Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ten Easy Steps to Preserving Herbs (Part Two)

Ten Easy Steps to Preserving Herbs (Part Two)

(Read last week’s Part One here.)

There are many ways to dry herbs, such as a dehydrator or on a drying screen. I choose the paper bag method because you don’t have to worry about dust getting on your clean herbs.

If you don’t grow your own herbs, you may purchase them at the supermarket or an herb farm.

If you have your own garden, simply cut them to the desired length then follow these steps:

    1. Wash herbs and dry well using paper towels or clean dishcloths.

    2. Separate herbs into bunches making sure they are not too crowded and tie together using sturdy rubber bands.

    3. Place herbs into paper bags with stems sticking out the top of the bag about two inches then secure bag around stems snugly using another rubber band.

    4. Hang bags by string or wire looped through one or two strands of rubber bands and place in a dark, cool place such as a pantry or closet. Be sure to hang stem end up.

    5. Check herbs for thorough drying in about three weeks. If a leaf crushed between     two fingers does not crumble easily, let dry a few more days and check again. If any moisture remains, the leaves will ferment in the glass jars you store them in.

    6. Once herbs are thoroughly dry and ready for processing, place wax paper on a counter or table and lay dried herbs on top of the paper. You may place another layer of wax paper over them and using the flat of your hands, crush the leaves gently making sure not to crush the stems into small pieces.

If you crush the stems too small, it will be difficult to pick each piece out. You may also hold a branch of herbs with one hand and with the other (clean, dry hands only!) squeeze the leaves and as they crumble they will fall to the paper for you to scoop them up later with a spatula or other kitchen utensil.

Another method to crush the herbs would be to separate into small twigs and put into a mortar and use the pestle to crush the leaves being careful not to crush the stems into tiny pieces.

    7. Organize your glass bottles and pour your herbs into them using a funnel if the mouths of the jars are too small. Make sure lids or corks are on tightly.

    8. Label each jar and decorate with colorful ribbon or string.

    9. Place a number of jars of your choosing in a pretty basket, flower pot or gift     bag for giving as gifts to family and friends.

    10. Experiment with different blends of herbs for your own personal touch.

People have been using herbs for thousands of years in medicine, cooking, fragrance and for decorative purposes. Some of the uses may have changed through the generations, but herbs will always be a part of our horticultural and culinary world.

Enjoy creating your own dried herb gifts and don’t forget to keep some for yourself and be sure to put a decorative tag on the gift container stating you made it yourself!

Are you interested in growing herbs? Do you have any tips to share as well?

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