How to Grow, Harvest, Preserve and Cook with Herbs
Tips for Cooking with Herbs and Spices
In general, the weaker the flavor of the main staple item, the lower the level of added seasoning required to achieve a satisfactory balance of flavor in the end product.
Dried herbs are stronger than fresh, and powdered are stronger than crumbled. A useful formula is ¼ teaspoon powdered herbs = ¾ to 1 teaspoon crumbled = 2 teaspoons fresh.
Leaves should be chopped very fine because the more cut surface exposed, the more flavor will be absorbed.
A mortar and pestle can be used to powder dry herbs when necessary.
Scissors are often the best utensil for cutting fresh herbs.
Be conservative in the amount of an herb used until you are familiar with its strength. The aromatic oils can be strong and objectionable if too much is used.
The flavoring of herbs is lost by extended cooking. Add herbs to soups or stews about 45 minutes before completing the cooking. But for cold foods (such as dips, cheese, vegetables, and dressings), herbs should be added several hours or overnight before using.
To become familiar with the specific flavor of an herb, try mixing it with margarine and/or light cream cheese, let it set for at least and hour, and spread on a plain cracker.
Beware when purchasing herbal salt blends. Many are merely herbs added to salt. Read the ingredients carefully, or just blend you own combination.
For casseroles and hot sauces, add finely chopped fresh or dried herbs directly to the mixture.
Dried herbs should be stored in plastic bags, boxes or tins rather than cardboard containers. Keep the containers out of direct sunlight which will bleach the herbs color and reduce their flavor. Do not place herbs too close to the stove to avoid the heat and high humidity.
You can have the wonderful fragrance and flavor of fresh herbs at your fingertips if you save a spot in your garden or windowsill to grow them. Herbs thrive in most well-drained soil and demand little more than sun and water. After you relish the satisfaction of growing herbs, harvest and store them for year-round enjoyment.
Pick your herbs just as the plant begins to bloom; the oil content in the leaves is greatest at this stage. The more oil in the leaf, the more flavor in the herb. Choose a warm sunny morning after the dew has evaporated and before the sun has become hot. It is best to use the young leaves, they are less bitter and more flavorful. Rinse the herbs in cool water; discard any damaged leaves.
Air Drying: To hang-dry herbs, tie the stems in bunches and hang the herbs upside down in a dark well-ventilated area or spread a thin layer of herbs on framed screens and cover with cheesecloth. In a dark well-ventilated area. Let dry until the leaves are brittle, usually a few weeks. Then, pick off the leaves and discard the stems.
Oven Drying: Spread a thin layer of herbs on a cookie sheet and bake at 120 degrees F. until dry and crispy. Do not exceed the baking temperature; herbs will scorch.
Microwave Drying: Place a few herb sprigs on a paper towel in the microwave on the lowest setting for 30 seconds at a time until herbs are dry and crumbly. Timing will vary for different herbs. Be careful because the herbs may catch on fire while in the oven.
Freezing: Remove leaves from the stems of large herbs; leaves of herbs that are small or fine should remain on the stem. Herbs can be chopped or frozen whole. Gently place the leaves into a container so that they are not crowded or crushed. Thaw and use as you would fresh herbs.
Use airtight containers to store your dried herbs. Place away from light and heat. Important: Glass is the best material for containing your herbs; plastic will absorb the oils.
On its own, butter is an excellent flavoring, but when combined with herbs, spices, and other ingredients, its taste potential is even greater. Herb butters are so simple to make and very flavorful. They keep in the refrigerator for several weeks and in the freezer for 3-4 months.
Butter for Grilling
Flavored butters keep fish and other foods moist on the grill. Mix butter with flavoring. Spoon into molds or wax paper. For logs, wait until butter has firmed slightly before forming. Wrap well in wax paper, label, date, and freeze until ready to use.
To add extra flavor when adding herb butters to pork or any other grilled meat or poultry, tie a few sprigs of herbs together and use them as the basting brush. Wait until the meat is cooked about halfway through before brushing on the sauce.
½ pound butter, unsalted
5 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs and/or herb flowers or 5 teaspoons dried herbs or 2 ½ teaspoons herb seeds
Chop the herbs very fine or pulverize the seeds. Cream the butter with a hand mixer and blend in the herbs. Shape as desired and chill or freeze up to 6 months. Makes ½ pound.
