Public Health

July 19th, 2014  |  By Round Earth Media

Our Next Gen Zanna McKay looks into the ancient art of Italian liqueurs

This article was published by Zester Daily on July 17, 2014.

 

Travelers who spend more than a few weeks in Italy likely will find themselves around a local family’s dinner table, sipping homemade liqueur.

Initially invented for medicinal purposes by 13th-century Italian monks, liqueurs (liquore in Italian) have become a source of regional pride, with Italians still drinking and customizing those original recipes today.

 

In Montelupo, a small town located on the lush, hilly outskirts of Florence, a trio of Italian herbalists have spent the past 15 years sorting through the bounty of Tuscan gardens to create fresh, updated versions of this quintessential Italian drink

Round Earth Media’s Zanna K. McKay reported the story Tips To Create Fresh Liqueurs With A Tuscan Spirit for Zester Daily, read it HERE.

July 19th, 2014  |  By Round Earth Media

Tips To Create Fresh Liqueurs With A Tuscan Spirit

 

 

 

Travelers who spend more than a few weeks in Italy likely will find themselves around a local family’s dinner table, sipping homemade liqueur.

Initially invented for medicinal purposes by 13th-century Italian monks, liqueurs (liquore in Italian) have become a source of regional pride, with Italians still drinking and customizing those original recipes today.

In Montelupo, a small town located on the lush, hilly outskirts of Florence, a trio of Italian herbalists have spent the past 15 years sorting through the bounty of Tuscan gardens to create fresh, updated versions of this quintessential Italian drink.

The group, improbably called the Gruppo Micologico Naturalistico Empolese (Natural Mycological Group of Empoli), originally formed to go wild mushroom hunting. This being Tuscany, however, they quickly were drawn to the abundant wild herbs, flowers and fruit — lemons, kumquats and apricots – that thrive in their backyard gardens. That soon led the trio to developing liqueurs.

AUTHOR


Zanna McKay

Zanna K. McKay is a multimedia NextGen Reporter for Round Earth Media who divides her time between Italy and New York. Twitter: @bozannza

Limoncello, anise liqueur

Like all good Italians, founding members Pietro Terreni and Nicola Daraio grew up sipping anise liqueur at weddings and limoncello on visits to the Amalfi Coast. Member Andrea Heinisch, originally from Germany, enjoys limoncello and has been crafting variations of it since joining the group 10 years ago. For these three, making a liqueur presents a unique opportunity to be traditional and innovative at the same time.

Liqueur is typically made by infusing near-pure alcohol with natural flavors, then adding ingredients to sweeten the drink and dilute the alcohol content. Nearly every region in Italy produces a distinctive drink that uses local, seasonal fruits and herbs.

The simplicity of this basic liqueur recipe encourages creativity by even the most timid mixologist; and it is wonderfully adaptable to every environment and season.

Terreni sees the use of seasonal fruit as integral to the drink’s lingering aroma. “You have to pick your flavoring materials at the right moment,” he says, “because the summer sun and air all become part of the liqueur in the end.

“When I was little, we used to take fruit to our local pharmacy, where they would prepare it with pure spirits,” Terreni remembers. “Then, during winter when it got really cold, we would have a little glass of this liqueur with a few of the fruits or berries in it.”

Go natural

The group claims their liqueur blends retain their flavor and color longer than supermarket-made brands, because the group’s artisanal preparation methods call for the use of nonsynthetic flavors and colors. Natural ingredients hold up better once the bottles are opened. (Traditionally, Italians keep their liqueur in the freezer and pull it out when visitors arrive.)

Each member of the group has his or her own favorite recipes. For example, Daraio favors anything made with fennel (“good for digestion”) and a family recipe for orange-coffee liqueur. Heinisch has experimented with fruits as well as herbs that grow on her property. She recommends fresh mint (with about 1½ tablespoons of anise seeds), thyme (combine with 3 whole cloves, use equal measures of white wine and neutral alcohol and let it infuse for two months), rosemary (use white wine with 2 ounces of neutral alcohol, plus 2 teaspoons of lemon zest), and honey with a profusion of herbs (recipe below).

