Tantalize Your Taste Buds with Some Flavour Country!
by Stacey Tress
Oh, I just love this time of year! I love all our seasons, but I have a special fondness for the fall months. I’m writing this article in a July heat wave—we’ve been using our BBQ a lot as we don’t have AC/central air and adding additional heat to the house at this time of year is not a great choice. We tried, successfully, our first attempt at a BBQ pizza! It was delicious; having fresh basil and parsley close at hand really added that extra burst of flavour/yumminess. Next year we are manifesting a more functional outdoor kitchen, and I look forward to sharing that story along with some tried and true recipes for outdoor cooking! One of my favourite things to do in the summer is to walk around and pinch the herbs (we have oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley, coriander, various mints, lavender, and dill this year) and just enjoy their scent on my hands, and yes they are delicious to cook with too! Oh, there’s so many things you can do with herbs. And tomatoes—some folks don’t like the smell of the tomato plant, but I do! Do you like the smell of tomato plants?
What makes food taste so good? Where does flavour come from?
There are many ways to increase the deliciousness of your dishes. Using fresh local ingredients is by far my favourite route to culinary yumminess. Our season for growing is coming to an end—the fall solstice is soon upon us and all our garden efforts from months prior are being rewarded by the bounty of harvest. Whether you’ve planted a garden, got a few containers going on the patio, support farmers’ markets, support a local CSA or buy local (or are lucky to have generous neighbours), there is tons of goodness to be found, especially at this time of year.
Summer is a great time to reap the benefits of fresh produce. You can’t really preserve things like lettuce, but most everything else in the garden has the dual benefit of being eaten fresh and then to finding ways to preserve that fresh flavour for use during the cold months. Our winters out here on the Prairies are certainly long, but thankfully there are many ways to bring that goodness of summer into our meals all winter.
Flavour is the sensory impression of food, which is determined primarily by the chemical senses of taste and smell. Of the three chemical senses, smell is the main determinant of a food item’s flavour. This is why you see folks smelling fruits and vegetables in the market/garden and almost being taken away to some pleasant memory of the past. The brain remembers that fresh tomato you smelt 40 years ago! (Each time I smell a wild rose, I am fondly reminded of my great grandmother.)
We know that taste and smell are what make “flavour country”—and we know that fresh is best—so let’s chat on about some ways to preserve that fresh flavour. Canning, fermenting, dehydrating, preserving in oil, and freezing are some great methods to preserve the bounty. Five basic tastes—sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and savoury —are how we describe flavour, and some cultures also include pungency and “fattiness” (oleogustus). “Fat brings out the flavour” …I can hear Jamie Oliver saying this from my days of having TV and watching the Food Network.
Incorporating multiple methods of food preservation into your culinary repertoire will layer your flavour experience and offer endless recipe ideas. For example, canning your fresh garden tomatoes is an excellent way to preserve them for later use, so is freezing them, but both of these methods can be heightened in flavour country when you cook them later with some fat (olive oil/butter) or roasting. Roasting, a variation on browning, is a wonderful way to bring out flavour. We can’t chemically taste fat, as we can taste sour, sweet, salty, and bitter, but it certainly gives us some qualities we like. How something tastes depends mostly on the smell and the texture. There is a close tie between fat, flavour, fullness, and happiness, but I’ll leave that lovely discussion for another article! All of this fat/flavour talk has me salivating for some fried bacon… oh, or what about a fresh garden salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar and a garlic infused olive oil (with that bacon chopped up on top… oh boy!).
Methods of Food Preservation
As I mentioned earlier, canning, fermenting, dehydrating, preserving in oil, and freezing are some easy ways to preserve food. This list is much easier to verbally digest than the one I found online—check out the language on these top 10:
- Pasteurization and Appertization
- Aseptic Packaging
- High-Pressure Processing—Pascalization
- Low-Temperature Storage—Chilling and Freezing
- Chemical Preservatives
- “Natural” Food Preservatives
- Control of Water Activity
(If the above list has sparked your interest, I have put the link in the references.)
The recipes that I’m sharing come from two of the above ways: freezing and preserving in oil.
(I call them pucks as they are made using ice cube trays)
I’ve been making Pesto Pucks for years and really find this way of preserving flavour fun and simple. This year I was inspired by a friend to try some new variations on this method. I don’t really have names yet for these so we will go with the titles Variation 1 and 2.
Variation 1 – Spaghetti Sauce and Tomato Dishes
Makes 1 full ice cube tray
You’ll need these garden fresh goodies: green onion, garlic, oregano, basil, and parsley.
