Although used since ancient times for medicinal purposes and food preservation, sage was not used as a food flavoring until the 17th century.
Parkinson writes: "The Kitchen use is to boyle it with a Calves head.minced, to be put with the braines, vinegar and pepper to serve as an ordinary sawse.to serve as a sawce for peeces of Veale.." Additionally, clary sage leaves could be "taken dry, and dipped into a batter made with the yolkes of egges, flower and a little milke, and then fryed with butter until they be crispe." Evelyn also suggests clary sage for "Omlets" to be eaten with sugar and lemon juice. The 1833 edition of the American Frugal Housewife tells us that "sage is very useful both as a medicine, for the headache - when made into tea - and for all kinds of stuffing, when dried and rubbed into powder."
Today we know that garden sage has many uses in the kitchen-none of which involve "braines," fortunately. Salvia officinalis is the sage most often used for cooking, with the common gray form having the best flavor. The tricolor, golden and purple sages can be used but tend to be less flavorful; Berggarten sage can be used but at half strength, for it has a much stronger flavor. Salvia elegans or pineapple sage, as well as its other forms such as honeydew melon or peach, tend to lose flavor when dried so must be used fresh when the flavor is amazingly fruit-like. Clary sage (Salvia sclarea), because of its strong aroma, is not much used in the kitchen these days, although the fresh leaves are still sometimes dipped in batter and deep-fried.
A member of the mint family, culinary sage is highly aromatic and is best used fresh, when its flavor has been described as a mix of rosemary, pine and mint, or citrusy; when dried, it has a more camphorous flavor. In many places, it can be used fresh from the garden year round; it can also be stored fresh in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator crisper for two weeks. Whole leaves can be frozen up to two months. To dry, hang sprigs of sage or place leaves on a screen in a warm, dry place; check carefully to be sure leaves are fully dried before storage and store them whole to be crushed just before using. The best way to crush sage leaves is to rub them between your hands-hence, the "rubbed sage" one finds on supermarket shelves. The flowers of any culinary sage are edible, as well as beautiful, and have a more delicate flavor than the leaves. Stems or leaves can also be tossed on hot charcoal where they will add a wonderful aroma to grilled dishes. >>
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