What Is A Still Room?
Find Out About Still Rooms, Their History And Relevance Today
Originally the term 'still room' meant simply a room where distilling took place. Over time it evolved to mean a room where things were not only distilled, but also a place where all the activities involved in providing liquor, medicines and preserves for the house took place.
Is there a place for the still room in our lives today? Absolutely yes! We may not be able to dedicate a whole room to just one purpose, but the modern kitchen can certainly double as a still room, and of course there is always the out house or garden shed.
Why is a still room relevant in today's world? More and more people are finding it both pleasing and expedient to have control over the food, products and medicines that they consume. The still room is where modern day people can make things for themselves, and begin to reclaim the fast disappearing skills that were once commonplace.
Public domain image at via Wikimedia Commons
All the images in this work are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
The Beginnings Of The Still Room
The advent of the still room can be traced back to the crusades and the early Mediaeval times. In the 12th century, during their invasions of the Arabic lands, Europeans became aware of the process of distilling. The still had been developed centuries before by Arabic alchemists, and the crusaders were entranced by the essential oils that these stills produced.
The Europeans called these oils 'Perfumes of Araby', and brought them back to Europe. They also brought back the knowledge of how to use these oils medicinally, and most importantly, how to build a still. It didn't take that long before every great house had a working still. Thus the still room was born.
The Tradition Of Keeping A Still Room Book
Still room books arose out of the need to record the recipes, quantities and methods of those working in the still room.
The still room books of the past were invaluable family heirlooms because they contained the gathered knowledge of the generations. They were lovely things full of family recipes, little notes, comments and pictures. They were in essence a mother's notes to her daughter, and as these books got passed down and added to, they became precious, not just for their information, but for the way they recorded family history.
Consider starting your own family still room book. Choose a beautiful journal, and just start adding your tips, recipes and observations.
From an Italian translation, possibly from a Latin translation, of a treatise originally written in Arabic by Serapion the Younger (Ibn Sarabi, likely 12th century). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
This is Lavender drying naturally in the great sheds at Heacham in Norfolk; home to the Norfolk Lavender Company. They are a major grower and producer of high quality lavender oil and lavender products. Many of their methods and techniques go back hundreds of years, and if it's good enough for them it must be OK.
These are their recommendations:
Cut your herbs on a sunny day once the dew has dried, and before the sun gets too hot.
When you pick, cut and dry is important, as the herbs need to have had some weeks of good sun in order to develop their volatile oils, but if drying flowers, they should be almost, but not fully open.
By following this simple principle the herbs will have maximum oil and flavour content.
A Simple Way To Use Dried Herbs And Flowers
Making fragrant clothes sachets
This is such a simple to way to make your clothes smell sweet and keep the moths and bugs away from wardrobes and drawers.
Recipe For Simple Herb Sachets
To your herb mix add:
10 drops of essential oils of Lavender and 5 drops of Rose Geranium
Add a teaspoon of dried Iris Florentina or Orris Root .
Shake all the ingredients together
Seal up the jar and leave in a cool dark place for a month
After a month, fill little swag bags of muslin with a couple of egg cups full of the herby mix, tie up each tightly first with an elastic band, and then with a pretty ribbon. These muslin bags can be hung up in cupoards or placed in drawers, and will continue to fragrance and protect your clothes and linen for many, many months.