The Making of Le Balm

By Corrine Weber
Gold & Thyme

Since returning home to Paris from the States this fall, I’ve been busy cooking at Chambre Noire, a small natural wine and tapas bar located in the 11th arrondisement. With the changing seasons, it was great to be back in a small French kitchen, creating and trying new recipes! I’m now back in Berkeley with Marc for the holidays, and it seems like as good a time as any to explain a bit about why I made LE BALM. It first began as a class on Herb Craft and Medicine Making that I took this summer at the Ohlone Herbal Center in Berkeley and later became a form of creative and “herbal” expression.

On the first evening, I remember walking into the class and feeling grateful – the building was a beautiful red brick structure with large windows and a huge park in front – Mariah, the instructor, had placed a beautiful bouquet of wild flowers in the center of the room – and Rumi, the dog, came to greet me. Mariah began the class with a reading to set the tone. Afterwards, I remember writing PATIENCE + KINDNESS = WISDOM in my journal.  At the time, these words didn’t seem like they had anything to do with medicine making but, in fact, the process of creating LE BALM required both patience and kindness, and ultimately I think I became a bit wiser in the process.

Patience & Kindness

Once I mixed together the lavender, Calendula, Comfrey, plantain and Rosehips with the organic Grapeseed oil, I had to wait. I stored the gallon-sized jar in the pantry and had to wait a month for the oil to become infused. Every morning, I gently turned the jar upside-down so that the mixture would continue moving.  I remember becoming a bit impatient as the days passed, but I also knew that I had to give LE BALM the time it deserved.

Thirty days later, I ran downstairs like a little girl on Christmas morning, so excited to see, and to smell, what my infusion had become. But, as chemistry would have it, I couldn’t open the jar ;(. I proceeded to put the jar in the car and take it to my brother’s, who was able to open it.  We were sitting in the car and I can remember the smell emanating from the jar – lavender, then the Calendula and Rosehips. It was almost like a good wine – you take a sip and once the liquid reaches your stomach, it’s like little fireworks going off, from your navel up to your throat.

I got home, couldn’t open the jar again because of the fermentation process, but was saved once again by my neighbor! The making of LE BALM was quickly becoming more and more of a family affair.  My mom accompanied me to Napa where Rob of the Napa Valley Bee Company helped me to source sustainable beeswax.  Then came the fun part – the pressing!

In class, we got to use this beautiful handmade press, but at my house, we (because I enlisted my mother’s help) used our gloved hands. Although the workshop press was great, there is always something so gratifying about using one’s hands.  Once the oil was separated from the herbs, I measured the beeswax and then added the pressed oil and beeswax to a double-broiler. Again, a test of patience. Slowly but surely, the wax melted into the oil and, as I poured the mixture into the jars, I felt a mixture of pride and gratitude. Little did I know that 3 months after completing my workshop, I would havemy own product in hand. In honor of its multi-dimensional, sense-explosive properties, I named it, “LE BALM.”

I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it!