Drying or Freezing Culinary Herbs

Re-posted from CulinaryHerbGuide.com

Culinary HerbsThe best time to dry herbs is just before they bloom when they are at the peak of their flavor. It is important to do your cutting in late morning after the dew is off, but before the hot sun draws out the delicate flavors and aromas.

The simplest drying method is to hang your herbs in a dry, well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight. Barns, garages, attics, and sheds are good places; basements are usually too damp for drying

Drying Herbs

Create a drying zone by stringing up some wire or by putting nails in ceiling joists or rafters. If ventilation is a problem, use a small fan to move the air. Avoid direct sunlight as it causes plants to change color and dry too quickly. If necessary, cover windows with curtains.
Gather your herbs in small bunches (the size will vary depending on the leafiness of the product) and wrap the stems with a small rubber band. A half-opened paper clip is the ideal hook for hanging the bunch.

Drying time will depend on humidity, temperature, and the item you are drying. Most herbs will be ready in 10-14 days; they are done if a leaf rubbed between your fingers crumbles easily.

Store dried herbs in sealed jars or plastic bags in cool, dark place. If moisture appears in the jar or bag, it is a sign that the herb is not completely dry. Avoid crushing the leaves until you are ready to use them; crushed herbs lose their flavor more quickly.

Drying herbs in a microwave is quick, simple, and gives excellent results. Place two layers of paper towel in the bottom of the microwave, add a layer of herbs, and cover with two more layers of paper towel. Run the microwave on high for two minutes, then check your herbs for dryness. If they are not done, move the herbs around, run the microwave for 30-60 seconds and check again. Repeat the process until the herbs are dry.

WARNING: This process requires careful attention. The paper towels in the microwave can catch fire if hot spots occur. This is a good method for preserving parsley.

Dehydrators are good for drying herbs. Drying time will vary depending on humidity so don’t expect quick results in wet weather or if you have your dehydrator in a damp basement. Follow instructions for your dehydrator regarding temperature settings.

Freezing Herbs

Some herbs freeze well, including tarragon, basil, borage, chives, dill (better frozen than dried) lemongrass, mint, oregano, sage, savory (both winter and summer) sorrel (better than dried) sweet woodruff, tarragon thyme, fennel and lovage.

Wash the herbs and pat them dry, spread them in a single layer on a pan, and put them in the freezer. Chop herbs into preferred sizes before freezing. Chop chives and lemongrass before you freeze them. These herbs are thin and will freeze within minutes.

Resealable freezer bags are handy for freezing herbs. Put them into labeled, sealed containers and keep them in the freezer. Push all the air out of plastic containers before sealing them. In most cases, you don’t need to thaw these herbs before you use them.

Another tasty way to freeze herbs is to make a paste by mixing 1/3 cup of oil with 2 cups of herbs in a blender until smooth. The paste freezes beautifully in sealed jars or in ice cube trays that are thoroughly wrapped to make them airtight. The paste will also keep for about a week in the refrigerator. In winter, retrieve a frozen paste to give a fresh taste to your dishes. Herbs that are good candidates for grinding into pastes include basil, chervil, cilantro, coriander, dill, fennel, marjoram, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, and tarragon.

Herbs can also be frozen to make decorative ice cubes for party drinks. Freeze strawberries and their leaves, mint sprigs, and woodruff sprigs into an ice ring or block. Boil the water first to make it clear. Once it has cooled, fill the bottom of the mold with the boiled water and freeze. Arrange the herbs you plan to freeze, then continue adding water until the mold is filled.

Re-posted from CulinaryHerbGuide.com

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