Our herb garden is going nuts right now and we have to constantly trim it back, so instead of wasting the trimmings I have been drying the herbs. I am so excited about this because I can stock my own spice cabinet! Not only is this cool because it is sooooooooo much cheaper than buying them but you know where they are coming from, know exactly what is in them, and how old they are. In addition they are remarkably more pungent than store bought. Drying herbs really is very simple. Depending on your time frame there are several different ways to achieve some homemade dried herbs. They will keep up to a year but obviously will diminish in flavor as they age. They also make a great gift. Stored in a 4-ounce ball jar with a ribbon and a label, voila! You could even do herb/spice mixes. Moist, tender herbs like mint, basil, lemon balm and tarragon need to dry quick to prevent mold so the oven or microwave method is best. Air drying preserves the natural oils, so sturdy herbs like oregano, rosemary and sage are great for hanging.
Here’s how to do it:
HANG Drying: This procedure takes the longest but can make a pretty decoration in your kitchen window! Just wash and thoroughly dry a few stems of chosen herb. Then tie together with butcher’s twine and hang on a string in a cool, dry place…in 1-3 weeks you will have beautiful, fresh dried herbs.
In the OVEN: Heat your oven to the lowest setting. If you have gas, having the light on and the pilot light might work. Place a layer of cheesecloth or a dry tea towel in a sheet pan (so no reaction with the pan). Wash and thoroughly dry your stems of herbs and lay in a single layer on top of the cheesecloth or towel. With the door ajar, allow to dry for 2-6 hours (depending on the herb).
In the MICROWAVE: This way is by far the fastest and more energy efficient than the oven method but it may take some experimenting, as each microwave is different! In my microwave the method that worked the best was picking the leaves off the stems (don’t put the stems in the microwave! Trust me!!!) laying them out in a single layer and rolling them up into a log using paper towels or a clean, dry tea towel. Place them in micro on 50% power and let it rip for 30 seconds and check them. Most of mine took about 45 seconds on 50% power but again every microwave is different and different herbs might require different times.
Classic Herb mixtures:
--Italian Herb Mix: oregano, marjoram, basil, rosemary
--Herbes de Provence: Basil, rosemary, thyme, savory, tarragon, oregano, lavender, marjoram, cracked fennel seed
--Bouquet Garni: bay, parsley, thyme
--Poultry Mix: sage, thyme, marjoram, celery leaves, nutmeg, pepper
--Meat Mix: rosemary, thyme, marjoram, pepper
--Green Goddess Mix: chives, parsley, tarragon
You could add good salts to these as well, or even dried lemon or lime zest…get creative, make up your own, make it spicy with crushed red pepper, or add sesame seeds to it, the possibilities are endless!!!