The one thing that The Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook doesn't tell you is that making medibles is a smelly process.
Measurements in the brand-new cookbook are accurate if disjointed -- going from ounces to grams to cups in one recipe, for example -- and the recipes are reliably good. Many of them are from celebrity chefs and actual, legitimate celebrities in other areas. (If you guessed that Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg are two of these celebs, you'd be correct.) And the infusion methods listed at the front of the cookbook are staggeringly simple.
But that smell.
There are three ways to combat it, one easier than the others. The first (and easiest) is to boil a pot of water while you're cooking up your medibles and add a few drops of essential oils or even vanilla extract. My friend, a licensed medical marijuana purveyor in California and a chef, suggests frying bacon as his favorite method.
The second is to use "good" weed, and not cheap schwag that will stink up your house. This honestly shouldn't be a concern as you should be purchasing medical-grade stuff for your medibles, but patients and compassionate care-minded people in other states where cannabis is illegal often take what they can get. The third is simply to sous-vide the stuff.
For the purposes of this review, however, we made the simple cannabutter recipe listed on page 25.
For medical patients, the High Times cookbook recommends using two ounces of cannabis for each pound of butter. This means you're looking at around $415 total (including a pound of Plugra; always use good butter, in every cooking application), so the recipe had better be excellent in order to avoid wasting a lot of money.
One odd thing to note about the cannabutter recipe is that it calls for salted butter. While I was initially skeptical of this, I instructed my chef friend to follow the instructions regardless.
We were rewarded with a nutty, fragrant cannabutter that can easily be adapted for many different uses. The flavor and aroma (and even the final product, as seen above) were similar to a pesto heavy on toasted pine nuts. The infused butter, once strained, can be refrigerated three or four days.
Another thing the cookbook doesn't tell you, however, is that the cannabutter -- unlike regular butter -- does not have an extended shelf life in the fridge. Plant matter particulates left behind in the strained butter will cause it to mold within a week, so if you don't plan on using it right away, freeze it. The butter freezes well and can be sliced off at will.
"You'd be surprised how well cannabis and chocolate pair together," my chef buddy said of the second recipe we tested: Fantastical Fudge. Like the cannabutter recipe, it's straightforward and easy to make, requiring less than an hour total of your time.
I can imagine that the nutty, almost herbal flavor -- think basil or the resinous taste of bouquet garni -- of the cannabutter complements many of the savory dishes listed in the High Times cookbook. I can even see using it like pesto over a simple plate of pasta and Parmesan cheese. But I was surprised at how well it fared in a batch of fudge.
We left out the nuts that the recipe calls for (because I hate nuts in fudge, that's all), but the flavor of the butter lent a nutty sweetness to the dessert anyway. The butter also lends itself to texture issues, though: The fudge gets incredibly soft at room temperature, almost like thick buttercream, so it should be kept in the fridge when you're not consuming it. This is also something to keep in mind if you're bundling the fudge into individual serving sizes for medibles and/or compassionate care packages.
The other recipe we tried was one that I can see far more people using at home on a daily basis as a means of ingesting medicinal marijuana -- especially now that kale is the next big thing in food. The Green Leafy Kale Salad in Brown Butter Vinaigrette is a terrific use of the butter's naturally nutty properties.
Sherry vinegar cuts through the stronger, more piney flavors and the browned butter added to the cannabutter only enhances its sweeter, nuttier side. The dressing cuts through the bitterness of the kale and breaks down the tough leaves for a truly tasty side dish that -- if topped with a protein like salmon, for example -- would also make a delicious main course.
The dishes that are far more interesting, however, are the ones we didn't test-drive: Those that make use of raw cannabis as a flavoring agent in soups or stews, or those that infuse the THC into rum and other liquors for cocktails.
Now that the legalization of marijuana in certain states has spurred an ever-growing, hyper-competitive industry -- one that even comes with its own specialized cooking schools -- could it be long before medicinal marijuana dispensaries soon have a cannabis cocktail bar next door?
If -- or when -- that happens, you can bet you'll find a copy of The Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook behind the bar.
Read part one of our cookbook review (and learn more about the history of edible cannabis) here.