What is Bouquet Garni and How to Use It In Your Recipes
When I hear a recipe call for bouquet garni, I immediately think of a bouquet of flowers. I know what it is, use it often when preparing soups and stews, but often get comments from readers asking more about it.
The term bouquet garni is French for "garnished bouquet" and consists of a variety of herbs that can be tied into a bundle especially when fresh or placed in some cheesecloth and tied with some kitchen twine. I even bought little cheesecloth pouches especially made for bouquet garni.
Pronunciation of Bouquet Garni
This is one of those terms that you may or may not be familiar with but is fun to say. Bo-kay' Gar-knee.
What Herbs Are In Bouquet Garni
Although there is no set rule for what herbs and sometimes spices go into Bouquet Garni, the most common are bay leaf, parsley, and thyme. Saying that I've seen recipes calling for every herb or spice you can think of depending on what you are preparing:
- lemon peel
- orange peel
Vegetables for Bouquet Garni
Not only are herbs used when making a bouquet garni, but sometimes you may find vegetables including:
- parsley root
What's important to remember, you want to match the herbs and spices with the foods you are cooking. You want the herbs to go with the meat or chicken or fish but also with each other.
How Is Bouquet Garni Used?
Most often I've used them for making soups, stews, and stocks, although I have tried them when making sauces. The idea is to add flavor to whatever you are preparing, then remove and discard the herbs or tied-up satchel when done.
A bouquet garni is good for one-time use. The herbs - whether dried or fresh - give up their flavor and can make a soup or stew messy if not tied together or bundled in a sachet (bag of spices) and removed when done cooking.
Now when you are eating your delicious soup or stew, you won't be tasting bits and pieces of herbs floating around the meal. Nobody wants to pick out a dried stem of parsley from their food.
Save the Stems - Don't Throw Them Out
Now when a recipe calls for just the leaves of parsley, cilantro, rosemary or other herbs, you don't have to throw away the stems. Save them and use them for making a bouquet garni. If you aren't going to use them for a while, toss them in a zip-lock bag and store them in the freezer until you need them.
Some of My Recipes Using Bouquet Garni
How to Make a Bouquet Garni Using Fresh Herbs
Choose fresh herbs that will go with the dish you are cooking. Most times, a recipe will give you the ingredients to use in the bouquet garni but if they don't, try a classic blend of parsley, thyme, and bay leaves.
Bundle the herbs together so they are nice and neat, then tie them together using kitchen string or butcher's twine. (In a pinch, we have been known to use unwaxed dental floss.) Make sure they are nice and tight or they will come loose while cooking.
Experiment with different herbs, spices, and vegetables.
How to Make a Bouquet Garni Using Dried Herbs and Spices
Instead of tying the herbs together with some string, you'll want to cut a double-layered square of cheesecloth (approximately 4-5 inches square) and lay it flat on the counter. Add the dried herbs and spices to the center of the cheesecloth.
Pick the four corners of the cheesecloth up to create a pouch and tie it together with kitchen string. Some folks like to make the string longer on one end so they can more easily find and pull the bouquet garni out of the pot when finished.
I'll mix and match my herbs and spices depending on what I'm cooking but a classic combination might be dried parsley, dried thyme, a couple of bay leaves, and around six peppercorns. Again, I suggest you create your own variations depending on what you are preparing.
How Much Fresh and Dried Herbs to Use
It really depends on how big a pot of stew or soup or another recipe you are preparing. Obviously, the more you are making, the more herbs and spices you'll be wanting to add.
The other consideration is how powerful the ingredients that you are using are. For example, parsley is not as strong tasting as thyme or bay leaves so you would use a ratio of more parsley to thyme and bay leaf.
As I mentioned earlier, most recipes will give you a breakdown of how much of this and how much of that, but if it doesn't, just estimate what you think would be a good combination of herbs and how much of each to use.
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Thanks for a great explanation. I didn't know that much about bouquet garni.
Thanks, to me it was very interesting to know about this experience of collecting a bouquet of spices. I am a big fan of spices, so throughout the year I harvest different types of spices and herbs for the winter. One of my latest finds is the preparation of a salad.
How long do you continue to simmer a garni bag consisting of chicken carcass and vegetables once cooked and carcass roasted beforehand to the point where it is senseless to continue because there is no more flavor to get out of the contents within the garni bag? Thank you for your effort and time and of course, the knowledge. Have a great day.
I accidentally emptied the bag in my pot of liquid and beans. It looked like chopped spices and one bay leaf. I know enough to take the bay leaf out when done cooking , but will I be able to eat the rest of the baged spices and herbs?
G. Stephen Jones
I'm guessing you have already tried eating your beans. How did they come out? I might have strained the liquid and tried removing the herbs but there should not have been too many so you should be alright.