I grow fresh herbs in the summer to perk up everyday meals, but when I dry them for winter use, some lose their punch. How can I preserve the intense flavor and aroma?
Before choosing a method of preservation, consider the structure of the herb itself. Tender leaves, such as basil, chives, cilantro, dill, mint and parsley, are better suited to freezing. Blanching them first captures the fresh flavor extraordinarily well. Drop into boiling water for several seconds, then with a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer to a bowl of ice water to chill for several seconds more. Blot dry with paper towels. Spread a single layer of the blanched herbs on a wax paper-lined baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic and freeze until solid, about one hour. Transfer to plastic storage bags. Blanched herbs can be frozen for up to four months and can be chopped in their frozen state before being added to soups, stews and sauces. Reserve drying for hardier leaves, such as rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage. A dehydrator is the most efficient way to uniformly dry herbs, or you may simply hang them in bunches from their stems in a dark place for five to ten days, until they are brittle to the touch. To protect the herbs from dust while drying, enclose them in a paper bag with holes punched in it. Store in an airtight jar out of the light, then crumble to release their fragrance before use.