With its strong herbal taste, a little sage can add a lot of flavor to any dish.
Whether you grow your own herbs or purchase them, you can easily end up with more sage than you can use. Luckily sage dries well and can be used for over a year if dried properly.
This means that a good herb harvest can add flavor to your cooking for many months, without having to worry about anything going to waste.
Follow the guide below to find out everything you need to know when drying sage leaves.
Types of Sage
Sage plants have oblong leaves. They blossom in a variety of colors including lavender, blue, red, and white. The leaves are green with a gray-silver tinge created by a lining of many short, microscopic hairs.
The most common type of sage used in cooking is referred to as garden sage. The herb has a pronounced herbal flavor with earthy and peppery notes.
The leaves are used mostly in savory dishes, pairing well with pork, duck, chicken, fatty meats, and vegetables. It is also used in pasta, to make sauces, flavor butter, stews, omelets, and even to make herbal tea.
Can You Dry Sage Leaves?
Yes, sage leaves can be dried and used in a variety of ways. There are several methods to dry herbs including oven-drying, air-drying, or using a food dehydrator.
Oven-drying is a quick way to dry out sage leaves. This is the best way to dry sage if you live in a very humid climate. Humidity and moisture in the air can lead to mold forming before the herb has a chance to fully dry.
Oven-drying can dull the flavor slightly, damaging the oils. It is, therefore, important to use a very low heat setting.
Although it does not require too much extra effort, air-drying the leaves is the most time-consuming method taking up to 10 days. The flavor preservation, however, is better than oven-dried sage.
When drying sage, it is important to make sure that moisture is completely eliminated before packing the herbs. Mold will develop if moisture is present, even inside your packaging. The leaves should be crispy and crumble when rubbed between your fingers.
Leaves that are still somewhat pliable and do not crumble are not yet sufficiently dried. Once dried and packaged, store the sage in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight.
How To Dry Sage
Remove sage leaves from the stem. Discard any damaged, moldy, or blemished leaves. Lightly rinse the leaves in cold water. This will remove dirt, chemicals, and small insects. Don’t let the leaves spend too much time in the water.
Place the sage leaves on a clean paper- or kitchen towel and pat them dry. Removing excess moisture is imperative to successfully drying the herbs. Do not start the drying process if the leaves are still moist from cleaning.
Decide whether you want to air-dry or oven-dry the leaves and follow the instructions below accordingly.
Option 1: Hanging (Air-Dry)
Step 1: Tie Bundles
Gather 8 or fewer sage leaves and tie their stems together with a twist tie or string to form small bundles. Don’t tie more than 8 leaves in a bundle as the leaves won’t dry evenly and may start to mold before they have a chance to fully dry out.
Step 2: Hang
Choose a place with good light and air circulation and hang the herb bundles to dry. Avoid areas that are moist such as spaces near a stove, dishwasher, or bathroom.
To protect the herbs from dust, cover each bundle with a perforated paper bag or muslin cloth. Punch holes in the bag and leave the bottom open to allow for sufficient air-flow.
Do not use plastic as this will prevent airflow and cause mold.
After 7 to 10 days, the leaves should be dry, brittle, and break easily when you handle them.
Step 3: Store
Take the dried herb bundles down and carefully remove the brown bag. Working over a bowl, crumble the dried leaves into small pieces with your hands. They should break with little effort.
Small, crushed pieces are best for cooking, however, you can store the leaves whole if you are making a sage bundle.
Store the dried, crushed herbs in a jar or container with a lid and label it with the date and contents.
Option 2: Oven-Dry
Step 1: Preheat Oven
Preheat the oven to its lowest heat setting around 180 °F (82 °C).
Step 2: Prepare Leaves
Place the cleaned sage leaves on a lined baking tray in a single layer so that they do not overlap or touch each other.
Step 3: Bake
Place the tray of leaves inside the preheated oven and prop the door open slightly to allow for some airflow. Turn the leaves after 30 minutes to allow even drying on both sides. Return the tray to the oven keeping the door propped open.
After a further 30 minutes, remove the baking tray from the oven. The leaves should be dry and crumble when pinched between your fingers.
If the leaves are not yet completely free of moisture, place them back in the warm oven and check on them every 5 minutes.
Step 4: Store
Let the leaves cool for a few minutes and then crush the dried leaves over a bowl or plate. Store the sage in resealable plastic bags, spice bottles, or containers. Label with the date and contents.
The method you choose to dry sage will depend on the climate, time, and equipment available. Always make sure the leaves are completely dry before packing. With your stash of dried herbs handy year-round, there are no more excuses for bland meals.
*image by shutterbug68/depositphotos