Want to make your own file’? My guess is that most, if not all of you got up this morning hoping I would post about how to make file’! 🙂
What’s file? It’s what us Louisiana folk put in our gumbo. It’s powdered leaves from the sassafras tree. What you may not know is that the world’s largest sassafras tree is in Owensboro, KY, which is where we lived nine years before moving to MO in 2007. Even Wikipedia says the largest tree is in Owensboro.You can see a picture of it here. I think the picture was taken in the tree’s better days. Recently I heard it’s taken a hit from the hurricane that came through and recent ice storms.
Start with leaves from the sassafras tree. Any sassafras tree will do . . doesn’t have to be leaves from the largest tree in the world! When we lived in Owensboro, we had several trees in our yard. They grow kinda wild . . almost a nuisance tree. But we moved away and I haven’t found a sassafras tree around here. This past winter I ran out of homemade file and had to buy some at the store. You can imagine the complaints I got from my family.
I asked my friend, Becky, who lives in Owensboro, if she would gather me some leaves, dry them and send them to me. I was afraid if she sent them fresh off the tree, they’d mold or otherwise have problems while making the trip here via the U. S. Mail. She did. She sent me a ziplock bag full of dried sassafras leaves. Some say it’s best to harvest the leaves in the fall right before they turn brown. I think they have a stronger flavor if harvested in the spring. I believe it’s more common to harvest the leaves in the fall because people begin eating gumbo in the fall and make the file’ fresh when it’s closer to time for eating it. I actually would make it any time I needed it if there were leaves on the tree but my preference is spring leaves.
Strip out the hard veins. You don’t have to be real particular because we’re going to sift the powder and who cares about a bit of stem . . fiber, right?
Stick all the leaves in the food processor. You could also use the blender or a mortar & pestle. Grind it till you get it the consistency desired. We prefer ours to look more like finely ground leaves than powder.
Sift it through whatever size mesh you desire.
Store in airtight jars. When it gets closer to time for gumbo (fall/winter), I’ll transfer some of this to a spice jar with a shaker top. Can you see a bit of difference in fresh ground and storebought?