Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Frangrance of the South West - by Kathryn McCraley - Pine Sap Salve Collection & Recipe

Kathryn McCraley

My friend Kathryn sent me
these photos, commentary, and recipe. I am including it here because it
speaks to the essence of Pine Trees. I have never visited the South West
of the USA but you can see the spiritual engagement here. Kathryn takes
through her process of collecting and the making the Pine Sap Salve.

The Fragrance of the South West

Living in the high plateau country along the Arizona/Utah border, one comes to appreciate the plants and animals that are hardy enough to survive in this arid region.  One can easily be transported back in time when wandering through sandy stretches or along cliff edges.  How would one make a living here?  You would have to be as resilient and ingenious as the flora and fauna, and you would have to be fairly mobile, able to cover some distance in order to procure your sustenance.  You would definitely know and love the pinyon-juniper zone, a veritable prehistoric supermarket.

Today the P-J zone is at something of a mid-level between the lower deserts and the higher ponderosa pine forests.  They start to appear at about 3000 ft. elevation, and flourish at around 5000 ft.  There are many useful plants that grow within this zone, the pinyon and the juniper are the largest.

Both types of tree grow can grow to 20 ft. tall, but one wouldn’t describe them as stately; terms such as gnarly and scrubby come to mind.  But when amongst them, it is the aroma which will carry you to a heavenly place.

The juniper is a wonderful and useful tree in it’s own right.  When looking at the shreddy bark of this tree, I’m always reminded that this was the early diaper material.  At least the baby’s bottom would have been more fragrant!

My quest for today is the pinyon.  No, not for the nuts, which are a goldmine of calories.  Today, I’m searching for the pitch, the sap which oozes from the bark.  The sap is the wound-healer of the tree, it’s immune system at work.  It is a disinfectant that might be used directly from the tree.  I am gathering some to make into a healing salve, but simply the soothing beauty of it’s aroma is enough to make you want to smooth it on.

 The sap is gathered off the bark where the tree has been injured, from a break, a cut or a lightning strike.  It’s consistency can be anywhere from a hard golden crust to a crystal clear drip. Trees are sparse and the sap, even more so.  I don’t want to gather too much, as the tree is needing it, as it’s defense in this harsh climate and also, in this spot, not far from the highway, there looks to be other people that gather from here.

I just used a recycled jar to put the sap in, one I knew would fit in a pan of water in my oven.  One could use a can or bucket for a larger processing.  Well-fitting gloves might be helpful, your hands will become very sticky and then you will begin to see how your hands go everywhere!  (My little camera will never be the same).

I take time to thank the earth for providing such a delightful wonder and head home with my little companion.  

Tomorrow, we’ll make salve.


The main ingredient for pine salve is the resin.  The next thing you will need is a certain amount of patience.  The sap will take awhile to process into something more refined and isn’t that fitting?  Your home will smell of the potent and voluptuous pinyon for days.
The jar is about 1/3 full of resin of differing consistency, smooth to rock hard.  Set this inside a pan filled with water and put that on a tray into a warm oven.  There are other ways to apply heat, you could just leave it outside if it's hot enough, but this will take much longer.  You could leave it on top of a wood stove if you have one.  You could probably put it in a double boiler on the stove, but the intent is not to boil it as you do not want to loose or change the healing properties.

You will need a cleared place to work, as it will get messy and very sticky.  Use containers and utensils dedicated to the work and an oven mitt that you don’t mind getting sappy.  I poured hot water into the bowl and put the jar right in, then set these on a tray in a warm oven.  The warmth will eventually meld the sap so that it levels out.  It will take awhile, especially if the resin has a lot of hard chunks.  Enjoy the aromatherapy.

When the sap has melted down to about level, you may add an equal amount of coconut oil.  When this begins to blend, stir it carefully, trying not to stir up the bits of bark and twig at the bottom.  Warm some more.  As it becomes more liquidy on top, it will be time to add in a bit of beeswax.  Do this at  roughly an 1 to 8 ratio, that is 8 parts resin mix to 1 part beeswax.  This particular jar was a 12 ouncer.  I put in about a tablespoon of beeswax, maybe a bit more.  This may be done in two steps, where you would do a pour of the liquid to another jar first and then add beeswax, but I did it all in one jar to be able to get as much sap as possible.  I believe that the bark and other bits add a certain something to the healing components of the monoterpenes.  

This batch took all day to be ready to pour.  This is the fun part!  You will want to stir just before so to have a nice consistency and then be careful to leave the solids at the bottom, which can be tricky.  Take it slowly but surely.  If the sap begins to harden too much,  just pop it back into the oven for a bit; this will loosen up the resin again and you will be able to squeeze even a few more drops out.  If you prefer to add other ingredients or to add an essential oil, this would be the time.

putting the tops on.  You can clean up with a warm damp cloth.  The stickiness on your fingers will come off with cooking oil or an olive oil soap and your hands will still smell lovely. 

This balm will be a blessing to gardeners or anyone with rough dry hands.  Very good for healing cracks on summer "flip-flop" feet.  It will be healing for small wounds and great for helping with splinters.  It is wonderful as a protective lip balm.  You may crave it for the soothing fragrance alone.  It will bring to mind the vast healing expanse of the sun-drenched southwest.  Inhale and enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely to find this recipe. I believe it's from a long ago fiend of mine. I am going to make a batch this week and be transported through both time and "Space" by the smell. Bless you, Kate. XOXOXO, "Frizz"