If your pots of herbs are overflowing like mine are, now is a great time to harvest some for drying. After adding rosemary, lemon thyme and sage to my herb garden this year, I have a variety of fresh herbs that may not be readily available in the winter. One of the easiest ways to preserve your herbs for year-round cooking, is to make herbal salts. They are a great way to add the flavor and aroma of fresh herbs to your dishes. I love herbal salts added to salads, corn on the cob, and baked potatoes and grilled chicken.
Harvesting and Drying Herbs:
Here’s a simple method you can follow to dry herbs:
- Harvesting: Choose a dry day to harvest your herbs. Early morning, after the dew has evaporated, is often the best time. Select herbs that are healthy and free from any pests or diseases.
- Cleaning: Gently shake the herb plants to remove any excess dirt or debris. You can also rinse them lightly with water if needed. Pat them dry with a clean towel or let them air dry for a while.
- Bundling: Group the herbs into small bundles. A good rule of thumb is to gather 4-6 stems together. Make sure to remove any damaged leaves or flowers. Dry one type of herb together, since drying time may be different due to the thickness of the herb leaf.
- Binding: Use a string or twine to tie the stems of the herb bundles together at the base. Leave a long tail of twine, which you can later use to hang the herbs.
- Hanging: Find a dry, well-ventilated area to hang your herb bundles. Ideally, this space should be away from direct sunlight, as it can cause the herbs to lose some of their flavor. Hang the bundles upside down by attaching the long tails of twine to a hook or a clothesline. Make sure there’s enough space between the bundles to allow air circulation.
- Drying Time: The drying process can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the herbs and the weather.
- Check the herbs regularly to monitor their progress. They are dry when the leaves crumble easily and the stems snap instead of bending.
- Storage: Once the herbs are completely dry, remove the leaves from the stems. Discard the stems and store the dried leaves in airtight containers, such as glass jars or resealable bags. Label the containers with the herb names and the date of drying. *Be sure herbs are completely dry to prevent mold.
- Some herbs may loose some of their bright green color during the drying process, but their flavor will be preserved.
- Store your dried herbs in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight.
- If you prefer a faster drying method, you can also use a food dehydrator or an oven set to the lowest temperature. Most ovens have a minimum temperature of around 150°F (65°C). Arrange on a single sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Prop open the oven door slightly to allow moisture to escape. It may take several hours to dry based on the thickness of the herb. Check them every thirty to forty five minutes until they are dry. If it crumbles easily and there is no moisture, the herbs are dry.
How to Make Herbal Salts
- Choosing the right salt: Course sea salt or kosher is best. Iodized or table salt may give the herbal salt a harsh flavor. .
- Blending the herbs and salt: Once your herbs are dry, remove the leaves from the stems and chop them into fine pieces. You can use a sharp knife or a food processor for this step, depending on your preference. In a bowl, combine the chopped herbs with the salt. The general rule of thumb is to use one part herbs to four parts salt, but you can adjust the ratio to suit your taste.
- Infusing the flavors: After combining the herbs and salt, mix them well to ensure even distribution. Place the mixture in an airtight container and let it sit for about a week to allow the flavors to meld together. During this time, the salt will absorb the aromatic oils from the herbs, creating a fragrant and flavorful seasoning.
These are a couple of my favorite herbal salt recipes.
Herbes de Provence Salt:
- 2 tablespoons dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons dried rosemary
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 tablespoon dried marjoram
- 1 cup fine sea salt
- In a bowl, combine all the dried herbs with the fine sea salt. Mix well to evenly distribute the herbs.
- Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and let it sit for a week to allow the flavors to meld. Stir occasionally.
- Use it as a seasoning for roasted chicken, grilled fish, or sprinkle it over salad.
Italian Herb Salt:
- 1 cup coarse sea salt
- 2 tablespoons dried basil
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
In a mixing bowl, combine all the herbs, salt, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Mix well to distribute the ingredients evenly. Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and let it sit for a few days to allow the flavors to meld together. This herb salt is perfect for adding an Italian twist to pasta dishes, pizzas, or sprinkling on top of garlic bread.
Try experimenting with different combinations of dried herbs to create your own unique herbal salt blends!