AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Preserving Summer: Fresh Herbs DATE: 9/05/2008 05:52:00 PM ----- BODY:
All summer, the herbs in my garden have been prolific. It’s been a wonderful treat to go into the yard, snip a few herbs and enhance whatever meal I was making – a little tarragon for egg salad, some parsley and arugula for an artichoke pesto, thyme for roasted portobellos and mint for mojitos, tossed with grilled zucchini or with bacon on grilled trout. Chopped scallions garnished the grilled miso eggplant. And the basil went into Fred Flintstone’s sauce or simply in a salad of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. As hard as I tried, I was not able to use all the herbs… even with many gifts to friends and neighbors. Now I must think about how to capture that summer burst through the winter.

Tarragon and Thyme dry well. With the warm autumn days, and nary a drop of humidity, they will sun-dry easily. I can save them in the freezer (just to be safe). The basil can be pureed with oil and frozen in ice cube trays, or made into pesto as PsychGrad suggests.

I had thought I would make mint jelly with the overgrown patch. This seemed like a particularly good idea since Farmer Brett is giving me half a lamb as compensation for all the work I’ve done for him this summer. But the prospect of more canning is overwhelming. The batch of tomatoes (smoked, stewed and ketchup), which yielded 48 jars took many hours over the course of three days. I decided instead to freeze it. I will make a mint syrup that I can use for either mojitos or a la minute mint jelly. I will make a second batch of mint-jalapeno syrup to use the hand full of peppers in the garden.

Mint Jelly or Mojito Base
3 cups mint leaves
3 cups sugar
1 ½ cups water
1 jalapeno, sliced in half (optional)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add mint and cook for 30 seconds, or just until bright green. Drain and rinse under cold water.
2. In a sauce pot, combine sugar and water (and jalapeno). Bring to a boil and stir until sugar dissolves. Let cool to room temperature.
3. Put mint in a food processor and coarsely chop.
4. Combine mint and sugar water and refrigerate for 24 hours. Discard jalapeno.
5. Freeze in 1 cup containers

Tips for making Jelly or Mojitos:
1. When you make jelly, you will need pectin. Be sure to follow the directions on the box – each kind of pectin reacts differently and needs different amounts of pectin for the same amount of liquid.
2. This recipe has half as much water as necessary for jelly, but the proper amount for mojitos. As such, you will need to dilute the syrup before making the jelly. For every 1 ½ cups of syrup, add ½ cup water.
3. You will want to add a few drops of lemon juice for jelly and lime juice for mojitos.

Early in the season I blathered on about the sage. Even in April, before any other crops were up, I was up to my eyeballs in sage. The pungent flavor makes it difficult to use in copious amounts, unless you fry it. I started the season with 5 plants and it got so out of control that I dug up one completely and dried it, and moved another to the front yard to become “ornamental.” I know this will last through the first frost, so I use more as fall meats and vegetables pair so beautifully. In the meantime, I continue to shear the plant and dry sprigs tied into bundles. Burning sage, the lore suggests, rids a room or a house of evil spirits. These will be housewarming gifts to friends.

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) DATE:9/06/2008 08:39:00 AM Great post! It reminds me that it's time to get out my drying screen and get some of the sage, thyme, tarragon and rosemary started on drying for the winter. And now I know what I can do with my mint, too -- thanks for the ideas. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous We Are Never Full DATE:9/06/2008 02:52:00 PM man, i get so depressed when the garden time is over. i have to dry out my herbs this year! thank for the reminder. also, some other suggestions are making some tarragon vinegar or mint sauce (what the Brits use with their lamb). Now you've got me thinking! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:9/07/2008 09:33:00 AM Lydia, Glad to hear all the woodland animals left your herbs alone!

WANF, Tarragon Vinegar is a great suggestion, too. Thanks. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Psychgrad DATE:9/08/2008 09:40:00 AM Thanks for the tips. I'm going to try to keep my basil plant going (it's an indoor plant) over the winter. Also - thanks for the link. I'm loving having access to homemade pesto at any time. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Bernz DATE:9/09/2008 03:20:00 PM Which half of the lamb are you getting? ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:9/09/2008 03:25:00 PM Psychgrad, In case you don't already know, basil is an annual and will die off after 6 months (or so) no matter how hard you work to keep it alive. You still have a few months left, but I don't want you to be disappointed.

Bernz, hee hee. Thankfully I'm getting the left half. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger MyMyMichl DATE:10/17/2008 01:01:00 AM Several times in the summer season we harvest basil and make a pesto without nuts or cheese. Simply pick, wash and spin dry the fragrant green leaves, load some peeled garlic cloves into a blender, not a processor, and puree the leaves with a pinch of salt and as much EVOO as it takes to make it pourable. It freezes perfectly, makes a great addition to pasta, or even mixed with mayonnaise and spread on bread for a killer tomato sandwich. ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:10/17/2008 07:16:00 AM MyMyMichl, That's a great idea to preserve basil throughout the summer. You probably get better yields for this. Why won't you use the food processor? ----- --------