As the days grow shorter with the approach of Fall, prolong the tastes of fresh herbs from your garden into tasty treats that can be kept on the pantry shelf. Herbs are a wonderful boost to low-salt diets and are packed with minerals and vitamins.
It’s difficult to keep the goats out of the parsley…it’s packed with Vitamin C!
Unlike our grandmothers’, who pickled and preserved out of necessity, prepare a few tasty bottles of herb vinegar and oils to add zest to salads, sauces, marinades and even desserts! Remember, herbal vinegar and oil are also a wonderful hand-made gift!
Flavored vinegars are a simple way to add zest to salads, sauces, desserts or whatever you’re cooking without added fat, sugar or salt! Generally, a ratio of 1 cup fresh herbs to 1 quart of vinegar works well. The vinegar should be the best cider or wine variety available. Use only perfect, clean & DRY leaves and/or flowers. WATER WILL CLOUD THE VINEGAR.
Place herbs in a clean sterile glass bottle with plastic/cork lid. (HINT: Over time, metal caps will corrode from the acidity of the vinegar!) Pour the vinegar over the herbs & close tightly. Set the bottle in a sunny window for two weeks, turning frequently. Strain through a paper coffee filter & re-bottle the vinegar after steeping. You may add a fresh herb sprig to the bottle for decoration. Don’t forget to add a pretty label or tag!
Recycle/reuse vintage bottles! Basil makes an awesome vinegar…red basil adds a beautiful natural red color to the vinegar. And don’t forget French tarragon!
Add a little WOW to your butter! Herb butters can be kept frozen and ready to be sliced on grilled meat, pasta, steamed vegetables or fresh bread. All fresh herbs can be used, whatever is in season. Parsley, chives, sage, dill, basil and mint, to name a few, make delicious herb butters. (HINT: Perfect for Thanksgiving!) Try dill butter with grilled salmon or mint with lamb. The amount to use depends upon the herb, but a rough guide is 4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herb to ½ pound (2 sticks) of unsalted butter. Chop the herbs very fine and add to softened butter. Shape as desired. Add old-world charm with a butter stamp once the butter is hardened a bit. (HINT: Roll the butter in a ‘log’ with wax paper…it’s easy to slice a slab or two as needed.) Freeze up to 6-months. You’ll be back in the garden with fresh herbs by then!
HINT: Make plenty of lavender butter now, for baking sweet treats mid-winter.
Since oils tend to become rancid once opened, they can not be stored indefinitely as vinegars.
Choose one or two flavors to reflect the foods/tastes you prefer and make a small bottle or two. Use only perfect, clean & dry herbs and olive oil, peanut or vegetable oil. Place herbs in a sterile glass bottle (approx. ½ cup herbs for each pint oil). If you use garlic, remove it after two weeks or it will overpower other flavors. Cover all ingredients with the oil or mold will develop and let “steep” for 2 weeks. To avoid problems, strain herbs after they’ve flavored the oil. Don’t forget to add a pretty tag or label! Use immediately. They’re great for dipping fresh artisan bread ~ YUM!
NOTE: As an alternative to fresh-picked herbs, you may also use dried herbs & spices.
So, get outdoors and savor those herbs!!! Better hurry before the goats eat them all cuz they know what’s good for ’em!