Three simple methods of drying Basil at home will ensure that your Basil harvest is extended well into the next year.
1. Gather your Basil harvest in the morning hours after the sun has dried away the dew of the night.
2. Gather the sprigs into loose bundles and secure the stems with rubber bands to assure that the bundles stay together as they dry.
3. If using brown paper bags, cover each bundle with the bags that have slits cut into the sides to allow for adequate air flow around the herbs. The paper bags keep dust off of the Basil, as it dries and the sunlight from bleaching out the color. Care must be taken to make sure that enough air flows through the bag to keep the Basil from molding. Check occasionally to make sure, and, if need be either cut more holes in the bags or remove them. Sometimes the moisture builds up inside the bag, especially if the sun hits it, allowing fungus and mildew to form.
4. Hang upside down in a warm, dry place such as an attic or porch until the leaves are brittle to the touch, approximately 2 weeks.
5. Gather the dried bundles and place on a sheet of wax paper.
6. Crumble the dried leaves and separate out all of the tough stems onto the wax paper.
7. Store in an air tight container in the pantry for use in cooking.
These air tight jars can be stored in a dry, dark place such as your pantry or cupboard, or even your freezer, with proper care.
Dried Basil can be used in sauces, gravies, dressings and all other recipes that require fresh Basil
Basil can be dried in the oven at the lowest temperature, or, if you have a gas stove with a pilot light, spread out on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper in a single layer.
Special Note: If using cookie sheets to dry the herbs, place the herbs to be dried on parchment paper to avoid direct contact with the metal trays. Metal contact darkens the color of the herb being dried, causing the Basil to loose its bright green color.
1. Wash and gently spin dry the fresh basil sprigs.
2. Pick out the discolored leaves and woody stems.
3. Preheat your oven to lowest temperature setting.
4. Spread the whole leaves out evenly on the parchment paper or chop or clip herbs into 1/4" pieces or so onto parchment lined cookie sheet.
5. Place in oven on top rack for 2 to 4 hours or until basil crumbles easily between your fingers. Drying times may vary according climate conditions and relative humidity.
6. Gather up the parchment paper into a funnel and place smallest end over the mouth of a clean, completely dry jar and seal tightly. The dried Basil can also be vacuumed sealed in batches for storage.
STORAGE: Place jar or vacuum sealed pouches in a dry, dark place such as your kitchen cabinet, pantry or even your freezer.
Perhaps the easiest way to dry Basil, or almost any other herb, is to lay it out on trays to dry in the sun. This rack has six open slatted trays that allow for good air circulation. I line the trays with parchment paper to keep the Basil from falling through the slats and spread the cleaned, picked Basil leaves evenly over the surface of the trays in a single layer to dry.
I bought the rack from a garden supply company a few years ago for use in cold storage of onions, potatoes, garlic, and apples, but it serves quite well as a drying rack for herbs, too. They now offer several sizes designed for home preservation projects