Putting a Potent Spin on Traditional Pesto Using CBD
by Bethan Rose
Have you ever wondered what it would take to make your own edibles at home? Have you ever been wowed by a friend’s or professional baker’s creations in a 420-friendly kitchen? Cannabis-infused butter, or cannabutter, is a staple ingredient for any edible chef, home-based or professional. Learning how to make this simple infusion will allow you to medicate with your favorite recipes just the way you like or need. With this guide, you’ll learn the best practices for turning just about any recipe into an infused, medicated delight.
You’ve surely heard, and likely seen, that oil and water don’t mix. The same is true of THC and other cannabinoids in cannabis. This cannabinoid is lipophilic, or more plainly: it is fat-soluble. That means THC molecules want to bind themselves to fat. This is also why it can take weeks to leave your body; it naturally wants to stay stored in your fat cells, and it is best extracted into a high-fat substance.
Butter is an excellent choice for infusion because it is high in saturated fat (about 63%). Many edible chefs have noted anecdotally that saturated fat attracts THC the best. This is also why coconut oil is a commonly used infusion base and sometimes olive oil, but makes other vegetable and seed oils less ideal as infusion mediums.
Making cannabutter is as easy as brewing a cup of tea! Well…that might be oversimplifying the process. But it doesn’t take much more skill than making a late-night mug of sleepy time.
The number one question new edible cooks ask is, “How much cannabis do I need to get started?” Seemingly fearful that it requires a lot of raw plant material. There is good news! Making marijuana-infused butter requires a lot less flower than new edible chefs might think. With as little as an eighth, you can make potent cannabis butter.
A good rule of thumb is to use about 1 gram of flower per 1 ounce of infusion base (whether that is butter, coconut oil, or grain alcohol). It is possible to use more, but more than a 2:1 ratio (flower:infusion base) and you run the risk of wasting flower.
It is important to remember when you’re learning how to make cannabutter that you must use unsalted butter. Salted butter will draw more water out into your infusion, and with that water, you’ll get a lot more of that “green” flavor that most prefer not to taste.
If your final product is something water-based (like gummies), you will likely want to add a teaspoon of sunflower lecithin granules. However, for most baked goods this is not necessary, especially if the recipe has a natural source of lecithin, like eggs.
The secret to any great infused edible treat is starting with the right base. And that means decarboxylating, or decarbing, the marijuana flower. Decarbing is an essential step that activates those tasty and tantalizing THC molecules, so you get whatever therapeutic effects you are after. And like most things in life, there is more than one way to decarb your flower.
When cannabis is smoked in a joint or a pipe, it is decarbed by the flame of your lighter or match. Instantly, the THC is activated before passing through your lungs and bloodstream. You must do the same for infusions.
The standard recommendation for decarboxylation is to bake the cannabis in an oven for 40 minutes at 240 degrees Fahrenheit. However, there is a matrix of temperature and time that will get you to the same place. It all comes down to your own preferences and oven capabilities.
This author’s preference is to decarboxylate in an oven that has been preheated to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the flower for 15 minutes. Preference for this method has everything to do with saving time. Baking at 300 degrees for 15 minutes is certainly a time saver but not for the folks who are of the “set it and forget it” variety. Even just 5 minutes too long, at this temperature, and you may unintentionally turn the psychoactive THC into its sleepy cousin CBN.
There’s no right way to break up the flower before decarboxylation. Some prefer their flower to be finely ground. Others prefer to break up by hand. Both work well, but you do risk leaving behind some of your flower material in a grinder (especially the delicate trichomes that are the key to potency).
Do everything the same as the previous method except:
Now that your flower is decarbed, you can choose to make your infused butter using the stovetop method or using a slow cooker or crockpot.
A quick way to make infused butter is to make it on the stovetop, in a saucepot, directly over the heat. Let’s break it down step-by-step.
Have you been wondering what is the best way to make infused butter while reducing the smell in your home? Or maybe you’d like a more hands-off method? Something you can “set and forget”? Using your slow cooker and a mason jar will give you both a reduced smell and a slightly more hands-off method. Not only is the cannabis edible scent contained by the tight lid of the cooker, but also the lid of a mason jar.
It’s not completely scent-free, but it is considerably more palatable than the open air, stovetop method. And also far less likely to encroach into a neighbor’s space if that is a concern.
Since the slow cooker method relies so heavily on water—and water can only get so hot before it evaporates—whether you use the “low” or “high” temperature setting, the infusion will never reach over 212 degrees Fahrenheit (and even less the further away from sea level you are).
Note: you might be curious about whether you should infuse for more time or less, and frankly, you may get a slightly more potent result at 8 hours vs 2 hours, but it won’t be a significant difference. What will be noticeable is the greenness in both color and flavor. So if you’re not into the “green” flavor, especially in baked goods and pastries, aim for a shorter infusion time. You can always compensate for the slight decrease in potency by adding a little extra flower (maybe an extra gram per stick of butter).
Without a lab or home testing device, it may seem impossible to figure out just how potent your freshly made marijuana butter is. Thankfully, there’s a pretty simple way to calculate the dose if you already know what percent of THC is in the flower. If you purchased it from a dispensary, it is most likely labeled on the container or on the dispensary’s website. Most marijuana is in a range of 15-25%.
For the purposes of this article, let’s assume that the flower used in the infusion was 20% THC. That means for each gram of marijuana flower, at maximum, there is 200 mg of THC.
