I like nothing better than cooking with fresh herbs! Now don’t get me wrong, dried herbs will do, but they don’t have the punch of flavor that fresh herbs bring. Unfortunately, the season for fresh herbs is short, just a few summer months. By freezing a little of the summer’s harvest you can preserve some of that freshness, but not the appearance. Frozen herbs are not suitable for garnish.
I use three methods of preservation, depending on the herb, but all involving the freezer.
The first is freezing in water. This works well for tender herbs like parsley, cilantro, and mint. Just chop the leaves and tightly pack by the tablespoon into ice cube trays. Top the cubes with a little water, but not all the way. Push the chopped herbs under the water as best as you can, the leaves will float to the surface. Pop the trays into the freezer over night, then top the cubes off with a little more water and return the trays to the freezer. By the next day your herb cubes should be fully frozen in ice. Remove them to a zip top bag for freezer storage. These herb cubes are perfect for seasoning pots of soups and sauces. Just drop them into the simmering liquids and they will melt, releasing a bit of summer’s essence. If you don’t want a full tablespoon of herb, allow the cube to thaw and scoop up what you need.
The second method involves freezing the herbs in oil. This process is best suited to tougher leaves like basil and oregano. You can either freeze them pesto style or as whole leaves. To freeze them pesto style, simply process a packed cup of herbs with a quarter cup of olive oil until combined. Pack this into those ice cube trays, freeze, and store in an air tight container. You can also pack whole leaves into the same trays and cover with oil.
The third method is the simplest yet. Hardier herbs like rosemary, thyme, chives, and sage can be frozen bare. Place them on a plate or tray, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze over night. The next day the leaves often will shake right off the stems. Store them in a zip top freezer bag or container until needed.
Sure, you can usually find fresh herb in the produce department, but why pay big bucks when all you need is a tablespoon or two? Besides, by using these freezer methods no trip to the grocery store is required and most of the chopping is already taken care of!