Preserving Herbs

Preparing Herbs for Storage

Drying is an excellent way of preserving herbs for use out of season. Many seeds and leaves keep there flavor well and stored correctly, should last up to one year. Drying herbs at home is not easy and you may find the drying process often results in a loss of flavor and color.

There are 2 main methods of drying herbs; suspended in bunches, and lying flat on racks or trays. Electric dryers are available for purchase. Whatever method you use it is best to dry each type separately. Chose a dry, clean, dark, well-ventilated location, free from dust and insects. Always dry herbs out of direct sunlight, which causes loss of color and flavor.

Drying in Bunches

Drying in BunchesKeep the bunches of herbs small, a good guideline is no more than a good handful. Hang the herbs upside down; this helps to preserve their appearance. Use rubber bands to tie up the bunches. If you are planning to save the seeds tie a large paper bag or sheet of newspaper loosely over the flowerheads.

Drying on Racks

Drying on RacksTo dry herbs flat strip the leaves from each stem and arrange them in a single layer on a rack or tray. Inspect the herbs regularly to make sure they are drying properly, turning over larger to make sure they dry evenly. The herbs are ready when they are crisp to the touch, but not brittle. Once dried stored the herbs in airtight containers. Glass jars are best and they should be stored in a cool dry place.

Freezing

Freezing HerbsFreezing retains the flavor but not the appearance. It is an excellent way to preserve leafy herbs that do not dry well, such as parsley, fennel, basil, and chives. To freeze herbs, wash, chop, and place in ice cube trays. Cover with water and freeze. Remove the cubes from the trays and store in freezer bags. To use add to the dishes at the end of the cooking time.

Herb-flavored vinegar

Herb-flavored vinegarSome herbs have been used to flavor vinegar. These vinegars make excellent ingredients in salad dressings, mayonnaise, and many other dishes. that require vinegar. Use mild flavored vinegar such as white, cider, or balsamic Place the chopped or crushed herbs in a bowl and pour the vinegar over them. Cover and leave them for about 2 weeks for the flavor to develop making the herbs stay immersed. Strain the mixture through a coffee or muslin filter and check for flavor. If it is not strong enough pick a new bunch of herbs and repeat the process. If it is too strong dilute with more vinegar. Store in clean glass jars or bottles and make sure the vinegar does not come in contact with metal lids as this will cause corrosion

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Glazed Gammon Recipe

Glazed Gammon

Preparation Time: 35 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 hours
Serves: 8

Glazed Gammon

Ingredients

  • gammon joint about 2kg
  • 600mg dry cider
  • 1 large orange
  • water
  • freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for the Glaze

  • 3 tablespoons jelly marmalade
  • 175g  light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice

To Garnish

  • orange slices,
  • glace cherries,
  • watercress

Ingredients for the Cumberland Sauce

  • 3 medium oranges
  • 2 small lemons
  • 300 ml water
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • 6 tablespoons redcurrant jelly
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons arrowroot
  • 150ml port wine or red wine
  1. If you buy unsmoked gammon or a mild cured joint, it will not require soaking; if heavily smoked, soak overnight in cold water to cover.
  2. Put the joint into a large pan with the cider; pare the top zest from the orange, add this, together with the juice from the fruit and enough cold water to cover the joint completely, add the pepper.
  3. Bring the liquid to simmering and allow 20 to 25 minutes
    450g at a steady simmer; usually you add another 20 to
    25 minutes but the bacon continues to cook in the oven.
  4. Joints vary in shape and tenderness and this affects the cooking.
  5. Lift the joint from the liquid, then cut away the skin and score the fat; warm the marmalade slightly then blend with the sugar and orange juice, spread over the fat, pressing it into the cuts.
  6. Place the gammon, glazed side uppermost in a tin; cook for 30 minutes in moderately hot oven.
  7. Garnish and serve.

Cumberland Sauce

  1. Cut the top zest of the fruit into matchstick pieces, simmer in the water until tender, add the fruit juices, mustard and jelly; simmer for a few minutes.
  2. Blend the arrowroot with the wine, add to the other ingredients, stir over the heat until thickened and clear.
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Creeping thyme (magic carpet)

Creeping thyme

Known as an ornamental, Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum) produce a very nice smelling flower that will grow no more than 6” high, and spread out giving you a very nice spread of foliage.

