03 September 2009

Collect and Brew Herbs Now for Holiday Gifts

You could start a batch of herb vinegar this month, decant it into gift bottles and decorate them for holiday gifts.

Every Tuesday morning a group of Tulsa Herb Society members (herbalistas) gather to make crafts for Carols and Crumpets, talk about herbs and plan trips. The Herb Society's jams include: Pineapple sage, holiday cranberry, cranberry chutney, mango chutney, apricot surprise (with horseradish), hot pepper, lemon verbena, pear honey, peach blush (with cherries), 10-pepper, and apple butter.

Last week members brought in herbs from their gardens and demonstrated making herb vinegars. Their herb vinegars include: Hot and spicy, Italian, citrus, bouquet garni, cranberry-rosemary, strawberry-mint, raspberry-rose, Mediterrano, and lemon, lemon, lemon.

Cut herbs from your garden or visit Muskogee Farmer's Market. We can't predict what you will find, but on a recent visit the vendors had lemon grass, Thai and purple basil, pineapple sage, mint and others. Kim Walton offers both cut herbs and plants of parsley, dill, sage, basil and rosemary.

Herb vinegar instructor Susan Balogh said, If the herbs, bottles and tools are clean and dry, problems will be avoided.

Select the right vinegar. Rosemary, basil, sage and garlic combine with red vinegar. Oregano, salad burnet, tarragon, rose petals, lemon balm, and lemon verbena work well with cider, white wine and rice vinegars. '

With white vinegar use peppercorns, mustard seeds, rosemary, dill, and honey. Sweeten any of them with a few stevia leaves.

Tips for successful herb vinegar
Use glass gallon jars thoroughly cleaned in the dishwasher or with soap and hot water
Cut herbs in the early morning when the essential oils are the strongest
Use 1 cup fresh herbs for 2 cups vinegar
Use one-fourth cup dry herb with one cup vinegar.
Poke holes in whole garlic cloves and whole hot peppers before adding
Clean the herbs in a solution made of 3 parts water to1 part vinegar
Air dry or dry in a salad spinner
Any water in the containers or on the herbs will make a cloudy herb vinegar
Stuff the herbs in jars
If using fruit, always put it in first. Peaches make a cloudy product.
Crush or bruise the herbs as you put them into the steeping jars
Use vinegar with a minimum of 5% acidity.
Cover with vinegar to the top
Stir once a week

Avoid metal. Cover the jar with a plastic top or plastic wrap, tightly secured with a rubber band

For small home batches, use the bottles the vinegar came in. Pour out half the vinegar, poke clean, dry herbs into the bottle and refill the bottle-Taste after 3 weeks and if you like the flavor, they are ready to decant.

To decant, pour over a coffee filter lined strainer that is placed on top of a large pitcher. You may need some help lifting a gallon of vinegar over the strainer or someone to hold the handle of the strainer in place.

Do not lift gallon jars by the lid.
Do not fill decorative bottles to the top; leave room for the cork.

To decorate gift bottles, you can use corks and wine bottle toppers available at wine making stores. (Mecca at 33 and Peoria in Tulsa - 918.749.3509

To use recycled bottles, top the glass jar with plastic wrap to prevent contact with metal. Decorate: Use brown string to attach a green leaf that will dry in place. Or, glue dried flowers on a ribbon, tie tiny branches into bundles, wrap garlic cloves into raffia, collect crape myrtle seed pods and attach to a brown paper bag topper.

The recycled bottles in the photo have metal screw lids. A piece of plastic freezer bag is between the glass and the metal. The gourd leaf was put on fresh, tied with inexpensive brown twine and left to dry in place.

Want more information? Tulsa Herb Society, President Patsy Wynn, 918.496.8019, and Tulsa Garden Center.

IF YOU GO Carols and Crumpets will be held Saturday, December 5 from 8 to 3 p.m.
Tulsa Garden Center, 2435 South Peoria AV. Snowflake Café will be open from 11 to 2

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