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There are several ways to preserve your herbs once they are grown. Here are a few examples of the most common. Before doing any of these, however, make sure that you pick only those leaves which are intact and free from any blemishes, as these will preserve the best. Also, as with anything else, make sure the leaves are clean and dry before using any method to preserve them.
Preserving Your Herbs
- Tie herbs with sturdy stalks, like rosemary or thyme, into bunches and hang upside down in warm, dry place away from sunlight. They should dry in a week or so.
- Soft-stemmed herbs or leaved herbs like chamomile or marjoram can be laid individually on cheesecloth on a cooling rack in a warm, dry place until dried.
- Humid conditions make oven drying preferable. Spread herbs individually on a baking sheet and place in a 90 degree oven with door ajar for a few hours or overnight. (herbs are dried when they become brittle and like tissue paper.)
- Once dried, herbs should be placed in air-tight glass containers and stored away from heat and sunlight.
- Select perfect leaves or sprigs only for freezing.
- Place clean leaves in plastic bags and freeze.
PRESERVING IN SUGAR:
- To preserve lavender flowers, select blooms from several sprigs. Ensure that the blooms are clean and perfect.
- Mix in with 1 1/4 cups of superfine sugar. Transfer to an airtight jar.
- Let sit for at least a week before using. Sift sugar from flowers before using.
- Flavored sugar gives good taste to cakes, biscuits, cookies, and jams.
PRESERVING IN SALT:
- To make your own seasoned salt, mix a variety of savory herbs and spread on a baking sheet.
- Add sea salt and mix the herbs with the salt. Place in 90 degree oven and leave with door ajar until herbs are dried.
- Once dried, grind together with a mortar and pestle and store in an air-tight jar.
- Use salt to season meat, fish, soups or omelettes.
PRESERVING IN VINEGAR:
- You can also utilize your herbs in making flavored vinegars, which can be added to stocks, salad dressings, and in sauces. The best vinegar to use for this purpose is wine vinegar, red or white depending on your preferance. The mild aroma of these vinegars will not overwhelm the flavor of your herbs.
- To make your own flavored vinegar, take a full bottle of red or white wine vinegar. Pour some of the vinegar away in order to get the herbs into the bottle.
- Insert your herbs into the bottle, then seal the bottle and let stand on a sunny windowsill for 2-3 weeks.
- Flavored vinegars will last for 1-2 years.
- Example: Rosemary and Thyme Vinegar.
PRESERVING IN OIL:
- You can also preserve your herbs in oil. These not only make wonderfully flavored oils, but also make beautiful gifts when bottled in clear bottles and tied with a ribbon. You can use 3 different oils: olive oil, grapeseed oil, and sunflower seed oil.
- Olive oil has a distinctive taste and aroma, so use it with strong herbs, pepper and garlic. Be sure to look for cold-pressed oil, as these have the most flavor and are the healthiest to buy.
- Grape Seed oil has no taste, so it can be used as a base for any herb combination.
- Sunflower Seed Oil also has no taste and can be used as a base for any herb combination.
- To make your flavored oil, pour some of the oil away to make room for the herbs.
- Insert your herbs, and reseal the bottle, making sure that the oil comes all the way to the top.
- Place on a sunny windowsill and let sit for about 2 weeks, gently shaking the bottle occasionally.
- Strain oil into a clean bottle, and oil is now ready to use. Flavored oil will last for about 3 months.
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