Friday, 1 August 2008

WHB - Lavender Fields Forever

Hmmm, so maybe not so much a field as one very happy lavender plant in my teeny tiny front yard. This is the first year that I have harvested from my lavender as I wanted to let it get established. I hung great swaths of the flowers from the ceiling and only took them down when hubby noted the debris they were leaving beneath them. After that they went into a giant shallow white bowl that got moved around the kitchen as space was needed. After some time living with the giant moving bowl of dried lavender, I decided to employ it for Weekend Herb Blogging. Inspired by the lovely and talented Laurie from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska, I quickly emailed her and asked if I could do a showcase of lavender treatments as she had done with her spruce tips. To my good fortune, the lovely lady said yes.

Weekend Herb Blogging, a tradition started by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen is hosted this week by Kelly from Sounding My Barbaric Gulp.

Now I have a little history with lavender. I grew up with just my mother as my father was a world travelin' wandering gypsy type. Aging hippie and all that. He did pop in to my life from time to time and when I was ten it was in the form of an invitation to spend a month on a farm just outside of Nice, France. It was a lavender farm where people with itchy feet could stop and stay a bit, working in the fields for their keep.

Now, this shy little chubby kid learned a couple of things that summer. One - the milk in France is lumpy. I would only drink chocolate milk as it was homogenized. Two - don't go into the kitchen. The cute little goose that followed you around the yard may be on the counter with a knife sticking out of it. Three - lavender is itchy. On a lavender farm the lavender is in your hair, clothes, eyes, nose... you get the picture. When I returned to my mother at the end of the month, I immediately declared "I hate lavender!"

My mother continues to find this hilarious and for every Christmas, birthday or random hostess gift, she gives me something with lavender. This month it was in the form of Williams Sonoma Lavender dish soap. Sigh.

With my lavender I have made lavender simple syrup, lavender salt, lavender vinegar, lavender sugar and herbes de Provence salt. I was very casual with measuring and you can adapt to your own taste.

Lavender Simple Syrup.

Equal parts sugar and water in a small pot with a generous handful of lavender. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Let cool in pot and strain into a Mason jar or something similar. Store in the fridge. Great for lavender martinis.
This also makes your house smell amazing, so if you are in the mood for a little simmering pot pourri, just add some lavender to a simmering pot of water. Just don't leave it alone or let it boil dry.

Lavender Salt.

Equal parts lavender and coarse sea salt in a medium sized food processor. Pulse until combined and at the consistency you desire.

Lavender Sugar.

I used 50% lavender to the sugar amount, eg: 1/2 cup lavender to 1 cup sugar. Process until combined and at the consistency desired.

Herbes de Provence Salt.

Herbes de Provence is a French blend of herbs that is different for every French family.
It usually contains Oregano, Marjoram, Savoury, Thyme, Rosemary and sometimes Lavender. I have all of these that I have dried from my garden and added small handfuls of each to the food processor (lighter on the lavender) and added an equal measure of coarse sea salt to the herbs. Whiz up until blended and at the desired consistency and bottle.

Lavender Vinegar.

The easiest of all.
In a clean bottle or jar (I used an old maple syrup bottle) add a generous handful of lavender, a few peppercorns, and top up with a nice white wine vinegar. Put away for a week or so, shaking once a day, and strain into a fresh bottle or jar. Nice on salads.

One last memory of France. As I was left alone to entertain myself, I got to taking the bicycle into the town - which was no more than a small cluster of buildings along the road - and found a bakery. I couldn't speak French so I just pointed to the lovely offerings. I experienced then the joy of French pastry. If you have never had bread or pastry in France, it is beyond heavenly. Now this was thirty years ago in an untouched little town. I am sure that commercialism has reared it's ugly head, but I like to think that there are small towns that still make light and airy, rich and buttery breads that sing in your mouth like angels.