Butter and Olive Oil
Rough chop 6–7 green onions, 3 sprigs of oregano (just the leaves), 4–5 sprigs of basil, and a good handful of parsley. I love garlic so I finely chopped 5 cloves of garlic, but you may prefer less. Using a medium-sized saucepan, heat up 4–5 tbsp of butter and then slightly sauté all the ingredients (your kitchen will smell fantastic!). Once things have softened a bit, scoop the mixture, even amounts into the ice cube trays. You may choose to “top up” the mixture with some olive oil… my first batch was very chunky and the olive oil helped to meld everything together.
Put in freezer till frozen and then pluck out and store in some type of marked container. I just use zip lock baggies and put back into freezer.
Variation 2 – Chicken Soup and Rice Dishes
Makes 1 full ice cube tray
You’ll need: green onion, garlic, dill, thyme, rosemary, parsley
Butter and Olive Oil
Rough chop 6–7 green onions, 5 cloves of garlic, dill (as much as you can carry in, ha-ha, I LOVE dill), 5–6 sprigs of thyme (take the leaves off the stem), 2 sprigs rosemary (just leaves), and a big handful of parsley.
Follow same sauté instructions above and then freeze in ice cube tray.
Since I mentioned pesto, I best leave you guys with a recipe to enjoy!
2 cups firmly packed basil leaves
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil (for this recipe the better the olive oil the better overall taste you will have)
3 cloves of whole garlic (peeled)
Combine all ingredients minus the olive oil in the blender. Pulse a few times and slowly drizzle the olive oil in while pulsing. Add more or less depending on consistency, blend until smooth.
It should be very thick, like a paste.
Serve immediately over some fresh pasta or ravioli.
My tip: You can also take this fresh pesto and spoon into an ice cube tray to freeze. Another variation on this that I saw was to smear the mixture onto a baking sheet, using parchment, and then bagging up the thin pieces of pesto. This sheet version would defrost much quicker vs the pesto pucks.
Rosemary and Garlic Infused Olive Oil
I love savoury dishes and this infused olive oil is well used in my cooking. (You can use this for pasta, salad, flavoured rice dishes, as a finishing touch on roasted potatoes, pizza, or even bread.) It also makes such a cutesy gift idea as you can find lovely little glass oil jars and then decorate as you wish.
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, hung up until dried, or more to taste
2 cloves garlic, or more to taste
1 ½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
Place garlic and dried rosemary sprigs in a glass container with a spout. Pour in olive oil using a funnel. Seal bottle and shake to combine. Refrigerate until flavors infuse, at least one week.
It is suggested to refrigerate infused oils to avoid them going rancid. I never have; I just store them in a cool, dry cupboard. I use them all the time, so they’re never around more than 2 to 3 months.
Variations: Use 5 to 6 dried thyme sprigs in place of the rosemary. Use 2 tbsp red pepper flakes for chili-infused olive oil.
Adventures in Dehydrating
We love our Excalibur Dehydrator and it’s been well used over the many years that we’ve owned it (a great investment IMO). Come fall we will be using it to dehydrate tomato slices, make fruit roll ups, and raw sprouted snacks/granola.
But this July I thought, let’s try dehydrating some herbs using our car! So out to the thyme lawn I went and pinched a big bowl of creeping thyme… if you haven’t seen our triangle garden, you must come visit and spend some time meditating or doing yoga on the “thyme lawn.” I spread the thyme on a cookie sheet and placed it on the dashboard of the car. I went back 2 hours later to discover the power of passive solar! Wow! First, the car smelt awesome; second, the thyme was totally dry; and third, I burnt my finger on the cookie sheet when I went to pick it up, ha-ha! Newbie car dehydrator here! I grabbed my oven mitt and carried the tray into the house to cool off. Could I have started a wee fire in my car from this experiment? Possibly yes. Will I try this again with other herbs and maybe not place directly in the sun? You bet! My hubby said in the ’70s folks would cook in their cars. If someone has a story like this, I welcome you to contact me as I’d love to hear it!
Flavour Pucks (these are my loose recipes—Stacey Tress Garden Therapy)
Rosemary and Garlic Infused Olive Oil www.allrecipes.com/
Homesteading by Abigail R. Gehring
Stacey Tress, a Holistic Nutritional Therapist (HNT) and Young Living Essential Oil Distributor (#2282633), lives in Rhein, SK, with her husband and two daughters. She is the owner of Garden Therapy Yorkton – GT Bliss which offers fermentation workshops, active culture kits, permaculture consulting, essential oils, and more! To learn more call 306-641-4239, email email@example.com, and/or Facebook “Garden Therapy
Yorkton – GT Bliss.” Webpage: www.gardentherapybliss.ca. Also see the display ad on page 9 of the 25.3 September/October issue of the WHOLifE Journal.