saving a bunch of lemon thyme

Shopping for a recipe that asks for a few sprigs of thyme or rosemary is a bit frustrating. You are bound to have a lot of leftovers. Last week I tried a recipe that asked for lemon thyme, the green grocer didn't have it in stock and I had to order a bunch. The size of the bag was simply ridiculous. A large bunch might be adequate for gastronomy, but a private household? Why can't they sell only a few sprigs of herbs that are very dominant in flavour? Occasionally I have offered other shoppers at the market stall part of a bunch of herbs, because I knew I would never use the whole bunch. Sometimes I offer a part of the bunch to friends and colleagues. Thyme and rosemary are rather loud herbs and I don’t use them all the time. So what to do? The bunch of lemon thyme was so large I had to turn it into several things: 

  • a syrup
  • garlic and thyme butter
  • herb/oil ice cubes
  • thyme vinegar
  • dried

So they have become building blocks for various future dishes. The syrup I use to drizzle over poached fruit or vanilla ice cream. The garlic and lemon thyme butter can be used to slather roasted vegetables or as a component for a sandwich or for using in garlic toast. The herb oil I have frozen in an ice cube tray to be used whenever lemon thyme and olive oil are needed in a recipe (such as a salad or stew). The lemon thyme vinegar is useful in salad dressings or dishes when both thyme and vinegar are asked for. And sometimes it is handy to have dried herbs, so I dried some lemon thyme when a smaller dose is needed and dried is sufficient or when I am in the mood or need for a herbal tea.

I really wish green grocers would start selling smaller quantities of herbs. The bunches are just too big. I think I will start building a little garden on my window sill again. It will save me from the dilemma having to preserve a whole lot of herbs at once. What are your favourite ways to save leftover thyme (or other herbs) and what do you like to use them for?

Lemon thyme syrup

  • 1 cup (250 ml) raw cane sugar
  • ½ cup (125 ml) water
  • 10 sprigs of lemon thyme

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan. As soon as the mixture has reached a boil, remove from the heat. Let cool and remove the thyme sprigs from the syrup when cool enough to handle. If you like you can pass the syrup through a sieve, but I quite like to leave the thyme leaves in the syrup. Fill in a bottle and store in the fridge. Perfect for drizzling on roasted fruit, pancakes or in cocktails. Store in the fridge. Use within 3 weeks.

Garlic and lemon thyme butter

  • 125 g (ca. 1 stick) butter at room temperature
  • leaves from about 10 sprigs of lemon thyme
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • ½ teaspoon seasalt

In a shallow bowl using a fork combine the butter with the garlic and seasalt until evenly mixed. Add the thyme leaves and fold into the garlic butter. Shape the butter into a block and keep chilled. Ideal for steak, garlic bread or roasted vegetables. Store in the fridge. Use within 6-7 days.

Frozen lemon thyme/olive oil ice cubes

  • Lemon thyme
  • Olive oil

Remove leaves from stem and fill into an ice cube tray. I manage to fill about 1 tablespoon worth of leaves into one cube. Top with olive oil and freeze. I take the cubes out of the tray when they are frozen and keep them in a zip lock bag or other container, so I can use the ice cube tray for other things. Keeps well in the freezer for at least 3 months.

Lemon thyme vinegar

  • Half a litre (2 cups) white wine vinegar
  • 50 g (ca. 2 oz) lemon thyme sprigs

Fill the lemon thyme into a tall preserving jar and fill with the vinegar. Make sure the thyme is completely covered with the vinegar. Cover and let infuse for 2-3 weeks. Strain through a sieve, discard the lemon thyme stems and fill the infused vinegar into a bottle.

Dried lemon thyme

Wash the thyme leaves and hang them on a string and leave to dry. After a few days, when the bunch is completely dry, crumble the leaves from the stems and discard the stems. Store the dried leaves in a container and keep away from sunlight.