Tag Archives: herbs

Herbal Vinegar Basics

French tarragon is used for culinary purposes.

French tarragon is used for culinary purposes.

Tarragon or other herb flavored vinegars are easy and inexpensive to make and provide a simple, appetizing way to add flavor to salad dressings, marinades, and every day meals. Tasty, distinctive, flavored vinegars can also be added to roasted vegetables, drizzled over fish, splashed into a soup, stew or stir-fry for added flavor, or to baste chicken while it bakes.

The process requires few ingredients, basic equipment, and very little time. Homemade vinegars make a special and unique gift for any occasion. If you don’t have tarragon, try basil, Rosemary, thyme, dill, sage or parsley in an herbal vinegar.  Or try several different versions.

Fill jar with fresh herbs

Fill jar with fresh herbs


  • 1-2 cups of French tarragon leaves, fresh and loosely packed – more herbs, more flavor
  • 2 cups white wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or rice wine vinegar
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, optional

(Additional herb sprig for decoration when bottling)


1. Wash tarragon (or herbs) the night before, if needed, so herbs, freshly harvested in the morning, will maintain maximum flavor. Gather herbs in the morning, after the dew has dried. Bruise tarragon or herbs with the back of a chef knife, with a mortar and pestle or crumple herbs by hand to release maximum flavor.
2. Fill a dry sterilized  jar with tarragon or herbs of choice. (A quick run through the dishwasher
herbal+vinegars3. Pack a one quart jar with the herbs and pour the vinegar over the herbs. Cover the container with a plastic lid and leave for 2—3 weeks. This will draw out the flavor of the tarragon into the vinegar.  (Two-piece lids will work, but be aware vinegar will react with the metal screw bands)
4. Line a fine wire-mesh strainer with a paper coffee filter or cheese cloth. Pour vinegar mixture through the strainer into a large measuring cup, discarding the herbs.
5. Fill dry, attractive sterilized glass bottles with a fresh herb sprig, and add strained vinegar. Tightly seal the bottles with nonmetallic lids or corks; store the herbal vinegar in a cool dark place.

Dress fresh salad greens with herbal vinaigraitte

Dress fresh salad greens with vinaigrette



3 Tbsp. tarragon vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 Cup olive oil
3 Tbsp. minced fresh tarragon or 1 tbsp. dried, crumbled

In a bowl whisk together the vinegar, salt, and pepper; add the oil in a stream, whisking, and whisk the vinaigrette until it is emulsified. Stir in tarragon. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Options for Pairing Vinegars and Herbs

White wine vinegar goes well with many herbs and is perfect for herbs or flower petals that produce color. Dill, basil, tarragon, chervil, mints, and lemon balm are well-suited to white wine vinegar.

Red wine vinegar adds a rich flavor and pairs well with sage, thyme, parsley and bay leaves.

Be creative:  mix and match herbs and garlic according to taste!

Bottles for herbal vinegars are available at Paonia Farm and Home

Bottles for herbal vinegars are available at Paonia Farm and Home

Beef Burgundy

The flavor will be vastly enhanced if you make this the day before serving.

The flavor will be vastly enhanced if you make this the day before serving.

Here is a elegant, crowd-pleasing company main dish recipe that I make each December sometime before Christmas. It’s a tradition!

Make a large batch, and store the leftovers (if there is any) in meal sized portions to pull out of the freezer in January or February for those nights when you don’t know what else to cook.

This winning recipe will soon become part of your family’s favorite keeper recipe file. Like any soup or stew, the flavor vastly improves if the stew is stored overnight in the refrigerator before re-heating.


2 Tbsp. oil or butter
18 small white onions, peeled (or frozen) or just use 1-2 cups chopped onion
3 pounds beef chuck, cut in 1 1/2 inch cubes
2 T flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1-2 C. Burgundy or other dry red cooking wine
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 Cup beef stock
1- 8 oz can tomato sauce
2 T. chopped parsley
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. thyme or more
3/4 pound fresh mushrooms
2 T. butter

Lightly brown the onions in the oil and remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Pat meat dry between paper towels and brown it on all sides in the same pot without crowding. You may have to do it in batches. Sprinkle browned meat with flour, salt, and pepper. Add wine, garlic, stock, tomato sauce and herbs. Over heat bring the mixture to a simmer and then cook it, tightly covered for two or more hours or until the meat is fork tender. Add the pearl onions after one hour. If using chopped onion, just let them cook with the beef and stock.

Meanwhile, wipe the mushrooms with a damp cloth and trim off stem ends. Quarter mushrooms if large, leave small ones whole. Heat the butter and remaining oil or butter in a large skillet and lightly saute the mushrooms for about 4 minutes and set aside.

When done, skim off any fat and add the mushrooms. Voila! Beef burgundy! After cooling, it can be refrigerated or frozen at this point. If the sauce is too thin, combine 2 TB flour with 1/2 Cup water and whisk the mixture into boiling beef burgundy. Serve over noodles or brown rice.


Second Season Gardening

fallgreensDid you miss getting some carrots, kale, herbs, or chard into the garden this spring?  Gardening for a Second Season starting mid to late summer (late July early August) is as an ideal time to plant seeds for a second gardening season as early spring.   Plus, that second season can be as productive as your major early spring plantings.

