When I think of Thanksgiving I thing of sage. My first herb plant was a common sage (salvia Officnalis). Since I lacked a green thumb, a hardy perennial seemed like a wise choice. Also, my family loves apple-sage dressing in poultry or pork.
Today that plant is in the center of my herb garden, providing sage for everyone I know. Now, there are many of varieties in the garden including, pineapple, clary, Mexican, dwarf, tri color, golden, and honeydew melon. Each has its own distinct flavor and flowers. Some are hardy while others are tender perennials, coming indoors for winter.
While I enjoy them all, that first common sage will always be my favorite.
In the summer I use the beautiful spiked blue flowers in floral arrangements, leaving a few behind for the hummingbirds and bees. Come winter, I brush the snow away to harvest a few leaves for stuffing. I always add a leaf or two of fresh sage to my oil when frying chicken.
Fresh sage has a delicate flavor in comparison to dried sage’s strong, pungent taste, and it makes excellent fritters. The Roman’s first enjoyed sage fritters thousands of years ago. Today I serve them as a little nibble with drinks. To make dip fresh sage leaves into your favorite batter to coat. Fry in hot oil until light brown, drain and serve hot and crisp.
In earlier times the Dutch sailed to China to exchange sage for tea. Before toothpaste, sage leaves were rubbed on the teeth to clean them and benefit the gums. Sage tea has been used for centuries as a tonic for minor ills, and was a replacement for English Tea during the Revolutionary War.
Make an herbal wreath for the kitchen by wrapping sprigs of fresh sage around a wire wreath base. Rosemary, thyme, oregano or other fresh herbs can be added if desired.
Decorate with dried tiny red chili peppers or a raffia bow. Hang in the kitchen. When ever a sprig of herb is needed, snip off a leaf or two, rinse under water and use.
I like to make Cran-apple Sage Jelly to give as gifts, especially around Thanksgiving.
It’s easy to make and is a most appreciated present.
Cran-Apple Sage Jelly
1 cup whole fresh cranberries 2 cups cran-apple juice
2 Tablespoons lemon juice 1 1/2 cups fresh sage leaves
Peel from one lemon , cut into strips 12 whole cloves
3 ½ cups sugar ½ bottle fruit pectin (Certo or Sure Jel)
Stud lemon strips with whole cloves. Bring cranberries, cran-apple juice, sage and lemon peel and lemon juice to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to steep 15 minutes. Remove sage leaves and lemon peel. Add sugar to juice and bring to a hard rolling boil. Stir in pectin and boil hard one minute without stirring. Remove from heat and skim off any foam. Pour into 4 (6 ounce) jelly jars. Add a fresh sage leaf to each jar and seal. Process in a boiling hot water bath ten minutes. Remove and allow to cool, before storing. Tie a raffia or checked gingham ribbon around the jar before giving.