Preserving Herbs to Enjoy When the Snow Flies

Frost has killed about everything but kale and calendula in my garden. The roses and some herbs are able to survive in the unheated greenhouse, but soon the roses will have to go into the shop and remain dormant until late April and the herbs will die. The fresh herbs will be sorely missed, but I’ve found a way to enjoy them all winter. Drying them is a good option, but so much of the flavor is lost. Give this a try to see how much more flavor you get from your herbs.

Gather herbs and place leaves, without stems, in a food processor, blender, or tall jar for using a stick blender. I used a stick blender. Add about a half cup of olive oil for a quart of loose herbs.

Gather your herbs, whether a single variety or a blend and check for bugs. If they have bugs, soak them in lukewarm salt water for about five minutes and rinse and dry gently between layers of towel. Remove the leaves and place in either a blender, food processor, or a tall, narrow jar to use a stick blender. Add olive oil-enough to make a thick liquid when it is all blended. I add a little fresh lemon juice to keep the color bright, but you don’t have to. It is better to use too much oil than not enough.

You will have a beautiful, pungent, green, thick liquid.

I pour about a third of a cup into a snack size zip-lock bag. Label it and freeze it flat. When you want to use it, just open up the bag and break off a piece. Stir it into soup, casseroles, pasta, salad dressing…you name it! Enjoy the fragrance and flavor, especially when it is dark and cold this winter.

Freeze the bags so they lie flat and thin.

Sketching Among Falling Rocks

Much of Alaska received record rainfall this week. Flooding has been the main news. One section of our highway becomes impassable from huge rocks loosened by the rain and crashing to the road.  It truly is the most dangerous part of the highway.  The sun came out yesterday and I raced off in the car to go sketch on the side of the highway among the piles of rocks plowed to the side. I could hear little pebbles falling nearby, but I kept sketching, alert for crashing rocks.

Long Lake Hill. The highway is on the right and the lake is behind my sketchbook.

Sketching the Fleeting Fall Alaska Days

September in Alaska can be beautiful. We have had a few days that were spectacular with blue skies shining on snow-capped mountains and the foothills a brilliant red with their covering of alpine bearberry and blueberry leaves.  One day I stopped to sketch at Eureka summit on the Glennallen Highway. The spruce trees are so scrawny and gray, but their summer is only a few weeks long and their roots have only a few inches of soil from which to gather nutrients before they hit permafrost. It is amazing they grow at all. All too soon snow will blanket them until May.

Our deck was so pretty this summer. I took the photo below on August 31. Since then, we have had several frosts which made the plants look very sad. Now, everything is stored away for next year. Sniff, sniff…

Turning Tomatoes into Sunshine

My greenhouse produced lots of tomatoes this summer. Unfortunately, the variety I chose and our cool summer didn’t give them very much flavor.   You can get flavorless tomatoes to taste like they were grown in hot sunshine. Here’s how:

Cut up tomatoes and put them on a baking sheet with high edges, unless you don’t mind your house filling with smoke, then use a flat one and leave the windows open and alert the neighbors that your house isn’t on fire. Cut up some onions, garlic and some herbs (I used basil, rosemary and marjoram) and sprinkle with kosher salt and olive oil.

Place in a 350 degree oven. Every couple of hours stir them up a bit. They are finished when they look leathery with some blackened bits. This will take about four to six hours, depending on the moisture level in the tomatoes

Allow them to cool a bit and scoop them into a food processor or blender. I add more fresh herbs at this point. Blend til it is the texture you like.

Use this as an amazing sauce for pizza or all things Italian. I freeze mine and taste sunshine all winter long.