Drying sage is a great way to preserve it, and rubbed sage is perfect for using in cooking. This article has all the details on how to dry and rub sage to prepare it for storage.
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Sage leaves are mature from around 10 weeks after planting. They will have that typical fuzzy exterior and signature sage color.
You can gather leaves from the plant every week or so, as they mature, since the leaves are produced continuously for many weeks. As a bonus, this encourages the plant to produce more leaves, and delays the flowering process.
Drying sage without heat
The intention of drying sage is to preserve it by removing the water, but without losing the natural oils that give it its flavor. Sage, like most herbs, is best dried naturally, without using artificial heat. This will help to retain the natural oils better.
Trying to dry herbs by raising the temperature (for example in the oven or microwave) may dry them quicker, but will lead to the natural oils that give the herb its flavor being lost. This defeats the purpose of drying them, since they will be useless for flavoring foods.
If you have a dehydrator then this can be used for drying sage, however it is not necessary. If you don’t have a dehydrator, there are two basic methods for drying sage:
- Dry between sheets of paper or parchment
- Dry hanging bunches
Drying sage on paper
Parchment paper is ideal for drying herbs the type of paper you use is important, coated baking papers or waxed papers will not work. Paper towels can also be used.
All you need to do is lay the sage leaves in a single layer between two sheets of parchment and leave undisturbed until they have fully dried out.
It is important that the air can circulate while the sage is drying, so don’t cover it with anything other than the parchment paper.
I normally dry sage in batches, using a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and another sheet of parchment on top.
When the sage has been spread on the drying paper, it needs to be placed in a warmish dry location until the water is gone from the leaves.
I find that high up in my kitchen is a good location, so I place the drying tray on top of my kitchen cupboards. It is warm all day long, though doesn’t get too hot. As a bonus because it is high up out of the way of our daily family chaos it is less likely to be disturbed!
How to dry sage bundles
If you have a lot of sage to dry then hanging it in bunches is a good technique to use.
All you need to do is cut sections of sage stem with 6 or so leaves, and tie it into small bunches of 4-6 stems with twine around the stalk. Then hang the bunches upside down in a warm dark place where they wont be disturbed. You can also place the bunch inside a paper bag to keep it dark if you don’t have a dark place where you can hang it.
I find up high in my pantry is an ideal spot. You will likely find that it takes a little longer to dry the sage using this method compared to the method above, but if you have more than one tray’s worth of sage to dry then using the method above isn’t really practical for most of us.
Making rubbed sage vs ground sage
Rubbed sage is small pieces of sage leaves, whereas ground sage is a fine powder.
How to make rubbed sage
Once the sage has dried out, the leaves should crumble easily, leaving the stalks behind. This is how you make rubbed sage – crumbling the dried leaves by rubbing them between your fingers to remove the stalks.
You can speed up the process by placing the dried sage leaves into a (dry) colander and rubbing the leaves against the bottom so that the rubbed sage falls through onto a clean tray or large bowl. You should just be left with the stalks in the colander, which can then be discarded.
How to make ground sage
If you want to make ground sage, once it has been rubbed and the stalks removed, transfer the sage into a mortar and use pestle to grind it down into a fine powder.
Storing dried sage
Dried sage should be stored in air tight containers such as glass jars, and kept in a cool dark place.
See this article for more details: how to store dried herbs.
How to Dry Sage: Step-by-step guide
How to dry fresh sage.
- 1 bunch fresh sage
- Scissors, shears or a knife
- Large tray or baking sheet and baking parchment or paper towels OR
- Garden twine or string
Harvest the Sage and Prepare
- Harvest the sage - cut the sage leaves when the leaves are mature. If you will dry the sage by hanging, cut the leaves with a long section of stalk attached.
- Wash the sage thoroughly. Gently shake off excess water and pat dry with a paper towel.
Technique 1: Dry Sage on Paper
- Prepare the drying surface - line a large tray, baking sheet or other flat surface with parchment paper or paper towels.
- Spread sage leaves out in a single layer on the prepared drying surface.
- Place another layer of parchment or paper towels over the sage.
- Place the tray in a warm dry area where it will not be disturbed, and leave sage to dry.
Technique 2: Dry Bunches of Sage
- Tie sage leaves into small bunches - take a small handful of sage leaves with the stalks in the same direction, and loop the twine tightly around the bunch a few times and secure with a knot.
- Hang the bunches of sage in a warm dry are where they will not be disturbed, and leave to dry completely.
Collect and store dried thyme
- It will take a few days for the sage to dry - after 5 days start to check daily to see when the leaves have lost all their moisture. When they are ready they will feel crunchy rather than bend.
- When the sage leaves have completely dried out remove from the parchment, or remove the twine. The sage can now be rubbed to remove the stalks.
- Place dried sage leaves in a dry colander over a large bowl. Rub the leaves against the bottom of the colander to allow the soft parts of the leaft to fall through into the bowl. Discard the stalks.
- Store rubbed sage in an air tight jar or pot.
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