A sachet d'épices (pronounced "sa-SHAY DAY-pees"), or spice sachet, is a small sack containing herbs and spices that is used to add flavor to stocks, soups, casseroles, and sauces. It literally means "bag of spices" in French. Think of it as a custom-made tea bag, but instead of tea leaves, you have herbs and spices steeping in your food imparting those flavors.
How It Is Used
Often referred to simply as a sachet, it is used in a similar manner to a bouquet garni, with the main difference being that a sachet's ingredients are enclosed in a cheesecloth or muslin packet while a bouquet garni is a bundle of herbs rolled together and usually tied with twine.
Spices such as whole peppercorns and dried herbs cannot be used in a bouquet garni but can go in a sachet. Common ingredients included in a sachet d'épices are:
Use your imagination and include whatever spices you think would complement your dish. Other items can include garlic cloves, shallots, leeks, basil, tarragon, rosemary, marjoram, and oregano. Really, the possibilities are endless.
How to Make It
Gather together the ingredients you want to use, put it in the middle of a piece of cheesecloth, and tie the bag closed with a piece of cooking twine. Make the twine long enough so that you can suspend the bag in the simmering liquid tied to the pot handle so that it can be easily retrieved when you are done with it.
When to Use It
A good soup or a saucy dish like braised short ribs or oxtail stew starts with a good stock. A good stock starts with the seasoning that you would find in a sachet or a bouquet garni.
- Quantity does matter: Roughly three bay leaves and a teaspoon of black peppercorns is enough flavor for approximately one gallon of liquid. Those flavors can overpower a dish that you might plan on keeping subtle or refined. Of course, adjust the spice level to fit your tastes and the dish you plan to prepare.
- Using parsley: You might only want to use the parsley stems for the sachet since parsley leaves could turn the liquid that you are flavoring to be an unappealing shade of green.
- Save time (and money): Some cooking stores and websites sell small, ready-made cotton muslin or cheesecloth bags with drawstring tops that are called “spice sacks” or “spice bags.” These little convenience items may lighten your pockets (ever so slightly) by sparing you the need to get cheesecloth and cooking twine. Aside from the incremental expense, one drawback of these pre-made bags is that they can be a little small for the quantities of aromatics that you may want to include in a recipe.
- Other alternative containers: An alternative, reusable option is to use a closable, metal tea strainer to contain the herbs and spices if you are short of cheesecloth and twine. Or, you can go back in time to when spice sachets were first used—bind the aromatics in a wrapped packet of large leek leaves. Conversely, If you want to go modern, then use a coffee filter. It works just as well.