When a twig of thyme is perfect, at least for my purposes, the leaves practically separate themselves from the branch. But that rarely happens. The twig is too thin, or too green, or there are twiglets hanging off the twig that fall into my dish along with the leaves. Picking the leaves off one by one is tedious and I like to add a lot of thyme.
But the other night, I finally figured out a way to make this easy.
Without even checking the stems, I ripped a handful of thyme from my plant. I had a plan. Back inside the house, while my navy beans simmered on the stove, I dried the stalks in the microwave, in 30 second increments, until they were dry, but not brittle.
Using a mesh strainer as my mortar, I stirred and pressed the twigs with a pestle. They crumbled into the beans below. It was a breeze!
The leaves separated from the twigs easily, and I was left with larger leaves that wouldn't fit through the mesh. If I had wanted finer thyme, I would have dried them in the microwave more, and the leaves would have been easier to grind.
After plucking out the bits of stalk, I was left with a handful of thyme leaves, which I dumped in with the beans. I tried it in another dish in a taller pot and didn't even have to hold the strainer; it hooked right onto the pot rim. Hooray!
Although this technique would work with any herb, I am particularly excited about thyme, one of my favorites to eat, and least favorites to strip. Here's to a winter full of thyme-accented goodness!
What simple solutions have you found to completing tedious tasks in the kitchen? Do you ever get so excited about such a small thing that it makes your entire week? Because I do.
(Image credits: Anne Postic)