Drying Herbs

I love using herbs, both fresh and dried. Sometimes a seasoning blend like the ubiquitous jar of "Italian Seasoning" is nice and convenient, but I also love learning the idiosyncrasies of each individual herb and using that knowledge to shape the flavor of a dish.

Fresh herbs aren't always available so I keep a good stock of dried herbs in my cupboard. Some of them are store-bought, but some I've dried myself. I took the opportunity to add to my stock of home-dried herbs this week after receiving a bag of assorted herbs in the CSA box.

From left to right this picture shows oregano, sage, two types of thyme, and rosemary.

Oregano, of course, goes well in Italian dishes, but it's also excellent in Mexican food like chili. Sage pairs best with meat and pinto beans. Thyme is my favorite and I experiment with adding it to everything, but my favorite has been sautéed beets. Rosemary is wonderful with bread, either baked in or infused into butter.

Hanging herbs is the classic drying method. I used plain white cotton yarn from the craft store, since it's what I have on hand but you could use any kind of twine or string, really. I tied the herbs loosely so that the stems wouldn't break as they dried, and then tied the ends of the length of yarn to a couple of cabinet handles in my kitchen so that the herbs hung over my sink like clothes on a clothesline.

The picture below shows the herbs a few days later. I may leave them hanging for a couple more days to be sure that they are thoroughly dried: If they have any small amount of moisture still in them they're liable to mold when sealed in a container. Once I'm sure they're absolutely dry, I'll put them into jars. For ease of use, I'll probably strip the leaves into the container and add the stems to broth (remember, don't waste those scraps!), but I may also let myself be lazy and simply jar the whole herb.

Do you have a favorite herb?

Leave a comment below to tell us how you use it!