The three herbalists agree, however, that there is nothing quite like sipping homemade limoncello straight from the freezer after a leisurely lunch on a hot summer day. As the group surveyed the woods near Heinisch’s house, they contemplated ingredients for future concoctions, perhaps using rosehips and lavender. And that illustrates what makes a great liqueur: creativity, experimentation and locally grown ingredients.

Rather than sell what they make, the group exchanges batches — and recipes — with friends.

Tips from the experts

Advice for creating your own liqueur:

  1.  Use fruits, herbs and spices that are free of chemicals. It is best if these items are grown away from roads or grazing pastures, where they could be contaminated by vehicle exhaust, pesticides or animal waste.
  2.  Use ingredients that are in season, for maximum freshness.
  3.  Keep preparation areas and tools, including cutting boards, free of other flavors and chemicals. Jars and bottles should be made of glass and rinsed well. Make sure towels and filtering products (a cheesecloth or metal strainer are best) are cleansed of soap and bleach. (“When I first started,” Heinisch says, “I made the mistake of trying to filter with a regular, clean dish towel. The laundry soap dissolved with the alcohol, and the liqueur tasted like my soap.”)
  4.  Store liqueur in the freezer for best taste and texture.
  5.  In Italy, liqueur are usually made with 190-proof alcohol.

liqueur4

Cream of Wild Fennel Liqueur

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: About 2 (0.75-liter) bottles

This recipe comes from Nicola Daraio, who brought it to Tuscany from the southern Italian resgion of Basilicata. It tastes like caramel. Substitute water for the dairy and it is more refreshing but a little less indulgent, suitable for the end of a particularly large meal. Total time does not include 3 days to infuse flavor.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups 190-proof Everclear or similar
  • Whole leaves and a few stalks of wild fennel; the leaves and stalks should just be covered by the alcohol
  • 4 cups pasteurized skim milk
  • 1 ⅔ cups sugar

Directions

  1. Wash and dry the wild fennel. Place the fennel in a glass jar with a cork or tight-fitting metal lid. Cover the fennel with the alcohol and let sit for three days.
  2. Put the milk and sugar in a steel pan, bring to a boil for about 5 minutes, then let cool.
  3. Filter the infused alcohol, mix with the milk-and-sugar mixture, place in a clean bottle, store in the freezer.

Lemon-Saffron Liqueur

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes (plus 15 days to infuse flavor)
Yield: About two quarts

Andrea Heinisch created her lemon-saffron version of limoncello as a winter counterpart to the traditional lemon-only recipe. The cinnamon and clove are classic holiday flavors, while the saffron balances out the tang of the lemons, creating a complex drink that warms you, even when poured straight from the freezer.

Ingredients

3 organic, in-season lemons
2 cups 190-proof Everclear or similar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 whole clove
10 threads of saffron

For the simple syrup:

1¼ cup sugar
2½ cups water

Directions

  1. Wash the lemons, then zest them, taking care to get only the yellow rind, as the white pith is bitter.
  2. Place lemon peels and spices in a glass jar with a cork or tight-fitting metal lid and add the alcohol.
  3. Infuse for eight days in a dry, dark place, gently shaking the jar once a day.
  4. Make the simple syrup by boiling the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves.
  5. After eight days, add the syrup to the alcohol and lemon peels. Let mixture sit for another eight days in a cool, dry, dark place continuing to gently shake the jar once a day.
  6. Filter, place in a clean bottle, store in the freezer.

 

Honey Herb Liqueur
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes (plus six days to infuse the herbs)
Total Time: 20 minutes (plus six day to infuse the herbs)
Yield: 2 (0.75-liter) bottles

Each Gruppo Micologico Naturalistico Empolese member has a variation of this liqueur, which recalls the drink’s original medicinal purpose. Consider this a boost for the immune system, with a sweet, herbal taste. As much as possible, use fresh herbs.

Ingredients

3½ cups 190-proof Everclear or similar
½ cup honey
6 basil leaves
5 St. John’s Wort leaves
6 culinary sage leaves
Leaves from 3 small stalks of rosemary
6 mint leaves
6 black tea leaves
6 lemon tree leaves
6 bay leaves
6 chamomile leaves
6 juniper berries
2 whole cloves
½ teaspoon saffron
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the simple syrup:

3½ cups water
3 cups sugar

Directions

  1. Wash the herbs carefully, place them in the alcohol for six days, turning the container a few times each day.
  2. After six days, make a simple syrup by heating the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves, then add the honey as the mixture cools.
  3. Mix the liqueur mixture and the simple syrup, filter the infused alcohol, place in a fresh bottle, store in the freezer.

