I’m always looking for new ways to make my Creole & Cajun cuisine more authentic, and a great way to do this is to make as many ingredients as possible from scratch, no matter how painstaking the process. Although for me, the more painstaking the process, the more fun I have doing it.
I’ve always wanted to make my own Filé powder from scratch but didn’t have access to a Sassafras tree. Last fall I found a tree near my home here in Michigan, but never got around to harvesting any branches, so I took care of that today. It will be interesting to taste true, pure Filé powder, as most store bought varieties have some kind of addition such as Thyme.
When looking for a Sassafras tree look for leaves as seen below, with smooth edges. There is a weed here in Michigan that looks very similar, but has jagged edges. Some sassafras leaves are mitten shaped, some have 3 prongs, and some are football shaped. If you can get to it’s roots they will smell strongly of Root Beer.
My friend Bill Moran at Texas Chef says that it’s important to dry the leaves on the branches. He also says that if you have large branches to hang them from the gutters on your house. I’ve simply bound the branches together and hung them upside down from a fence:
More to come on this topic when my Sassafras leaves are totally dry.
Be sure to check out my ever growing Index of Creole & Cajun Recipes!