Rubbed Sage: Flavor Profile
Sage is a common ingredient outside the U.S., prized for its minty, almost peppery taste and fragrant aroma. The herb – which is part of the mint family – is a key herb in pork sausage, saltimbocca, and poultry stuffing.
Rubbed sage is dried sage that has been rubbed between two objects (most frequently one’s hands). This unique production process creates a fine, fluffy powder that’s more flavorful than broken leaf. In fact, rubbed sage powder has an almost fuzzy appearance, and it’s revered for its bold, pine-like flavor.
Cooking with Rubbed Sage
Sage has a strong, piney taste, and that’s especially true of rubbed sage. It can quickly overpower a dish, though, so use it sparingly. The herb is commonly found in countries on the Adriatic, including Albania, Croatia, Italy and to a lesser-extent Greece. And its rich flavor and aroma pairs well with garlic, shallots and onion, as well as other herbs like rosemary and thyme. Rubbed sage – thanks to its unique production process – provides a burst of minty, warm flavors. Use it for:
- Poultry Stuffing – It’s not Thanksgiving without same sage-seasoned stuffing in the turkey. The British popularized its use as a seasoning in poultry, and rubbed sage pairs nicely with all types, including chicken, duck and quail.
- Salads – Sage’s refreshing mint flavor and slight bitterness make it an ideal ingredient in creamy salads. The herb can elevate a classic potato or macaroni salad.
- Pickling – Rubbed sage is a common pickling spice. The herb’s floral notes can help balance the sourness of vinegar.
- Pork Sausage – Homemade pork sausage requires a dash or two of sage. Not only does the herb provide a fresh, fennel-like taste; it also acts as a natural preservative.
- Stews and Soups – Sage works wonders in nearly any hearty soup, as its flavors can elevate any stock.
History of Sage
Sage originates in the Mediterranean and Balkans, and has a long history in those regions as a medicinal and culinary herb. The Romans, for example, were very fond of the plant.
Romans used sage primarily as a medicine, prescribing it as a digestive aid, for use in wound healing and for its pungent aroma. In fact, Dioscorides, Emperor Nero’s herbalist, helped to popularize its use in medicine. Throughout Europe and North Africa, the herb was used medicinally in the early Middle Ages. Germans believed the herb promoted fertility, while the Italians began using in the curing process for meats.
Although its not native to Asia, the Chinese developed a taste for the herb in the early modern era, as well. In fact, at one point, the herb was so well-liked that a single pound fetched four pounds of Chinese tea. This commercial success encouraged world leaders like Germany’s Charlemagne to develop extensive growing operations.
In cooking, the herb wasn’t popular until the end of the Middle Ages. French cookbooks of the era featured recipes calling for sage, and the herb quickly became en vogue in Italy, Germany and France. The British were fans too. Today, sage is considered an essential herb in England, along with parsley, rosemary and thyme (like the lyrics of Scarborough Fair).
Sage belongs to the mint family, along with peppermint and spearmint. And it’s known officially as Salvia officinalis. The most common varietal used for culinary use is common sage.
Like most herbs, sage is one of the first to sprout in spring and has a short growing season. It’s usually blooms by the first weeks of summer, producing a beautiful violet blossom. In fact, it’s a popular spring ornamental throughout the world.
Sage likes cool weather and thrives in the Mediterranean’s mountainous regions. The plant grows oblong leaves and resembles a peppermint plant. Yet, the leaves of the plant are dusty gray or bluish and covered with a soft fuzz.
Today, the Balkans produce the majority of the world’s sage. Albania, Croatia and Bulgaria are leading producers. And it’s farmed, as well as wild harvested throughout the region.
About Our Rubbed Sage
Our rubbed sage comes from small family farms in Croatia’s Drnis region. Located in the stunning Dalmatian mountains, Drnis has a long history of sage farming. The region continually produces some of the most flavorful sage in the world.