I've got a feeling the titles for all the posts this month are going to start with the same word! We are dealing with an abundance of chives at the moment, following the stormy weather end of last week which horizontal-ised my lovely tall vertical flowering chive clumps. So what do you do with a forest of chives? Well you may ask! I've been scratching my head all day and here's what I've come up with so far..
I had already made a fair-sized bottle of chive vinegar using an earlier harvest end of April this year, as part of a learning assignment on the Susun Weed course I'm taking. But since I'd bottled it, I'd seen somewhere to make a vinegar with the blossoms. So I have a large bottle of blossom vinegar brewing now too. Herbal vinegar takes 6 weeks to mature, most places say, so my end of April batch was about ready and I strained and tasted it this morning. Its good! And I think we can probably use plenty because its good as a general purpose vinegar for liberal use on your fish and chips for example, rather than just for salad dressings.
Chive and Lemon Butter
Ok, so flowers taken care of. Now a good sort of the stems - young, fresh, newer ones can be preserved as herbal butter. My favourite one which I use lots of is just grated lemon zest and finely chopped chives. This is fantastic on the new potatoes we're eating at the moment, but is also really nice for a jacket potato in the autumn or for roast chicken (push the butter up underneath the skin, so it oozes out and bastes the bird while its in the oven).
All you need to do is mush the herb and lemon zest into the butter and just squidge it all about until evenly distributed. It helps if you remembered to get the butter out of the fridge a while beforehand (note to self!) and you might want to dice it to speed things along. Now you can do one of two things with your buttery mixture. Where I've followed recipes for herb butters in the past, they always tell you to place a dollop of mixture onto clingfilm or tinfoil and roll it into a sausage shape. You can then just twist up the two ends and you have a convenient parcel for storing your butter in the fridge, just slicing off segments as you need them, or in the freezer for longer term use.
Maybe its just my lack of finesse in these matters, but this method often leaves me struggling to extricate bits of tinfoil or worse clingfilm from my nice little butter rounds. Its alright for storing in the fridge, but if I'm going to freeze the butter I now always use the second method which is...
.. ice-cube trays. This is something I learned when making batches of babyfoods for the little'un when he was weaning. If you freeze things in ice-cube trays, then once they are frozen you just pop them out and into a freezer bag or container and they stay in handy little portions. You can then just take as many or as few as you need out of the freezer. I have to confess to having one little tray of heart-shaped cubes - this always goes down well if you have guests and want to put a little butter portion on the side of each plate or in a little dish on the table. But this pleasing little touch is entirely lost on my boys in everyday situations.
The more robust stalks I chopped finely and decided to just freeze in a bag - I will try adding to soups, to get that delicious onion flavour, where they will be cooked a nice long time so that they become tender. So now I'm left with bunches of stems that are somewhere between these two extremes - time to get baking! I've got a really nice recipe for savoury muffins which I'll share with you next time.