The weather continues to be sunny and mild for October. It’s the “Season of the Witch” coming up soon with Halloween pumpkins and goblins and “things that go bump in the night” making their annual appearance. An encounter yesterday in my neighborhood with a beekeeper surprised me. A nice woman ( not a witch) approached me to request my signature to allow her to have a beehive in a neighbors’ yard on the block. It turns out that she has beehives in her friends’ yards all over south Minneapolis. Whoa! First backyard chickens became popular in the city and now bees. These are “first year bees” and don’t produce any extra honey. They produce just enough honey to keep the hive alive over the winter. The owner has some three year old beehives and all the honey is distributed to the friends whose yards where the beehives are living. Nothing is for sale; she has a true Bee Kind of beesnus. (Oh, groan. I couldn’t resist the pun.)
Getting ready for winter is on my mind. (Snow, cold, more snow, more cold and three feet of snow outside, that’s the winter I’ m talking about.) I have dried a few herbs and frozen some to see which way preserves the flavor best. August’s issue of Bon Appétit magazine has a page on preserving your herbs. They write to treat fresh herbs like fresh flowers. Trim the ends at a 45-degree angle and place in water. Refrigerate – two weeks max. Cover the leaves loosely with an unsealed plastic bag. If the water turns cloudy, change it. I tried this once and it worked okay, but there is spoilage loss.
To dry herbs (Hardy leaf herbs like thyme, oregano, rosemary, and bay leaves) they are saying microwave them. That’s where I draw the line. (No way.) If you really are up tight about stuff the article says to lightly rinse your herbs and shake off the excess water, blot dry and then microwave. My suggestion: Or be reckless and hang them upside down to dry somewhere in your kitchen. (I don’t rinse mine.) Your reward is a great smelling kitchen for a few days. After a while, you place the bunch of herbs in wax paper or a wax paper sandwich bag and gently crush the leaves off the stems. When you are done pull out the stems and store and label your herbs in glass jars or plastic zip lock bags. Jars are better for storage, but either way works fine.
Freeze “Soft herbs” (dill, mint, parsley, basil and chives) is the articles advice. Put them in a sealed plastic bag and they keep for six months. No need to defrost. Just break off what you need and add them to the skillet.*
Before freezers, I venture to say that all herbs were dried to preserve them for use over the long winter months in cold climates in foods and as medicines. (Oh queen of the obvious.) Think “witches” of fairy tales. They are often depicted as women who know about herbs and healing. So put on your pointy hat and shoes and preserve a few herbs for stews and warm meals when the snow is up to the windows. Their flavors will remind you of the summer sun they captured. Soon the frost will be on the pumpkins!
* Bon Appetit, Starters Health Wise, P. 32, August 2010