This fragrant herb has been a symbol of courage for ancient Greece, burnt as incense by the Romans, and used as an antiseptic in Medieval Times, it is good for the throat. Its intense aroma estimulates appetite. Thyme is one of the aromatic herbs usually in the bouquet garni used to flavor broths, stocks and innumerable dishes.
How to identify thyme
Thyme is a variable shrub with a wooden stem and tiny round leaves with a green-grey color, and small pale pink to light purple flower. It reaches 12 to 18 inches (30-45cm) in height.
Garden thyme is the variety most used in cooking. Lemon Thyme, with its tangy citrus aroma, is also appreciated.
How to use and store
Thyme leaves, the part most used, can be found fresh -in sprigs- or dried. Dried thyme may becomes too strong in flavor and should be used carefully. Thyme also freezes well. Leaves are tiny and there is no need to chop them.
Widely used in Western cuisine, especially in the Mediterranean areas, thyme’s pungent, intensely aromatic flavor adds depth and its sharp touch to soups, marinades, stuffing, vegetable, fish, or cheese dishes and all sorts of meats and poultry, and flavors especially well the game ones.
Thyme tolerates long, slow cooking extremely well and it is an ideal herb to add to casseroles, crock-pot stews and to flavor bean dishes. A sprig of thyme is one of the components of the basic bouquet garni and it can be found in the company of parsley and orange peel Provençal beef daubes –a local beef casserole where the meat is stewed with wine and black olives.
Thyme flavors delicately oils, vinegar and breads.
Cooking with thyme
Thyme is especially good in dishes that will simmer for long and to flavor tomato sauces that will go with meat. It will add warmth and flavor to all sorts of meats, as in this thyme flavored braised veal dish, or try any of the recipes with thyme.
Try this: Fry 10 cloves of garlic, slivered, in 4 Tbs olive oil; add 1 other clove of garlic, crushed, the leaves from 1 sprig of parsley, finely chopped, 1 tsp thyme leaves and 6 peppercorns, crushed. Stir a couple of times. Add the juice of 1 lemon. Stir to mix well and pour this sauce, still hot, over small pieces of deep fried chicken.
Thyme substitution - If your recipe needs thyme and you don't have it, substitute 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves with:
- 1/2 to 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp chopped fresh marjoram
- 1 tsp chopped fresh oregano
- 1 tsp chopped fresh basil
- 1 tsp chopped fresh summer savory
- 1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/2 tsp chopped fresh sage
- 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning -usually a combination of thyme, oregano and basil
- 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning -usually a combination of dried thyme, sage and marjoram
- 3/4 tsp Herbes de Provence -usually a combination of thyme, savory, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, lavender and bay leaf
- 3/4 tsp dried ajwain -an Indian spice with a similar flavor to thyme
Add a lemony, pungent flavor to any dish with crumbled thyme leaves, use thyme sprigs as garnish, take advantage of its intense, warm aroma and blend it with other herbs.
Cooks have been experimenting for hundred of years, so you know you can use thyme in many ways; some extra tips:
- Add thyme leaves to a roasted chicken, just a little, about 20 minutes before it will be ready. Add a Mediterranean touch to your fish soup by adding some thyme.
- Mix ground thyme, salt and pepper; rub this mixture onto veal or pork meat before roasting.
- Add chopped thyme leaves to melting butter. Use this sauce for boiled or steamed seafood.
- For a subtle aroma, add a sprig of thyme or basil to tomato juice. Chill. Retire before serving.
- Try using straight wooden stems of thyme as skewers when grilling or barbecuing. Soak them in water first if too dry and at risk of catching fire.