Making my own vanilla sugar replacement!

Mead wort, or meadowsweet, meadsweet, bridewort, queen of the meadow (filipendula ulmaria) is a quite commen herb in Europe and Western Asia, and has been used for thousads of years, both as a medical herb, to flavour drinks and food, and as a strewing herb to make the house smell good. (The history of strewing herbs and a list of used herbs and their purposes can be found here, very interesting!)

Mead wort, as I prefer to call it, has a sweet, honeylike aroma, and adds a subtle almondlike flavour to jams and stewed fruits. I recently came across a video showing how to make your own vanilla sugar using this herb, and wanted to try it out myself.

The herb is easily recognized with it’s cluster of flowers, pinnate leaves and characteristic red stem. It is found in damp meadows, fens and often close to water sources. Here in Norway it’s very common around cultivated land and in neglected fields and grazing areas.

 

The flowers are used as both tea and to flavour jams, mead and wine, and the leaves can be used in a medical tea to relieve a number of ailments. For this project you only need the flowers.

First, remove as much of the stems as possible, before spreading the flowers evenly on a baking tray covered with baking paper.

This goes in the oven at 40°C with the door ajar for at least six hours, making your kitchen smell sweet and lovely.
The video said 60°C, but I read somewhere else that herbs might loose some of their aroma and flavour when dried at more than 40°, so I followed that advice instead and it worked just as well.

 

Then it’s ready to grind, using a mortar or a blender. I can’t stand the noise of those kitchen machines, so I used my new stone mortar, which I mentioned in my last post. It took me a while and my hands got quite tired, but I still adore my little mortar.

When you have grinded everything, the last step is to sift the powder through a sieve to remove the rest of the stems. I did this above the baking paper, so that I could easily fold the paper and use it as a funnel to put the powder in its new container.


This was a nearly full basket of flowers, so I decided to make another batch a few days later to fill the jar completely. Luckily, we have a lot of mead wort by our driveway and even more at the bottom of our fields, so I didn’t have to go far to gather more.

I even found one in my slightly neglected flower bed the other day!

And voilá, a jar full of sweetness to be used in various desserts, cream, buns, biscuits and other baked goods this winter. Can’t wait to try it out!

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