Creeping Thyme are a very popular plant and can be found at almost all garden centers or nurseries. They are perennials and are very aromatic and if you are trying to categorize them, you will find them under herbs.

They love the soil to be well drained, with lots of sunlight and a medium amount of water. Do not over fertilize, as creeping thyme actually have a preference for poorer soils (like most herbs do).

They will bloom from May right through until August, or longer depending on your growing season. They will grow in shaded areas, but they will not flower as well as in the sunlight.

They are known as one of the best low growing ground coverings and can basically take care of themselves with little care from you.

Creeping Thyme are an extremely versatile plant that can be used in so many different ways and requires very little to no maintenance – a Gardner’s dream 🙂

And they are Used for..

Ground Cover

Can you imagine being able to walk on your plants and watch them bounce back up. Well this is what your creeping thyme can do. Kind of reminds me of the old Timex commercial “Takes a licking and keeps on Ticking” 🙂

Because of this ruggedness, these plants are perfect to grow in the area between patios and walkways, or between stepping stones. Also, because of their low growth ability, they are perfect to plant as a fore plant in your garden. Adds color and will allow the showing off of your large plants behind. They are also great for weed control.

People have been known to replace their grass with thyme, but if you decide to do this be careful of the variety of thyme you choose. Your best choice may be the “Woolly Thyme”, opposed to choosing the Caraway thyme, which is a lot faster grower and may engulf your stone work.

Medicinal Use

Creeping Thyme have been known to be used for medicinal purposes as well. Does anyone here reading this use Listerine mouth wash? Well Listerine contains an ingredient called “Thymol,” which is derived from thyme! – How cool is that!!

In the Kitchen

Let’s not forget the use of creeping thyme in the kitchen. You can use it to boost the flavor of many dishes, including soups, meats, and stews and so on.

First, wait until the flowers have bloomed and then once the dew has dissipated in the early morning, pick your plants and hang them in a dark dry place for a few days or until completely dried out. Find yourself some sealable containers and store your fresh thyme.

They Look Like ..

As mentioned above the creeping thyme will grow no more than 6” in height but will spread out up to 2 feet in width.

There are many different varieties of creeping thyme that come in a multiple of colors. You may find their foliage in shades of light to dark green, to a greyish color of the “Woolly” thyme.

The leaves, that are very small in size, can be seen in many different colors such as white, lavender, or red. The plants grow leaves like there is no tomorrow usually covering up anything below them.

Let’s Start Planting

OK, so we are ready to plant; first step is to prepare the soil. You will need to mix your planting soil with a good mixture of organic humus. Make sure you mix the soil to around a foot deep.

You may also want to consider adding compost, some peat moss and even some processed manure. The additives should be around half of your potting mix.

If you have decided to plant from seed, they can be planted anytime during the growing season. For us here in the north that would be between May and August.

If you decide to buy the plants from a garden center or nursery and you want  transplant your thyme, try not to do so in the fall if the weather has started to change. Any kind of frost can cause damage to the roots and possibly kill your plants. If there is a need to transplant, do so in the spring long after the frost is a threat.

When it comes time to fertilize your normal liquid plant food or even fish fertilizer will do the trick. Early spring or late summer would be your best time to fertilize.

Types of Thyme

If you are curious about thyme here is a list of some of the different varieties. Just so you know, there are over 100 different varieties to choose from. We will not be listing them all here 🙂

Fast growing ground cover that has a fragrance

Lemon Thyme

Lemon Thyme
Lemon Thyme

Grows like a weed and smells and tastes like lemon. Can be used in any recipe that calls for lemon.

Spicy Orange Thyme

Spicy Orange Thyme
Spicy Orange Thyme

Great as a plant along a walkway. Has a hint of allspice and oranges and is great with fish, chicken or even tea.

White Creeping Thyme

White Creeping Thyme
White Creeping Thyme

A hardy and durable thyme that is great for small areas in your garden or between stones.

Red Creeping Thyme

Red Creeping Thyme
Red Creeping Thyme

Great as a ground cover that blossoms into beautiful pink flowers.