* Dill, mustard seed, parsley, and a touch of lemon rind for fish and potatoes
* Thyme, garlic, chives, oregano, and parsley for tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant or beef
* Sage, parsley, and chives for chicken, veal, rice and pasta
* Tarragon, fennel, lemon zest, and parsley for fish, chicken or eggs
* Chives, mint, and chervil for fish, tomatoes, carrots or peas
* Basil and garlic for lamb, chicken or fish
* Savory, marjoram, and parsley for beans, veal, beef, corn
* Cilantro, cumin, parsley, and dried red or fresh jalapeno pepper for a taste of the Southwest on rice, chicken, pork, potatoes, peas or corn
* Basil, tomato paste, and oregano for fish, chicken, pasta and rice
* Rosemary, chives, parsley, and garlic for potatoes, rice, beef, veal, chicken
* Basil, thyme, and parsley for bread, vegetables, tuna, salmon and shrimp
* Rosemary, savory, thyme, oregano, marjoram, lavender, and garlic for grilled meats
* Calendula petals, chives, and parsley for chicken, rice or eggs
* Scented geranium, rose, or pinks for toast, scones or waffles
1/3 cup minced, fresh, curly parsley
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 tsp. each minced fresh marjoram, thyme, and rosemary
¼ tsp. each minced fresh garlic, basil and sage
½ cup butter or margarine, softened
Mix all ingredients together. Refrigerate.
6 tbsp. butter, softened
2 tbsp. chopped mint
½ tbsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients together, chill. Serve with grilled or broiled lamb, with new potatoes, carrots or green peas.
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp. chopped basil
6 tbsp. butter, softened
Salt and pepper
Mix together all ingredients, chill. Serve with steaks, lamb cutlets, grilled fish or broiled fish.
2 tbsp. lemon verbena
2 tbsp. orange zest
6 tbsp. butter
Mix all ingredients together, chill. Serve as a breakfast butter.
1 small red pepper
1 tbsp. lemon juice
salt and pepper
½ cup butter, room temperature
Cut the pepper in half and grill, turning regularly, until the skin is blackened. Remove from heat and wrap in foil for 10-15 minutes; this helps to loosen skin. Remove pepper from foil and peel, then remove stalk and seeds and slice thinly. Place pepper in the bowl of a food processor with lemon juice and a pinch of salt; process to paste. Add butter and remaining seasonings then mix thoroughly. For a smooth paste, blend in olive oil, one tsp. at a time, until the ingredients hold together. Simply spread teaspoons on fresh crusty bread or use as a garnish for grilled fish, meat or vegetables.
½ cup butter, room temperature
¼ cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped, well-drained
1/3 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
Combine all ingredients until blended well
Serve on fresh crusty bread with a fresh salad
¼ cup butter (room temperature)
2 tbsp. drained prepared horseradish
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1/8 tsp. salt.
Combine ingredients and blend well. Serve with beef.
¼ cup butter (room temperature)
4 tsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. honey.
Combine ingredients and blend well. Serve with pork ribs.
½ cup butter (room temperature)
¼ tsp. grated lemon zest
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/8 tsp. cayenne and 1/8 tsp. salt.
Combine ingredients and blend well. Serve with seafood.
Herb jellies have the two important qualities; they taste delicious and they look beautiful. The pink of rosemary, the pale yellow of lemon thyme and the vivid green of mint. More than one herb can be combined and other ingredients may be added, such as apples, crab apples, cranberries, lemons and oranges. Herb jellies are very good on bagels, muffins, and toast; especially over cream cheese. They are delicious with all kinds of meats and poultry. Baste chicken with rosemary jelly. Place a sprig of the herb in the jelly just before sealing the jar, for a pretty effect.
3 cups fruit juice or water
1 cup fresh herbs of your choice
2 tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar
3 to 4 drops food coloring
4 cups sugar
1 pkg. powdered pectin
1/2 tsp. butter or margarine
1 fresh herb sprig for each jar
Boil the fruit juice or water, remove from heat and add herbs. Let steep for 20 minutes. Pour liquid through cheesecloth, or jelly bag. In metal pot, add herb infusion, lemon juice or vinegar, food coloring and sugar. Mix well. Over high heat, stirring constantly, bring mixture to a full rolling boil. Mix in pectin all at once, add butter and return to a full rolling boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and pour into sterilized jars. Turn upside down for 8 hours or hot water bath for 20 minutes.
