Spring is Here : Looking Forward to Flowers and Herbs!

It is the first day of Spring and I am looking forward to the appearance of flowers and herbs. The snowdrops are up, and the robins have returned. The hyacinths are beginning to poke through the thawing soil.

Before long the violets will be blooming. I plan to gather these delicate flowers from an area of the yard that has not been sprayed with any chemicals to make candied violets. See a recipe here.

Every year I add another herb to my gardens. Herbs are a source of vitamins and minerals that support health. Rosemary, thyme and sage all grow easily. Here is a recipe for potatoes with rosemary and thyme.

I have planted some stinging nettle seeds in a container. I hope to plant them in a corner of the yard that has little traffic. The leaves of this plant sting—similar to stinging ants. The young leaves must be harvested carefully (gloves). When the leaves are boiled they lose their sting. The benefit of this herb is the rich mineral content. Nettle tea is sold in health food stores. I first noticed a recipe for nettle soup in a Swedish cook book. Here is an on-line recipe for nettle soup.

In a time period when many worry about infectious disease, it is a good idea to think about ways to improve the nutritional support of our immune system. Herbs are a source of vitamins and minerals that our bodies need. At one time I thought the purpose of herbs was flavor, but now I know they enrich our food.

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Preserving Herbs: Thyme Vinegar

The mild fall weather is so welcome! Yard work is pleasant and I have found some fall raspberries to savor while I work.

Preserving Herbs

Wilting vines
And a layer of leaves
Yard clean-up
Sweetened by fall raspberries

My calendula is still blooming and my rosemary and thyme are still growing.

Thyme Vinegar
Lemon Thyme

I plan to bring the rosemary and thyme inside for the winter. Last year they survived in a south bay window. But I have been also         preserving the thyme in vinegar.

The thyme vinegar is good for salad dressings. I also add one or two  tablespoons to vegetables and bones for broth that I prepare in my crockpot. The vinegar helps to leach out minerals from bones with the    additional benefit of thyme.

I found this recipe for thyme vinegar in Early American Herb Recipes*.

A very delicious flavour of thyme may be obtained, by gathering it while in full perfection; it must be picked from the stalks, a large handful of it put into a jar, and a quart of vinegar or brandy poured on it; cover it very close—next day, take all the thyme out, put in as much more; do this a third time; then strain it, bottle it and seal it securely. This is greatly preferable to the dried thyme commonly used, during the season when it cannot be obtained in a fresh state.*

I followed the recipe. I put 3 Tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves in a pint of white wine vinegar. The next day I strained it and added fresh thyme. The following day I repeated the straining and added more fresh thyme. While I was adding thyme leaves and straining the vinegar I used canning jars. Then I strained it a final time, returned it to the original bottle and capped it.

thyme vinegar

*Alice Cooke Brown, Early American Herb Recipes, Japan: The Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc., 1966. p. 114.

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Pasties with Kale: A Meal

The pasty came to the Keweenaw Peninsula of northern Michigan with Cornish miners. The Finns caught on to the hearty meal that was portable. Meat and vegetables wrapped in pastry made a filling lunch during the long hours in the mine.

My grandfathers were miners, and pasties were served for family   dinners. It is a meal that invites group participation for preparation. This year I have had a steady supply of kale and thyme in my garden—and I added them to my pasties.

Kale & Thyme

Filling:

1 lb. round steak, diced or coarsely ground
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 clove of garlic finely minced
1 cup chopped and steamed kale leaves
1 cup rutabaga, chopped
½ cup finely chopped onion
4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 + ½ tsp. salt

Combine olive oil, vinegar, thyme and minced garlic. Mix into the chopped meat. Allow the meat marinate in the refrigerator while preparing the pastry and the vegetables.

Pastry:

3 cups flour
½ tsp. salt
2/3 cup shortening
1 egg yolk
½ cup + 2 Tblsp. cold water
1 Tblsp. cider vinegar

Combine flour and salt. Cut in the shortening until it appears as coarse crumbs. Mix the egg yolk, water and vinegar. Gradually add this to the flour mixture, stirring with a fork. Mix just until it holds together. If needed added additional water a tablespoon at a time. Divide the dough into six portions and roll out each portion to a 9” circle. Set aside.

Cut the kale into pieces and steam it for about 3 minutes.

Kale
steamed kale

Chop the rutabaga and potatoes into about 1” pieces. Chop the onion finely. Add the vegetables and salt to the meat mixture. Mix well.

Place a generous cup of filling on half of each dough circle. Fold the other half of dough over the filling and crimp the edges. Place the pasties on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve hot.

Pasty

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