Friday Finds

Of all the beautiful, fresh produce August has to offer, today I chose juicy blackberries. And would you just look at these recipes! Not your average coffee cake or crumble for sure (I absolutely adore those, mind you). Thumbs up for the lovely ladies who came up with the clever pairings of such delightful flavors!

Blackberry Lavender Champagne Cocktail by Dani of The Adventure Bite:

blackberry lavender champagne cocktail

Lavender Earl Grey Ice Cream Floats by Sarah of Snixy Kitchen:

lavender earl gray blackberry ice cream floats

Blackberry-Thyme Jam and Whipped Goat Cheese Filled Donuts by Lauren of For The Love Of Lasagna:

blackberry thime jam goat cheese donuts

Blackberry Soufflé via Waitrose:

blackberry souffle

Blackberry Sage Sorbet by Nguyet of Taming of the Spoon:

blackberry sage sorbet

Happy Weekend!

Fruzsi

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Herb Infused Honey

herb infused honey titleGot the first whiff of fall at my neck of the woods which means I need to adjust my thinking about grabbing a jacket on my way out. This transitional time of year always has an ancestral effect on my psyche, like I need to collect and save stuff because you know, winter is coming. It’s funny how this instinct kicks in even though we live in a world where everything is available, always.

With cooler nights and days slowly but surely shortening, our morning rituals change as well. We stopped drinking tea around May, but know the demand is back. A pot of steaming goodness with a little honey and a few drops of lemon juice, accompanied by a purring furball in each of our laps. Talk about comfy.

As for honey, we don’t buy from the supermarket any more but are getting it by the bucket straight from a honey farmer. You should find a reputable local beekeeper close by too since it’s virtually impossible to know the source of honey on the shelves (remember the headlines of contaminated, illegally labeled Chinese products…). Honey is a classic example of the expression you get what you pay for and can get quite pricey, so buy in bulk.

Purchasing from the source not only helps keep local farmers in business, but it’s actually honey. From actual bees. Moreover, while most commercial honeys are pasteurized and ultra-filtered, honey farmers sell raw, unheated products that have retained all the nutritional benefits.

If you don’t like honey that crystallized over time, you can gently heat it in a water bath to dissolve, or you can divide a big batch to smaller portions and freeze, which will not harm the enzymes.

Crystallization isn’t an indication that the honey has gone bad, in fact, honey doesn’t have an expiration date. BTW honey that tends to solidify quickly has a high amount of pollen, which many mass-market manufacturers extract during the filtering process to make their product more visually appealing. What a waste!

Honey is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic and actively promotes the healing of tissues. Add the health benefits of herbs to the equation, and you have yourself a wonder-worker: apart from being insanely delicious, herbal honey may also be used medicinally (taken internally or used externally as well).

Sore throat? Sage honey. Toothache? Clove honey. Minor burns? Chamomile honey, and the list goes on. Enjoy straight from the spoon, in tea, lemonade, drizzled over desserts, fresh fruit, ice cream, oatmeal, on toast with butter, or even in salad dressings.

Rosemary, sage, thyme, mint, lemon balm, lavender, elderflower, chamomile and nettle all make lovely infused honey. You can also use spices like vanilla beans, cinnamon sticks, cloves, ginger or star anise.

dried sage

Create single-herb infusions or figure out blends for your liking. Equal parts lavender, chamomile, lemon balm and nutmeg for instance makes a lovely concoction to help you fall asleep easy. The rule of thumb is 1 part herbs to 3 parts honey, but it’s not an exact science, freely adjust to taste and experiment. Like, I use less lavender than the aforementioned amount because it can get a little overwhelming.

dried lavender buds

Food safety: the typical pH value of honey ranges between 3.4 and 6.1 so it’s acidic enough. To make sure you prevent the outgrowth of C. botulinum spores, herbs should be dry. Use clean glass jars with tight-fitting lids. Herbal honey should keep indefinitely if you store it out of direct sunlight.

lavender infused honey

herb infused honey labeled

I made this tiny jar as a hostess gift with home grown lavender. You guessed, that is my handwriting. 🙂 I love these inexpensive kraft paper labels that I ordered at AliExpress, my favorite source for craft supplies. The basic recipe for infused honey is as follows:

Herb Infused Honey

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

mildly flavored raw honey

dried herbs

Directions

  1. Fill jar about ¼ of the way with dry herbs.
  2. Pour honey over herbs, close jar tightly.
  3. Let infuse for a few weeks, but at least 5 days. Herbs may rise to the top and absorb some of the honey.
  4. Strain honey into a clean jar, and make a big pot of tea right away with the leftover herbs.