And since this cannabutter recipe called for 3.5 grams of flower (or more commonly known as an eighth), we can multiply 200 by 3.5 and get: 700mg of THC. Now that sounds pretty potent in 4 ounces of butter, about 87.5mg per tablespoon. However, to play it safe, we can assume that only about 75% of that 700 ended up in the butter. That brings it down to about 66 mg per tablespoon.
(THC% x 100) x Grams = Maximum THC
Maximum THC x .75 = Approximate Total Infused THC
Approximate Total Infused THC/Number of Servings = Dose Per Serving
Using the numbers from the example above, let’s say you want to make a half dozen chocolate chip cookies that are 10 mg each. Your recipe calls for ½ stick, or ¼ cup, of butter. You know that your butter contains approximately 66 mg of THC per tablespoon. And 66 mg of THC divided by 6 cookies is 11 mg each. Which means you need just 1 tablespoon of the infused cannabis butter, and can use regular old butter to make up the rest (which would be just 3 more tablespoons to fill out the quarter cup). You can use Veriheal’s Edible Dosage Calculator to calculate the dosing and potency of THC and CBD in your infusions.
With this recipe and the example butter, you could go all the way up to 44 mg of THC per cookie by using only the cannabis butter. If you’re unsure of what dose works for your body, you should start on the lower end, and work your way up. The best way to find out is to safely test it out yourself. It’s recommended that you speak with a doctor to help you figure out dosages as well as address any concerns you may have about medical marijuana and whether it’s right for you.
If stored incorrectly, or if it is exposed to any kind of light, you do run the risk of degrading the potency of your infused butter or recipe that uses the infused butter. That’s why it’s important to make only what you will use within a couple of weeks. Freezer storage can help prolong the shelf life of the infusions, but it’s always best to work with fresh ingredients in the kitchen, infused or not. For the most part, if stored correctly, your infused recipes or cannabutter will not lose potency before the base ingredients start to turn.
Every new edible chef has had that moment of defeat. Their infusion did not come out as potent as they expected. No one wants to have bad results from their infusing experiments.
Through experience, you will learn that more often than not it comes down to one of a couple of things. It could be that you didn’t use enough raw cannabis material. Or maybe your decarboxylation method wasn’t effective enough. Or maybe you’re just one of those folks whose body chemistry doesn’t feel THC the same way everyone else does (welcome to the club, take a seat, friend).
Generally, it comes down to the temperature. Either in your oven during the decarb cycle, or in your stovetop or slow cooker. It could be too high, or it could be too low. If the temperature is too high, you’ll most likely notice this because your edibles will make you feel incredibly sleepy (this might be a little harder to tell if you take edibles at night when you’re already predisposed to be tired). As mentioned previously, when exposed to prolonged or excessive heat, THC turns into CBN and that’s what gives you that sleepy feeling.
If you feel no effect at all, there’s a chance that your infusion didn’t get enough heat at some point in the infusion process. To figure out if your oven or slow cooker’s actual temperature, get an oven thermometer and a candy thermometer.
It’s also important to test different methods, temperatures, time, and base infusion ingredients. Maybe sublingual edibles like alcohol tinctures, drinks, or hard candies work better for you than edibles that are absorbed through your digestive system, like butter-based recipes and baked goods, including caramel cookies and brownies.
If you want to guarantee the amount of THC you’re infusing into your recipe without having to think about it too much, ask your budtender or caregiver about distillate. The distillate is ready to use, no decarbing needed. Just add a little heat to your infusion medium and melt the sticky, goopy distillate and stir to incorporate. The wonderful thing about using distillate is that you’re guaranteed to know the dose. Even more importantly, it takes minimal effort and time.
Cannabutter should be stored in an airtight container, and it is best stored in the refrigerator. Uninfused butter is generally safe on the countertop, but once you introduce marijuana flower, heat, and maybe, even if unintentionally, water, you are at risk of mold. Unless you know you’ll use it within 48 hours, it’s best stored in the safe and cool temperatures of your fridge. For longer-term storage, it’s recommended to wrap the butter in parchment paper before storing it in a separate airtight container, especially if it’s heading into your freezer. Read more about how to properly store cannabis here.
Stored in an airtight container in your fridge, cannabutter should last about three weeks. You should be able to tell by smell and sight if the butter has gone bad or spoiled. If stored in your freezer, you can hold onto it for about 6 months.
Learning how to make cannabis-infused butter is an easy process. It is an incredibly versatile ingredient that is sure to become a staple in your kitchen. Other than the introduction of cannabinoids, cannabutter is just like regular butter and can be incorporated into any butter-based recipe.
That’s why making weed butter at home is such a wonderful skill to add to your repertoire. The possibilities are endless when it comes to homemade edibles. Whether you spread a little cannabutter on your morning toast, melt a pad on top of a steak, or use infused butter as the star of buttercream frosting on a cupcake, you can make any recipe a medicated, delicious edible. Brownies are great, but wait until you try some infused better on a couple of over-easy eggs. Now that’s a Sunday brunch dish.
The key thing to keep in mind, especially if you’re new to eating medicated dishes, is to take it easy with your taste tests. Start with a low dose and give it some time when you’re testing the results of your newly learned butter-infusing skills. And if you do overdo it, go ahead and indulge in a little nap, water, and your favorite snacks.
Overall recipe rating: 5 out of 5 based on 7 reviews
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