What makes your pantry shelf or pantry different to anyone else's - what do you like to keep in there. What works for you and your family?
The following are just some of the things I do, some of them are slightly out of the ordinary but I make a collection of items that are useful and not always readily available from the supermarket shelf, but more down to the squirreling instincts of the homewife. I also keep in dried flowers and leaves because they can also be used as a basis for a tea or used in pot pourri and home made soaps and cosmetics and in some instances for wine, stuffings,and sauces to name but a few things to do. Its important you dry ingredients as they become available and as you go along and store them safely to use in those recipes later on in the year like ingredients for Pot Pourri. Chammomile is good for a tea - very soothing and calming but it is also good as a hair rinse for fair haired people. With a little trial and error you can end up making some really different and interesting items.
Drying is one of the older methods of drying produce for future use. Some items are best not dried so its best if you can to employ other methods of storing useful items like herbs, seeds, roots, flowers.
I either dry my herbs in little bunches or strings for things like chillies and mushrooms and apple rings – I try and use the more natural method without using my electric dehydrator wherever possible. I quite like the idea of a solar dryer – but I need to research this more.
Anyway here is how I do it
First of all choose the herb you wish to work with - in this case I chose Sage this one is known as an Ictarina Sage - a lovely Limey Green variegated leaf when fresh but which goes a bluey grey on drying. I use copious amounts of sage in home made stuffings they help pad out a meal a little bit more.
My Sage came out of my window box outside the kitchen window.
Cut the Sage where the growth is at its best and try and leave a neat plant behind you that will put up a second surge of growth.
Tie into nice even sized little bunches and secure with string. Make sure it is nice and tight because the stems will shrink and loosen the string - thats when the herbs will fall out of the bundle if they are not secured properly.
Because my herbs are usually dried either in my pantry off a couple of hooks or off hooks on my dresser I also add a dust shield usually made out of greaseproof paper but you could use brown paper. Tie the herbs at an angle as though you were wrapping a bunch of flowers.
Hanging off the Dresser
This is the way I dry most of my herbs and flowers.
Why do I do it - because I think you get farm more flavour and it has no excess packaging and its lovely to actually grow something in your garden and then harvest it. Simple pleasures are the best and more often or not the cheapest. I think doing it this way you get farm more zing or are adding a bit extra to that recipe you are trying out. Herbs are also good companion plants to grow in a veg garden so with a bit of planning you can have fresh veg and herbs – to use fresh and any excess to be dried or frozen.
Parsley - when I can get this to grow (Old wives tales have it that it will only grow for a strong woman)! The colour and flavour of home dried parsley is second to none and tastes a lot fresher I also use it in stuffings it helps pad out stronger flavours and gives a more rounded flavour and makes the stuffing more robust. It makes a lovely sauce for fish (fish is something I am incorporating into my diet more and more as it is good for arthritis sufferers of which I am one - high in Omega 3 oils which are good for lubricating the joints)
Sage - this is something I always tend to keep in as it makes lovely stuffings, and in my household stuffings are used as a padder outer for any meal - I use yorkshire puddings in the same way and often incorporate home made dried herbs into a Yorkshire pudding mix – just makes it a little different and change is always good for a palate. It is also extremely good drunk as a tea for a sore throat although it can be a little strong to take. As the song goes a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
Rosemary - I love the clean strong pungent smell of this herb and I use it in breads, roasts, in oils to name but a few. I dry in bunches as above and then when completely dry I rub off the limey green leaves into a dish and then decant into storage jars. Don't chuck the stems away they can be tied into neat little bundles and tied and then put into a basket - build up a collection and then they can be added to either a barbecue or to a fire - gives very aromatic scent to a room - but you don't need much.
To rub roll the stems backwards and forward across the palms of your hand or as in the case of Rosemary rub your fingers down the stem against the grain of the Rosemary i.e. down the stem and the leaves once dry should become free of the stem.
Decant into jars - I recycle old coffee jars
Thyme - I buy this in little bundles (known as Faggotts) as I never seem to be able to grow enough of this. I get this off our local market it costs me £1 a bunch but then again it lasts for ages and this is something I use an awful lot so cost is relatively cheap in the long run; we have an exotic food stall there which sells all the dried spices and herbs but they also sell fresh and this is where I get my thyme from. It smells so gorgeous. I tend to buy two or three together and then store them in a brown paper bag until dry. I then decant them into a large glass storage jar. Any bits that drop off as they dry go to the bottom of the jar and they get used up when there is a nest there but usually I just then take the bundle or faggott out whole then crumble some of the thyme over whatever I am using it with. The smell is just gorgeous. I particularly like using thyme with chicken dishes. Its also nice used in home made stuffing.