Monday

How to Make Sage Butter

There are a couple of ways to make sage butter. One is actually a melted sage butter (brown) sauce that's pretty delicious with chicken (we'll get to that before Thanksgiving). The other is a flavored butter you can use as an ingredient in cooking or to serve on a buffet or at the table. It will keep for weeks in the fridge and for months in the freezer. (Yes, you can freezer butter without it having an impact on the taste.)

Butter has a naturally mild flavor, so it lends itself to almost any spice, herb or other ingredient or blends you want to add to it. I tend to like simple flavored butters that resonate with the unique contribution of a single herb. That way rosemary butter is the perfect accompaniment to lamb, and sage butter is spectacular with roasted turkey or chicken. I will typically make up a stick of butter per herb recipe and:

Mix it.
Wrap the mixture into a (wax paper covered) tube.
Freeze the tube.
Slice it into one inch disks after it has had time to chill.
Store the disks in the freezer in a zip-lock bag.

I can snag disks out easily for specific recipes. If I want to slather sage butter under the skin of my Thanksgiving turkey, all I have to do is to take a couple of butter disks out of the freezer 15 minutes or so before I need them. That's how quickly they soften up at room temperature.

I can also take out a whole sage butter log as an accompaniment to cornbread muffins, potato rolls or mashed sweet potatoes.  A pound of butter easily sees a tidy freezer full of sage butter, rosemary butter, chive butter and garlic butter (for garlic bread).  If you want to get fancy, you can even place the mixture into food grade molds for flavored butter pats in fancy shapes.  (Think individual, fancy soaps and you have the idea.)  Making herb butter is an easy trick, but it looks like you took lots of time and effort with it.  It is 10 minutes in the kitchen that will pay you dividends during the holidays when you want to up your game at mealtime.

Sage Butter Recipe

Ingredients
  • 1 Stick of (salted) butter, softened
  • 2 Tbsp. finely minced sage leaves (about 6 to 8)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground white pepper (optional)

Directions
  1. Combine all ingredients and leave at room temperature for an hour or two. This will give the sage time to transmit flavor to the butter. After letting it sit, stir it one more time.
  2. Transfer mixture by heaping tablespoon to a square of wax paper or parchment paper.
  3. Roll into a tight tube about an inch or a little more across.
  4. Twist the ends of the tube and secure them with twine.
  5. Freeze. (It should take about 20 minutes for the butter to firm up.)
  6. If you want to store smaller portions, remove the tube from the freezer, unwrap it and use a sharp knife to slice the butter into one inch sections.  Refreeze the "pats" in a freezer bag for future use.
Tip:  Make sure the sage leaves are clean and dry, and before you mince them, bruise them between your fingers.  The goal is to release as much oil as possible into the butter.

Sunday

How to Make Sage Oil

If you start making sage oil now, you'll have some prepped and ready to go in two to three weeks. With the holidays coming, sage oil, sage honey and sage vinegar are nice additions to your culinary arsenal, too. They'll all add a savory kick to your recipes with a minimum of fuss, and they make very nice gifts. This is a sage oil "infusion" rather than an essential oil that's distilled like spirits. It's for use as a cooking ingredient.

Uses for Sage Oil

Before you head out to the herb patch, let's take a look at some of the ways this versatile flavored oil can help in the kitchen:


Add it to olive oil - If the proliferation of olive oils on the market seems a bit confusing to you, you're not alone. The fact that a mild and inexpensive olive oil is great option for general cooking doesn't necessarily make it a good first choice as an at-table spread for your homemade dinner rolls. For that, extra virgin olive oil is probably your best bet and worth the money. To elevate a basic olive oil to standalone status, though, all you have to do is add a little flavor. It's a neat trick that works every time. Herbed oils impart the aroma and some of the flavor of their onboard herbs via a cold (or warm) infusion process. Adding a little sage olive oil to your potato rolls, for instance, will give them extra savor in a unique and appealing way. It's a personal touch that's easy to produce.

As a substitute for minced or rubbed sage - Fried sage leaves are delicious, but you don't need to keep a potted sage plant on your windowsill this winter to get those warm, robust flavor notes into your recipes. Incorporate sage oil in baked, stewed or slow cooked dishes and you'll pick up a subtle hint of sage without bits of the leaves floating in your sauces or peeking through your piles of carrots. Think of it a two-for-one bargain.

In sauté - I like to infuse avocado oil with sage. Avocado oil has a very high smoke point (when it starts to break down), so it's a practical as well as a heart healthy choice for frying and sautéing. A whisper of sage elevates just about any savory ingredient it's cooked with.

On fowl - If you oil the skin on chicken, turkey or Cornish game hen before cooking, consider using sage oil. You'll really like the flavor. For an added buttery mouthful, use sage butter under the skin and sage oil on the skin when preparing baked, grilled or rotisserie fowl.

In marinades - When you're adding flavor to fowl and even meaty fish using a marinade, sage oil is a good friend to have around. It works quickly, and without making your meat look like you just dragged it through a salad.

Sage Oil Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooking oil (olive oil is a good first oil to try, but any oil will do)
  • 2 cups lightly packed sage leaves
  • Large glass jar with tight fitting lid
  • Presentation bottle or oil dispenser
  • 30 black peppercorns (whole)

Directions

  1. Wash and dry sage leaves, and place them in a large glass jar with a tight fitting lid.
  2. Add 20 or so lightly crushed peppercorns to the jar.
  3. Heat oil (see note below)
  4. Pour oil into the jar.  Make sure you add enough to cover the leaves. (Compress leaves with a mixing spoon until they're submerged in the oil if you have to.)
  5. Allow the oil to cool completely and secure the lid on the jar.
  6. Place the jar in a cool, dark spot for two to three weeks. (Test after two weeks to see if the mixture is flavorful enough for your taste.  Three weeks should be about the maximum.)
  7. Shake the jar three or four times a week (whenever you think about it) during the infusion process.
  8. After two (or three) weeks, pour the oil through a fine mesh strainer and place it in its final container with the 10 additional peppercorns.

