Five Flavors Infusions and Ferments

I prepared this as homework for my "Herbs Practicum" final project, to create a "classical menu" based off Chinese medicine flavor principles. Here, I consider western herbalism from a Chinese medicinal flavor based perspective, and vice versa. Although I'm still experimenting with bridging these elements, this is a compilation of six basic formulas/ recipes that I love, wish to share, and hope you will enjoy and modify with gusto. Blogger re-formats Word docs funnily, so please refer to this Google docs version that you can download, share, save... and even comment on! Enjoy. :)

Five Flavors
Infusions and Ferments

Infusion/ Ferment
Kimchi (F)
Bitters (I)
Rose Honey (I)
Hot sauce (I/ F)
Fire Cider (I)
Pickles (F)

SW22: Pungent scatters, sour gathers, sweet moderates, bitter consolidates, salty softens.

五味所入;酸入肝,辛入肺,苦入心,鹹入腎,甘入脾, 是謂五入。
SW23: Where the five flavors enter: sour enters Liver; pungent enters Lung; bitter enters Heart; salty enters Kidney; sweet enters Spleen.

Where the five flavors are prohibited: pungent goes to the qi; in qi diseases avoid eating too much pungent. Salty goes to the blood; in blood diseases avoid eating too much salty. Bitter goes to the bones; in bone diseases avoid eating too much bitter. Sweet goes to the flesh; in flesh diseases avoid eating too much sweet. Sour goes to the tendons; in tendon diseases avoid eating too much sour.

We receive an abundance of food from the Earth, particularly during the green season between spring and autumn. There are many simple ways to process and preserve this bounty, including dehydration, infusion, and fermentation. The listed infusions and fermentations are organized by flavor, which corresponds with the five elements of Chinese medicine, originally described in the Chinese medicine classic, the Huang Di Nei Jing Suwen 5 (黃帝内經素問). Suwen 5 and 22 present foundational information about flavor, while Gao Lin (16th century poet and medical scholar) presents perspectives on interrelationships between seasonality and flavor. Quotes from both are listed below, alongside each preparation.

Store these preparations in cool dark places, only dip clean utensils into the jar, and they can last all winter. For the ferments, be sure to use clean jars, to prevent unwanted mold, and ensure that only beneficial bacteria populate your fermentation.

Modify the recipes! Add what’s in your garden and the landscape around you, and experiment with what herbs and spices you add, and how they taste and feel. Food is medicine, and medicine is food. Celebrating your unique bioregion in this way makes your microbiome, your gut microflora, likewise diverse. Eat wild, eat local, and make your inner forest flourish!

Sour: Kimchi
 “The flavor of Liver Wood is sour. Wood can overcome Earth, which governs Spleen, which in turn is influenced by sweet flavors. In spring, therefore, one should eat fewer sour foods and increase one’s intake of mildly sweet foods to nourish Spleen qi.” – Gao Lin

“When Liver suffers urgency, eat sweet to moderate it… when Liver desires dispersion, eat pungent. Use pungent to tonify it, and sour to purge it.” – Suwen 22

-        1 medium Napa cabbage (cut into 2-inch-wide strips)
-        2 T sea salt
-        3 scallions
-        Paste:
o   ½ medium onion
o   ½ apple
o   6 garlic cloves
o   1 T sweetener
o   3 tsp red pepper flakes
o   1 T soy sauce

1.      Massage salt into cabbage, then let stand for 1-2 hours
2.     Collect juices released from the salted cabbage, to make paste
3.     Blenderize paste ingredients until smooth, then add red pepper flakes
4.     Massage paste into cabbage until coated
5.     Pack kimchi into glass jars, pressing down until brine covers at least 1 inch. Place clean stone on top, to keep submerged. Cover loosely with a cloth or cap (to maintain air flow)
6.     Let ferment 1-2 weeks until it reaches desired flavor, then cap and store
7.      Eat with meals, or make a delicious sour soup with it!

