Every spring certain herbs come to mind, probably because of their fresh scent and relationship to food served during Lent and Easter.
Folk names for anise are: anneys, aniseed, sweet cumin or sweet Alice.
Anise is native to Egypt and was cultivated by the Greeks and Romans. The Romanís paid taxes with this plant. Anise is mentioned in the 23rd chapter of Luke "Ye pay tithe of mint, anise and cumin." Romanís also made a spice cake called mustaceum containing anise, cumin, new wine, fat, cheese and grated bay bark. It was eaten after huge feasts probably because of the plantís ability to calm the digestive tract. Charlemagne, in the ninth century, proclaimed anise should be planted on his royal estate. He loved the scent. King Edward I placed a special tax on this herb in order to raise money to repair London Bridge. Anise was brought to American and in 1619 the first assembly of Virginia decreed that each man should plant six aniseeds on his land.
THEORY OF RELATIVITY
Anise is related to carrots and is in the parsley family. Itís other relatives are dill, fennel, caraway and cumin. It has feathery leaves resembling cilantro with clusters of yellowish white flowers. The plant grows 1 to 2' high. It is an annual.
Anise likes warm, sunny, well-drained sandy soil. Sow seeds where they will grow in late April. They can be sown indoors but they transplant poorly. Germination will take 1 to 2 weeks. Thin plants 6 to 12" apart. Anise takes 120 days to produce fully ripened seeds. Seeds turn from green to a brownish yellow when they are ready. These seeds can be harvested about 1 month after the flowers appear, just when they begin to turn yellow. Cut the whole stem, enclose the seed heads in a brown paper bag which should be tied shut around the stems. Hang the anise up side down and after about a week, the seeds should be dry. Some will have fallen into the bag, the others will shake off. Store seeds in airtight containers.
FOLKLORE AND MAGICAL USES
Anise is said to dispel nightmares by placing it in a bed sachet that can be tucked inside the pillow case with the pillow. To make a bed sachet, cut two 5" squares of calico or muslin fabric. Stitch around the edges leaving a 1-1/2" opening. Fill the sachet with anise and sew up the opening. Make sure the sachet isnít filled so full it canít lie flat. If it doesnít lie flat it will create a big, uncomfortable lump in your pillow.
Anise is considered a protection herb. Place leaves and seeds in a bowl on a table in a room to drive off evil. Anise is also a purification herb and can be used in baths. It is most effective used along with bay leaves. It is said that hanging a sprig of anise from the bed post will restore lost youth. Burn anise to aid in meditation.
Please remember that remedies are not to be used Ďinsteadí of usual medications prescribed by your doctor. Remedies are not cures. Most are preventatives or they can be used as a Ďband aidí until you can get to the doctor. If you use a remedy and notice a general swelling, pain, itching, burning/or swelling of the tongue, or difficulty breathing - get medical help immediately.
Large amounts of anise are toxic. High doses of anise oil (several teaspoons) may cause vomiting.
Anise is a carminative; it moves gas out of the intestinal tract. It contains the chemical anethole which also settles the stomach. Take a cup of anise tea every morning to prevent gas from forming. Anise also acts as a laxative to clean the intestines in a mild manner.
Anise can be used to ease the symptoms of coughs, colds, bronchitis, asthma, and other minor lung problems. It is an expectorant which soothes spasms but also loosens mucous.
Anise promotes estrogen production and encourages breast milk in nursing mothers. Anise contains the compounds dianethole and photoanethole which are similar to estrogen. Women who cannot take the pill should check with their doctor before taking anise as a remedy for menopause because of its estrogenic. It has been known to ease the effects of hot flashes.
To make tea, crush 1 tablespoon seeds and place them in a coffee filter. Gather the edges of the filter and tie tightly with string. Put this in a cup or teapot and pour boiling water over top. Cover the cup or teapot and steel for 10 minutes. To make an effective cough suppressant add 1 teaspoon of honey and 1 lemon slice. It is safe to drink 1-1/2 cups per day.
To make a tincture crush 2 ounces of seed and place in Ĺ quart of brandy with some lemon peel. Let sit in a warm area for about 20 days. Take 1 teaspoon as needed, no more than 4 times a day for cough, sore throat, congestion, flatulence, or hot flashes.
Chew anise seed to freshen the breath or to quench a thirst. A mouthwash can be made by combining 1 tablespoon each of anise seed, dried peppermint, and dried rosemary. Place this combination in 6 cups boiled water. Steep until cool, strain and refrigerate. Use as needed. Place anise oil or insert anise seed in a bit of cheese to use on a mouse trap. Mice love anise. Fish do too so put a drop of anise oil on bait when fishing.
