“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others,
faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
I Peter 4:10
Today was the 2013 Purple Cow Festival at Full Moon Natives & Herbs and my presentation was “Herbs for the Holidays” – the use of 5 herbs and 5 spices for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I also did this presentation at the New Smyrna Beach Library on November 5th and will do it again at the New Smyrna Beach Garden Club on December 4th. Each time I have had or will have a slightly different combination of displayed items depending on the emphasis.
The first part of the presentation was information on the individual herbs and spices:
HERBS: Most herbs were originally used because they symbolized a quality or were important to the spirit of the holidays. We have forgotten many of these symbolic meanings over the years, but there is renewed interest in recovering our holiday "roots."
BAY (Laurus nobilis) - symbol of merit and honor
- spicy fragrance which seems to bring other flavors together giving them depth and richness
MINT (Mentha spp) – symbol of virtue, refreshment & hospitality
- unmistakable refreshing fragrance and flavor.
- fresh or crystallized to help digestion - a nice addition to an overladen holiday table
ROSEMARY (Rosmarinus officinalis) – symbol of remembrance
- strong somewhat piney, mint-like flavor with a hint of ginger popular with cranberries
SAGE (Salvia officinalis) – symbol of immortality, long & healthy life
- pleasantly pungent, lemony flavor that enhances many foods
THYME (Thymus spp) – symbol of courage and strength
- pleasantly hot bite tempered by a savory-sweet note
HERB MIXTURES can also be used to create a symbolic advent wreath or to decorate gingerbread houses by using them for trees, wreaths or even bay leaf shingles on the roof!
SPICES (symbol of festivity): Whether bold or subtle, spices impact our holiday traditions & fragrances as much as the foods. Their delightful flavors and aromas create holiday memories that will last a lifetime and make the house smell great!
ALLSPICE (Pimenta diocia)
- tastes like a blend of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg with a slight peppery note
- adds a distinct holiday flavor to mulled drinks, mincemeat, fruit cake and Christmas pudding.
STAR ANISE (Illicium verum)
- the world’s prettiest spice with a star-shaped seed and an anise-like flavor
- goes well with such holiday fare as poultry, pumpkin and fruits
- beautiful on a plate as a garnish or floated in a pot of tea.
CINNAMON (Cinnamomum cassia)
- our most favorite holiday spice with its sweet flavor and fragrant note
- traditionally used in everything from gingerbread to fruit desserts and a perfect partner for anything chocolate!
CLOVES (Syzygium aromaticum)
- among the most intense in aroma and flavor of the spices
- lends vitality to such holiday foods as baked goods, sweet potatoes and fruit desserts
GINGER (Zingiber officinale)
- pungent bite used fresh, ground or crystallized
- star of holiday classics like gingerbread but also pairs well with honey, nuts and dried fruit as well as the other holiday spices
SPICE MIXTURES are great for potpourri or simmering potpourri plus add detail to gingerbread houses
The second part of the presentation included the myriad of uses and a demonstration or instructions for the displayed items:
WREATHS have always been symbolic of eternity and can be used throughout your home in all sizes for ornaments, culinary combinations, punch bowl surrounds as well as simple gifts for those who visit your home.
SOUP WREATH: The completed wreath should be about 4-5” in diameter – the perfect size for a pot of soup. Gather 4 -12” herb sprigs (Rosemary, Thyme, Marjoram, Lemongrass) and use rosemary to bend into a 4” loop twisting ends around each other or tying with string. Add thyme & marjoram overlapping the ends of each one until the wreath looks full. Keep in mind wreath will shrink as it dries.
Add lemongrass spiraling like a ribbon to secure and give a finished look. Tuck in a small bunch of the accent herbs/flowers (Bay, Parsley & Texas Tarragon). Tie on ribbon with instructions for use/soup.
TURKEY NOODLE SOUP
6c turkey stock
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2c celery, chopped
1pkg frozen peas
1pkg frozen carrots
2 c diced cooked turkey
2c egg noodles
Simmer turkey carcass in 6 cups of water with chicken bouillon, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped celery stalk, 1 chopped carrot & attached soup wreath for 45 minutes. Remove carcass & wreath. Strain broth and discard vegetables. Reheat broth adding 1/2 c chopped celery & 1/2 c chopped onion and simmer until tender and then add frozen peas and carrots, noodles, and diced turkey. Simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
MINI BAY LEAF WREATH: Form loop at one end of a 9”wire. Add 1” of broken bay leaves then two chili peppers (dried apples) alternately until completely filled. Bend into wreath shape and attach wire end to loop. Add raffia and tie bow over wire loops & around additional chili peppers (apple slice &cinnamon stick).
ENTERTAINING uses include decorating platters & plates or scattering in between dishes on a holiday buffet. In centerpieces, they add texture and set off the color of flowers. They also make great place cards and favors.
DIP TREE: Fill a cone shaped cake decorating bag with the following layers of herbs:
1st layer – 1/2tsp tarragon, rosemary + 1/2tsp garlic granules
2nd layer – 1tsp parsley, thyme + 2tsp minced onion
3rd layer – 1tsp oregano, basil
Poke cinnamon stick into bottom layer of herbs and secure with ribbon. Glue a whole star anise to top. Attach instructions to prepare dip to the ribbon.
