Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Herbal Preserving--Making Herbal Vinegar 101!

Salad Burnet, Lovage and Chives Cut for An Herbal Vinegar
Make Sure Your Herbs Are Washed and Dried Very Well
Boiled Water Left in Jar for 10 Minutes of Sterilizing
Herbs Ready to Go into Jar
Plastic Wrap or Waxed Paper Between Lid and Jar
Write Herb Combination and Day Made on Lid
Place Jar on Shelf Away from Light and Mark on Calendar to Check
I'm sure I have talked about making herbal vinegars.  It is my opinion one of the easiest ways to preserve your herbal harvest.  I would just caution you not to get too carried away.  It is very easy to do, the carried away bit.  Herbal vinegars do make great Christmas gifts.  You have lots of time if you start now.   As I continue to repeat, we are down to the wire here in the 'Burgh.  I will be going out in the garden today to double check items that still need to be cut particularly German chamomile flowers.  It has been a remarkable year.

So here is my how to on herbal vinegars.  You will need nonreactive utensils (such as wooden spoons, stainless steel spoons, glass measuring cups (for measuring the vinegar), plastic measuring cups (for measuring the herbs or fruit, plastic or stainless measuring spoons for measuring the spices), a canning funnel or a piece of paper folded into a funnel and a regular plastic funnel for narrow necked bottles) and pans (enamel or stainless steel are fine, just not aluminum), jars of every shape and size (I use mainly quart canning jars.), waxed paper or plastic wrap if using metal lids.

There are different methods of making herbal vinegar.  Some people heat both additions (herbs, fruits and spices) and vinegar together, some people heat just the vinegar and some people do not heat either.  I heat the vinegar when I am making raspberry vinegar and do not heat either when making herbal vinegar.  If you would like to speed up the process, you can heat the vinegar just to where you see tiny bubbles (one or two) and then immediately take it off the burner.

I picked my three herbs, salad burnet, lovage and chives.  This choice was from my favorite book this time of year, Herbal Treasures by Phyllis Shaudys.  I swished them in water and then dried them using a salad spinner and paper toweling.  This takes at least 2 or 3 hours for them to dry completely and I change paper towels a couple of times.  Once dried, I measured out one cup of each herb and placed them in a bowl.

Then I filled a quart canning jar with boiling water.  Set a time for ten minutes and then pour the water out.  If you are doing a lot of vinegar, you can put the jars through the dishwasher and then just leave them inside until you have your herbs ready.  Some books say you should dry the jars in an oven on low heat.  I just dried my jar (since it was only one) with a paper towel.  It will be hot!

Using a canning funnel (if you are using a canning jar) or a wooden spoon if you are using an narrow necked bottle, put your herbs, fruit or spice in the jar.  You then pour your vinegar into the jar making sure that your additions are covered.  They do rise to the top.  Just do your best.  BTW, a quart canning jar holds 3-1/2 cups of vinegar not 4 cups!

If you are using metal lids, make sure you place plastic wrap or waxed paper between the lid and jar.  Also the formula for herbs to vinegar is usually two cups of vinegar to one cup of herbs or four (3-1/2 cups) of vinegar to 2 cups of herbs or in my case 1-1/2 cups of herbs.  Just make sure once the lid is on, that you mark what kind of combination it is and what date you made it.  Then I mark on my refrigerator calendar when to check it.  I usually start checking it in two weeks.  If you do not heat your vinegar, it may take an extra week or so to be ready.  I place the jars in my basement away from light.

BTW, I would only use white distilled vinegar for cleaning.  Here is a Lemon Verbena Glass and Surface Cleaner from a post I did for Mother Earth Living.  If you have a basil harvest, sweet basil combines well with apple cider vinegar, lemon basil with white wine vinegar and cinnamon or Thai with rice vinegar.  I really did love the lemon herb vinegar recipe I made last year from Herbal Treasures called Phyl's Lemon Herb Vinegar.  Another one of my favorite ways to preserve nasturtiums is to make a vinegar.  I did a post in 2009 about Nasturtium Peppercorn Vinegar from my herbal sister, Kathleen Gips who has happily retired from owning the Village Herb Shop in Chagrin Falls, OH.  One way to preserve tarragon, part of the family of the 2014 Herb of the Year, Artemisia is in vinegar.  So here is a post I did in 2012 about my pathetic tarragon harvest and it will give you the simple way of preserving tarragon in vinegar so it can be used through the winter like fresh.  Tarragon does not dry well.

