sure this is user error, so I will buy a bottle of their cordial just to check, and let you know how the real McCoy tastes.

300g fresh ginger root
1 kg granulated sugar
2 sliced lemons
30 g citric acid
350 ml water

Grate the ginger and immediately add the citric acid. This is what gives the pink colour. Then add the sugar and mix well. Leave for about an hour, then add the sliced lemons and water, mixing well. Stir occasionally until all the sugar is dissolved, then cover and leave for a week, stirring daily. Then strain and press the pulp gently by squeezing it against the side of the sieve with a ladle. Bottle adding one Campden tablet, or refrigerate.

Quest to be continued... :)

Update 01/07/07
I bought a bottle of Thorncroft Pink Ginger from Waitrose at the weekend and did a taste test against my homemade version. They actually taste remarkably similar, even if theirs if a gentle pink colour whilst mine is bright yellow! I noticed that on their ingredients list they additionally have "colouring fruit and vegetable concentrates". I found some information on what this means: I've also written to Thorncroft to try and find out why my cordial didn't go pink. LOL! Could this have something to do with that final ingredient? Anyway, I think I will try the cordial again, perhaps without any lemons, and then with just a small amount.

Update 02/07/07
Thorncroft got back to me today (very friendly, BTW) and apparently the "colouring fruit and vegetable concentrates" are blackcurrant and a special variety of black carrot grown for the colour.

Apart from that, I made a new batch of Recipe No.3 today without any lemons in it, so we'll see in a weeks time how that tastes.
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Air Freshener Spray

This is an adaption of a recipe from the book 'The Kitchen Cupboard Healers' for a bathroom air freshener. It's just gorgeous, a very fresh and uplifting smell.

We bought a couple of spray bottles from the garden centre (the type meant for misting your plants with), as they're quite big it means less time spent refilling. But you can also buy something a bit more elegant quite cheaply from somewhere like the Soap Kitchen.

Ok, down to brass tacks. The ingredients are:
1 x teaspoon of baking soda
2 x tablespoons of white vinegar
2 cups of clean water

This is a bit 'bare bones' and I wanted something scented so I also added some essential oils. So far I tried a mixture of tea tree oil, peppermint and lavender - an unusual but lovely mix. I can remember the exact amounts I put in, so when I refill the bottles I'll check and update this posting.

You put the baking soda in the bottle, and then add to it the vinegar, water and essential oils. Once the mixture stops foaming replace the lid, and it's ready to go.
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