Friday, March 15, 2013

Dried Herbs and Homemade Spices

Garden Herbs!

As the weather cooled down and the growing season drew to an end, the sudden reality of  'no more fresh veggies' suddenly dawned on me. I did spent a rather large amount of time freezing, canning, and drying everything that came out of the garden. I was doing great expect in one department. My last project of 2012 was to experiment with drying some of the herbs and spices. The plan is for these to last me until I can grow some fresh basil again this summer.

We planted and collected a very large amount of basil, tarragon, parsley, and cilantro, which we used abundantly during the summer months. Even though I put basil in everything I could not keep up with our basil plants.

Fresh basil is delicious with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and olive oil. But dried basil works better in tomato sauces, sprinkled on eggs and veggies, etc. No matter what, basil is by far the herb/spice I use the most. So I decided to dry the extra basil leaves using the same technique as my sundried tomatoes. I just laid them all out on a baking pan in the sun and covered them with a sheet of glass. Tomatoes might take a while to dry but herbs take no time. I was very meticulous for my first batch, removing all the stems and placing them flat on the baking sheet, without touching each other. By batch five, I was just dumping bags of basil and letting them dry.

Fresh basil leaves
You can then use a mortar and pestle or just crush the dried leaves between your fingers and then store them in a cool dry place with your regular spices. Remember to first wash all fresh herbs and then gently pat them dry before actively drying them.

Although not nearly in the same quantities, I also had a few other herbs. Parsley ended being easier to collect in big bunches, tie it up, and let it hang to dry. When you want to use it you can either crush it up and store it away or just let it hang and tear some off when you need to.

Cilantro does not do as well when dried, I ended up chopping it up and freezing it in ice cube trays with some water in them. When you need some cilantro, just grab an ice cube. This will keep the fresh flavor of cilantro so you can use it in salsa etc.

Rosemary is by far the easiest to collect, it grows wild all over the southwest!

From left to right: Basil, parsley, tarragon, and rosemary.

Rojo caliente!

Another ingredient we had a lot of was the almighty Thai Red Chili. Let me tell you folks, it is potent. I like my salsa hot and will dash a little tabasco on my eggs, but boy that is nothing compared to the hotness of these little red chilis. We only had three small plants, but they produced hundreds of these little suckers. I didn't know what to do with them but didn't want them to go to waste.

I let them dry for weeks on a shelf and almost forgot them. I finally ended up removing the stems and some of the seeds and ground them all up in my mixer. Tada! Chili powder. Just a pinch of that in your tacos or curry and you are all set. Or you can package them in cute mason jars and give them away to unsuspecting friends.


Make sure to really clean that mixer before using it again...

"Rojo caliente" chili powder

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