'I grew my own herbs, Herb!'
Monday, May 13, 2013 10:00 PM
As you're preparing your gardens, and potting those plants you might consider is growing your own herbs. This delicious additive makes a savory meal of any dish you might be preparing. I wanted to share excerpts from a USDA bulletin (Farmers' Bulletin No. 1977) entitled: Savory Herbs Culture and Use so you might be come more familiar with a variety of herbs and their potential uses in your kitchen.
SAVORY HERBS are grown for three good reasons: (1) They make possible a variety of appetizing dishes at all times and are particularly useful when economical cuts of meat must take the place of those that are expensive and more favored. (2) The customary sources of the commercial supply of herbs may be temporarily exhausted. (3) But most appealing of all reasons is the enjoyment of g rowing herbs and using them skillfully. The interest and pleasure add zest to the daily round of living, especially when long hours of work afford little opportunity for other kinds of recreation.
This bulletin is written for those who like to garden or to embark on adventures in cooking. Most of the herbs are easily grown, but they must be understood. The beginner's herb garden need not contain more than half a dozen plants of each of a few kinds, yet it may provide enjoyment and economy out of all proportion to the effort involved. To lessen the expense, two or three neighbors may divide seed packets or each may plant three or four kinds and share the young plants.
It is not difficult to become expert in preparing appetizing dishes from inexpensive materials with herbs, and the experience grows more pleasurable with repetition and familiarity. The beginner will readily become acquainted with the characteristic flavors of herbs used separately and in combinations and can soon handle them with skill, economy, and satisfaction. The cooking suggestions offered in this bulletin cover mainly the herbs and herb combinations to use with specific foods and directions for drawing out and improving herb flavors.
Savory herbs are flavoring agents and, like spices, are used in cookery to season, enrich, or otherwise alter the flavor and odor of certain foods to make them more pleasing to the taste. Parts of the plants-leaves, fragrant seeds, fruits, buds, barks, and roots-have been used for this purpose since ancient times. Most of the spices-black pepper, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice-are derived from tropical plants. Savory herbs are aromatic plants the various parts of which posses pleasing odors and tastes. These plants grow in different parts of the world and have long been considered essential in the preparation of foods both in the home and in public eating places of European and Latin American countries. Many of them are adapted to a wide variation of soil and climatic conditions.
In the past the United States has been almost entirely dependent on foreign sources of supply for these important flavoring agents, though many of the plants are well adapted to our soil and climate. Since colonial times if has been the custom in various sections of this country to grow some of these herbs in the home garden. Because of their importance on the preparation of foods in the home, no garden should be considered complete without at least a few of those most commonly used. A scarcity of imported herbs and resulting high market prices have stimulated production in this country by both home gardeners and commercial concerns.
What Herbs To Grow
About a dozen kinds of herbs will be needed to begin with, in order to use the flavors singly and in blends.
Herbs For The Beginner
Suggested selections for the beginner include the six herbs named by the French "les fines herbes,"-sweet basil, chervil, sweet marjoram, thyme, rosemary, and tarragon. Included also are those indispensable mixers chive, parsley, summer savory, and several other favorites with very characteristic flavors-that can be used singly or in judicious blends. As an aid to their use in blending with foods they are divided into the following groups:
· Winter savory
Herbs strong enough for accent:
· Sweet basil
· Mint (peppermint and spearmint)
· Sweet marjoram
· Tarragon (French)
· Thyme (English or French )
Herbs especially good in blends:
· Parsley (curled)
· summer savory
Herbs To Be Added Later
Selections from the following group of no less important herbs may be added, a few at a time, as the gardener becomes familiar with their culture and as culinary uses expand.
· Lemon balm
· Mints (other species and varieties)
· Parsley (Italian broadleaf)
· Pot marjoram
Use Of Herbs In Cooking
The use of herbs in cooking is an art. Long experience has indicated that certain foods are given a more pleasing flavor by combining with them certain herbs or herb groupings, and although there are no set rules for those combinations the beginner needs some guidance. In using herbs effectively, the most important factors are interest, imagination, and constant experimentation on the part of the person who enjoys preparing food in a variety of flavors to make it more tasty and appetizing.
Some herbs blend harmoniously with almost any food; others with only a few. Many of the most interesting flavor effects are gained by combining a leading flavor with two or three others that blend with it almost imperceptibly. Under "Herbs for the beginner" (p. 2), the herbs are divided into three groups-(1) pungent herbs, (2) herbs strong enough for accent, and (3) herbs especially good in blends. One should depend on those in the first and second groups to supply leading flavors and on those in the third group and on the less pungent in the second group to complete the blends.
Important Rules To Remember
1. Expert cooks suggest the following rules for using herbs effectively:
2. Use with a light hand-the aromatic oils are strong, and too much of any flavor is objectionable.
3. Blend judiciously for different purposes. Have a leading flavor and combine two to four less pronounced flavors with it. Never emphasize more than one of the very strong herbs in a blend. Blends should be so subtle that only the expert can tell which herbs are used.
4. Blend or heat with butter, margarine, or other cooking fats as the best way to draw out and extend the flavor of the aromatic oils. Fresh (unsalted) "sweet" butter gives more satisfactory results than salted butter or margarine. Have salad oil tepid, not chilled, when using herbs in French salad dressing.