A short list of my favorite books with about herbal vinegars or with recipes:

Herbal Vinegar by Maggie Oster, Storey Communications, Inc., 1994
The Complete Vinegar Book by Kathy (Kathleen) Gips, Natural Garden Press, No date
Herbal Treasures by Phyllis Shaudys, Storey Communications, Inc., 1990

So hopefully you can see that it is really simple, but really effective to preserve your herbal harvest in vinegar to enjoy yourself or give as gifts.  Hope you are having a great day.  Talk to you later. 

Drying Your Herbs Made Simple and Smells from the Herb Garden Contained!

Herbal Worktable Overload!
Lemon Thyme and Marjoram
Orange Mint or Any Mint for That Matter
An Experiment with Pineapple Sage.  Don't Waste Your Time!
Lemon Eucalyptus (Smells like Murphy's Oil Soap)
An Old Canning Jar and Odds and Ends from the Herb Garden!
I Wish You Could Smell My Herb Garden!

We are really down to crunch time in the herb garden.  We have the "s" and "f" words in our forecast for Saturday!  So I wanted to give you a sense of how under control (or not) I am.  Actually the worktable above looks a bit better than in this photo.

As you know by now, I don't do anything very difficult.  I first want you to take a deep breath and let it out and think positively, herbally speaking.  Don't get crazy cutting a lot of herbs to dry.  If you are planning on making gifts with herbs and you haven't cut until now, then go crazy cutting.  Be aware that over cutting at this time of year could bring problems next year.  Also, if you are within the sound of my voice, you should have been cutting all along and not doing too much now.

What always happens to me is that the worktable is my place for throwing cuttings that I cut by mistake (Yes, I do make mistakes!) and an herb I want to try and dry.  So literally I end up with this mess of mixed herbs that I can tell what they are after they are dried and some become just filler.  I decided this year to be more methodical and try to caption my herbs for drying between paper towels.  I write in pen the name of the herb.  Very simple.  You may think this is wasteful, but the herbs perfume the paper towels and they are recycled and used for all kinds of uses once the herbs are dried.

So here is my short list of herbs (in no particular order) (that I have experience in drying with this method) that you can dry either between paper towels or hanging in small bunches by rubber bands on a wire of some kind.

Lemon verbena
Mints of every kind
Lemon balm
Scented geranium leaves, especially rose, lemon & peppermint
Sage Leaves
Lamb's Ears
Lavender Flowers
German chamomile (on a paper towel then place in a lidded container)  Make sure the flowers are very dry before placing in a container.  I ruined a whole batch of flowers because they weren't completely dry and they got mold.
Roses as with the German chamomile flowers, you want to make sure they are completely dry before placing in a container.
Calendula Petals
Bee balm Petals and Leaves
Lemon Eucalyptus leaves (Silver Dollar Eucalyptus is preserved with glycerin.)
Oregano and Marjoram
Curry leaves and flowers (Helichrysum italicum)
I did try to dry some pineapple sage leaves because I found some recipes calling for dried fruit sage leaves.  I have always thought that pineapple sage should be used fresh and have it chopped finely sometimes in my morning fruit.  And of course, I make pineapple sage jelly.  I am sorry to report that pineapple sage leaves do not dry with any scent whatsoever.  The Herbal Husband who has quite a nose on him couldn't get any scent of pineapple or sage.  I was disappointed.

So I hope this helps you in your last minute cutting and drying.  I am sure I have missed something on this list.  Not complete by any means!  We were 20 degrees colder today than yesterday.  We are just going downhill from here and we are supposedly going to have "snow" "flurries" over the weekend.  I am enjoying the canning jar I did with all of my odds and ends from the garden.  I may just make a little label to remind me what year it came from!  Hope you had a great day!  Talk to you later!  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Last Minute Blooms in the Herb Garden!

