Saving Animals and Herbs

I’ve had several people ask, “What’s with fresh herbs? Why not use dry stuff that stays fresh forever?” First of all, those things don’t “stay fresh forever, ” and, unfortunately,  they don’t have expiration dates.  So I don’t know about you,  but I don’t exactly trust products without expiration dates. Secondly – and here comes the big revelation! – I’ve been here, in the land of disposable cars and dry spices, for almost 40 years, and I still haven’t learned to use dry herbs. I know the proportions and everything, but where I come from, in those times, parsley looked and smelled like parsley, and dill like dill, rather than like minuscule wood pilings. You bought it from a village woman at the farm market, and it was organic by definition, because no one but collective farms had chemical fertilizers. Old-fashioned as I am, I enjoy the look and feel of fresh organic herbs.

In one of my previous posts, I promised to tell how to preserve them. So here goes: Step 1. Loosen your bunch of herbs and put it in a big bowl, throw some ice cubes on top, and generously pour salt. There are no  exact proportions, but the bigger the bunch, the more ice and salt you need.

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Don’t worry about sodium; all this salt will wash off later. The rationale of this process is that ice makes bugs, if there are any, float to the top, and salt kills them. It will be very easy to rinse them off without going at each leaf with a magnifying glass, the way a friend of ours does both at work and at home. Granted, that’s what makes him one of the most reputable Mashgihim in town, and everybody would eat at a place he supervises, but you know what, try to use my method and then check every leaf, and you’ll see – it works!

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Make sure the bowl is big enough to fit the entire bunch, including stems. Keep it pretty loose and don’t press it down. Give those bugs a chance to float to the surface. Next, pour cold water into the bowl, making sure it covers everything and no green stuff is sticking out.

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You can dunk it gently, to ensure that it’s fully covered by water, but don’t press. Put the bowl on the side until ice fully melts. Don’t put it in a warm place to speed up the process; you want the temperature to keep ice cold as long as possible.

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While the ice is melting,  I know you are curious about me and the zebra. I am very much into preservation of nature in every manifestation of it. I also believe that preserving is ordained during the first days of creation, and wastefulness is practically sinful. In my perception, this principle applies to every flower and every blade of grass. As my grandmother used to admonish us, “It hurts the grass if you touch it roughly.” Kal vaHomer, even more so, it applies to animals, both domesticated and those in the wild. Imagine my excitement when I found out about the Jessy Williams Ranch, right here in Miami.

Before I retired, I used to run a private school for children with special needs that my husband and I had founded some years ago. Nowadays, nobody disputes the therapeutic benefits of communing with animals, petting zoos proliferate, parents are advised to get at least some goldfish, if not a dog or a cat, so I was always looking for a place to take my students where they could love an animal or a bird and be loved by them in return. And here is this amazing place that rescues wild animals and nurses them to health, that also has chicken, cats, and dogs wondering around, being totally sweet and friendly, and  – wow! – it offers horse rides to even the littlest kids and it specializes in conducting tours for children with special needs!

Of course I took the kids there! Well, I just happened to be wearing this outfit on that day, and the owner Jessy Roth went like, “You have to take a picture with Mordechai! You have to!” Ok, I am game, but who is Mordechai? Yeap, that’s the zebra, and I got to feed him.  They also have a pair of lovely horses called Lucy and Dezi, and a baby panther called… Baby. I was not allowed to hold or pet Baby because she wasn’t in the mood. Florida panthers are endangered species, and baby was rescued as a small kitten.

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That’s not one of my students, as I don’t have permission to publish their photos. There is a collection of images of other kids with special needs at the ranch, and you can literally cry browsing through them.

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Everybody gets a chance to ride! Out of the wheelchair and into the saddle!

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I didn’t want to miss my chance, either.

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I am not riding gentle Lucy, but all horses are sweet and friendly, just as the rest of the animals. As to Baby the panther, she became a big star. She is now the official mascot of the Florida Panthers, the hockey team (hockey in Florida? No comment!), and like every star, acts moody at times. She did come out to greet us, though.

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She is growing up to be a beauty! I love all animals, but cats are exceptionally beautiful. I can’t get over the two lions killed in Santiago, Chile, zoo, to save a mentally disturbed young man who stripped naked and jumped into the lion pit to commit suicide.  Yes, certainly, the poor guy nebech,  but what about the poor majestic gorgeous cats?

Ok, back to our herbs. Ice has melted, bugs are dead, and we have to rinse them out under running water. I learned this method from my dear friend Linda Gershater who is a cook par excellence and a sushi expert. When she does fundraising sushi events for synagogues and schools, she is authorized to be her own Mashgiah. I trust her supervision much more than the magnifying glass.

