How to Freeze Herbs to Preserve Them for Later Use
Using fresh herbs straight from the kitchen garden is a summer pleasure that even the most casual cook can appreciate. Sadly, just like the fleeting summers, the yield lasts only for that season. Once the surplus herb is picked, they tend to dry off. However, their shelf life can be extended a bit by freezing them. This quick and easy process retains much of the taste, smell, and nutrient value required for our daily meals.
Benefits of Freezing Herbs
Food preservation has permeated every culture through time! The ancient man had to harness nature and preserve their local food source using basic methods. Food, by its nature, begins to spoil the moment it is harvested. So, he started living in one place to form a community. When he no longer had to consume the harvest immediately, he could preserve some for later use. Apart from drying, freezing was an obvious preservation method for specific climates. Cellars, caves, and cool streams were put to good use to prolong storage times in less than freezing temperatures. In the late 1800s, Clarence Birdseye discovered that quick freezing at shallow temperatures made for better-tasting meat and vegetables. Herbs are generally aromatic plants that are used for food, seasoning, or medicine. The bright and bold taste of fresh herbs, whether grown at home or purchased from stores, appeals to gardeners and culinary experts alike. There’s nothing quite like their subtle fragrance and zesty flavor for making a dish fancier all year round.
They add a distinct flavor to any food without the need to add salt, sugar, or fat. Herbs contain essential antioxidants that protect our bodies from chronic illnesses like cardiac problems and cancer. They add color to meals and are used as delectable garnishes. Here are some notable benefits of freezing herbs:
- They can be available all-year-round irrespective of their growing season
- Freezing herbs involve less spoilage
- Preserves maximum nutrients if done in the correct way
- Eliminates or slows the growth of microbial hazards and chemical changes
- Increases convenience in meal preparation
What Fresh Herbs Can You Freeze?
If you don’t grow or collect your own, you may find fresh herbs in quantity at many farmers’ markets or specialty food stores. Here are some of the best fresh herbs that can be preserved in the freezer:
- Sweet Woodruff
Simple Tips and Ways for Freezing Herbs
Freezing is the best way to maintain the essential oils and spritely flavors of the delicate herbs. There’s no need to lighten herbs by blanching before freezing. Just wash all herbs in cool, running water and pat them dry before freezing. Below mentioned are a few ways and tips to freeze herbs:
1. Check freezer Temperature
Freezers should be 0°F to ensure it maintains the proper temperature for food storage. Check the temperature of your freezer.
2. Prep Herbs
Wash under cool water and dry your herbs. Remove any thick stems from the herbs before chopping them. Chop with a knife for a small bunch of herbs or use a food processor to pulse them for a larger quantity. Spread and lay down the cleaned herbs on a cooking tray, and put the pan in the freezer for about one hour or until frozen.
Leaves of tender herbs like cilantro, parsley, and mint can be removed from their stems and frozen into ice cubes for storing for a long time. Choose either a single herb or a combination of such herbs to create a mixture of your favorite flavors. Use a spoon to scoop out the minced herbs or whole leaves into the ice cube trays. Next, fill it from the top upto a quarter inch. Press lightly to level. Arrange the herbs to freeze, and continue adding water until the mold is filled. Freeze again. Once frozen, cubes can be transferred into a Ziploc bag or other airtight container for easy, single-serve access. Place the cube in a small bowl and thaw the ice. Carefully drain out the water and pat dry before using the herb.
Oil is an excellent medium to preserve various herbs like sage, thyme, and rosemary. Individual herbs or a blend of your favorites can be stored in oil to seal in and retain their inherent essential oils without the risk of freezer burn. Chop, mince and divide the leaves of herbs. Whole leaves may be placed in ice cube trays and then covered with oil to freeze. Alternatively, you can chop herbs in a food processor and add one to two tablespoons of neutral-tasting vegetable oil, like olive oil, to make a light paste. Transfer them into ice cube trays. Once frozen, move cubes into an airtight container for long-term storage. You can also layer into sheets one-quarter to one-half inch thick in a shallow pan, leveling with a spatula; drizzle high-quality olive oil, using just enough to cover the chopped herbs. Basil freezes best when first processed into pesto, but this practice also works well with other herbs like oregano or thyme in soups, sauces, or other dishes where oil is welcome.
5. Rolled Log
Italian parsley or sage has soft, flat leaves; they can be compressed and rolled for more space-efficient bulk storage. Remove stems and fill a Ziploc bag with loose leaves. Squeeze and tightly compress the leaves into a bundle along the bottom of the bag. Seal and roll the bag around the bundled herbs, squeezing out air as you proceed. Tie with rubber bands or twine to Seal the bag. Store in the freezer. When needed, rolled herbs can be sliced into quarter- or half-inch disks from the log.
6. Bare Herbs
Are you wondering how to freeze basil and other hardy herbs? Freezing bare leaves is easy to preserve large-leaved varieties like basil, bay leaves, and parsley. Lacy leaves like parsley and dill can be left attached to their soft stems. Hardier herbs like rosemary, thyme, bay, or sage can be stored with stems in an airtight container. They can be spread in a single layer on a baking sheet or plate and placed in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer into any Ziploc bag or an airtight container for freezer storage without clumping. Remove a sprig at a time and use. Chives can be chopped and frozen bare with a slight loss of flavor. Make a paste by mixing two cups of herbs with a cup of oil in a blender. Alternatively, you can make a batch of your favorite pesto to freeze them in sealed jars or ice trays. They can be wrapped thoroughly to make them airtight. Once the ice cubes freeze, store them in plastic freezer bags and remove the cubes for use within a week.
7. Herb Pesto
Make a paste by mixing two cups of herbs with a cup of oil in a blender. Alternatively, you can make a batch of your favorite pesto to freeze them in sealed jars or ice trays. They can be wrapped thoroughly to make them airtight. Once the ice cubes freeze, store them in plastic freezer bags and remove the cubes for use within a week.
8. Plastic freezer Bag
Use bags designated for freezing, such as reusable storage bags and vacuum freezer storage bags. Made of thicker material than regular plastic bags, they are more resistant to oxygen and moisture. First, use a straw to suck the air out of the bag. Chop up the herbs and pour a tablespoon of oil into them. Lay it flat in the freezer to store. Seal and store them in the freezer for up to 1 to 2 months.
9. Labeling Herbs
Label foods before storing them with a permanent marker can be useful to note the name of the herb, quantity, and freezing date.
1. What Is the Best Time to Freeze Fresh Herbs?
During the height of summer, most gardeners have a surplus of herbs that they can use. Yet herbs must be regularly harvested before they go to seed to maintain the proliferation of the plant. Preservation methods come in handy during this time so that the fresh herbs don’t go to waste. Harvest and freeze herbs in the middle of the summer when the plant reaches its prime to retain its best taste. Moreover, herbs harvested in the morning have the most intense flavor as the day’s heat may slightly wilt them. Pull annual herbs up by the root, and trim perennial herbs to a third of their size in late summer or early fall before freezing them for later use.
2. How Long Do Fresh Herbs Last?
Fresh herbs can last for up to three weeks if proper care is taken. Each of the common herbs has a different life span. When the leaves start to turn dark and brittle, or the stems or show signs of mold, it’s time to discard them. If you are looking to preserve your herbs for an extended period, use oil.
Before preserving any herb, it is essential to consider its usefulness to your family’s preference and lifestyle. The goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether relearning some age-old tricks or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live healthier lives. Once you know the art of freezing herbs, you’ll reduce food waste considerably and have flavor-boosting herbs at your hands at all times. Get creative and enjoy using herbs!