Thursday, December 06, 2012

10 ways to preserve herbs!

  1.  Air/Hang Dry Method: If you have the space and the time, you can tie small bunches of cleaned herbs together (about 4 or 5 stems) and hang them upside down in a dark, warm, well ventilated area. The drying time is about 2 to 4 weeks – you want the leaves to be crispy and easily crumble between your fingers before you pack them for storage.
  2. Oven: Arrange cleaned stems in a single layer on a cookie sheet with temperature set at 180° F. Heat for about 4 hours, keeping the oven door open the entire time (to let moisture escape). Stir occasionally during this heating process.
  3. Microwave Method: This a quick & easy method if you need them dried fast…but watch while you’re heating to make sure they don’t smoke or start on fire. Since microwaves heat differently, the times may vary for you. Detailed instructions are found at the bottom of this page.
  4. Cool Air: Wash then pat herbs with a soft cloth to remove moisture. Layer a cookie sheet with paper towels and then arrange stems in a single layer. Place in the refrigerator and remove once they are completely dried (check daily). Does not work in crisper bins.
  5. Salt or Sugar: Layer fresh leaves between salt or sugar (covering completely) and leave them until they are desiccated. Remove leaves and store in airtight containers. Choose salt or sugar depending on the flavor of the herb and which would be better suited to it.
  6. Freeze In Ice Cubes: Chop leaves then sprinkle into ice cube trays (measure into each cube the most common amount you use in cooking, for example 1 tsp). Cover with water and freeze (can also cover with stock or olive oil). Pop them out once they’re frozen, package in freezer bags and store in the freezer (remove as much air as possible from the bags first). When needed for cooking, just take out a cube and pop it in the dish that’s cooking (thawing first is optional–remember to account for the frozen liquid in your recipe). Tip: Try mixing your favorite blends before freezing.
  7. Freezing Whole & Chopped: Many herbs freeze well without added liquid. Wash and dry the leaves then store in freezer bags with as much air removed as possible. Freeze. You can also lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, freeze, then pack in bags (easier to remove singly when frozen). See a handy tip at the bottom of this page for crushing them quickly, you can also chop them first if you prefer.
  8. Bulk Pastes (Pesto): Wash clean then chop in a food processor, add enough oil to make a paste when blended (approximately 2 cups fresh herbs to 1/3 cup olive oil). Freeze in small containers (remove all air first by shaking and tapping the container then top with a fine layer of olive oil to seal paste against air). Thaw before using. Spoon out the required amount needed for cooking then store the rest in the refrigerator. The most common pesto is made from basil, but you can use other herbs too (and combinations).
  9. Bulk Seasoning Salt: Have a ready supply of seasonings at your fingertips (create your own signature blend), whipping up batches only once a year and freezing until needed.
  10. Bulk Oils or Butters: Chop leaves and mix with oil or butter to taste. Freeze in single serving butter pats or in cube sizes appropriate for cooking (just add the butter pat while dish is cooking–remember to account for butter in recipe). Thaw before using.