Believe it or not, learning how to dry and store herbs at home is really not that hard.
Whenever I come into a bumper crop of quality herbs, usually at summer’s end, I refrigerate some and dry the rest. Technically, any herb can be dried, but heartier herbs like oregano, thyme, and rosemary tend to hold on to their essential oils even after they’ve given up most of their moisture. That said, chives, parsley, and even dill are worth drying if you plan to use them within a month or so.
The biggest problem with dried herbs is that they’re usually ugly and brown. That’s because, as they age, enzymes inside the leaves break down the chlorophyll. But this chemical terminator can be stopped with a quick dip in boiling water. Here’s how I do it:
Bring a pot of water to a boil and blanch the herbs for 15 seconds. Immerse in an ice bath for 30 seconds, then drain and spin the herbs dry in a salad spinner.
Spread the herbs out as evenly as possible on 3 air-conditioning filters, stacking them on top of one another. Top these with one more empty air-conditioning filter. Lay a box fan on its side and set the filters on top of it.
Strap the filters to the fan with 2 bungee cords. Stand the fan upright, plug it in and turn it on high. Dry for 12 hours. Rotate the filters and continue drying for 12 more hours.
When dry, remove the herbs from the filters, crumble and remove the stems, and store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. You can either mix them up or keep them in separate containers.
Text and images © Alton Brown, 2014