A recipe has no soul, you as the cook must bring soul to the recipe”
– Thomas Keller
The holidays are truly a time where there is something for everyone in the family. An absolute feast for the senses, we fill our homes with beautiful decorations, we illuminate the Christmas tree and gifts underneath with brightly lit paper, we hear familiar festive songs on the radio, and we brace for that cold nip in the air. We wrap our homes up in our favorite styles and colors while we wrap up our family in warmth, tradition, and memory making – all of which comes flooding back each year as we smell those familiar scents of pine, candles, and the very best of Christmas cooking.
The holidays are the time for indulging in the very best, especially in the kitchen. Starting with Thanksgiving and carrying through to Christmas and New Years, the start of the winter season is home to some of our favorite flavors and smells in the kitchen. What better way to make your home-cooked meal stand out than with the assistance of the best herbs that your garden has to offer?
Whether you dried some herbs from the fall or you’re growing a few fresh sprigs on the windowsill (our favorite winter pick-me-up), or you simply pick up from the store, the sweet and savory delights of Christmas are the time for your herbs to shine in the kitchen. A few classics are staples at this time of year, and you should make sure that you have plans to include them in your holiday dishes:
Rosemary has earned itself the nickname of the “King of Herbs”, and we absolutely agree. Fresh Rosemary not only has a slight Christmas-y feel, thanks to its leaves that look like delightful pine boughs, but the real claim to fame for this herb is in its rich and comforting flavor.
Rosemary is a perfect fit for all the winter and holiday classics. Try it in soups, stews, roasts, on your potatoes, or even in your sauces. Cooking with this herb is sure to fill your entire home with an inviting, mouth-watering scent that will have you watching the clock until dinner. Make sure that you cook the herb thoroughly to release all of its best flavor, adding it early in the cooking process to give the aroma time to develop.
Make the most of your fresh rosemary sprigs by using them in your holiday decorating as well as your food! They’re a perfect match for your Christmas decorations, and even fresh have a lovely scent to accent your style. Use them in evergreen and cedar wreaths, in napkin holders, to accessorize your candles, or even to make their own miniature wreaths to spread their delightful scent and cheer around your home.
Christmas dinner and the holidays just beg for a perfectly cooked turkey, and sage is the perfect partner for a menu featuring fowl. Any recipe calling for a big roasted bird will ask for plenty of sage to compliment the flavors – whether it’s being blended into the stuffing or infused into savory butter and marinades.
Sage is a Mediterranean herb, like rosemary, that thrives on sunny window sills, giving you perfectly fresh herbs to cook with through the winter and holiday season. Of course, dried sage can make do as a substitute, but none of your dried herbs will ever compare to the taste of fresh.
Not all of your classic Christmas herbs are savory, earthy, and part of the main course. Peppermint and Christmas go hand in hand, and we love the combination of the crisp, fresh air outside with the wintry chill of mint. It’s sharp and joyful, and useful far beyond candy canes. Experiment with adding peppermint to your holiday cakes, biscotti, cookies and chocolates to give it all that festive twist we crave at this time of year.
Another great candidate to grow on the windowsill, peppermint prefers soil that is kept much more moist than its warmer-climate companion herbs. A few leaves of fresh mint in your cooking and baking will give that special homemade taste that welcomes the holiday season into your home. Who could ever say no to a delightful cup of minty hot cocoa?
Christmas time is a wonderful journey of indulgences, and we are always thrilled to taste the best of what the holidays have to offer us. A little bit of something savory and little bit of something sweet, your herbs have a lot of power to make all the difference in your kitchen this year. Stick to fresh herbs – homegrown if you can – for that extra bit of love in your cooking that will have your guests begging for your recipe and secret ingredients. They don’t need to know that you simply grew it yourself!