Friday, September 16, 2011

Herbs in the Apartment

I'm not one to think that I've truly grown up quite yet. It's not that I don't like where I am or where my life has lead me, but most often, I feel like I still am just playing at this grown up thing. I feel as if I have flung myself in a zillion different directions and haven't decided to commit just to one. My identity, is more a sum of all these things I have running, rather than a solid character base, which interests spring from. Am I getting too philosophic? Probably.

Much of the time, I feel like a mash up of identities: am I a working professional or a farmer? Am I athletic or horridly clumsy? Am I a city girl or do I need the slow pace of the country? I have all of these far flung, often conflicting interests. Is there any unison in them? And then one day, something inconsequential happens and everything seems to come together and make perfect sense.

The other day I was let out of work early, which is a nice treat after working on a holiday, dealing with the repercussions for these guys and otherwise spending my day calming down stressed out folks. I biked out of the loop with bright sunshine over my head and energy pulsing through me. What to do with the extra 2 free hours? Pick herbs and preserve of course; we only have a few more days before the frost hits.

So I popped by the garden and grabbed handfuls of green that has been left wanting. I piled them neatly on my kitchen table: parsley, sage, thyme, oregano with peperoncini and kale awaiting their fate as well.

And then looked up:

On the left is a tea towel, purchased from my favorite heritage shop on the north side. You may not be able to read it from where you are sitting but these are little colorful pots, full of herbs with their names neatly written in Swedish on each jar. On the left is a poster collected from my neighborhood print/civility shop. I popped in two years ago, looking for funny birthday cards and walked out with my favorite piece of home. So you can see these two visuals, but all I could see that afternoon was cohesion. A certain togetherness of who I am. That sum of me isn't just my parts but the ways that they work together and all of the bits in between. Months ago I had decorated my apartment and here I am, living out my decorations. And so I sighed and laughed a little to myself and kept chopping.

Herbs and urban farming. I decorate my house with it and live it. Maybe I've grown up more than I give myself credit for. This winter as I reach into my freezer and pull out little ziplock bags with PARSLEY scratched big with a thick point Sharpe, I'll remember that afternoon and smile.

How to: don't know about you but I NEVER use the entire plastic box or bundle of herbs when I buy them from the store. You can always freeze them and then use the same measurements for frozen herbs as you do for fresh. It's a great way to save money and get the most out of your $4 box of herbs!

- Wash your herbs and spin dry in a salad spinner, or pat between two clean cloth towels.
- If you are preserving finer-leafed herbs like oregano, chives, basil, mint, parsley, cilantro, dill, thyme you can chop your herbs really really really finely and freeze them either in zip lock bags, or make herb ice cubes by cramming your herbs into little compartments and filling your cube tray with water. These days, post culinary school, I like to just use ziplocks since then I don't have added liquid in my cooking and can more accurately measure my frozen herbs for use.
- For larger, thick-leafed herbs like sage, some thyme, bay leaves, rosemary you can freeze them in the same manner but they may turn brown. I still do this for leftover 'boxed' herbs that I buy in the store and use them, even if they're brown. The flavor is the same, but the herb has lost its chlorophyll. If I'm preserving large amounts of there herbs, I bundle up the stems, as shown above with sage and dry them for at least a week in a cool, dry, non-sunny spot. Then crush lightly with your fingers and store in an old jar.

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