I was looking around the garden the other evening and was amazed at how fast everything is growing ( note to Trev: Lawn! ) Lawns, what's the point of them? They waste so much precious time. Anyway, from about now until the middle of Summer the herbs will be at their best. If you don't have a garden then have a few pots of herbs by your door or on a windowsill. The value that you get from them in terms of flavour and versatility will more than repay you for any outlay.
You can start harvesting them anytime now, just taking what you need, and take the opportunity to make a batch of lovely Lemon Vinegar - add a small handful of lemon balm or lemon thyme to the lemon zest. Herb Jellies - either mixed flavours or single variety will be invaluable during the winter months for flavouring casseroles and roasts. Jar into small jars and make a variety to be most versatile.
My most favourite way to preserve the scent and flavour of fresh herbs is to make Herb Salt. Again, very useful - the most useful ingredient - in the kitchen. I keep a jar beside the hob and use it everyday. You will need:-
Around 100-150g/4-6oz mixed herbs of choice, picked over and stalks removed
500g/1lb rock salt
Don't wash the herbs unless they are very dusty. Roughly chop with scissors and then mix with the salt. Process in a food processor or liquidiser goblet in small batches until thoroughly combined.
Spread out onto silicon baking paper or greaseproof paper on tea trays or baking sheets and leave to air dry overnight. This just allows any excess moisture to evaporate.
Next day, jar the salt in convenient amounts. The salt will keep indefinitely as it will preserve both the taste and colour of the herbs. You can have great fun mixing other flavours such as garlic or lemon zest, try making single flavour varieties for specific uses - Lemon Balm with lemon zest for fish for example. Makes a great gift as well!
Well, it's certainly great to see some sunshine at last. I have been overdoing it in the garden of course, so now ache all over. I have been able to take advantage of some odd bits of time whilst running my pop-up nursing home, but son has returned home now, stitches out and feeling very much better. So, I must return to work proper.
I have been able to be making a few things though - one of my favourites is Lemon Vinegar and with the Lemon Balm growing well I have picked around ten sprigs and put into a large jar with the pared zest of two lemons and 1 litre of white wine vinegar. (You don't have to use the herb if you don't have it.) Leave to soak for two weeks, shaking the jar daily. Strain through muslin or kitchen paper and put into pretty bottles. This is one of the most versatile things to make at the start of (whispers) Summer - try using it with wholegrain mustard and melted butter to make a vinaigrette to pour over hot new potatoes. Great with a barbeque and salad - I could, and do, eat them on their own! If you make a Lemon & Dill Mustard as well you can combine the two together in gorgeous lemony-ess. I also use the vinegar on salmon with some fresh dill before baking in the oven - fantastic.
I can see that the buds are forming on the Elder trees in our garden - like everything else this year they are very late but will be worth waiting for. It will soon be time for making all sorts of cordials and the Elderflower is usually first although this year I have made Rhubarb and Ginger already. The soft fruits will be coming along later so it would be good to get stocked up with citric acid. Many of you who have come to classes at The Old Smithy have told me that you cannot find citric acid anymore so I have packed some to stock in my shop. We have mustard seeds and some herbs and spices as well, so as I publish recipes I'll make sure that anything hard to find is there for you.
You will see also that I am starting Rosie Makes It EasyTM Clubs - you can get together with a small group of friends to learn in your own locality with support from a monthly pack and DVD from yours truly. All the details are on the website - email me if you are interested in the scheme. It is also possible to receive the pack as an individual if you prefer - you may be a shift worker or carer and not be able to join in with a group but still like to learn more of this fascinating subject. Again, email me for details - the scheme is in its infancy and I would prefer direct contact at the moment before we set up on-line registrations.
Lots to get started on then - have fun!
all my recipes can be found on my site for mobile - you can enter the amount of main ingredients and the recipe will be adjusted accordingly - clever Trevor!
lots of seasonal advice on my main web hub