Herbal Butter, Oils & Salad Dressings: my favorite ways to incorporate herbs and fats into my diet
If you have ever wondered what you can do with all of your fresh herbs in the summer, besides drying and freezing, I have several fun ideas for you! One of my favorite ways to incorporate these extra herbs, along with healthy fats, into my many cooking dishes is by making and using herbal butters, oils and salad dressings! Besides that, I also love to incorporate fresh herbs and lots of greens into my salads, such as dandelion, arugula, chard, kale, and purslane!
Butter, glorious butter! The list of health benefits of butter, especially when it’s of pastured, organic and raw is a very compelling one. Butter contains many vitamins (A, D, K and E), the first of which is crucial for the thyroid gland to stay healthy; as well iodine, selenium and more, which helps improve the immune function and metabolism, protects the body against heart disease, arthritis, gastrointestinal infections; helps the body better absorb calcium and phosphorous, which are essential for strong bones and teeth; and lastly is rich in saturated fats, so it is very good for lung function, and also rich in omega-3 and -6 medium-chain fatty acids, which is important for skin health, and brain function (see resources).
|making my favorite herbal butter|
My herbal butter recipe isn’t exact, and I use whatever is easily available.
Jennifer’s Herbal Butter:
-1/4 lb pastured organic cultured butter at room temperature
- 4 green onions, chopped
- 3-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- ½ tsp dried sage, tarragon, and rosemary
*in summer substitute the green onions for a few handfuls of chives, and fresh herbs*
-when the butter is at room temperature, put all ingredients into a bowl, mix thoroughly, put into a jam jar and store in the fridge
Next, some background on herbal oils. I personally have learned to use extra virgin olive oil, from trader joe’s, because a friends’ family from
Spain said it was the highest quality (just from smelling it). Though, I trust that they, along with Italian friends of mine, know good olive oil. Otherwise, I buy bulk organic from the co-op, both of these sources have turned out to be excellent for herbal-infused oils. Besides the above suggestion, here are a few things I have learned from reading traditional food recipes about good oils and fats.
Besides butter, other fats I add to most dishes are oils, specifically olive oil, though coconut oil and flax-seed oil are also excellent to cook with. Personally, I prefer using olive oil because it is multi-purposeful, so I can use it to make salad dressing, beauty products such as creams, and lotion, and salves, an ‘herbal ointment’. Also, olive oil is very rich in antioxidants, vitamin E, and the monounsaturated fatty acid (oleic acid), which is shown to protect against heart disease. If you would like to use different oil, you can substitute with almond, sunflower or grape seed oil.
|Yarrow Infused Olive Oil for|
EXTERNAL use only
Herbal-Infused Oil Recipe:
Here is how to make the basic infused-herbal oil, from what I learned in Lise Wolff’s “3 Seasons of Herbal Medicine”, course.
-Take fresh plant material, and wilt for 8-24 hours so enough moisture will be out of the plant, as to not cause any mold growth (which would ruin the oil)
-After the allotted time, rip or cut up the herb, and pack down into a jar, making sure there is at least 2 inches of head space
-Pour in oil, to fully cover the herb, and if the herb floats above the oil, hold down with rocks
-Infuse for 4-6 weeks in a cool, dark location. Though, I infuse it in the sun, because how can herbs be harmed by sunlight, they do synthesize it into energy after all.
-After 4-6 weeks, strain through a fine-metal strainer and rebottle.
*For a measurement-based recipe see the book Herbs & Spices book in resources*
Now for what you’ve been waiting for, background about store-bought salad dressings, and a recipe on making your own healthy version at home! Salad dressings you buy in the store, even if they are low-fat, organic or any other ‘health label’ they can slap on it are still made with really low-quality oils, along with a slew of artificial colors, flavorings, preservatives, and don’t even get me started on sweeteners they add. By making your own salad dressing, you are combining healthy fats, such as olive oil, flax seed oil, eggs and in this case anchovies, along with lemon juice and mustard, to have your own incredibly fresh, healthy and delicious Caesar salad dressing!
Caesar Salad Dressing Recipe~
makes ¾ cup
|Caesar Salad Dressing Ingredients|
-1 Tbsp wine vinegar
-1 Tbsp lemon juice; freshly squeezed
-1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese; finely grated—fresh is preferred
-1/2 cp Extra Virgin Olive oil; cold-pressed
-1 Tbsp flax oil; expeller, cold pressed
-1 egg yolk; preferably organic, local and free-range
-2 anchovy fillets
-3-5 garlic cloves; peeled and mashed
Put all ingredients into a food-processor and blend until smooth. As you see in my pictures you may notice that the Caesar dressing is very runny at first—but not to worry—it will thicken with time and refrigeration.
*Recipe courtesy from Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions*
-Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
-Weston A. Price http://www.westonaprice.org/
-The Healthy Home Economist http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/
-Herbs & Spices by Jill Norman. This book is an excellent book on how to use a majority of cooking herbs and spices, prepare and store them, includes recipes and herbal mixtures as well.
