Apart from picking fresh herbs from my garden for cooking or for sprinkling finely chopped as a garnish, drying herbs means prolonging the pleasure they bring all year round.
Towards the end of last year I made bouquet garni sachets for friends and family. This is such an easy project and so enjoyable to do as you have the added pleasure of breathing in their sweet aroma!
Begin by drying your herbs. I chose thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil, sage. Hanging in smaller bundles for this makes the drying process speedier.
Whilst your herbs dry, take unbleached cotton muslin. Wash in mild detergent, rinse well and dry.
Cut into squares large enough to contain your chosen herbs.
Place a selection in the centre of each square. I also added some organic dried black peppercorns from my larder. Gather the corners of the muslin and sides ensuring all edges are gathered together with no space for any contents to escape. Tie with kitchen string. I leave a couple of tails to the string so I can make a loop at the top of each bag. This means when using they can be attached to the pan handle and will be easier to remove once cooking is complete.
For gifts, I also made cotton drawstring bags from a piece of plain white cotton pictured here, which has an embroidered insect motif. I felt it made a nice storage bag to keep the herbs smelling fresh.
Autumn is my favourite season. Nothing could be nicer than wrapping up warm and as the sun begins to set, sitting aside the fire pit as the evening chill seeps into my bones. A tasty bowl of home made soup cupped in my hands.
As the leaves begin to turn and acorns and pine cones crunch beneath my feet as I step out for my daily walk, a project springs to mind ……one I have intended doing every autumn for a number of years, but never seem to get round to making…… firelighters for the fire pit!
I had already collected some herbs from the garden, which had dried nicely. The intention to make some moth chasers for my shop and possibly some bouquet garni sachets. This left me with all the dried stalks which smell so sweet it’s a shame not to make use of them.
These along with some old gnarled pieces of branches and twigs are perfect to add in the centre… but what do we add to make them burn well? Candle wax. Using up any old ends of burnt down candle.
It took some experimenting to successfully make these with the minimum mess! Good preparation – everything to hand, and using OLD or redundant kitchen equipment.
I found this vintage Le Creuset pot at the back of my cupboard – I had totally forgotten about! Also an old ladle I’d purchased at a flea market in Amsterdam some years back. Both perfect for the task, along with……. garden secateurs, scissors, garden twine, parchment paper, an old glass container slightly larger than the pan to melt the wax in, if you do not want to melt it directly into the pan). A selection of dried stalks, pine cones and twigs.
I found the best twigs for me were dried thyme, as the were already bent and twisted, which meant easier to use for wrapping. Any other herb stalks such as rosemary or lavender will work too and all add a nice smell as they burn, but any twigs will work.
Another suggestion I found was to use cotton wool balls for the centre of the lighters. I did experiment with these too, but ideally I prefer to use the natural products from the ‘forest floor’ and following my trial will for future making. Also oils can be used to ignite the flame, but I found this rather messy and unlike the wax which solidifies when it cools, the oil obviously remain liquid!
To begin making ……
Wrap a length of garden twine around each cotton wool ball/cone/ twig, long enough to tie securely and leave a length to handle and tie to drip dry. Break up the wax into small pieces as best you can. Either place directly into the pan (only if unwanted for other purposes!) or fill with hot water and place the candle pieces in a glass bowl that can sit above without touch the water.
Stand on the heat to boil the water and melt the wax. Once the wax is ready, take one at a time by the string & dip into the melted wax. This is VERY hot so take care!
Once coated lift by the string and allow to drip for a moment back into the container. Place on a piece of parchment paper. I transferred mine to hang to help set more quickly.
The pine cones look as though they are covered with snow as the wax sets!
Once dry, cover with the layers of twigs and dried leaves, whatever you have selected. Tie securely with twine…. and there you have it!
Do remember these are for OUTDOOR USE ONLY.
On reflection, as mentioned I prefer to use the wood and pine cones for the centre, although the cones I used were too big and I wish I had used the smaller ones. Only because they are harder to wrap!