As always. we grew a lot of herbs this last summer with the intention of preserving. We preserve herbs in oils and freeze them (you may have seen the September post I did on herb bombs) but another great way of course, is drying. People think drying herbs lessens the flavor, but actually you get more bang for your buck with a dried herb. If you’ve purchased bulk or jarred herbs, you know how expensive they are. A 2 oz jar of bay leaves can be as much as $12.00. Dried Italian herb blends are $18 /pound! So taking a little time to hang some herbs or set them out on a sheet pan to dry is well worth the five minutes in prep time and the few days for drying. Just a small tip: The best time to harvest herbs is in the morning.
Some of our favorite combinations are listed below.
- Sage, thyme and rosemary
- Chives, dill, parsley
- Tarragon, rosemary, bay
- Marjoram, oregano, rosemary, bay
- Basil, chives, parsley
- Mint, thai basil, lemongrass, chilis
- Chervil, lemon verbena, dill
- Lime leaves, lemongrass, chilis, bay leaves
- Lavender, mint
Bundling herbs together takes a step out of cooking. Favorite uses include; roasted chicken or turkey, for enhancing favorite soups or stews, for flavoring rice, potatoes, or stuffings, for whipping up the best dressings, rubs for grilled meats, your favorite teas and flavored waters.
Air drying is a really easy method and can be done a few of different ways. 1. Tying the stems of the herbs with twine and hanging upside down for several days. Herbs like tarragon, thyme, rosemary, sage, lemon verbena, lime leaves, chilis and bay leaves are the best for air drying. 2. You can also try this method of tying the herbs in small bunches, placing in a paper back upside down. Tying the bag and then poking holes in the paper to let in necessary air for drying. This way if any leaves fall off the stems, they are caught in the bag and not all over your floor. 3. Just simply laying your leaves out on a sheet pan in one layer in a dry, protected place in your home. It takes about 3-4 days to dry. You can test doneness by simple crumbling a leaf. If it crumbles easily, they are ready for storage. I usually keep the leaves whole and crumble when I’m ready to cook. This just seems to maintain some of that fresh flavor more so than crumbling and then putting in jars. Storage in airtight jars is best, but ziplock bags work as well.
Oven drying is another method to use. Place herbs on a sheet pan in one layer and putt in oven on a very low 180 degree heat for 1 to 3 hours (or longer if needed). Check to see if leaves are dry by simply touching them. If they crumble easily, they are done. This isn’t my favorite method primarily because the herbs do cook a bit in the drying process, so they lose some of their flavor potency. This only means you need to use a bit more in your cooking to obtain the flavor profile you are looking for.
- Place herb leaves or seeds on a cookie sheet one inch deep or less.
- Put herbs in an open oven on low heat – less than 180 degrees F – for 2-4 hours. To see if the herbs are dry, check if leaves crumble easily. Oven-dried herbs will cook a little, removing some of the potency and flavor, so you may need to use a little more of them in cooking.
Just a reminder, freezing some herbs is a better way to preserve!
In our October blog, we have examples of freezing techniques you can refer to. It’s worth mentioning because some herbs are really best frozen. I like freezing the following herbs because they maintain their flavors so much better, particularly if you freeze them in oil or butter. Those are; dill, mint, basil, thyme, parsley basil, chives, Thai basil, tarragon, and lemon verbena. Not that you can’t air dry or oven dry these herbs, I just find the result of freezing these listed herbs gives a better result.
GREAT GIFT IDEAS …
Single herbs or herb blends tied in labeled cloth bags or 2 to 4 oz jars labeled with ingredients with your person message, makes a great gift. Your friends and family will think of you every time they cook!