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Ah, the smell of fresh mint! My husband makes a mean Mojito. What, you don’t know what a Mojito is? Where have you been, in New Jersey? You need to get on that plane and come to South Florida where, to quote our resident famous humorist Dave Barry, you can live as close to the United States as possible without actually being there. I am not giving out drink recipes. For that you need a bartender, and I am not him (he!). Fresh mint is also essential for Nana tea, for a real traditional tabouleh, for steamed spinach with corn, and many other interesting foods and drinks.

So rinse it well, drain, and squeeze excess water trying not to bruise the leaves. Spread a double-layer paper towel and distribute your herb on it in a thin layer. Gently pat dry.

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At this point, there is no need to separate thick stems. Turn your paper towel sideways, with herb on it, and start rolling as you would roll sushi.

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As you roll, keep gently squeezing excess water. The goal is to get it as dry as possible before refrigerating, but without squashing or bruising the herb. Tuck everything inside if it tries to escape. Get more paper towels if this one breaks. The roll must be tightly wrapped.

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First one ready, paper towel is spread for the next bunch. I usually do them three or four at the time, and it really takes minimal time and effort. While ice is melting, you can do everything else. Incidentally, I give the same ice and salt treatment to organic lettuce, but instead of rolling and wrapping, I use a salad spinner to dry it.

So that’s it. We have gone from  this…

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…to this,

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but we are not done yet. Now you refrigerate your wrapped herbs for a day or two, until they are dry to the touch. Take them out and unwrap them.

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I apologize for the quality of this photo. A very helpful cat nudged my elbow from under the table. He knows that he is not allowed ON the table, but he still wants to participate. You can see the freshness of cilantro leaves that stayed in the refrigerator for two days. Separate the thick stems but don’t discard them. Chop them up and save them in a Ziploc bag. They lend intense flavor and aroma to your soups, stews, and casseroles, and anyway, wastefulness is a sin. I think so, at least. Dice the leaves as fine or as course as you like them, store each herb in a separate Ziploc bag (“freezerable, as my son used to say) and label them. Make sure to squeeze all air out of the bags! For better organization, store all your herb baggies in one large Ziploc bag and freeze them. Guaranteed freshness for up to two weeks!

Exception: basil. It doesn’t lose taste, but it becomes dark and looks wilted. You can’t use it in Mozzarella Caprese like this! But even basil will hold for a few days. A word of caution: once fresh-frozen, herbs cannot stay out of the freezer for more than a few seconds. They turn watery and mushy. Take them out when you need them, put them into your food, and immediately return them to the freezer.

PROCEDURE

  • Place a loose bunch of fresh herbs in a large bowl
  • Put some ice cubes on top
  • Generously pour salt (larger bunches of herb require more ice and salt)
  • Fill bowl with cold water
  • When ice completely melts, rinse well under running water, drain, squeeze excess water
  • Spread on double-layered paper towel, pat dry, roll
  • Refrigerate tightly wrapped rolls for 1 – 2 days, until herbs are dry to the touch
  • Separate stems, dice, place in Ziploc bags, freeze

Enjoy!

 

 

47 Comments Add yours

  1. This is great! I do the same thing but no ice. That is good to know. Plus, I have always been unsuccessful freezing fresh herbs. Now I know why. Let them dry chilled in the fridge and then chop and freeze.

    My one daughter goes to therapeutic horseback riding. She is naturally less inclined to animals than my other daughter. I also love cats. I find them so graceful and soothing. Animals in general are wonderful for special children in particular as they are less emotionally complex.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very true. In my school, at some point we had a volunteer with a therapy dog who came twice a week, and the kids loved her sessions.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lori Carlson says:

    Such a wonderful post! I definitely didn’t know this about herbs. We just dry ours in a dehydrator and use them dried, but I always preferred fresh herbs. I love the story about the Zebra and panther and your work with special needs children 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I think I just never got used to dry herbs, canned vegetables, frozen dinners, and other Western niceties.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lori Carlson says:

        I wish I was used to all of those conveniences either… most food is so unhealthy these days and I have a lot of health problems because of it. Stay the way you are hun.. you will live a long healthy life 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. As they say, from your mouth to His ears! Thank you for your kind words!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Lori Carlson says:

        My pleasure hun 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reblogging, Edward.

      Like

  3. Reblogged this on koolkosherkitchen and commented:

    June is a National Fruit and Vegetables Month, says Foodimentary.com, and I cannot imagine fresh vegetables used with packaged dry spices. Here is my old post, full of glorious fresh herbs, rescued animals, and very special children. Enjoy, Beautiful People!

