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Monday, November 15, 2010

Fresh Dried Herbs

GLUTEN-FREE  |  DAIRY-FREE  |  DETOX-FRIENDLY

 
Store-bought, dried herbs in a bottle are often bland and who knows how long it's been since they were fresh. Once ground, dried herbs quickly loose flavor. So it's no wonder they are scorned by chefs and can quickly accumulate in the back of your cupboard before you even remember when or why you bought them.

A better alternative, if you don't have a year-round herb garden, is to buy them fresh and dry them yourself. Before they disappear from local farmer's markets, pick up the herbs you'll need most this winter. Use what you can while they're fresh and dry the rest:
  1. Line a shallow baking dish with a cotton or paper towel and arrange fresh herb sprigs on top in a single layer. Cover them loosely with another cotton or paper towel. If you are short on space to dry them or pans to dry them in, you can place multiple single layers of herbs and towels in the same dish, as long as they are loosely packed and there is plenty of room for air to circulate (they may take longer to dry). Set them aside at room temperature in a dry place where they will not be disturbed.
  2. Once the herbs are completely dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store them in an air-tight jar. Label the jar with the contents and the date.
  3. Before you use them in soups, sauces and marinades, grind the whole dried leaves in a spice grinder or crush them with a mortar and pestle to release the essential oils.
When you're ready to use them, if the label shows that it's been several months since you dried them, chew on a leaf to make sure they're still fresh. If they no longer taste good, neither will the dish you plan to use them in, so throw them out and start again.

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