Summer in a Jar
Take a cue from a Vermont nursery owner who’s reducing food waste and preserving peak herb flavor well into winter.
On a recent Friday, Julie Rubaud made chicken and dumplings seasoned with a tangy chive-flower salt and lots of fresh thyme. She then sprinkled a pink-hued vinegar infused with Thai basil blossoms on just-picked lettuces. This meal, which would be lunch for her crew at Red Wagon Plants, was seasoned with intent—using products made with the herbs she grows.
Delicious food and supporting the community and environment imbue everything Rubaud does at her organic nursery in Hinesburg, Vermont, where half of the nearly 1,500 plant varieties
she cultivates are edible. To keep staff employed through the winter and minimize food waste, the team blends and sells herb-infused salts and vinegars that deliver a taste of summer all year round. She also schools customers on how to make their own with end-ofseason surplus crops and parts of plants that might otherwise be discarded, like blossoms pinched from Thai basil, chive flowers, cilantro stems and the tips of rosemary branches that need to be snipped to encourage bushing. Here, she offers you a lesson in making your own flavor enhancers.
DIY Herb Salt
Start with a 2-to-1 ratio of fresh herbs to salt. Pulse the herbs with half of the salt in a food processor until the herbs are finely ground. Add the remaining salt; pulse just until well blended. Spread the mixture on parchment paper and allow to air-dry for 4 days. (It may be a bit lumpy, but after the herbs cure in the salt, it can be broken up by hand.) Store in an airtight container for up to a year. TIP: A fine sea salt works for most mixes, but a coarser sea salt is great for making rubs for meat and fish.
Bring a pot of white-wine vinegar to a simmer, then pour it into a sterilized jar that’s three-quarters full of herb sprigs and stems, spices or edible flowers. Cover tightly and store in a cool, dark place, undisturbed, for 3 weeks. Strain the vinegar through cheesecloth; repeat until all the solids are removed and the vinegar is clear. Pour the strained vinegar back into sterilized jars. Decorate with a few well-rinsed sprigs of fresh herbs, if desired. Refrigerate the vinegar, tightly covered, for up to 1 year.