Good morning. Assuming you didn’t ruin your vision yesterday by staring at Venus as it moved across the sun — or, as we said at the time, WHAT sun? — here’s something for you to feast your eyes on today:
How to host a rum tasting party: Spirits columnist Jason Wilson suggests a plan of attack.
A classic sauce that’s worth the effort: The Process columnist David Hagedorn reveals the secret behind making great stock.
How Zac Brown feeds his fans: Bonnie Benwick watches the prep that unfolds when the country rocker and his band roll into town.
Follow that up with a dose of culinary back-and-forth at today’s Free Range chat, our weekly get-together to talk about all things food. We get one hour, no more, so have your questions ready and submit them early if you can. We start live at noon. And don’t forget that you can read transcripts of past chats online.
Here’s a leftover question from last week’s chat:
I cut off several stalks of my oregano, tied them together and let them hang upside down on a tree for about two weeks to dry out. Now what do I do? Do I take each leaf off the stalk and then run them through a coffee grinder? That might make the herb too powdery, though. Maybe crinkle with my fingers? Any ideas? It seems to have lost its smell; did I do something wrong?
Last question first: Did you do something wrong? That depends on what you mean by “tree.” Are you talking about some kind of rack/stand for drying herbs? Or did you go outside and hang the herb bundle from the nearest dogwood?
I ask that because strong light and moisture are not friendly to drying herbs. If the oregano was exposed to harsh sunlight and rain, its quality could be compromised. Now, it still might be better than the dried oregano on your supermarket aisle that was packed in a jar months ago, but it wouldn’t be at its best.
Most people I know who hang oregano (and similar herbs) put the bundle in a perforated paper bag first, and then hang it. That way, it’s protected from dust and light.
Once the leaves are dried, you can carefully remove them from the stems, if you like, or you can leave them on. It’s best not to pulverize, crunch or crumble the leaves until you need to use them. So put away your coffee grinder. As a matter of fact, you should always process herbs in a grinder that’s reserved for the purpose; don’t share it with coffee beans.
Store the herbs in an airtight container, such as a jar or resealable plastic bag, in a dark place. They’ll keep for about six months.