Sage is an herb that is native to the Mediterranean region. It has a sweet yet savory flavor, and its most popular use is in stuffing or dressing for Thanksgiving. Once prized for its medicinal value, sage can be used in many other dishes besides turkey dressing. So get familiar with this splendid herb and use it all year long.
Fresh Sage Selection and Storage
Fresh sage leaves should have no soft spots or dry edges. To keep sage fresh, wrap the leaves in paper towels and store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator; use them within four to five days.
Fresh sage leaves also can be covered in olive oil and stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. This sage-infused olive oil is great for sauteeing.
To freeze fresh sage leaves, wash and pat the sage sprigs dry, remove the leaves from the stems, and pack them loosely in freezer bags. You can use them for up to one year. Freezing intensifies the flavor of the herb so proceed accordingly.
Dried sage is preferred over fresh by most cooks and comes in a whole leaf, rubbed, and ground form. Rubbed sage has a light, velvety texture, whereas ground sage is more of a free-flowing powder. As with all dried herbs, store any form of dried sage in a closed container in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. Use dried sage within six months for the best flavor.
Sage Cooking Tips
Sage works especially well with fatty meats such as sausage and lamb because it aids in the digestion. Sage is also very good in dressings, stuffings, and bean dishes and as a seasoning for potatoes and tomato sauces. And of course, sage is the perfect flavor enhancer for poultry. If you really like sage, thread fresh sage leaves in between meats and vegetables for shish kebabs.
Complementary tastes are onion, garlic, thyme, oregano, parsley, bay leaf, and rosemary. If you need sage immediately and you don't have any, you can substitute thyme or poultry seasoning, which contains some sage, but the flavor won't be quite the same. Secondary options include substituting with marjoram, rosemary, and savory.
Cooking mellows sage, so for fullest flavor, add it at the end of the cooking process. If you prefer just a hint of sage flavor, add it at the beginning or use fresh sage, which has a milder flavor than dried. Remember that sage can easily overpower a dish. Use it with a light hand if you're experimenting.
You can substitute one type of sage for another with these conversions:
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage = 1 teaspoon dried
- 1/2 ounce fresh leaves = 1/2 cup leaves
- 10 thin fresh sage leaves = 3/4 teaspoon dried sage
Cookbooks You Might Like
If you like cooking with sage and other herbs, specialized cookbooks give you lots of creative ideas on how to use them to turn your cooking into cuisine. Herb Mixtures and Spicy Blends and Herbs & Spices: The Cook's Reference are two especially good choices.