Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving Herbs

As I do every year at this time, I was looking for new recipes to try for Thanksgiving.  We are entertaining this year and I wanted to do a few new recipes.  My husband however, had other plans.  He said we would be doing traditional and that would not include doing something we have not done in the past.  So no brine for my turkey this year, even though I think it would be a great thing to try.  We will instead do a traditional butter, seasoned with herbs, pressed under the skin. It is not like that will be bad!

Here is the buttered turkey we did a couple years ago.  We blended 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter with 2 Tbls. BYP Poultry Seasoning.

Have you ever wondered why we have a taste for certain flavors at different times of the
year? For example, why do we look for foods like pot roast, baked turkey or roasted ham in winter? Why do foods like spicy chili, corned beef and cabbage, beef stew or chicken pot pie not appeal to us in the summer? The answer is in the need of the body for warmth or cooling and the inherent properties of the herbs to provide this warming and cooling.

In warm weather we crave foods and flavors that help cool us. In winter, our cravings turn to foods that warm us, and give us more fat, a bit like a bear before hibernating.  This may be why pumpkin pie is only a winter food.  There is the issue that pumpkins aren't ready to eat until cool weather, but the spices we traditionally use for pie making - cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg - are all warming herbs. In summer, those spices would make us feel hot and clammy. They're not spices that cause sweating (and thus cooling) like hot peppers do. So in winter, spice cake, pumpkin pie spices, spicy Indian chai tea is what our bodies crave. It's the way our bodies adjust to the changing seasons.

savory - 2015 herb of the year

The herbs considered by many to be traditional holiday seasonings include rosemary, thyme, savory and sage. Not surprisingly, those are all warming herbs, seasonings that not only give us  a warm feeling spiritually, but also add a warming effect internally.

Winter warming herbs traditionally used with the heavy, fatty winter meats. Roast goose, a seriously greasy food, was traditionally seasoned with hyssop, winter savory, onion and thyme. Those herbs helped cut the greasy taste while still warming the meal.  The same holds true for pork. Back in the days when most people raised their own pigs and butchered privately, putting up pork loin, pork roast and bacon, each had more fat left on than you will find today. Historically, people used the fat for flavor and richness adding herbs that helped manage the fat and increased the warming. Rosemary, thyme, savory, sage and hot peppers went into sausage, seasoned roasts and was used in mixes for curing the meat.

Our tradition and tastes for the foods like dressing or stuffing, the seasoning in our gravy and on a roast turkey, all come down to us from those customs from the past that placed certain actions with needs of the body and the spirit.  Poultry seasoning, a must-have in the traditional dishes, is a mixture of sage, thyme, rosemary and savory. Even though today the modern turkey isn't as fatty, our yearnings for seasonings are still there.

So enjoy your winter season herbs and know that they are good for you and will help you enjoy the winter change of seasons.

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