Borage is Still a Strong Bloomer in the Garden
An Orange Calendula Still Blooms On
So Do the Calendulas with Yellow or Brown Centers
The 'Vanilla' Marigolds Have Done Well Only in This Spot
A Bee Still Finding the 'Fairy' Rose Flowers
The Holly Ready for the Holidays
A Baby Sunflower
The 'Double White' Feverfew Reblooming
And The Glorious Pineapple Sage!  One of the Best Seasons Yet!
I think I want to say with this post if you pick the right herbal flowers, you will have bees and beneficial insects all season long.  It is 76 degrees as I sit here posting!  Still picking raspberries and mowed the grass for the last time today.  Have been busy cutting and preserving the harvest.  Getting tender herbs into containers.  Am working on an herbal vinegar post for you.  Hopefully will get it posted in the next couple of days.  The Mid-Atlantic states are really going to be cool this weekend (maybe even snow flurries!) and we will probably have our first killing frost here in the 'Burgh.  Some of our friends and neighbors have already had a frost.  We have been lucky.  So some of the flowers you see above will be gone by next week.  I'm going to make this short so I can go back to work on the herbal vinegar post.  Hope you have had a great day!  It was stellar here albeit windy!  Talk to you later!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Simple Herb Harvest--Chives!

Start with a Basket of Chives
Makes About Two Containers for the Freezer
I Just Mark What Herb It Is and the Date In Case I Lose My Mind!
Well, now that I'm out of the jam/jelly fog, I have to get down to the serious business of cutting herbs before the cold weather hits.  Yesterday I started the process by cutting one of my favorites, chives.  Really I have a lot of chives, but I have found only a couple of containers with cut up chives are needed for winter use.  I love them in my eggs and in sour cream for baked potatoes and as an onion substitute in soups and stews.  Going to do an herbal vinegar 101 post soon because that is another quick way to preserve your herbal harvest.

A reader of Carolee Snyder's herbal book series (because my pineapple sage jelly recipe is in her latest herbal book), Susan contacted me with questions about my pineapple sage jelly recipe.  She made the jelly and got through the day yesterday with some coaching from me.  I was like a proud herbal jelly parent!  She is moving on to lavender jelly so maybe she will share the recipe with me if it turns out.  I'll let you know.

I have so many posts I could do and I have sort of lost my way and need to get back on track.   Besides the herbal vinegar post, I'm going to try to finish up my English trip that was in May!  I also want to do some Christmas related posts to give you some ideas for herbal holiday gifts.  So those are the things I'm thinking about at the moment.  I'll post again soon.  Hope you are having a great day.  Talk to you later.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Almost 100 Pounds of Sugar Later!

Enough Left to Fill My Sugar Canister!
Last Certo Ready to Go!
Pineapple Sage Made My Kitchen Smell Heavenly!
Oh, Yes and One More Batch of Raspberry Jam Tomorrow
Well, some years it takes this long in the season to get to the end of my jam and jelly making.  It has been a long season, but I really have enjoyed it.  I'm doing this post because I had a new reader ask me some questions about my pineapple sage jelly recipe.  I'm glad I could answer her today because she might have ruined her attempt tomorrow.  You see she thought she should make all three batches of jelly at one time.  Because I used reconstituted pineapple juice and said it made three batches, she was thinking that all three batches needed to be done at once.  One batch at a time, four (sometimes more or less) jars at a time.

I always knew that you couldn't double or triple a jelly recipe particularly because it might end up in a runny mess.  Glad you wrote to me Susan.  I hope everything goes according to plan tomorrow. Hope you have had a great day.  I was freezing picking berries today.  Really going to be going around the garden fast and furiously, herbally speaking this week.  I have added some garden videos on my YouTube Channel so please check them out.  Talk to you later.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Western Reserve Herb Fest at the Cleveland Botanical Garden!

