The Herbs and Spices of Thanksgiving!

By Susan Leigh AnthonyHappy Thanksgiving

If we are lucky enough, most, if not all, of us have sat down to an annual Thanksgiving feast with our loved ones in late November.  The house is filled with familiar aromas of the season that evoke a sense of warmth, coziness, and well-being. It is the ultimate comfort food meal!

Without the herbs and spices we associate with our traditional Thanksgiving spread the food would be rather dull.  What would the turkey be without incorporating sage (Salvia officinalis) in our stuffing?  Cinnamon is a must-have for apple pie.  For pumpkin pie we need cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. And I’d rather not drink my eggnog without a dash of freshly ground nutmeg. Many of us use the familiar Old Bay Poultry seasoning and often, along with sage, this herb and spice mix also includes nutmeg, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, and black pepper.

Kate Erd, manager of the Spice House on Old World 3rd Street in Milwaukee explains that “Herbs are the leafy part of the plant, like sage leaves, rosemary needles, and parsley.” “Spices are the hard part of the plant, so it’s the bark or the seed or the root. For example, cinnamon is bark, nutmeg is a seed, and ginger is a rhizome. Spices only grow about 15 degrees above and below the equator, where herbs, on the other hand, can be grown anywhere.” Erd says. “We grow them here in the Northern Hemisphere. There are some exceptions,” she adds. “Coriander and dill seed are spices from plants that are grown as herbs — cilantro in the case of coriander.”

Often, “pumpkin pie spice contains cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, mace, cloves, and allspice, and sometimes buds from the cassia tree from which cinnamon is produced.”

Below are three Thanksgiving recipes that I’ve made for years, which have now become a tradition in my family. And here is a great site with wonderful recipes to try as well.  https://theherbalacademy.com/12-herbal-thanksgiving-dinner-recipes/

Creamed Onions with White Wine and Herbs

  • 2 pounds small white boiling onions, peeled (you can use frozen– much easier!)
  • 1 (750 milliliter) bottle decent Chardonnay wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

Place onions in a 2-quart pot. Pour enough wine to cover half of the onions. Add the bay leaf, thyme, and salt. Simmer and stir for 25 minutes. Add the cream and bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the butter. Remove bay leaf and serve.

Adapted from Allrecipes.com

Cranberry Chutney

Makes about 4 ½ cups (Note–Makes the whole house smell wonderful– it’s a joy to make)

  • 2 oranges
  • 1 pound fresh cranberries, washed
  • 6 ounces dried cranberries
  • 8 ounces dried cherries
  • 3 or 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 good sized garlic cloves, minced well
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup apple cider

Remove the zest of the oranges (a vegetable peeler works very well!) Cut the zest into fine julienne, and set aside a small amount to use later for garnish. Juice the oranges. Using a large non-reactive pot, combine all ingredients (except a few reserved orange juliennes) and give a good stir. Simmer the mixture for 25- 30 minutes over a medium /low heat, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid is evaporated and the chutney is thickened. You can garnish the finished chutney with the cinnamon sticks and reserved zest. Cool well before storing. I have found this freezes quite well in small batches.

Adapted from The Martha Stewart Cookbook : Collected Recipes for Every Day

 

Lemon – Ginger Cheesecake

12 TO 14 SERVINGS

CRUST

  • 2 cups finely ground gingersnap cookies (about 9 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

FILLING

  • 4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • Lemon slices (for garnish)

FOR CRUST: Preheat oven to 325°F. Generously butter a 10-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 and  3/4-inch-high sides. Double-wrap outside of pan with heavy-duty foil. Blend ground cookies, sugar, and ginger in food processor. Add melted butter and process until moist crumbs form. Press mixture onto bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of prepared pan. Bake until crust sets, about 10 minutes. Cool. Maintain oven temperature.

FOR FlLLING: Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in sugar, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in sour cream and whipping cream, then crystallized ginger, fresh ginger, lemon juice, and lemon peel. Pour filling into crust. Place springform pan in large roasting pan. Pour enough boiling water into roasting pan to come one inch up sides of springform pan. Bake cheesecake until filling is set and golden brown on top (cake will rise slightly above edge of pan), about 1 hour 25 minutes. Turn off oven and prop open oven door with wooden spoon. Let cake stand in oven one hour (cake will fall).

