Cook sorrel with leek soups, cream-based sauces, stuffings, veal, and pork. Sorrel can be used as a potherb and is ideal to line the vessel for baking fish.
Young, tender sorrel is best with salads and other greens; otherwise, use sorrel cooked. Medium to large sorrel leaves are likely to be too acidy for use uncooked.
There are actually two species of sorrel to choose from. Common sorrel grows to 36 inches (90 cm) tall and produces leaves to 6 inches (15 cm) long. Common sorrel is sometimes referred to as sour grass or broadleaf sorrel.
French sorrel is a more sprawling plant growing to about half the height of common sorrel. French sorrel has broad, fiddle-shaped, gray-green leaves, shorter than common sorrel.
French sorrel is sometimes called white sorrel, lettuce sorrel, blonde sorrel, or buckler leaf sorrel and is preferred by cooks because it is more delicate and milder flavored than common sorrel. However, French sorrel can be more difficult to find in markets than common sorrel.
Sorrel’s dark green leaves are lance- or arrowhead-shaped with deep slender stems. For that reason, they are sometimes mistaken for spinach.
The acidity of sorrel is tamed by cooking in butter or cream or by topping sorrel with a cream sauce. Sorrel soups are commonly thickened with eggs and cream. Sorrel simmered in butter becomes a tasty side vegetable served with salmon or trout. The French stuff whole shad with sorrel purée. Adding lettuce leaves to sorrel moderates its flavor raw.
Sorrel can be harvested fresh from spring until winter when it dies down. It is a frost hardy perennial that can also be grown as an annual.
Sorrel is native to Europe and northern Asia. It has been used as a salad and cooking green since ancient times. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans cultivated sorrel.
The name sorrel comes from the old French word surelle meaning “sour.”
Choose. Select young, tender sorrel leaves for the best flavor. Leaves should be bright green. Avoid leaves that are yellow or wilted and stem that look woody.
Sorrel wilts quickly after picking but does not lose its flavor.
Store. Sorrel is best used fresh but will keep in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper of the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Refrigerate sorrel unwashed.
Sorrel can be cooked briefly and then frozen for use as a sauce later. It does not dry well.
Prepare. To keep sorrel fresh, do not wash the leaves until just before eating. Immerse the leaves in water and shake them delicately but do not soak them.
Cook sorrel with the stems removed. To remove the stems, simply fold the leaves in half lengthwise and pull off the stem.
Steam leaves until wilted or cook them in a little butter.
Serve. Sorrel can be served raw or cooked.
- Use raw whole French sorrel and shredded garden sorrel in salads. They will have a zesty spinach flavor. Reduce the vinegar or lemon in accompanying dressings to compensate for the acidity of sorrel. Whisk a little honey or sugar into the dressing to counter sorrel’s acidity.
- Sorrel is best served in combination with other foods. Add a few shredded leaves to baked and scrambled eggs. Fill an omelet with sorrel cooked in butter with shallots.
- Add sorrel to creamy dishes and sauces. To make French sorrel sauce, cook the sorrel in a little butter, add fish or chicken stock and cream and stir until smooth. Stir shredded sorrel into creamy potato or leek soups just before serving. In Eastern Europe, slices of smoked sausage are used in a creamy sorrel soup.
- Cook sorrel in the same way as spinach, lightly steamed or boiled. Sorrel stalks can be cooked like rhubarb. Sorrel cooks and reduces in volume quickly. The cooked leaves may turn a drab khaki color.
- Sorrel makes a good garnish for fish and veal. Sorrel can be used to tenderize meat: wrap around steaks or add pounded leaves to marinade. Italian salsa verde is made from raw sorrel, watercress, and onion chopped and blended to a creamy emulsion with oil and vinegar; serve with poultry or fish.
Flavor partners. Sorrel has a flavor affinity for butter, soft cheeses, chicken, cucumber, eggs, fish (especially salmon), lamb, leeks, lentils, lettuce, mussels, pork, potato, salmon, scallion, shad, shallots, sour cream, spinach, sweetbreads, tomatoes, and veal.
Sorrel combines well with borage, chervil, chives, dill, lovage, parsley, and tarragon.
Nutrition. Sorrel is rich in potassium and high in vitamins A and C and oxalic acid.
The botanical name of French sorrel is Rumex scutatus. The botanical name of common sorrel is R. acetosa.