Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Oven Drying Fresh Herbs

Fresh Lemongrass and Wild Chamomile drying in the kitchen.

I have been selling herb infused salts and herbal vinegars at the Pine Junction Farmer's Market.  I use fresh, locally grown herbs for both.  The vinegars are easy, I just add the fresh herbs to heated vinegar and let them steep for a few weeks.  When I make salt, I dry the fresh herbs.  Normally I like to air dry them near the kitchen window.  If I'm in a hurry to make salt, I'm finding the oven method is fantastic.

I wash my fresh herbs, pat them dry, and put them on cookie sheets.  As I'm prepping everything I preheat the oven to 175 degrees.   Once I've put the fresh herbs in the oven, I leave the door cracked a little to let moisture escape.  The drying time varies from herb to herb; thyme dries within an hour while sage can take 3-4 hours to dry.  I just keep checking them periodically to see how they're doing, and pull them once they're dry.  After a brief cooling, I strip the herbs from the stems.  Some herbs are easier than others; thyme gets tricky because the leaves are so small and the stems break easily, while sage goes quickly due to the size of the leaves.  

I leave the herbs on the cookie sheet, it makes crushing and bottling so much easier.  Once all of the herbs have been stripped from their stems, I cover them with parchment paper and crush them with a rolling pin.  My kids have a small rolling pin left over from a Strawberry Shortcake baking set, it's the perfect size for the pan I use.  

After the herbs are crushed I pour them into a mason jar to use in making salts or in cooking.  The herbs have such a punch of flavor compared to store bought dried herbs.  The process may seem long, but it's something I can pick up and put down throughout the day depending on my schedule.  All in all it's worth it.

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