Photo: Melissa Massello/Shoestring
Whether we want to believe it or not, summer is nearing its end soon enough, and, as the homesteaders say, the time is now to "put up" nature's bounty for the lean months of winter.
Canning, pickling, and making jam are all great ways to preserve your garden surplus, but no sane New Englander wants to spend August over a hot stove when there are beach days to be had. Stretch your CSA dollars and the life of your fresh herbs well into the holiday season with these seven simple ideas, each of which take just a few minutes!
Whether in olive oil or water, freezing fresh herbs in ice cube trays is a dead simple way to extend their shelf life well past the growing season (and will save you hundreds on fresh herbs at the grocery store throughout the year). Freeze a single mint or basil leaf into an ice cube for a decorative addition to summer cocktails, or chop the herbs and add water or olive oil to each compartment of an ice cube tray to use in recipes later this fall — similar in style to those available in the grocery freezer section from Dorot and other brands. Cilantro, basil, tarragon, mint, and chives are all best preserved by freezing them due to their high moisture content.
MAKING SIMPLE SYRUP
Since the advent of modern home seltzer makers like the SodaStream, house-made syrups for craft cocktails and Italian sodas are back in vogue. And they're SO easy! Bring equal parts water and sugar plus your herb of choice to a boil on the stove, stirring gently until all is dissolved, then simmer for 5 minutes. Cool, strain, bottle. Even the most novice do-it-yourself-er will have great results without any practice needed, promise. For inspiration, check out the lavender honey simple syrups that Boston blogger Noelani Zervas of Mon Petit Chou Chou made as party favors for her recent baby shower.
Classic, idyllic photos of New England kitchens always feature bundles of dried herbs hanging 'round the pot rack or window — and for good reason. Frugal Yankees waste not by saving summer herbs for later use, and whether drying herbs by hanging in a sunny spot or quick-drying in the microwave it's a dead-simple way to create a DIY spice rack to use in the barren season. Attleboro blogger, chef, gardener, and "Tiny Farmhouse" owner Amy McCoy of Poor Girl Gourmet has some great tips (and arguments) for drying summer herbs in August.
Photo: Maggie Battista/Eat Boutique
POTTING A "COCKTAIL TUB"
Don't have your own garden to pull fresh herbs from? No problem. Ask gardener friends for a few plants from their now-burgeoning beds during the height of summer and create an indoor "cocktail herb tub" for fresh herbs year round, using these tips from artisan food & cocktails guru Maggie Battista of Eat Boutique in Boston.
MAKING & FREEZING COMPOUND BUTTERS
When the holiday season rolls around, compound butters are a beautiful — and crazy simple — way to impress your guests. Make and freeze wheels of rosemary, basil, tarragon, or chive butter now to serve with breads, meats, and mashed potatoes in November or December. Your guests will think you've gone full Martha. If you need more inspiration, check out these recipes for lemon-mint, red scallion-honey, and chili compound butters, plus this beautifully illustrated compound butter infographic, also from Eat Boutique.
MAKING INFUSED LIQUEURS OR OILS
Nothing could be simpler than infusing vodka or olive oil with fresh herbs. Simply put a few sprigs of rosemary or thyme (or another hearty dried herb) into a glass bottle and fill with vodka or olive oil, then let stand for at least a week before using (longer is better). I made rosemary infused vodka (above) for friends as a housewarming gift when they bought their home in Medford, using Bully Boy vodka from Dorchester and KORKEN glass bottles from IKEA, which are designed with a tight-fitting reasealable stopper.
MAKING INFUSED SEA SALTS
Once you've dried your herbs, roll & jar them with sea salt to infuse the salt and create a finishing salt that adds complex flavor to any dish. Jar now in pretty bottles with custom labels & put away for holiday gifts later on! For the Sriracha salt that I make regularly for gifts, I find the RAJTAN glass jars from IKEA are the perfect size.
How do you make the most of summer herbs while they're in season? Or use herbs in DIY gift-giving? Have you ever tried any of these featured projects? We'd love to hear from you!
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About the Authors
Melissa Massello is a newspaper journalist turned startup junkie and lifelong Bostonian who prides herself on her do-it-yourself attitude. From making her prom dress out
|Tara Bellucci is a Boston-based writer that lives for fonts, food, and flea market finds. Whether decorating jars of her homemade jam for The Boston More »|