Thursday, July 11, 2013

How To Freeze Herbs

This isn't a new idea, but it's one that I've been using for years to freeze my herbs and have a supply for the winter that is almost as good as fresh.  I do hang some herbs to dry in the cellar, crumbling them into jars to use throughout the year, but the majority I freeze.  I like fresh herbs much better than I like dried ones, and if they're frozen correctly they maintain much of the same colour and texture of fresh herbs. 

Herbs are not expensive to buy, but the cost adds up.  I use basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, cilantro and marjoram on a regular basis.  Buying a fresh bunch of each of those every week can get expensive.  Instead, I grow herbs in the summer, cutting them as they grow, and freezing them for use in the winter.  The more you prune herbs the more they grow, so I can get a great supply stocked up by the time late fall rolls around and they stop growing.  This is also a good idea to do when local herbs are in season and are inexpensive, if you don't grow your own.

Here's how I do it:

1- Cut the leaves off mature herbs, about half and inch down the stem.  Wash leaves thoroughly and trim off any hard stems or any leaves that don't look good.  Cover with paper towels to dry, if desired.

2- Chop leaves finely, or place in a mini food processor, processing until they are as fine as you want them.  I usually do a few batches differently.  Some I just roughly chop, others I process finely, the better to make a pesto.  Some herbs, like basil, oxidize and turn black when cut with a metal knife.  It doesn't affect the quality of the product.

3- Scoop leaves into an ice cube tray, pressing down to compress.  Pour either olive oil or water to cover herbs.  It doesn't matter which you use, the herbs will freeze just the same. Olive oil will turn white after freezing, but will regain its regular colour upon defrosting.  Place in freezer. 

4- When herbs are frozen, pop out of tray and place in freezer bags.  Label with type of herb and date frozen.  To use, remove desired number of cubes from the bag and add directly to recipe while it's cooking. 

Added Tip: My Aunt goes the extra step and makes a complete pesto before freezing.  She mixes the herbs with the oil, cheese and pine nuts, seasoning the batch to her liking, and then freezes it in cubes.  She then pops out about 2-3 cubes when she needs a pesto. 

Freezing herbs is a very simple way to keep a little bit of the freshness of summer on hand year round, especially if you cook with herbs a lot, like I do.  It doesn't matter how pretty the cubes look, because they're going to break down in the recipe anyway.  If you have a few ice cube trays on hand it only takes a few minutes to get several bunches of herbs ready to freeze. 

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