9 Ways to Preserve Fresh Herbs
Herbs make excellent garden crops. They are expensive to buy but easy and cheap to grow. Herbs are indeed useful in any dish. More importantly, they provide a host of health benefits.
When your garden or the market is bursting with fresh herbs, it is time for you to enjoy them fresh. But you may also consider preserving them for future use. Preserving herbs is an excellent way of adding flavor to your food and probably getting a taste of Dubai, a global city famous for its Spice Souk.
A local food service company gives a few ideas below, on how to preserve your fresh herbs.
1. Air drying
For herbs like thyme, oregano, sage, and marjoram, drying works quite well. Before drying them out, remove dirt by shaking, and discard all withered leaves. You may wash the herbs but make sure to dry them thoroughly to avoid mildew.
Using a rubber band, secure the stems together and hang them upside down in a dry, well-ventilated place away from sunlight. If dust is a major concern, you must cover the bundle with a paper bag but make sure that there is abundant space for air to circulate.
Leave the herbs until the leaves crumble, which may take from one to four weeks. After that, store them in an airtight container. The herbs can then be used for up to one year.
Dried herbs are great for cooking, teas, and for future use in herbal tinctures, syrups, and oil infusions.
For preserving leafy herbs like cilantro, tarragon, and basil, freezing is the best option. You can blend the herbs into a paste with water or oil before freezing.
Also, you can chop up the herbs, pack them in an ice cube tray, and top them off with water products or broth. Place the frozen cubes in an airtight container before storing them in the freezer. You just have to drop frozen cubes into stews and soups for a nice, fresh-cut flavor.
3. Oven drying
Oven drying is faster and easier than air drying. This can be your best option if you are living in humid environments. All you have to do is to spread the herbs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place it in an oven set at 150°F with the door slightly open.
Don’t forget the parchment paper because metal can affect the flavor. Regularly check on the herbs. When they’re crumbly, which may take between one and four hours, remove them from the oven. Store them in an airtight container for a maximum of one year.
4. Preserve in honey
If you are using honey for cooking and baking, you can also use it to preserve some of your fresh herbs. The herbs will impart a subtle flavor to the honey, which makes it ideal for flavoring meat stews, barbecue sauces, salad dressings, and as a sweetener for baked goods and teas.
Fermenting herbs is like making homemade sauerkraut.
Fill the jar with chopped herbs and leave some headspace at the top. Form brine by combining water and sea salt, and pour the mixture over the herbs. Make sure that all herbs are submerged in the brine. Allow the herbs to ferment for about five to 10 days, or until they start bubbling or taste tangy.
Unopened fermented herbs can last for several months. Once opened, they can last for up to six months in the refrigerator.
6. Make an herbal oxymel
Herbs infused with honey and vinegar is called oxymel. This can be used medicinally for sore throat relief, or culinarily as a dressing for a salad.
7. Turn it into pesto
Pesto is probably one of the most favorite ways to preserve herbs since it is easy to make, and it’s also delicious. You can blend a huge batch of basil, place it in mason jars, and store it in the freezer. You can also freeze it in ice cube trays and store it in resealable bags for easy storage. You can just pop it into a stew or pasta sauce anytime you need it.
8. Turn it into butter
Another method for preserving fresh herbs is by making them into flavored butter. Mince one part herbs and mash it into two parts softened butter. You can choose to mince one type of herb or blend different types. Then, shape it into a log before putting it in the freezer.
Cut off slices of your herbal butter as needed to melt over meat, fish or vegetables. Herbal butter made with minced parsley and garlic can be used to make awesome garlic bread.
9. Rolled herbs
Italian sage, parsley, and other flat-leaf herbs can be compressed and rolled for efficient storage. Remove their stems first before placing the leaves in a resealable bag. Compress the leaves into the bottom, seal and roll the bag around the herbs.
Make sure to secure it with twine or rubber bands before placing it in the freezer. When you need herbs for your recipe, the rolled herbs can then be sliced.
Using fresh herbs is a pleasure that most cooks appreciate. Unfortunately, the shelf life and freshness of herbs is limited once they are picked. Drying herbs may be the easiest and the most popular way of preserving them, though this method may not always capture the flavor you want to achieve.
Good thing there are plenty of others ways to preserve fresh herbs. So if you have any fresh herbs left in your pantry right now, why not try one or two of the above methods of preserving them to significantly extend their shelf life?
Jad Asaad is the Marketing Manager at Horeca Trade LLC with more than eight years of experience in digital, online and offline marketing. He started his career in Beirut working in a creative agency and then moved to Dubai to further expand his career. He created and implemented award-winning high-impact digital and offline marketing campaigns that consistently generated revenue streams and improved performance in targeted segments.