Most of us know the story...three kings came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but have you ever wondered just what frankincense and myrrh are? As a child, I thought myrrh was dish soap! My mother always purchased "Mir" probably because it was one of the least expensive available. I could never understand why a king would bring such a thing. I finally took the time to look them up.
It turns out that Frankincense and Myrrh are both aromatic tree resins and have been used throughout history as a perfume, incense and medicine.
The bark of the Frankincense or Myrrh tree is slashed allowing the resin to bleed out and harden. These hardened resins are called tears. The trees start producing resin when they are about eight to 10 years old. Recent studies have indicated that frankincense tree populations are declining, partly due to over-exploitation.
While Frankincense is used in perfumery aromatherapy, and occasionally as an ingredient in skincare lotions, myrrh is used as an antiseptic in mouthwash, gargles, and toothpastes. As for their use as a medicine for a multitude of ailments, there is still not sufficient evidence of safety or efficacy to support it's use.
That said, my favourite gifts are almost always those I can eat. They're fun to make, they don't have to fit, they don't gather dust, and they're usually delicious!!
Here are a couple of my favourites:
MARINATED GOAT CHEESE:
Directions: Cut goat cheese log into 4 equal pieces; Form into balls. Pack all 4 balls in a sterilized wide-necked jar. Add chile, lemon zest, bay leaves, oregano, fennel seeds, garlic to jar. Pour in olive oil to cover cheese.
Seal jar and refrigerate until chilled, about 4 hrs.
ROSEMARY & THYME SPICED NUTS
Preheat oven to 300°.
Place nuts in a medium size bowl. Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until just warm. Add rosemary and thyme and stir until aromatic (about 1 minute). Remove pan from heat and stir in cumin and cayenne pepper. Pour the flavoured oil over the nuts and stir to coat evenly. Sprinkle with sugar, salt, and black pepper. Stir again. Transfer to an edged cookie sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, stirring after the first 10 minutes. Let cool. Pour into clear glass jars, wrap with a ribbon and Voila!!! The perfect gift...delicious sprinkled in salad, easily packed away for an energy boost while skiing or enjoyed in front of the fire with your loved one. Enjoy...and Happy Holidays!