Bouquet Garni is pronounced bow-kay Gar-nee and is French for ‘garnished-bunch’. So a posh way of saying that we are going to be using a whole bunch of herbs, rather than chopping them directly into the dish.
A bouquet garni is traditionally made of Bay leaves, Parsley stalks (or stems) and Thyme stems with leaves on. It can use fresh herbs where discovering the woody texture of bay or thyme would be unwelcome in most dishes. You can also substitute the fresh herbs in a bouquet garni for dried and make a pouch from cheesecloth or muslin.
You really shouldn’t feel that you have to use the three traditional herbs listed above and there are plenty of substitutes that work really well. I want to show you how to make the fresh bouquet, or a dried pouch as well.
When Would You Use Bouquet Garni
Essentially you would use bouquet garni in any dish that you did not want fresh herbs or dried herbs in, but you still want the flavor. We use it in soups and casseroles, stews, slow cooked dishes and stocks. By using a removable bouquet we can add the flavor profile without adding woody herbs that are sharp in the mouth. Especially true with bay leaves that are a nasty surprise in any dish.
The next reason to add bouquet garni rather then fresh chopped herbs is that in some dishes you will find the herbs wilt and become a mush and really look miserable. Far better to be able to pull the herbs out whole and still have that lovely flavor that has developed as you cook your food. At this point it is worth thinking about those herbs that just don’t look appetizing once they have been stewed for a few hours! Sage really springs to mind immediately! So we are free to replace or add any herbs that we want in our bouquet.
I have fished bay leaves out of many a dish before, but the chances are you may forget one or two. This is solved by tying them into the bouquet garni. Convenience is key when getting family meals on the table!
How To Make Bouquet Garni From Fresh Herbs
- Collect your chosen herbs, if making the traditional bouquet garni choose parsley, thyme and bay leaves. These are available in your garden or grown indoors. Hopefully you will have a supply of fresh herbs. IF you are missing one ingredient try substituting it for a new herb. Rosemary, oregano and tarragon all make great flavors, but you may not want the texture of the woodiness in your food.
- Pick around 6-8 stems or sprigs of parsley, 5-6 stalks of thyme and around 4 bay leaves.
- A bouquet garni is also a perfect way to utilize the long stems of parsley, so you can trim the leaves from the top and set aside to chop finely for garnish once cooked.
- Wash you herbs under running water and make sure to remove any wildlife that may have made a home on the leaves.
- Tie together with kitchen twine. Tie towards the base of the stem.
- Alternatively you can use the outer leaf of a leek. This is a nice way to package the herbs in your bouquet garni. You will need to tie together with kitchen twine still, but it gives a new level to the flavor.
- Leave the bouquet garni in the stew, casserole, slow cooker, crockpot or soup for as long as you want the flavor to develop.
- Once the flavor has developed as much as you would like simply remove the bouquet garni as a complete pack. It couldn’t be easier.
We grow a lot of fresh herbs and enjoy growing parsley indoors all year, however thyme does have a natural period in winter which is more of a dormant period. So using dried herbs is an option here. More likely, you will be buying dried herbs and this can be more sustainable than buying fresh herbs from the supermarket.
How To Make A Bouquet Garni With Dried Herbs
This is where we are going to make essentially a tea bag for herbs. You are steeping the herbs in the cooking dish. Perfect for gammon or hams equally as stews, casseroles and soups. The composition of your bouquet garni is going to change now that we are using dried herbs as the strength of flavor is changed in herbs once dried.
- You will need 1/4 cup dried parsley, 3 tablespoons dried thyme leaves and 6 dried bay leaves. 2 squares of muslin or cheesecloth and a length of kitchen twine.
- Using a pestle and mortar crush the dried bay leaves. It just needs to be a rough crush as the bouquet garni will need the bay leaves to be in a form ready to release their taste.
- Mix the herbs together in a bowl.
- The squares need to be laid on top of each other and the herbs spooned into the center.
- Gather the corners of the cloth together and create a pouch with the herbs in the middle forming a ball.
- Tie the culinary twine around the bunch and tie a knot with no space for the dried herbs to sneak out into your cooking. Leave a long end on the twine.
- If you do not want to use cheesecloth to make a bouquet garni, you can buy ready made Cotton Muslin Drawstring Bags like these from amazon, or any other cooking store. They are reusable and you can stuff them full of dried herbs and be as adventurous as you like!
- Gently drop the bouquet garni into the saucepan and leave that long end in the saucepan, it will be fine to use it to ‘catch’ the full pouch later on in the cooking process.
- When you are happy with the level of flavor you have been able to pump into your dish, remove the bouquet. Nice and easy, without having to dip your spoon in hunting for woody herbs.
What Herbs Can Be Substituted Into A Bouquet Garni
Total freedom is what I would advocate. Think about herbs that you wouldn’t want to eat by accident in your dish. Woody herbs like rosemary, thyme or even oregano make sense to have in a removable form. Then I think about herbs that I want to add throughout the cooking process, but which would wilt and look unappetizing. Basil, Sage, Mint or even chervil.
When we want to make a bouquet garni with dried herbs it is also to avoid having little woody ‘bits’ in our cooking. So the composition can change to take into account how the drying process changes the taste and intensity. There are a lot of perfect herbs for both a fresh bouquet garni and a dried one.
TOP TIP – ensure you have tied the herbs tightly and secured them before popping them into your cooking.
Give it a go as you will see it changes your cooking to a much more professional finish. We have fussy eaters in our home, who would never let us forget it if they ate a bay leaf accidentally. You may well be the same, but a simple bouquet garni will solve all of that, just don’t limit yourself to those classic ingredients.
Also have a look at our article on Sachet d’epices to see if you would like to try making one of these instead!