Hyssop is a herb frequently mentioned in the Bible and that is used throughout the Middle East. It is used elsewhere in the world as well. European liqueurs like absinthe and chartreuse depend on hyssop to provide up substantial parts of their flavor profiles. Hyssop can also be tricky to use. Consider the following dos and don’t of working with this herb.
Do use hyssop in moderation
Hyssop has a minty licorice note that is pungent enough to overpower mild flavors in a dish. Use it with restraint to avoid ruining a dish or beverage and wasting ingredients.
Do pair hyssop with the right ingredients
Because of how intense hyssop’s flavor profile can be, you should use it in applications where other strong flavors are present. Meats like venison and lamb tend to have intensely gamey flavors, which are perfectly complemented by hyssop.
Do use hyssop flowers whenever possible
The mild flavor of the hyssop flower can make it easier to use since you are in less danger of its flavor dominating your dish. In addition to having a more delicate flavor than the leaves, hyssop flowers are visually appealing and make an attractive garnish. Salads are among the preparations that can benefit from hyssop flowers.
Do use hyssop to make tea
Like many in the mint family, hyssop is a great tea herb. The dried herb or the fresh are excellent for making teas as is the flower and the leaf. Hyssop tea is consumed mainly for medicinal reasons. Bitterness often overtakes other notes in the hyssop flavor profile, so honey or another sweetener is recommended.
Do use hyssop to make a compound butter
Combine chopped fresh hyssop leaves with butter for an excellent herbed butter that you can use on proteins and vegetables. Remember to use the leaves sparingly to keep the flavor from being too strong.
Do use hyssop to season fatty meats
Hyssop goes well with fatty meats since its anise and mint notes tend to cut right through the mouth-coating oiliness. You can rub chopped fresh leaves on the exterior of a roast or another cut. An alternative is to use dried and powdered hyssop leaves in a dry rub with other seasonings.
Do add hyssop early in the cooking process
A herb’s ability to stand up to extended cooking times is what determines when it goes into the dish. Hyssop is notorious for its pungency and that intensity is why you need to add it earlier rather than later. In most cases, you won’t have to worry about it losing its flavor even if the dish has to cook for many hours.
Do use hyssop in desserts
While many may focus on this herb’s savory applications, its minty anise qualities make it a great addition to sweets. Use it to flavor simple syrups and candies or in cakes and other baked goods.
Don’t add hyssop leaves unless you can remove them easily
When dried, hyssop leaves can be hard and brittle like fish bones. They are not easy to eat and can present a choking hazard. You can get around this by using an infusion. Put the hyssop in a cheesecloth bag and place the bag in your braising liquid for the flavors to infuse into the dish. Remove the bag before serving.