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Thursday, January 18, 2018

California Gourmet: Wild Tarragon Recipes 1

California Wild Tarragon: many uses in cooking

We featured California wild tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) as our Plant of the Month (Jan/2018) (http://mother-natures-backyard.blogspot.com/2018/01/plant-of-month-january-california-wild.html).  We hope some of you foodies are considering Wild tarragon for your gardens. 

To get you inspired, we’d like to share a few recipes featuring California wild tarragon.  We’ll begin with some simple, classic suggestions and recipes this month. These are the easiest ways to include the flavor of tarragon in your cuisine. We’ll feature some slightly more unusual tarragon recipes next month.

Tarragon (French or Wild) has a unique flavor that most people either love or can leave.  Unlike the savory flavors of thyme, sage and rosemary, tarragon has a sweet and mild nature. It tastes fresh – with a hint of licorice.  The flavors of Wild tarragon combine well with a number of other flavors including celery, basil, fennel and others.  Among the classical pairings are with the acidy tang of vinegar or citrus.

Fresh or dried tarragon can be added to cooked vegetables, soups or stews.  Fresh tarragon is best added near the end of cooking, to keep it flavorful. The essence of tarragon combines well with the buttery flavor and texture of fats.  If you want to savor the flavor of tarragon, pair it with salt to create a rub or finishing salt for beef, pork, poultry, fish or shellfish.   Tarragon adds a light, fresh element to lift the flavors of fatty foods.  Another simple way to feature the flavor of tarragon is with a simple tarragon butter.

Tarragon vinegar is easy to make and very versatile. It can be used in many ways – from marinades to sauces and beyond.  It’s a staple of French and Italian cuisine - you may have a favorite family recipe that uses tarragon vinegar.   Below are two simple recipes for you to try.


Tarragon Butter

½ cup unsalted butter
1 ½ tsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. dried or 2 Tbsp. to ¼ cup fresh tarragon leaves (cut finely if using fresh)
1 to 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh green onions or chives (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Soften butter to room temperature.  Cream the butter in an electric mixer, food processor or by hand.  Add the lemon juice, tarragon and onions and blend well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Chill at least 1 hour in refrigerator before serving.   If desired, you can shape the butter into a log when partly chilled.  The butter than then be cut into ‘pats’ when fully chilled.


Tarragon butter tastes yummy on grilled meats, chicken, fish and seafood.  It adds a sophisticated touch to potatoes, baked squash and other vegetables, from green beans to cooked root vegetables.  It’s also heavenly on toasted bread or rolls.
You can play around with the flavors, adding other fresh herbs and spices you like including parsley, garlic, mustard, cayenne or dill.   You can also substitute lemon, orange or tangerine zest for the lemon juice.

Tarragon vinegar is used in French, Italian and other cuisines

Making Tarragon vinegar is very easy.  But you might want to review our posting on Flavored Vinegars before you make your first batch: http://mother-natures-backyard.blogspot.com/2014/01/california-gourmet-making-flavored.html.  The best method for making Tarragon Vinegar is the hot-infused vinegar method, below.

Tarragon Vinegar

1 cup fresh tarragon sprigs
2 cups white wine or apple cider vinegar
Fresh sprigs of tarragon (optional)

Wash and sterilize a glass jar with a lid (to sterilize, wash the jar, then cover with boiling water in a pot until ready to fill).  The jar should be at least 16 oz. or greater capacity to accommodate herbs and vinegar.   Heat the vinegar to just below boiling (in a non-reactive pot on the stove or in the microwave). Wash the tarragon sprigs in cool water; pat dry. Bruise the tarragon with the back of a heavy knife or mallet.  Place tarragon in the sterilized jar.  
Using a funnel, pour hot vinegar over the tarragon, making sure that tarragon is completely covered. Let cool to lukewarm; place a layer of cling wrap over the top of the jar before sealing with a plastic or metal lid.  Place in a cool place, out of direct sunlight, for one week.  Swirl the mixture every other day or so, to allow the flavors to develop.

Wash and sterilize another glass jar(s) with capacity to hold 2 cups of vinegar.  Remove the lid from infusion jar.  Strain out the tarragon sprigs using a sieve or colander lined with several layers of cheese cloth.   If there are still small pieces in the vinegar, you can strain the vinegar through a paper coffee filter to remove them.

Pour finished vinegar into sterilized jars.  If desired, place an addition sprig of tarragon in the jar before sealing (note: this is just for aesthetics – particularly if you’re giving the vinegar as a gift).  Seal jar(s) as above.  Store for several months in the refrigerator.

 Use Tarragon Vinegar in your favorite vinaigrette, mayonnaise or sauce recipe.  It also makes a nice marinade for meats, fish or vegetables – or drizzled on sandwich fillings.  You can also use it as marinade or sauce for fresh sliced strawberries, fruit pies or other desserts using fresh fruits.   

We encourage you to send us your questions, comments and recipes (either comment below or e-mail to us at : mothernaturesbackyard10@gmail.com


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