No herbal garden is complete without the unique color and texture of sage. However, this pungent, savory herb can be a bit of a challenge in the kitchen.
Sage can easily become a bully among other flavors if overused. For this reason, the herb can have a polarizing effect. Many either love it or hate it depending on their culinary experiences.
Sage Advice From The Potting Bench
As a garden plant, there are several species of sage to choose. However, if your goal is cooking with sage, the “common” variety is the most popular.
Salvia officinalis has silvery, fuzzy leaves. The hardy perennial plants thrive in many types of soil and, once established, are unmoved by harsh winters. The plants should be cut back severely in the fall to help keep them from becoming too woody.
How to Cook With Fresh Sage
Sage becomes a delightful flavor enhancer when used in moderation and combined with complementary meats, vegetables, and bread. If you’re using your own garden-grown sage, make sure you process it carefully to preserve its flavor for future use.
Sage can be dried in a dehydrator or by hand. But keep it out of the sun during and after processing. Sage may also be frozen but should be used more quickly if you choose this method.
Choosing fresh leaves without spots or dry, brown edges is important as you learn how to cook with fresh sage. You may decide to cut enough from the garden to last a while. If so, wrap unused leaves in paper towels and store them in a ziplock bag or other well-sealed container in the refrigerator. Fresh leaves are best if used within 4-5 days.
Delicious Ways to Use Sage as a Snack or in Condiments
There are many sage uses in cooking besides seasoning meat or other major entrees. Here are a few to consider.
Culinary sage as a snack? Seriously? Actually, fried sage can be a tasty treat. The frying process seems to mellow the flavor and create a very different crispy essence that’s lovely either alone or sprinkled on a salad or baked potato. Sage is, in fact, really good for you, so the more ways you can find to introduce it to your diet, the better.
Sage vinegar is one way to preserve the flavor of sage for a variety of kitchen uses. The infused vinegar can add zing to salad dressings or sauces or as part of a homemade marinade.
- Wash, drain, and roughly chop about a cup of sage leaves.
- Put leaves in a sterilized, wide-mouth jar and cover with white wine or distilled white malt vinegar.
- Put the lid on tightly and leave in a sunny place for 3-4 weeks. Shake occasionally.
- Strain through a cloth and store in a sterilized bottle. Adding a fresh spray of sage leaves to the vinegar adds aesthetics and helps identify the contents. Makes about one pint.
Sage oil is great for basting a Thanksgiving turkey or a pork roast. It can also be another handy dressing or sauce ingredient.
- Warm 2 cups of olive oil and 1/2 cup of sage leaves over medium heat, just until hot but not boiling. This takes around 5 minutes.
- Pour the hot liquid into a wide-mouth jar and place away from sunny areas as it cools.
- Once the oil mixture is completely cooled, strain into a tall bottle. Cap and store in a dark space at room temperature.
If you love to bake your own bread, sage butter can be an unexpected savory complement either as a condiment spread or to brush on bread that’s fresh out of the oven.
To make sage butter, remove stems and finely chop leaves according to how much sage butter you are making and your own taste. It may take some experimenting to find the perfect blend for you. Add the chopped sage to softened, room-temperature butter.
If you’re serving with sliced bread, you may want to use a mixer to beat the sage butter into a light, fluffy spread. Also, leftover sage butter can be frozen in cubes or roll form for use over several months.
If you have fond memories of Granny’s sage gravy at past Thanksgiving dinners, you’ll want to try to make this popular condiment for yourself.
There are several online recipes to experiment with using this culinary herb. Sage gravy is great with any poultry dish, but don’t limit the uses of this classic comfort food.
Entrees With Sage: Popular Pairings and Recipes
Other sage uses in cooking entrees include:
- Add a spice ball of sage, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram to soups or stews.
- Use to flavor baked winter squash.
- Try adding pasta to sage browned butter, or add the herb to creamy pasta dishes.
- Add apples to sage brown butter for a touch of sweetness with a savory meat dish.
- Sage is a great complement to many pork dishes. Try basting with sage oil to add flavor and retain moisture.
Are You Ready to Add More Sage In Your Cooking?
Cooking with sage can become an adventure for each season of the year. Learning its subtle value will add confidence to your culinary prowess and delight the family and friends who will help you enjoy your efforts.