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Thursday, August 17, 2023

Herb Seasoning Blends For Winter Cooking Using Garden Abundance

 clockwise beginning top right:
thyme, garlic, carrot leaves, celery leaves, oregano, parsley, sage

Those of us who keep gardens, whether small or big, try to use what we grow. One area that I have fallen down on this is in using all of the herbs that I grow. With both perennial and annual herbs I tend to use what I need in summer, dry or freeze the ones that we use most, then let the rest die off.

As I was watering the parsley this morning, I noticed that I really have an abundance of this herb. I also noticed the thyme was quite prolific, as was the sage. I decided I wanted to make sure we do use these herbs. I thought I could just cut and dry or freeze each, as individual herbs. But you know, I know myself, and I could just see all of that frozen parsley waste away in the freezer, neglected for the most part.

In another area of my life related to food, I can no longer use bouillon powder or soup base for flavoring when cooking due to allergens to ingredients.

So, a light bulb went off. I could kill two birds with one stone and make seasoning blends to store in the freezer with my surplus herbs. The seasoning blends would be allergen-free for me and they'd ensure I used what I chop and freeze because they would seem more handy to me than separate bags of parsley, thyme, sage, celery leaves, etc.

Here's what I made today. I made one all-purpose soup, sauce, gravy, bread or rice stuffing seasoning blend, using lots of garlic, lots of parsley, lots of thyme, some celery leaves, lots of carrots leaves, a little sage, and a little oregano. This will allow me to quickly season homemade chicken stock, a beef stew, a meatloaf, whatever. It should be full of flavor. I didn't follow a recipe, but I used roughly the proportions I would use in most of my basic savory cooking. And I made another bag of a poultry specific blend of herbs, celery, sage, thyme, carrot leaves, and a small amount of parsley. 

The difference between the two bags is a couple of extra ingredients in the all-purpose (namely garlic but also a little oregano), and proportions. When I cook American poultry dishes (like chicken and dumplings, chicken soup, bread stuffing, chicken pot pie) I tend to go heavy on the celery and sage, with a little thyme, if I have it, and a little parsley. So the poultry seasoning reflects my use of herbs in chicken and turkey dishes. I expect to have enough seasoning in the all-purpose blend for about 10 family-size recipes and in the poultry seasoning blend, about 8 recipes worth.

I'm looking forward to having the simplicity of adding a few tablespoons of a single blend to enhance my cooking this coming fall and winter. I'm doubly glad because I harvested and processed garden produce that I might have missed.


  1. Good idea. I am one who has herbs in the freezer that I forget to use. I have the dried ones with the rest of the spices so they get used more often.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I sometimes forget about the frozen herbs, too. I think the dry herbs are in my sight more often and ones like dried sage, oregano and thyme get used regularly. But we also like the flavor and freshness of the frozen ones. So I'm trying harder this year to use what we freeze.

  2. Hooray, Lili! This sounds like a very good plan for you! I hope that it does work out very nicely. (The mixes sound yummy, too!) I had hoped to have herbs and veggies growing this year, but delay on the permanent deer fence, family obligations, and health issues delayed that another year. Hopefully, next year. I have a dehydrator, so I can easily make dried herbs (like L and L, the ones I use daily); but I've also hung oregano, sage, and thyme to dry in the pantry in the past.

    Since I haven't had the gardening weather/space/time most of my life, I have learned to make my own herb/spice mixes from bulk herbs and spices. I think we've discussed this here, before. But for anyone without a garden, with time issues when it comes to cooking convenience, or with health issues, I highly recommend this option. My SILs buy "seasoning packets" for chili, tacos, spaghetti -- all sorts of things, and they have additives, they're hard to store, and I haven't looked at the price since I was a newlywed (many, many happy moons ago!), but as I recall, they're much pricier per ounce. As you said, making your own mix gives you both flavor and ingredient control.

    As for bouillon, I quit using that almost completely quite a while ago, due to MSG, modified food starch, etc., and what I've found is that, mostly, all the bouillon was giving me was salt. Salt is cheaper (and good quality salt has healthy micronutrients), and I'm pretty sure my family has no idea anything has changed in the recipes where I used to use bouillon. I still have it in the house, because DH uses it in some of the recipes he likes to make; but I haven't missed it at all. Even for gravy, I find just salt (even if there's no meat drippings) with some dried poultry seasonings and cracked pepper flavors it very well. The butter in the roux (and to a lesser extent, the browned flour) is really what makes it taste good. :) (For GF people, I've found a lot of different GF flours make pretty decent gravy... you just have to adjust the butter/flour proportions, sometimes, in the roux stage.) Have a great day! Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      Your comment about making your own mixes reminded me of how my mother made chili, tacos, and spaghetti sauce. She did buy those packets of spices and other ingredients. When I was first married, I also bought them, because I didn't realize how easy it was to just use my own ingredients. But it didn't take long for me to just use the spices in my cabinet to make those family favorite foods.

      I don't make the blends of purchased spices very often, but I can see how handy they would be while maintaining control of the ingredients.

    2. For mixed spice blends, I usually always have a highly-spiced "seasoned salt", chili seasoning, five-spice powder, garam masala, poultry seasoning, and spiced sugar (for toast) on hand. I used to also keep a mix for chicken Jalfrezi (Indian). For Mexican and Italian, I usually don't pre-mix. I like to adjust the ingredients, depending on the entree, meat used, etc. Cumin for tamale meat but not burritos or tacos, fennel seeds for pork or venison lasagne/shells, but not for beef, etc. I like to cook by the seat of my pants, and even add to my pre-mixes, sometimes; but the mix does establish the main flavor. Sara

  3. That's a really good idea. The more convenient something is (like an herb mix instead of individual herbs), the more likely I am to use it.

    1. Hi Kris,
      I agree -- the more convenient something is the more likely I will use it, too. I find that to be true in many areas. I'm hoping these seasoning blends will help me use what I've harvested and frozen.

  4. I store surplus herbs in the freezer, dried and fresh forms, and they both keep well. I believe you wrote a blog post about storing spices in the freezer years ago that prompted me to go through my spice cabinet and transfer amounts I don't use often out of spice jars and into individual snack and sandwich ziplocs, which are then bagged in a jumbo ziploc for easy access and organization. I wrote the spice names on each bag and on an index card then hanged it from the spice rack, so I would remember to look in the freezer when I can't find a spice or need to refill a spice jar. This is working so well. I wish I had done this decades ago. The fresh herbs are also stored in ziplocs though they take a bit more room.

    Storing the fresh herbs as a mix is such a good idea!! I don't have the variety of herbs at the moment, and usually don't, but I can see how it is a game changer for storing and using up surplus herbs and soup greens.

    Have a great weekend,

    1. Wow, Laura. Great system. :) Sara

    2. Hi Laura,
      I like to keep the spices especially in the freezer. I find the flavor lasts longer in those large containers when kept frozen.
      Good for you, creating a system that helps you look for the frozen refill amounts. I need to do that. When I clean out the freezers, I routinely find an odd bag of paprika or cumin lurking at the bottom. Now I need to go find an index card. Thank you for the tip.


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