Saturday morning musings
It is late August. Several months ago we made our final mortgage payment on our dream home. It sits on almost 6 acres, partly wooded, partly fields, and partly ‘yard.’ There is something about the feeling of knowing you own your home, each blade of grass seems special, when a month ago it wasn’t. It is an odd, but wonderful feeling. All my adult life I’ve paid rent or a mortgage. Now, in my very late 50s, that phase of my life is done. I don’t think I’ll miss it.
So, now that we own it, let’s make it work for us. Let’s do something that will support us into our middle years (planning on a life well beyond 100, so I can say that, I suppose.) Anyway, we have decided to expand on our little farm. For the last 5 years I’ve done a garden, about 20, 4’x4′ raised beds with various beds bordering them. Each year we have volunteer tomatoes, and some squash, greens, beets, okra, peppers and the like. This summer I’ve dried some herbs: basil, thyme, and mint.
We’re expanding. In the past we had a ‘lower garden’ in a different location on the property. I put bigger plants there, zucchini, okra, corn, even watermelon. Let me digress for a watermelon story. I didn’t plant seeds, but rather bought baby plants at a local Amish nursery. It was a hot afternoon when I got home so I put the flat in the shade next to the garage while I planted the flowers. [See, ladies, I do have my priorities right!] Anyway, while my back was turned so to speak, my lawn-mowing hubby came by and started into my flat of baby plants. He realized the error of his ways quick enough, backed up and went on. Meanwhile, in a frenzied attempt to save the plants I stalked out to the raised beds and plopped all the plants in the ground – temporarily. Time passed.
One day I determined to revitalize the lower garden, and it just made sense to move something big like watermelon out to the lower garden. So I did. The rows were covered with a woven landscaping fabric to keep the weeds at bay. It was black. Next morning my little 3′ watermelon vines were limp and burned up. Quickly I placed some straw between them and the hot fabric. Grabbed my watering can and attempted to drown them in an effort to ensure they revived.
More time passes. The watermelons revive, limping along, beginning to fight with the crab grass which seems like it wants to take over the whole world. Then comes the day we decide to expand the lower garden. Well, you can’t cut down trees and brush, chip the branches, grind the stumps, and till the area with the plants in place. So I moved them, again. Yes, that makes 3 times.
The watermelons are not doing great. But they are also not dead. I suppose there is a lesson in there, something like – blossom where you’re planted, or it is important to put down roots, or maybe, moving around a lot isn’t great for your vitality.
Back to today’s story. It is a nice overcast day, hot, but not 90 degrees and sunny. I worked in the garden some this morning, used the blower to clear the fresh cut grass off the driveway. Removed an old rotten board from the edge of the garlic and herbs area along the south side of the little garden. Cut some thyme and put it in the dehydrator. Cut the seed heads from the Black-eyed Susans next to my little shed and up by the studio; then strategically scattered them along a bank on the front side of the big field. Next year we should have a whole wall of sunshine there. Around about 11:30 I was starting to get really hungry. That’s when I realized I had a bowl of thawing blueberries and raspberries sitting on the counter, since about 7 this morning. So, after starting a load of laundry I added my walnuts, chia seeds, bee pollen, and yogurt to the berries and gave them a stir. In between bites I put together the ingredients for my chai tea. Yes, we’re finally getting to the recipe now. As I was working through the recipe, and eating a bite of my berries, nuts, and yogurt I took a quick run out to the compost heap. When I came back into the house, the aroma of the hot spices assaulted me with such glorious goodness I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Once the tea ingredients were assembled I brewed up a pot in my very favorite dragon-fly cast iron tea pot, and sat down to tell you this story.
This recipe makes about 2 cups of tea. Originally I received this tea as a gift, I loved it so much I asked for the recipe. I’ve made it several times, and generally am a bit generous with all the spices and herbs. My current batch is made with Anthony’s organic English Breakfast tea. For my preferences I like more spices and less tea. I don’t use sweetener, just a big splash of local Amish grass-milk.
36-40 green cardamom pods
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns (or a mix)
3 tablespoon fennel seeds
1.5 teaspoon coriander seeds
1.5 teaspoon whole cloves
4 4-inch cinnamon stickhome123
6 tablespoons chopped candied ginger
1.5 cup loose black or green tea (I prefer about 1/4c green, the rest black)
With a sharp knife, split the cardamom pods in half, long way seems to work best.
Wrap the cinnamon stick in some cheese cloth, or even a paper towel, lay it on a chopping board and give it a few good whacks with a meat tenderizer, rolling pin, or hammer. The goal is to get small pieces, not dust! The more surface area you create the more opportunity there is for cinnamon essence to permeate your tea. NOTE: Once I tried using powered cinnamon, don’t. Something strange happens to powered cinnamon when it sits in a tea pot for an hour or so, the word slimy does seem appropriate in that condition, and it makes the last little bit of tea quite unappetizing.
Place the cardamom in a small cast iron skillet along with the peppercorns, fennel, coriander, cloves and cinnamon. Stirring occasionally, toast over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the spices are fragrant. Remove and cool a couple minutes.
Then the original instructions say to crush spices lightly with a rolling pin or in a mortar and pestle. I use the pestle in the cast iron pan.
In a bowl, toss the spices, candied ginger and tea together until blended.
The original recipe said to use about 1 tablespoon of tea for a cup. I use my lovely pot, which holds about 28 ounces of water, so I use 2-3 tablespoons.
In Japan the Tea Ceremony is very ritualized. At my house, the tea ceremony is pleasant and relaxing, using a pretty pot and tiny cast iron cup makes the whole experience special.
Please share your comments about how you enjoy your tea or how you like this recipe.