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HOW TO : spacerHow To Make Filé Powder A/K/A Gumbo Filé
Copyright:  Mike Sillett


1. Intro
2. Tools
3. Procedure

Photo of a sassafras branch with several leaves for making filé powder

1. Intro

If you use a lot of filé powder then this tutorial will be right up your alley. One thing you will be sure of if you make your own is the quality of the product.
If you don't use a lot then maybe it's because you don't cook much, don't do a lot of Louisiana Creole or Cajun style cooking, use a different 'thickening' agent such as roux or okra or because you don't want to spend the money on a spice / condiment that will be used once or twice and then just sit around.

If you live where Sassafras trees ( Sassafras albidum ) grow ( generally eastern U.S. ) then you have a great opportunity to make some filé powder and get to know it's benefits. A great 'thickener' and taste additive to stews and soups after cooked, and it's free for the taking.

You can make filé powder with just a few kitchen items and some dried Sassafras leaves. A food processor or blender is not required, although helpful.

2. Tools

Mesh laundry bag.
Food strainer.

3. Procedure

To get started into this filé powder making process it's best to do it in a little way for the first time.
Collect about 50 leaves.
Snip off the leaves that are in the most pristine condition and put them in a bag. I like to gather sassafras leaves in the middle of summer, around August 15 or so, to get them at their absolute best.

Photo showing a sassafras leaf being snipped off at the stem junction.

A thumbnail will work to snip / break the leaf off. If you don't have a thumbnail cut with knife or scissors.

When home put all the leaves you collected in a bowl of water and let soak a few minutes to loosen anything on their surface that may have accumulated during their growth. After about 10 minutes of soaking wash and rinse a few times.

Photo showing sassafras leaves being washed.

Wash well, that is, rub the leaves between your hands to make sure any tough adherents come off.
While doing so remove any that do not warrant keeping.

After the leaves have been thoroughly rinsed put them all in a mesh laundry bag and hang outside in a well ventilated area and under some shade.
Every 15 or 20 minutes or so shake them up to make sure all the leaves get air.

Photo showing sassafras leaves drying in a mesh laundry bag.

They will dry but you need to shake them every now and then to expose new leaves to air.

When the leaves are dry, I mean brittle dry, they are ready for making filé powder.

Photo showing sassafras leaves going from mesh drying bag to strainer.

Break / crush the leaves as removed from mesh drying bag and placing into strainer.

Crush as best as you can while they are in the strainer, The better you break up the leaves the easier the remnants filter through the screen.

Photo showing sassafras leaves being broken into very small segments.

Break the leaves up as small as possible and while sifting continue doing so.

Pretty much the final step. Sift and break into smaller pieces. Sift and break into smaller pieces. Etc. Etc.
Eventually you will have no more to sift.

Photo showing sassafras leaves going from mesh drying bag to strainer.

Keep shaking the strainer and breaking bigger pieces.

The powder consistency is a personal preference. I like it just the way it is and it works well after the first sifting. It is similar to fine parsley flakes and has a nice look in the gumbo or soup. Sprinkle some in your bowl just before eating and stir in.
You don't want to add it to the cooking pot. You use it as a condiment at the table.

However, if you like it even finer, like some of my friends or customers do, you can take an extra step and sift what you made via the strainer and then sift that through a piece of nylon stocking. See photo below. Doing that will make the filé into a really fine powder.

Store what you made in a good sealing jar and keep in a dark, dry space. It will keep that way for a long time.

Photo showing exta fine file powder in my palm.

Photo showing exta fine file powder in jar with nylon stocking that was used.

This is dehydrated material so as long as you keep it dry it will last practically forever.


How To Make Filé Powder A/K/A Gumbo Filé

Feel free to copy the information for your own use.

I also sell dehydrated sassafras leaves on this site AND freshly made Filé Powder on a 'request an order basis' to those that ask.

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