Gardens in Maine did really well this summer, and my cousin’s parsley crop was magnificent. Whether you live in Maine or an apartment in Berlin, herbs can be grown almost anywhere. I love having some fresh herbs to snip a bit here and there, but I also love the ease and intensity of many dried herbs. Parsley is an herb that takes well to drying. Oven-drying is my preferred method of doing large batches of herbs. They can be spread on a sheet pan, left in the oven for the hours needed to dry the batch, and then easily ground or crushed for saving. As long as the herbs are totally dry they will keep in an airtight container for quite some time.
Storing dried herbs and spices.
Herb storage is a touch topic. Much like my lipstick, I do not throw it out every 6 months. I find that many dried herbs keep their flavor for well-over a year. Spices are a different issue. I do replace my spices every year. Well, let me clarify that. I buy spices in bulk because of the amount of Indian cooking that I do.
If you have been following my blog for a while, you may know that I am also a fan of the FoodSaver® Vacuum Sealer. What I do is buy bulk sizes of spices, put an amount into either a small mason jar with a plastic lid (important), and vacuum seal the rest. Air and time, is what makes the flavor break down. The less air, the longer that the oils will stay “fresh” and vibrant. Now, that being said, I do make sure that I check the spices at the one year mark.
Taste and smell will tell you if the spice is past salvation. If so, toss it. Period. Bad seasoning = bad tasting food. Set a reminder date in your calendar, or know that at a certain time of year, you will go through your spice and herb cabinet. Since I return to Maine at the beginning of June every year, that is when I do my ‘spring’ cleaning.
Plastic vs two-piece vs lug lids.
The first time I canned with a lug lid, which is what you see on our Bleuberet jars, I did not believe they would hold. Seven years later, I rarely use 2 piece canning lids. There are some tricks to the trade that I have learned over the years, from other canners and a lot of trial and error. Have questions? Email me with your questions.
The lids explained:
- Two-piece canning lids, are just that, whether you can or have received homemade canned food gifts, you are probably most familiar with this type of lid. It seals well, it is relatively easy to use, and it is readily available.
- PROS: Easy to find in stores. It generally seals well. They are inexpensive.
- CONS: The can leak during the hot water bath phase or move when canning by hot-fill method. The are not pretty.
- One-piece Lug or Continuous Thread are what are used by commercial canners. They sit neatly on the jar, may or may not have a safety button, and are a bit sleeker of a look. Lug and Continuous Thread means how the lid grasps the raised glass threads to secure it to the jar. Lug is with four short threads that the lid clamps under, and Continuous Thread has longer threads, and tightens when it reaches the end of the thread.
- PROS: They look nice and clean. Give a nice tight seal. Are available in a variety of colors.
- CONS: Need to order from specialty suppliers (SKS Bottle is great for small orders). Have a bit of a learning and comfort curve.
- NOTES: This link will give you the basics on canning with a one piece lid – Canning 101 by Food In a Jar
- Plastic Lids – these are NOT for canning or shelf-stable storage other than dried goods such as beans, dried herbs, spices, pasta, cereal, etc…Plastic lids for mason jars are sometimes available with canning supplies in hardware and grocery stores, but you can order them in bulk and for much less online.
- PROS: They are reusable, look nice, keep dried goods well sealed, and can be used for items stored in the pantry or in the freezer. Great way to store refrigerated leftovers in a glass jar with a plastic lid.
- CONS: They pick up the smells of the food that is saved, if is is something strong like hot paprika. They are not safe for long-term canning.
- parsley, cleaned and ends removed, but not stalks
Preheat oven to 170°F/75°C
Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.
Clean grit from parsley.
Spread parsley out on lined sheet pan.
Place in oven for 2-3 hours.
When parsley is totally dry - it will change from vibrant green to a grayish, smoky green, and maybe a little yellow in spots - remove from oven to cool.
The parsley must be thoroughly dried to proceed with the next steps. To ensure dryness, crumble a bit between your fingers. If it does not crumble easily, put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes or so.
Break pieces enough to fit into a food processor to finely grind, or crush by hand.
Store in a spice jar or mason jar with a plastic lid!
Most herbs can be dried this way. Air drying will not ensure that enough moisture is removed. If the herbs are not totally dry they will get moldy or rot. Yuck. The one herb I never dry is Basil. I find that the flavor changes too much and is not as good-tasting when dried. Make Basil into pesto and freeze for extended storage.