5. Cut or chop the leaves of fresh herbs very fine. For some purposes they should be ground in a mortar. The more of the cut surface exposed, the more completely the aromatic oil can be absorbed.
6. Keep in mind that dried herbs are three or four times stronger than fresh herbs.
7. The delicate aroma and flavor of savory herbs may easily be lost by extended cooking.
8. For soups and gravies, tie sprigs of fresh herbs in tiny bunches (bouquets) or place ground herbs in cheesecloth bags and add them about half an hour before the cooking is finished, removing as soon as they have served their purpose.
Herbs That Blend With Certain Foods
The following suggestions, which include some of the essential foods and the herbs or herb combinations that go well with them, are given as an aid in selecting dishes for herb accent. Of the many possible combinations of delicate and appetizing herb flavors and foods with which they blend, only a few are mentioned, because each person will wish to do his own experimenting after becoming familiar with the various herb flavors separately and with their more obvious combinations. Other suggestions and more detailed recipes for using herbs in cooking may be found in a number of books that may be bought or consulted in libraries. A list of such books can be obtained from herb societies, garden clubs, or herb gardens established in various parts of the country.
Fats make good media for absorbing herb flavors for ready use. One of the best ways for beginners to learn to use the different herbs is to combine them with fats in the form of herb butters. Fresh unsalted butter is especially satisfactory, because it readily absorbs the delicate herb flavors. Salted butter, margarine, pork drippings, and rendered chicken fat can also be used.
Fresh herbs should be cut finely and blended with the butter. The proportions are approximately 1 well-packed level tablespoon of fresh green herbs or 1/2 teaspoon of dried herbs to 4 tablespoons (2 oz.) of butter. Dried herbs may be allowed to stand for a few minutes with a little lemon juice before mixing with the butter. Herb butter may be stored for several days in small covered jars in the refrigerator. The butter should contain a dash of lemon juice if it is to be used for making sandwiches or for spreading on broiled or fried meats or fish just before they are served. Herb butter also may be used with boiled, poached, or scrambled eggs. For a last-minute substitute place the butter in a glass or earthenware custard cup, add the fresh or dried herbs, salt and pepper to taste, set in boiling water, and let stand 10 to 15 minutes while the hot butter absorbs the flavors. Soft-boiled eggs may be broken into the hot custard cups over the melted flavored butter, or the butter may be poured over poached eggs on toast.
Good combinations for herb butter are made with parsley or chive, singly, together, or combined with one or more other herbs.
Herbs For Meats, Poultry, Fish, And Eggs
Beef.-After removal from the oven, roasts may be flavored by spreading sweet marjoram flavored butter or finely chopped fresh or powdered dry marjoram leaves over the surface. Steaks broiled or fried may be topped with butter flavored with dill, marjoram, thyme, or parsley and a little lemon juice, or the surface may be sprinkled with the finely chopped herbs immediately after removal from the fire. Stews or loaves may be made more appetizing by adding small quantities of one or more of the following: Thyme, sweet marjoram, summer savory, chervil, parsley, or celery.
Pork.-Chops may be rubbed with lemon juice, powdered sweet marjoram, and a few seeds of caraway before cooking, and topped with dill butter after cooking. Fresh ham rubbed with powdered sage before cooking and served with a pan of dressing flavored with poultry seasoning creates an illusion of turkey. Sausage and other ground or chopped meats are usually flavored with sage, either alone or in combination with other herbs.
Lamb.-Various combinations of marjoram, thyme, parsley, garlic, or onion may be used. Dill butter :or chopped dill leaves with hot butter may be spread on lamb chops.
Veal.-Thyme or marjoram is generally used in combination with summer savory and chervil; also marjoram and basil with thin slices of veal dipped in flour, egg, and crumbs and cooked in deep fat.
Fowl.-Various combinations of poultry seasoning made of fresh or dried leaves of basil, lovage, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, summer savory, sage, and thyme may be used to add variety to the different dishes prepared from chicken, turkey, and other fowl.
Fish.-Broiled or fried fish may have pleasing flavors added by using dill butter or finely chopped dill, basil, or tarragon leaves. Shrimp may be simmered in butter with chopped basil leaves, and clam chowder may be served with a dash of powdered thyme.
Eggs.-The many egg dishes that are so commonly prepared may be agreeably varied in flavor by using one of the "fine herbs"-basil, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, or tarragon-for special accent, blended with chervil, chive, parsley, summer savory, celery, or a small quantity of another "fine herb" chopped or powdered and used as such or in the form of herb butters. Winter savory, parsley, onion juice, and celery tops give a robust flavor to winter omelets when other fresh herbs are not available.
Herbs For Beverages
Hot or cold tea may be flavored by adding sprigs of curly mint, apple mint, orange mint, spearmint, lemon balm, or lemon thyme. Refreshing drinks may be brewed from lemon balm, almost all mints, lemon thyme, or sage and served with a slice of lemon and sugar if desired. Tomato juice may be pleasingly flavored by adding chopped onion, celery or lovage, basil, and tarragon. After it has stood several hours strain and serve cold with lemon or lime.
Whatever your tastes are, I hope you venture out to try these different varieties of herbs, or expand what you may already use to create dishes to treasure with your family. If you would like a copy of this bulletin via email or have a copy mailed to you, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 765-364-6363.
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