A mother-daughter duo who bill themselves as the Grounded Goodwife stopped by Cheshire Public Library last month to conjure up holistic concoctions meant to brighten spirits and help you stay healthy. Velya Jancz Urban is an author and former teacher, and her daughter, Ehris Urban, is an herbalist and nutritionist.
They run programs from their Woodbury farmhouse and also travel to area libraries to share their knowledge. The women believe the art of healing begins from within. That’s why they make their own natural nutritional and supplemental go-to’s, created from scratch. In the Jan. 27 library workshop, the audience learned how to make their own chemical- and additive-free ginger ale and extracts.
“I don’t think that people realize they can make these on their own, at home, with pretty simple ingredients,” said Ehris Urban.
“And they are really good for you, too.” Velya Jancz Urban explained that the recipes have a lot of nutritional value.
Golden ginger ale, back in the day, was a fermented drink that could take up to six weeks to make. The Grounded Goodwife way cuts the time and the sugar in half.
“Our recipe takes three days, start to finish, but much of the time is just the liquid sitting on the counter — you won’t be working it,” Ehris Urban said.
“You’re kind of just babysitting it,” Velya Jancz Urban interjected.
Additionally, the ginger ale has probiotic benefits and a very low sugar content, even though it tastes sweet, they said.
“No one knows when ginger ale was invented, but it probably started out as a homemade drink in England and Ireland in the 1840s,” Ehris Urban said.
It also didn’t taste anything like the ginger ale you are used to, she told the audience.
“It was more like sugar water with a kick of ginger,” she said. When it came across the Atlantic, just a decade later, it became a popular drink.
The golden style of ginger ale was in vogue by 1860, Velya Jancz Urban said. “It was very sweet and had a bubbly texture and had a strong ginger punch,” she said.
The beverage was born of a legend. Showing a picture of a man with extreme mutton chops (side whiskers), Velya Jancz Urban introduced a picture of James Verner, a pharmacist in Philly who, as the story goes, started a batch of ginger ale before leaving to fight in the Civil War. On his return, four years later, he tasted his concoction and — voila! — golden ginger ale was born, Velya Jancz Urban said.
Other variations followed and the golden ginger ale soon fell out of favor as modern formulations became popular and many can be seen on store shelves.
The Grounded Goodwife Golden Ginger Ale Recipe
An oversized glass container is preferred for this recipe and should be large enough to hold 8 cups. You will not fill the bottle all the way, as room is needed for the fermentation process. Combine a grated 1-inch piece of fresh ginger root, 1 cup water and ¾ cup sugar in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the water dissolves. Remove from heat. Steep, covered, for one hour. Strain.
In a 2-liter container with a tight-fitting lid, combine 6 cups water (lukewarm/room temperature), 2 tablespoons lemon juice, the ginger syrup mixture, and a teaspoon of active dry yeast mix. Shake to mix. Leave container at room temperature for 48 hours. Carefully loosen the cap (do not open all the way) to relieve pressure at least once and up to three times per day. The drink becomes very fizzy. Note: do not point the bottle at anyone or at your own face. Refrigerate and drink within 10 days.
Ginger is related to turmeric and cardamom and is used in herbal remedies. “Some people love it. Some people hate it. It is an effective remedy for PMS, nausea, poor circulation, respiratory issues like colds,” Velya Jancz Urban said. “Once fermented, it’s great for gut health, too.”
In the second half of the presentation, billed at “Extract me from this Pandemic,” Grounded Goodwife made healing and healthful recipes. Vanilla and almond extracts were extolled for their health benefits, including antioxidant properties and use for elevating moods. Vanilla extract is simply a solution made with vanilla beans and alcohol, Ehris Urban said.
“We started making our own vanilla years ago,” Velya Jancz Urban said. An even better reason to make your own is because much of the vanilla sold in stores is made with synthetic additives, not natural vanilla, she said. Aside from vanilla and almond, lemon and coconut are other extract options to try.
DIY Vanilla Extract
8-ounce glass bottle or jar
6-8 vanilla beans
Liquor (Recommended: 70 proof vodka, bourbon, rum or brandy. Bourbon was used in this workshop.)
Slice the vanilla beans the length of the pod (or use scissors to cut into small pieces). Pour 1 cup of alcohol into your bottle. The beans should be submerged in the alcohol. Wait. Good vanilla extract takes about eight weeks to fully mature, so store the bottle at room temperature without direct sunlight exposure. Shake the bottle once a week.
DIY Almond Extract
8-ounce glass bottle with tight-fitting lid
6-8 raw almonds
8 ounces of alcohol
Drop the almonds into the bottle. Pour alcohol over the almonds. Put the lid on. Close tightly. Place jar in cool, dark place and let it sit for eight weeks, shaking once a week. Strain the finished homemade almond extract through a coffee filter or cheesecloth.