Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How to Tuesday - Preserving Herbs

*Oops! So sorry this should have posted yesterday...

In the previous 'How to' post we talked about planting a kitchen garden, this time we'll talk about drying herbs for later use.
I love using fresh herbs from our garden, and luckily we've had an abundance of herbs this year. But with that abundance comes the question of what to do with the excess? The simple answer...Everything that we don't use immediately after cutting, I dry for later use.  
Drying your own herbs is a great way to continue using your summer produce through the winter. It also means you won't have to rely on old, dried out, tasteless supermarket herbs that have been sitting on the shelf God only knows how long! 

So let's begin, there are two main types of herbs: 


  • Woody - Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Marjoram, Sage, 
  • Leafy - Mints, Basil, Lemon Balm, Dill, Cilantro, Parsley, Chives, Stevia

L to R: Woody Thyme, and Leafy Sweet Mint

To go along with those two types of herbs, there are also two common techniques for drying them: air drying and using a dehydrator. We'll go through each technique below:



Air drying - Look through your herbs and make sure they are bug free. Tie up your herb bunch very tightly, and hang to dry in a cool, dry, dark place. If you don't have a dark place you can place the tied herbs in a brown paper lunch bag to protect them from light, this will also help collect the herbs if they drop as they dry. Air drying is dependent on temperature and humidity, so drying time can range from 3-7 days.

Dehydrator - Look through your herbs and make sure they are bug free. Cut leaves from stem, and place them in a single layer on a mesh dehydrator tray. Put the dehydrator on 90-120F (32-48C) for 16-24hrs.


My personal preference is to air dry woody herbs and use the dehydrator for the leafy herbs. You can use either method for either but understand that leafy herbs take longer to air dry and without ideal conditions will start to mold. I'd also like to mention that I've seen some blogs that recommend using an oven to dry herbs, this is a very bad idea. Heating your herbs will release most of the volatile oils rendering your herbs tasteless, and ultimately useless for adding taste to your cooking later.
Once your herbs are dried through, store them whole in air tight containers. I find that keeping the dried herbs whole keeps the flavor longer, just crush the amount you need to use when your ready.

Good luck with preserving!
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me!

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