Preparing Herbs for Storage
Drying is an excellent way of preserving herbs for use out of season. Many seeds and leaves keep there flavor well and stored correctly, should last up to one year. Drying herbs at home is not easy and you may find the drying process often results in a loss of flavor and color.
There are 2 main methods of drying herbs; suspended in bunches, and lying flat on racks or trays. Electric dryers are available for purchase. Whatever method you use it is best to dry each type separately. Chose a dry, clean, dark, well-ventilated location, free from dust and insects. Always dry herbs out of direct sunlight, which causes loss of color and flavor.
Drying in Bunches
Keep the bunches of herbs small, a good guideline is no more than a good handful. Hang the herbs upside down; this helps to preserve their appearance. Use rubber bands to tie up the bunches. If you are planning to save the seeds tie a large paper bag or sheet of newspaper loosely over the flowerheads.
Drying on Racks
To dry herbs flat strip the leaves from each stem and arrange them in a single layer on a rack or tray. Inspect the herbs regularly to make sure they are drying properly, turning over larger to make sure they dry evenly. The herbs are ready when they are crisp to the touch, but not brittle. Once dried stored the herbs in airtight containers. Glass jars are best and they should be stored in a cool dry place.
Freezing retains the flavor but not the appearance. It is an excellent way to preserve leafy herbs that do not dry well, such as parsley, fennel, basil, and chives. To freeze herbs, wash, chop, and place in ice cube trays. Cover with water and freeze. Remove the cubes from the trays and store in freezer bags. To use add to the dishes at the end of the cooking time.
Some herbs have been used to flavor vinegar. These vinegars make excellent ingredients in salad dressings, mayonnaise, and many other dishes. that require vinegar. Use mild flavored vinegar such as white, cider, or balsamic Place the chopped or crushed herbs in a bowl and pour the vinegar over them. Cover and leave them for about 2 weeks for the flavor to develop making the herbs stay immersed. Strain the mixture through a coffee or muslin filter and check for flavor. If it is not strong enough pick a new bunch of herbs and repeat the process. If it is too strong dilute with more vinegar. Store in clean glass jars or bottles and make sure the vinegar does not come in contact with metal lids as this will cause corrosion