Preserve the Harvest: How to Make Herbal Butter

Herbal butters seem so fancy when you go to a restaurant. They add a unique flavor to whatever they touch. Did you know they're actually easy to make at home? They're a great way to use your herbs through the growing season and preserve them for beyond.

Making herbal butter is perhaps one of the easiest things you can do in a kitchen. It lends fresh flavor to even simple meals like baked potatoes. There is no set ingredient list for making herbal butter with only two ingredients required, butter and herbs. From there your imagination and flavor palate are your guides.

For whatever combination of herbs, spices and flavors you choose, it's best to start with good butter. My favorite butter comes from free range cows and is only available at certain times of year. But that's not even a must. Adding herbs makes even your normal stick of butter stand out in the crowd.

To make the butter, soften it first. It's important not to melt it. Do not use the microwave to soften it because it will not soften evenly and will leave spots that are melted.  Sit the butter out on the counter in room temperature air until it's soft and pliable. I work with a stick, or 1/2 cup butter at a time. That makes it easy to handle and each stick of butter can have a different flavor combination.

Chives and dill have been chopped and butter is waiting to soften. A hint of lemon juice makes this extra tasty.

While the butter's softening you can collect your herbs and spices. This again, can be as simple or as complicated as you'd like. A basic butter can contain nothing more than chopped onion chives. You can take that up a notch and add onion chives and garlic chives for a more complex flavor. Or combine two favorite, chives and dill. I love lemon flavor, so I like to combine lemon flavored herbs and will often add lemon or lime juice for a little extra zest.

When you're thinking about herb combinations, think about what herbs pair well with what dishes. For instance, rosemary has a strong flavor and pairs well with chicken and meat. A nice basic combination of herbs that most people have readily available includes parsley, marjoram, thyme, basil and garlic.

Wash, dry and finely chop your herbs and gather any spices you've chosen. Then place your butter in a bowl and add your herbs. Work the herbs into the butter by hand. I find a fork is the perfect tool for this job. Or use a food processor. Once everything's incorporated, place your herbal butter into a container or wrap it with some plastic wrap and let it refrigerate a few hours before using. That will give the flavors time to incorporate. It will stay fresh in the refrigerator for a few weeks. If you're making butter to preserve for later use, put your butter on a piece of plastic wrap. Enclose the butter and then roll it to form a log of butter. Place your butter in a freezer safe container where it will stay good for up to six months. Cut off small amounts as you need them.

If you don't have an active herb garden, no worries. You can make herbal butter by purchasing fresh herbs from the grocery.

Once you make herbal butter, you'll want to make it time and time again. There's just nothing like a fresh herbal butter to make an ordinary meal extraordinary.

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