By storing herbs in oil, you can preserve the herbs and create a fragrant oil at the the same time. Herbal vinegars are simple to make and an excellent way of using your garden herbs.
Half fill a sterilized bottle or jar with fresh herb leaves, then fill to the top with a good quality olive or sunflower oil. Stir the herbs to release the air bubbles, making sure that the herbs are completely covered in oil. Seal the bottle or jar and stand it on a sunny windowsill or over a radiator for two weeks, shaking daily. Strain the oil, using the herb sprigs for cooking if you wish. For a stronger flavor, add fresh herbs to the strained oil and store for a further two weeks, then stain again. Bottle the oil with a fresh herb sprig, cover and label and store in a cool, dark place.
You can make delicious mixed herb oil with a few sprigs each of tarragon and thyme, plus a clove of garlic, a dried red chili pepper and a few black peppercorns. Goats’ cheese can be marinated in this oil and used in salads of crisp lettuce and sorrel leaves.
White or red wine vinegar or cider vinegar can all be flavored with herbs and used in salad dressings, cooked recipes or to make cosmetics. Basil, chervil, marjoram, mint, tarragon, sage or thyme are all-suitable, as are dill sprigs or seeds. Purple sage will impart a lovely color to the vinegar and so do chive flowers. You can use combinations of herbs; equal quantities of mint, chives, basil and borage are effective.
Place about 1 cup of lightly bruised, fresh herbs in a sterilized jar. Bring 1 ¼ cups of wine or cider vinegar to a boil, pour over the herbs, seal and leave to stand on a sunny windowsill for two weeks, shaking occasionally. Strain the vinegar through muslin (cheesecloth) or paper coffee filters into another sterilized jar, add a fresh herb sprig, seal and store in a cool, dark place.
Use the following with an oil and vinegar base or with any mildly seasoned dressing. Add the herb blend sparingly at first (about 2 teaspoons per head of lettuce or greens)
Salad Herb Blend:
2 cups parsley
1 cup each tarragon, basil and thyme
For other salad taste treats, add a teaspoon of basil, savory, or marjoram to a tossed salad; or try a 1/2 tsp of all three together.
If you are a cottage cheese devotee, you can serve it often with different herbs, either as a salad by itself or whirled in your blender (with 1 or 2 Tbsp milk) to make a dip for raw vegetables or munchies.
Basic Herb Vinegar Salad Dressing:
1 cup oil, preferably olive oil
1/2 to 1 cup herb vinegar of choice
2 Tbsp dried herbs, or herbs preserved in vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste, if desired*
Combine all ingredients in a glass cruet and shake to mix before using.
*Herb vinegars enhance the flavor of salads without added salt.
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