Sunday, August 20
Serious gourmets (like Steven over at Dirt Sun Rain) will probably laugh at my feeble attempts, but I spent the better part of today making and freezing herb butters for use in the early winter when I need a from-the-garden gourmet indulgence.
Yesterday, while shopping at the historic West Side Market in Cleveland, I stopped at AnneMarie's Dairy to pick out a treat or two. AnneMarie carries Ohio maple syrup, Ohio wildflower honey, Ohio-made organic cottage cheese (delicious if you ever get to try it--it's almost the consistency of feta and has a more "sweet cream" taste to it), organic molasses, and other random items that always get me into trouble. From a socio-political standpoint, I like to buy things from her just to support the fact that she carries a lot of local and organic items... but it's a win-win proposition because what she sells tastes so good.
While waiting for AnneMarie's helper to finish ladling liquid over my 1/4 pound of French feta, I spied their huge chunk of butter and a light went off in my head. I used to make chive butter at the old house, but lack of time, the newness of my herb garden, and plain old forgetfulness have conspired to prevent me from doing so here.
I have been trying to figure out ways to preserve more herbs this summer, so I added 2-1/2 pounds of butter (salted, upon AnneMarie's recommendation once she found out what I was doing with it) to my order. That sounds like an awful lot of butter--looks like it, too, when you're carrying around something the size of a large Velveeta box!--but it is used in small batches for each flavor combination.
I freeze the individual batches in tightly folded squares of wax paper and then toss all of the butter packets into freezer bags once they harden. When I need a special indulgence this winter, I'll defrost a packet and use it to jazz up standard baked potatoes or serve it on homemade bread for special company.
You can probably find a bunch of other "recipes" for herb butter if you search the web, but I've found that using about 1/3c. of butter to about 3 Tbsp. of flavorings works well. Today I used various combinations of sage, tarragon, thyme, rosemary, red onion, and garlic.
I tried the sage/rosemary/red onion blend just now on a piece of French bread and it's amazingly good--I did discover through the course of the day that the finer you chop the "tougher" herbs like rosemary and sage, the better, though. You don't want the herbs to add texture to your butter, just flavor... adding flavor and eating well is one of the main reasons why I garden.