I mentioned in a previous post I was drying herbs from my garden. It is such a simple process, I thought I would share it with all of you. You might wonder what the point of doing this is. First, making your own herbs lets you know exactly where they’ve come from, if they were grown organically, how healthy the plant was before drying, etc. It also allows you to produce the herbs in the consistency you would like, a fine grind all the way up to whole leaves. It of course helps you to preserve the last of the herbs from your summer garden instead of letting them go to waste. The most impressive part of this experience to me if the large savings on your budget. Let’s face it herbs are expensive, even store brands. To get the level of quality in store bought herbs, you not only need to buy organic, but the expensive, high quality brands and we all know how much those cost. By growing herbs in the summer, not only do you get fresh herbs for cooking all summer long, but you will have plenty to dry for the rest of the year all for the cost of a packet of seeds. It does invovle work, but the savings are win win.
Clip the herbs, bundle them together with some sort of string, I used jute cord. Make sure to do this loosely so there is room for air to get to all of the leaves. You don’t have to hang them in a dark place, but you will need to hang them out of any sort of sunlight. Sunlight can bleach the leaves and leach flavor. Allow the herbs to dry completely. This is very important, bottling herbs with moisture inside will cause them to rot in the jar. You can see a sprig of the dried mint below the bottle to get an idea of what completely dry herbs should look like. They are pretty much the consistency of dry fall leaves. As such, they are fairly fragile to the touch. It doesn’t take long to completely dry the herbs as long as you’re not in a very humid environment. I let mine dry for two weeks.
Carefully remove the leaves from the stems and discard the stems. If you have experience with herbs falling from the stems while they’re still hanging, you can place them inside a small paper bag and tie the bag up instead. Bottle the leaves, don’t be afraid to push them down, they will crack and break, but it won’t affect the final product the way it does with fresh herbs. The bottle above is from two bunches or dried mint, so it is packed a lot tighter than it appears.
You can also choose to crush the leaves into small pieces or even powder so you can sprinkle your herbs onto cooking. I prefer the whole leaf method for storage and crumble the leaves into the cooking by hand, but it is really up to you. You can use a mortar and pestle, a food processor or a coffee grinder to achieve ground results. Other than the ability to sprinkle, grinding them also saves a lot of space in the jar. You can get more than five times herbs into the jar when ground properly. If you plan to use these leaves for tea, don’t grind them up!
Here are my finished products, basil and mint leaves. You can see how much more tightly the mint jar is packed, there is more than twice as much in there as compared to the basil. The bottles are from the container store or you can find similar bottleshere. If you want to be thrifty, remove the labels and wash old spice jars to use for the same result. I printed my own labels using small, translucent Avery labels.They look very nice, but they are not waterproof. Which is fine for most things, but you have to be aware of the problem when using them. They also have pre-printed labels hereif you are afraid of smudging the avery labels.