Interested in making your own makgeolli? How about smoking some herbs with a hand-built sidewalk smoker? Or brewing your own tangy shrub using barrel-fermented kombucha vinegar?
Learn these skills and more at Sunday School, a summer-long series of hands-on classes hosted by Enlightenment Wines Meadery and its Bushwick tasting room, Honey’s. “For me, Sunday School is a good chance to intersect a bunch of interests and experiences I’ve had around foraging, herbalism and making alcohol,” says Raphael Lyon, co-owner and head meadmaker at Enlightenment Wines. “It’s a way to invite friends and colleagues in to talk about these things that touch on what we do here, but are different than what we do here.”
Classes are versatile and draw on the expertise of professional chefs, mixologists, herbalists, brewers and more. In “Shrubs, Oxymels and Acetracts,” for example, Adam Elabd and Yiyi Mendoza, founders of Yesfolk Tonics, a craft kombucha and water kefir brewery in Troy, New York, will teach students how to create age-old vinegar-based fruit and herb extracts at home. “When we visited Yesfolk recently, Adam showed us this collection of shrubs he’s making—a million different experiments he’s undertaking,” says Sophie Lipitz, Sunday School’s organizer. “He and Yiyi normally don’t get to teach their hobbies, but the point of Sunday School is to feature people whose usual environment isn’t the classroom.”
In “Tonics for Digestive Woes,” herbalist Naneh Israelyan will show participants how to identify and create properly dosed medicines out of medicinal plants, including licorice, mallow, gentian, chamomile, chickweed, dandelion and more. The class is ideal for “someone who doesn’t know where to begin in terms of healing themselves physically and mentally,” Israelyan says. “We’re also going to talk about policy with regard to herbal medicine, who runs the industry and how to read the labels when you go into Whole Foods.”
Other classes are even more hands-on. In “Herbal Smokers 101,” Arley Marks, co-owner of Enlightenment Wines, and Danny Newberg, the chef behind Joint Venture NYC, will build a small smoker with students and then teach them how to use it to smoke cocktails, fish and herbs. “We’re going to build, cook and eat, all in one class,” Marks says.
The ultimate goal of all of these classes, Lyon says, is not only to give students the practical skills they need to make their own medicine, alcohol and food, but also to forge a more intimate relationship between self-care and the natural world. “All of this stuff has become industrialized and professionalized, but we’re aiming to reverse that specialization,” Lyon says. “You can buy a tincture or you can grow these plants and make your own tincture.”
The classes, he adds, are additionally about bringing together like minds and hearts.
“There is a community of people who care about these things and they find each other,” Lyon says. “Sunday School is a way to invite people into that community.”