Remove springform pan from water bath. Remove foil and cool cheesecake completely on rack. Cover and refrigerate overnight. (Can be prepared ahead and refrigerated four days or frozen up to two months.) Defrost frozen cake overnight in refrigerator.) Release pan sides from cheesecake. Transfer cheesecake to platter. Arrange lemon slices decoratively around cake and serve.

TEST KITCHEN TIP: Use a processor to grind the gingersnap cookies finely for the crust. Adapted from Epicurious


 Susan Leigh Anthony is a longtime member of the New England Unit of HSA. She runs a garden design business named Doveflower Cottage and is a perennial buyer and expert at Kennedy’s Country Gardens in Scituate, MA.

 

Sage: The Herb of Thanksgiving

By Susan Belsinger

“Sage soothes both youth and age and brings the cook pleasing praise.”                                    Carolyn Dille & Susan Belsinger, Herbs in the Kitchen

The majority of recipes that we find for stuffing (cooked inside the turkey or other fowl) or dressing (generally cooked separately in a baking dish in the oven), use fresh or dried sage leaves for flavoring, whether the ingredients include sausage, oysters, mushrooms, nuts, dried fruit, traditional white breadcrumbs or cornbread. Besides its traditional uses with poultry, game, and liver, and in sausages, sage can add a rich and graceful note to vegetables, breads, and sweets.

Sage’s culinary use with rich dishes probably came from its reputation as a digestive. It was very highly held as a medicinal plant by the Greeks and Romans. Its principal use was as a calmative for the stomach and nerves. Regular use of sage tea was said to confer an even disposition to excitable natures and a healthy old age to everyone. Swiss peasants and American Indians used sage as a dentifrice, first chewing a few leaves, then brushing the gums with a twig.

Sage is much respected culinarily in England and Italy, where most country gardens have a sage bush, often fifteen years or older. The flavor from good sage stock does not deteriorate with age, however sage varies in flavor as much as some of the more delicate herbs, depending on the soil and weather conditions. Dalmatian sage from Yugoslavia is esteemed because the camphor odor is less pronounced than in sage grown in different climates. This aroma is also milder in the fresh leaf. The flavor of fresh sage has decidedly lemon rind tones over resin. The lemon flavor recedes and the camphor, and a pleasant muskiness similar to silage, comes forward when sage is dried.

Common sage (Salvia officinalis) seems to keep its aroma and flavor through cooking and drying. Dwarf sage ‘Nana’, white-flowered sage ‘Alba’, and purple-leaved sage ‘Purpurescens’ and the wide-leaved, German ‘Berggarten’ are all handsome varieties of common sage, with good flavor and aroma. The latter cultivar is very strong in flavor, so a smaller amount should be used in place of common sage.

Sage–it’s not just for turkey!

Tis the season for sage—so harvest and dry it—or bring it into the kitchen and get creative with your salvias! Here are just a few ways to use this cold-weather herb in warming winter dishes:

Turkey stuffing—I particularly like it baked in my cornbread, which I bake ahead and then crumble and let it dry out a bit.

Winter squash baked with sage, garlic, and drizzled with olive oil.

Oven-roasted root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, parsnips, turnips, leeks, and onions) diced and baked in a hot oven with sage leaves and olive oil, perhaps sprinkled with some ancho chile powder or smoked paprika.

Pinto, black, red and white beans are much improved by the flavor of sage and it works well with green chiles.

Pasta e fagioli wouldn’t be the most delectable pasta and bean soup without sage.

Hearty stews, cassoulet and chili benefit from sage seasoning, not to mention its antioxidant properties.

Both risotto and pasta are wonderful when combined with winter squash, sage leaves, and toasted nuts.scones pumpkin cranberries

Try fresh sage leaves in your biscuits or pumpkin scones.

