Besides cooking and blogging about fabulous meals, one of my favorite activities is gardening. Here in Maine, we have a shorter gardening season, and are quickly approaching the Fall. Everything around us is preparing for winter: the tips of the trees are starting to change color, parts of my garden are slowly dying off after being incredibly productive this year, and blueberries and apples are being harvested. Yep, Fall is upon us.
When living in a norther climate, Fall means several things–one of those being the need to prepare for the impending Winter. Part of that preparation is trimming down my herb garden so it can be stored for use when all is dark and covered with snow. So this afternoon, I popped out to the back patio, enjoyed some rays and trimmed away at my basil, rosemary, sage and parsley!
Usually I just focus on one herb at a time, but something came over me–maybe it’s the sun or maybe it’s the instinctual feeling that Fall is here and everything needs.to.be.done.now! Either way, I have four different herbs to squirrel away for culinary delights to come.
As with any food preparation, the first step is always to clean the produce. I just cleaned the herbs and sat them out on paper towels to air dry as I loaded the dehydrating trays with the most abundant crop I had today–basil. When set on 95 degrees, it usually takes me several hours (overnight) to get my basil dry. (This year, it has been taking a bit longer since it has incredibly humid this summer in Maine.) When I’m in more of a hurry, I’ll sometimes bump the temperature up just a little to get that crispiness that is needed to keep these herbs in top shape for their upcoming duties!
After the basil was dry, I just gathered the leaves and crumbled them into a jelly-sized canning jar and popped into two oxygen absorbers to ensure they stay crisp in our humid weather. The result was phenomenal. Extremely fragrant and green basil dried and ready for it’s next culinary adventure!
While the basil was basking in the dehydrator’s dry air, I preheated my oven to it’s lowest temperature (170 degrees) and lined a cookie sheet with some parchment paper. (The parchment paper protects the herbs from a chemical reaction with the metal that will turn them more brown than green during the drying process.) Once the parchment paper was in place, I spread my sprigs of rosemary on the tray and popped it into the oven for 1 1/2-2 hrs. At the end of the 2 hours, I pulled the tray out and tested to see if the rosemary snapped off it’s branch and then snapped in half. Success!
After I determined that the rosemary was dry, I gently pulled off the leaves and put them onto the parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Then when all the leaves were stripped from the branches, I used the parchment paper as a makeshift funnel to pour the rosemary into my air-tight container. Again, the result is more fragrant than anything I’ve ever gotten in the store!
The last visitor to my herb party today was Parsley. One of the ways to dry parsley is just to air dry it by hanging it in a well-ventilated and dark area. I happened to have a couple linen hangers left over from a curtain purchase that were perfect for this job. Tie the springs on, and let them air dry for a couple of weeks. The end result is my very own fresh parsley to season all my winter culinary delights!
Once all my herbs are dried, I put them in small jelly jars, throw in an oxygen absorber and top with one of these herb shaker lids I got off of Amazon.
Next up from the herb garden is dill, oregano and sage!
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