Thursday, October 13, 2011

Herbs - whenever you need them

Nowadays, many recipes call for fresh herbs. Fresh herbs are wonderful but unless you grow them yourself, they are expensive and quite perishable. We at the School of Eating Good try to use fresh herbs when we have them - we grow them in our gardens and have small pots of them in sunny windows for winter use. But, we realize that many people don't have access to fresh herbs. Therefore, we give you an alternative to fresh herbs, either with dried or frozen herbs, in our recipes.

The basic conversion rate for fresh to dried herbs is 3x fresh =  1 dried herbs. If a recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon fresh herbs, use 1 Teaspoon dried herbs. Frozen herbs need no conversion. Certain herbs such as cilantro and chives do not dry well but they freeze quite well. Other herbs such as basil, thyme, oregano, Italian parsley, and rosemary also freeze well. Give them a rinse, allow them to airdry, then freeze them in a thin layer on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, put them in a plastic bag for storage in the deep freeze. When you need some, just take out what you need and use like fresh. Since packages of fresh herbs at the market usually contain more than you'll need for a single recipe, this is also a great way to get the most out of those expensive fresh herbs.

Dried herbs have a long storage life but it's not forever. After about 1 year, they lose a lot of flavor. You should try to buy just a little at a time. Some supermarkets now sell dried herbs and spices in the bulk section where you can buy much less than a whole jar for a reasonable price. If you can only buy herbs in a full jar,  have a herb swap with your friends. Have a group of friends each buy a jar or two of dried herbs. Get together and divvy up the each jar among the group. Now you all have a little bit of all the herbs rather than each of you having a big jar of one herb that you'll never use up before it loses its punch!

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