Food Friday : Preserving Fresh Herbs

This has been a week with quite a few hours spent outside, getting the yard and garden ready for winter. One pleasant task was gathering up all the herbs left in our potted herb-garden. The scent was wonderful. Did you know that smelling fresh Rosemary can help with head-ache symptoms? I didn’t have a head-ache but the aroma of it did bring a feeling of well-being!

Last year I made various vinegars with the herbs that were left at the end of the season, so this year I decided to try a few different things.

(1) To make some mixed herb butter that we could freeze and then use on our steamed vegetables throughout the winter.
(2) I thought I’d make some herbal ice cubes that could be dropped into simmering foods, like soups, at the very end of cooking, to give a blast of fresh herb flavour.
(3) After reading that Olive Oil could be frozen, I thought some olive oil cubes with an assortment of fresh herbs would be nice to have to dip fresh bread into, or to use for making salad dressings.
(4) I wanted to dry some sage leaves, to later crumble into a stew or pasta dish.

The Herb Butter involved simply taking some butter at room temperature, and stirring in finely chopped herbs. I used a combination of Rosemary, Thyme and Chives, but any herb that you like the flavour of is good Mix together as much as you’d like, and then plop it on a piece of plastic wrap. Fold plastic over and then form the butter into a tube shape, rolling the plastic and squeezing the ends. Label and freeze within a freezer bag. Cut off as much as you need to toss with hot vegetables, and then pop the remaining piece back into the freezer for next time.

The Herb Ice Cubes were made by mincing herbs and then packing into an ice-cube tray. (Note: these are to use to season cooking, such as in soups, and not to keep a beverage cool. If I had some mint though, I would have made mint ones to cool drinks.) Fill with water, or Olive Oil, and freeze. Once frozen, remove from tray, wrap (I used waxed paper), label and return to the freezer. For the ones I made with water I wanted to keep the herbs separate, so put only one type in each ice-cube spot. For the ones made with olive oil, I thought a mixture of herbs would be nice, so mixed Rosemary, Thyme and Chives together.

Drying herbs is easy. Clip branches of herbs and rinse. Bind together with an elastic and then hang them upside down in a spot that is out of direct sunlight. The bunch will take several days to dry out completely. Once they are very dry, remove the leaves from the stems, and store in a regular spice jar. Leaving the leaves whole will result in a better burst of flavour when they are crumbled and very briefly cooked. Some herbs work better for drying. I have had success with Sage (pictured) and Rosemary and recommend this method for the more intensely flavoured herbs.

I would have loved to make some mint ice-cubes for Mojitos and Cuba Libre drinks, however we enjoyed our fair share of those throughout the summer and there just wasn’t enough mint left!

Although I have never really had much luck planting herbs right in the garden and having them come back the next year, I did transplant the trimmed Rosemary, Thyme, Chive and Parsley plants to see if I can get any to come back. They are supposedly perennials but I think probably in a climate less severe than our Canadian winters. But we shall see!

And while I used herbs from our garden for these preserving methods, you can use left-over herbs that you buy too. I find there are always some left after you make a recipe, and it’s a shame to let them go to waste.

Thank you for checking out my post. Here’s wishing you a terrific Friday and a great week-end.