We loved this insightful article from Liz Earle Wellbeing on how to preserve fresh herbs and think you will too…
I’ve been enjoying a steady stream of herbs from my kitchen garden and with autumn coming, now’s the time to get preserving them for winter. Many herbs are sensitive to frost and will wilt away when the cold weather hits. By preserving our herbs now, we can enjoy their full taste and aroma even if the garden gets snowed under later in the year. There’s something very special about being able to enjoy home-grown herbs (even from a pot or window box), without resorting to shop-bought, out-of-season stems or packets of the dried stuff (their flavour fades over time). Below are some of my time-tested techniques, which I stockpile now to make tasty suppers over the months to come.
Home-drying is the simplest way of preserving herbs, providing a much fuller flavour and more colour than shop bought ones. To air-dry herbs, make sure they are clean and dry and remove wilted leaves, then tie them together in a small bunch using string or a rubber band and hang them upside down in a warm, well ventilated place until they start to crumble in your fingers. This could take up to a month. Above the oven is perfect and looks very romantic! Or if you’re short on time, spread your herbs out on a baking tray, or baking parchment, and put into the oven with the door slightly ajar at 150 degrees C (or leave overnight in the plate-warming oven of an Aga). Once your herbs are dry, store in an airtight container, such as a tin or jar.
As some herbs such as basil, parsley, coriander and rosemary don’t dry as well, try these methods below:
Leafy herbs, such as parsley, dill, oregano and marjoram, all freeze well. Spread clean dry herbs on to a tray to ‘open freeze’ in the freezer. Once frozen, pack into freezer bags or boxes. The frozen leaves can then be crumbled into soups, sauces etc. as needed throughout the year. Note: don’t freeze basil as its tender leaves will bruise and blacken.
Herb butters are also an excellent way to freeze and preserve fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme, coriander and mint. Simply mix a handful of your chosen freshly chopped herb into half a standard pack of softened butter (around 125g). Then roll your herb butter into a log shape, wrap in Clingfilm and freeze. Once frozen, chop your herby log into thick disks of delicious butter and wrap individually, before storing long-term in the freezer. Or to make smaller individual portions, pack the herb mixture into ice cube trays, ready to pop out little squares of botanical butter as needed.
My family favourite is parsley and crushed garlic butter, pre-made and ready to use. So tasty baked onto crunchy fresh baguettes to make the most delicious garlic bread.
Oil and vinegars
Plant oils provide an excellent way of preserving delicate herbs that would otherwise be damaged by drying or freezing, such as basil. Pack your chosen herbs into very clean, dry jam jars, layering the herbs as you go with cold-pressed olive oil. As well as preserving your herbs, you’ll get the added bonus of a wonderfully herb-infused olive oil, perfect for dipping breads or drizzling over cheeses and salads. To get even more of a culinary ‘kick’, this method also works well with white wine or cider vinegar. I love hunting out pretty vintage glass bottles and jars for my herbal infusions, always much appreciated as gourmet Christmas gifts (forward planning!).
This article was originally published at Liz Earle Wellbeing. For more of Liz’s advice and lifestyle features, click here.