Storing herbs at season’s end allows you to use them throughout the short winter days ahead. Share herbs throughout the holidays with these tasty, homemade recipes.
Butter is something every dinner table needs, and while it is only a condiment, it is an elegant addition to any meal when the flavor of herbs are added to it. Use your favorite herbed butter on warm bread or rolls, or add it to cooked vegetables, chicken, or fish.
Mix 1 tablespoon of minced garlic and 2 tablespoons of dried herbs such as chives, rosemary, thyme, and/or basil with one stick of softened butter. If you’re not particularly fond of garlic, omit it and increase the amount of other herbs by 1 tablespoon. Refrigerate and use for several weeks. Note: If you choose to use fresh herbs, increase the amount to 4 tablespoons.
One of the easiest and prettiest ways to store up summer’s flavors is by making herbed vinegars. Put a handful of clean, fresh, coarsely torn herbs in a quart jar. Fill the jar with a mild vinegar (wine, cider, or distilled), and set in a warm, sunny spot for two or three weeks. Some herbs impart color to white vinegars: chive blossoms yield a delicate pink, opal basil a rich ruby, tarragon a pale gold.
Strain vinegar into fresh bottles and discard the now-limp and colorless herbs. Add a fresh sprig to each bottle for identification, if you wish. Use your flavored vinegar in salad dressings, sauces, and marinades, or as a condiment.
Try combinations of herbs such as basil/garlic, oregano/thyme, or whatever herbs you enjoy using together fresh. You can make lovely raspberry or blueberry vinegars in the same way by discarding the spent fruit after several weeks of soaking.
Just as easy to make as vinegars, herbed oils are a flavor asset on your pantry shelf during the winter months. When fresh basil isn’t available, you can make an acceptable pesto by using basil-flavored olive oil as a base and fresh spinach leaves for body and color. Use herbed oils in salad dressings and marinades. They also lift lightly sautéed fresh vegetables to company status, and can be drizzled sparingly over homemade pizza.
Chop about 1 cup of fresh herbs, solo or in a combination of your choice, and cover with 1 pint of light olive oil or mild-flavored vegetable oil. Let the mixture steep for several weeks. Strain off the oil when it has absorbed plenty of flavor, or leave the herbs mixed in. It’s as simple as that!
Many herbs make delightful teas by themselves such as sage, rosemary, catnip, chamomile blossoms, or mint. There’s no end to the possible blends; just check the list of ingredients on some of the fancifully named brews at your local supermarket. Here are some suggestions, each making two teacups’ worth.
• 1 teaspoon dried sage, 1 teaspoon dried orange peel
• 1 tablespoon dried rosehips, 1 stick of cinnamon
• 1 tablespoon dried lemon basil, 1 teaspoon thyme
• 1 tablespoon dried chamomile flowers, 1 tablespoon dried apple mint leaves
Made of oranges, grapefruit, apples, lemons, limes, Keiffer pears, or quince, pomanders are relics of bygone days when sanitation was not at its best and disease was rampant. They are preserved with spices. In the warm climate of the Southern United States, it is absolutely necessary to use some type of fixative ingredient to help with the drying process, in addition to the mixture of spices.
To make pomanders, combine 1 cup of mixed ground spices, such as allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, coriander seed, nutmeg, or mace. Add 2 tablespoons of powdered orris root, frankincense, or myrrh and mix well.
Select firm, ripe fruit with no blemishes. Insert whole cloves to completely cover the fruit’s skin. Pierce the skin of oranges or lemons with a fork. Limes will usually require an ice pick to pierce. Cloves should be very close (but not touching) or the fruit may break open as it dries. If desired, a long needle or thin crochet hook can be used to draw a thread or ribbon through for tying a loop or pretty bow.
Place the spice mixture in a shallow glass or non-reactive bowl; roll the fruit in the spices, covering all of the surfaces completely. Repeat this several times a day; if juices ooze out, make sure spices cover that spot, but knock off the excess carefully. Pomanders will take 10 days to 2 weeks to cure. When they become lightweight, all of the moisture has been evaporated from them. Shake off the excess spices and wrap the fruit in tulle, or use ribbon in quadrants to decorate.
Recipe compliments of Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay.
Christmas Applesauce Spice Balls
The same combination of spices and fixative are used to prepare the little spice balls, often known as “clove apples” because of their resemblance to real apples. Use them as tree decorations, centerpieces, or holiday package trimming.
Using the pomander spice mixture described above, combine enough applesauce to make a fudgy consistency. Roll into balls with your hands, about 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter. Insert a thin crochet hook through the middle, drawing through a 6- to 8-inch loop of narrow ribbon. Insert a whole clove at the bottom to hold the loop. Reshape the ball if necessary to keep a round shape. Lay the balls on a cookie sheet and let them dry completely. They can be dried overnight in a gas oven with just the pilot light on, or in an electric oven on warm. Leave the door ajar. They will take several days to dry in an air-conditioned room.
Once the spice balls are dry, tie the ends together to hang. Tie another strip of ribbon at the base for decoration, and curl all the ends with scissors or a knife.
Recipe compliments of Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay.
Contributor Geri Laufer received this recipe at the 1987 national meeting of The Herb Society of America. Laufer cooks it for her birthday, which falls near Thanksgiving each year.
Spray oil and plain breadcrumbs for tube pan
4 cups biscuit mix
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 lemon rinds, grated
4 teaspoons minced and crushed fresh rosemary (or 2 teaspoons dry rosemary)
1 cup salad oil
11/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a tube pan and coat it with plain breadcrumbs. To the biscuit mix add the sugar, nutmeg, lemon rind, and rosemary and mix well. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, and then add the oil and milk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry mixture and mix just until blended. Pour into the prepared tube pan. Bake for 1 hour, until the cake pulls away from the side of the pan. When cool, top with the glaze.
Cinderella Pumpkin Soup
Makes 4 servings
This soup provides a festive addition to the table when it is served in a large, hollowed-out pumpkin, similar to Cinderella’s fairy-tale pumpkin carriage. You may also serve individual portions in hollowed-out mini-pumpkins.
11/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon flour
31/2 cups chicken broth or vegetable stock
2 cups pureed pumpkin
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup milk
Freshly chopped thyme (for garnish)
1 medium, hollowed-out pumpkin (optional) or 4 miniature, hollowed-out pumpkins (optional)
In a small skillet, combine the butter and the onion. Sauté until the onion is translucent. Add the flour and heat for one minute. Transfer the mixture to a large saucepan; add the chicken broth or vegetable stock, pumpkin, brown sugar, curry powder, nutmeg, and thyme. Cook over medium heat until thickened. Add the milk; stir until heated through. When using a pumpkin tureen or pumpkin bowls, heat them in a 350°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes before serving the hot soup. Sprinkle the soup with freshly chopped thyme leaves before serving, if desired.
Recipe compliments of Theresa Loe, The New Herbal Calendar, Tide-mark Press, 2001.