Instructions: Combine contents of dip tree with 1 c mayonnaise and 1 c sour cream, chill overnight and serve with veggies or chips or use combined blend as seasoning in cream cheese for a spread.
BUNCHES of fresh herbs can be tied to napkins and even dried bunches with or without leaves can be used in the fireplace. They also can be suspended from twine and draped like swags
Bundle dried herbs such as rosemary, sage & thyme and secure the ends with raffia, paper ribbon or cotton twine. To use: Place the herb bundle underneath a pile of burning logs near the edge so that the fragrance does not all go up in the chimney.
FIRESTARTERS: Tie herb bundles to kindling sticks or wrap in newspaper with small pinecones and secure ends, place under logs and light which will give the logs a chance to catch fire and give off a pleasant aroma!
YULE LOG: Drill hole(s) in a 12”-24” log to hold a candle (symbol of Christ as the Light of the World). Glue on a base of Spanish moss. Add bundles of symbolic herbs and decorate with fruit (symbol of hospitality), whole spices (symbol of levity) or other accessories such as gold (symbol of royalty), frankincense (symbol of priesthood) & myrrh (symbol of sacrificial death) plus ribbon bows to create a fragrant symbolic table centerpiece, for on a tables, sideboard, a mantle or in the hearth.
SACHETS are used to scent closets & repel moths and can be wrapped inside doilies or a vintage handkerchief for holiday favors or package tie-ons.
WINTER SACHET: Combine 1/4c dried rosemary, 1/4c dried mint, 2Tbs dried thyme, 2Tbs lavender flowers and 2Tbs cloves. Mix well and package in sachet, muslin bags, doilies or handkerchief. Good moth repellant.
DECORATIONS/ORNAMENTS can be made with herbs and spices to add fragrance to the home
CINNAMON/HERB BUNDLES: Glue together two 4”-6” cinnamon sticks, then top with two more, gluing the four of them together. Bundle fresh herbs and tie with a few pieces of raffia around the middle of the sticks, then form a bow with a few ends hanging slightly off the piece. Place one in front of each place setting during your holiday meal.
DECORATED PINECONES: Mix 1 part glue to 1 part water, brush on the pinecone and sprinkle with ground spices. When coated, allow to dry. Hot glue a cluster of Spanish moss to top of pinecone. Add bay leaves, milo berries & cinnamon sticks.
POMANDERS: Poke holes into fruit (lemon, lime, orange) and insert cloves in desired pattern remembering to keep them as close together as possible. Place the clove-studded fruits in a shallow baking dish filled with a mixture of ground spices, turning occasionally, until the fruits have dried and hardened. When they are “cured,” dust them off, tie a pretty ribbon around them if you like, and give as gifts, hang on the branches of your tree, or place them in a bowl in your home.
NOTE: Make quick pomanders for decorations by crisscrossing ribbon around fruit and tying like a package then inserting cloves through the ribbon and fruit.
POTPOURRI/SIMMERING POTPOURRI is simply a collection of leaves, seeds and spices and is a great way to use old outdated herbs and spices (remember they should be replaced once a year!). They make welcome gifts not only for holidays, but for dinner guests and convalescents too.
ALL PURPOSE HOLIDAY MIX: Combine 1Tbs dried gingerroot, 3Tbs cinnamon chips, 1tsp whole cloves, 1tsp whole allspice, and 1tsp coriander seeds in muslin bags or in cheesecloth squares tied with string.
Air freshener – combine with 4c water, bring to boil for 10 mins then simmer
Spiced punch – add 46oz can pineapple juice and 1qt apple cider to mix and simmer ½ hr. Remove bag, chill, add ginger ale and clove- studded orange slices.
Holiday tea – 4qts water, 3Tbs loose leaf tea, add mix and bring to a boil. Remove tea & bag, add 6oz lemonade and 6oz orange juice, reheat and serve with cinnamon stick stirrer.
SOUPS are great for fall (pumpkin or squash) and winter (bean, pea or lentil) and herbs add a unique lift and can be symbols of the season as well as great packaged hospitality gifts for leftovers.
HOLIDAY SOUP: In a wide-mouth pint jar, add 1c long grain rice (symbol of strength) and tuck 2 bay leaves (symbol of honor) down the side. Add 1/2tsp each of marjoram (symbol of joy & happiness), rosemary (symbol of remembrance), basil (symbol of good wishes), spearmint (symbol of refreshment), sage (symbol of good health) and parsley (symbol of festivity) around the top of rice. Add 1/2c or more rice to fill jar. Top with lid and tie on a label with the ingredient meanings & instructions. Great as a hostess gift!
Instructions: Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil, stir in contents, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 45 mins. or until all water is absorbed. Meanwhile, sauté a chopped red & green pepper and 1/2c onion in butter until semi-soft and then add 2 ½ c chicken broth plus 2c leftover turkey (optional) and blend well. When rice mixture is cooked, remove bay leaves, add broth mixture and simmer on low heat 20 mins., stirring occasionally. Serve hot.