Okay it’s new - and while the possibilities are many, there are only a handful of tried-and-tested recipes available so far. So, before I experiment on my own, I’ll ask here. Here’s the first possible application that I’d love to see work:
Drying fresh herbs
There’s a drying cycle that Anova advertises as good for bread fresh from the oven. Has anyone tried it for drying fresh herbs after washing them and removing excess water (for example via a salad spinner and/or dry towels)? Chopping fresh herbs - especially in a food processor - is so much easier when they are nice and dry. I am imagining that sturdy herbs, such as parsley leaves or rosemary sprigs, could be good candidates for the drying cycle but haven’t tried yet. On the other hand, more delicate herbs, such as cilantro or basil, might be damaged by the vacuum cycle (or require a gentler vacuum cycle).
Has anyone tried this? Please share your experience!
I believe that Coriander leaves a.k.a Cilantro is a ‘parsley’, both are Apiaceae or Umbelliferae of type genus Apium.
I am carefully avoiding the deep woods of Molecular Gastronomy, that might describe the fragility of the molecules of interest. I use fresh herbs where I can and chop them by hand. Years ago I had a learning experience with blending carrots to excess and releasing cell contents. Blech!
Thanks for responding. However, while vacuum may cause cells to burst (the crux of the matter here), vacuum will not affect molecular bonds. The issue I am wondering about is somewhat akin to what happens when you freeze different kinds of food. Some are practically intact when thawed, others change in texture and/or release liquid because when water freezes it expands, causing cells to burst. Even though they may be related, cilantro leaves and stems certainly are more tender than parsley leaves and stems, hence my thought that they may react differently when subjected to vacuum.
Apropos chopping herbs, while chopping by hand makes perfect sense in many cases, using a food processor can be a far better alternative when large quantities must be prepared. I recently made a batch of Khoresh Gormeh Sabzi (from Naz Deravian’s Bottom of the Pot). It called for finely chopping 4 bunches of parsley, 2 bunches of cilantro, 2 bunches of scallions, and 1/2 bunch of fresh fenugreek. The author specifically comments that one should seek out large bunches, such as those that are common in Persian markets (as opposed to American supermarkets). Even chopping by hand, starting with dry herbs makes it much easier to get an even result, no matter the quantity. So yeah, if the chamber sealer can quickly remove any remaining excess moisture from herbs that I have just washed and spun mostly dry without affecting their texture, that would be a very nice convenience!
The deleterious effects of freezing are correlated with the speed at which the temperature falls, hence the need for blast freezers. Living tissue can be frozen and thawed still living. I have a neighbor that sells frozen champion bull-seed with guaranteed take.
I once made a slaw for 350 servings - in a plastic drum liner in a 55 gallon barrel.
Indeed, if you could peek inside my freezer, you would find some frozen sourdough culture. Yeasts, which are single-cell organisms, have notoriously sturdy cell walls. I still remember a research project that I contributed to as an undergrad, oh, about 50 years ago. As part of the work it was necessary to extract the genetic material from the yeast. That involved a serious amount of agitation with glass beads. However and alas, as interesting as this foray into the effects of freezing may be, it doesn’t help with my current question about whether the chamber sealer’s drying cycle might be successfully used to dry at least some kinds of herbs.
Alas, right now I am wondering about using the Anova Chamber Sealer to dry fresh herbs. The research project that I mentioned happened about 50 years ago and is a closed book as far as I am concerned. How to lyse cells using any enzyme is pretty much OT when it comes to my current interest in whether using vacuum to dry herbs would work WITHOUT damaging their cell structure.
Plant cell turgor pressure is several atmospheres. The highest differential pressure that can be created with a vacuum is one atmosphere ~ 15 PSI. Turgor pressure is how they stand up, blades of grass or giant Redwoods.
Because cell structure remains intact throughout the freeze-drying process, those cells remain ready to take on water again.
I seriously doubt that one could successfully generalize from the results of any specific leafy green - whether lettuce or herb - to another. Just because one might not turn mushy doesn’t mean that a different choice also wouldn’t. And vice versa. For example, I would expect sage leaves to be much more likely to survive the chamber sealer’s drying cycle intact than any variety of lettuce or most other herbs.
Once again, I am looking for specific experiences that people have already had. My goal is to avoid wasting time and materials experimenting if someone else already knows what works.