Will Lynch, a 16 year old that Has His Own Design Business!
One of Mulberry Creek Herb Farm's Miniature Gardens!
A Mini Garden for Halloween!
One of The Reasons We Came to the Herb Fest, The Herb Garden!
Millstones in the Thyme Garden
Pineapple Sage in Full Bloom
A Large 'Snowflake' Scented Geranium
A Lovely Lemon Verbena
The Cleveland Botanical Garden As a Backdrop to the Herb Garden
The Knot Garden
The Dye Garden
A Beautiful Tangerine Sage!
The List of Herbs for the "Garden Square"
The "Garden Square"
Hyacinth Beans in Bloom
Basil Bed Doing Pretty Good
Our Favorite Herb Lady, Kathleen Gips!
Wonderful Herb Rolls and Lemon Tarragon Butter, Yummy!
With apologies for my tardiness in posting this, Bonnie and I took a road trip to Ohio for the Herb Fest at the Cleveland Botanical Garden last Saturday.  The ladies (and maybe gentlemen) of the Western Reserve Unit of the Herb Society of America did an outstanding job making tons of herbal products for purchase.  Bonnie and I do a lot of our own stuff.  We both came home with herb bread and rolls!  We are always happy to see our herb friend, Kathleen.  She was busy answering the public's questions as she was herb lady for the day.

The other thing that we were anxious to see is the fabulous herb garden that is maintained by the unit!  Can I tell you that it is one of my favorite herb gardens in the eastern half of the United States.  Really! They have done their research and have really maintained a quality herb garden.  I told Bonnie that we will have to come back in the summer because it would even be better and it was really good now.  Looking forward to it already!

I am in the homestretch of making jelly.  I made lemon verbena jelly yesterday and today I set up the rose geranium jelly that I will make at the end of the week.  Then I will just have pineapple sage to go.  The pineapple sage is just so beautiful that I can't cut the leaves yet.  I will have my eyes on the temperatures at night.  I think we are going to have a succession of 30's and I will have to cut it then.  Oh, I almost forgot I have another batch of raspberry jam to do (136 jars)!  I was also thinking about making lemon geranium jelly.  So many flavors, so little time!  Maybe next year!

I still have a lot to cut in the herb garden, chives, lovage, salad burnet (going to make vinegar).  And tonight as I was posting this, I remembered there were German chamomile flowers to cut!  So had to turn on the outside lights and work in the shadows to cut the flowers that were ready.  Crazy or dedicated?  I'll let you decide.  Hope you have had a great day and evening!  Talk to you later.
The Pineapple Sage This Morning

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Herbal Blooms of Fall!

Not Today, but the Bees Are Still Around Enjoying the Nasturtiums
I Can't Believe How Well The German Chamomile is Doing
Lovely Pineapple Sage Blossom

Calendula Always in Bloom This Time of Year Sometimes until Thanksgiving
The Pink 'Fairy' Rose
Borage is Still Going Strong
'Lemon Gem' Marigolds Are Not Looking Good, but Still Blooming
The 'Peruvian' Sage with its Black Blossoms
Chives Are Still Blooming!
The Herbal Husband commented to me the other day that I use way too many exclamation points!  But I'm happy when I'm talking about my herb gardens!  Oh, well, I will try to be less enthused.  Made another batch of raspberry jam this morning.  Probably one of the last.  132 jars of raspberry jam!  That deserves an exclamation point.  By far and away the best year we have had in raspberry production.  The canes are 'Heritage' variety.  Our friends who introduced us way back when gave them to us and they have been morphing every year.  Oh, got side tracked.  Forgive me.

This time of year, I am looking for anything that is blooming in the garden.  I always think that I never have enough annuals in the garden, but I think you can see by the photos above that we have a lot of annual and perennial blooms in the garden.  I am working in the background trying to get some books read for gift giving ideas.  So stay tuned.  I'm still making herbal jelly.  The weather has been so good that I haven't been too anxious about cutting herbs to make jelly.  Now I'm going to be in a rush soon when the weather goes downhill!  Never a dull herbal moment.  Hope you have had a great day.  Talk to you later.