Anise has a sweet, spicy, licorice-like flavor and can be used whole or crushed in bread, apple pies, cakes, apple sauce, cookies and salad dressings. (We have a bakery around home that puts anise in their apple pie crusts and it is delicious) Add anise to pickles, cheeses, fish, soups or stews, shellfish dishes, and tomato base sauces. Do not confuse anise with star anise which is used in many oriental dishes. They are not related but are interchangeable.
These cookies are luscious. You can frost them with a confectionerís sugar glaze if you want, but they are good just as is.
1/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons whole anise seed
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl cream butter and sugar together.
3. Add eggs and vanilla - mix well
4. In another bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, anise seed.
5. Gradually add to the creamed mixture.
6. Drop by teaspoonful onto greased or sprayed cookie sheets
7. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until golden brown.
8. Let sit on cookie sheets about 2 minutes and then remove to racks. Frost if desired.
Makes 3 dozen
ANISE CUTOUT COOKIES
Here is another anise cookie that can be cut out in Easter or Spring shapes and frosted with pretty colors if you desire.
3/4 c white sugar
2 teaspoons anise seed
1 cup butter (real butter) at room temperature
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Ĺ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. In a bowl, combine sugar and anise seed, cover and let stand for 1 day.
3. In a large bowl beat butter and Ĺ cup of the sugar/anise mixture until creamy.
4. Beat in egg, water and lemon juice.
5. In another bowl combine flour, baking powders, and salt. Add gradually to the creamed mixture.
6. Shape into a ball and cover with plastic wrap, placing it in the refrigerator
for at least one hour to overnight.
8. Cut with cookie cutters placing cookies 1" apart on a greased cookie sheet.
9. Sift anise seed out of the rest of the sugar/anise mixture and sprinkle the remaining sugar over the cookies, if you arenít frosting them. If you are leave them plain and sprinkle sugar over frosting.
10. Bake about 12 minutes, cool 2 minutes and remove to racks.
Makes about 5 dozen depending on size of cookie cutters.
This is another anise cookie. My mother used to make these around Christmas time and the smell permeated the house. They are a very hard cookie that are usually cut out with a special rolling pin with picture cut outs on them. You donít need this rolling pin though. You can cut them in rectangles with a knife. My father calls these Ďdunking cookiesí because of their hard nature.
4-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pound powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon rind
1 tablespoon anise seed
1. In a bowl, sift flour and baking powder.
2. In a mixing bowl beat eggs until light.
3. Add sugar and beat.
4. Add anise seed, lemon rind and mix.
5. Gradually add flour until well combined. Form into a ball and put it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for one hour.
6. On a floured surface roll to Ĺ inch thick. Roll designs or cut in rectangles.
7. Place on cookie sheets Ĺ inch apart.
8. Expose to air over night. Donít cover them with anything. This is what really makes the house smell wonderful for 2 days. Watch if you have mice in the house though, they will be attracted to the scent too.
9. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
10. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 30 minutes. They will not brown up much - that is okay.
This is a traditional Italian Easter Bread given to me by an Italian friend. It is so good!
1 package active dry yeast
2-1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons anise seed
Ĺ cup milk
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
Ĺ teaspoon salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon lemon rind
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1. In a large bowl combine yeast, 1 cup of the flour and the anise seed.
2. In a pan heat the milk, butter, sugar, and salt until just warm. Donít let
this boil, just stir to melt. Add to the flour mixture.
3. Add egg, lemon rind and juice to flour mixture, beat at low speed for about 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Beat faster for 3 minutes.
5. Stir in remaining flour with your hands and combine until you make a soft dough.
7. Place dough in a greased bowl and turn once to grease the other side. Cover with a clean towel and place in warm area to rise for 1-1/2 hours.
8. Punch down and let rest 10 minutes.
9. Shape in a round loaf and place on a greased baking pan. Cover with a clean towel and let rise until double (about 45 minutes)
10. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes.
11. Spread frosting (see below) on warm bread and let it drip down
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
Ĺ teaspoon anise seed
1 tablespoon light cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
dash of salt
1. Combine confectioners sugar and anise seed in a reclosable plastic bag before you start to make the bread. Go over it several times with a rolling pin.
2. When the bread is in the oven about 20 minutes put the confectioners sugar through a strainer to remove the anise seed. Get as much as you can out.
3. Place sugar into a bowl and add the cream, vanilla and salt. Mix well. It will be a little runny.
4. Spread on the top of the warm Anise bread.
(If you donít want such an anisey taste, do not put the anise seed in the sugar)
Never feed birds bread crumbs from anise bread. It is fatal to birds.
Anise is truly a sweet herb that is quite delicious. Even used as a remedy it has a pleasant taste reminiscent of spring.
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