Fresh Herbs and Spices Seasoning also called Epis is Haitian cuisine is the foundation of delicious meals. This blend of herbs and spices is used to enhance the flavors of dishes.
Fresh herbs and spices seasoning are very common in the Caribbean. Depending on the region, or island, the ingredients will vary. The flavors are somewhat similar as well as the dishes. But the exotic taste that we love so much is about the same everywhere.
Any Caribbean cuisine, Basic Herbs, and Spices Blend start with garlic, parsley, and thyme. Other ingredients such as scallion, chive, onion, green pepper, celery, cloves, vinegar, lemon or lime juice, black pepper, and hot pepper are added for flavor enhancement. A good Caribbean Herbs and Spices Blend is the foundation of any great meal. A jar or container of epis is essential in a Haitian home.
There are many recipes and variations of Fresh Herbs and Spices Seasoning or Haitian Epis
Many people add oil to their blends because that’s how they were taught. Oil is not needed for the seasoning blend to last longer. It adds more fat than anything else. The oil sometimes will thicken the blend depending on the temperature of your refrigerator and may affect the taste of your dish. An acidic agent such as fresh lemon or lime juice and good refrigeration is necessary.
Salt, a common ingredient is often substituted by “Maggie Cube” or chicken bouillon cube or powder. Nowadays many Caribbean people including myself are opting not to add salt for many health reasons.
Consider making your blend as simple as possible so you can use it any way you want. For example, if your blend does not contain any salt and you want to add Worcestershire sauce, that is not a problem. You can easily adjust the taste. If you feel adventurous and want to add another store-bought marinade blend, there’s no worry about your food being salty.
How to use fresh herbs and spices seasoning or Haitian Epis
Mixed Fresh Herbs and Spices or Epis can be used to season meat, seafood, rice, beans, soup, etc. You can use the blend any way you want. A person or cook who enjoys cooking different types of dishes will have not only a fresh seasoning blend as well as a variety of dried spices. This is primarily for adding more flavors to dishes and having the ability to create recipes from around the world.
For meat, seafood, and poultry, fresh seasoning add a lot of texture and aroma. For example, fresh fish will taste better with fresh spices. Whereas fresh red meat or poultry needs a little bit of help. The help comes from the marination time, usually from 15 minutes and up to 12 hours. Marination allows the seasoning the penetrate the flesh. Unless you are in a hurry then you use a slow cooking method to cook the meat or poultry.
Why should you make a fresh seasoning blend or Epis
There are many reasons why you would create a fresh seasoning blend. One that is very common these days is allergies. With allergies on the rise, many people are opting to use fresh ingredients. The combination of the fresh spices brings such wonderfully delicious flavors to a dish that once they try it, the results are noticeable immediately.
All seasoning and spices blends or Epis do not taste the same. Dried seasoning blends will sometimes have a pungent taste depending on the manufacturer and how the herbs are harvested. Have you ever noticed the difference between dried parsley, vs fresh parsley? The aroma is very different.
Grilled Steak with Herbs made with fresh parsley will taste better than a steak cooked with dried parsley. Another example, Zesty Shallots, and Parsley Sauce cannot be made with dried herbs. The parsley has to be fresh.
What are the different types of fresh herbs and spices used in a Seasoning Blend or Epis
The most common ingredients are:
- Garlic Cloves
What other ingredients can be used in Epis
Other ingredients are used for flavor and they are can be dried spices or vegetables. They are:
- Green Bell Pepper
- Whole Peppercorn or Black Pepper
- Whole Cloves
Why I use fresh herbs and spices seasoning or my Haitian Epis when cooking
The answer to why I use fresh herbs and spices seasoning is simple. I am from the Caribbean! Fresh herbs and spices were in abundance around me and are there are still plenty as of today. They are for medicinal purposes and cooking. One of the main reasons, I prefer using mixed fresh herbs and spices when cooking is because they contain lots of nutritional benefits.
I use epis in almost every dish I cook as long as I have a jar in my refrigerator. Dried seasoning blends are always available in my pantry and are used very often. Dried herbs and spices have great health benefits, are rich and concentrated flavor. Food will always taste better with a fresh or dried seasoning blend.
Don’t shy away from herbs and spices. You will be surprised at how much better your food will taste. Having a jar of mixed fresh herb and spices or Haitian Epis in your refrigerator saves time and complements every meal every time.
Here is a recipe to get you started:
- 1 cup Fresh Lime Juice
- 2 Stalks Scallions chopped
- 1 cup Green Pepper chopped
- 1 cup Onion chopped
- 1 packet Fresh Thyme large and thick stems removed
- 24 Garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp Ground Black Pepper or Mixed Peppercorn (regular black pepper can be used also)
- 3 tbsp Kosher Salt
- 1 tbsp Ground Cloves
- 1 hot pepper (Habanero or Scotch Bonnet) optional
- Clean all fresh spices and set aside to dry. Peel off skin on all garlic cloves and set aside. Grind cloves and peppercorn if necessary and set aside. Add all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
- Add mixture to a mason jar and keep refrigerated. Mixture should last 2 – 3 weeks with moderate cooking. Only use clean spoon when removing spices from jar to avoid spoilage.
Nutrition info is automatically generated and provided as a courtesy and as an estimate only.
Originally posted 6/2/2014 – updated and revised.