Sunday, September 6, 2009

A morning in the kitchen

September is a waiting month for garden tasks. The next big push outside is prepping for winter-- bringing in the tender exotics, rebuilding soil, removing this year's stalks and roots. Instead, the garden comes inside. September is for canning, and drying, and pureeing, freezing, baking and storing.

This morning I used the two cups of pumpkin puree I made a couple of weeks ago to bake this wonderful pumpkin bread from Orangette (with a most apt post title), as well as drying herbs.

While a still room is a charming atavism, it loses some of its appeal when in fact got herbs spread out all across the radiator in the living room, and the one in the dining room, and in fact every available surface, or have them hanging from pegs tucked here and there. For herb drying I am ALL ABOUT the 21st century.

My oregano is a decade-old nursery start that's been in numerous spots in the garden-- under a big spirea bush, where it acted like ground cover, out in the main bed where it turned into huge shrub, back in the shade of the garage (where it behaved itself, so I might move it back) and in my "Savory Walk" where once again it just took over. Today I cut it back by half and trimmed all the wayward branches, then dried the leaves, ending up with more than a cup of dried oregano from a large basketful of leaves. I also potted up the rosemary, currently on its second year, trimming back about 10 long stalks and ending with a standard spice jar's worth dried.

Microwave drying herbs

Remove leaves from stalks and rinse thoroughly. Place no more than 2 cups wet of leaves on a double layer of paper towels with a second double layer laid over the top. Place in microwave. I use a moderately powerful 900 watt microwave. For other wattage % power may need to be adjusted. This is a fairly fool-proof method, so play around.

Oregano. 80% power for 4 minutes, then turn the "sandwich" over, replace the wet towels on top with a dry one and zap in 1 minute bursts until completely dry.

Rosemary. Surprisingly watery. Took 6 minutes. I did this in 1 minutes intervals and had to change towels twice. Last minute on 60% power. Started with 3c, dried down to about 1c. (sorry, those of you who think in either ounces or metric).

Sage. 7 minutes in 6 1-minute bursts and two 30sec; again very watery, changed towels twice. This was difficult because the leaves were quite heavy and the towels boiling hot (duh). Changed towels at 2 min and 4 min, last two zaps without turning at 70% power.

Mint. This went down by half, but it only two 3:20, in six 30sec bursts and 1 final 20sec at 70% power. Removed bottom towel at 2min, but just folded over the top one because there was so little. Ended up with about 3/8c.

Highly recommended method. You can also use purchased fresh grocery store herbs, especially parsley which comes in large bunches. Herbs retain color, shape, and scent, and the whole house smells absolutely amazing. (Photos are from last year's marathon herb drying session)

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