Kim Chi: Korea’s spicy Sauerkraut
“Lacto-fermentation is not lonely a means of conserving food but also a procedure for ennobling them, as proved by their taste and aroma”
~ Annelies Schoneck
(Nourishing Traditions, pg 92)
Have you ever found yourself eating more heavy foods, and that this seems to slow down your digestion? If so, Kim Chi, among many other ferments, are excellent in helping keep you “more on track”. Recently, I was inspired by two things. Firstly, the idea of blogging on what comes easily; and secondly, by Hippocrate’s saying “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food”. Now, Kim Chi is a wonderful, tasty Cabbage ferment, so don’t let the fear of some spice keep you from making this! Kim Chi is a very simple recipe, where all you really need is Cabbage, sea salt, carrots, ginger and red pepper flakes.
First though—some history of ferments! If you take a look at what is eaten in ethnic-cuisine, one thing is clear…
“that rarely meals are eaten without at least one fermented food…in France, if you took away bread, cheese, ham, sausage, wine, and beer, all produced through fermentation, our meals would be much impoverished. In colder countries, sauerkraut [and] cucumbers [are their staple]…In
Japan, it’s not a meal without miso, soy sauce and pickles…in India, they drink soured milk daily…practically at every meal…in Indonesiathey eat tempeh, [and lastly] in kim chi” (Nourishing Traditions, 94). Korea
Lacto-fermentation was ancient peoples’ only way of preserving food—cabbage was a world favorite! It was fermented in
China 6,000 years ago, and in ancient , where it was loved for it’s easy digestibility. As Pliny made record of in 50 B.C., their 2 ways of lacto-fermentation were: shredding cabbage and sealing it tightly in jars; and secondly, mixing many vegetables, wild herbs, and covering them with a salt-water solution. This was called the mixture, or “compositor. (Anelies Schoneck Des Crudites Toute L’ Annee). Rome
For lacto-fermentation to occur you need salt, whey, pure ingredients, and lack of oxygen. Lacto-fermentation is a process which breaks down sugar and starch in food, converts it to lactic-acid, to preserve it long-term, increase vitamin levels (vitamin C), and enhances digestibility! The lactobacilli that proliferates in fermented fruits and vegetables, makes it easier to digest, and promotes the growth of “healthy flora throughout the intestine” (Nourishing Traditions, 89). Next, salt inhibits the growth of putrefying bacteria, and while sitting at room temperature builds up lactic-acid to preserve your ferment for many months. Next, whey, though not required for a ferment, it is an inoculant and already contains lactic-acid, thus shortening the fermentation time, and almost making salt unnecessary. Whey also, like salt inhibits putrefying bacterial growth. The last two keys to a good-ferment are high quality ingredients, such as organic, seasonal/locally grown produce, as well as pure water and sea salt; how do you expect to get a good final-fermented product if you put bad ingredients into it?? …Lastly, due to the fact that fermentation is an anaerobic process, if your jar isn’t sealed tight, it could become spoiled.
Though, as history would make it, normally-fermented items, such as sauerkraut, kim chi and dill pickles, through industrialization, have gone from very healthy, digestion-improving and nutrient-rich, to being devoid of lactic-acid, healthy-bacteria and nutrients, due to pasteurization! On top of this, vinegar has replaced salt with the vegetables’ own juices, which over time isn’t very good for people, due to it’s acidity. ….It’s no wonder why there are so many major diseases, viruses, and stomach-related ailments from diarrhea, constipation, and the ‘stomach flu’, now a days.
Now before I just give you the recipe I use, I would like to include a story of where I first tried REAL Kim Chi. It was at Quiet Creek herbal farm (in Brookville, PA—I did a WWOOFING internship there), and the family who owned this farm had a Mediterranean diet, and loved fermented foods, including Kim Chi (the recipe they obtained from Korean friend). The owners stated that they felt 10 years younger, feeling a lot more vigorous!
So here is a recipe that is a mixture of the Quiet Creek Farm’s version, and the Nourishing Traditions’ recipe.
Kim Chi Recipe: adapted from Nourishing Traditions
-1 2-3 Lb
cabbage, shredded Napa
-1 bunch green onions, chopped
-2-3 carrots, grated
-1-2 radishes, grated (optional) OR ¼-1/2 cp daikon radish, grated
-2-3 tsp ginger root, freshly grated
-3-5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
-1/4 – ½ tsp dried Red pepper flakes
-1 Tbsp Pink Himalayan sea salt
-4 Tbsp whey (if not available—another 1 Tbsp salt)
1) Place above vegetables, spices, salt and whey in a large bowl. Pound with a meat-mallet to release the juices until juices are above the mixture.
2) Place everything into a large wide-mouth mason jar. Again press down with a meat-mallet, your hands—or whatever works best, until the vegetables juices are above the cabbage mixture. When this is complete, make sure there is over 1 inch of headspace between the vegetables and your jars’ lid.
3) Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days, than transfer to cold storage (refrigerator, or root cellar). ENJOY!
**NOTE: room temperature is best at 72, if it is hotter, shorten the ‘ferment time’, and if colder, lengthen it**
-Sally Fallon’s book“Nourishing Traditions: the cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats”
-Sandor Ellix Katz’s book “Wild Fermentation” , or website http://www.wildfermentation.com/
-Weston A. Price Foundation http://www.westonaprice.org/
-Quiet Creek Herbal farm http://www.quietcreekherbfarm.com/
-Blog written by a ‘chapter leader’ of the Weston A. Price Foundation (in