Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Saving Herbs for Winter Months {Drying and Freezing Herbs}

Oh, hello September!

Was it it only 2 and a half months ago when hubby and I planted herbs in our veggie garden {posted here here}? For the last month or so, I have been snipping fresh herbs from the garden as needed for this and that recipe. I have been pampered this way and I know some good things never last. So, I am preparing to prolong the goodness of my valued herbs for the coming winter months {which by the way is just around the corner if you live in the Great White North!}

Sharing with you how I do it here at Birdsong.

Harvesting Herbs for Drying and/or Freezing:

  • The peak time to harvest {then dry or freeze} herbs is right before the herb starts flowering. This is the time when the flavourful and aromatic oil content is at its highest level.
  • Harvest in mid morning or when the dew is dry to prevent molding.

Cleaning Herbs for Drying and/or Freezing

  • Make sure the herbs are free from dirt and insects {like this beautiful baby caterpillar} by either gently rinsing them but this process may also remove essential oil from the leaves so I prefer gently shaking each stem to remove impurities.

Drying Herbs:

  • Drying herbs can be done either by air dry {practical for herbs with low moisture content like rosemary, oregano, thyme and sage} or through food dehydrator or ordinary kitchen oven {best method for herbs with high moisture content like basil, tarragon and mint}.
  • I always resort to air drying by simply tying a piece of string to a bunch of the same herb and hanging them upside down in a warm room with good air ventilation/circulation. Avoid the kitchen because of the moisture generated in the room when cooking.
  • If the weather is not too hot and there is a enough breeze outside, I hang my herbs in a partly shaded area {direct sunlight will burn the leaves resulting to discoloration} for a good 3 hours then continue drying them inside the house for most part of the day.
  • Regularly check herbs for signs of mold or mildew.
  • It usually takes 3 weeks for my herbs to be completely dry and ready for storage.

Freezing Herbs:

  • Use plastic containers for easy removal of frozen herbs. I use ice cube tray and color coded containers for easy identification specially when I am freezing more than 2 herbs.

    • For thyme. I tie small bundle of sprigs together and put 2-3 bundles in each water filled container. I do this because when I use thyme in my recipe. I normally use a sprig or two.
    • For tarragon, I remove the leaves from the stem before placing them in water filled containers because that's the way I normally use them
    • For oregano, because I use them a lot like basil. I prefer to freeze them in water filled ice cube trays. 
    • Freeze  and thaw as needed!
    I like to have both dried and frozen herbs in the winter months There are just some recipes that truly calls for fresh herbs like omelettes, Margherita pizza or simply topping a dessert with fresh mint leaves. Dried herbs on the other hand have its own uses like when I'm making soup or braising beef, for example. Don't forget, dried herbs are 3 times more potent or flavourful than its fresh counterpart {example : 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of dry oregano, since 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon}.

    PS : For those who are wondering what happened to the cute baby caterpillar I found on a mint leaf, I relocated it from the veggie garden to the flower garden where I hope it will transform into a beautiful butterfly one day!

    Thank you for visiting!

    Linking with : The Scoop

    Monday, August 31, 2015

    My LENS; HIS Words Monday

    My LENS   :
    @ the peak of Lands End Lookout, San Francisco California

    HIS Words  :
    Isaiah 55:10
    For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are MY ways higher than your  ways and MY thoughts than your thoughts.   


    Friday, August 28, 2015

    Pure Bliss Travel | Country Mice @ the Capital

    A couple of weekends ago, hubby and I drove to Canada's capital city, Ottawa. We've been coming here almost every year for the last 15 years specially during the Tulip Festival in spring and in January for the Winter Festival but rarely during the summer time. One thing is sure, Ottawa is alive, vibrant and hot in summer!

    At the Westin Ottawa, we were luckily upgraded to the 19th floor overlooking the Parliament Hill, the historical Chateau Laurier, the Rideau Canal and part of the Ottawa River. Don"t get me wrong, I love waking up in our bedroom at home overlooking our neighbors' vast farmland but waking up to these great architectural structures once in awhile is a feast to the eyes.

    For us two country mice, we can't think of a better way to end our weekend rendezvous in the Capital than the spectacular fireworks along the Ottawa river!

    Thursday, August 27, 2015

    From Harvest to Table | Seafood Tinola

    If you are about to harvest peppers in your backyard, pick the PEPPER LEAVES as well!

    Cooking with pepper leaves is not common here in Canada but in the Philippines, the leaves are as valuable as the pepper itself. The most popular dish with pepper leaves is a soup called "TINOLA". Like the adobo, every region is the Philippines has its own version of this comfort food.  

    "Tinola" is basically a stew flavoured with onion, garlic, ginger, chicken and of course pepper leaves {lots and lots of it!} The mild and fresh peppery flavour of the green leaves is achieved by adding the leaves to the boiling broth at the end of the cooking process. As I am writing this post, I couldn't help but reminisce the aroma every time I open a steaming pot of "Tinola" .... ahhhh. ... the smell of mom's kitchen in my childhood home!

    Since hubby and I are limiting {then hopefully totally eliminating} our meat intake, I used pasta clams and shrimps for my version of "Tinola'. Another twist is the addition of glass noodles, making it a one-pot-meal. 

    Seafood Tinola

    {good for 2-3 person}

    1 tbsp canola oil
    1 small onion, minced
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 thumb size fresh ginger, julienned
    10-15 pieces pasta clams, cleaned
    10-15 pieces shrimps, peeled and deveined
    2-3 cups water or seafood broth {depending how much liquid you prefer in your soup}
    1 piece {37 grams} glass noodles [1 pack usually contains 8 pieces]
    2 cups fresh pepper leaves
    1 sweet banana pepper {optional}
    salt and pepper


    Wash glass noodles in cold water then set aside
    Heat oil in a large-sized soup pot
    Saute onion and ginger
    Once onion is translucent, add garlic and  saute for few more seconds
    Add pasta clams and shrimps.
    Stir and coat the clams and shrimps with the sauteed onion, garlic and ginger
    Add 1/2 cup water or broth
    Reduce heat to medium and cover the pot. Let it simmer.
    Once pasta clams are open, add glass noodles and stir
    Add sweet banana pepper and the remaining water or broth
    Seasoned with salt and pepper to taste
    Cover the pot and let the noddles cook well {about 2-3 minutes}
    Add pepper leaves to the boiling broth
    Stir well.
    Put the lid back and turn off heat
    Let it stand for another 3 minutes or until the leaves are wilted
    Serve hot with crusty baguette.

    Linking with : Treasure Hunt Thursday
                            Simple Saturdays

    Monday, August 24, 2015

    Sundays Are Made of These

    Sundays are for Sunday Mass, no compromise on that! After the service, Sundays here @ Birdsong are made of these ....

    Sundays are made of vegetables and flowers harvested from the garden.

    Sundays are made of sweet snacks from mother nature.

    Sundays are made of long afternoon naps ... unfortunately it was not us who's taking the nap!

    Sundays are made of leisure drives.

    Sundays are made of sun-dry-sweet-smelling laundry.

    Sundays are made of cookouts.

    Sundays are made of a sulking cat because she was not allowed to go out.
    Sundays are made of  a happy cat chasing the afternoon shadows.

    Sundays are made of shrimp tacos and mango salsa.
    Sundays are made of husband who loves shrimp tacos and mango salsa.

    Sundays are made of chilled strawberry and citrus sangria.

    Sundays are made of wishes for more beautiful Sundays to come!

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