Sage is an intensely aromatic herb, and unlike its tender cousins — basil and parsley — its leaves are sturdy and resinous. Because of sage's powerful aroma and oily texture, a little goes long way, flavor-wise. The preserving possibilities are numerous, so we get to be creative with this potent perennial.
1. Sage Honey
Infuse honey with dried sage leaves to add flavor to hot or iced tea, sweeten baked goods, add to a citrus-y marinade, or serve on a cheese plate.
2. Sage Butter
Chop up 1/4 cup of fresh sage leaves and blend it with one stick of room-temperature butter. Top freshly baked blueberry muffins or incorporate with your stuffing or dressing at Thanksgiving.
3. Dried Sage
Hang bundles of sage to dry in an out-of-the-way spot, away from direct sunlight. You may also use a dehydrator on the lowest setting (it will be ready in about a day), or just dry in the oven on the lowest possible setting until evenly crisp.
- Worried about substituting dried sage for fresh sage in a recipe? It's an easy conversion. And of course, dried sage is a killer addition to breakfast sausage.
4. Sage Salt
Making sage salt is easy and ups your gourmet IQ. Adding it to, say, a rub for pork chops is genius, and you don't have to run out last minute — in the middle of making dinner — to buy fresh sage in order capture that fresh flavor. Sage salts generally last for about a year and are stellar lightly tossed over popcorn, sprinkled on roasted vegetables, or rimmed on a cocktail glass.
5. Sage Vinegar
Sage vinegar is ace in dressings and marinades. I add a few sprigs to about eight ounces of white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, place the bottle in a sunny window for two weeks, and then find a good excuse to make sage-marinated grilled chicken.
- If you really want to geek out, you can always make your own vinegar and then infuse it with your sage harvest.
6. Sage Maple Syrup
Herb-infused simple syrups are great drink sweeteners, but what about infusing maple syrup with herbs for savory-style pancakes and waffles? Just slowly warm up maple syrup, add a few torn sage leaves, and let the mixture steep until the flavor reaches your desired intensity.
7. Sage Ice Cubes
Add one tablespoon freshly chopped sage to ice cube trays and fill with water. Add directly to hearty winter soups and stews or pot roast, or if a recipe calls for fresh sage, simply place the ice cubes in a fine-mesh strainer and let the water melt away.
8. Sage Bitters
Combine fresh sage with other aromatic agents (like ginger or peppercorn), various "bittering" agents (like burdock root, citrus peel, or mugwort), and the highest-proof liquor you can get your hands on. Bitters provide a concentrated dose of the herb, and bitters are great for bringing balance to a cocktail or adding a punch of flavor to sparkling water or tea.
9. Sage Oil
Preserve freshly picked sage in extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle over grilled vegetables, savory salads, or charcuterie.
10. Vacuum-Sealed Sage
Vacuum-sealing sage for freezing is a no-fail means to preserve as much freshness, color, and flavor as possible.
- If you don't have the equipment, don't worry — the "straw hack" has saved me on more than one occasion.
11. Sage Sugar
Take seven to eight sage leaves, muddle them until well-bruised (breaking the leaves apart), and blend with a cup of cane sugar. Cover and stir the mixture daily for two weeks. Use to flavor teas, jellies, and baked goods.
- I think substituting sage-infused sugar in these cranberry-orange breakfast muffins would be perfection.
12. Sage Pesto
Finely chopped sage marries perfectly with a little Parmigiano Reggiano, garlic, toasted nuts, and parsley for a zesty, potent summer pesto. Think roasted vegetable pasta. I like to take any leftover pesto and freeze it in an ice cube tray for my next culinary adventure.
Surely, I didn't cover all of the possibilities for preserving sage. What other tips or means of preserving do you have to share?