I'm not much of a gardener, but herbs seem to grow themselves so they are a perfect fit for me. Naturally, I dry some to replenish the herbs in my spice cabinet. But with an abundance of herbs at my fingertips, I also wanted a way to retain the fresh flavor for use in the winter. To preserve my herbal harvest, I begin by washing the herbs thoroughly, remove any blemished or dead leaves and then place them on towels to air dry. Once they have drained and are dry to the touch I use one of the following methods for preservation.
Preserving Herbs in Oil
This method allows the herbs to retain their fresh flavor with the least amount of change, but requires adequate freezer storage space.
After the herbs are washed and the surface moisture has evaporated, remove leaves from the stems and place in the blender. Herbs with tender stems such as basil can go in the blender together, but you may want to roughly chop the stems. Turn the blender on and add oil so that there is enough liquid for free movement. Blend to the desired size. Then fill jars or ice cube trays with the mixture. I use jars and then just use a knife to chisel out what I need for a given use. You can portion the mixture using ice cube trays if preferred. Freeze and then pop out the cubes and store in freezer bags.
Do not, under any circumstance, store the fresh herbs in oil at room temperature or even in the refrigerator. To do so will put them at risk for developing botulism.
As an alternative, you can use the same procedure to freeze herbs in water, but be sure to use ice cube trays to portion the mixture. The herb cubes can be dropped frozen into soups or stews but would need to be thawed for some uses such as mixing into a recipe.
The third method I use for preserving my herbal harvest is to create a variety of pestos. Following is my basic pesto recipe.
RB Basic Pesto
RB Basic Pesto
- 2 ½ c. basil leaves, packed (not tightly)
- 3 medium garlic cloves
- ¾ c. olive oil
- ½ c pine nuts
- ¼ t. nutmeg
- 1 t. lemon juice
- ¾ c grated parmesan
Combine all ingredients in a blender except the parmesan. Puree until smooth and then add the parmesan. Blend to incorporate.
Freeze in jars or ice cube trays as described above.
You might wonder "what can I possibly do with jar upon jar of pesto?" My response is "what can't you do with pesto?" Watch for my posts entitled "Pesto Possibilities" for recipe ideas.
Rebecca's Sage Pesto
Pesto Possibilities I Sage Pesto Chicken with Wine Sauce
Pesto Possibilities II Pesto Encrusted Fish Fillets