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Art by Nicole of 360 Magazine for use by 360 Magazine

How to Cook with Cannabis Butter

Everything’s Better With Homemade Cannabis Butter

While edibles have been around for some time, it’s not as simple as throwing buds into dough and calling it a day. There are steps that you need to take to make your own cannabis edibles and one of the most versatile things you can make is butter.

Also known as cannabutter or weed butter, cannabis butter can be used in cooking your favorite recipes in much the same way regular butter is used. At a basic level, cannabis butter is butter that contains marijuana properties, including the all important THC. But before you start dropping raw weed into some softened butter and calling it done, you need to learn how to make it work the right way.

How to make your own batch of cannabutter

Why isn’t it just a matter of putting a spoonful of green goodness into your favorite pasta sauce or pancake mix recipe?  An excellent question! Here’s why:

  1. Your body can’t process raw weed. In fact, the psychoactive properties won’t be activated at all because the cannabinoids won’t enter your bloodstream. In the best case scenario, you would just digest the weed like you would kale. If you aren’t so lucky though, you could end up reacting to the raw plant. Gastrointestinal problems, like vomiting and diarrhea, are a definite possibility.
  2. Have you ever tasted raw weed? It’s pretty nasty. Now imagine that flavor in your favorite brownie or waffle recipe. Gross, right? If you haven’t made the mistake of tasting raw weed, it’s got a really foul flavor, with a strong odor and bitter aftertaste.
  3. It’s necessary to decarboxylate your weed before you attempt to use it, in order to activate the THC and CBD properties. Decarbox… What now? Read on!

What is decarboxylation and why does it matter?

Basically, decarboxylation is the process of removing  a chemical from an organic substance. In this case, the chemical COOH. Raw and dried cannabis contains tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) and cannabinolic acid (CBDA). It also contains C02 and that is the compound that stands between you and usable levels of THC and CBD in your weed.

The process of decarboxylation happens naturally when you smoke weed by the very act of lighting it up. But you can’t light your cookie dough on fire, so you need to find another way to decarboxylate your weed to create edibles that actually contain THC. It also needs to happen at a lower temperature than fire and for a longer period of time, to be effective. Why longer at a lower temp? Well, that’s because of the terpenes.

Terpenes are natural oils in cannabis that give your weed that noticeable odor, and taste. Different strains will have different flavors because of the combination of terpenes in them. But they’re not just about flavor: terpenes work with the cannabinoids in your weed to create some of the effects you experience when you consume it.

Terpenes are important to know about before you try to create your edibles so that you understand the process: these oils will break down at temperatures above 310 degrees fahrenheit. That isn’t a problem when you’re smoking your weed because it’s a short distance from the burning end of your joint to your lungs.

But when you are decarboxylating weed for edibles, you need to use a temperature below 310 degrees, so by default, you need a longer period of time to bake your buds for them to ultimately contain active ingredients in your final edible product.

Once decarboxylated, you can use your weed in a lot of ways: You can sprinkle it on your salad or even infuse it into a drink or tea. But the easiest way to use it is to turn it into cannabis butter. Anything you make or bake probably contains butter—from sautéing veggies and greasing a pan for Sunday morning eggs, to adding a little THC to your toast—so this makes cannabis butter a flexible edible option. 

How To Make Cannabis Butter

Tools and ingredients: Oven, Stove, Baking Sheet, a bud of your favorite strain, medium saucepan, butter, bowl for finished product, cheesecloth, rubber band, string or tape