Potential additions/ modifications:
Red cabbage, beets, Dandelion roots, Burdock root, carrots, Daikon radish, seaweeds, mushrooms, curry flavor, sesame seeds, etc

Bitter: Bitters
(from Thomas Easley/ Steven Horne)
“Heart’s qi is abundant with Fire energy with its associated bitter flavor… Fire can distress Metal; Metal energy governs Lung and the flavor associated with the Lung network is pungent. During the summertime, therefore, one should decrease bitter foods and increase pungent flavors to nourish the Lung.” – Gao Lin

“When Heart suffers [over-moderation], eat sour to gather it… when Heart desires softening, eat salty. Use salty to tonify it, and sweet to purge it.” – Suwen 22

This is your basic technique to make a tincture, or alcohol infusion. Alcohol is especially good at extracting pungent, resinous, bitter, and acrid herbs, which usually contain alkamides, resins, terpenes, and alkaloids. This, and other alcoholic extractions, can be made with all herbs combined in one jar, or as simples, then combined later (more flexibility, with simples).

Ingredients (dried herbs, listed in parts):
-        2 Dandelion root
-        2 orange peel
-        1 Angelica
-        ½ Cardamom
-        ½ Anise
-        50% alcohol

1.      Fill 1/5 of glass jar with herbs
2.     Fill jar with alcohol (cover herbs)
3.     Cover jar.
4.     Let sit 6-8 weeks, shaking daily.
5.     Strain, rebottle.

Bottle 1-4 oz bottle to carry with you. Take 1-2 dropperfuls (1-2 mL, or ¼- ½ tsp), 15 minutes before eating to stimulate bile and other digestive secretions, to prepare you for your meal.

Potential additions/ modifications:
Gentian, Wormwood, Yarrow, Oregon Graperoot, Juniper, Lemon Peel, Black Pepper, Ginger, Fennel, Meadowsweet, Goldenrod, Vervain, Skullcap

Sweet: Rose Honey

“When Spleen suffers dampness, eat bitter to dry it… when Spleen desires ease and moderation, eat sweet. Use bitter to purge, and sweet to tonify it.” – Suwen 22

There are five basic menstrua to extract edible and medicinal properties from plants: water, vinegar, oil, sweet menstrua, and alcohol. Different menstrua extract different properties. These are useful for both culinary, as well as medicinal, preparations. The process for making any basic folk infusion is simple: fill a jar with your plant, then fill it again and cover with your menstrua. Let sit for 2-4 weeks, agitating the jar daily. Then strain (optional), rebottle, and enjoy!

-        Fresh Rose Petals
-        Honey

1.      Fill glass jar with Roses (gather at the height of their bloom)
2.     Warm honey until liquefied (via double boiler or microwave)
3.     Cover Roses with honey, with at least 1 inch over the top
4.     Cap the jar and leave in a sunny place for 2-4 weeks

More ideas:
Honey is antibacterial, and filled with trace enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and more. Pungent and aromatic plants extract especially well into honey. Aromatic spring blossoms, especially nervines, are delicious in honey. A few possibilities include Roses, Tulsi, Mints, Rosemary, Violets, Lavender, Hibiscus, and Lemon Balm. Garlic honey makes a strong antibacterial agent. Pungent powders like Tumeric, Black Pepper, and Ginger can be combined into a potent anti-inflammatory honey paste.

Pungent: Hot Sauce

“The organ network associated with [autumn] is Lung; this organ is abundant with qi and has a particular affinity to pungent flavors… Metal can have an overbearing action on Wood. Since Liver [is] the organ system associated with Wood, and since this system is particularly affected by sour flavors, one should decrease the intake of pungent flavors in the fall while increasing sour ones, since this
will nourish and protect Liver qi.” – Gao Lin

“When Lung suffers counterflowing qi, eat bitter to drain it… when Lung desires gathering, eat sour. Use sour to tonify it, and pungent to purge it.” – Suwen 22

Oil- based hot sauce
This is your basic process for making an oil infusion. Oils extract aromatics, pungent herbs, resins, and lipids particularly well. Consider the edible, as well as topical potential applications of oils.