Main photo: Cream of fennel, myrtle berry and saffron-lemon liqueurs, with lemon leaves and flowers, sprigs of wild fennel and myrtle leaves. Credit: Zanna McKay

Zanna K. McKay is a multimedia NextGen Reporter for Round Earth Media who divides her time between Italy and New York. Twitter: @bozannza

June 30th, 2014  |  By Round Earth Media

The underreported story of a deadly disease from our Next Gen reporter in Morocco

Mohamed removes his straw hat and is more active during overcast skies or in shady areas due to his xeroderma pigmentosum. Photo by Rachel Woolf.

Xeroderma Pigmentosum, XP, is a rare disease carried in 1 out of every 80   Moroccan’s DNA. It is only passed from parent to child when both parents carry  the recessive trait. Thus, in Morocco’s poor communities, where there is little opportunity for marriage outside the family, people are at higher risk to have, or at least pass on, the disease.

The disease is characterized by blistering and burning of the skin and eyes, along with various cancers. The National Cancer Institute reports a 10,000-fold increased risk of skin cancer for someone with XP and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has found that non-melanoma skin cancer develops at a median age of nine. They are what Moroccans call Children of the Moon.

 

Today there are 800 Children of the Moon in Morocco. Due to poverty and poor access to health care, most of these children, teenagers and young adults will die before they reach 30.

Round Earth Media’s Francine Krieger reported the story of Morocco’s Children of the Moon for the Global Health Hub, read it HERE.

 

June 26th, 2014  |  By Round Earth Media

Morocco’s Children of the Moon Suffer in the Dark of Poor Health Care

By FRANCINE KRIEGER

This article was published by Global Health Hub on June 25, 2014.

MOROCCO – Mounir Yakdone died at 7 years old in pursuit of an education. His parents warned that the walk to school would continue to kill him, but the one-eyed boy painted with skin tumors felt he had nothing to lose.

Nozha Chkoundi and Mohammed Yakdone had taken their son Mounir to a public hospital in Casablanca when he was 3 years old. They were concerned about the freckles that multiplied on his skin with each passing day.

But being seen at the busy hospital was nearly impossible. They stood in line for hours, with the hot Moroccan sun radiating the heat of their impatience and the skin of their freckled boy. When finally seen by a doctor, Mounir was diagnosed with a fatal skin disease called Xeroderma Pigmentosum, which medical professionals generally shorthand to XP.

XP is a genetic disorder that cannot be detected until after birth, and until an infant’s skin reacts to sun exposure.

So when Nozha and Mohamed were letting Mounir spend three joyous years in the sunshine; shirtless at the beach, and unprotected while playing soccer in the sun, they didn’t know that he had XP and was quickly, certainly acquiring skin cancer.

(more…)

November 8th, 2013  |  By Mary Stucky

Gold Mining in Ghana: Playing with Mercury

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Photo: Maddy Crowell

NESTLED in a former cocoa-farming region in southwestern Ghana, the town of Prestea boasts more than 150 small-scale gold mines in the backyards of abandoned farms. The town, with a population of about 35,000, also sits covered in permanent smog—a red dust that stains white goats crimson. It is the result of lethal mercury, on which miners all over Ghana rely to refine their gold. In Prestea, where gravediggers are in greater supply than doctors, death from mercury poisoning is routine.

Thus begins Maddy Crowell’s powerful story in the Economist Magazine.  Maddy is an alum of our Morocco journalism program.  A senior at Carleton College, she was reporting in Ghana over her summer break.  Maddy and her Ghanaian partner, Jamila Okertchiri, approached Round Earth for mentoring on this shocking and important story.

