Thursday, 2 January 2014

How to Dry Fresh Herbs

How to Dry Fresh Herbs

Drying herbs is something any home cook, gardener or DIY enthusiast should have in their arsenal. You’ll save money and reduce waste, of course, but you’ll also have herbs with much more flavor than anything you can buy at the store. After all, dried herbs don’t last forever, and you never know how long those jars have been sitting on the shelf.
What’s more, drying your own herbs is easy and painless — as long as you know what you’re doing. Different herbs require different techniques; some popular herbs don’t usually take well to traditional methods of drying at all. No matter how long you hang basil upside down, for instance, it’s not going to be take on the same consistency as the stuff you can buy at the store. But there are ways to dry basil, and other herbs like it, properly.
Drying Herbs: The Basics
No matter what drying method you are using, there are a few basic steps that need to be followed.
1. If you are harvesting herbs directly from your garden, make sure to pick them at their peak, when their flavor is the strongest. For most herbs, that means when the buds have just appeared, but are not fully open yet.
2. The best, and only, herbs you should dry are fresh herbs. Remove any yellowed, dried or otherwise unhealthy looking leaves.
3. Clean your herbs before drying them. Run the stems under cool, running water, removing any dirt or bugs, and pat dry thoroughly with a paper towel. Herbs should be totally, completely dry before you start the drying process.

Methods.
Bunching
Good For: Marjoram, lavender, chives, sage, oregano, rosemary, mint, catnip, lemon balm.
Method: Tie 5-8 stems together in a bundle, and place bundle in a paper bag, stems extending out from the opening. Hang the bag in a dark, warm place with good air circulation. The temperature should be about  70-80 degrees F. Let dry for two to four weeks, checking periodically to make sure the bundle hasn’t come loose.
Tray/Screen Drying
Good For: Basil, dill, parsley, cilantro, thyme, oregano, rosemary.
Method: Remove stalks and stems. Handle leaves gently, and cut large leaves into small pieces. Place on a drying tray, old window screen or baking sheet. If you’re stacking trays, place a spacer in between each try so the herbs have air circulation. Place in a warm, dark area and stir daily until thoroughly dried.
Oven Drying
Good For: Basil, bay leaves, mint, sage.
Method: This works best for gas ovens. On a baking sheet, arrange individual leaves so that no leaves are touching. If you have enough for more layers, place a paper towel between each. Do not turn on the oven. Leave overnight.
Oven Drying
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