Dried herbs are a must for any quick cooking pantry. They add great flavor, are inexpensive, and are the perfect way to dress up almost any recipe. Dried herbs have a different flavor than fresh herbs. They are smokier and more intense. And they last much longer than fresh herbs, which are only good for a few days even when stored in the fridge. To get the most flavor out of your dried herb collection, follow these tips.
- Watch expiration dates! Most dried herbs begin to lose potency after six months. If they don't smell strong when you take a sniff, discard them and buy a new bottle. Make sure you label your herb containers so you know when they were purchased; they should be frequently rotated. Buy small packages of herbs you don't use often so you don't waste them.
- Before adding the herbs to the food, crush the leaves between your fingers. This helps release volatile oils and increases the herb's fragrance and flavor.
- When cooking in the crockpot, add dried herbs (and fresh herbs too) at the end of cooking time. Long, slow cooking times can diminish the herb's intensity. Or you can add them at the beginning of cooking time and add more at the end, to your taste.
- The ratio for using dried herbs to fresh is 1:3. In other words, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh basil and you have dried on hand, use 1 teaspoon dried basil. Or if a recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of dried oregano, use 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh oregano. Or you can use a combination of both for intense flavor.
- Dried herbs can be combined to make your own personalized seasoning mixes. Use your favorites to create your own personal blends.
- Store dried herbs and spices in a cool, dry place. I use a drawer near (not next to) my stove so the herbs stay coo and are kept out of sunlight. Jean B. sent me a great tip: she stores her dried herbs and spices in the freezer, so they last much longer. Just make sure everything is well labeled so you know what's what. Crushing the frozen leaves between your fingers will release more of the volatile oils and help make the herbs more fragrant when added to your recipes.
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