Homemade Bouquet Garni

How many times have you decided to cook up something you’re craving only to discover you’re missing the key ingredient to make your concoction a success? Need a last-minute housewarming gift or something to send along with a thank-you note? Looking for a crafty, homemade item to sell at the church bazaar or 4-H fair?

Think Bouquet Garni – literally a bouquet of complementary spices and herbs that’s commonly used to kick up the flavors of savories such as soups, sauces, stews and casseroles. A little cheesecloth and some string are the beginnings of this very versatile, delectable homemade herbal mix.

By mixing-and-matching herbs – from the garden, on the sill or in the cupboard – you can make-ahead a number of common kitchen-spice collaborations to use yourself, give as gifts or even sell on consignment at the local roadside farm market.

Basic Bouquet Garni

For basic garni, you’ll need:

* cheesecloth
* string or wax- and flavor-free dental floss
* four sprigs (or one teaspoon dried) fresh parsley
* two sprigs (or one teaspoon dried) fresh thyme
* one sprig each (or one teaspoon dried each) fresh marjoram and chervil
* one bay leaf

1. Cut a section of cheesecloth into four-inch squares. Stack them; you’ll use three four-inch squares for each bouquet.

2. Clip and mince the fresh herbs.

3. Place all herbs together in the center of the cheesecloth square.

4. Bring all four sides up to form a little bag around the spices. Tie the bag securely at the top, leaving one end of string longer than the other. That’s to enable the user to tie the bag to a pot handle and simply drop it in to simmer with the savories, then easily remove the bag when the dish is cooked.

Tips:

* If you won’t be using the bouquet right away, bags storing fresh herbs should be frozen.

* When making bouquet garni in quantity, you may freeze both fresh and dried bags of herbs to keep fresh until use.

* For an extra little kick, add orange or lemon zest to your garni. Orange is especially good with poultry and beef; lemon is great in soups and with seafood.

Pack A Little Garni Heat

Have friends who love the hot, spicy stuff? Make them a few bags of “dry heat,” a pepper-based bouquet garni. Start with your four-inch squares of cheesecloth, and add:

* one teaspoon dried chili peppers
* two whole black peppercorns
* one teaspoon dried cilantro
* one teaspoon garlic salt (or one clove dried garlic)
* one teaspoon dried cumin

Wrap and tie as usual. Add a little note that describes the contents and how to use the bouquet bag. For a festive twist, enclose the bouquet garni inside a flame-proof oven mitt and tie the top with a fire-engine-red ribbon!

Tangy Tomato and Pasta Sauces

Watching Clemenza make spaghetti during “The Godfather” movie is enough to make anyone yearn for the secret to satisfying and delicious Italian cooking. Here’s a nifty little bouquet garni that’s certain to give tomato sauces a boost:

* one dried clove garlic
* two teaspoons dried basil
* one teaspoon dried oregano
* one teaspoon dried thyme
* one teasoon dried rosemary
* one teaspoon dried marjoram
* one teaspoon dried savory

This bouquet looks great tied to a tin of extra-virgin olive oil or a box of home-made pasta noodles. Be sure to include your favorite spaghetti or ravioli recipe with it!

Sweets for the Sweet

Dessert herbs are often overlooked in home cooking, but you’ll find plenty of them in the best gourmet restaurants. Mix up a garni batch combining equal amounts of angelica, allspice, anise, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg for a sweet holiday-type flavor and a scent that fills any home.

There are dozens of different combinations of bouquet garni that you can make easily, to use, to give away or to sell. A little imagination, sufficient cheesecloth, string and a willing inventiveness are all you really need to succeed with this homemade product!

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