With the garden in full swing, now is the time to capture and preserve the fresh flavors of all that bounty. Herbal butters are perfect for this task because they offer a whole world of culinary possibilities. They can be added to sauces, melted over pasta, drizzled on vegetables, dabbed on cooked meat and brushed onto grilled foods. Additionally, herbal butters hold up well when frozen, allowing you retrieve the flavors of summer when your garden is just a memory.
Herbal Butter Recipes:
I use unsalted butter in my recipes so I can control the salt content and have the option of making a sweet butter with honey and herbs. These sweet butters are delicious on quick breads and scones. If you are looking to lower your cholesterol and/or dairy intake, substitute a nondairy spread or trans-fat free margarine for the butter—herb-infused spreads are a great way to add extra flavor to a restricted diet. Whatever your choice of spreadable base, the process is basically the same. Combine softened butter with freshly chopped herbs, spices, lemon juice and a bit of salt (if desired).
For a bit of fun and an added touch of elegance, try your hand at molded butter. (Flexible butter molds are available in various shapes at gourmet food supply and hobby stores.) Fill a flexible mold with softened herb butter, chill for 15 minutes and then pop out the molded butter portions. You also can make your own shapes using a small cookie cutter. Chill softened herb butter for 10 minutes and roll it out between two sheets of wax paper to about ¼ inch thick. Remove the top sheet and use cookie cutters to cut out desired shapes.
Freezing the Flavor
It’s nice to keep some herb butter in the freezer to have on hand whenever a recipe calls for a flavor boost. You can freeze the butter as logs wrapped in plastic wrap or stored in one large plastic container to be defrosted all at once. Sometimes freezing the butter in several smaller containers or as individual portions is more efficient—you only defrost what you need.
To freeze slices, you must first create a log or cylinder. Place the softened herb butter in the center of a large piece of parchment or wax paper and fold the paper over the butter. While holding the paper closed, gently roll and shape the butter to form a log. If the butter is too soft, chill it for 10 minutes and try again. Once you have a log, roll the paper around the butter and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or until firm. Open the paper and use a knife or unflavored dental floss to slice the butter into individual rounds. Wrap one or two slices in plastic wrap. Place the wrapped butters in a freezer bag and label with the herb used and the date. Freeze and use within five months.
To make frozen butter balls, chill your finished butter until slightly firm. Use a melon baller tool or mini ice cream scoop to make individual balls. Roll them between your hands if necessary. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and freeze for 30 minutes. Remove the frozen balls and place in a freezer bag. Label and date the bag and use butter within five months.
Theresa Loe is always creating new herbal recipes and crafts for her annual calendar, The Herbal Calendar (Tide-Mark Press). It is illustrated by Peggy Turchette, who also illustrated this column. You can link to Theresa's website at the Friends of The Herb Companion page on our Web site, www.herbcompanion.com/contributors.aspx.