COOKING DIY

Do It Yourself (DIY): Preserving Herbs

February 22nd, 2014 No Comments

HerbsIf you grow herbs, you’ve probably noticed that they tend to grow fast, and tend to grow a lot (unless you kill them first 😉 ).  In the kitchen, you more than likely use a lot of herbs and spices.  When your herbs start calling you to harvest them, you may have also noticed, that you probably have far more than you need.  Don’t worry though.  Those herbs don’t have to go to waste.

 

Preserving them is easy, and will be well worth it when your plants outside are finished producing.  So here are some instructions on just what you can do to keep a steady stream of flavour in your kitchen!

 

There are a number of ways to preserve your herbs, but I am going to give you what I feel are the best two.  Both are easy, take very little time in preparation, and are hard to screw up, which is great for me.  😀

 

First up, Air Drying Indoors:

Air drying is a great way to keep your herbs, after all, the herbs you by in little jars at the store are dried.  😉  Drying them indoors is even better as it keeps the colour and flavour intact more so than drying outdoors.

 

Herbs that work best for this method are those relatively low in oils (thought nearly any herb can be dried), such as; Sage, mint, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, oregano and dill.

 

What You’ll Need:

  • Scissors
  • You herbs
  • String or rubber bands
  • Something to hang them on (such as a small rod, or coat hanger)
  • A Place to hang them
  • Air tight containers, or zip-lock bags
  • A cool, dark and dry place to store them

 

Instructions:

  1. Cut your herbs with enough length of stem to be easily strung/hung, and just before mid-day.  You’ll want to harvest them after the morning dew as evaporated, but before the sun has a chance to beat them wilty.
  2. Pick out any dead, dying, dried or diseased pieces.
  3. Wash gently, if necessary, and pat dry with paper towels.
  4. Bundle your herbs together by type, and tie them around the stems, near where they’ve been cut.  Be sure to tie them fairly tight, as the stems will shrink during the drying.
  5. Hang your bundles upside down on your chosen device and place in your chosen area.  Wherever you chose to hang them, be sure that air can easy pass all around them.
  6. Drying times can vary depending on the herbs, and the conditions they are dried in.  So be sure to check them frequently.
  7. Once they are able to easily crumble between your fingers (test a small area of your herbs) they are ready for storage.
  8. First off, DO NOT CRUMBLE your herbs.  They retain their flavour and oils much better if left whole.  Only crumble (if needed) when you are ready to use them.
  9. Now that your herbs are dried you will need to store them in air tight containers, such as mason jars or zip-lock bags.  If exposed to air/moisture they can get mouldy.
  10. Place contained herbs in a cool, dark and dry place.  Your herbs will keep the best flavour for about a year, though they will last much longer than that.  So it’s up to you if you want to replace your herbs after a year.  If you do, it’s best to date your containers.  🙂

 

 

Second Up, Freezing:

Herbs with high moisture content tend to do better when frozen.  If you try to dry them, they will normally go mouldy long before they get close to drying.  Below I am going to give you two methods to freezing spices.  It’s up to you which you prefer to do, but both work very well.

 

Herbs that work best for freezing; Basil, parsley, cilantro, tarragon and chives.

 

Option One – What You’ll Need:

  • Tray/cookie sheet
  • Air tight containers/zip-lock bags

 

What To Do:

  1. Pick the best looking and healthiest leaves from your herb plant.
  2. Wash, if necessary, pat dry using paper towels.
  3. Place the leaves flat and separately on your tray.
  4. Cover your tray and put them in your freezer.
  5. After they are frozen solid, put them into your container/bag, and place back in freezer.

Note:  Freezing the leaves individually first, prevents them from freezing in a clump.  Much easier to cook with when you don’t have to take a chisel to a rock hard herb block.

 

Option Two – What You’ll Need:

  • Ice Cube Trays
  • Air tight containers/zip-lock bags

 

What To Do:

  • Pick the best looking and healthiest leaves from your herb plant.
  • Wash, if necessary, pat dry using paper towels.
  • Put 2-3 leaves (or about a spoonful chopped) into each pocket of your ice cube tray.
  • Fill the pockets HALF WAY with water.  Do your best to try and press the herbs down to be covered by the water.  They’ll want to float, but don’t worry too much about it.  Place trays in freezer.
  • After the half cube are pretty much frozen, finish filling the tray with water until full.
  • Once the herb cubes are completely frozen, pop out of trays and place in zip-lock bags back into freezer.
  • Now when you are ready to use just toss a whole cube into your dish.  Easy!

Note: If you have enough trays, you can just keep the herb cubes in the trays.

 

 

Discussion Topics:

  • Do you preserve your excess herbs?
  • What’s your favourite method?

 

 

 

About the author

I’m a Goth/Hippie who loves to try new things and dabbles in anything and everything that I find enjoyment in. That can include but is not limited to, cooking, art, digital design, jewellery making, photography, gardening, nature, animals and whatever else strikes my fancy. I’m an optimistic (occasionally) perfectionist (constantly), who can be very sarcastic (incessantly), but all in good humour. :)

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