For Dragonflies And Me

  (Snover, Michigan)
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Make a Blooming Chair, How To Make Herbed Vinegars and Oils and Recipes!

Flowers are bursting open everywhere and the fledglings are leaving the nest... young robins are hopping all over the garden eating creepy crawlies and enjoying being out of the nest... glorious, glorious summer!  The fields are starting to bear and the harvest will soon be coming on heavily... that means 'puttin' up time is just around the corner.  Of course we've been busy with rhubarb and now strawberries are ripe for the pickin' and that means the yummiest jam of all...  Strawberries scare me though... that is growing them. They are really the only 'garden' fruit I don't grow. The runners and weeding they require have never tempted me... until this year! I think I have figured a way to keep them... I will blog more on this next week, so keep watching.  Today we'll stick with more herb stuff and of course some garden junque too! Enjoy and thanks for comin' over!

Blooming chairs you ask... I am all about big & beautiful now with certain things. I am sure you have all seen those cute chairs that have potted flowers growing right out of the seat. I just love them, and of course I have some.  Here is the simple 'how to' to make your own.
Step 1~ If you don't have an old chair already, you can easily find one at any thrift store, antique shop or flea market.  If you can find one that has a cane seat you are doing great, because this will make your job all the more easy.
Step 2~ remove the caning from the chair seat to make an open hole where your container can be placed.
Step 3~ I would simply go to a nursery and purchase an already big and beautiful hanging basket- be sure it will fit in your seat hole... take it home and put her in! Presto, instant blooming chair...
* to make it cuter if you can by chance see the pot it's in, put it in an old tin bucket!
... of course if you want to plant your own, do just that.

Herbed Vinegars & Oils can be made quite easily and inexpensively, especially when you are growing your own herbs. For those who love to grill or roast, or have salads often,  you will find that having these oils & vinegars on hand to be a real treat... and what a way to wow your guests.  Here is the 'how to' and some ideas on different combinations...
 
**How to make Herbed Vinegars~
You can use the leaves, seeds and flowers, singly or in combinations of freshly picked herbs to make herbed vinegars.  The vinegar should be the best of the cider or wine varieties available, as herbs will not disguise the sharpness of a bad vinegar.
1. Pick the herbs for the vinegar in the morning after the dew has dried but before the heat of day has driven off some of the essential oils that give herbs their flavor.  Use only perfect leaves and flowers, discarding any that have tuned brown or show signs of having been eaten by garden pests.
2. Bruise the herbs slightly before putting them in a glass bottle or ceramic crock with a tightly fitting top.  Use about 1/2 cup of herbs for each pint (2cups) of vinegar, more if you want a stronger taste.
3. Then follow one of these two traditional methods:
  ~A. Pour the vinegar over the herbs in a clear glass bottle and close tightly.  Set the bottle in a sunny window for two weeks, turning it frequently.
  ~B. Heat the vinegar; then pour the hot vinegar over the herbs in a bottle or crock and close tightly.  Let steep overnight.
  Whichever method you use, you may want to strain and re-bottle the vinegar at the end of the steeping time, adding a fresh, unbruised sprig for decoration.  This is a matter of aesthetics- a choice between one simple spring in the bottle or the generous bunch of herbs used to flavor the vinegar.

**HOW to make Herbed Oils~

Herbed oils can be as simple or as complex as you like.  To make you own, simply add the desired herbs and spices to the oil (olive oil is best, but you can also use a good vegetable oil) and steep in a closed bottle or container in a warm but not hot place for a few weeks before using.  

Here are some yummy combo's for you try now that you have the 'how to's'....
~Vinegar idea's:
*Tarragon is most common alone~ or add lemon thyme, basil, chive blossoms, burnet work well in salads
*Burnet and borage~ add borage flowers to white vinegar and it will tint it a lovely pale blue while giving it a subtle cucumber flavor...
*Dill with whole seed head intact ~ add a bit of lemon and garlic for delicious variety
*Mint for lamb dishes and fruit salads
*lemon thyme for fish
*Basil for tomatoes ~ add borage and burnet for a yummy twist
*sage for marinating rich meats and fowl
*chive blossoms for a faint oniony flavor
*nasturtium buds, flowers and leaves for a lovely peppery flavor
*oregano, fennel and garlic
*lemon thyme and garlic
*raspberry leaves and lemon balm... yummy for a salad
*and of course garlic... for everything!

~Oil idea's:
*Thyme and rosemary make a quick pasta oil to toss the noodles with
*garlic, chili peppers, rosemary and thyme make for a yummy barbeque oil that is wonderful to marinade and baste your grilled meats
*Peppermint, garlic, cumin, coriander, cloves, mace and fennel adds a taste of the Middle East
*Thyme alone is wonderful to brush on veggies for the grill and chicken
*Fennel and garlic are yummy on fish
*garlic, thyme and a bit of sage go well with grilled veggies

You know what you like... so be daring and try new things with all your wonderful herbs!

**Taken and Adapted from, Herbs, Gardens, Decorations, and Recipes, by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead, published by Clarkson N. Potter, Inc./Publishers, 1985

Here are some yummy recipe's to try...

Spiced Vinegar
3" cinnamon stick
1 whole cracked nutmeg
4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. whole cloves
1 Tbsp. allspice
1 Tbsp. black peppercorns

*Follow instructions above; let steep 4 weeks in a cool place; when ready strain the mixture and bottle. Store in a cool, dark space.

Rose Petal Vinegar
3 cup white wine vinegar
1 rose bud to place in bottle
5 cup rose petal, lightly crushed

*Follow instruction above; steep 4 weeks in cool place; when ready strain the mixture and bottle. Store in a cool, dark space.

Cucumber Dill Sauce
1 cup water
1 cup organic raw sugar
1 Tbsp. sea salt
1/3 cup white vinegar
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped

1. Combine water, sugar, salt and vinegar, stir until thoroughly dissolved; add cucumber.
2. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving; when ready to serve, drain cucumber, fold into sour cream and add dill. 
*use on top of baked potatoes... yummy!

Happy Day,
Jean

        
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