Mixing and Storing Herbs and Spices
Dried herbs are stronger in flavour than fresh leaf herbs. To convert dry to fresh measurements, use approximately 3 tablespoons fresh to each tablespoon dry. In most cases use 1/3 to ¼ the amount of dried herbs as is called for fresh. In general ¼ teaspoon of spice is enough for 4 servings.
Mixing Herbs - when seasoning with herbs and spices try to complement your dish by not overwhelming the flavour of the food. Cooking spices for too long may result in overly strong flavours.
For long-cooking dishes, such as soups and stews add herbs and spices an hour or less before serving. For best results try crushing the herbs before adding to your dish. For shorter cooking-dishes try adding dry spices earlier in cooking. Fresh spices and herbs should be added towards the end of cooking.
Unless the recipe specifically calls for it, don't use more than three herbs and spices in any one dish. The exception to this rule is East Indian cooking, which often calls for 10 or more different spices in one curry dish.
Try replacing herbs and spices called for in recipes with something different - such as Marjoram instead of Oregano, Savory instead of Thyme, Coriander (Cilantro) instead of Parsley, Anise seed instead of Fennel. Mixing herbs and spices will provide you with greater creativity in food preparation by allowing you to create a variety of exciting and uniquely seasoned dishes. You may just create a recipe that will be one of a kind, beloved by everyone.
Storing Herbs - store spices in a cool, dark, dry place. Heat, humidity, and excessive light will result in the dry herbs and spices losing their flavour more quickly. A good way to store herbs and spices is in small, airtight glass containers. If stored properly, dried herbs and ground spices will retain their flavour for a year. Whole spices may last for 3 to 5 years. To keep larger quantities of herbs and spices fresh, store them in tightly sealed containers in the freezer.
Do not store dry herbs and spices near any humid source, such as sinks, dishwashers, kettles, coffee makers, on counter tops, stoves or microwaves. Avoid storing dry herbs and spices inside the refrigerator due to the high humid environment. Avoid storing near heat sources such as stoves, top of microwaves and refrigerators. For best results grind whole spices in a grinder or mortar & pestle. If you want to enhance the whole spice flavour, try roasting the whole spice in a dry skillet over a medium heat, being careful not to burn them.
Drying Herbs - try drying herbs on racks, slats or upside down by their stems. For best drying, place your herbs in a well ventilated, dry, cool environment. Ensure that you have plenty of air space and turn every few days. Another alternative to drying is using the microwave by laying the herbs out on absorbent paper and cooking on low for 3 minutes. A dehydrator is also another excellent option.
Harvesting Herbs - the best time to pick the leaves or flower buds is when they start to unfurl. Try to harvest your herbs early in the day and before noon at the latest, as the herbs are most potent then. Seeds must be collected when they turn brown and brittle. Never pick herbs in wet or humid conditions.