Exploring the colourful potential of a new pantry staple. We discuss cooking with marijuana and mastering the culinary art of edibles with Laurie Wolf.
‘Back then we were all hippies, hated the war and used drugs’, recalls Wolf. Growing up in the Bronx during the 1970s, Laurie Wolf was raised in the heart of an affluent New York City at the height of its hedonism and rebellion. As long-haired teenagers protested the Vietnam War and Lou Reed’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ snarled through the radio, her parents hoped that sending their daughter to a respected all-girls school would help to shield her from the promiscuities of the outside world. Wolf remembers the moment her 15-year-old self came home to find her mother weeping inconsolably. ‘I was like “what’s wrong?” she laughs. Her mother, sick with horror, responded ‘I went to your school and they told us that everybody but one person didn’t use cannabis. I’m praying that the person is you’. Amused and without falter, Wolf quipped ‘Oh no, I use cannabis. In fact, I’m a little stoned right now’.
As the years progressed, Wolf directed her attention to raising a family and training at the Culinary Institute of America after which she developed an illustrious career working in Manhattan kitchens, styling food for photo shoots and developing recipes for magazines like New York, Self and Mademoiselle. Though, despite putting her weed habit on the backburner, every now and then, the culinarian admits to giving into temptation and sneaking out of her Westchester home. She recounts returning to the questioning young voices of her children, curious as to why mum was in such a good mood after “taking out the garbage”. However, it wasn’t until moving to Portland, Oregon ten years ago, that she discovered the potential compatibility between cannabis and cuisine.
An Introduction to Edibles
As one of the nine US states where recreational use of cannabis has been legalised, Portland has quickly developed a reputation as a ‘Hipster Haven’. The city is the kind of place where Wolf suspects ‘‘if you don’t have a beard you may have to spend a little time in jail”. Portland’s liberal approach to cannabis use aligns with it’s counter-culture reputation, a city overflown of artisan coffee shops, microbreweries and a thriving indie music scene. Within the first few weeks of her arrival, a Portland local who sat next to Wolf at a dinner party leaned in to share how a medical prescription for cannabis had helped to subdue his long-term struggle with seizures. At the time, Wolf had been suffering with absence seizures for over 27 years. Triggering frightening episodes where Wolf describes being being ‘spaced-out’ and unaware of her surroundings, she had been prescribed with pharmaceuticals that came with significant side effects. ‘I couldn’t drive for a lot of the time and I had to go for blood tests every couple of months because the pills that I was on could do damage to my liver and kidneys’ she explains. Swayed by the promising testimony, Wolf went to see a doctor, got her medical marijuana card and started to explore her options in the city’s dispensaries.
I’m going to start an edibles business because everything out there sucks.
The Anatomy of Edibles
‘My first choice was to try edibles’ she explains, ‘but at that time they were really dreadful’. Wolf describes her first experience as tasting like a bud of cannabis dipped into chocolate. After it she went home to her husband and announced, ‘I’m going to start an edibles business because everything out there sucks’. In the early days of her venture, Wolf recalls how she would start a day of developing recipes at 9 and find herself in bed, high and passed out by 3. But, when Mary, her daughter-in-law, got involved around the same time that weed became legal for recreational use in Oregon, things blew up and the duo now operate from a commercial kitchen where, to Wolf’s relief, tasting on the job is strictly prohibited. The Laurie and Maryjane edibles range now offers five baked goods and four energy bars. The latter are all vegan and free from gluten and GMOs as, Laurie teases, ‘every other Portland person has some sort of issue; somebody’s gluten free or someone doesn’t eat bacon on fridays’.
Each of Wolf’s bars provide a distinct type of high. Breaking down the anatomy of edibles, she explains that those infused with the sativa strain of cannabis are mostly associated with clarity, creativity and energy. A writer friend of hers describes eating just one of the bars before working as being ‘like the equivalent of taking an adderall’. On the other hand, those made with the indica strain, known in the community as ‘in- da- couch’ (which Wolf admits is ‘kinda corny and awful’), are more conducive to the stereotypical ‘stoner’ vision of relaxing . The third variation is a blend of THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis that gets you high, and CBD, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-pain and antipsychotic properties. Wolf’s bars never contain more than 50mg of THC and she recommends a starter dose of 5mg. Before she launched her range, she recalls how dispensaries would offer 500mg edibles that ‘wouldn’t kill you but would make you say “what was I thinking? I can’t move!”. For those who don’t want to get high, Laurie and Maryjane also offers a CBD only bar that offers ‘a feeling of wellness but without any kind of head change’.
