My friend Alea from Premeditated Leftovers is sharing tips today on how to dry and preserve herbs. I have a brown thumb, so I’m really happy to have someone else help us out here today! And here is Alea….
I enjoy growing herbs. I love being able to use fresh herbs in recipes throughout the summer. While gardening with my children, I teach them the names of the herbs so they are able to run out and pinch fresh herbs for me to add to recipes. Once the herbs begin to bolt or the colder temperatures threaten the plants, it is time for me to give up my fresh herbs and preserve the harvest for us to enjoy all winter long.
There are many ways to preserve your herbs. All of the below techniques are easy, some of the methods are slow, others fast, but they all are frugal.
Preparing Herbs for Drying or Preservation:
Pick herbs before they bloom, if possible.
Wash them in cool water to remove dirt and bugs. Pat with a towel to dry.
Remove leaves from the stems (unless you are hang drying the herbs). You can do this quickly by pinching the stem between your index finger and thumb and slicing your fingers down the stem. Most of the leaves will easily fall off.
Air Drying Herbs:
Air drying takes longer than heat drying, but you don’t have to worry about burning your herbs or heating up the house.
How to Use a Cookie Cooling Rack to Dry Herbs:
1. Place a paper towel on a cookie cooling rack.
2. Place herb leaves in a thin layer on the paper towel.
3. Place another paper towel over the herb leaves. Let sit until leaves are dry and crumble easily in your fingers.
4. Store the dried leaves in an air tight container.
This method takes 2 -3 days. It is faster than most other air drying methods, but you must have a spot that you can leave the herbs undisturbed for several days.
How to Hang Herbs to Dry:
1. Take several branches of herbs and wrap a rubber band around the stems.
2. Hang upside down by the rubber band. If you can hang it from a rack it will allow more air to circulate around the herbs.
3. It takes about a week for the herbs to dry. Once dry, remove the dried leaves from the stem.
4. Store the dried leaves in an air tight container.
Since I live in the country and we have a lot of dirt, I am concerned about leaving herbs uncovered. So before I hang my herbs to dry, I often place them in a paper lunch sack and dry herbs in a paper bag. Herbs take a few days longer to dry in a bag, but ensuring they are dust free is worth it to me. I also use this method when drying cilantro flowers that have gone to seed because the bag catches the falling seeds. Then I save them and grind the cilantro seeds to make coriander.
Drying Herbs with Heat
You can dry herbs quite quickly with heat. The microwave method is the fastest, but you must be careful to check them frequently and only heat the herbs for short periods of time.
How to Dry Herbs in a Microwave
1. Place a paper towel on a microwave safe dish.
2. Put a thin layer of herb leaves on the paper towel.
3. Place another paper towel over the herbs.
4. Microwave on high power for 1 minute.
5. Microwave for an additional 30 seconds at a time until leaves are dry enough to easily crumble between your fingers.
Most herbs will be dry in 2 – 4 minutes.
How to Dry Herbs in the Oven
1. Place herb leaves in a thin layer on a cookie sheet or oven safe pan.
2. Place the pan in the oven and turn it on to 180 – 200 degrees. Leave the door open while the leaves are drying. This will take from 2 – 4 hours depending on the thickness of the leaves you are drying.
3. When they are dried through, remove the herbs from the oven. Allow to cool completely before storing.
How to Store Dried Herbs:
After you have ensured that the herbs are dried through, store them in an air tight container. If necessary, remove the leaves from the stems before drying. You can store the leaves whole and crush them before using them or you can crumble the leaves up prior to storing. You can also blend them with other spices to create your own unique spice mixes.
Use your dried herbs to create your own spice mixes:
How to Preserve Herbs by Freezing:
It is easy to preserve herbs by freezing them in an ice-cube tray. You can freeze herbs in olive oil, water, or broth. I choose the liquid I freeze the herbs in based on how I use the herbs. I almost always saute chives in olive oil, so that is what I poor over the chives before freezing. I usually add parsley to soups, so I freeze parsley leaves in water or broth.
To use herbs frozen in oil, thaw them in the refrigerator prior to using. I often add the herb cubes frozen in water or broth directly to soup. They thaw as the soup heats up.
Make Pesto Sauce with Your Herbs:
You can use a large quantity of herbs by using them in a sauce or dressing. In the fall I make multiple batches of pesto and freeze it, so that we can enjoy this summer-time treat while watching the snow fall.
Alea’s Pesto Recipe
Makes: 1 cup
Total Time: 10 minutes
2 cups packed basil leaves (clean and dried)
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup olive oil
2 – 3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon diced onion
1/16 teaspoon seasoned salt
1. Add nuts, garlic, oil, grated cheese, onion, and seasoned salt to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
2. Add pesto and mix until smooth.
Serve over pasta or on bruschetta. Leftover Pesto can be frozen.
Chimichurri Sauce is another great way to use up herbs. It is similar to pesto only it is usually made with cilantro and parsley and is usually served over meat.
Even if you didn’t grow an herb garden this year, you can take advantage of these tips when your local grocery store has a sale on fresh herbs.
Alea Milham shares her tips for saving money and time while reducing waste in her home at Premeditated Leftovers. She believes it is possible to live fully and eat well while spending less. Alea can be found on Pinterest and Facebook.
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