Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sage Butter

Last week I noticed that my Tri-color garden sage was starting to die. Oh crum, I've been trying to grow garden sage in this part of the garden for the last couple of years. Sage is one of the few edibles that I can grow outside the confines of the garden fence, the deer don't like it and the gophers don't seem to either. Unfortunately, there seems to be something in the soil in the area where I want to grow it that is killing it off. Last year my Purple Leaf sage died. A couple of months ago my Berggarten sage died. And last week I noticed that the creeping crud had moved on over to the Tri-color sage, about a quarter of the plant had died. I didn't have time to harvest the surviving parts of the plant because I was getting ready to leave for a long weekend away, I figured I would deal with it when I had a chance after I got home. Yesterday I saw, to my horror, that less than a quarter of the plant was was still alive. I immediately harvested what was healthy looking and then had to figure out what to do with it. Dried sage is ok but I really prefer to cook with fresh sage. I have another sage plant that has been plugging along for a few years elsewhere in the garden that produces almost enough through the winter to keep me supplied with fresh sage flavor so I don't use dried sage even if I have it on hand. So, how to make the best use of this final offering from my poor plant?

What was left after the harvest

And then inspiration struck. One of my favorite flavor combinations is browned butter and sage, it's wonderful with snap peas, green beans, winter squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, ricotta gnocchi, and more. It sure would be nice to have a log of it in the freezer to slice off a chunk whenever I want that flavor treat.

After plucking all the leaves of any size from the stems I ended up with about 1.2 ounces. I melted a pound of butter in a small saucepan and tossed in the leaves and left it on the lowest heat to slowly crisp the leaves and brown the milk solids. The tricky part of this process is making sure that the leaves become crisp without burning them or the solids in the butter. I managed to keep a sharp eye on the process and not wander off to the garden or get engaged in some other task at the critical moment. I separated the crisp leaves from the butter and set each aside to cool separately. Now I could wander off to the garden to finish harvesting the trickle of tomatoes that have been ripening in our latest spell of warm weather.

It's easiest to work the butter when it is at solid room temperature but you can hurry the process along by refrigerating it for a while, don't let it get too hard or you won't be able to easily reincorporate the sage leaves. Coarsely chop the sage leaves and stir it into the thickened butter, you don't want to smash it up too much. Plop the butter mixture out on a sheet of plastic film and form it into a log. A bit of time in the refrigerator may help at this point if the butter is sticking to the film too much. Roll the log in the film and twist the ends of the film to make a sausage shape and freeze.

There is one surviving sage plant in that part of the garden. I'm going to keep a sharp eye on it and a couple of pounds of butter in the fridge.

The last survivor, how much time does it have left?

What would you like to melt a pat of sage butter on top of?


  1. I so wish my sage had lived. I do have one, but I think it is a goner too. Before I've always found sage to be unkillable. I used to cut it to the ground every spring so it wouldn't get too big. But here I'm having trouble with it.

  2. Oh thanks for this, great idea. Bummer that your sage had to die off though. I love that you have such different colours. I love the tricolour and purple but can never seem to buy them here so have the 'ordinary' grey/green version. I will be making some sage butter too and putting it on new potatoes.

  3. I am a big fan of sage butter sauce on gnocchi and ravioli. I've never tried freezing it, as like you i usually have sage on hand but froma convenience perspective I think it's a great idea.

  4. I think I'd melt a wonderful glob of sage butter over a bowl of roasted butternut squash. Mmmmmmmmm!

    I grow sage in raised beds here, in quite loose soils, and it's rather taken over. I'm curious, do you have particularly heavy soils where you are? I love it too because the deer don't touch it, but the thought of it withering in the garden, especially during winter squash season, would make me want to cry :'(

    1. The soil isn't particularly heavy, it's mostly gritty decomposed stone with a bit of clay, pretty crappy stuff.. I added old potting soil, chicken manure, and decomposed oak leaves to that area. Everthing else does fine there, the rosemary grows like a weed.


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