How to Make Sage Oil - Notes and Tips:

  • If you don't have enough leaves, you can use sage stems.  They produce a stronger and sometimes slightly more resinous flavor, though.
  • Harvest sage in the morning after the dew has evaporated but before noon when the sun begins to warm up your herb patch.
  • Rinse sage leaves thoroughly and let them dry in a single layer on paper towels.
  • The idea is to heat the oil just enough to encourage the sage leaves to release their native oils into the mixture.  Too hot, and the oil will cook the leaves -- that's a bad thing.  A temperature of around 105 degrees F or slightly warmer works well for me.
  • I like to remove the leaves after infusing because then I'll have a good idea of the flavor going forward.  Sage can be overpowering in some mild dishes, so recognizing the potency of a tablespoon or two of oil is a good thing.  Leaves left in the mixture will keep adding flavor intensity over time.  I do add back one leaf (and a few pepper corns) to the oil decanter after infusing the oil.  This makes it easier to identify the without having to add a label.  Just a suggestion.
  • Oh, if you're wondering if a recipe will taste good with sage oil, my general guideline is that if a savory recipe contains carrots, lots of onions, lemon juice or chicken, a little sage oil couldn't hurt.
  • You can halve or double this recipe as needed, although when increasing it, prefer multiple jars for the infusion.

Cautions for Using Sage in Herbal Preparations: It is contraindicated if you are currently taking diabetes, anticonvulsant or sedative medications. For more specifics about drug interactions involving sage, the WebMD Sage page (yes, there is one) has useful information you'll want to review: Sage Interactions


Photos:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AItalian_olive_oil_2007.jpg (Italian_olive_oil_2007_Wiki.jpg) I, Alex Ex [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecomm

Thursday

The Many Uses for Sage (salvia officinalis)



If you're into Thanksgiving stuffing, you probably enjoy adding a bit of sage flavor to your holiday table.  Sage is one of the most popular but misunderstood herbs around.  It can have an overpowering flavor if you use too much of it, but in moderation it can improve the savor of a wide variety of ingredients.

It can bring out the mild sweetness (and creamy texture) of eggs, wake up mild cheese blends and bring an earthy robustness to breads.  Here are some other dishes where sage can help make flavor medleys sing:

  • Roast chicken
  • Steamed carrots
  • Turkey
  • Lamb chops
  • Hummus
  • Fried potatoes
  • Yams
  • Liver (Don't wince, liver is delicious.)
  • Meaty, full bodied fish like tuna and salmon

You can deliver the kick of sage to your recipes in a number of ways, too: 

  • Make a sage flavored butter to slather rolls or add to your mashed potatoes, carrots or roast turkey.
  • Infuse sage in vinegar, oil or honey.  Sage honey is a perfect pairing of sweet and slightly tangy flavors. You'll love it on corn bread biscuits.
  • Toss pasta with sage oil or add a little to your potatoes au gratin.
  • Opt for something a little more exotic with Saltimbocca. This Italian favorite is made with veal (or chicken), prosciutto and whole sage leaves. Here's my favorite recipe: Herbed Chicken Saltimbocca

There are lots of other uses for sage too:

  • A Pharmacological Biochemical Behavior study found that consuming low levels of sage oil resulted in better memory retention on cognitive tests. So, a little sage tea may help you remember what you studied last night -- and the night before.
  • Sage has antibacterial and astringent properties.  It's one of the core ingredient used in herbal medicine. For instance, an infusion of sage makes a soothing gargle for gum and throat ailments.
  • Sage makes a surprisingly appealing tea that contains estrogens, which can help reduce the duration of hot flashes and night sweats: Sage Tea Recipe
  • Essential oil of sage and sage (aromatherapy) candles are effective in reducing the severity of hot flashes as well.

Over the next couple of days, I'll post some fun and interesting ways to use sage this fall and winter.  First up is an antibacterial sage gargle that will help your inflamed throat feel better and heal faster:

Sage Gargle Recipe

If you have a sore throat or bleeding or sore gums, gargling with a sage infusion will help reduce the irritation. As a side benefit, a quick gargle will clear your stuffy nose without relying on chemical drops.

Ingredients

  • *6 large fresh sage leaves (picked late morning after the dew has evaporated) 
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 to two teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated, fresh ginger (optional)

 Directions:

Steep sage leaves and ginger in boiling water for 10 minutes.  Strain.  Add honey and vinegar. Stir. Cool to a moderately warm (not hot) gargling temperature.

Gargle every 2 hours or up to 4 times a day.


(Note:  Pregnant women should not use sage remedies, although using sage in cooking is still considered safe at this writing. (2012) 

*You can substitute 2 teaspoons dry sage leaves

Cautions for Using Sage in Herbal Preparations: It is contraindicated if you are currently taking diabetes, anticonvulsant or sedative medications. For more specifics about drug interactions involving sage, the WebMD Sage page (yes, there is one) has useful information you'll want to review: Sage Interactions

Photo Credits

Photo 1- Salvia_officinalis_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-126.jpg
By Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen (List of Koehler Images) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo - 2 Sage_-_Salvia_officinalis.jpg By Takkk (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASage_-_Salvia_officinalis.jpg