Quiet Morning in the Garden

Nasturtiums flowers- add a bit of spice to a salad!

Whew! I don't know why I always think summer will be more relaxed than the school year. Seems I'm always taken by surprise by all the craziness incumbent upon our summer schedule, and older children's needs require more out-of -the house time than this home-loving woman would otherwise choose. In the past few days I've been to Chicago (visiting friends post-surgery and son doing internship), Bean Blossom (Blue Grass festival date with Tim) and Columbus (piano competition.) I'm not complaining - it's all been very good!

But today I was able to stay home, chilling in the herb garden. Or maybe not exactly chilling on this very warm day. But something like that.

First off - some mint extract.  The idea is to extract the mint oils into the vodka in a similar manner as in making vanilla from fresh beans.

- mint leaves (enough to fill pint jar)- washed, patted dry, & crushed between hands

- vodka to cover

Steep 1-2 months. Strain out leaves.

Recently we also made mint-chocolate chip cookies with fresh mint. Here you extract the mint oils into butter, which gives a lovely fresh taste to the cookies. I used this recipe, but I think you could do the same with any chocolate chip cookie recipe.

We also decided to give elderflower vinegar a test run. I love making and using various vinegars especially raspberry and currant. We'll know in a couple of months if this is one we'll be adding to our repertoire.

Cooking with fresh herbs is a delight, but I also like to preserve some for the seasons when they aren't available. Parsley, I've found, can be frozen into parsley logs and then used a slice or two at a time.

Parsley log: Simply harvest leaves, wash, dry, and then put into a zip lock bag, squeezing them down into a log at the bottom of the bag. Roll up from the bottom, squeezing out the air as you go. Secure log with rubber bands and freeze. Because the parsley is packed tightly, you don't need a large slice to give you a big punch. 

 Check out the slideshow in this link for step-by-step instructions on making a parsley log. I made several last summer and found they made a great way to add fresh tasting parsley to soups and other dishes throughout the year.

Lastly I dehydrated some thyme, oregano, pineapple sage, and basil.


Lydia said…
371Tell us more about dehydrating! (Kind of giggling as I wrote that.) Do you have a machine for it or something you created yourself that you just do a bit at a time? I've looked at machines in the hopes of drying fresh berries but they are expensive and it seems like a slow process no matter what. Thanks Anne!
Lydia said…
The 371 was an error -- no need to try to figure that one out. :)
Anne said…
;) I have a cheap-o machine that I bought from somewhere like Walmart for probably around $30. It's been going strong for several years, though I don't use it super heavily, mostly for apples and herbs, sometimes tomatoes. I've only rarely dried berries as we usually just freeze ours, but I should try again as they are yummy in granola.
Herbs dry super fast - some in about an hour. Fruits and veggies take a good while longer. We've done raisins a couple of times and they are delicious, but it seemed to take for-ev-er!
I've made double chocolate chip cookies with chopped fresh mint in the batter (http://tastykitchen.com/recipes/desserts/chocolate-and-fresh-mint-cookies/), but some of my family thought it tasted to "green and leafy." Infusing the butter seems like a much better method.

I should try making some mint extract since we have loads of mint - one thing that grows quite well without my help!
Anne said…
Heather, I also saw a recipe with chopped mint and almost went that route, but I thought my family might be skeptical about green bits in their cookies. I'm eager to find out how the mint extract turns out. It's almost too easy!

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