Since preserving foods and herbs in honey or vinegar is one of the oldest methods of preservation, it was great to start our 2011 Preserving the Harvest classes off for the year with a class dedicated to the method. Clinical Herbalist, Oren Hercz was on hand to discuss the ways herbs can be used for their medicinal qualities in addition to enjoying the fresh flavours of summer all year round.
We started off the evening by learning some herb preservation basics. Herbs need to be dried slowly to maintain optimum flavour – even some dehydrators will use too high a heat to maintain the colour and full flavour of herbs. It is a good idea to dry herbs like summer savoury, sage, and other robust plants by hanging up the plant or branches upside down and letting them dry in room temperature. Freezing is a better option to preserve delicate herbs like cilantro and basil.
Oren then guided us through the process of making a mineral-rich herbal vinegar that would be a great way to support healthy bones. We used different combinations of oatstraw, nettle, dandelion leaf, raspberry leaf and peppermint and covered them all up with organic apple cider vinegar. These will sit in a warm place for a month or so until the vinegar has leached out the mineral from the herbs. At that point, the herbs will be carefully strained from the vinegar.
Making herbal honey was a similar process – in our class we had a choice of ginger, local garlic, sage and a variety of mints to infuse the honey, but other suggestions were to use basil, rose petals, lavender or lemon balm. This method involved filling a jar with honey and then poking our herbs deep into the honey to make sure there were no air bubbles. The honey will sit on a warm counter for about a month before warming and straining.
Update: I wanted to add in a book recommendation from Oren: The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman. A great book for learning more about herbs.
Remember that we also want to hear YOUR stories about your own experiences with preserving the harvest! This can include photos, stories, memories, or other artwork related to canning, dehydrating, pickling, fermenting, berry picking, bumper crops of zucchini, bad growing seasons that left you with buckets of green tomatoes -we want it all! Check our our blog post on contest details: http://adventuresinlocalfood.com/2011/07/04/preserving-our-harvest-contest/
We still have some spaces in our upcoming classes! Check out the link for the full list of classes: http://adventuresinlocalfood.com/2011/07/05/2011-canning-and-preserving-classes/