Herb Flavored Oils

Looking for another great way to preserve herbs? Why not try herbal oils! Just like herbal vinegars, herb-flavored oils taste much different then herbs added to oil for cooking. Herbal flavors are much stronger and present in every bite! What is great about herbal oils is their versatility! They can be used to cook with, added to salad or vegetable dressings, marinades and even sauces.

Safety measures must be taken when preparing herbal oils to avoid the risk of Botulism. That’s is a toxin produced bacteria found in water, soil and the air. This toxin can grow quickly when placed in an environment, such as oil, if not prepared correctly.

Don’t let this stop you from experimenting with herbs & oils. As with everything, there are a few things you can do to prevent Botulism.

To flavor oils for immediate use, just heat the oil in a saucepan, adding the chopped herbs and other seasonings, including garlic to the oil. That’s it! Use on your recipe and enjoy!

Freezing is another way to safely store your creations until ready for usage. Prepare as above, only when the preparation is finished, store the herb-oil mixture in small packets in the freezer until ready to use. Start with at least 2 cups of finely chopped herbs and ¼ cup of your favorite oil. Now spoon into small bags, label and freeze. When you are ready to use the packet, just let it thaw at room temperature.

If you are like me and love garlic or chili peppers, you will want to soak the veggies in vinegar for 8 to 24 hours before adding to the oil. That vinegar is going to acidify the garlic or other vegetables you’ve chosen and will actually curtail the bacterial growth. Strain the garlic (or veggies) from the vinegar, place them in a sterilized container, cover with the oil and then refrigerate. Use your oil within 3 weeks to prevent contamination.

Choosing the oil in which to flavor your herbs, is of course personal preference. Keep in mind though that basil in extra virgin oil will taste different then basil in peanut oil. Which one is better? Only you and your family can decide that. Here are a couple of ideas that you might want to give a try though;

Extra Virgin Oil compliments - basil, oregano, oregano, thyme
Olive oil compliments - parsley, rosemary, chives
Safflower or Canola compliments - tarragon, chervil
Walnut Oil compliments - lemon thyme, lemon verbena

Remember to label your packets with both the herbs & the oil you used. This will help you decide what to use in your next Herbal Oil Creation!

It’s Tea Time!

Have you every noticed all the flavors of tea on the market? You can make your own herbal brew that has a fresh flavor that you will not find in a package! The herbs can be used both in iced tea or hot tea too! Put the tea kettle on and let’s get started!

Fresh or Dried

Tea can be made from fresh or dried herbs, isn’t that great? That means when you are preserving your herbs in the summer, save some of them for tea brewing during the winter. The fragrance and flavor will go well with that seed catalog your drooling over when planning the herb garden!

Since tea making isn’t an exact science, you may wish to adjust the amount of herbs you use to create the taste you are looking for in a cup of tea. Just as a guideline though, when it comes to preparing tea, start with a teaspoon of dried herbs per cup of water, plus 1 - 2 teaspoons to flavor the pot.

If you are using fresh herbs from your garden, you will want to start out with 2 tablespoons for every cup of tea plus 1 or 2 for the pot. Since fresh leaves have more water in their leaves than dried ones, you will need to use larger amounts of them in tea making, just as you would during cooking.

Now here is something you may not know, use only glass or a ceramic teapot for your brew. Metal pots and even stainless pots can change the flavor of your tea. Now for the perfect cup of tea;

* Put a kettle of water on to boil for making the tea.
* Meanwhile preheat your teapot, filling the pot with hot water, allow to sit for a few minutes.
* Just before the tea water comes to a boil, pour out the water warming the pot, add your herbs to the pot and bruise the herbs with a wooden spoon to release the flavors.
* When your water has just reached a boil, pour it into the teapot.
* Cover and let steep for about 5 minutes before serving. If you chose not to drink the whole pot immediately, strain out the herbs so the brew doesn’t get to strong.

Now just about any herb will make a tea but you will find that if you blend 2 or more herbs together, it is not only fun but your cup of brew will have a more complex flavor then one herb. Still if you are new at tea making you may want a list of herbs to try when creating your special blend. The following will get you started;

* Mints - spearmint,& peppermint
* Lemon Herbs - lemon verbena & lemon thyme
* Bee Balm & chamomile
* Chamomile & apple mint
* Borage flowers & lemon balm
* Lemon Balm & chamomile

You get the idea! Get wild & crazy! Have fun creating your herbal tea blend!

Here’s a couple more ideas for your herbal tea enjoyment:

* Freeze one or two mint leaves in ice cubes, storing in a plastic bag until ready to use. On that hot summer day when you are drinking iced tea, drop one of those mint cubes into your tall glass of tea for a refreshing taste!
* Hate dried herbs floating in your tea? There are tea balls that can be used instead of dropping the herbs into a pan. Keep in mind the flavor may alter both because of the ball and the amount of herbs used though.
* Ever hear of sealable tea bags? You make your dried herb mixture, place the herb in the tea bag, seal with a warm iron and it is just like the ones you purchase at the store! Place bags in air tight containers and remove the amount of bags needed to make your brew.
* Honey or sugar may be your choice for sweetening your tea but why not give sweet cicely a try.
* Want a colorful tea? Try the flowers of Bee Balm in red, pink or purple for a more colorful cup of tea.
* Love the taste of licorice? Try anise or fennel seed!
* Make sun tea by placing bruised herbs in a glass jar, fill with water and let the sun do its work! (You can use the measurements for hot tea as a guide for sun tea.)

There is no limit to the number of tea blends you can create except your imagination!