Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Drying Herbs

I’m drying herbs to preserve them for winter.  I can’t let the frost take all of them.  There are many ways you can preserve herbs.  People freeze them in baggies and also put them in ice cubes and just drop the ice cube in their soup or sauce, but I find it easier to dry them and store them in a small mason jar for the winter.  

The herbs will become more intense once you have dried them, so if the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of fresh herbs, only use ½ a teaspoon of dried. You can also do this with greens for winter soups.  I have begun making a soup powder that I add to my soups and broths.  I freeze some of my kale but am now drying some of it also.  

Soup Powder

10 parts of Kale
2 part parsley
½ part of thyme
½ part of chives

Rinse and clean your herbs and veggies well.

Kale ready for drying
Place your leaves in a single layer on your dehydrators trays or trays for your oven.  You may just cover your oven shelves with foil also.  That is what I do because it gives me more drying space in the oven. Dry at 125 degrees F. for 12 if you are using a dehydrator or for 6 hours if you are using your oven.

For the soup powder work in batches, transferring your dried vegetables to your food processor and pulse until they break down into a fine powder.  You can also put the herbs in a baggie and using your hand crush them until they are a powder or small flakes. Spoon the powder into a mason jar, label lids with a Sharpie, close tightly and store at room temperature for up to 6 months without losing potency. 

Use the same process for storing individual herbs like mint, thyme, basil, oregano, parsley, or rosemary that you dried using the same method of drying at 125 degrees above.

When ever you make broth or soup, add a couple spoonfuls of the green powder to add not only great flavor but also more nutrition.  Taste after each spoonful to your desired taste.

Variation:  Add dried powdered mushrooms for an even great flavor boost. You can also dry them and turn them into a powder.  Kids will never know you have just given them mushrooms or kale.

I toss out all the dried herbs I did not use from last year and replace them with fresh.

Italian Herb Mixture

Sometimes a recipe calls for Italian herbs seasoning.  You can dry basil, oregano, and parsley and blend them together for an Italian seasoning to put in your tomato sauces.  You can also add onion powder and garlic powder, salt and pepper and you will have a complete dried spaghetti sauce that you only need to add tomato sauce to.

1 part dried oregano
2 parts dried basil
2 parts dried parsley

I dry all of my herbs individually, grind them and then put them in individual small mason jars.  If you wish to combine them you would use a tablespoon of oregano, 2 tablespoons of basil and 2 tablespoons of parsley or larger quantities if you like. 


I can spaghetti sauce each year and prefer to use fresh basil if I can but will also dry some for the winter.  I have more basil than I can ever use because I cut off the flowers each time they came and it forces the plant to spread and branch out into a huge plant.  I only need to plant one plant and it is now so top heavy its lower branches are falling to the ground. 

Do not grind the basil into a fine powder.  Keep it in small flakes so you can see it in your dish or sauce.


Nothing says Thanksgiving like sage.  I was lucky this year, the winter was so mild that my sage came back so I did not have to plant it.  It is huge this year and I’ll never be able to use all of it, but I got a lot of pleasure from the flowing, smell in my herb garden and the beauty of it.

We have always had a sage dressing at Thanksgiving and I use it during the year for my pork dressing, chicken, and I like to put it in my egg bakes that have sausage, so I will use most of my dried sage up before I can get fresh again.

Just follow the direction up above on drying procedure.


Like my basil, I use it fresh during the summer and use it fresh when I can spaghetti sauce, but I dry it also for winter. 

Oregano is a perennial and comes back every year.  I have had mine for over 20 years.  It has spread now to a point; I have to trim it back so it won’t over take my herb garden which is close to the house. 

It is more potent than basil so I only use about half as much oregano as I do basil in any recipe

Oregano will flower at the end of summer and is a beautiful ground cover if you are just looking for something beautiful, fragrant, and a flowering ground cover. 


I dry mint for tea.   You can also make mint jelly out of it for the winter.  This will take over your yard so try to contain it if you want it to stay where you plant it.   I did not do this and I have to cut mine back several times a year with a weed eater.  I grow mint called Chocolate Mint.  

