Saving flavor for later
As the harvest season winds down, we will miss the supersized bundles of fresh herbs we have been buying at the farmers market. Before we're relegated to making do with those tiny supermarket packages of herbs, there's a way to delay this reversa...
As the harvest season winds down, we will miss the supersized bundles of fresh herbs we have been buying at the farmers market.
Before we're relegated to making do with those tiny supermarket packages of herbs, there's a way to delay this reversal of fortune: Preserve those fresh herbs.
"Freezing is an effective means of extending the availability of herbs, especially dill, fennel, basil and parsley,' Elisabeth Ortiz writes in "The Encyclopedia of Herbs, Spices and Flavorings.' Small amounts of clean herbs, combined with a few tablespoons of water, can be frozen alone or in combinations for use in cooked dishes, soups and stocks.
Chopped fresh herbs also can be frozen in water in ice cube trays, then the cubes can be stored in freezer-safe bags for up to six months. Just don't forget to label and date packages; frozen herbs darken and some will be indistinguishable from each other.
Drying herbs is another option and there are two ways to do it: air drying and oven drying.
Some herbs dry better than others. In "The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest,' Carol Costenbader lists bay leaves, dill weed, lavender, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme among the best choices.
For air drying, "tie small bunches of them together with garden twine and hang them with leaves pointed downward in an airy, warm, dry place that's not in direct sunlight,' she writes.
If you don't have a place to hang herbs to dry, a hole-puncher the kind you buy in the office-supply aisle of stores can come in handy: Punch circles in a brown paper lunch bag and add the herbs. "Use colorful yarn for tying the bags, and stand them upright on a shelf in a warm, airy place,' Costenbader writes. They'll be ready to use or share with friends in a week or two. Consider passing out bags to neighbors and friends to use in Thanksgiving recipes.
To oven-dry herbs: Place herbs in a single layer on a baking sheet in a 140-degree oven for 45 minutes. Let herbs cool 12 hours. To be sure they have thoroughly dried, seal the herbs in glass jars for 24 hours. If any moisture has formed on the inside of the jars, return the herbs to the oven to dry for 10 minutes. Store the dried herbs in airtight containers for up to one year.