Thursday, September 30, 2010

Instant Gourmet - making herbal butter!

I was surfing the net the other day and ran across a quote from a Gourmet Cooking blog.  They said “Herb butters are among the small but important details offered by fine restaurants and appreciated by gourmet diners.”  Reading that reminded me that the first items I experimented with after harvesting from my original herb garden were Herb Butters.
Herbal Butter is a simple, fun and easy way to experiment with different herbs.  It helps you to realize the tastes and the flavor families.
The best part about herbal butter is you can use either salted or unsalted butter or even margarine or butter substitutes.  You can also use fresh or dried herbs.  That makes them a great item to make in the winter when you are missing fresh herbs and planning your herb garden for next year.
How to Craft Herb Butter
 When using fresh herbs instead of dried herbs double the amount used in a recipe calling for dried herbs, as dry herbs have a more intense flavor.  The general rule in making herbal butter is: Use 1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh herbs; 1-1/2 teaspoons of dried herbs or 1/2 teaspoon of ground seeds like dill seed, fennel seed etc. for every 4 ounces or 1/2 cup of butter which has been softened to room temperature.
Herb butters can be used to flavor to cooked foods, a way to rev-up your morning toast, or even as an appetizer on crackers.  They can be made in advance, kept in the refrigerator for days or frozen and kept for months. I used to make a bunch at one time, roll them into a ball or pack them into a ramekin and freeze them.  Then when friends stopped by, I grab one out, let it thaw and serve.  They all thought I was a genius and I was just thrifty, by making extra every time I made herb butter.
Some suggestions to get you started
Basil Butter:  1 tablespoon dried basil and 1-1/2 teaspoon dried parsley. Use on green beans, summer squash or zucchini. It is equally delicious on top of poached eggs, noodles or for sautéed fish.
Fine Herbs Butter:  1-1/2 teaspoon parsley; 3/4 teaspoon tarragon; 1/2 teaspoon rosemary; 1/2 teaspoon chives. This is delicious on cheese and egg dishes or can be used on fish, meats, or vegetables.
Mint Butter:  Combine 1 tablespoon of mint and 1 tablespoon of lemon choice with the butter. Add the lemon juice gradually to prevent curdling. This is ideal with lamb or can be used on new potatoes, carrots or green peas.
Mixed Herb Butter:  Add 3/4 teaspoons of each of the following dried herbs – chervil, chives, dill, mint and tarragon plus 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. This is great on noodles or broiled tomatoes or can be used on broiled fish or meat.
Sage Butter:  1 teaspoon dried sage; 1/2 teaspoon dried celery leaves or 1/4 teaspoon celery seed; 1 teaspoon onion juice; 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Use it on poultry, lamb chops, veal, or vegetables.
Tarragon Butter:  2 teaspoons dried tarragon; 1-1/2 teaspoon dried parsley; 1 Tablespoon lemon juice. This adds a unique flavor to tomato dishes, eggs, cheese, or noodles. It can also be used on lamb or fish.
Lemon butter: 1 teaspoon lemon peel; 2 teaspoons dried lemon balm; 1 Tablespoon lemon juice.
When you have made the butter spoon it into ice cube molds or candy molds and use within 2 days. Alternatively, if you want to keep it longer, freeze it.  Remove it from the freezer and allow to thaw at room temperature for several hours before it is required. 
These are just a few ideas as the possibilities are endless. Try experimenting with your own favorite combinations. You should be able to think of many more recipes to make your own herb butter.
And if you want to save the hassle, the Backyard Patch has a multitude of pre-blended Herb Mixes formulated just for making herbal butters.  You can find them all right here:

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