I planted a lavender bed in 2000 and waited for several years before it filled out into a brush stroke of purple buds at the entrance of the hotel. I love the smell of Lavender on a balmy night on the North Fork. It reminds me of summers and Autumn in Provence where lavender grows between the farms and vineyards. Every time I walk out of the front door at The Greenporter, www.thegreenporter.com I get that scent right here in Long Island’s wine country.
I started clipping my lavender during July and August, before full bloom. This is the best time to tie and dry it for bouquets. Later in the summer the buds open and are beautiful in your garden. Once Fall approaches you should begin planning for clipping your Lavender before the first frost. Lavender is hearty and should make it to the first week or two of November in your garden but you don’t want to lose all those buds to an early frost. The buds have so many household uses from cooking or for use in armoire sachets or mists for your linens.
Like in Provence where a lot of cooking is done with “Herbs de Provence”, I use Lavender in the kitchen of my bistro in a variety of foods. We make our own Herbs de Provence by adding dried Thyme and Oregano to the dried Lavender buds. We roll it in some creamy local goat cheese which sits beautifully on our cheese plate and also make Lavender shortbread, tea and creme brulee.
I hope you’ll take some time to enjoy the Lavender from your garden or from the Lavender farms of the North Fork. Some great places to purchase Lavender on the North Fork are Lavender By the Bay ( http://www.lavenderbythebay.com/ ) or Tea Time Cottage ( http://www.loving-long-island.com/tea-time-cottage.html )
Herbs de Provence
This is a great way to extend the memory of your herb garden throughout the winter and use them in soups, marinades and sauces. I start by picking them fresh and drying them on cookie sheets in my kitchen or another dry space. Then remove them from their stalks when dried and separate for measuring (amounts should be measure dried vs. fresh). You can keep this mixture in a cookie jar or apothecary jar throughout the Fall and winter.
Lavender Shortbread Tea biscuits
Try this recipe for Lavender cookies for tea time or for a little something sweet after dinner to accompany your dessert wine. You can make them in heartshape for Valentine’s Day or any other romantic celebration.
Makes about 18
½ Cup unsalted (sweet) butter at room temperature, diced
¼ cup caster (superfine) sugar
1 ½ cups plain (all-purpose) flour
2 tbsp fresh lavender florets or 1 tbsp dried culinary lavender, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp sugar, for sprinkling
1. Using an electric mixer; cream together the butter and caster sugar until fluffy. Stir in the flour and lavender and bring the mixture together in a soft ball. Cover with clear film (plastic wrap) and chill for about 15 minutes
2. Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and stamp out about 18 cookies, using a 2in round or heart-shaped cookie cutter. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes until golden.
3. Leave the cookies standing for 5 minutes to set. Using a metal spatula, transfer carefully from the baking sheet on to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Lavender Creme brulee
This is a great dessert for your Lavender florets and a perfect early Fall dessert for a dinner party or romantic evening.
4 cups heavy cream
½ ounce dried lavender flower
8 egg yolks
½ Cup granulated white sugar
¼ cup granulated white sugar (for caramelized tops)
Preheat oven to 300º F. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan simmer the cream and the lavender. Remove from heat and allow the lavender to infuse the cream for about 3 or 4 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until light and creamy. Temper your mixture by slowly pouring the cream into the egg and sugar mixture, blending well. Strain through a sieve into a large bowl to catch the florets and egg solids that may have formed.
Divide mixture among 6 ramekins or custard cups. Fill a saucepan half-way with water for a “bain Marie” or water bath and bake until set around the edges, but still loose in the center, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and leave in the water bath until cooled. Remove cups from water bath and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days.
Just before serving, sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of sugar over each custard. For best results, use a small hand-held torch to melt sugar. If you don’t have a torch, place under the broiler until sugar melts and allow to rest before serving.