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KATHY’S HOME & GARDEN TIPS - FRESH HERBS FROM THE GARDEN ALL WINTER LONG

I know herbs have a tendency to take over. Here are a few ways to preserve them and enjoy their freshness all winter long. You can preserve the leaves from most herbs in your garden and have that fresh flavor in your cooking all winter long. With large-leaved herbs such as basil, mint or marjoram, strip the leaves from the stems. Throw away any leaves that are damaged by pests or are past their prime. Wash them under cold water and spread them on wire racks to dry.

Tie whole stems or branches of small-leaved herbs such as rosemary, tarragon or thyme into small loose bundles. Wrap them individually in pieces of cheesecloth to keep the dust off. Hang the stems upward to dry. Airy rooms are best, keep them out of sunlight, as it will destroy the leaf color. T best temperature is 70-75 degrees until leaves are dry and crisp.

If you don’t have a suitable room, herbs can be dried in the oven. Be careful!! The object is to dehydrate the herbs not cook them. Blanch the herbs first in boiling water for one minute. You can wrap them in cheesecloth first to protect them. Shake the moisture off and spread them in one layer on a rack or mesh screen. Put them in a 120 degree oven with the door open. Dry until the herbs are crisp, usually about an hour. A gentler option is pre-heat the oven to about 160. Leave the racks on top of the stove until dry. This can take several hours.

After herbs are dry crush them gently. Storing in airtight glass jars is best. They must be kept in the dark. Light robs fresh herbs of their attractive colors. Use them quickly; herbs will lose their flavor after several months.     

Freezing is also a great option. Wash young leaves and pat dry. Blanch 30 seconds in boiling water, drain and dry. Pack into freezer bags, squeezing out as much air as possible. Only one variety per bag. Another nifty way to preserve herbs for instant cooking is freezing in extra virgin olive oil. In a clean ice cube tray put a small amount of extra virgin olive oil. Add roughly chopped herbs, cover with more EVOO. Freeze and store in freezer bags. Pop out a cube and use for sautéing and sauces. A little bit of summer in the dead of winter!

KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN'S TEAM CHICAGO

   

Posted: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 2:18 PM by Dean's Team

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