Sunday, August 20

Weekend Gourmet

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.


Stunned Donor said...

And why would I laugh? If you were making herbed butter flavor Crisco, then you'd be in store for some major derision.

Stunned Donor said...

Oh and with that, some jackass at the J.M. Smucker Corporation (the parent company of Crisco) is going to pitch a line of herb flavored Crisco to his boss. "Hey, what about Tuscan Roasted Garlic?!"

Christine Boles said...

Mmmmmm, herb butter!

Unknown said...

You're probably too nice to actually laugh... I was just acknowledging the feebleness of my own attempts in comparison! When I read about your adventures with food, I often think things like, "He used limoncello and olive oil to dress the salad? Man... I never would have thought of that."

I aspire to cook gourmet, but I'm not quite there yet. Hopefully my KitchenAid mixer, access to fresh herbs, and willingness to experiment with food will get me there eventually. Baby steps. :)

(Oh, and Tuscan Roasted Garlic Crisco? EWWW!)

Stunned Donor said...

You'd be surprised at some of the garbage I eat.

I'm by no means a gourmet. I did have the good fortune to be taught the rudiments of cooking by a very talented woman (not my Mom) and I was exposed to great cooking because of her influence and friends.

If anything, I'm an eater (as opposed to a diner).

I think the more books you read and the more you broaden your tastes, the better cook you become. By the way, the limoncello salad dressing was totally stolen from Mario Batali.

The Tuscan Roasted Garlic Crisco isn't all that implausible you know, there's a whole industry of "chefs" creating "flavor profiles" in test kitchens.

Ms. Conduct said...

Yum! That alone makes me want to grow herbs and bust out the breadmaker... I grow fennel and parsley but my butterfly caterpillars harvest them for me to save me the effort of having to cook anything.

Anonymous said...

*salavating* Must get fresh butter...

lisa said...

Yum! I had the good fortune of attending a "Mushroom Conference" (no, not trippy mushrooms), and they had "shitakke mushroom butter" about freakin' delicious!

Leslie said...

Kim, I have thoroughly enjoyed catching up on back issues of your blog. And this herbed butter idea is a great way to preserve the herb harvest. Glad you left a comment on 'dreams and bones' so I could find you here.

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