Freezing – The New Standard for Preserving Home-Grown Herbs
It goes without saying that the two variations of herbs the world relies on right now are fresh and dried…the two covering about 99.99% of herbs used at home. Drying is a millennia-old technique for preserving food and has become a mainstay in pretty much every culture the world over.
However, while drying herbs is a fantastic method for extending their useable life indefinitely, the process inevitably robs the herbs of some of their key properties. Flavours are either weakened or in some way altered, the appearance of the herb doesn’t exactly retain its lustre and many of the nutrients are also lost in the drying process.
This is precisely why so many of the world’s top chefs and a fair few million foodies alike are now singing the praises of freezing herbs as an alternative to drying. Freezing herbs immediately after picking ensures than none of the goodness is lost – from flavour to colour to nutrient content, everything is preserved.
Chances are it will be a long time before the supermarket’s herb section is dominated by freezers rather than paper bags, but in the meantime there’s nothing to stop you making the very most of your home-grown herbs.
The Freezing Process
Like with drying, it’s crucial to understand that not all herbs are suitable for freezing so it’s a good idea to check online before getting started. Some of the very best candidates of all for freezing are parsley, tarragon and basil, though the list is quite extensive and comprehensive. Once you’ve assessed the suitability of the herb, it’s a pretty simple process to follow.
- Check Quality – Make sure the herbs you intend to freeze are in good condition with no signs of rot, infestation or disease. Discard any leaves or stems that don’t measure up.
- Wash Well – Even if they look pretty clean, give all the leaves you wish to freeze a good wash before drying them as thoroughly as possible.
- Freezer Bags – One freezing method is to simply place all the leaves to be frozen in a freezer bag, which can then be chucked into the freezer and brought out as and when needed. However, if the leaves are in any way damp when they go into the bag, there’s a good chance they’ll come out quite badly stuck together!
- Ice Cube Trays – To avoid all your herbs freezing into a clump, the foodie favourite is to chop the herbs down into smaller pieces and freeze them in ice cube trays. Simply fill each section of the tray with about 40% chopped herbs and 60% water, or you could use olive oil instead of water. When it’s time to use them, just pop a cube out as needed or add it straight to your chosen dish.
Frozen herbs are ideal for use in all kinds of soups, stews, sauces and largely anything you might call ‘wet’. The only thing lost in the freezing process will be some of the leaves’ consistency, which means they may not be particularly suitable for salads or for garnishing.
For anything else though, it’s a newly standard technique that’s well worth trying out for yourself!