For a delicious and very nutritious cornucopia of fall meals, late summer is the time to plant juicy lettuces, the cool -season aromatic herbs – dill, garlic chives, chervil, cilantro, arugula, and parsley; hearty greens like chard or kale;  Oriental greens; carrots, beets, leeks, peas, green onion, spinach, radishes, fennel and all the brassica family members.

Plant a second season garden of crops that tolerate cold

Plant a second season garden of crops that tolerate cold

Late planted crops have less competition from weeds and pests and grow beautifully with less garden work. It may seem odd to be starting new seeds when a lot of your summer produce like squash and tomatoes are still cranking, but it’s well worth the effort.

For reliable harvests in cooler weather, seedlings must have good initial growth and well-established root systems. The goal is to have fully grown, ready to pick plants that basically store themselves in the garden throughout the fall, so you can pick them as you need them over a long sustained harvest season.

Start seeds in containers or in a garden area with dappled sun or light shade — wherever seeds can germinate comfortably out of the hot sun but still get plenty of light after seedlings are well-established. Plant in well-prepared moist soil and in the evening so they will have the advantage of cooler night temperatures to settle in and minimize shock.

With daytime temperatures likely to  still be in the high 80’s, or even 90’s you will need to shelter your newly transplanted seedlings with row covers or a shade cloths for a few days so they can adjust heat and sun.

Once the seedlings have acclimated, don’t forget to supply adequate moisture to these young crops and fertilize them regularly in the early growing stages.

All herb, vegetable and flower seeds can still be purchased at Paonia Farm and Home.

Seed Starting Hurdles

Plant tender plants such as squash, basil, and zinnias after the overnight temperatures are 50-55 degrees

Plant tender plants such as squash, basil, and zinnias after the overnight temperatures are 50-55 degrees

We appreciate hearing from anyone who has a problem with their garden, but early in the season we know that when “my peas and lettuce are up fine, but the cucumber seeds must be bad because they didn’t germinate,” it’s a good indication that the outdoor night garden temperatures are simply too cool for the heat loving seeds like cucumbers.

Especially this past cool, moist May in Colorado, avid gardeners must be strong and resist the temptation to sow seeds of heat loving varieties of seeds into your garden until the soil has warmed up and spring weather conditions have warmed and settled with outdoor night temperatures consistently in the 50-55° F (10-13° C)  range.  In our area that will probably be sometime next week.

Be confident that seeds planted directly into the garden when conditions are warm enough will catch up and surpass stressed seedlings that were planted too early. Don’t be fooled by a long warm weekend – wait until the weather has truly warmed up for several days in a row.

When temperatures are warm enough, seeds will germinate quickly and won’t languish or risk rotting in the soil waiting to emerge. Fast growing plants that don’t get set back by cold weather are less likely have disease problems and will grow past insect or bird damage much easier than seedlings stunted by difficult beginnings.

Basil will succeed best when started in the garden

Basil will succeed best when started in the garden

This includes sowing seeds for summer flower favorites like zinnias, sunflowers, morning glories marigolds, nasturtiams and cosmos.  It’s best to direct sow your favorite heat loving herbs like basils, parsley, oregano and thyme, and all the many fruiting summer vegetables including cucumbers, pole and bush beans, summer and winter squashes, corn, melons, wqtermelons, and pumpkins.

The larger seeds started in indoor seed starting trays really don’t have enough space for root growth and will do better when planted directly into the soil.
The only exceptions would be plants such as

Ripe and ripening sweet 100' on the vine

Ripe and ripening sweet 100′ on the vine

tomatoes and peppers that won’t have enough time to mature to fruit unless started indoors.


Linda’s Old Fashioned Tomato Soup

Tomato Soup garnished with basil

Tomato Soup garnished with basil

1. Linda’s Old Fashioned Tomato Soup

1/3 cup butter
2 garlic cloves
4 cups sliced celery
2 onions, sliced
1 peck very ripe tomatoes (1/4 bushel or about 8 cups,cut up)
1 quart water or stock, optional
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons salt  ( or to taste)
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup honey
Melt butter in large,heavy enamel or stainless steel pot.  Saute garlic, celery and onions lightly.  Add cut up tomatoes, water or stock (I don’t always add water if tomatoes are good and juicy) and parsley.  Simmer for 30 minutes.
Put the soup through a food mill or Victorio strainer to remove vegetables, tomato skins and seeds.  This process makes a smooth, beautiful tomato soup.   Return the soup into the pot and reheat. Add salt and pepper to taste.  At this point make a thin paste of 1- 2 Tbsp cornstarch and 1/2 cup cold water and slowly add into the simmering soup to thicken. ( Ed note: Linda, usually skips  that step but I prefer the soup to have a little more “body”). Add the honey.
The soup recipe can be frozen or pressure canned for 35 minutes for quarts,  20 minutes for pints to enjoy in the cold winter months ahead.
When ready to serve, you can add 1 pint milk or cream per pint of soup and 1 tsp butter and reheat but Linda’s family likes the fresh tomato taste so she eliminates  this step.  (Ed note:  My soup base was strong and flavorful that I LOVED it mixed with cream and reheated without the butter.)
Garnish the soup with fresh basil sprinkled on top with homemade croutons, if desired.  This soup is great on a cold day served with grilled cheese sandwiches.  Linda’s grand daughter is already asking for Grandma Linda’s tomato soup and she is only three.