In so many places in this country, the Spring planting is paying off in abundant vegetables and herbs. Pears are ripening, peaches are almost over and zucchini is shared with neighbors or left on doorsteps in the middle of the night (just kidding). Tomatoes have reached their peaks and in the South they are in decline from the heat.
My organic herbs are spilling over the containers I grow them in and it’s now, or wait till next Spring for another planting of basil.
So to keep the fragrance and wonderful taste around for a while, I spent part of this weekend, making batches of pesto to have during their dormant time. If you are growing basil, be sure to pluck the flower heads as soon as you see them, otherwise the leaves will turn bitter.
The lemon verbena, sage and rosemary, are providing aroma and calling out to be made into fragrant oils to use in cooking during the months they don’t grow. The rosemary will be used for cooking or roasting and some in a balm for dry skin and to ward off mosquitoes. The aroma of each fills the kitchen.
I’m ready with lots of cheesecloth and olive oil to go into production. If you want to try your hand at herbal oils for cooking, here’s how to do it: Wash your organic herbs in clear water, and let them drain on a clean towel.
In a pan large enough to hold them stem and all, cover them with good quality olive oil and heat the mixture until hot but not bubbling. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and let it cool.
When the oil is cold, drain the herbs and oil through at least five layers of cheesecloth in a fine wire sieve. If bits of herb come through the cheesecloth, drain again in clean cheesecloth.
When you are happy with clear infused oil, bottle it. Keep in a cool dry place, but not in the refrigerator. Use for salad dressing, roasting vegetables or meat and in soups and pasta or seafood sauces.
My favorites are basil oil and rosemary oil for cooking. Thyme oil is pungent, but still good to cook with. This year I’m going to make sage oil too for cooking and try lavender oil for – I’m not sure what… Not quite sure what it will used for and welcome your suggestions.
I hope you enjoy a new way of using your home-grown herbs. Some herbs can be dried and used in wreaths or sachets as gifts. I’ve never been good at that, but admire those who can. I’m just happy I can uncork a bottle of infused oils and remember my summer herbs all winter.
May your garden thrive and your harvest be plentiful!