Summer Scratch Series: Dried Herbs
There's no denying that we live in a time where packaged food, built for convenience, rules the aisles at the grocery stores. Frozen dinners and boxed pasta certainly make our lives easier, and after a long day at work or running around with the kids, a packaged meal can be just the thing you need. However, there's also no denying that we've all said, or at least heard:
"I wish I would have asked my Grandma to show me how to make ____________."
"They used to make it from scratch. I wish I would have paid more attention and learned how."
"Cooking from scratch has become a lost art."
...or anything along those lines.
There is such treasure to be found in those old-fashioned recipes and traditional ways of cooking. More flavor, healthier dishes, fatter wallets, and skills that you'll be able to pass on to younger generations. We all have the opportunity to breathe new life into history, simply by spending a little more time in the kitchen.
So to combat the era where over 10% of Americans don't even bother cooking the packaged stuff and eat out for Thanksgiving (that's roughly 33 million people), our 2018 Summer series is going back to the basics, starting with preserving fresh herbs like Grandma did.
Whether you're growing them in your own backyard, or you purchase them from the local grocery store, they're a kitchen staple to have on-hand at all times, as they can be used in almost any dish. Drying them is an easy way to preserve them for future use, and can be financially rewarding if you catch them before they rot or spoil. Drying them is easier than you might think, too, as there are a few methods we recommend for doing it, depending on what herb variety you're drying, and how much time you have.
To prep your herbs correctly, rinse your herbs lightly if they are dusty or dirty—otherwise, preserve the delicate flavor by skipping the rinsing process.
Bunch-Drying Your Herbs
Great for small leaf or long-stemmed herbs, such as sage, marjoram, parsley, basil, mint, dill, or rosemary.
How to do it:
This is the classic method you see in all the movies! Using a bit of string or twine, tie small bunches together at the base of the stems and hang upside-down, just until the water (if you rinsed) evaporates. Once your herbs are completely dry, tie a paper bag with air holes punched in it around each bunch and let air dry for a week or two. The paper bag will keep your leaves clean and free of dust. Tip: Be sure you don't hang the bunches over your stove as it's a fire hazard, and any steam or smoke from cooking can ruin the delicate flavor of the herbs.
Tray-Drying Your Herbs
Ideal for large-leaf herbs, seeds, or herbs with short stems that are difficult to hang.
How to do it:
Line a tray with a single layer of clean cheesecloth or paper towels. Cut leaves off of the stems, or lay the entire stem, in a single layer on the tray. Set in a warm, dry area away from direct sunlight and allow to dry for 1 week, turning the leaves and stems over every 2-3 days.
Microwave-Drying Your Herbs
Will work for just about any herb, but requires a careful watch.
How to do it:
Make sure your herbs are completely dry before microwaving them, otherwise they'll cook instead of dry. Lay the herb leaves or stems in a single layer on a paper towel, and place another
paper towel on top. Microwave on high for 1 minute. If leaves aren't completely brittle and dry, microwave in 30-second increments until the leaves crush under your finger.
Once your herbs are completely dry, you can either store them whole in air-tight containers or powder them in a food processor and store in an herb jar. It all depends on how you enjoy using them in the kitchen!