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Published on November 14, 2013

Preserving Fresh Herbs

November 14, 2013

herbsHerbs give food personality so it is important to keep an ample supply on hand to create delicious simple foods. When fresh herbs are in ample supply, preserve them yourself using a few simple techniques.

Bag Drying

Prepare the herbs by removing any blossoms and rinsing the leaves to remove any soil.  Use cold water so the leaves do not wilt.  Drain the herbs and then air dry by laying them on a towel on the counter.  When dry, place the herbs stem side out in a paper bag and tie the stems leaving about 1 inch exposed out of the end of the bag. 

Place the bag in a dry location away from light for 2 to 4 weeks.  When leaves become brittle, tap them free from the stems to fall into the bottom of the bag.  Pour the herbs from the bag into a clean airtight container, and label and date. By drying the herbs upside down it allows the oils from the plant to flow from the stems to the leaves.

Tray Drying

Clean herbs the same as for bag drying.  Remove heavy stalks and discard. Place the leafed stem one layer deep on a tray in a dark, well ventilated room.  Lay a light cotton cloth over to prevent dust from settling on the herbs.  Turn herbs over occasionally to dry uniformly.  Leaves are ready to be stored when leaves are brittle.  Place the dry herbs into a clean airtight container, and label and date.

Freezing

Clean herbs and air dry as described in the stems for Bag Drying. Once the herbs are dry, place them in freezer safe containers, and label and date.

Basil will darken when frozen but it is great crushed into dishes.  Basil can also be made into a simple pesto and frozen.  To make pesto, clean and air dry basil.  Place 2 cups of this basil in food processor with 1/8 teaspoon sea salt, and 1 teaspoon oil (optional, add 1 Tablespoon grated parmesan or 1 Tablespoon walnuts). Pulse to chop, and add additional oil to create a thick paste.

Storage

Dried herbs have a shelf life of one year, but light, heat and open air reduce the quality and longevity of the herbs.  Keep jars sealed and out of the light.

Herb leaves keep their flavor best when stored whole and crushed just before use to release flavor.

Herb seeds are best stored whole and grounded just before use.  For grinding, use a coffee grinder designated for herbs and spices, or a mortar and pestle.

 

Jo Cessna

Healthy Culinary Instructor

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