After posting the herbed pasta recipe last week, I thought it maybe would be convenient to tell you a little bit about how I store and preserve my herbs. We don’t have a garden or balcony (yet?), so I am always limited with growing my own herbs (Only rosemary survived the winter on at the kitchen window :(.)
But these days, the farmer’s markets are displaying an expanding range of fresh herbs. But how to keep them if you don’t want to use them immediately or if you are – like us – a rather small household and can’t use a whole bunch of sage f.ex. in one day?
Of course, fresh herbs are always the best, so my first advice of all: If you’re bying herbs on the farmer’s market, ask the marketer if it is possible only to by a half bunch of herbs. In most cases they will do this for you.
If I am coming home from the market with my herbs and I want to keep them fresh for a few days only, I store them in the fridge. Therefor I wash, but don’t dry them. Instead I wrap the wet herbs into a paper towel (or a kitchen towel). If the paper towel doesn’t get wet enough from the herbs, I add some more sprinkles of water, but carefully. It shouldn’t be watery, just slightly wet. Wrapped this way I store the bunch of herbs in the lowest section of the fridge. If you water the towel again after a few days, this way you can keep herbs fresh for at least a week.
There are some herbs that I like to freeze. These are mainly herbs that I most of the time only use in small portions, but like to have always at hand. Therefor I thoroughly wash the herbs, chop them finely and put them in a ziplock freezer bag. I try to work quickly, cause some of the herbs are getting brown quite fast. After releasing excessive air in the bag, I put it in the fridge and can now remove as much as I like whenever I want to. Just don’t forget to label the bags: Once frozen, it’s difficult to distinguish the herbs! (Learned from experience ;))
This way, my freezer (which actually is only a small freezing compartment) usually contains a bag of basil, parsley, coriander, mint, thai basil, sometimes dill.
Even more handsome, but of course more limited in use, are frozen herb mixes. On the picture below f.ex. you can see my italian herbs mix, but other mixes (Café de Paris, Herbes de Provence,…) are possible as well.
There’s only one disadvantage when freezing herbs – the loss of structure. They don’t loose their flavour, but you can’t really use them for decorating your dish anymore.
There are some herbs that I usually prefer to dry, because I found that that’s the best way to keep or even intensify their flavour. These are: thyme, oregano, rosemary and sage. Therfor I line them on a baking tray lined with baking paper, put the tray in the middle of the oven, turn the heat on lowest setting (not more than 50° C) and put a spoon into the oven door to let the moist out. After 3-4 hours you can remove the leaves or needles from the sprigs and store them in jars. Jars made of brown glass are ideal to keep the flavour.
By the way: Herb sprigs contain a lot of essential oils as well. You can use them f.ex. when cooking broth, ragù, stews,…
I hope this little excursus was helpful for you. And of course I am curious about your experiences with storing herbs.
Italian herbs mix
[You could add some garlic and onions, too. I prefer to add them fresh to be more flexible.]
1 bunch basil, 1 bunch parsley, 3-4 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs rosemary, 3-4 sprigs oregano (couldn’t get one this time)
Wash herbs. Remove leaves and needles from sprigs and chop finely. Label a ziplock freezer bag and fill with herbs mix. Remove excessive air and put into freezer.