By yesterday, I had gathered enough ripe tomatoes that I was ready to make a little tomato sauce to freeze. Of course, what decent tomato sauce isn't bubbling with fresh herbs? So, not only did I make sauce, I also put my attention on herbs in general.
I started by rummaging along the cookbook shelf for my favorite old cookbook on preserving. Published in 1977, it has the most delightfully dated photos--women in jeans and clogs and homemade sweaters shopping farmers' markets; wood plank breakfast tables scattered with jars of homemade marmalade, heavy, speckled stoneware and gleaming yellow porcelain so 70's chic. I just love that old preserving book. I tend to thumb all through it, even though most times I end up settling in the section on herbs.
Next I sterilized several jars in order to start a few other vinegars. I mentioned earlier that you can sterilize jars with the sanitizing setting on a dishwasher, but another way is to put them in the oven set to 250 degrees for about 30 minutes. Since my jars were already clean, I used this method this time. You'll find many recipes for many herbal combinations for these vinegars, and in time you might just decide to create your own. I made some using a dark, balsamic vinegar--floating tarragon, parsley, cracked peppercorns, chives and thyme in it.
Then with the lighter white wine vinegar I used rosemary, basil, bay leaf and cracked peppercorns again, with a little lemon zest here, too.
These will sit in the window for 3 to 4 weeks, steeping in the sunlight and reminding me by their presence to shake the jars every couple of days blending the flavors as they are gradually released into the vinegar.
They make a pretty display in my ever changing kitchen window, right along with the red peppers drying on a string. About the time the vinegars are ready to strain, the peppers should be dry enough to crush for use in hot pepper oil. That day will call for a second romp in the herb garden...for the sake of making various herbal oils.
Even if you don't invest the time or money in water bath canning, remember: you can freeze most of the produce that goes beyond your immediate needs. My canning book includes a section on blanching times for the sake of freezing many types of garden produce. I know a lot of folks who don't even garden, but who buy extra, fresh veggies at farmers' markets this time of year to freeze them for later when winter produce shelves are meager pickings. Today's sign off: happy freezing!