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February - my least favorite month of the year. Right now, I am tired of winter and looking for spring. February 1 was also known as imbolc, or belly of the mother. It was halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. One of the fire festivals of ancient beliefs, it is the beginning of spring and the stirring of seeds that will bring forth life. Candles should be lit at sunset to dispel the dark gloom of winter and usher in the new light of the year.
Also known as Oimelc, meaning milk of ewes, it is often celebrated with milk and milk products. A way to honor Brigid, the Celtic fire goddess who is the saint of this holiday, is to make herb butters and enjoy the increasing day length and promise of spring.
Making herb butter is a wonderful way to freshen up your larder with homemade goodness. I often make herb butter in late summer or early fall, when herbs are most bountiful in my garden. But they can be made at any time of year, and you can use dried herbs as well if that is all that is available.
Here are simple directions:
Use unsalted butter. It retains the best flavor and lets the bright taste of the herbs shine through.
Take one stick of butter and soften to room temperature. Add about three tablespoons of fresh herbs, or one tablespoon of dried herbs. They can be all one type, or a mixture. At this time of year, I make dill/parsley butter, with one tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley and 2 tablespoons of finely minced dill.
Using a stout spatula or wooden spoon, carefully blend the herbs, being sure to incorporate them throughout the butter. You can preserve this a couple of ways. If you want to use your butter as a spread, you can spoon it into a wide mouth jar and put it in the fridge or freezer. Remember to mark your concoction as you will not remember two monthe later what you did! If you plan on using your butter in cooking, it can be placed in a square of plastic wrap or wax paper, and rolled into a log. Once it is frozen, you can easily slice off what you need. It is wonderful on fish, especially salmon, and can be added to any saute or steamed vegetables. Butters can be frozen for 6 months.
Some combinations I like:
1 tbsp. finely chopped rosemary, 2 tbsp. seedless raspberry preserves, zest of one lime - this is especially good on scones or corn muffins
3 tbsp. fennel fronds, 1 tbsp. minced chives, 1/2 tsp. Pernod liqueur - excellent on chicken or fish
2 tbsp. salad burnet leaves, minced, 1 tbsp. calendula petals, finely chopped - one of the prettiest with the flecks of orange and yellow petals
2 tbsp. chive blossoms, finely minced, 1 tbsp. thyme leaves, finely minced - delicious onion flavor and pretty pink color
As you can see, there is no end to the ways you can elevate your palate and enjoy imbolc!
Keeping the faith in February,