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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Basic Herb Information

Dried thyme (Thymus vulgaris). This is a focus...Image via Wikipedia
Storing HerbsSunlight ruins cut herbs, so tie them loosely but securely in a plastic bag and put them int he lowest part of the refrigerator. Herbes like cut chives, tarraogon and chervil are good up to a week, mint for two weeks, and thyme, sage and rosemary even longer.

Freezing HerbsChopped and stored in freezer tubs, herbs can be useful during the winter, however fresh is always preferred. Probably the best way to freeze herbs, however, is by making herb butter (either of the mixed herbs or individual ones).

Chopping Herbs
Ideally you need a good-sized cook's knife with a 7 inch blade that is slightly curved and a wooden chopping board. Chopping gadgets tend to squash the herbs and make them mushy. Arrange the herbs on the choping board by spreading them out, then rest the blade of the knife horizontally on the board at the edge furthest away from you. Hold the pointed end between the finger and thumb of one hand to steady it, take the handle in the other hand, and make sharp cutting movements swingng the handle towards you as you chop - so that the blade swivels in a fan shape across the herbs, and back again.
Chives are an exception as they are far easier snipped with kitchen scissors. Basil should have its leaves torn rather than chopped to best retain all the fragrant oils.

Herbs recommended to work well in their dried form

Basil - nowhere near the character and flavor as it is fresh, but works fine in soups and sauces through the winter
Bay leaves - better dried than fresh as they can tend to have a bitter flavor
Dill - can be used successfully if you infuse the leaves in warm water for a few minutes, then drain and use as fresh
Oregano - works well and as a substitute for marjoram
Rosemary - works alright, but it is recommended to be chopped as finely as possible since it's much more spiky when dried
Sage - dries well without losing much flavor
Tarragon - dried is useful if you steep it in warm water for a minute or two before using
Thyme - works well, especially in stocks and stews

Thanks Stephanie for this post!