    Like

  4. Where’s the rest of the zebra picture?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. On the original post, Derrick. Considering that it was one of the older kids who took the photo with my phone, I think it came out pretty well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t see it on the original post, although it was on the alert

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s strange; I opened it up, following your original comment, and it was there. I’ll try to remedy the situation.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. When you have a chance, Derrick, could you possibly take another look at that post? I’ve inserted the zebra photo.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Thanks. It’s fine, now

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Thank you so much, Derrick; I truly appreciate your help

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Such a great post! Thanks for reblogging this one.
    Btw, I’m a cat person too! The 2 lions… it’s just too sad! 😭

    Like

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment, darling!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Joëlle says:

    I am so glad you put older posts back up on your blog, on a regular basis Dolly, there are so many that I have missed for lack of time! Your cleaning and preserving tips are very helpful. Like most people I didn’t think of using the refrigerator to dry my herbs before freezing. I use jars instead of ziplock bags nowadays, for 2 reasons: I find bags get lost easily under the many other things I keep, and I am trying hard to reduce my use of plastic (I have seen too many horrible photos of turtles and other sea animals found dead on the shore because of plastic ingestion). I manage to keep fresh basil looking relatively good on my counter as long as I put the stems in water and remember to give the leaves a daily shower.
    Both plants and animals are wonderful stress relievers. But not just! Some twenty-thirty years ago, a French priest opened a small farm to rehabilitate juvenile criminals. The daily care of horses, cows, sheep, chickens and geese changed many of these kids’ lives.
    I love your zebra outfit, Dolly! Thank you for this post; you truly spark joy 😻

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Joelle!
      Shall I tell you a secret: the reason I recycle old posts is that I don’t have time to create new ones. At this time I have several sets of photographs ready for posts to be written, but researching a good story and creating a post around a recipe takes me a few hours, and I very rarely have that time, as I find myself more and more helping my husband with his business paperwork.
      I love your method of preserving fresh basil; unfortunately my cats nibble on anything green and fresh within their reach. I am aware of the situation with plastic in water, since we sail in Biscayne Bay, and, unfortunately, have seen all kinds of plastic and styrofoam containers floating there. You’re se right!
      Is the rehabilitation farm you mention still in existence? It is certainly a very effective strategy to educate any children with special needs. In my school, We had an aquarium, and once a month the best group of students had it moved to their classroom, with the privilege of taking care of fish. We also had flowers beds that children tended, and once, on New Year of Trees, someone donated two little palm tree seedlings, so we ceremoniously planted “Boy Tree” and “Girl Tree,” cared for with great pride.
      It’s always wonderful to hear from you, dear Joelle! Much love to you and yours! 😻

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Joëlle says:

        Good morning Dolly, thank you for the long reply. I understand your desire to provide us with good posts, and the amount of work that goes behind them. In my case, translating them into English is a lot more time consuming than I originally thought… and so is adding a “home shot” video! When I brag about the “technical skills” I acquire in the process to my children, they laugh at me, like there is nothing to it! Oh well.
        No cats here except when our son and his wife visit and bring their Lena-Chan along, and I learned early on that anything left on the counter was at risk of being eaten or nibbled at (happened to my pastry brush 🙀).
        I think the rehabilitation farm is still open even though the priest is getting on in years. Do the children who planted the Boy Tree and Girl Tree occasionally go back to see how they have grown?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I would imagine translating is a time-consuming task, but it’s a labor of love, dear Joelle, isn’t it?
        Funny that my old pastry brush also got ruined by a mischievous kitty girl, so the new one is silicon which holds no interest to cats.
        Some of the children who planted those trees are married and have children of their own, and those of them who haven’t moved away, did come and visit the trees until Hurricane Irma, unfortunately, fell them. No matter, the trees live in their hearts, I am sure.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve never tried to keep herbs this way, but it sounds great! I usually put them in a big, heavy bottomed glass of water and stash them in the fridge. (Hmm. Big and heavy bottomed sounds as if I’m talking about myself!)

    I agree with you that wastefulness is a sin. Maybe not so much veggies, but to waste meat – oh, my! That animal died for you, and you’d better not be careless!

    You’re right – cats are the best friends, but dogs are nice, too. I think domestic animals are such sermons in faith. They trust us completely and are always faithful. We should try to have the same relationship with the Lord. (And here endeth today’s sermon!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thank you for your lovely comment, dear friend, I thank you sincerely for your sermon, and I love your sense of humor!

      Like

  8. lghiggins says:

    What a story! Your students were blessed to have you! I have never tried this technique with herbs. I need to do it. We have a short growing season in northern NM, but we have chives in abundance so I don’t need to freeze them and basil which won’t work as you say. I do have curly leaf parsley and Greek oregano. I can try those. Herbs from the grocery store are so expensive. This would be a perfect technique to not waste what is not used in the original recipe that they are purchased for. Great post, Dolly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Linda; always glad to help!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Zebras, panthers, horses, and people – what a great gathering, Dolly! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t forget children with special needs! Thank you so much for your kind comment, Felipe.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, yes, very important! I’ve a cousin, a nephew & step-grandnephew w/special needs & they are a blessing ❤️

        Like

      2. Thank you for understanding, dear friend!

        Liked by 1 person

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