Last summer, I felt like a farmer. I know that’s a big a stretch, but I was harvesting my herbs and finding different ways to preserve them for use the rest of the year. It was such a worthwhile endeavor; every time I opened one of my jars and the explosion of flavor would pour out, I was thrilled I’d had the forethought and taken the time to make that possible.
A few weeks ago, I posted a section from the herbs and spices section from my soon-to-be-published book Le Kitchen Cookbook: a Workbook. It was a chart that detailed what herbs and spices to use if you want to create flavors inspired by different cultures. It is simple to use and really gives you the freedom to create what you want to eat. The next part of that chapter is about preserving herbs (excerpted below) and now that there is so much bounty growing, this is the time to take advantage of that abundance while it’s available.
Preserving fresh herbs is a great way to infuse your food with great flavor all year long. Summer is the time to take advantage of the abundance of herbs being harvested. Whether you grow your own or shop the farmers markets, you should take advantage of this gift of flavor.
It’s easy to do, doesn’t take a lot of time, and will give you pleasure all year long—your taste buds will be delighted!
Having the herbs you need at your fingertips makes cooking much easier.
The best herbs to dry: marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme.
Dried herbs are three to four times stronger than fresh herbs. They will last longer if stored in a dark dry spot.
Group the same type herbs together and tie stems together. Hang them upside down to dry. Once they’re completely dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store in a glass air-tight container. Make certain to label them with their names and dates.
Herbs can also be dried in your microwave on a paper towel, although this method is not as effective at preserving their full flavor. Spread the herbs out so they do not overlap and cover with a paper towel. Microwave for about two minutes, checking after one minute to see how the herbs are doing. Microwave time will depend on the density of the herbs. Store in glass container, as above, or place in resealable bags, removing as much air as possible before closing and labeling.
Dehydrators work well. You need to follow the directions that come with the machine and store as above.
Put the herb of your choice in the bowl of a food processor and start processing while adding enough olive oil to make a paste. Spoon the paste into a glass jar and refrigerate; it will keep for at least three months. Alternatively, spoon the paste into an ice cube tray and freeze. Once frozen, put them into a resealable freezer bag. They will keep frozen for 10 to 12 months.
Be creative and combine your own herbs to make your own blends. Since everything looks the same when it is frozen, make certain to label and date all your different bags.
Once frozen, the herbs will last 10 to 12 months—just in time for next summer.
Chop the herbs so they are ready to use. Fill an ice cube tray with the chopped spices and top off each cube with either water or olive oil. Either one works. Once they are frozen, remove them from the tray and place in a resealable bag that you’ve labeled. When you are ready to use a cube, just remove it from the bag and drop it into what you are cooking.
Another way to freeze the herbs is to lay the fresh herbs on a tray or plate and place them in the freezer. Once they are completely frozen, place them in a resealable plastic bag and roll them up, removing as much air as possible. Label with types of herbs, date, and seal the bag closed.
©Excerpt from Le Kitchen Cookbook: a Workbook (pages 53–54)