One word. Herbs.
This is the time of year when the air temperature has risen (!) and with a few showers everything in the garden starts to get a move on. Our herbs are no exception and they are growing really fast now. So, What to do? Well apart from the odd sprig on the roast lamb or baked salmon there are many and varied ways of preserving the essence of the herbs - very simply.
Bear in mind that every part of the plant will carry the oils that give the fragrance and flavour, so don't waste any. I have already written an earlier blog on the joys of Lemon Balm, which I hope some of you are now growing. Apart from the mints, this herb seems the most generous, growing almost anywhere abundantly. It's glorious flavour makes a fantastic vinegar, with or without additional lemon zest. Or try the Lemon Balm Pesto - delicious and zesty with one of the new British Brie-type cheeses.
I have picked a variety of herbs this morning and put some of them into a glass jar and covered with white wine vinegar to make a mixed herb vinegar. It doesn't matter much what the mix is, but I only include a little of the more powerful ones, mint, rosemary for instance. Leave for a couple of weeks and then strain and bottle.
hover mouse over picture to see instructions
If you are going to a market or sale stall soon as well as taking your preserves, why not take some fresh bouquets garnis as well. They will make you stand out from the crowd and be a talking point - if you are near a meat stall be sure to tell them and they may send their customers over. Again any mix will usually do, use rosemary in a bunch for lamb, dill for fish, that kind of thing. Just bunch together, making sure to include that wonderfully flavoured bay leaf, and tie with string. I always leave a loop so that you can hook the bunch out with a fork at the end of cooking time. Try banding them with our jar wrap from the Herbs range, folded in half to make it robust. This new range will be on the website shortly. If you would like to win a set, see below!
Now is the time to start making some Herb Jellies, either mixed flavours or single flavour - you can see my recipe on this for all of the information. Herb Salt is another sophisticated preserve that is so simple to make it is almost embarrassing and don't forget just plain old hanging them up to dry, although personally I don't think that is the best way to preserve the colour and flavour. BTW if you hang a bunch of fresh lavender in a room it will keep flies away. Simple.
Herb Salt is in the round clip top jar in the middle, with the round herb tag and wooden salt scoop
One little gem I found on a website called pioneerthinking.com - Sage Honey. If, like me. you have masses of sage in the garden you will know that it always needs cutting back. Use some of the best leaves for this little jar of heavenly honey which is great in the winter for sore throats or just as a sweet tea. Tear up the leaves and pack into a jar, then pour over honey until the whole jar is filled. You will need to use something to lift the leaves slightly to make sure the honey oozes inbetween the layers. I used the end of a spoon. Leave the leaves in the honey for at least two weeks before using. Just leave the leaves as they are and if you want to make a tea put about a spoonful of honey plus leaves in a mug and pour over hot, not boiling water. For a sore throat just take a spoonful of the honey from time to time. I have used purple sage but the regular old green one is just as good.
Last but not least, we all have masses of dried stems and flowers etc to cut back from our herbs to tidy up for the winter. Don't just throw them away - get a sheet of newspaper and fold in half, lay on your stalks etc plus any old spices you need to dispose of plus dried orange or lemon peel ( dry out when you have the oven on, peel is packed with oils ) Roll up the paper from one side and tie at each end like a Christmas cracker. These make brilliant natural firelighters and will make your room smell lovely if stored in a basket by the fire. They smell good as they burn as well. Another great, unusual addition to stalls and markets.
Now, if you would like the chance to win one of our new 2-jar gift boxes and a set of herb Jarcessories leave a comment below with your best herb-related tip. The best 10 will each receive a pack.
We've been busy, busy, busy again in the design studio ( OK OK my table in The Old Smithy! ) and have a lot more ideas for you for dressing up your jars. I have lots of pictures for you of the different ranges - and the first 5 people to leave a comment below will receive a Dressing Up Box full of different elements of the Jarcessorise! range - worth at least £30 - absolutely free of charge. Take a look and leave your comments below - only if they are pleasant though!
Vintage Roses is built around a linen ribbon which we have used to wrap jars co-ordinated with moss green ribbon, tiny buttons with roses, raffia and plain linen wraps. There are paper labels to match and card tie-on labels to complete this vintage look. It is a lovely summery design perfect for gifts for the school fete or a shabby chic wedding.
Those people, like me, that keep hens, tend to end up with lots of things around them with pictures of chickens on them. In other words, we tend to be a bit obsessed. Just a bit. I wanted some wraps and Jarcessories for myself and figured you might like them too. They mix and match well with other elements from the range - raffias, kraft, linen, and gingham ribbons and buttons. There are wraps featuring three different hens, plain wraps and a couple of overall patterns. The little chick lid label is really cute - all perfect for a chicken lover or maybe a present for teacher at the end of term? Don't forget we have Cluckingham Palace egg boxes and chicken greetings cards as well - no, not cards for chickens, cards of chickens.
SUMMER FRUITS AND SUMMER VEGETABLES
The new Summer Fruits design, above, and Summer Vegetables, below, are a fresh take on traditional labels. There are lots of elements in each range and you can also mix and match from other ranges, like red spots or hearts, for instance. With all of the summer fetes and fairs coming up your homemade preserves can have the best, the most attractive presentation and each jar can be individual. These are just some of the ideas - let your imagination take off.
If you have a wedding coming up take a look at our wraps and Jarcessories for wedding favours and gifts - they are shown here in pink but we can produce in colours to match your wedding theme. The little jars look really cute and the powder jar range with aluminium lids are great for gifts like sweets or sugared almonds. The largest powder jar is perfect for small flower arrangements although I wouldn't describe what I have done here as an arrangement!
Not all of these designs are up in the website just yet - so if you are one of the five lucky winners of Rosie's Dressing Up Box you will be the proud owner of the newest products.
Your only limit is your imagination.