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I like and use the products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship or gifts.*

Photo featured in title image © KMNPhoto

Homemade Herb Butter

When your herb garden starts going crazy (mine is now), or you just couldn’t control yourself at the market and ended up bringing home waaaay more butter than needed (me last week, but the price at Lidl was irresistible!), it’s time to make herb butter.

Just imagine adding this to smoked salmon, stuffing under the skin of a chicken, serving with baked or mashed potatoes, slathering on grilled meat and veggies like corn, melted on pasta or putting a nice pat of it on your favorite bread… Hmmm!

Better yet, making this flavorful goodness only takes a few minutes of your life, keeps in the fridge for weeks, and you can freeze it too (that way, it’s good for months). Ready? Let’s do this!

Homemade Herb Butter

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

250 g (about 1 cup or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup mixed herbs (such as basil, thyme, marjoram, sage, parsley, dill, chives, tarragon, oregano or rosemary)

2 medium garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 tsp sea salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)

chili flakes to taste (optional)

Directions

  1. Chop herbs (herb scissors, like this one make it lightning fast, a useful addition to your kitchen gadgets).
  2. In a small bowl, mix all ingredients well until herbs are distributed evenly in the butter.
  3. Dump onto a piece of cling foil or parchment paper, shape into a cylinder and seal ends by twisting. You may also pack butter into ramekins and cover with plastic.
  4. Chill in the refrigerator until firm, at least an hour.

homemade-herb-butter-ingredients

homemade-herb-butter-herbs

homemade-herb-butter-garlic

homemade-herb-butter-mixed

homemade-herb-butter-parchment

Feel free to experiment! I encourage you to try different combinations of the herbs listed above, and you can play with the proportions as well to create signature flavors. I just whipped up a batch with equal parts sage and parsley, and oh my. Will be gone in a jiffy.

Next time you are invited to a garden cookout bring this along with the six-packs, hosts and guests alike will love you for it.

Love,

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I like and use the products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders, what I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion. I am not being compensated through sponsorship or gifts, but this post contains an affiliate link; I may get a commission for purchases made through it. Thank you for helping me earn a little something on the side!*

Start Your Herb Garden

start your herb garden title image

Although it’s still grey and moist outside, spring is around the corner. Temperatures started slowly crawling up and it’s not pitch dark anymore when I make my morning coffee. Birds feel it too, they just can’t stop singing even on the rainiest, ugliest of days.

Don’t know about you, but this aprés Valentine’s end of February is usually the time when I get really fed up with the whole winter thing. Seriously, not even a steaming cup of mulled wine, my absolute cold-season favorite will cure spring fever.

I am desperate for the new and fresh, something green for a change and I’ve found a way to get a bit ahead of nature: it’s the perfect time to start your very own countertop herb garden. Better yet, it is fit for small spaces, a spot indoors with enough natural light will do just fine.

Don’t quite have a green-thumb? No worries! I’ve selected a few culinary herbs I have experience with, and I can say that they are as easy to handle as it gets. My essentials are mint, rosemary, sage, oregano, marjoram, tarragon and thyme. Very versatile, they can be used either fresh or dried, for seasoning food, making teas or coctails alike.

start your herb garden culinary herbs collage
Selection of culinary herbs to start your herb garden

Starting your herbarium (collection of herbs) in your windowsill or on your sunny kitchen counter is easier than you think. Select the speciments you want. All the above mentioned herbs are perennial, meaning they don’t die after one season.

You can buy seeds and follow the planting instructions on the packaging. You can also cheat and buy the grown plants, but then you’ll miss out on the fun… Be careful though with herbs sold in the supermarket, because my experience is they tend to give up soon due to the poor conditions they are kept in. Better go to your local garden center, where you’ll get expert advice too.

Another rather inexpensive way to start your own herb garden is propagating by rooting from cuttings. Go ahead and ask someone who already has these plants, all of them multiply nicely. What you need to do is cut off young, healthy shoots of about 5-8 cm, strip off lower leaves and plant them in moist soil. I put my cuttings in a small cup of water first, and plant the shoots when they’ve produced tiny roots. Remember to keep them in a light place and water regularly.

Sage plant
Cuttings from sage for propagating

Now we sit back, relax and wait 3-4 weeks for signs that our herbs are alive and well. Until then I will bring you cute ways to decorate the pots and containers you’re going to transfer the plants into.

I’d love to know how it’s going for you, so tell me about it in the comments below!

Yours,

Fruzsi

 

Watercolor featured in title image by Yael Berger

Herb watercolors in collage by Cheryl Oz