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Harvesting a Bouquet Garni for Your Soup

November 10, 2017 Back to Picks >

As the days cool we think more and more of enjoying warming soups. If this is on the menu at your home, make it savory with the addition of a just-picked bouquet garni.
Bouquet garni (pronounced boh-KAY gahr-NEE) is a French term that translates roughly as a ìhandful of herbs.î In times past, the cook would step outside to the kitchen garden, snip a handful of herbs for dinner, tie it in a bundle and toss it in the soup pot. The basic formula is a trio of herbs; bay leaf combined with thyme and parsley.

You can substitute a range of herbs for either the thyme or the parsley, depending on what youíre cooking. The key is remembering that most cooking herbs come from two families. Thyme is a member of the oregano family of square-stemmed herbs with paired leaves along the stem: basil, marjoram, rosemary, sage, and savory. Parsley is part of the family of herbs with basal leaves and a thick taproot: cilantro, celery, chervil, dill, and fennel. To make bouquet garni, all you need to do is pick one from the oregano family, one from the parsley family, and add bay leaf.

This great cooking rule of thumb is native to France but theyíre not the only ones to use it. Italy combines parsley, chervil, and bay leaf, with perhaps a bit of marjoram or basil. Spain adds garlic, of course. Hungary includes green pepper and caraway seeds. The Danes go hog wild and combine bay leaf, thyme, parsley, marjoram, lemon peel, mace, cloves, and peppercorns.

You can make bouquet garni from herbs freshly harvested from your fall garden. Add the bay leaves to your herb sprigs, tie them together with kitchen twine or wrap them in cheesecloth, and put into the soup pot “as is”. When the cooking is done, toss the bouquet into the trash and enjoy a savory bowl of goodness, flavored with herbs from your garden.