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Store Seasonings for Winter

August 29, 1992|JULIE BAWDEN DAVIS

During the cold, dark months of January and February, many outdoor herb gardens tend to hibernate. It is possible, though, to enjoy the flavor of fresh herbs in your winter meals by storing herbs during October and November, says Philip Sellick, creator of the herb garden at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point.

After cleaning the herbs in cold water, chop them, place them in containers with water and freeze. When you're cooking, put the iced cubes into your recipes.

For chives, Sellick suggests adding only a touch of water and shaking them onto food.

Herbs frozen in water can be stored up to four months before becoming freezer burned.

Another option is to dry herbs, which can be done in two ways, says Dee Johnston of Laguna Hills, who has a cook's garden.

Air-dry the herbs by tying them in bunches, wrapping them in muslin and hanging them upside down in a dark place, such as a garage. "If they are exposed to sunlight, they will lose their color and won't look very appetizing," Johnston says.

Once dry, the herbs are ready to use.

For a quicker method, try the oven. "Be very careful using this method, though," Johnston says. "The trick is to dehydrate the herbs, not cook them."

She wraps the herbs in muslin and dips them in boiling water for a minute. Then she takes them out of the muslin and puts them on a wire rack in the oven on the lowest setting (110 to 120 degrees). Leave the door open and in about an hour they will be crisp.

Place the dried herbs in labeled, airtight containers of dark glass and store them in the back of a cabinet. Be careful not to crush the herbs until you use them, as this releases the flavor. Dried herbs will keep for about a year this way.

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