Woolly Thyme

Woolly Thyme
Woolly Thyme

A very thick thyme that is great for ground cover. It has no fragrance is not good for culinary use.


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Cool as a Cucumber…

Cool as a Cucumber…..

How about a… LONG TALL COOL GREEN ONE ?

This  time of year when the temperatures soars everyone is eating something raw!

The beauty of raw is it’s simplicity and variety. The thought of a hot grill is totally unappealing and of course not healthy. Keeping hydrated is key to healthy cells and bones. We know we should eat for energy but maybe you just can’t face another salad.  Then juice your salad and have it poolside!

This refreshing drink contains: cucumber, celery, baby bok choy, romaine, carrot, dandelion, cilantro, mint with a squeeze of lime!

I can  drink this so much easier than trying to  eat  and chew thoroughly all the above ingredients.

Check out the past post on proteins and feel relaxed that you are more than covered in that area.

Doesn’t it look delicious?

I kept sipping while I was photographing it.  You can combine what ever you like in your green juice as most greens get along wonderfully.  Carrot, beets  or a green apple will sweeten so go light with these as this will spike your blood sugar. The sour of the lime helps balance the bitter of the dandelion. Don’t be afraid to put  lots of kale (save the stems from making kale chips) or spinach or fresh parsley. Go sparingly on the herbs at first and have one main flavor to work around.  Be flexible with whatever the garden or forest gives you! I discovered the white rind of the watermelon is also very healthy juiced! Taste as you go if you want to decide how much of each item to put in.

Juicing verses smoothies

Juicing removes the pulp but leaves everything else behind. So your digestion gets a rest and dose not need to break down any fiber to get to the pure whole nutrients. If you use a single or twin auger juicer (the Huron slow juicer linked to this site is what I use) it presses the cells and leaves the walls in tact whereas a blender and some juicers breaks open the cell walls and allows oxidation and the vitamins quickly (within 15 minutes) get oxidized and lose the potency. I like to use my NJ600 (probably the best blender under 100 $) for fruit veggie lunch smoothies/soups that I will consume right away and have my juice in the morning after exercise and sip slowly allowing my system to “break-fast”.

Veggies in the morning really soar you into amazing zest for the rest of the day. But ANY time is great for green juice except during a full meal as no liquids should be consumed to allow the digestive juices to be undiluted.

Let your body gradually get use to pure green energy and start out with 3 ingredients and work up to what gives you both pleasure and energy!  The basic rule is that greens gently cleanse and fruits cleanse more quickly and with more calories.  So use that knowledge to get gently daily cleansing and without toxins we get a smooth lean running machine that has energy to play:)

Find out more about nutrition benefits of eating cucumbers.

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Blue Cheese Soufflé

A few months ago, Tommy and I were browsing the aisles of Costco on a Sunday afternoon with plans to make pizza for dinner that night. The problem with “browsing” at Costco is that you inevitably get sucked into buying all the amazing things that you absolutely don’t need.Continue reading →

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Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp and Grits

Do you ever look in your fridge and determine that nothing you have is suitable for dinner? I am pretty meticulous about meal planning and so I organize my grocery lists and trips according to what I have on the menu in the upcoming week. But sometimes, my best planning efforts get wasted. Such was the case yesterday, when I decided that I was in the mood for some southern flavor in the form of shrimp and grits, but hadn’t planned for it.Continue reading →

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Want to Boost Your Metabolism? Here are a Few Ways you Can

Boost Your Metabolism

When we are younger, some individuals may enjoy the benefits of being able to eat as much as they want without gaining excess weight. Why is that? Part of it has to do with that person’s metabolism; the better it is, the easier it is for foods to be digested and excess calories to be burned throughout the day.  As we get older, however, that  metabolism may begin to diminish. Luckily, regardless of age, there are many scientifically proven ways to boost one’s metabolism and in turn burn fat efficiently.Continue reading →

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Ways to Go Organic without Spending a Fortune

Go Organic

Switching your diet to one that is all organic can have many positive effects on your overall wellbeing. However, the reason why so many people don’t do this is because they have the impression that organic foods are too expensive. Though it is true that certain organic foods are a bit more costly, the following are a few tricks and tips on maintaining an organic diet while on a budget.Continue reading →

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