Blending Spices to Share This Holiday Season: Homemade Herbes de Provence

The Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, NY, with its nearly 1000 bins of bulk food, also has an area in the store for herbs and spices where customers can buy as much, or as little, as desired

The Honest Weight offers Frontier Co-op’s Herbes de Provence as a ready-made blend of herbs but the ingredients are conventional and not organic

Nearly half of the herbs and spices sold at the Honest Weight are organic and the price differential is not that great given that herbs and spices do not “weigh” heavily and an ounce or two often fills up a small jar (and to avoid any possible residues from pesticides/fertilizers when conventionally grown is priceless)

Jars of herbs gathered to make Heirloom Gardener magazine’s recipe for Herbes de Provence

Nine herbs thoroughly combined to make a cup of Herbes de Provence

A spice bag filled with 3 tablespoons of a homemade and organic blend of Herbes de Provence makes for a sure to be appreciated holiday stocking stuffer for a homecook (and a jar filled with the leftover for longer-term storage for the gift-giver!)

In the 1970s, commercial blends of dried herbs, typical of the Provence region of southeast France, became popular and successfully marketed as Herbes de Provence. According to the Wikipedia article on this mixture of spices, Provençal cuisine has traditionally used many herbs which were often characterized collectively as herbes de Provence, but not in specific combinations, and not sold as a mixture.

The commercial blends commonly include rosemary, thyme, oregano, savory and marjoram. The entry in Wikipedia elaborates that homogenized mixtures were formulated by spice wholesalers and for the North American market, lavender leaves were also typically included due to American association of Provence with fields of lavender.

A recent article in Heirloom Gardener (Fall 2018), Homemade Spice Blends by Haley Casey, caught this home cook’s eye. With a turkey to roast for Christmas, a recipe for homemade Herbes de Provence seemed a handy way to make a customary main course, flavorful and special for the holiday celebration. And blending organic herbs (including some grown in a backyard garden as well as some from this past season’s CSA farm share) into homemade Herbes de Province would also make for appreciated seasonal gifts.

In addition to the six herbs commonly included in the commercial blends as noted above, the recipe in Heirloom Gardener includes basil, mint and fennel seeds. With basil home grown in the backyard garden and also part of a CSA farm share (and dried for use as a seasoning throughout the year), and peppermint also homegrown and dried for tea and use as a seasoning, little question that these two flavorful herbs would be added to my homemade blend.

Fennel seeds were not a familiar seasoning, but on a visit to the herbs and spices section of the bulk foods department of my hometown Honest Weight Food Co-op, it took only a sniff of the container of fennel seeds and its fragrant licorice-like aroma to decide to include the spice in the home crafted mixture.

Heirloom Gardener’s Haley Casey notes in her article that the suggested blend of herbs is often adjusted based on household preference, so the precision of the measurements or the addition of some tarragon or sage is up to you.

Classic Herbes de Provence (adapted from a recipe by Dana Goldstein and included in the Fall 2018 issue of Heirloom Gardener)

3 tablespoons thyme
2 tablespoons basil
2 tablespoons savory
2 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons marjoram
2 tablespoons rosemary
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon lavender
1 tablespoon mint

Thoroughly combine ingredients.

Yields about 1 cup.

The two tablespoons of basil I used in the recipe were a blend of basil grown organically in my backyard and from my CSA farm share from Roxbury Farm in Kinderhook (Columbia County), NY which I dried for use throughout the year. The peppermint was also home grown and similarly dried for use as tea and as an herb. (Last year, we shared our method of drying herbs by using an oven at 170 degrees for a couple of hours.) Other organic herbs were purchased at the Honest Weight Food Co-op, with its remarkable 1000 bins of bulk foods and a large herbs and spices section. Although the co-op offers Herbes de Provence as a blend of herbs ($24.40/lb), the herbs are conventionally grown and with more thyme and rosemary than the blend of herbs in this recipe. I was pleased to be able to purchase the individual organic herbs at the co-op to make my own blend.

I filled four spice bags, with 3 tablespoons of homemade Herbes de Province, for holiday gifts. The leftover I stored in a small glass jar.

Regency Naturals Spice Bags, made of 100% cotton, available at The Cook’s Resource, Different Drummer’s Kitchen Co. in my hometown of Albany, NY were handy to use.

(Frank W. Barrie, 12/14/18)

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