Thyme Uses and Three Recipes
Ancient Egyptians used thyme for embalming. The ancient Greeks used it in their baths and burnt it as incense in their temples, believing that thyme was a source of courage. It was thought that the spread of thyme throughout Europe was thanks to the Romans, as they used it to purify their rooms and to "give an aromatic flavour to cheese and liqueurs". In the European Middle Ages, the herb was placed beneath pillows to aid sleep and ward off nightmares. In this period, women would also often give knights and warriors gifts that included thyme leaves as it was believed to bring courage to the bearer. Thyme was also used as incense and placed on coffins during funerals as it was supposed to assure passage into the next life.
The essential oil of common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is made up of 20-54% thymol. Thymol, an antiseptic, is the main active ingredient in Listerine mouthwash. Before the advent of modern antibiotics, it was used to medicate bandages. It has also been shown to be effective against the fungus that commonly infects toenails. It can also be found as the active ingredient in all-natural, alcohol-free hand sanitizers.
A tea made by infusing the herb in water can be used for cough and bronchitis. Medicinally thyme is used for respiratory infections in the form of a tincture, tisane, salve, syrup or by steam inhalation. Because it is antiseptic, thyme boiled in water and cooled is very effective against inflammation of the throat when gargled 3 times a day. The inflammation will normally disappear in 2 – 5 days.
The thymol and other volatile components in the leaf glands is excreted via the lungs, being highly lipid-soluble, where it reduces the viscosity of the mucus and exerts its antimicrobial action.
Other infections and wounds can be dripped with thyme that has been boiled in water and cooled.
In traditional Jamaican childbirth practice, thyme tea is given to the mother after delivery of the baby.
Its oxytocin-like effect causes uterine contractions and more rapid delivery of the placenta but this was said by Sheila Kitzinger to cause an increased prevalence of retained placenta.
Thyme is a good source of iron and is widely used in cooking. The herb is a basic ingredient in Levantine (Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian, Palestinian), Libyan, Indian, Italian, French, Albanian, Persian, Portuguese, Assyrian, Spanish, Greek, Nigerian, Caribbean, and Turkish cuisines, and in those derived from them.
Thyme is often used to flavour meats, soups and stews. It has a particular affinity to and is often used as a primary flavour with lamb, tomatoes and eggs.
Thyme, while flavourful, does not overpower and blends well with other herbs and spices. In some Levantine countries, and Assyrian the condiment za'atar
(Arabic for thyme) contains thyme as a vital ingredient. It is a common component of the bouquet garni, and of herbes de Provence.
Thyme is sold both fresh and dried. The fresh form is more flavorful but also less convenient; storage life is rarely more than a week. While summer-seasonal, fresh thyme is often available year round.
Fresh thyme is commonly sold in bunches of sprigs. A sprig is a single stem snipped from the plant. It is composed of a woody stem with paired leaf or flower clusters ("leaves") spaced ½ to 1" apart. A recipe may measure thyme by the bunch (or fraction thereof), or by the sprig, or by the tablespoon or teaspoon. If the recipe does not specify fresh or dried, assume that it means fresh.
Depending on how it is used in a dish, the whole sprig may be used (e.g. in a bouquet garni), or the leaves removed and the stems discarded.
Usually when a recipe specifies 'bunch' or 'sprig' it means the whole form; when it specifies spoons it means the leaves. It is perfectly acceptable to substitute dried for whole thyme.
Leaves may be removed from stems either by scraping with the back of a knife, or by pulling through the fingers or tines of a fork. Leaves are often chopped.
Thyme retains its flavor on drying better than many other herbs. As usual with dried herbs less of it is required when substituted in a recipe.
As a rule of thumb, use one third as much dried as fresh thyme - a little less if it is ground. Substitution is often more complicated than that because recipes can specify sprigs and sprigs can vary in yield of leaves. Assuming a 4" sprig (they are often somewhat longer), estimate that 6 sprigs will yield one tablespoon of leaves. The dried equivalent is 1:3, so substitute 1 teaspoon of dried or ¾ tsp of ground thyme for 6 small sprigs.
As with bay, thyme is slow to release its flavors so it is usually added early in the cooking process.
How to Make Thyme Uses and Three Recipes
- Lemon thyme cookies
Though thyme stands for "courage," you’ll need none of that as you bite into these buttery delights. They’re irresistible plain or dipped in chocolate. MAKES ABOUT 25 2-INCH ROUND COOKIES
• 1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
• 2 tablespoons fresh Lemon-thyme leaves, stems removed
• 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
• 1/4 cup granulated sugar
• 1/4 cup powdered sugar
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
• All-purpose flour, for dusting work surface
• 6 to 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, tempered
• Slivered almonds (at least 25)
1. In food processor with metal blade, pulse almonds, thyme and lemon zest with 2 tablespoons flour until finely ground but not pasty, about 20 seconds. Sift together remaining flour and salt in medium bowl. Add ground nut-herb mixture and stir. Set aside. In electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn mixer to low and gradually add flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Stir in vanilla and lemon extracts. Flatten dough into disk and wrap tightly in plastic. Chill 2 hours or until very firm.
2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees with rack in center. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll chilled dough on lightly floured surface to about ¼-inch thickness, using as little flour as possible. Cut out 2-inch rounds with cookie cutter and place ½ inch apart on cookie sheets. Position sheet on center rack and bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned. Immediately transfer to racks and cool completely before garnishing.
3. To garnish: Set another cooling rack over cookie sheet. Dip half of each cookie in tempered chocolate. Place on rack, so sheet catches chocolate drippings. Before chocolate sets, place an almond sliver or two on top of each cookie. Allow to fully set before serving. Store in airtight containers at room temperature up to 1 week.
- Lemon Thyme Cupcakes.
Tea thyme: moist and buttery cupcakes a family favorite. buttery, lemony, moist little cakes with a tender crumb and a pleasing herbal aroma. They are good warm or at room temperature.
1½ cups unbleached flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons finely minced lemon thyme
¾ cup milk
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Place cupcake papers in, or lightly butter and flour, a cupcake pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, tossing lightly. In a measuring cup, add 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons of the thyme to the milk along with the lemon zest and stir well.Cream the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and add 1 cup of the sugar and beat for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each one and scraping down the sides if necessary. Beat the batter until it is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat for a minute longer.
On low speed, blend in half the dry ingredients, add the milk mixture and mix well, and then blend in the rest of the dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides and be sure that the batter is well blended. Spoon the batter evenly into the cups of the pan.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops are just starting to turn golden brown and a tester comes out clean. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar with the lemon juice and the remaining 1 teaspoon thyme and stir well to dissolve the sugar. When the cakes are done, remove the pan from the oven and brush them with the lemon glaze. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove them to cool on a rack.
- Lemon Thyme Chicken
Buttered onions are a great addition to the lemon sauce of this easy supper. Best of all, it takes only a few minutes to brown the lightly breaded chicken on the stove top. -Kay Shimonek of Corsicana, Texas
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (4 ounces each)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper. Set aside 4-1/2 teaspoons for sauce. Sprinkle the remaining flour mixture over both sides of chicken. In a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook chicken in oil over medium heat for 7-9 minutes on each side or until juices run clear. Remove and keep warm.
In the same pan, saute onion in butter until tender. Add thyme and reserved flour mixture; stir until blended. Gradually stir in the broth and lemon juice, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve over chicken. Sprinkle with parsley. Yield: 4 servings.