Preserve Your Fresh Summer Herbs
There are several methods of preserving your herb harvest for use in your dinner on a future cold and dark winter night. Drying, freezing, as whole leaf or in a pesto or sauce, and infusing them in oil are all great ways to save those special flavors of summer.
You can air dry hardy herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme, summer savory and parsley. More tender leaved herbs like basil, oregano, tarragon, lemon balm and mints have too much moisture content and can mold if not dried quickly. Try hanging these herbs inside a paper bag to dry. First, tear or punch holes on the sides of a bag, bundle the herbs and place inside the bag with stems sticking out. Close the bag with string or rubber band. Place where air currents will circulate through the bag. When the leaves are crisp and crumble easily, they are ready to be stored in an airtight container.
You can also oven-dry mint, sage or bay leaf. The oven light of an electric range or pilot light of a gas range should be enough heat for overnight drying.
Investing in a food dehydrator is a great choice if you are a devoted herb user.
Wash, drain and pat dry with paper towels. Wrap a few sprigs or leaves in freezer wrap and place in a freezer bag and seal. These herbs can be chopped and used in cooked dishes; they are usually too limp to be used as a garnish. Good choices for freezing include basil, chives, lemongrass, mint, oregano, sage, savory, tarragon and thyme.
You can freeze your favorite herb pesto, just leave out the cheese, and freeze in a log for later use. You can also freeze pesto and blended herbs(oil and herb blends without additional ingredients) in ice cube trays and once frozen, pop them into freezer bags for protection. This method allows you to pull only a few cubes out at a time, as needed. Great herb choices for pesto include basil, cilantro, parsley, dill, tarragon and mint.
Herbs in Oil
Homemade herb oils should be considered for fresh use only. Herbs and oils are both low-acid and together could support the growth of disease-causing Clastridium botulinum bacteria. Infuse herbs in oil and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Any herb can be used in this manner. Be creative and combine flavors!