It makes a beautiful garnish on any dessert plate or you can muddle it for a drink.  I’ll share a mint jelly recipe with you below, but you can make it out of any of your herbs. 

Herbed Jellies

You can make jelly out of most anything.  I use a standard recipe and just steep different herbs and add to the jelly recipe.  The following is my mint jelly recipe that I have given as Christmas present, but you can do the same with basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, etc.  They can be a nice house warming gift also.

1 1/2 cups packed fresh mint leaves and stems
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 1/4 cups boiling water (I have also used apple juice for more flavor and nutrition)
1 drop green food color (optional but really makes it more attractive)
3 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 (6 fluid ounce) container liquid pectin

Rinse off the mint leaves, and place them into a large saucepan. Crush with wooden spoon, masher or the bottom of a jar or glass. Add water (or apple juice), and bring the mint to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 10 minutes. Strain, and measure out 1 2/3 cups of the mint.  Don’t have fresh mint, you can also use mint extract to flavor or combine to add more mint flavor to your taste.

Place 1 2/3 cups strained mint tea into a saucepan. Stir in the lemon juice and food coloring . Mix in the sugar, and place the pan over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once the mixture is boiling, stir in the pectin. Boil the mixture for a full minute while stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and skim foam off the top using a large metal spoon. Transfer the mixture to hot sterile jars, and seal. Process any unsealed jars in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Variation:  Use herb of your choice and try to make rosemary jelly or basil jelly.  They are wonderful. You can find simple jelly recipe in the Kerr Canning Cookbook.


I grow crawling thyme that is also perennial and comes back each year.  Because it spreads slowly, I cut it back also.  I probably use this herb more than any other.  You can use it in almost any meat recipe, sauce or soup. 

You can toss in a whole sprig, and when you dish is done, just pull out the remaining stem(s).  The small leave falls off during cooking and you don’t have to mess with pulling off the leaves.  You can also do the same thing when you are drying.  Dry the whole stem and them handing onto the stem, pull your fingers down the stem to remove the dried leaves.  They are so small, you do not need to turn them to powder or flakes.


I have to replant rosemary each year.  If you go back to my April, 2012 blog on herbs, I give a rosemary cookie that P. Allan Smith gave on his show years ago.  I like to use rosemary for chicken.  I also give you a chicken recipe in the blog.

Like the thyme, you can dry the entire stem and then remove the small leaves by holding the stem and pulling down the stem to remove the leaves. 


I put my chives in an old whiskey barrel because it will spread also.  It will also come back each year.  In the spring it will yield beautiful purple flowers for your garden.  During the summer, I cut it often and use for many salads, for garnish on soups and meat dishes.  It is milder than a green onion. 

When you pick them or any fresh herb, clean them well and wrap them in paper towel.  Put them in a baggie and store them in the refrigerator.  You can store them up to 2 weeks.

For drying, I turn chives into a powder by putting the dried chives into a baggie and crushing it with my hand.  


I dry greater amounts of parsley than any other herb because I use it in so many dishes for color.  It does not have a great deal of flavor but offers extra nutrition and makes the dish more attractive.  I even put it in my potato soup.  Again, do not turn this into a powder.  Keep it in small flakes when you dry it. 

Herbs de Provence

Here is a recipe for Herbs de Provence.  I'm sharing but I do not grow some of these herbs so have not made it.  You can use your already dried herbs you have purchased from the store and mix for future French recipes calling for it.

4 tablespoons dried rosemary leaves
3 tablespoons dried sweet marjoram leaves
2 tablespoons dried thyme leaves
3 tablespoons dried savory
2 tablespoons dried lavender flowers
1 teaspoon dried sage leaves

The blend can be used to flavor grilled foods, such as fish and meat, or added to vegetables and stews.

I hope you will plant an herb garden if you haven’t.  If you don’t want all the work that comes with a vegetable garden or don’t have the space for a garden, you can always grow herbs.  You can even grow them in pots and bring them in for the winter.    It takes little care and gives so much more back.  Then try drying the herbs so you can use them during the winter.  Spices are quite expensive and if you have the time, it is well worth it. 

Get your fingers dirty and be happy.  May God bless you and yours.  

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