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Making Your Own Cottonwood Bud Oil

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Spring time in the Rockies!   What a beautiful time of year!   The grass is beginning to grow, the baby calves are being born and it looks like summer is within sight!

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We recently watched a reality show where the people made their year’s supply of a wonderful salve that they claimed to use on everything from sore muscles to diaper rash.   Also known as balm of gilead, the salve contains a bounty of medicinal properties.   It’s made from cottonwood buds whose resin contains “salicin” – which is the same compound that gives aspirin it’s pain relieving, anti-inflammatory benefits.   Using the balm as an external rub will reduce joint pain (as with arthritis and rheumatism) and will ease sore muscles.

Because cottonwood is high in antioxidants, it is useful for healing the skin, including sunburn.   The buds are also antiseptic and can be added to other oils to prevent rancidity and molding.

Since we live on a creek bottom full of cottonwood trees, my interest was piqued.

The best time to harvest the buds is in late winter to early spring – so I grabbed a plastic bucket and headed for the woods.

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I picked these buds in early February – they were just beginning to swell.   You can see the little drop of resin.

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While most recipes called for placing the buds in olive oil, I did find one recipe that used rendered beef fat.   I have LOTS of that – beautiful grassfed beef fat – rendered and frozen in blocks.   It got my vote!

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I placed the frozen fat in my crock pot and put the temperature on low to let it melt.   After removing the buds from the twigs I had gathered, they were chopped quickly in a blender.

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Then, I combined the melted beef fat with the chopped buds in the crock pot – and gently simmered for about 48 hours.   Upon waking on the second morning, our house had a wonderful, aromatic smell!   The resin from the buds had turned the rendered fat a slightly orange-ish hue.

I strained the mixture through cheesecloth, wringing to extract all of the oil.   At this point, the oil is done – but it is runny (like a baby oil consistency).   I wanted to use it more like a salve, so the oil was then warmed with a small amount of candellila wax to “thicken” it.   Use about 1 ounce of wax to 5 ounces of oil.

It was poured into jars and then cooled, sealing with a canning lid.   Store your salve in a cool, dark place.

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A note of caution – I have read that people who are allergic to aspirin may also be allergic to cottonwood bud oil.   Please check with your doctor before using if this is the case.

This lovely salve has been our “go to” for arthritis pain and sore muscle rubs.   It helped a friend who rubbed it on his elbow afflicted with tendonitis, and it calmed an injection site from a tetanus shot.   I think we will be gathering cottonwood buds for years to come!

White Sauces – Easy (and From Scratch!)

I found a wonderful “comfort food” recipe on Pinterest the other day. It was just perfect to prepare after being out in the cold temperatures – Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole. It dawned on me, as I was making the dish, that the recipe called for cream of (something or other) soup. I've made my own white sauces for many years. It's easy and you can skip all of the preservatives and chemicals that the canned soups contain.

By simply using three simple ingredients and spending about five minutes of your time, you can create a “cream of” soup (white sauce) for your recipe.

Here's how:

For a cup of white sauce (for creamed and scalloped dishes) simply melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan.

 

Blend in 2 tablespoons of flour, cooking over low heat and stirring until the mixture is smooth and bubbly. Remove it from the heat and stir in 1 cup of milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly for one minute. Done! Season as you wish with salt and pepper, etc.

Here's that comfort food recipe: Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

For two servings, I grilled two chicken breasts and sliced them in serving size pieces in the bottom of an 8 x 8 casserole dish. Then chop some deli-sliced ham and sprinkle over the top of the chicken, followed by thin sliced swiss cheese. Prepare your white sauce (recipe above) and when you bring it to its final boil after adding the milk, ADD a good squeeze of fresh lemon, a dollop of dijon mustard, some salt, smoked paprika and white pepper to the sauce. Stir to incorporate. Pour the sauce over your chicken mixture in the baking dish.

Now, as if this recipe doesn't have enough comfort food calories, you finish the dish with a topping. Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a pan, add 1 cup of Panko crumbs, 1/2 teaspoon of Lawrys seasoning salt and a tablespoon of dried parsley. Combine and sprinkle over the chicken dish.

I baked for 30 minutes until the sauce was bubbly and then stuck the dish under the broiler to finish those Panko breadcrumbs into a golden brown.

Wow – is this good! (certainly not a dinner your waistline or arteries could take on a regular basis, but once in a while was sure delicious!)

Enjoy!