Sometimes simple herb gardens grow to unexpected heights. When you have more basil than even pesto can put to use or more cilantro than your guacamole can bare, it’s time to talk long-term storage. By learning to preserve fresh herbs, you can enjoy them all year long!
Fresh herbs can be a home cook’s best friend. They give more in terms of flavor, aroma, and nutrients than dried herbs could ever hope to muster. But, they’re a fleeting fancy when it comes to spring and summer gardening. Learning how to preserve them comes in handy if you want fresh flavor during all four seasons.
Method One: On the Stem
With hearty herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage, you can freeze them attached to their woodsy stems. Simply cut even lengths of herbs and lay them out in a single layer across a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze the herbs for several hours.
Then, remove them to an airtight container and store in the freezer for up to six months. When you want to use them, you can remove one sprig at a time from storage.
Method Two: Chopped in Water
Some herbs, like chives, have a high enough water content to freeze without adding supplemental hydration. But, that’s the exception and not the rule. Although most herbs can be frozen and stored minced, you’ll need to add a little extra moisture for the process to be successful.
To make it work, mince the desired herbs and pack them into an ice cube tray. Pour a little water over the tray to fill in the gaps between the minced herb pieces. It should only take a tablespoon or two of water per cube to accomplish this.
Freeze the tray overnight, and then remove the herb-filled cubes to a freezer bag. Be sure to pay attention to the size of your ice cubes, and note how much in the way of fresh herbs each contains. That makes using the frozen herbs easy later on.
Method 3: Chopped in Oil
If you know you’ll use the preserved herbs to make soups, sauces, or pestos, storing them frozen in oil is the best bet. Oil is a fat, and fats are best at protecting the herb’s flavor long-term. That said, this preservation method doesn’t work for use in recipes in which adding extra oil is a problem.
In a blender or food processor, combine one cup of chopped herbs and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Pour the resulting pesto-like mix into ice cube trays, freeze, and then remove the cubes to an airtight container. Add the oil-frozen herbs to finish soups and sauces. Or, use them to make a pesto by adding nuts, additional oil, and lemon juice later on.
When you find yourself saturated in sage or drowning in dill, long-term herb storage becomes a necessity. And there’s no better option for flavor and freshness than freezing your precious garden treasures. So pick the best method and then head to the garden. With a little cold-air magic, you’ll have fresh herbs all year long!