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The Wildcrafting Brewer: A Guide for Botanical Alchemists

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The Wildcrafting Brewer: A Guide for Botanical Alchemists

March 1, 2018

Terroir-blazing forager and botanical alchemist Pascal Baudar has written a thirst-quenching new book. The subtitle of The Wildcrafting Brewer sums it up: Creating Unique Drinks and Boozy Concoctions from Nature’s Ingredients. The pages are dedicated to feral, inspired libations and are alive with the spirit of his first book, The New Wildcrafted Cuisine, which introduced readers to the intense pleasures of crafting regional food and drink, by understanding the flavors of local flora.

While “unique” has become a word to throw about casually, Baudar is one of the rare people who fulfills its promise. Drawing on age-old and ethnic traditions, he produces for readers refreshing acts of brewing magic to fill their glasses and equip them with tools to master techniques that will give lifelong pleasure. His gift is to translate his own intense curiosity about botanical flavor (and where to find it) into easily understood methods. Once his brewing bug has bitten you, you will appreciate your local environment in an entirely different way.

Read on for step-by-step instructions for making pine cone soda.

Photography by Pascal Baudar.

 The Wildcrafting Brewer is $
Above: The Wildcrafting Brewer is $22.80 at Amazon.
The motivating force behind The Wildcrafting Brewer is the ancient practice of wildcrafting. This love affair with edible or medicinal wild plants is experiencing renewal in a century where we appreciate our natural environment in a way that is more informed than ever before, even as our natural resources diminish or come under increasing threat.

Baudar is a mindful gatherer and uses mostly exotic or invasive plants (90 percent by his own estimate). He writes in the introduction that through foraging “you help your native environment by removing non-native plants…and harvesting sustainably or growing the plants you need.” And by planting a brewer’s garden, he explains, you also are doing your local pollinators and birds a favor.

Huzzah! I must cheer. Native edible plants for gardens: This is the beautiful cross-pollination of foraging and growing. Good for biodiversity, good for our palates, and good for native plants that might be vulnerable.

Many methods in this book have a premise that might be familiar to experienced brewers and fermenters, but their possibilities take on a wild and fresh vitality here. They are also invitingly accessible to inexperienced alchemists.
Above: Many methods in this book have a premise that might be familiar to experienced brewers and fermenters, but their possibilities take on a wild and fresh vitality here. They are also invitingly accessible to inexperienced alchemists.
Hot and cold brewing are explained, brewing with and without yeast starters (there is a master recipe and suggestions for wild starters made with elderflowers, elderberries, pinyon pine cones, and cactus pears), beers, and flower and fruit wines.
Above: Hot and cold brewing are explained, brewing with and without yeast starters (there is a master recipe and suggestions for wild starters made with elderflowers, elderberries, pinyon pine cones, and cactus pears), beers, and flower and fruit wines.

There are syrups—berry, herb, fig leaf and green pine cone—and you can learn to make your own molasses.

One of Pascal&#8
Above: One of Pascal’s’s signature concepts is the drinkable hike. You collect bits and pieces from your hike and remember it in a beautifully fizzy drink.

Exciting stuff, especially when you realize that you can apply the techniques to your garden, too. Drink your garden, season by season.

In a chapter dedicated to ethnic drinks and medicinal brews, you will find the author&#8
Above: In a chapter dedicated to ethnic drinks and medicinal brews, you will find the author’s recipe for northeastern kvass. Inspired by a hike in the woods of Vermont, its ingredients include turkey tail mushrooms, invasive dandelions, and indigenous sassafras.
One of the best ways to begin brewing (I think) is by dipping your toes in the bubbling waters of homemade soda. Mountain raspberry and blueberry soda is a recipe easily adapted to different regions of the country, featuring your local pine, fir, or spruce needles along with farmers&#8
Above: One of the best ways to begin brewing (I think) is by dipping your toes in the bubbling waters of homemade soda. Mountain raspberry and blueberry soda is a recipe easily adapted to different regions of the country, featuring your local pine, fir, or spruce needles along with farmers’ market fruit.
The unique soda is ready to drink in about three or four days.
Above: The unique soda is ready to drink in about three or four days.
Twig soda. Yes, even aromatic sticks make good drinking. And fermentation creates bubbles that turn any effervescent drink into a celebration.
Above: Twig soda. Yes, even aromatic sticks make good drinking. And fermentation creates bubbles that turn any effervescent drink into a celebration.

Because he lives and forages in southern California, subject to drought and wildfires, Baudar has learned to embrace parts of plants that many of us overlook, or have forgotten about. Some of the best flavors live in bark and seeds.

Pine needle soda relies on any kind of pine needle for its intense flavor. Baudar has used piñon, ponderosa, and white pine, as well as fir and spruce. All you need is a jar, needles, sugar, and water.
Above: Pine needle soda relies on any kind of pine needle for its intense flavor. Baudar has used piñon, ponderosa, and white pine, as well as fir and spruce. All you need is a jar, needles, sugar, and water.
In a riff on the pine theme, unripe pinecone soda opens up a new world of possibilities. Because baby pine cones belong to spring, and spring is coming sooner than we believe, here is the recipe, excerpted and reprinted with permission from the publisher, Chelsea Green Publishing.
Above: In a riff on the pine theme, unripe pinecone soda opens up a new world of possibilities. Because baby pine cones belong to spring, and spring is coming sooner than we believe, here is the recipe, excerpted and reprinted with permission from the publisher, Chelsea Green Publishing.

Pine Cone Soda

1. Place 3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar in a 1/2-gallon (1.89 liter) jar, fill it with spring water, and drop in a couple of unripe pine cones.

2. Screw on the lid, but not too tightly; you want fermentation gases to escape. Three times a day shake the jar for 10 seconds or so. I usually get a fermentation going in from two to three days.

3. Leave the cones inside the jar and continue the ritual of shaking three times a day. When the fermentation is going well, start tasting. Work with it as you go, adding sugar if you want more alcohol. Stop when you like what you have, then strain and pour the liquid into recycled plastic soda bottles or swing-top glass bottles. Check the pressure after a day or so.

When you are satisfied with the level of carbonation, place your brew in the refrigerator and enjoy it the next day. I like to drink it within a week.

Inspired to start foraging locally? See more:

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