Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Making Zesty Ground Seasoning

It’s Emancipation Day today, a day where Trinbagonians commemorate emancipation from slavery. Rather than take in the celebrations going on throughout the land, I’m celebrating my emancipation from the office and enjoying some more freedom in the kitchen instead.

Now I know that time and time again on this blog of mine, you’ve been seeing me add spoonfuls of a unique combination of blended herbs to my stews, soups and rice dishes. It’s my own version of what we call ground seasoning, which I always keep on standby. Interestingly, what we call seasoning is what North Americans would probably consider to be regular herbs and vegetables, since we use things like thyme, celery and peppers in there, and they are not really flavouring agents. We local cooks however, have been able to turn these simple “herbs and vegetables” into concoctions that have been flavouring many a curried, stewed or baked dish for years, all of which have you licking your fingers.

I used to think that it was just a Trini thing to have a little bottle of that special something hidden away in the fridge, but I know now that it’s a cook’s thing. The Spanish have their blends, the Barbadians have their blends, Dominicans have their blends… you see what I mean? And when it comes to my own blends, they are never ever the same combinations in a row, simply because I don’t always get the same kinds of fresh herbs each time (given availability or weather fluctuations). But the one constant is that I always do it with love – like every other dish I make.

On this occasion, Errol managed to find a huge bunch of seasonings at the market that included some classic favourites including Spanish thyme, which used to grow in our back yard when I was little and Granny practiced her sweet hand cooking. (I swear, the thing looked like a giant green bridal bouquet, and he even presented it to me as such!)
Cradling the greenery in my hands, I took my time to assess what I was about to work with this instance… here’s how it went down.

My giant bouquet of seasonings and accompanying pimento peppers seemed like a task to separate and wash, but I’m an old hand at this.

So, here’s what I was dealing with. Rosemary (top left), oregano (bottom left), parsley (top right) and Spanish thyme (bottom right), plus the bunch of chives they were attached to…

Plus there was chadon beni (top left), regular thyme (bottom left), local celery (top right) and pimento peppers (bottom right).

My next step was to separate everything and wash each seasoning ingredient thoroughly. I didn’t use all in the bouquet; there definitely were some leftover bits that went into the fridge.
After chopping the chives, chadon beni, parsley, celery and pimentoes, and de-leafing the oregano, regular thyme and whatever else was necessary, everything was placed into my waiting food processor and pulsed a couple of times.

While still at a rough chop, I peeled and chopped up 5 cloves of garlic and added them to the processor and pulsed everything again.

Now for the preservatives… I poured in roughly ½ cup of molasses vinegar and 2 capfuls of rum, followed by a tablespoonful of table salt… and pulsed it again.

All done and ready to decant into a clean waiting glass bottle.


Home made ground seasoning, ready for use in your soups, stews and other lovely dishes!

Like I mentioned before, the seasoning combinations used here tend to change according to what I get. Sometimes, to switch things up, I would add in a hot pepper (minus the seeds), or some fresh, peeled ginger. Some of you may also be wondering why I haven’t used an onion in this, but that’s because I noticed that they tend to break down faster than the rest of herbs. As a result, the seasoning got discoloured after a few days, so I don’t blend them in the mix. I’d chop and add them separately when cooking. 

Once you keep the glass bottle tightly closed and in the refrigerator, the seasoning should last a few weeks; however mine is usually gone before week three. Also, I tend to either shake it out or use a clean plastic spoon or fork to take some out, just so it doesn’t get tainted for any reason.

Well, I hope you enjoyed my take on ground seasonings. If you decide to try making some yourself, let me know how it goes, okay?

So, until next time, take care of yourselves and don’t forget to mind the pot!

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