Thyme leaves can be used as a flavoring for stews.
Dried thyme is an herb commonly added to meats, marinades, and almost any dish that needs seasoning. Fresh thyme and dried thyme can be used interchangeably, albeit in different proportions. Dried thyme can be made at home with fresh sprigs. It is also widely available in supermarkets and specialty spice stores.
Thyme is a staple of many European and North African foods. It is an herb native to the Mediterranean region, from Spain to Greece and from Morocco to Tunisia. Thyme typically has a long growing season in these warmer climates, but it is not a perennial. Drying thyme in the summer allows it to be stored and stored for the winter, making cooking with thyme a year round possibility.
Home cooks and gardeners can dry thyme in small batches quite easily. Thyme usually grows on tall, stalk-like stems, which must be cut off near its base before the plants bloom — usually in late summer. Gardeners should tie the stems upside down and hang them in a cool, dark place to dry for up to two weeks. Low-temperature baking or toasting can achieve similar results in less time.
Cooks can follow the same drying method for store-bought thyme. A person who does not grow their own thyme can often find fresh sprigs for sale in the produce section of their grocery store. Most of the time, pre-packaged thyme contains more sprigs than needed for a single recipe. Instead of discarding excess thyme, many cooks choose to dry it in order to preserve it for future use.
Once dried, the stems can be stored in airtight containers for later use or, as is more common, the individual leaves can be removed, crushed and stored. Thyme stalks are edible, but they don’t have much flavor and are often difficult to chew. The leaves are the only parts of the thyme plant that are used in cooking.
Dried thyme is generally available for sale pre-dried. In most parts of the world, thyme has become a ubiquitous culinary herb, and dried thyme is a staple on the spice shelves of most stores. Commercially prepared thyme is dried in large dehydrating machines. Cooks who are serious about drying herbs can often buy dehydrators for home use, although they can be quite expensive.
In most cases, cooks can substitute dried thyme in recipes that call for fresh thyme. If the thyme has been dried recently, it is likely to have a strong flavor. In the dried form, however, it takes up less space, which means that equal measures of fresh thyme and dried thyme may actually contain different amounts of the herb. Most of the time, cooks use about half the amount of dried thyme they would use fresh. Adjustments may need to be made for thyme that has been dried for a long time or has been on the shelf for a long time, as the flavor intensity dissipates over time.