Years ago, a friend moved into a house where there was a rosemary bush that was about 5′ high and 7′ around. It was massive. I was always so envious of it. I’d never been able to get my Christmas ‘tree’ rosemary sprig to grow much at all. I’d babied it, my husband fed it, and we just watched it be evergreen, but at least it didn’t die. Then, about a year ago, the thing began growing like crazy! And now our little spriggy bush is about 2′ high, 3′ around, and putting out new grow everywhere. I’m even noticing it’s beginning to spread! So I needed a way to not only harvest some for dinner, but actually preserve it. Rosemary is an evergreen that is in the mint family. If you have a healthy bush, you can harvest it year round. But sometimes, you don’t want fresh rosemary. You do want it dried for herb mixes or to put in stews to infuse flavor in the stewing time as opposed to the strong fresh flavor put in at the end. The herb not only tastes good in culinary dishes such as rosemary chicken and lamb, but it is also a good source of iron, calcium, and vitamin B6. (source) It’s also great for perfumes, air fresheners, infusing and just being so darn pretty hanging up in the living room! So let’s get started! Tools I use in my kitchen to dehydrate:
- Canning jars or any clean jar with a close fitting lid (recycle old spaghetti jars if you are looking at storing just for a few months. Just make sure they are really clean and really dry and store them in the dark.
- Zip Top Bags – for really short-term storage. I might even double-bag just to get a little longer time.
How to Dehydrate Rosemary
First, rinse the stuff well. You can either soak it in a vinegar wash bath like this one, or simply rinse off in a powerful stream of water. Rosemary sprigs can collected a lot of stuff along the stems and leaves because it is so hardy, and you may need to be just a bit rough with it to get it clean. Shake off your sprigs and then lay out on towels to allow to dry (the drier you get them now, the less time it takes to dehydrate) Tip: If you’re doing a lot of rosemary at one time, do a layer of towel, layer of rosemary, layer of towel, layer of rosemary.
Next, layout your sprigs out on your dehydrator trays. You may have to cut them down to fit whatever dehydrate you like (I use the Excalibur here, but also love the Nesco FD-80, too, which is a great mid-budget machine).
Rosemary is really forgiving and you don’t have to be as careful about the sprigs not touching as you do with other fruits and vegetables. You can pile them a bit closer than this. Using my Excalibur, I also took out every other tray in the machine to give space for the trays to slide in easily with the sprigs. I was only doing about 4 trays worth because that will end up being more than year’s worth of dried rosemary for us since we can have it fresh during so much of the year.
Dehydrate for approximately 6-8 hours on 95F. You aren’t cooking the rosemary, you simply want to remove the moisure from the leaves. Your time may vary depending on the moisture level of the sprigs, the humidity in your home, and the power of your machine.
Now, there are all sorts of ways you can deal with the rosemary at this point, but I’m going to show you how we do it that’s the quickest and least messy way for us.
Gather sprigs together
Take them in hand and twist them back and forth a few times
And this is what you’ll end up with.
You will want to go through and pick out the little stems that will get in the mix, but it only takes a few moments to do so.
Here is where I then take it a step further and decide HOW I’m going to store this dehydrated rosemary. I can store it full leaf like this:
But I’m going to be honest. As much as I love the flavor of rosemary, I don’t always like biting into the leaves in things Even if I chop them up a few times, I just don’t like the texture in my stews or on chicken. I do keep a selection done like this to use for herb mixes and certain dishes. This is also my prefered way to keep in longer-term storage because the less you mess with it, the longer it can last.
I can take the whole leaves and do this:
and end up with my favorite way to use rosemary – which is in powder form. It just blends in so nicely with things, and I don’t get that weird texture to chew on.
For those of you interested, I store my immediate use of kitchen herbs and spices in these tin, magnetic storage containers that then go on the side of my refrigerator. The longer term storage is in canning jars in my pantry where I put an oxygen abosrber in the can and seal it up. Then I don’t have to keep opening my long-term storage container to get to the daily use stuff. I can just restock as we use it up.
I’ll be honest, though, in that I don’t store my herbs and spices for longer than a year. Because we grow quite a bit of it, I just dehydrate what we grow for the next year’s use. And any spices I store I try to store in whole spice form, instead of powdered spice form. They store better, longer, and are more flavorful when ground right before use than stored forever in ground form.
How to Air Dry Rosemary
An alternative way to dry your rosemary, or any herb, is to air dry it. You’ll want to remove some of your rosemary leaves from the end of your sprigs (keep the fresh rosemary to preserve in oil in the freezer)
I will bundle my sprigs in groups of 3-4, trying to vary the size of sprig in each bundle so that they get good airflow through the bundle. I’m using a jute string tied into a slipknot, then tied off in a doctor’s knot to hold the slip knot in place.
I had this really cute photo of this rosemary hanging out in our backyard, but it wouldn’t be honest to what we do. I don’t air dry anything outside. I don’t have an enclosed drying rack, yet, and we have enough flies, bugs and critters that would be all over this stuff, and I prefer to keep my food bug free, doncha know! But the humidity is also an issue. If you can get something dried in the afternoon, that’s great. But we have morning dew and high humidity for a good part of the year, and especially in the fall/spring, higher humdity all through the day because of the wetter weather. So I use my fireplace!
You can wrap your herbs up in paper, paper bags to help keep the dust and such off, but I’ve never bothered.
I’m always looking for great ways to use my dried rosemary because we seem to be knee high in the stuff, and found this recipe at Martha Stewart that will bright right up my alley: Rosemary Butter Cookies.
Want more recipes and ideas to dehydrate for your pantry? Check this out:
If you are like me and love having a recipe book in your hand to read through and to make notes in and have handy in the kitchen, I highly recommend the Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook by Tammy Gangloff.
YOUR THOUGHTS? What are your favorite ways to use rosemary?
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