Preserving the Harvest: Garlic Scapes

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I am lucky enough to live in a climate where I can garden all year. But even with the year-round ability to grow food, there are some things that have such a short season and need to be enjoyed right away or preserved. Canning is my go-to method for preserving most things. But this Spring, much to my surprise, I discovered that a new variety of garlic I was growing was producing garlic scapes! I had always grown soft neck garlic in the past, but last Fall decided that I would give hard neck a shot. Garlic scapes only grow on hard neck garlic, which is quite a bonus if you love the strong flavor of fresh garlic. The scape shoots up from the center of the bulb and does a bit of a curl, and each bulb only produces one scape. Depending on how much garlic you are growing, you may have just enough to saute and add to your eggs for a morning or two, or you may have so much you have no other choice but to preserve it. I chose to preserve mine, because I am a bit of a food preservation junkie. The idea to make compound butter popped into my mind while I was staring at the basket of garlic scapes and remembering a restaurant my family frequented when I was a child. They had sourdough garlic bread that had such a strong garlic flavor, that I think I am still somewhat immune to the strong taste of garlic, always requiring more than a recipe calls for in order to be able to taste it.

Photo by eqroy/Adobe Stock

Compound butter is such a simple, quick thing to make, and is incredibly versatile, both in ingredients and how you use it. You can make it in a food processor, or by mincing up your garlic with a sharp knife. The amount of butter just depends on how much you want to end up with. I tend to go overboard, so I took about 4 pounds of butter from the freezer to soften. I use salted, but unsalted works just as well. Let butter come to room temp so it is soft enough to stir. I used my food processor. I added the garlic scapes first, and pulsed just enough to get them broken down into small pieces. The exact size of the pieces is not important. I then added the butter and pulsed a few more times to get the garlic scapes evenly distributed throughout the butter. And that’s it! It really is incredibly easy, yet adds such a boost of flavor to dishes.

To store compound butter, I use parchment paper or plastic wrap and spoon a few tablespoons of the butter on to the paper. Fold the paper over and form the butter into a log. Wrap the butter tightly and either put in the refrigerator or freezer. I tried to portion mine out into what I thought I could use in a week. Compound butter can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Compound butter has a variety of uses. You can spread it on homemade French bread and toast under the broiler. Put chunks under the skin of a chicken or turkey before roasting to baste the meat with delicious fat and flavor. Use it to sauté vegetables or cook scrambled eggs. Add it to your mashed potatoes. Or my favorite, put a spoonful on your steaks after you’ve removed them from the skillet or the grill. Whenever I have used compound butter while company is over, I always get the ‘wow’ factor from my guests. It is such a simple addition to a meal, but has a big impact.

Compound butter can also be made with any combination of fresh herbs. I often combine thyme, rosemary, oregano, chives, and sage. Dried lemon rind also makes a wonderful compound butter. There really are no rules, and you can make it as strong tasting as you like, depending on your ratio of butter to herbs.