Oregano…Thai Basil…Tarragon…Do you enjoy snipping fresh herbs from your garden to make delicious recipes from around the world? Whether you’ve harvested a bumper crop, are going on vacation, or can feel Jack Frost approaching, it might surprise you how easy it is to preserve your herbs. Learn how to store dried herbs and ways to preserve your harvest so you can enjoy their flavors year round.
CONTENTS: In this article, you will learn the different ways you can preserve your herbs and how to story dried herbs so you can enjoy them later.
- Should You Bring Herb Plants Indoors?
- How to Freeze Your Fresh Herbs
- Make A Delicious Herb Butter
- Use Herbs to Make Pesto
- Make An Herb-Infused Oil
- How to Dry Herbs
- How to Store Dried Herbs
Bringing Herb Plants Indoors
One way to preserve your live herbs is to allow them to spend the winter indoors. You can transplant your herbs to a pretty pot with good drainage and place them in a south-facing, sunny window for best results.
Doing so will prolong the life of your annual herbs and tender perennials, like Rosemary and Basil. And, as a bonus, your herbs are that much closer to your cooking endeavors.
Some herb cuttings, for instance, Basil, will develop roots if simply placed in a cup of water.
Perennial herbs, like Chives, may require a cold spell to stimulate fresh growth. You can encourage this by leaving the pots outdoors for a few cold (but not freezing) weeks before relocating them into your kitchen.
Caring for Indoor Herbs
Here are some tips to care for your herbs indoors:
- Trim your herbs on occasion to promote a bushy growth and prevent flowering.
- Ensure that your pots have adequate drainage; water when soil dries.
- Check for powdery mildew and other diseases that can plague indoor plants before adding herbs to any recipe.
How to Freeze Your Fresh Herbs
Another way to extend the life of your herbs is to freeze them.
Here is one easy way to freeze herbs:
- Place a single layer of large herb leaves (such as Basil) or entire herbs stems (such as Thyme) on a cookie sheet.
- Place the cookie sheet in your freezer.
- Once the herbs have frozen (about 2-4 hours), store them in a freezer bag in your freezer for easy access while cooking.
Another method is to freeze your herbs in a liquid:
- Fill ice cube trays with broth, wine, or water.
- Add herbs into the liquid so they are completely submerged in the liquid.
- Freeze the cubes.
- Once frozen, transfer the herb cubes to a freezer bag and store.
How to Make Herb Butter
Think about fish topped with a piquant Dill Butter or a juicy steak with a dollop of savory Thyme Butter. Does an herb butter sound like a gourmet treat? Actually, they are so convenient and very easy to make:
- In a bowl, use a pastry cutter to blend finely chopped herbs such as Dill, Chervil, Garlic, or Chives to taste together with room temperature butter.
- Transfer the butter/herb mixture onto a sheet of wax paper.
- Roll the mixture into a log with the wax paper around it. (If the mixture is too soft to form a log, refrigerate it until it’s workable.)
- Twist and secure the ends of the wax paper with kitchen string, twist ties, or rubber bands, then freeze. Store the wrapped log in a freezer bag to protect flavors longer.
- To use, slice off desired quantities for sautéing or flavoring dishes as needed.
How To Make A Pesto Using Herbs
You can preserve large quantities of an bumper crop of herbs if you prepare and freeze an herb pesto. The word pesto, in Italian, means “to pound,” in reference to the mortar and pestle used to pound the herbs and other ingredients together.
Traditionally, pesto is made with Basil and pine nuts, but you can use any herb and any nut you like to make this delicious raw sauce. You might choose to to use a mortar and pestle, but I’ve found a blender works just fine.
Adjust the quantities to your liking in this recipe for Quick Easy Pesto for your favorite pasta:
- In a blender, mix chopped Basil with chopped garlic, olive oil, and pine nuts until thick and smooth.
- Add shaved or shredded Pecorino Romano Cheese and pulse until lightly mixed.
- Serve over pasta, or freeze in ice-cube trays or 1-cup air-tight containers.
Another variation of this delicious pesto recipe calls for Marjoram pureed with black olives, garlic, and olive oil. It’s an especially delectable spread for bread.
Make An Herb-Infused Oil
Another simple way to preserve your favorite herbs is to make an herb-infused oil. This old folk recipe works with just about any culinary herb, but Basil, Rosemary, and Hot Chili Peppers are favorites. You can use culinary herb-infused oils for dipping bread, as a base for salad dressing, and seasoning. You can also use this technique to make herb-infused massage oils with Chamomile, Lavender, and other fragrant herbs.
Here’s how to infuse oil with herbs:
- Fill a glass jar with your favorite herb(s), leaving 1-3 inches free for expansion.
- Cover herbs with a high quality olive oil.
- Put the lid on the jar and give it a good shake.
- Leave the herb/oil mixture in a sunny place for three weeks.
- Strain the oil through a fine sieve to remove the herbs and any impurities. Try to squeeze as much oil out of the herbs as possible to maximize flavor.
- Transfer the strained oil to a clean jar, labeled jar, and store in the refrigerator.
- Store the oil in the refrigerator.
How to Dry Herbs
Drying herbs is a great way to preserve them. The easiest way to dry herbs is to hang bunches upside down in a dry, well-ventilated place. You can enjoy the decorative aspect of this technique as well, as herbs can take a few weeks to dry completely.
You can accelerate the drying process by using your conventional oven:
- Place herbs in a single layer on a cookie sheet
- Heat in a conventional oven at 200° F for several hours, until dry.
By far the fastest technique to dry herbs is in the microwave:
- Put herbs in a single layer on a paper towel
- Microwave in 30-second intervals, testing for dryness frequently until done.
How to Store Dried Herbs
You’ll want to store and label your dry herbs in airtight containers away from any light.
Baby jars make a great option for storing small quantities of dried herbs, and they fit nicely in the cabinet with store-bought dried spices. Mason jars of varying sizes work best to store large quantities of dry herbs..
Remember that you’ll need to use three times the quantity of dried herbs to match the flavor intensity of fresh herbs. So, don’t be afraid to dry large quantities of your favorite herbs from the garden.
Now that you’ve learned several ways to preserve your herbs, you effectively know how to extended your harvest. And, if you had the foresight to plant and dry some chamomile, you can relax with a cup of hot tea long after you’re work in your kitchen herb garden is done.
What is your favorite cooking herb? Do you grow it in your garden?
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