Bouquet garni is a French term meaning "garnished bouquet" and refers to a method used in French cooking. It is a bunch of herbs tied together or placed in a cheesecloth bag and used to flavor soups, broths, and stews. Bouquet garni can even be used to add seasoning to casseroles and other meat dishes.
Herbs typically used in bouquet garni include thyme, marjoram, bay leaves, and parsley. The bunch of herbs is placed inside the pot along with the soups, stew, or broth. As the herbs cook, the flavor diffuses throughout the dish.
Consumers can buy bouquet garni in gourmet shops or make their own. A simple way to make it is to take a sprig of marjoram, about three sprigs of parsley, two bay leaves, and a sprig of thyme. Tie the bundle of herbs together with a string or secure the herbs inside a cheesecloth. Another option is to place the herbs inside a celery rib or within leek leaves.
Other items to include in the bundle can be rosemary, celery or fennel leaves, cloves, orange peel, or peppercorns. It's important to leave a long string attached to the bouquet so that it can easily be retrieved from the soup, stew, or broth when the infusion of flavor is complete. A balanced mixture of mild and robust herbs should be combined in order to achieve the best flavor. The size of the bouquet of herbs should correspond to the amount of food being cooked. This will ensure that the bundle of herbs complement the flavor of the meal, not overpower it.
Since spices lose their flavor as time passes, do not make large batches of bouquet garni. Instead, make smaller batches that can be used within one month. Keep the spices inside an airtight container in a cool, dark area. Avoid storing them above the stove as heat can interfere with the spices' flavor.
Bouquet garni can be used in gift baskets and given to friends. First, the herbs can be placed inside a small cheesecloth bag. The bags can be made from cheesecloth purchased from a craft or discount store. Next, a small square is cut from the cloth and filled with herbs. Next, the herb-filled cheesecloth is tied with a cotton string.
Choose a small wicker basket and decorate it with a pretty cloth or tea towel. Add a few packets of soup mix, the bouquet garni, and gourmet crackers to the basket. Fill the rest of the basket with a ceramic soup bowl, a spoon, and any other appropriate items.