Combine sliced sweet potatoes, apple slices, and onions (or not) in the crockpot with sage leaves and drizzle with a little maple syrup and add a few knobs of butter. Serve when meltingly tender garnished with toasted pecans.

My favorite seasonal fruits—apples and pears—are delightful with sage from sage apple cake, pear, and cranberry crumble to applesauce.

Sage honey is great for sore throats and coughs—taken by the spoonful or added to a cup of hot tea—I have some infusing now in local honey.

Cultivating Sage

Sage graces the garden with its soft grey-green foliage providing a pleasing contrast to the bright hues of most other culinary herbs. It will grow to a bush about four feet in diameter, keeping a well-rounded shape with little pruning in mild climates. All of the sages should have a well-drained or gravelly soil and some added calcium where it is lacking in the soil. Sage needs full sun and will survive through cold winters if well mulched. It should be pruned in the early spring to encourage new growth.

A good practice to follow is mulching sage with an inch or two of sand. That, and the careful sanitation of removing weeds and dead leaves will usually suffice to spare the plants from the soil-borne wilt diseases to which they are susceptible.

Harvesting and Drying Sagesage drying

Like most herbs, sage should be dried in a warm dry place away from sun. Once the leaves are completely dried they should be stored whole in airtight containers. Sage should be crumbled, never ground, as needed for cooking; grinding completely destroys the delicate lemony perfume and leaves the harsher resinous flavors.


Susan is a culinary herbalist, food writer, educator, and photograph whose work has been published in numerous publications. She has authored a number of award-winning books. Her latest book, The Culinary Herbal: Growing & Preserving 97 Flavorful Herbs was co-authored with the late Dr. Arthur Tucker.

Susan is passionate about herbs and her work, sharing the joy of gardening and cooking through teaching & writing, and inspiring others to get in touch with their senses of smell & taste.

Give Thanks with Herbs

Give Thanks with Herbs

By Maryann Readal, Secretary, The Herb Society of America

20170515_180816The holidays are here. The glossy magazines tempt us to add stress to our holiday preparations with their gorgeous photos of decorator-inspired table settings and culinary dishes that require hours of working in the kitchen. If you grow herbs or just like using them, your holidays can be special without all of the fuss and stress – thankfully. Here are some simple ideas using common herbs to create a special Thanksgiving celebration.

Sage – Whether your stuffing is store-bought or made-from-scratch, add fresh chopped sage to enhance flavor.

Mixed Herbs – Brining turkey has been the culinary rage.  Try this easy dry herb brine recipe for a turkey that turns out flavorful, moist and tender.

Rosemary – Fasten a sprig to each dinner napkin so that the rosemary fragrance entices guests as they sit down at the table.  Or tuck rosemary sprigs in your Thanksgiving centerpiece to add fragrance and interest.

20170511_191248Chives – Mince chives and mix them into softened butter for Thanksgiving rolls. Be creative and add other herbs to the butter as well.

Dill – Add chopped dill to a sour cream dressing for a cucumber salad.  Or add chopped dill to a favorite dip to add another taste dimension.

Mint – Dress up holiday drinks with a sprig of mint. Make minted water to serve with iced tea or water at dinner.  Simply steep a handful of mint leaves in some boiling water for a few minutes and chill.

Basil –  Pick the last basil from the garden. Toss leaves into your Thanksgiving salad. Use basil leaves on post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches. Or make a basil pesto and serve over cream cheese with crackers for a holiday appetizer. Use leftover pesto on turkey sandwiches.

Rosemary winter groupThyme – Sprinkle thyme into your Thanksgiving vegetables for a fresh spring-like flavor. And remember this is the “thyme” to give thanks for all the fragrant herbs growing in your garden.

Lavender – Tuck a lavender sachet in your pillowcase to ensure a restful night’s sleep before and after Thanksgiving Day. Remember to pamper your guests with sachets, too.

Lemon Balm – Use fresh lemon balm leaves or purchase lemon balm tea for a calming and uplifting drink at the end of your Thanksgiving meal.

Whether you have one or 20 guests for the holiday, choose one or choose several of these ideas to make herbs a part of your Thanksgiving.