Lemon balm and red grape juice
Lemon thyme and white grape juice
Lemon verbena and lemonade
Mint and apple juice
Rosemary and orange juice
Sage and cider or apple juice
Thyme and purple grape juice
Marjoram and grapefruit juice
Decide what herb you want to use and then choose what vinegar, such as white, white wine, red wine, apple cider, or rice vinegar. A general rule is to use about three 2-inch sprigs of an herb for each cup of vinegar being used. If using garlic, shallots or chilies use 1 clove or pepper per cup of vinegar. First, crush the herbs and place in a glass container. Heat vinegar, but do not boil. When heated, pour vinegar into glass container over herbs. Let the vinegar cool, then cover and store in a cool place.
Combinations for Flavored Vinegars:
Sage, parsley, shallots and red wine vinegar
Chilies, garlic, oregano and cider vinegar
Coriander leaf, garlic and rice vinegar
Mint, honey, cardamom seed and white vinegar
Rosemary, raisins, orange peel, garlic and white wine vinegar
Garlic, basil, whole cracked nutmeg, whole cloves and apple cider vinegar
Basil, oregano, garlic, black peppercorns and red wine vinegar:
Oregano, cilantro, garlic, red hot peppers and white wine vinegar:
These tantalizing ways to liven up your meals. They add new dimensions to salad dressings, mayonnaises, sautéing, frying, and baking. Make, make sure the herbs are clean, but not wet from washing. Put at least 2 cups of herbs in the bottle, twist and bruise them a little to release the flavor, then fill the bottle with oil. Cover and store in a cool place for a few weeks.
Combinations For Flavored Oils:
Oregano, thyme, garlic, and olive oil - Add to meatball hoagies or any pasta
Dill, garlic, and sunflower oil - Drizzle over potatoes or cooked vegetables
Basil, chili, garlic, and olive oil - drizzle over tomato mozzerella salad or pasta
Lemon, chive and oil - Add to fish or seafood dishes
1 large bunch of fresh basil
1 pound Fresh Picked Blueberries
4 cups white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
fresh chive flowers and blueberries, for garnish
Strip the basil leaves from their stalks. Tear the leaves into small pieces. Put the blueberries and a little vinegar into a non-metallic bowl. Crush the berries with the back of a wooden spoon to release juices. Stir in the remaining vinegar, basil and chopped chives. Pour mixture into a large sterilized jar. Seal and shake well. Keep in a cool dark place for 4 weeks before using to allow flavor to develop. Shake the jar from time to time. Line a funnel with a double layer of fresh cheesecloth. Strain the flavored vinegar into sterilized bottles (within 1/8-inch of the tops). Add a fresh chive flower and a few blueberries to each bottle for an attractive garnish. Seal and label. The vinegar is now ready to use.
1 pound red raspberries
2 cups white wine vinegar
¼ cup sugar
Red raspberries, for garnish
Place red raspberries and a little vinegar into a non-metallic bowl. Crush the berries with back of a wooden spoon to realease juices. Stir in remaining vinegar.
Pour the mixture into a sterilized jar. Seal the jar and shake well. Keep in a cool dark place for 2-3 weeks before using to allow flavors to develop. Shake the jar occasionally.
Line a funnel with a double layer of cheesecloth. Strain the flavored vinegar into a small saucepan. Stir the sugar and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Allow to cool.
Pour sweetened vinegar into a sterilized bottle within 1/8-inch of the top. Add a few fresh raspberries to the bottle. Seal the bottle and label. The vinegar is now ready to use.
Makes about 1 ¼ cups
Trax Farms' Herb Dressings and Herb Recipes
¼ cup freshly washed, firmly packed basil leaves
3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp. chopped tarragon
2 tbsp. chopped chives
½ cup sour cream
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 green onions, chopped
½ tsp. dry mustard
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
This a pale-green, smooth dressing that is very good on tomatoes, salads, shrimp or as a dip for vegetables.
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. Chill until ready to serve. This dressing will keep in the refrigerator for several days.
1 pkg. dry active yeast
½ cup warm water
3 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon mixed herbs
2 tablespoons butter
3-3 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
Dissolve yeast in water. Stir in 1 tbsp. sugar and let stand 15 minutes. Stir in sugar, milk, herbs and butter. Stir in flour and salt; knead until elastic and put into greased pot. Cover and let stand until doubled, about 1 hour. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until well-browned and hollow sounding when tapped. Brush tops with butter and sprinkle with dill, caraway or sesame seeds.
