A staple tool in French cooking, a Bouquet Garni is made of pieces of fresh herbs tied together, or bundled in a piece of cloth, and put into a simmering liquid in order to flavour the liquid. After cooking, the herbs are discarded.
It allows for the creation of stocks, etc, where you want the flavour but not the physical material of the herbs in the liquid or dish being prepared. Bundling the herbs together makes for easy retrieval at the end of cooking.
The cloth is usually cheesecloth, though some resourceful people have used clean pantyhose. You put the herbs into the cloth, tie the cloth up into a bundle, and then toss the bundle into what you are what you are boiling or simmering (a cooking liquid is always involved.) Many times, you can get away without the cloth, and just tie the pieces of fresh herbs together if they are large enough.
To make a classic bouquet, take and bind together:
- 4 sprigs fresh parsley or chervil;
- 1 spring fresh thyme;
- 1 bay leaf
If you are using a cloth bundle, there’s no need to tie the herbs together first. Just put them in the small piece of cloth, gather up its corners, and secure them with string. A cloth bundle is more work than just tying the herbs together, but it has the advantage that you can add things that you wouldn’t be able to tie together, such as orange peel, cloves, peppercorns, marjoram, fennel leaves or celery leaves.
Use a large tea genie ball and loosely pack the herbs in there.
One of the first printed references to using a bouquet garni in soups and stews is in “Le Cuisinier François” written by Francois Pierre de la Varenne in 1651.
“Membre de mouton à la Cardinale: Prenez membres de mouton, les battez bien, & lardez de gros lard, puis ostez leur la peau, la farinez & passez avec du lard, & les faites cuire avec bon bouillon, bouquet, …”
Later editions of “Le Cuisinier François” would elaborate for readers on what the bouquet could consist of, suggesting parsley, spring onion, etc: “un bouquet de persil, thin & siboules liez ensemble….” (1721 edition, A La Haye publishers.)
In his 1742 book, Nouveau traité de la Cuisine, Volume 3, the French cook and author Menon suggests for a bouquet garni: “un bouquet de persil, siboules, ail, trois clous de gerofle, une feuille de laurier.” (Haricots blancs à la Crème recipe. Page 271.)