(more…)

January 8th, 2013  |  By Mary Stucky

Mexico Aims To Save Babies And Moms With Modern Midwifery

The United States and Mexico share deep personal, economic, geographic and cultural connections, but understanding – on both sides of the border – is often limited by stereotype and media exaggeration. Round Earth Media is out to change that.  We launched in 2005, with a bounty of stories from Mexico, supported by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.  Now, in a groundbreaking new collaboration, Round Earth Media is pairing young American and Mexican journalists, to produce powerful, untold stories from Mexico, stories rich in place and humanity.  These stories, broadcast and published in top-tier media, are reaching huge audiences in both countries.

American journalist Monica Ortiz Uribe (in photo with mic) and Lillian Lopez Camberos, a Mexican journalist, interviewing in Mexico for the story they produced in partnership.

Round Earth Media’s new Mexico Reporting Project is supported by a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  The focus of these stories: important but little known or commonly misunderstood aspects of life in Mexico.

Click HERE to listen to Monica Ortiz Uribe’s story about midwives in Mexico, broadcast on NPR’s Weekend Edition. Good maternal health care is a challenge in many parts of rural Mexico. Maternity hospital wards are often overcrowded and caesarian sections are routinely scheduled, rather than allowing time for the natural birth process to take place. But this August, in the rural state of Guerrero, the Mexican government opened its first maternity hospital with trained, professional midwives to help alleviate these problems. We pay a visit to Guerrero and see how these new developments are making giving birth easier for women.

July 10th, 2012  |  By Round Earth Media

What Makes Countries Rich or Poor?

A little girl in the doorway of her house in the Bolivian Subtropics. Bolivia is the poorest country in South America. | Photo by Katherine McDonald

Here’s Round Earth Media intern Emma Foehringer Merchant with more about why some nations fail and others succeed.
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It is blatantly obvious that certain states have had some sort of leg up in becoming world powers. Just what offered these countries their advantage? Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson explain in their book Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, reviewed by Jared Diamond (author of the best-selling Guns, Germs and Steel) in last month’s New York Review of Books. Here’s their take.

What do successful nations have in common?

Good political and economic institutions that form a stable state (in constrast to states with deep tribal divisions) are the main common denominator between rich countries, according to economists Acemoglu and Robinson. These institutions allow for a centralized and well-regulated government. Political and economic institutions the two authors define as “good” are those that encourage citizen participation in the economic system.  Good institutions protect peoples’ rights and livelihoods and disallow corruption and insecurity.  As Diamond explains, “people are motivated to work hard if they have opportunities to invest their earnings profitably, but not if they have few such opportunities or if their earnings or profits are likely to be confiscated.”

What makes a country poor?

Acemoglu and Robinson provide some reasons for economic deficiencies in certain states including:

(more…)

June 19th, 2012  |  By Round Earth Media

In Kenya, U.S. aid groups focus their efforts

"Give Us Wings" co-founder Mary Steiner meeting with the Young Victoria Womens's Group in Nyaoga Village in, Kenya, East Africa. | Photo courtesy of Give Us Wings

Tess Vigeland: Drought and war in the Horn of Africa have left a wide swath of the population there homeless and hungry. The United Nations says some 11 million people need aid to survive. Many of those displaced have headed to Kenya, which itself has deep economic problems. But for all the international aid Kenya has received over the last 30 years, life expectancy there has actually shortened and poverty rates are unchanged.

Mary Stucky reports. (more…)

October 20th, 2011  |  By Round Earth Media

Culion Island: Coming Back to Life

Hilarion Guia, former resident of Culion Island and now its first mayor. | Photo: Katherine Jack

Culion is a beautiful and remote tropical island in the western Philippines — but it is an island with a dark history. It was once the world’s largest colony for people with leprosy. At its peak, Culion Island was home to 16,000 patients. But today, as Mary Stucky reports, this place that was once called the land of the living dead, has undergone a remarkable transformation.
(more…)

July 7th, 2010  |  By Mary Stucky

Our Central America Project

Gold mining in El Salvador: Pacific Rim verdict expected in August 2010

As we get closer to our trip to Central America, we will be blogging about some of the most important issues facing the region. One of the most contentious issues facing the country of El Salvador is gold mining. Is it an economic boon or an environmental disaster? From journalist Ambar Espinoza, the latest on the case involving the so-called Pacific Rim mine.

(more…)

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