-        1 C EV olive oil
-        1-4 T chili pepper flakes
(if  fresh peppers, then dehydrate first)
-        Optional:
o   Dash of sesame oil
o   ½ tsp dried garlic/ onion

1.      Fill jar with all ingredients
2.     Let sit for 2 weeks
3.     Straining optional

Other oil infusion possibilities:
Culinary: Rosemary, Garlic, Sage, Dried Tomatoes, Onions, Dandelion fl
Topical: St Johnswort fl, Comfrey lvs, Chapparal lvs and fl, Plantain lvs, Pine resin

Vinegar- based hot sauce: just infuse all ingredients in vinegar, instead of oil. Voila! Vinegar infusion!

Other vinegar infusion possibilities: fresh Nettles, Dandelion fls, Mugwort lvs, Rose petals

Fermented hot sauce
-        1 C hot peppers (chopped)
-        2 garlic cloves (smashed)
-        Brine:
o   1 C water (purified)
o   ½ T sea salt

1.      Add ingredients to glass jar
2.     Cover with brine
3.     Cover loosely and let sit 2-3 days. Stir daily (to prevent mold formation on top)
4.     When it’s cloudy and smells sour, blenderize then refrigerate

Handle hot peppers with gloves, and do not touch eyes, nose, face, or other mucous membranes for a few hours afterwards, even after washing with soap. Inhale with care, especially if cooking with, or blenderizing, hot peppers. Modulate your spiciness by adding more or less peppers. De-seeding peppers makes them less pungent, though overly-spicy hot sauce can be diluted later by adding more oil, or using smaller quantities.
You can cook with the hot sauce oil, adding it in at the end of a stir-fry, or by adding the vinegar or fermented hot sauce into salads, soups, and other preparations.

Pungent: Fire Cider
(from Rosemary Gladstar)

Another vinegar infusion:  the ultimate immune system boost. Make in autumn, and take 1-2 T a day, especially during cold/ flu season, or when feeling run-down.

-        ½ C fresh horseradish root (grated)
-        ½ C fresh ginger root (grated)
-        ¼ C garlic (mashed)
-        1 medium onion (chopped)
-        2 jalapeno peppers (chopped)
-        1 lemon
-        2 T rosemary leaves (or any other herbs you wish to add)
-        Apple cider vinegar
-        2 T honey (optional)

1.      Fill glass jar with ingredients
2.     Cover ingredients with apple cider vinegar
3.     Cap the jar, placing wax paper under the lid (so the metal doesn’t corrode)
4.     Shake daily for 4 weeks (or longer)
5.     Strain, add honey to taste, rebottle, enjoy!

Potential additions/ modifications:
Tumeric rt, Astragalus rt, Burdock rt, Oranges, Juniper berries, local terroir (cheers!)

Salty: Pickles 
(From www.FermentedFoodLab.com)

“One should nourish Heart qi by decreasing salty foods and increasing bitter ones... because the winter months are associated with Kidney water which in turn is affected by salty flavors.” – Gao Lin

“When Kidney suffers dryness, eat pungent to moisten, open [pores], deliver fluids, and [open qi passages]… when Kidney desires consolidation, eat bitter. Use bitter to tonify, and salty to purge it.”
– Suwen 22

-        2 clean Mason jars (1 L each)
-        10 small cucumbers (or whatever you wish to pickle)
-        1 T garlic (roughly chopped)
-        1 T peppercorns (whole)
-        4 bay leaves
-        2 dill head fronds (fresh)
-        2 tsp black tea leaves, or 2 grape leaves, or 3 oak leaves (for astringency, to make crunchy)
-        Brine:
o   2 T sea salt
o   4 C water
o   1 T apple cider vinegar

1.      Fill jars with ingredients
2.     Cover ingredients with brine
3.     Submerge pickles with a clean stone or other object (at least 1 inch of brine over pickles)
4.     Loosely cover with lid or cloth (to allow airflow for Lactobacillus to thrive)
5.     Check after 4-5 days (pickles are ready when they smell and taste great, brine turns cloudy, and cucumbers turn yellow or olive green.)

Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen (黃帝内經素問) quotes translated by Michael Givens, from “Flavor, Temperature and Other Practical Foundations of Chinese Medicine,” 2013
Gao Lin quotes from “Promoting Health and Relaxation during the Four Seasons,” translated by Heiner Fruehauf, 2006
“The Modern Herbal Dispensatory,” by Thomas Easley and Steven Horne, 2016

(Photos from Google searches)