If you’ve ever planned on making your famous salsa, bake a chicken, or make some Asian noodle soup and found that you didn’t have the fresh herbs to make them, then this post is for you. I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to make a dish with cilantro, basil, or any other fresh herb only to need those herbs out of season. For some dishes, it’s not feasible to use the dried counterpart to the fresh herb you need. The middle ground is freezing fresh herbs when they are in season, so that they are available year round.
Freezing fresh herbs is quick and easy, and will yield great results for future dishes if you learn to freeze them correctly. While many herbs can be loosely packed in 8 oz. mason jars, plastic zipper bags, or even sealed in vacuum sealer bags, some of them have a few extra steps for freezing and reusing successfully.
Two Ways of Freezing Fresh Herbs
There are a couple of ways of freezing fresh herbs, freezing whole, freezing leaves, or freezing in oil. The method used depends on the herbs you are preserving, because some herbs are preserved better than others using varying methods. All of these are simple and quick to do, and for the small bit of work it takes, they rewards are fantastic and totally worth it. For both methods, make sure to rinse your herbs and pat them dry before preparing them to be frozen.
Freezing Whole or as Leaves
Herbs like rosemary can be frozen whole on the stem for for easy use when cooking a roast or a whole chicken. For most other herbs I prefer to strip the stems of the leaves and freeze them loosely in plastic bags. Another way to keep herbs in the freezer are to flash freeze the leaves, then pack them loosely in jars. Remove as many as needed.
Consider pairing herbs that go together in the freezer so that it’s easy when it’s time to cook. Sage, thyme and some grated lemon peel would be awesome for a baked chicken. Martha Stewart suggests the herb blend of rosemary and oregano for a beef roast. Why not freeze the rosemary and oregano together and at baking time, add some cracked pepper? Think of the herbs you use together to make herb blend creations of your own that your family will love!
Freezing in Oil
One interesting way to preserve your garden herbs is to freeze them in ice cube trays with a Tbsp. or two of oil (depends on the size of the ice tray holes). This is a great idea and helpful for keeping herbs nice and green and fresh looking, and reducing the discoloration that can happen in the freezer.
If you don’t have any ice cube trays (like me), herbs can be whirled around with some oil in a mini food processor. Two to four Tbsp. of oil per cup of fresh herbs should be plenty. Chopped herbs can then be put into small containers to freeze, then cut apart and put into plastic zipper bags or jars for storage.
You can use this method for most herbs, and in your favorite oil, however, I might be more inclined to pair the herbs with the oil that I would use in the dishes I make. For instance, if I’m freezing my sweet basil for my homemade spaghetti sauce, I would use olive oil since I use that in the dish already. Browning the ground beef with the cube of oil and herbs would infuse the beef nicely and add an extra dimension of flavor to the sauce.
You can choose other oils that pair well with your herbs, or you can even pair more than one herb together in the oil, like oregano and basil with olive oil. Another fantastic combination could be sage and thyme with melted butter (cooled, though, so as not to cook the herbs). Perhaps even sesame oil with Thai basil to flavor an Asian noodle soup. The possibilities are only limited by the imagination!