I hate to bring it up, but fall is right around the corner. Seems like such a shame that your herbs which have been growing like gangbusters all summer will be wasting away or freezing to death at the first frost. No matter how often you use them, there they are, growing like happy weeds. The sight of bushy tarragon plants, basil, thyme and mint mint mint everywhere will remind you that you really should be doing something to capture their delightful fresh essence to enjoy over the leaden winter.
Well fret no more, you have many options; homemade herb vinegars, oils and butters are the perfect way to savour summer’s bounty when your garden turns white with frost and snow. Might as well get a start on it soon. Tie a jaunty ribbon around the neck of a sexy little bottle of pink chive-blossom vinegar and display it as a thing of beauty in your pantry, casually popping it off your shelf the next time Martha Stewart drops by. Or give it as a gift to your too busy friends who will marvel at your artistic and culinary sensibilities. You needn’t tell them how simple it is.
Freeze your herb pesto
The simplest way to keep summer in your house is to harvest as much of your herbs as possible. Summer peas with fresh mint is a classic dish that you can trot out any time if you have some mint pesto frozen in small batches. This treatment is ridiculously simple.
Pick as much herb as you wish, throw it in your processor or blender and add olive oil and a little salt. Pack it in small batches, using 250 ml containers, or Ziploc bags.
Another deceptively simple method that will wow your guests and thrill your bored family.
Soften butter and mix in as much chopped herb as you wish. Plop the butter/herb mixture onto wax paper and roll up. This can be frozen and will last for months. Then you want to add a little zing to your potatoes, or some summer sizzle to your stakes, slice off a little and let it melt into or on top of your protein, veg or starch. Favorite combinations are Rosemary and sage butter for potatoes or tarragon butter on baked fish.
Anytime you feel like adding a special touch to a simple vinaigrette, reach for your own beautiful herb vinegar. These will keep for months on your shelf if properly prepared. Make sure your utensils are thoroughly cleaned, and avoid using metal to prepare the ingredients. The best vinegar to use is a basic 5% white wine vinegar, or rice wine vinegar. Avoid red wine vinegars as the colour of your herbs will not come through, and the red wine taste will overpower your herbs.Use fresh herbs, but if you use garlic, make sure it is peeled and dried. Poke the herbs into your sexy little bottle with a wooden skewer and fill with vinegar. Let rest for a day and top up with more vinegar the next day, as some will be absorbed by the herbs. Top this with a cork or screw top, affix a ribbon and a charming label.
Best vinegars are lemon-thyme and sage, chive blossom will blush itself pink, the classic tarragon vinegar is a good start for a green goddess salad, tarragon with garlic makes an interesting twist on a Caesar and rosemary on its own or Simon & Garfunkled up will have you singing all the way to Scarborough Fair.
Again, preparing herb oils is ridiculously simple and a good way to maximize your garden’s gifts.
Best to use a good quality Extra Virgin Olive oil; seek out Ina Garten and mug her if you have to.
Pour your e.v.o.o. into a suitable bottle with a screw top or cork, and add your herbs. Place the oil in a room temperature shelf for up to a month so the oil absorbs all the flavour from the herb. Then strain the oil; removing the herbs will help to keep your oil from spoiling, as oil doesn’t preserve the herb like vinegar does. Garlic, black and pink peppercorns, and chilies make for robust oils, while mint, basil, dill, sage, fennel lavender and lovage are silky and sexy, adding a touch of a hot summer night to your chill winter tales.