a bunch of fresh dill on a counter

Dill is a popular herb that belongs to the parsley family. It is a native plant to the regions of Northern Europe and Russia and is prized for its unique anise or licorice-flavored leaves, which are a common culinary ingredient. Dill can brighten up a salad or be added to soups. Dill is what gives Russian Borsch its delicious flavor. It is also the star ingredient in the famous Greek Tzatziki sauce. Other great ways to use dill are with grilled fish, in potato dishes, in cucumber salads, and in the famous dill sauces served in fine restaurants. It is used for salmon curing and vegetable pickling. Dills seeds have a more intense or woody flavor, reminiscent of anise, celery, or caraway seeds. Dill seeds are used mostly for making vinegar. 

dill growing in the garden

Dill is at its best in early summer.

Keeping and Storing Dill

Dill is a very fragile plant that bruises easily and, once cut, does not last long, so treat it as you would fresh flowers and keep it in water. You can expect dill to wilt within a couple of days, but it can be dried or frozen to preserve some of its flavors. 

chopped dill in a jar frozen

Dill freezes well 

Late in the growing season, dill goes to seed or “bolts,” and it will reseed itself the following spring. Mature dill seeds can also be collected and reseeded in a new location in the spring or shared with friends. 

dried dill flowers and harvested seeds on a tray

Drying and storing dill seeds

Dill is an Ancient Herb 

Dill is an ancient culinary herb that can be traced back to ancient Rome. Because of its high antioxidant and oil content, it has been used for medicinal properties for centuries. Dill also contains calcium and magnesium and is packed with flavonoids, and improves digestion. 

Dill Sauce 

Dill sauce is adelicacy served in fine restaurants. It takes a little skill to master because it incorporates vinegar and lemon juice into a creamy sauce that, if not done carefully, will curdle the sauce. As always, practice and patience makes perfect! 

dill sauce ingredients on a counter

Ingredients: 

Large bunch of dill 

4+ cups of whole milk

4 Tbs butter (or 2 Tbs butter and 2 Tbs oil)

4 Tbs flour (can be made with GF flour, like Cassava or rice flour)

½ Tsp salt

2 Tbs lemon juice

1 Tbs white vinegar

1 Tbs sugar

½ Tsp nutmeg

It All Starts with a Roux and Mother Sauce 

This sauce is made utilizing Roux and Béchamel Sauce, which is the same sauce used in homemade mac and cheese and Lasagna. It can be intimidating to make, but only the first time. There are two crucial steps to pay attention to. A versatile sauce and delicious meal await you at the end. 

What is a Mother Sauce? 

Béchamel, or a milk-based white sauce, made with a very light-colored roux, is one of the five French Mother Sauces, which serve as the base and the starting point for all other sauces. All of these sauces remain the cannon and the foundation of Western culinary arts since the 1700s. The other mother sauces are Hollandaise which is made with butter and eggs.  Espagnole is a sauce made with a dark brown roux with added vegetable stock and is typically served with red meat.Thanksgiving gravy can be thought of as anEspagnole sauce.  Velouté is made with a golden roux, and the fifth sauce is the Classic Tomato Sauce. Modern-day global cuisine modified these French sauces even further by utilizing tofu, kudzu root, tapioca, and agar-agar to accommodate different diets. 

The Roux 

Making a Béchamel also teaches us how to make a roux. Roux is an easy paste of a 1:1 ratio of fat and starch. Roux is frequently used in French cooking, and there are several ways to make it, including light, blond and dark. Béchamel requires a light roux. If you keep it cooking a bit longer, the roux turns golden brown in color and develops a toasted aroma. This type of roux is used in Veloute. Keeping it on the stove even longer will add a deeper flavor and the rich complexity of a meaty sauce as needed for Espagnole. It is important to remember that the darker the roux, the less thickening power it has. Don’t let roux intimidate you because, most likely, you already know how to make it. When we are making breakfast sausage and gravy, we use a roux! Also, the rustic Louisiana gumbos are based on a brown sauce roux made into Veloute. When I was growing up, my grandmother used roux so often that once a week, she made a batch and used a spoon full here and there while making her daily dishes. 

Making a White Roux 

In a heavy-bottomed pan, melt 4 Tbs of fat (oil or butter). Stir in 4 Tbs of flour and stir while cooking over medium heat until the roux is bubbly and the raw flour taste is gone, but the roux is still pale about 2-3 minutes. 

The Rule of the Roux:

The rule of roux is that could roux should be mixed into the hot liquid and vice versa to prevent curdling. 

melting butter and flour in a pan

Start roux with a 1:1 ratio of fat and flour.

finished roux bubbling in a pan

The finished roux should be “blond” for this recipe

Béchamel Sauce

When the roux is finished and while still hot, turn the heat off! (this is a very important step). With the whisk in one hand and the container with cold milk in the other, stir in the milk a little bit of milk. It may look something like this:  

thick roux mixed with milk into a paste

Turn the stove back on, on medium-low or medium, and while whisking, keep adding milk. 

white sauce in pan with whisk

If lumps start forming, keep whisking before adding more milk. 

nutmeg being grated into white sauce in a pan

Add grated nutmeg when just about finished.

finished white bechemel sauce coating a wooden spoon

The Béchamel is completed once the sauce reaches a smooth consistency without any lumps or remains of the roux. 

fresh dill added to the white bechemel sauce

Turn the heat off, and VERY CAREFULLY, one drop at a time and while stirring, add lemon juice, white vinegar, sugar, and salt. Taste your sauce and adjust flavors as needed. As a last step, add chopped-up dill and quickly stir it into the sauce. Serve immediately. The sauce can be refrigerated for a couple of days and reheated, but the dill may lose its bright color, and the sauce may “break.”  

dill sauce on a plate with various cooked vegetables

Dill sauce is served with halibut here but goes very well with salmon or any kind of vegetables. A little bit of sauce goes a long way, so do not feel guilty about having a little cream. 

Magda Born

mborn@kckpl.org

Community Services Librarian

Kansas City, Kansas Public Library

625 Minnesota Ave.

Kansas City, KS 66101

913-295-8250 ext 1103

Resources: 

herbs and spices the cook's reference book cover

Herbs & spices  by Jill Norman

Book Call Number: 641.6383 NORMAN

the encyclopedia of herbs book cover

The encyclopedia of herbs: a comprehensive reference to herbs of flavor and fragrance  by Arthur O. Tucker, Thomas DeBaggio and Francesco DeBaggio

Book Call Number: 635.7 TUCKER

the culinary herbal book cover

The culinary herbal: growing and preserving 97 flavorful herbs  by Susan Belsinger

Book Call Number: 641.6 BELSINGE

just add sauce book cover

Just add sauce: a revolutionary guide to boosting the flavor of everything you cook  by America’s Test Kitchen  

Book 

Call Number: 641.814 JUST