Homemade seasoning mixes make great Christmas gifts. You know, that holiday several months from now that stores have already started advertising to death. This is a present that even the atheists in your family will love. Plus, seasoning is really easy to make if you have a garden full of herbs. My favorite way to use up my homemade mix is on baked vegetables, but my aunt tosses hers into spaghetti sauce. Of course, the opportunities are endless!
Which Mix to Make?
I tend to throw things in my seasoning blend according to what’s doing well in my garden, but if you need some guidelines you may want to look up recipes for Herbes de Provence, Fines Herbes, or Italian seasoning. The first blend is a good accompaniment to Southern French food such as sausage soup (very tasty stuff). According to Wikipedia the all-knowing, Herbes de Provence usually includes savory, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, oregano, and sometimes lavender. Another French seasoning blend is Fines Herbes, which contains chervil, parsley, tarragon, and chives. This mixture works good in seasoning egg or cheese dishes.
Or you can go for the generic Italian blend, which is ubiquitous but tasty. It usually has basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram. Other cultures have other spice mixes that they like to use and you can definitely make them using the method I’m going to describe. This process also works for drying mint leaves to use as tea. The only problem is that I can’t seem to get my homemade mint tea to taste minty enough. I suppose I should ask my British brother-in-law what precisely that I’m doing wrong, as his country seems to be the experts on all things related to (adopts accent) “a proper spot of tea”.
Let’s Get the Party Started
The gnarly thing about making your own seasoning is that you can leave out herbs that give you bad vibes and add a lot more of the ones that radiate good karma. It’s totally rad, dudes! Ok. I’ll stop channeling the Ninja Turtles and return to the 2010s. It’s also a lot easier to make seasoning from what’s on hand if you don’t have to have a certain amount of anything. Everyone who doesn’t mind doing things at random can just run through their gardens and grab whatever they want. But, as I said earlier, those boring people who like to cook by the rules can find any number of recipes online.
It’s a good idea to get some glass jars like those in the first photo, wash them really good, and let them completely dry before making the spice mix. While re-sealable plastic bags also work fine, the jars will score you bonus points for presentation and keep your relatives from having to explain to the cops that they aren’t potheads (well, unless they actually are, but that’s another story). Anyway, I got my glass jars at World Market for about $3, but later found some cheaper at Michael’s for about $1.75. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m a person who goes for the cheapest common denominator so next time guess where I’ll be headed first?
Takin’ Care of Business and All That Jazz!
Pick all the herbs that you want to use in your seasoning, preferably on a dry and sunny day. While you can make seasoning when it’s raining outside, it takes longer. Herbs that are inorganically grown or visibly dirty will need to be rinsed off thoroughly before they’re baked. After all, bug spray residue and dirt are neither tasty nor edible.
Next, make sure there’s nothing in the oven before turning it on to the lowest setting. I say this because I know from tragic personal experience that trying to take out hot cast iron pans is a great way to get burned.
Spread tinfoil or wax paper on a baking sheet. Lay the herbs on top of it so they are not touching one another because they will take longer to dry in such cases. Remove any leaves that look bad and get rid of them.
Be gone! Then come back in an hour to inspect things. I recommend checking the seasoning every thirty minutes or so once the first hour has passed, because otherwise the herbs might turn into inedible charcoal.
When done, the herbs should be completely dry, brownish in color, and crinkly to touch. They should dissolve into powdery flakes when rubbed between your fingers. If they’re not done, put them back in the oven until they are.
Once the herbs are finished cooking, set the baking sheets on the stove and strip the leaves off the stems.
Carefully pick up the edges of the tinfoil or wax paper to form a chute so that the seasoning can easily be transferred into a storage container (glass jar, plastic bag). Or the mix can be deposited into a mortar and pestle to be ground up some more.
Some people think that mashing up the herbs messes with the flavor. I’m of the opinion that doing so helps blend the mix better. You can decide for yourself which of these ideas to try.
Once you’re finished with that, pour the mix into the storage container of your choice. Bon Apetite!
P.S. I don’t know for sure how long these blends will keep because mine always gets used up within couple of months.