I recently decided to dry a bushel of rosemary. (Note: “Bushel” is defined here as, “as much rosemary as Lacey could carry and still see enough to put one foot in front of the other.”) When you dry enough rosemary to keep a college dining hall well-seasoned for a year, you learn a few things.
- Only dry what you can use within a year.My bushel of rosemary was not only a pain in the ass to process, but it made way more dried rosemary than I anticipated. I’ll be giving away dry rubs and salts for several months in the frantic hope that I give it away before the flavors all dissipate.
- Rinse well.Especially if you grew your own herbs in a garden, or got them from a buddy with a similar set-up. My bushel of rosemary was laced with weeds, dried grass, tiny beetles, and a nice layer of dirt, none of which I want on my chicken. Rinse each sprig of herb well, then either pat it dry or lay it out to dry.
- Let air circulate.If you’re not doing the oven-drying method, it’s important to dry your herbs in such a way that lots of air can get to the leaves. Remember, you’ve just rinsed them, plus they hold their own water, so you want to avoid mold. You can tie them in small bundles and hang them from the ceiling, or you can find a way to lay them out so that air gets underneath. I used a canoe frame, but you may not have one of those– instead, maybe you have a cooling rack?
- Be patient. It takes time to rinse the herbs, let them dry, and strip the leaves from the stems, but this is a great way to preserve herbs you got for free, or extend the life of expensive herbs you purchased from the store. If your dried herbs are strong, you can use dried herbs in place of fresh in many recipes, with not much noticeable difference in flavor.