Herbal Teas

Strainers come in all sizes. If your teapot doesn't have one, you can use a
handled sieve like the one shown here. Or, you can purchase a strainer that
allows you to steep the herbs directly in your cup.
To make a soothing herbal tea, use 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs per cup of hot
water. Snip some herbs into a small teapot and add hot--but not
boiling--water. (If the water is too hot, you'll burn off the herb's volatile oils, which
create the flavor.) Allow the tea to steep for five minutes or less; if you
steep the tea too long, flavors may become bitter. Strain the tea into a cup,
and enjoy.
Dried herbs that work well for teas, hot or iced:
* chamomile flowers
* fennel
* lavender
* lemon balm
* lemongrass
* lemon verbena
* nettles
* peppermint
* raspberry leaf
* red clover
* rose hips
* spearmint
Tip: Instead of throwing away leftover tea, use it to water your houseplants.
Plants like tea as long as it's caffeine-free.
Adding a little herbal vinegar, oil or butter to your dishes is a fast and
easy way to punch up your meals. And these little splashes are even zestier if
you've used herbs fresh from the garden or the windowsill. :
Herb vinegar:
Commercially prepared herbal vinegars are usually expensive. Once you see how
easy they are to make, you'll never buy another one again.
1. Purchase a bottle of high-quality white wine or champagne vinegar. If
you're going to keep the herb vinegar in this bottle, soak off the label.
When transferring the vinegar to smaller or more decorative bottles, you
needn't bother with removing the label.
2. Wash the herbs thoroughly, and make sure the entire work area is
clean before you begin.
3. Pour off a little vinegar into a clean cup and put aside for another
use.
4. Add the herbs of your choice to the bottle of vinegar . The sprigs
should be several inches shorter than the height of the bottle, but you need
the weight of large sprigs so the herbs don't float. Use about 1 part fresh
herbs to 1 part vinegar.
5. Put the cap on the bottle. Turn the bottle upside down a few times to
completely immerse the herbs . Leave the bottle on a kitchen counter or
other convenient spot so that you can turn the bottle over daily to mix the herbs
and vinegar.
6. After three to four weeks, strain out the herbs and either pour the
vinegar back into the bottle or divide it into smaller bottles with a single
herb sprig for identification.
Herb oils:
1. Purchase a bottle of high-quality olive oil or canola oil. Virgin and
extra-virgin or cold-pressed olive oil usually has more nutrients than
regular olive oil. If you're going to cook with this oil, use canola, which can
withstand higher temperatures before it begins breaking down and possibly
altering the taste of the herbs.
2. Use only woody herbs such as rosemary, sage and thyme; fleshy herbs
with high water content are not suitable for long-term oil infusions. Wash the
herbs thoroughly, and make sure the entire work area and utensils are clean
before you begin. Herbs must be completely dry to the touch before being
added to the oil. Pat them dry after washing, then let them air-dry for two or
three hours.
3. Pour some of the oil into a clean glass pie plate. Place herb sprigs
in the oil and smash the herbs with a fork . The volatile oils in woody herbs
are held deep within the leaves.
4. Pour the oil and herbs from the pie plate through a large funnel into
a sterilized jar with a lid . Don't use your fingers; be sure to touch the
oil and the herbs only with utensils that have been sterilized.
5. Add fresh oil to the jar until the herbs are completely immersed.
6. Put the lid on the jar and place it in a cool, dark place for three
weeks.
7. Strain the herbs out, and refrigerate the oil. It should keep in the
refrigerator for about three months.
To make garlic oils, mash the garlic into the oil and place in the
refrigerator immediately. It will begin infusing overnight. Use within two weeks.
Herb butter:
Place 2 sticks of softened real butter in a food processor; process till it
has a nice consistency. Add two to three tablespoons of snipped fresh chives
and a dash of lemon juice to the processed butter. Process again for just a
few seconds. Do not overprocess. Chill and serve . Other herbs, such as purple
basil or lemon balm, may also be used. The choice is yours.