If there is one food people associate with our great state of Maine, it’s lobster. But for those of us interested in managing our caloric intake, lobster loses some of its inherent nutritional value because of the longstanding tradition of serving it either with melted butter for dipping or swimming in mayo on a bed of white bun. That’s not to diss tradition – there is certainly a time and place for a lobster roll (check out the Local’s Love article on page 20 in the Green and Healthy Maine visitor’s guide for some ideas). But if one wants to eat lobster more regularly and without busting their arteries, there should be an alternative. Lucky for us (not so much for the lobsters) tarragon and vinegar provide the perfect condiment compromise that could make lobster a more regular part of one’s diet, rather than a succulent, special splurge.
It always surprises me when people cock their heads to one side and give me a funny look when I tell them that I like to dip my lobster in tarragon vinegar. We have never had a lobster supper in our house that didn’t include the questions: “Who wants butter with their lobster, and who wants tarragon?” In fact, if it weren’t for the latter choice, I would probably still be declining the delicacy. Lobster was always too fishy on it’s own for my taste buds and the idea of dipping meat into melted butter seemed to me to be a little too greasy. I was also a notoriously picky eater growing up. Then one night during the summer after my first year at college, a year in which I learned to like many new foods (olives, tomatoes, and mushrooms were huge for me), I decided to steal a knuckle (still my favorite part of a lobster) off of my mom’s plate and dip into her dish of tarragon vinegar.
I’ll never forget it. I still got the sweetness of the lobster, but it wasn’t overwhelming. The tarragon seemed to cut through the richness, making it lighter, and making me crave the next bite. As it turns out, inducing appetite is one of the many traditional uses for tarragon. Tarragon has been known to neutralize the action of free radicals (metabolic byproducts that damage cells unless expelled as waste), aid in digestion by increasing bile production in the liver, and help one fall asleep or relieve mild stress and anxiety if brewed in a tea. It’s an herb that is also rich in vitamins and minerals: Vitamin A, potassium, Vitamin C, manganese, iron, pyridoxine, folate, niacin, and riboflavin. Tarragon also contains chemicals that prevent platelets and other compounds from adhering and accumulating in the heart’s blood vessels. Therefore, eating a little tarragon here and there just might help prevent arterial blood clots, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
In addition to its numerous health benefits, tarragon is often considered one of the finest seasoning ingredients in French cooking. Although the French are well known for their classic training in the kitchen, making your own tarragon vinegar requires no such education. If you have an herb garden or the opportunity to pick up some fresh tarragon at your local farmer’s market, you are halfway to concocting your own batch. All you need is fresh tarragon leaves and stems, some white wine vinegar, and a jar with a lid. It’s important that you get French tarragon, which is used more often in cooking than its Russian counterpart; both varieties are on the market today.
The first step is to put your tarragon into your jar and muddle the leaves and stems to release its oils. Next, pour two cups of white wine vinegar into the jar with the tarragon and cap it. Store the jar in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks before using. Finish by pouring into a small dish and serving alongside a fresh baked or boiled, healthy and hearty Maine lobster. Lobster itself is low in fat content and cholesterol but high in protein, and it’s a good source of omega 3 fatty acids that help heart and brain function. So the next time you’re at a lobster bake or craving a healthy, locally sourced dinner, think about trying tarragon vinegar. There is always room for creating a new tradition.
Tarragon vinegar recipe
- 2 cups of fresh tarragon (leaves and stems)
- 2 cups of white wine vinegar (can substitute with raw apple cider)
- Jar with lid that’s large enough to hold your brew
- Put the fresh tarragon leaves into your jar and muddle to release the essential oils.
- Pour the white wine vinegar over the leaves and into the jar
- Seal the jar and put in a cool, dark place to store for 2-3 weeks.
- After a couple of weeks, remove the leaves and stems from your vinegar and replace them with a fresh sprig for garnish. Serve alongside a fresh boiled Maine lobster, or use in any of these other yummy recipes (link to other yummy recipes).
- Chicken with Fennel, Tomato, and Tarragon Vinegar (Cooking Light)
- Bernaise Sauce (Substitute step 1 with your already prepared tarragon vinegar) (Real Simple)
- Blue Cheese Dip (Eating Well)
- Tarragon New Potato Salad (recommended and tested by healthy cooking connoisseur Lindsey Bos (Seattle, WA))
Ruthie Hawley is the SunriseGuide’s 2014 summer intern through the Blackstone Accelerates Growth Program. She is passionate about all things related to sustainability, girl power, and fostering peace. She will graduate from Colby College in May 2015.