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 240 degrees fahrenheit. While you’re waiting for the right temperature, spread your marijuana on the baking sheet. You’re looking to create one layer of weed.
  2. Bake the cannabis on the middle rack for about 40 minutes. Most ovens have a side that cooks hotter than the other so turn the sheet a couple of times to get an even bake. Decarboxylation activates the THC and the CBD, which makes it possible for your body to absorb it. After 40 minutes, the marijuana should be dry and crumbly. That’s the consistency you need to mix it into the butter.
  3. How much butter is the right amount? A good measure is four sticks of butter to one ounce of marijuana. You can adjust as needed. If you are using four sticks of butter, your next step is to put four cups of water into the saucepan. Bring the water to a boil and once it’s boiling, add in your butter. Yes, into the boiling water! Stir the mixture until the butter has completely melted.
  4. Once the butter has melted, add your marijuana to the water/butter mix and reduce the heat to low. At a level to boil water, you could end up burning your weed. What you want is the water to be barely simmering. Now you have to wait. 
  5. Let the butter/water/weed mix simmer on low for three hours. You can go on to step 6 while you wait, and then come back to this step. Basically, the three hour simmer is reducing the water content, as if you were creating a sauce with your weed. When you get close to the three hour mark, check the top of the mixture. When it’s done, it will be shiny, with a thick texture. Take the saucepan off the heat.
  6. While your mixture is reducing, you can get prepped with the other items that you’ll need. Get out a large mixing bowl. Pyrex, plastic or metal are fine: it just needs to be able to handle the heat of your mixture. Put two layers of cheesecloth over the top of the bowl and hold them fast with the rubber band, string, or tape. The mixture will be heavy and if you don’t fix the cheesecloth in place, they could get pulled into the mix, rather than staying in place. Of the three, string is the most effective: just make sure it’s tight and that you secure the string on the lower and smaller part of the bowl, so it can ride up while you are straining!
  7. Slowly pour the hot mixture through the cheesecloth. What goes through the cheesecloth will eventually be the weed butter. You’ll throw out the stuff on top of the cheesecloth. 
  8. When your entire mixture has drained through, pick up the cheesecloth by the four corners, twist them together to keep everything inside. It should look like a small bag out of it. Now squeeze the cheesecloth bag to make sure that you get every ounce of that delicious butter.
  9. Now you wait. Again. But it’s so worth it! Place the mixing bowl in the refrigerator so that the cannabis butter can cool. While it’s cooling, the butter will separate from any remaining water. How will you know when it’s done? When the top layer is solid.
  10. Run a knife around the edge of the solid butter, to separate it from the mixing bowl. Now you can lift it out and put it on a cutting board. If there is still some moisture, just dab it dry with a clean towel.

You’re done! You can cut up the weed butter into smaller pieces for easy storage at this point, or leave it whole.

Cooking with weed butter

If you need some inspiration for recipes to cook with your weed butter, the internet is the right place to look! But before you start cooking or baking, if you’re not used to edibles, there are a few things you should know, as the experience is quite a bit different from smoking weed.

  •     The effects of the THC / CBD can take anywhere from 30 to 190 minutes to kick in. This is because of the way food is digested in your stomach and how long that takes. The flip side is that you won’t need as much weed to achieve a good high as you would with a joint. A typical joint is about ½ a gram of weed. But a starting point with edibles is more like 0.001 grams (or one milligram), which shows you just how potent edibles can be. Because of this delay, it’s important to be patient if you don’t feel anything right away, rather than eating more of your new edible. Too much THC can result in paranoia, anxiety, nausea, and a general bad feeling. Start with small quantities of weed and take it slow.
  •     Eating marijuana-laced food has a tendency to be a lot more intense because the THC is sent directly into your bloodstream through the process of digestion, instead of being filtered through your lungs. 
  •     Finally, the high from edibles can last a lot longer than smoking, so it’s something to consider if you have plans later in the day!

Edibles are a great option for those who don’t want to smoke weed but still want either the pain relief or the high, or both! Just take it slow, and when in doubt, visit your local dispensary and see what they recommend!

Bio

Anthony Franciosi, also known as Ant, is an honest to goodness farmer whose fingers are as green as the organic cannabis he grows. He is the proud founder of Honest Marijuana– an all natural, completely organic marijuana growery in Colorado.