Make Your Own Herb Seasonings

A dark, airy attic is the perfect place for drying herbs of any kind.
Copyright©Jim Long, 2012

Last night while I was making a pot of spaghetti sauce, I reached into the spice cabinet for my jar of Italian Seasoning. It was nearly empty, which reminded me I had not dried many herbs to replenish it. Fortunately there were plenty of fresh herbs in the garden to season the sauce, and those taste better anyway. But I will get busy this week putting together the ingredients for another jar of Italian Seasoning.
Lemon balm ready for drying.

Italian Seasoning, from my book, Great Herb Mixes You Can Make, needs (all dried): 2 parts marjoram, 4 parts basil, 2 parts oregano and 1 part crushed rosemary. Depending on the volume you want to make, parts can mean tablespoons, cups or pounds.
Springs of herbs ready for drying.

My method for drying herbs is to harvest stems with leaves, about 6 inches long, and tie 6 to 10 stems in a bundle, holding them together with a rubber band. I hang those in my drying room which is dark, airy and well-ventilated (an attic works well for this). I sometimes use my food dehydrator, which works really well, but this of year it’s filled with hot peppers drying.
You can put about twice this amount in the paper bag.

The other method that works well is to put 15 - 20 stems, a big handful, of the herb you want to dry into a brown paper bag. Fold the top closed, held with a clothespin or large paper clip, and toss it into the trunk of your car (or back seat if you don’t have a trunk). The paper slowly wicks away the moisture in the herbs, the paper keeps out sunlight, and the trunk of your car is often hot for much of every day. Give the bag a shake every 2 or 3 days to keep the herbs from compacting, and in about a week to 10 days, your bag of herbs will be crispy-dried and ready to use.
Herbs ready for drying in the car.

What not to do: Don’t hang herbs for drying in the kitchen. The light from household lighting breaks down the colors of the leaves, and when that happens, the essential oils that give the herb its unique flavor, will be lost. Additionally, drying this way leaves the herbs open to absorbing all your cooking and household smells - you end up with rosemary that smells more like bacon or pot roast, or even the family dog! Also, drying in the microwave isn't a good idea, either. Microwaves, by their design, vaporize moisture out of whatever is put in them. When the moisture is vaporized, so are the essential oils that give the herbs their flavor. You’ll have a great smelling microwave, and dried herbs that taste slightly better than hay.
Recipes and formulas for over 100 seasonings and projects.

Once the herbs are dried, crush the leaves from the stems, then measure the amounts to make the Italian Seasoning. Store your mixture in an airtight container in a dark place, like the kitchen cabinet or pantry. More seasoning mixes can be found in my book, Great Herb Mixes, which is available from my website (LongCreekHerbs.com) or from a store near you. Happy seasoning!