What’s the very best way to preserve fresh herbs? It’s taken me a long while to find out!
I’ve been growing herbs such as parsley, basil, chives, tarragon, cilantro, garlic, and dill in my garden since before we were married, but I’ve had to fail many times in order to learn how to preserve those marvelous fresh flavors before the chills and bluster of winter could damage their tender leaves.
Freezing makes them unrecognizable with no texture; drying takes away much of their flavor, and putting them into ice cubes with water? What an unappetizing mess!
So What’s the Secret?
The secret is preserving the essential oils of the herbs.
The essential oil content is the biggest reason for these herb’s distinctive aroma and taste.
Simply drying or freezing them destroys the oils, but freezing them *in oil or butter* (fat, which is like the essential oils of each herb) preserves them beautifully with texture, flavor, and color intact!
And storage of your herb butters and oils is made easy when packaged in thin, flat layers in a quart Ziplock freezer bag.
Directions to Preserve Fresh Herbs in Oil or Butter
- Rinse or wash herbs and remove heavy or thick stems. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Place herbs in food processor with 1/3 cup olive oil or coconut oil for every 2 cups leaves, OR 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick) per 2 -4 cups of leaves.
- For either oils or butters, add garlic or a second compatible herb for extra flavor (ex. parsley and dill).
- In your food processor pulse everything together, scraping down sides of bowl from time to time, until all leaves are chopped and you have a nice consistency.
- Package up 1 cup herb oil or herb butter in a 1-quart freezer bags, burp to remove trapped air, and then flatten. Freeze flat.
- For best flavor, use within 6 months.
A particular herb’s powerful yet fabulous flavor can make an ordinary dish spectacular. Simply break off the approximate amount of herb the recipe calls for, no thawing necessary.
A few ideas how to use them:
Add cilantro in olive oil to Southwestern Corn and black bean salad~
Throw a wedge of tarragon butter into green beans.
Other ways to use herb butters are to spread them on sandwiches, melt on pasta, or drizzled on popcorn – anything that tastes good with butter and herbs! You can even replace plain butter with herb butter when making savory quick breads or muffins.
Plan to whiz up a few batches of herb butters and oils; you’ll be extravagantly rewarded all winter long with flavorful meals, salad dressings, or even cheesy herb breads or crackers. Oh, how our families will appreciate our good planning.
Hm… I think I have a few more ideas for next year’s herb garden.
Do you use herbs in your recipes?