Saturday, August 14, 2010
Summer time means enhancing marinades and salad vinegars by simply taking a few steps out the back door to pluck the appropriate herbs--an immediate offering of fresh seasoning. But, that season passes all too quickly, which means that even in the days of easy access to all that flavor, the gardener will make provisions for the days when the garden plot is under its blanket of winter straw. That's why gardening and canning go hand in hand.
But today is Saturday, and there are so many things to do on a Saturday this time of year. My garden visit is brief and perfunctory and the canner stays on the shelf. My kitchen eyes turn to lighter tasks: washing and setting chopped veggies to soak in a salt bath for later pickling, checking my drying seeds and packing the ready ones in marked envelopes for next year's planting, shaking the jars of herb vinegar and testing some of the drying herbs for storage. Fortunately, tending drying herbs is a quick and easy task, and as some are crunchy-dry, dry enough to store without risk of mold, I transferred them to jars as the last stage in prepping them for later use.
You can store dried herbs in any air-tight container. A zip-lock sandwich bag will do, but I like these mini-canning jars because you can use a sharpie to write the herb's name on the lid; and they make a pretty display on your canning shelf, although they'll retain flavor better if you crush the leaves minimally (until time to use them) and store them in a cool, dark place.
Preserving fresh herbs is an easy task, no matter whether you dry them or freeze them. I'm currently working with dried herbs, but I also have some dill and rosemary in my freezer. I've found freezing a better option if you want to make homemade potpourri with any of them--particularly rosemary--as the freezing process kills undesirables like aphids that might still be hiding in the herbs. After all, finding bugs in your potpourri somewhat destroys the ambiance you try to create by using it in the first place. In fact, as I searched for links to add related to preserving herbs, I found a lovely one on gift-making from your garden's fare. But I'll let it have a full post of its own soon. There were many energizing ideas there for the gift-giving part of my gardening soul; too many to simply relegate to a link.
In the mean time, here are a couple of links from about.com that give good pointers on both drying and freezing herbs from your garden.
And there you have it! Freshly dried herbs perched in tiny canning jars on the front edge of the canning shelf. As the season progresses, more herbs will join the shelf--some sage, lemon balm, and maybe a little marjoram soon. And, the jars already begun will grow fuller as more comes ready to store.
Today's benediction: happy seasoning!