Have you ever tried preserving herbs? I planted herbs in the spring, and now they are thriving. The problem is, that I will never use them all before they wilt away or die from frost. Are you in the same boat?
I planted these garden boxes in the spring with cumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and cabbage. The pots of herbs were separate from this, located by our back door.
I am determined this year, to find a way of preserving herbs that will make them easy to use.
The Plan for Preserving Herbs
Here are the I two different methods of preserving herbs that I decided upon. For the first one, I am freezing some herbs separately, so that they can be used when an individual spice is required. For the second one, I am making multi-spice herb balls. (that is my own term and I am coining it right now).
In my case, the herbs that I am dealing with are cilantro, basil, oregano, chives and rosemary.
For both, the initial labour related to preserving herbs was the same. I had to pick all the herbs, wash and dry them.
First, I washed the herbs. Then, I spun them in the salad spinner. Next, I laid the herbs out on paper towel to dry. The quantity was amazing when the herbs were all spread out drying in the kitchen. My salad spinner is from Costco . It seems to be currently unavailable. But there are lots of good salad spinners on amazon.
I dried the herbs in stages, one herb at at time, to make it more manageable in the kitchen. This was a surprising amount of work. As each herb dried, I separated them into two groups: the ones that would be frozen on their own and the ones to be combined with others.
There was really a lot of cilantro. To use it, I added a bit to both of my spice ball combinations, but I laid the rest on trays and froze it. This worked surprisingly well as I used it in meat balls. It doesn’t matter that the cilantro was a bit soft when thawed.
Herb Ball Combinations
As for the herb balls, I made two separate bowls. The Italian bowl included basil, oregano and a bit of cilantro (this is in place of Italian parsley). For the savoury balls I added basil, oregano, chives, rosemary and cilantro. I gave the contents of each of these bowls a few turns in the food processor. The goal was to finely chopped but not puree.
Freezing as a Way of Preserving Herbs
When I was done, I filled up ice cube trays. I then, added a little bit of oil so they wouldn’t dry out. Water or broth also works well. I like the protection against drying that the oil gives. I already had ice cube trays but, these silicone ones from amazon would make it easy to pop out the frozen herbs.
I stuck them in the freezer overnight. Once they were frozen, I popped them into a ziplock bags and labelled them. I am so happy that by preserving herbs I will have these combinations accessible in the freezer.
As for thawing, you can completely thaw them and then add to your dish. I like this way, as the freshness of the herbs in preserved and you get more flavour. Alternatively, you could add a frozen ball to a dish that you were cooking for a long period and surely it would thaw.
I now have a wide variety of herbs in my freezer to use all winter. What will I use them in you ask? Well not in things fresh like a salad. But, they can be used in so many cooked things from soups to stews and sauces.
Putting the Preserved Herbs to Use
The herb balls were big hit on top of roasted potatoes recently and they would taste as good on any roasted vegetable, as well. To make this, I first roasted the potatoes. Near the end of the cooking time, I sautéed garlic and a couple of chopped spanish onions from our garden. I heated up the savoury spices and mixed it all together. It was so good.
If you give this a try, let me know how it works out for you.