How to Cook with Weed
The oldest surviving records of humans using marijuana to medicate are from 2700 BC in China. One ancient way of consuming flowers was not smoking, but consuming via the mouth. Eating your meds is a healthier way to enjoy marijuana's benefits without smoking’s respiratory problems, and as long as you don’t eat the whole two-gram-strong brownie (break a small piece off and nibble on that first, slugger), oral medication is a way to moderate your dose to guarantee the right amount to relieve your particular ailment without getting ripped.
These days, cooking with pot isn't about burnt brownies tasting of grass clippings and stinking up your kitchen in the process. With the help of two medical marijuana experts, I discovered that you can avoid the caveman mistakes your folks – or you yourself, no shame in it – made in the ’70s. You can seamlessly and undetectably add the natural soothing and healing powers of medical cannabis to whatever dish you choose, in whatever dose you please.
I first met cannabis chef extraordinaire Jon X at a city hall hearing on medical cannabis. It was only later, after he prepared one of the weekly medicine-infused meals enjoyed at patient advocacy network Axis of Love, that I learned you can cook with marijuana without ever using cannabis butter. "It's too messy," Jon X says. And he knows. For a budding chef with a pot-hating landlord or a weak-nosed roommate, avoiding the butter-infusing process means no stench and no scene. Marijuana flour is the way to go, and all you need are two things: a food processor and – you guessed it – a bowl. With marijuana in it.
For your flour, you can use buds, the trim from a just-harvested crop, or even kief (the concentrated THC-laden marijuana dust found at the bottom of a bag of bud; also found for sale at most any dispensary). But if you have a variety of buds to choose from, pick pot with the desired effect. Someone with high blood pressure or prone to anxiety will want soothing, stony indica ; someone with depression or a desire not to get locked to the couch all day will want invigorating, head-clearing sativa . “When you can mix and match your baking meds for optimum medical use, that’s best,” Jon says.
Sift through and remove stems, seeds, and any big chunks of shade leaf, the trademark big fan leaves that mean marijuana to millions but are full of mostly chlorophyll, not medicine. To make 30 double-strength brownies, Jon recently combined a 30-gram mix of 1/3 buds, 1/3 purple leaf, and 1/3 indica leaf into a dual-speed food processor. “Hold it down on chop until you see the white circle on the bottom. Count to 10, then switch it over to grind. Hold it down for about 20.” What you’re left with is a finely ground dust: marijuana flour, baby. It's best used that day, but if not used within 24 hours, the medicinal powder will keep in sealed plastic bags in the freezer.
To make "special" brownies—whether it's Grandma's secret recipe or a box or mix straight from the store—follow the cooking directions and add the marijuana flour. No, marijuana flour does not replace actual flour in recipes—it's the secret ingredient you add at the very end. Because the flour is dry, you'll need to add a little extra wetness to keep a moist consistency. Jon's trick is to use a 60/40 mix of melted butter and oil respectively, plus a little extra: If the instructions call for a cup or oil or butter, he uses one and one-eighth cup of butter and oil concoction to avoid cotton brownies. If the recipe calls for two eggs, use three. A "sloppy, wet Batter is the perfect vehicle to throughly mix the desired amount of meds throughout.
“Medical strength” edibles contain a gram or more, which means if the recipe yields 16 brownies, you want 16 grams of flour. That's easy if you have a baker's scale or, ahem, a digital jewelry scale, but what’s that in cups and ounces? One half cup of dry medicine, free of stems, will weigh roughly 15–16 grams, so that amount is good for a pan of 16 one-gram brownies.
Be aware that since there’s more dairy and moisture-laden oil in your mixture, you need to bake your brownies for a wee bit longer, too. “Cook it a few extra minutes,” says Jon. As with all brownies, after they’re finished cooking, let cool before enjoying.
You wouldn’t gobble a whole bottle’s worth of Advil for a headache. Pot is medicine, too, remember? Keep in mind that a truly medicinal brownie is best enjoyed in small bites.
If you want a whole pan of sweet to yourself, stick to regular brownies, otherwise you’ll experience a condition all too familiar to many a newcomer of pot cooking: “You can become very uncomfortably high,” says Steve Smith, co-owner of the Ninth Street dispensary HopeNet.
Vegan? Just grab the vegan brownie recipe from Rainbow or your locally owned food store of choice, and from there it's simple: egg replacer for the eggs, oil instead of butter. All else the same. And marijuana flour can be used on practically anything besides baked goods. Dust a Thanksgiving turkey with it. Put a little flour on a pat of butter before you spread it on your toast or pancakes.
Paul and Susan, founders of Lovingly Legally Grown, have found inspiration from civilization's cradle, albeit a recent example: The Israeli Defense Forces feeds returning soldiers spoonfuls of a cannabis-oil-based tonic to shake the ghosts of combat. "What they do is they boil cannabis in vegetable oil and give them a tablespoon a day. It tastes like shit but it works," says longtime Western Addition resident Paul, who's improved on the Middle Eastern flavor somewhat with his ready-infused PTSD – that's PT Salad Dressing.
The name's no joke, either – a single-serving bottle is meant for curing a post-traumatic episode. Indica-dominant pot strains are used because sativa “could make an episode worse,” Paul says.
It’s not easy for the amateur chef and impossible for a microwave baker, but to make your own, start with the marijuana flour. Add it to oil heated on very low heat and simmer for hours. Be aware that not every pan will be right for evenly conducting low heat, so use a Crock-Pot or other slow cooker.
For a big batch, the Santa Cruz-based Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana recommends 200–250 grams of shake to three liters of olive oil. Put the cannabis in the slow cooker and add just enough oil to cover. Cook on high for two hours, then on low for another four to six hours. When you’re done, strain the warm oil through cheesecloth and then a silk screen to remove the excess vegetable matter.
This same principle is put into action with cannabis milk. Pour one quart of milk into a pan or broiler and apply medium heat. Add about eight grams of cannabis to ensure a one-to-two gram serving in each cup. Heat for about an hour, then strain out the excess grass in cheesecloth. Bottle, then cool in the fridge. That’s it!
Acquire your favorite medicine in the way you know best. Some dispensaries provide big bags of trim and shake perfect for cooking, like the ones from SPARC at 1256 Mission St. Jon X notes that if you're using donated shake, be on the lookout for human hair and other "cosmic debris." After the marijuana is put through a food processor, carefully remove the blades, where most of the hair will collect and Sift through the flour one more time before using.
If you’re a patient truly in need, inquire at Axis of Love next door at 1260 Mission Street for compassionate generosity, or if you’re a lucky one, volunteer your services and give back to no and low-income people for whom cannabis is relief. For bottles of PTSD and for custom-made cookie orders by pros, email Susan and Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.