**To season clay pots, coat inside with oil or shortening and bake for a few hours, repeat several times. The first couple times you bake, grease and dust with cornmeal. After that it shouldn’t be necessary. Do not wash in soapy water – rinse with warm water only.
4 medium green tomatoes
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon minced fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
6 tablespoons bread crumbs
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Slice the unpeeled tomatoes and place in a single layer on several paper towels. Let stand while preparing the herbs and dips. In a shallow bowl or pie pan, combine the flour with the cilantro and oregano. In a separate bowl, beat the egg. Have the bread crumbs ready in another pie pan. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Dip the tomato slices in the flour mixture, then into the egg, and then into the bread crumbs. Sauté in the skillet until browned, turn and cook until tender. Add olive oil as necessary.
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 red bell pepper
1 garlic clove
½ cup packed basil leaves
¼ cup flat parsley leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine the butter, pepper and garlic in a food processor and process until almost smooth. Add the herb leaves and pulse until they have been minced and incorporated into the butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pack the butter in a small crock or bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve. Remove from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving.
4 tbsp. of finely chopped basil
2 tbsp. of chopped walnuts
3 crushed garlic cloves
3 tbsp. of Parmesan cheese
5 tbsp. of olive oil
2 tbsp. of melted butter
Grind together basil, nuts and garlic with pestle. Add the cheese and grind to form puree. Slowly add oil and butter, blend all together. Gently heat sauce before pouring over pasta.
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 pounds small potatoes, with skins
3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt to taste
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, potatoes, herbs, and salt. Cook, turning often, until the potatoes are browned all over and nearly done, about 20 minutes. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook an additional 5 minutes. Uncover, cook a few minutes more before serving.
2 cups fresh basil leaves
½ cup parsley leaves
½ cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp. salt
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Puree all the ingredients except for the cheese in a blender. Stir in the cheese. Place in containers, cover, top with oil, and freeze. Serve stirred into hot pasta or spread on a crusty bread and top with sliced tomatoes.
5 cups fresh vegetables
1 red onion, sliced thin
½ cup salad oil
½ cup cider vinegar
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. fresh oregano, minced
1 tsp. fresh basil, minced
1 tsp. fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup fresh parsley, minced
Cook vegetables until crisp, tender, drained and chilled. Place prepared vegetables in a bowl and toss gently. Arrange onion rings on top. Blend together all remaining ingredients and pour over vegetables. Chill several hours. The following vegetables work great: beans, cauliflower, broccoli and carrots.
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 cups vegetable oil
2 tbsp. Dijon style mustard
1 tbsp. honey
2 tsp. dried tarragon
2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried chives
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. salt
4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breast
In small bowl blend all of the ingredients (except chicken) gently together to make a vinaigrette marinade. Place chicken breast in shallow dish and pour in marinade. Turn breasts in marinade after 1 hour. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before grilling.
½ pound green beans, snapped
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. fresh thyme
Dash fresh ground pepper
Blanch the beans in boiling water for a minute or two, then plunge them in cold water and drain. Dry off with paper towel. Heat the butter in skillet until hot. Sauté the beans, thyme, and salt and pepper until warmed through, approximately 2 minutes. Serve immediately.
1 ½ pounds baking potatoes, peeled and quartered lengthwise
1 large sweet red pepper, halved, stemmed, seeded and cut into 8 wedges
1 large sweet green pepper, halved, stemmed, seeded and cut into 8 wedges
4 small onions, halved and quartered lengthwise
4 cloves garlic
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. dried rosemary, crumbled
1 ¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Fresh rosemary sprigs, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the potatoes and the red and green peppers alternately in a spoke pattern in a shallow, 12-inch round baking dish. Pile the onions in the center. Scatter the garlic over the top. Drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with rosemary, salt and black pepper. Bake in the preheated oven until the vegetables are lightly golden and tender, or about 45 minutes. Garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs, if you wish.
1 cup dried parsley
¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup vinegar
½ cup each dried basil, thyme, savory, and marjoram
Mix together the dry ingredients and store in an air-tight container. Each time you need a dressing, shake together 1 tbsp. of the dry herb mixed with ¾ cup olive oil and ¼ cup vinegar.
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