19-7: Fresh and Dried Herbs has been a recipe-in-the-making for a few months. I mention frequently that I often write these entries months after I complete the actual recipe, but this one actually took me that long TO complete.
Usually, these Cooking School cards don’t have too much in the way of actual recipes–often times it’s more like the card above, more recommendation than actual recipe. I’m not going to restate what they’ve written here–it’s all good advice. Jump behind the cut for some herb blend recipes as well as a DIY vinegar challenge and BONUS limoncello recipe.
Salads have become a bigger part of my life lately (trying to eat less meat), so experimenting with salad dressings has been of recent interest. The first recipe on this card is for tarragon vinegar, made by steeping fresh springs of tarragon in vinegar for about 6 weeks.
Jump back to mid-February 2018, about 2 months prior to the original publishing of this article. ⌛
Ingredients. Do you see the mistake I made? If not, I’ll show you later on.
Measuring out the 1 quart of vinegar for the bottle. Big measuring cups are useful for situations such as these.
I’ve had this bottle for a long time (even though IKEA and Amazon sell the exact same ones still to this day), so I wanted to make sure it was extra clean.
Started with one sprig…then another.
Ok, I may have put a few more than suggested in the bottle. It just looked like it needed more.
Setting up a funnel to minimize hot vinegar spillage.
Heated it up in the microwave (not a great smell–do not necessarily recommend) until it was at the right temperature.
Poured in the hot vinegar, got ready to cork it and call it good, and then realized my mistake. I used the wrong type of vinegar–it was supposed to be apple cider or white wine vinegar and I used just plain white vinegar.
I thought about just letting it go and calling it good, but I had just finished setting up another long-term culinary project the previous weekend with my mom (limoncello) and had done some reading about the strength of alcohol in regards in drawing out flavors.
The aforementioned limoncello project, which commenced (essentially) simultaneously with the tarragon vinegar and was estimated to take about the same amount of time. So far, it consisted of a ton of lemon peels soaking in Costco vodka for 4-6 weeks.
I did a quick bit of targeted research to confirm my suspicions about the vinegar differences–it looked like I was going to need to make an attempt to salvage this somehow.
I had some ANCIENT white wine vinegar in my collection, buried deep in the pantry, and so I poured out a bit of the regular vinegar and replaced it with what was left in this bottle. You can already see the color change from the picture above, and perhaps it was better that the old white wine stuff was diluted with the newer plain stuff.
I also had apple cider vinegar (the other suggested type), but I figured that in case this whole thing ends up being a bust, at least I got rid of the old white wine vinegar for which I’d probably never find another viable use.
In the sunny kitchen window it goes–6 weeks exactly from this point until 4/1/2018, which happened to be Easter this year. We’ll check back in on the limoncello eventually as well.
While we wait, let’s get on with experimenting with the next herb recipe, Herbs de Provence.
I’ll admit–I’ve used Herbs de Provence for a long time, but never myself made the blend from the raw ingredients. Here’s everything suggested, including my spice grinder to really mix it all together.
Why grind it, you may ask? It’s usually found as a loose mix of mostly whole spices–not a fine grind. Well, I have some specific plans for this version.
Pre-grind. You have to admit, it’d be difficult to effectively use it in its present state.
After grinding. There’s some store-bought Herbs de Provence in the glass spice jar next to it for comparison.
Now let me tell you how this relates to my plan for this big ol’ ham that I also happen to have.
Here’s what the somewhat-extra-ground-down version was intended for: we had bought a ham from the grocery store right after Christmas that was on super-mega-please get it out of the store-now sale. I tossed out the sugary glaze that they usually come with and used this herb blend mixed with a bit of olive oil as a “glaze” instead.
While that ham roasts in the oven, let’s check back in on that tarragon vinegar. Pretend a week has gone by. It doesn’t take that long to roast a ham, but bear with me. 🐻
Everything’s gotten much duller-looking. The tarragon inside has turned from a vibrant bright green to a muddled brownish-green. The vinegar has darkened a few shades.
Like the limoncello steeping in its jars at the bottom of my mom’s front hall closet at this same time, most of the major action takes place in the first few days. No pics of the limoncello from this point, but imagine the jar picture from above and make the liquid a much brighter yellow color.
While the ham roasts and the vinegar and limoncello continue to steep, let’s tackle that third recipe from the card: a bouquet garni.
I didn’t have fresh ingredients at the time, but it’s not hard to get your hands on them. Dried won’t be quite as flavorful, but will still have a big impact on the final product.
I snipped a small (roughly 3″ x 3″) square of cheesecloth and placed the ingredients in the middle.
I gathered the corners of the square of cheesecloth and closed it around the herbs, tying it closed with some kitchen string.
Easy to do! You can also buy bouquet garnis in the grocery store, especially around holiday time. When we belonged to a CSA, we’d always get one in the box around Thanksgiving time for placing inside the turkey while it roasts.
Speaking of roasting, that ham’s been “roasting” for about a month now. How’s that tarragon vinegar looking?
Taking into account that this third picture was taken when it was obviously dark outside, the tarragon has continued to get less colorful and vibrant over the past month. Overall, there’s hasn’t that much change from 1 week to 1 month. Color of the liquid hasn’t changed significantly in that time frame either.
Ham’s finally done–here’s how it looked after roasting with its Herbs de Provence/olive oil glaze rather than the packaged honey glaze. Still looks pretty good to me.
I used that liquid in the bottom to make a nice gravy to serve with it, which turned out great as well. Take that as an example of something to try out with Herbs de Provence.
Since our month is up, let’s check back in on the long term projects. First up, the tarragon vinegar.
I was a day late, but here it is next to my phone to prove that I did get back to it on (or about) that date. To be honest, I haven’t ACTUALLY opened it yet–it’s still on my windowsill as of this posting. I’ll get to it…at some point.
I promised you resolution to the limoncello saga as well–and here it is. One glimpse of the process: draining the lemon-soaked vodka from the peels. Compare that liquid color to the jars from earlier in the post.
Final limoncello product–much more satisfying (appearance-wise) than the tarragon vinegar. I poked a few peels into a few bottles, which ended up sinking and look pretty cool on the bottoms.
Grade(s): A- (average)