Rewards of theSeason

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Storing herbs at season’s end allows you to use
them throughout the short winter days ahead. Share herbs throughout
the holidays with these tasty, homemade recipes.

butters

Butter is something every dinner table needs, and while it is
only a condiment, it is an elegant addition to any meal when the
flavor of herbs are added to it. Use your favorite herbed butter on
warm bread or rolls, or add it to cooked vegetables, chicken, or
fish.

Mix 1 tablespoon of minced garlic and 2 tablespoons of dried
herbs such as chives, rosemary, thyme, and/or basil with one stick
of softened butter. If you’re not particularly fond of garlic, omit
it and increase the amount of other herbs by 1 tablespoon.
Refrigerate and use for several weeks. Note: If you choose to use
fresh herbs, increase the amount to 4 tablespoons.

vinegars

One of the easiest and prettiest ways to store up summer’s
flavors is by making herbed vinegars. Put a handful of clean,
fresh, coarsely torn herbs in a quart jar. Fill the jar with a mild
vinegar (wine, cider, or distilled), and set in a warm, sunny spot
for two or three weeks. Some herbs impart color to white vinegars:
chive blossoms yield a delicate pink, opal basil a rich ruby,
tarragon a pale gold.

Strain vinegar into fresh bottles and discard the now-limp and
colorless herbs. Add a fresh sprig to each bottle for
identification, if you wish. Use your flavored vinegar in salad
dressings, sauces, and marinades, or as a condiment.

Try combinations of herbs such as basil/garlic, oregano/thyme,
or whatever herbs you enjoy using together fresh. You can make
lovely raspberry or blueberry vinegars in the same way by
discarding the spent fruit after several weeks of soaking.

oils

Just as easy to make as vinegars, herbed oils are a flavor asset
on your pantry shelf during the winter months. When fresh basil
isn’t available, you can make an acceptable pesto by using
basil-flavored olive oil as a base and fresh spinach leaves for
body and color. Use herbed oils in salad dressings and marinades.
They also lift lightly sautéed fresh vegetables to company status,
and can be drizzled sparingly over homemade pizza.

Chop about 1 cup of fresh herbs, solo or in a combination of
your choice, and cover with 1 pint of light olive oil or
mild-flavored vegetable oil. Let the mixture steep for several
weeks. Strain off the oil when it has absorbed plenty of flavor, or
leave the herbs mixed in. It’s as simple as that!

Teas

Many herbs make delightful teas by themselves such as sage,
rosemary, catnip, chamomile blossoms, or mint. There’s no end to
the possible blends; just check the list of ingredients on some of
the fancifully named brews at your local supermarket. Here are some
suggestions, each making two teacups’ worth.

• 1 teaspoon dried sage, 1 teaspoon dried orange peel
• 1 tablespoon dried rosehips, 1 stick of cinnamon
• 1 tablespoon dried lemon basil, 1 teaspoon thyme
• 1 tablespoon dried chamomile flowers, 1 tablespoon dried apple
mint leaves

Pomanders

Made of oranges, grapefruit, apples, lemons, limes, Keiffer
pears, or quince, pomanders are relics of bygone days when
sanitation was not at its best and disease was rampant. They are
preserved with spices. In the warm climate of the Southern United
States, it is absolutely necessary to use some type of fixative
ingredient to help with the drying process, in addition to the
mixture of spices.

To make pomanders, combine 1 cup of mixed ground spices, such as
allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, coriander seed, nutmeg, or
mace. Add 2 tablespoons of powdered orris root, frankincense, or
myrrh and mix well.

Select firm, ripe fruit with no blemishes. Insert whole cloves
to completely cover the fruit’s skin. Pierce the skin of oranges or
lemons with a fork. Limes will usually require an ice pick to
pierce. Cloves should be very close (but not touching) or the fruit
may break open as it dries. If desired, a long needle or thin
crochet hook can be used to draw a thread or ribbon through for
tying a loop or pretty bow.

Place the spice mixture in a shallow glass or non-reactive bowl;
roll the fruit in the spices, covering all of the surfaces
completely. Repeat this several times a day; if juices ooze out,
make sure spices cover that spot, but knock off the excess
carefully. Pomanders will take 10 days to 2 weeks to cure. When
they become lightweight, all of the moisture has been evaporated
from them. Shake off the excess spices and wrap the fruit in tulle,
or use ribbon in quadrants to decorate.

Recipe compliments of Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay.

Christmas Applesauce Spice Balls

The same combination of spices and fixative are used to prepare
the little spice balls, often known as “clove apples” because of
their resemblance to real apples. Use them as tree decorations,
centerpieces, or holiday package trimming.

Using the pomander spice mixture described above, combine enough
applesauce to make a fudgy consistency. Roll into balls with your
hands, about 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter. Insert a thin crochet hook
through the middle, drawing through a 6- to 8-inch loop of narrow
ribbon. Insert a whole clove at the bottom to hold the loop.
Reshape the ball if necessary to keep a round shape. Lay the balls
on a cookie sheet and let them dry completely. They can be dried
overnight in a gas oven with just the pilot light on, or in an
electric oven on warm. Leave the door ajar. They will take several
days to dry in an air-conditioned room.

Once the spice balls are dry, tie the ends together to hang. Tie
another strip of ribbon at the base for decoration, and curl all
the ends with scissors or a knife.

Recipe compliments of Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay.

Rosemary Cake

Contributor Geri Laufer received this recipe at the 1987
national meeting of The Herb Society of America. Laufer cooks it
for her birthday, which falls near Thanksgiving each year.

Spray oil and plain breadcrumbs for tube pan
4 cups biscuit mix
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 lemon rinds, grated
4 teaspoons minced and crushed fresh rosemary (or 2 teaspoons dry
rosemary)
2 eggs
1 cup salad oil
11/2 cups milk
Glaze
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a tube pan and coat it with
plain breadcrumbs. To the biscuit mix add the sugar, nutmeg, lemon
rind, and rosemary and mix well. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs,
and then add the oil and milk. Pour the wet ingredients into the
dry mixture and mix just until blended. Pour into the prepared tube
pan. Bake for 1 hour, until the cake pulls away from the side of
the pan. When cool, top with the glaze.

Cinderella Pumpkin Soup

Makes 4 servings

This soup provides a festive addition to the table when it is
served in a large, hollowed-out pumpkin, similar to Cinderella’s
fairy-tale pumpkin carriage. You may also serve individual portions
in hollowed-out mini-pumpkins.

11/2 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon flour
31/2 cups chicken broth or vegetable stock
2 cups pureed pumpkin
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup milk
Freshly chopped thyme (for garnish)
1 medium, hollowed-out pumpkin (optional) or 4 miniature,
hollowed-out pumpkins (optional)

In a small skillet, combine the butter and the onion. Sauté
until the onion is translucent. Add the flour and heat for one
minute. Transfer the mixture to a large saucepan; add the chicken
broth or vegetable stock, pumpkin, brown sugar, curry powder,
nutmeg, and thyme. Cook over medium heat until thickened. Add the
milk; stir until heated through. When using a pumpkin tureen or
pumpkin bowls, heat them in a 350°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes
before serving the hot soup. Sprinkle the soup with freshly chopped
thyme leaves before serving, if desired.

Recipe compliments of Theresa Loe, The New Herbal Calendar,
Tide-mark Press, 2001.