Although the term ‘bouquet garni’ did not appear in English until the 19th century, it began to appear in French cuisine during 1600’s.
A bouquet garni, today, is a bundle or sachet of culinary herbs, usually consisting of parsley, thyme, and bay leaves, with the possible addition of rosemary, sage, and perhaps cloves. A bouquet garni, of course, can vary depending on the dish and the cook. These may be tied together with string or wrapped in cheesecloth. Sometimes, they are even wrapped in bacon. The bundle is placed into a stock or sauce to add flavor.
The mixture of delicate herbs was part of a change in French cuisine that saw the end of the heavily spiced, and sauced medieval dishes to a more subtle style of cooking with more balanced and delicate flavors. Instead of heavily spiced sauces being poured lavishly over dishes to mask off flavors, and which made one dish taste much like another, sauces and stocks began to be used as an integral part of the dish, to bring out the flavors and to refine the cuisine. The bouquet garni was added to stocks and removed at the last minute.
We first see evidence of this in the writings of La Varenne in Le Cuisinier Francois, the publication of which is thought to be the true point in which French cooking turned away from medieval cooking and began to define its own style in a systematic process of cooking. Certain fundamental processes were introduced:
- a bouillon or stock
- farces (forcemeats)
- bouquet garni
- the roux and liaisons
The bouquet garni increased in popularity and during the 18th century became a standard part of French cuisine. It should be noted, however, that using of bunches of herbs in this was was not unique to French cooking. Such bundles had been used in other countries since medieval times, including in England, but they lacked a standard name to describe them. The French term was later adopted to describe all such herb bundles.
1. Baran, Tony. A Brief Culinary Art History of the Western Chef Avante-guarde through the Late 20th Century. Bloomington, IN: Authorhouse, 2014. Print.
2. Higman, B. W. How Food Made History. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.
3. Davidson, Alan. The Penguin Companion to Food. London: Penguin, 2002.