How to Host a Dinner Party with Cannabis
Outside of the Laurie and MaryJane edibles range, Wolf has gained a respectable reputation for the cannabis-infused dinner parties that she hosts. Attracting who she describes as ‘the West-Elm crowd’, referring to the hipster-favoured mid-century furniture store, the parties cater to a more sophisticated clientele than she initially thought her edibles would serve. ‘Instead of having dinner parties where they go and pick out the wines that go well with their dishes, these people like to try five different strains and get an understanding of how they make us feel’, she explains. For the guests who attend, the expectation is to enjoy great food that has only mildly been infused with cannabis. This way, they can appreciate the different courses on the menu without becoming overwhelmed. To ensure that the night pans out this way, Wolf doesn’t recommend ever creating a menu that exceeds 10mg of THC otherwise, she warns, ‘you’ll get the munchies and will just be shovelling food in because it feels good’. But, for those who have a higher than average tolerance threshold, she ensures that the dinner table is scattered with numerous (and clearly labelled) cannabis-infused side dishes so that the more tolerant of guests can up their high as they wish.
The key to a great dinner party, shares Wolf, is managing the meal around the effects of cannabis strains being used. ‘We infuse the starters with sativa and then the main course we’ll infused with a one to one (THC and CBD) and then the deserts are always infused with indicas’, she explains. This effect for her guests is that ‘at the beginning they become a little more talkative and the energy level goes up and by the end we hope it mellows out. At the end, people may feel the indica kicking in, and they have a great night sleep’.
The Future of Edibles
Since launching her journey into the culinary world of cannabis, Wolf has published numerous specialist cookbooks and contributes her much sought recipes to every leading cannabis-focused magazine in America. More importantly, she also hasn’t suffered from a seizure in almost six years. ‘We had an event in our kitchen last week targeted to women from 30-70,’ she shares, ‘we all talked about what cannabis did for us and how it’s affected us…and pretty much everyone had a story about how cannabis really changed their lives for the better.’
While there is still much debate surrounding when cannabis will become legally available in the U.K, below we share a Laurie Wolf starter recipe for cooking with cannabis:
Making edibles is fun- Follow these directions and you will have perfect canna-butter every time- Coconut oil as well, and that can be a topical. Remember that less is more, and as we say at Laurie and MaryJane “don’t fear the edible!”.
Be sure to decarb the cannabis before making the butter. That means that you need to bake the cannabis on a cookie sheet, in a single layer, for 40 minutes at 240*.
4 sticks butter
1 ounce cannabis flower or shake, ground and decarboxylated*
In a medium saucepan bring water to a boil. You can vary the amounts, just be sure that the marijuana is always floating 2 inches from the bottom of the pan.
Add the butter. After the butter has melted add the marijuana. Once the cannabis is added the heat should be turned down, very low, to barely a simmer. Cook for three hours.
Set up a bowl to hold the finished product. There are a couple of ways to strain the mixture. Use a deep heatproof glass bowl with a fine mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth. You can also tie a double layer of cheesecloth around a large heatproof bowl with twine, making it taut across the top. Strain the marijuana butter over the bowl, carefully trying not to spill.
When the saucepan is empty carefully undo the twine, pick up the cheesecloth from all four sides and squeeze out all of the remaining butter.
Allow the canna-butter to cool at room temperature for about an hour. Place in the fridge until the butter has solidified and separated from the water. The THC and other properties have attached to the butter, and you are just about there.
Run a knife around the edge and lift the butter off the water.
Place upside down on your work surface and scrape off any of the plant matter and milk solids. Your canna-butter is ready to use. Store in the refrigerator or freezer in an airtight container.
This recipe uses 4 sticks of butter to every ounce of marijuana, so if you’re using a half ounce of weed that’s about 2 sticks of butter.
Laurie Wolf is a Portland based cookery writer, author, chef, award winning culinary entrepreneur and a leader in the edible community. In 2014 she founded Laurie + MaryJane with daughter-in-law Mary Wolf, Laurie and Mary present an overview of the medicinal uses of marijuana for the growing community of people interested in exploring its effects and benefits.