Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Herbs & Spices - How to Dry, Store, Grind - Part 1

I was going to do this in a single post. After working on it for awhile. I decided it was too long for one post and will do this in two parts. Part 1 will be on drying herbs.

Although our herb garden is not very big, I do manage to grow and preserve most of the herbs we use for the year. This year I dried and/or ground 17 herbs or spices and froze 3. Some herbs can be easily dried, while others take a little more time and patience. It's best to do when the herbs are at their peak in the season. But, I usually get busy with other things and am trying to finish up late in the season.

The easiest herbs to dry are Oregano, Thyme, Marjoram, Winter Savory & Summer Savory. Although Tarragon is usually easy to dry, I have had it turn brown for no apparent reason. Follow these 4 simple steps for "the easy" herbs and you will have dried herbs for the year.

Method 1 (The Easy Hanging Method) - Oregano, Thyme, Marjoram, Winter & Summer Savory, Tarragon, Corriander

1. Cut nice healthy herbs
2. Tie in bunches and hang out of direct sunlight until they are dry
3. Remove herbs from stems
4. Store in jar out of light.

Note: I also use a hanging method for Corriander. The only difference is that the corriander has started to dry before I bring it in. The whole plant is pulled out and hung in the basement. I either put a large bag around it or something under it in case the seeds start to drop off.

Some thyme ready to be hanged!

The two herbs that I have always had a hard time drying are Parsley & Basil. No matter what I did they never stayed a nice green color. This year, I dried them in the oven on low heat and convection setting. They both turned out a nice beautiful green. These steps are easy as well, they do require some attention though.

Method 2 (The Oven Method) - Parsley, Basil & Chives

1. Cut nice healthy herbs.
2. Place the leaves on a baking sheet ( I cut the chives in to 1" pieces)
3. Put them in the oven on low (150-200) convection setting or bake. I check them every 10 minutes and remove them when dry. This may take 20-45 minutes. But, be sure to check them every 10 minutes.
4. Remove from the oven and cool
5. I crinkle them between my hands on to a paper towel then store in a jar out of light.

Beautiful green dried parsley!

Another method for drying herbs is in brown paper bags. I use this method for drying herbs like curry and rosemary. This method is not difficult...it just takes a little more time to do.

Method 3 (Brown Paper Bag Method)

1. Cut nice healthy herbs.
2. Tie the herbs in bunches the same as Method 1
3. Take small lunch size brown paper bags and cut holes in them for ventilation. You can use a paper punch and make some nice designs or just use scissors.
4. Then hang the bunches inside the paper bags, tie the top and sit on a shelf out of direct sunlight until they dry.
5. Remove herbs from stems
6. Store in jar out of light.

Note: This method can be used for basically any herb you want to dry. In the past, I have used this method for most of the herbs. I would put them on the shelves in "The Italian's" office and leave them there until I had the time to remove them from their stems. I had read somewhere, years ago, that this is a nice way to give dried  herbs away as a gift.
Herbs in Brown Paper Bag

Method 4 (Pressed Method)

The only herb that I use this method for is Bay Leaf. You just place the leaf between two pieces of waxed or parchment paper, place it in a book or under a book and wait until it is dry, then store.

19 comments:

  1. I usually do the hanging method. There is a nice large doorway between my kitchen and office. I had good luck with drying basil one year, but it took forever in my excalibur. Since then, I just make pesto and freeze it.

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  2. Very nice post, Robin.. clear and concise. Anyone just starting out should love this.

    PS: mighty nice cold frame ;)

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  3. These are great tips. I wanted to dry herbs this summer, and never got to it. I will have to do this next year for sure. You grow bay leaves?? Wow! Where do you find the seeds for bay leaves? I don't think I've ever seen them before.

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  4. The Mom, We don't use much pesto around here. So, I don't usually freeze any.

    Thanks Diana

    Mimi, I have a bay leaf tree that I purchased when it was very small. It's now over 3 feet tall. It has to be brought inside in the winter though. Keep on the look out for one when you are visiting garden centers. They don't usually have them around here.

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  5. Lovely post! Thank you for posting this. I do have trouble drying some of the herbs and end up freezing most of them.
    Your dried parsley looks perfect! I always thought that drying in the oven takes hours... that is why I never tried it. But if it takes less than an hour, then it makes sense to do it that way.
    I'm looking forward to the Part 2.

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  6. Your parsley dried very well. You are lucky to have that convection setting, perhaps the success with the green leaves has to do with that convection process?

    Nice post! My herbs were dried by hanging bunches or by the dehydrator. I have had success with basil in my dehydrator, but usually I just make Basil Pesto or Basil Butter that I freeze.

    I agree with you about the Bay Tree and am so glad to have one. My mother gave me hers to overwinter, then gave it to me and she bought another one. She can get them where she lives, but there are none here. I have to bring mine inside, too. But it's worth wintering-over!

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  7. MojVrt, Your welcome, I have been trying for years to get the parsley and basil to stay a nice green when drying them. I hope that it works for you too!

    LynnS, The convection setting may be the reason. I'm not sure though, since I think that I have the first convection oven ever made...we really need a new range!!

    I was almost ready to buy a dehydrator when I had success in the oven. We really don't need any more kitchen gadgets around here!

    Have you ever trimmed your Bay Tree? Mine is getting leggy and I'm so tempted to trim it. "The Italian" said no....since they take so so long to grow.

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  8. I just wanted to let you know that I tried the jam on a bagel last night, and it was absolutely delicious! I'll have to keep that little jar hidden somewhere in the fridge, or the boy will eat it all. lol. The shipping costs were outrageous!!!! Thanks again, and i'll send you those containers...

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  9. Your Welcome EG, You better hide it well!!

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  10. great post! I just cut and hung some stevia todayt - I wonder if that'll will dry as well as the others.

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  11. Thanks Stevie, I've never grown stevia. Let me know how it turns out.

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  12. I agree with the comments above. Very informative post on herb drying. I use Granny's microwave method for drying parsley and basil and the leaves stay nice and green.

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  13. GrafixMuse, Thanks, I was hoping the post would be helpful. I have never had luck in the microwave in the past. Maybe I will give it a try again next year.

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  14. Robin, I'll have to ask my mother if she's ever dried any herbs with her convection oven. I'll let you know if she has. If she hasn't, she will after she learns about this!

    No, I've never trimmed the Bay Tree but plan to do it next spring. I have a split trunk and don't want it to be leggy so I'll give it a whack or two! I agree with your husband about growth being slow, but I'd like to have a more shapely bush so here's hoping I don't destroy it!

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