Drying Fresh Herbs
Whether you grow your own herbs or buy them from a farmers market or supermarket, you can easily dry herbs to reduce waste, have herbs for winter months when fresh herbs are not available, or for recipes calling for dried herbs.
Most herbs available dried from a store can be dried at home using a toaster oven or oven depending on the amount you are drying. The trick to successful drying that retains color and flavor is using low heat 150 to 175°F (65 to 80°C). Lower heat, like the 100°F proofing temperature on many ovens, greatly extends the drying time from hours to days. Using too high a temperture burns the herbs and destroys their flavor. Think of sunburned leaves on your tree or plants. Many popular herbs will dry in 2 to 4 hours at 150°F.
To dry fresh herbs:
1. Preheat oven to 150 to 175°F (65 to 80°C, Gas Marks 2, 3 or 4).
2. Wash herbs and discard wilted or discolored foliage.
3. Remove leaves from stem and use paper towels to absorb as much water as possible to reduce drying time.
4. Cover baking sheets with wax or parchment paper to prevent sticking (helpful when drying cilantro and parsley).
5. Arrange herbs in sigle layer on baking sheets. Stacking or overlapping extends drying time. High moisture herbs like parsley can overlap slightly.
6. Place in oven and check after 1 to 2 hours. Volume will decrease significantly for high moisture herbs like parsley, cilantro and basil. Check for any overlapping herbs with noticeable moisture.
7. Continue drying until herbs easily crumble when touched or rubbed between your fingers. All moisture must be removed for long-term storage.
8. Rosemary and bay leaves can be stored whole. Parsley, basil and cilantro crushed by rubbing between the palms of your hands.
9. Store dried herbs in air-tight bottles or canisters in a cool dry place. Alternatively, dried herbs can be stored indefinitely in your freezer.
Since oven temperatures can very dramatically, drying times will very.
If you live in a hot, dry climate, you can use summer sun to dry herbs. Wash the herbs and remove the leaves. Pat dry with paper towels and place them loosly in a clean brown paper store bag. Seal the bad with a cloths pin or clip to prevent insects from entering the bad and then place or hang the bag in a sunny place 1 to 2 days.
For herbs like parsley and cilantro, it takes about 10 ounces (280 g) fresh herbs (stems removed) to produce 1 ounce (28 g) dried.