As Summer sadly comes to end, many of us are preparing to clean up our gardens and preserve the fresh herbs and vegetables so that they can be enjoyed on a cold Winters day.
According to the National Gardening Association food gardens are at the highest levels in more than a decade with 35% of all households in America growing food at home or in a community garden. Now that’s a lot of basil & rosemary! Here are some great, simple ideas to keep the summer taste fresh into winter.
- Freeze & Preserve in Olive Oil
According to The Kitchn preserving in oil can help cut down the chances of browning and freezer burn. Add oil and herbs into an ice cube tray and you’ll have a delicious and convenient way to add flavor to your meals. While this method works well with harder herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme and oregano soft herbs like mint and dill are better preserved in other ways.
For more tips on the best way to preserve in oil, check out our friends at http://www.thekitchn.com
- Basil & Pesto Cubes
Similar to freezing herbs in oil, the basil cube can take a surplus of basil and allow it to last much longer. Simply hand chop or use a food processor to finely cut the basil leaves. Add enough oil to make a thick paste. You can add garlic and pine nuts for pesto or simply spoon the basil and oil mixture into ice cube trays to freeze. Once frozen you can transfer to a sealed freezer bag. According to The Kitchn you’ll want to use the cubes towards the end of the cooking process to finish the dish.
There are many methods to drying herbs, using a rack or hanging the herbs are the most common. Both methods will leave you with delicious herbs but the flavor will be slightly less aromatic than fresh or frozen herbs. Rinse and dry herbs before starting. Both methods require a well ventilated, dry area with little to no direct sunlight. The drying process should be complete in about a week or so depending on the amount of humidity. According to Taste of Home drying the herbs will concentrate the flavor so you don’t need to use as much during the cooking process.
- Herb Butter
Simple, and simply delicious. Adding herbs to softened butter will add flavor to any dish throughout the winter. Simply whip one part herb to two parts softened butter, roll into a log, cover and freeze. The frozen butter is easily cut into slices and goes perfectly over vegetables and pasta. Organic Life recommends freezing garlic and parsley with butter and spread onto french bread for delicious and quick garlic bread.
Tips from the Institute of Home Science Expert: Chef Ann Nolan.
– Keep long stemmed herbs like parsley, cilantro, & basil fresh by trimming the bottom of the stems and placing them in water. Make sure to change the water daily.
-Bushy herbs like thyme, oregano, tarragon, sage and rosemary are best stored between two damp pieces of food-safe paper towel and stored in an air tight plastic bag.
-Before chopping herbs, make sure to remove all the stems. Stems can later be used together as a bouquet to add flavor to sauces, stocks and soups.
-Before freezing, wash herbs and allow them to dry completely before starting the freezing process. This will help keep softer herbs from browning or freezer burn.
-When using dry herbs in place of fresh remember the ratio 3:1 or three times more fresh than dried.
-Even while following proper care, herbs can wilt quickly. Expect a shelf life of three weeks when stored at 32°F and two weeks when stored at 41°F.