Finishing Your Dried Herbs for Storage
Once your herbs are dried, the next step is to finish your herbs for storage. Remember, the more stems you pick out of the herbs before they dry, the easier they will be to use in cooking. There are several different ways to finish your herbs, as I will outline below.
Finishing By Hand
Perhaps the easiest way to finish off your herbs for storage is to gently crush the dried leaves in you hand onto wax paper or parchment to the consistancy that you prefer. Because you are handling each batch, it is easy to pick out the tough dried stems missed when grooming the herbs for drying. Depending on the method you choose to dry the herbs, these stems will need to be removed.
Example: If you dried your herbs in the oven, chances are good that you groomed the tough stems away from the leaves before you placed them into the oven. Therefore, the amount of tough dried leaves will be less.
If you hang your herb plants in bundles to dry, there will, of course, be many more stems which will need to be removed as you process your herbs for storage.
Coffee Grinder Method
Different coffee grinders are available on the market that will help you to finish your herbs. The hand crank grinder has been around for many years and is operated by hand. These vary in size from small counter top grinders to large mounted grinders used commercially.
Electric grinders, most commonly used to grind coffee beans, are also available in a variety of sizes. I prefer the small electric grinders found commonly in the coffee aisle of many shops. Both of these grinders are effective for finishing your herbs, but, when using the electric grinder, take extra care to use short pulses to keep the herbs from being pulverized into dust.
Mortar and Pestle
The classic mortar and pestle consists of a bowl, usually of hard material, and a pestle, used to pound the herbs into a fine powder. Obviously, the more pounding, the finer the herb powder.
To use, simply add a small amount of dried herb to the bowl, and gently grind and pound the herb to the consistancy that you would like. Because the herb will be quite fine, sifting it to remove stems is easier, but, you must be careful to not pound it to dust.
Herbs that are ground very fine are useful in making savory doughs or herb flavored home made pasta, as they will keep the pasta smooth and easier to work with the pasta machine.
The first pile of dried basil leaves were stored whole as they were when removed from their stems and placed into a jar for storage.
The second pile of dried basil leaves were processed through the little coffee grinder twice. The leaves are in small pieces, with little powder dust.
The third pile of dried basil leaves were processed with a mortar and pestle, and, as you can see, the leaves have been ground to a finer texture, with more dust, even when using easier strokes with the pestle.
Once you have finished your herbs, place the herbs into clean, air-tight containers and store in a dry place out of direct sun, such as your pantry cupboard.
One of the best ways to preserve the flavor is to vacuum seal the herbs in clean canning jars. Most vacuum sealers come with an accessory to seal jars by removing some of the air inside the jar as you seal it. The finished herbs can also be sealed into vacuum sealer bags and stored in the cupboard as well.