3 Easy Ways to Freeze Your Herbs

close-up of basil plant

One of summer’s underrated pleasures is using your own fresh herbs. Wether from your garden, patio planter or windowsill pots, their flavor-boosting power will enhance your cooking all season long.

If you already have a herb garden, nod along: there is always a point during these few months when you find yourself with more than you can possibly use. Sadly fresh herbs, like summer itself, are but a fleeting moment.

But! While admittedly no storage method can faithfully retain the flavor and texture of fresh herbs, there are some simple techniques to preserve surpluses.

Dehydrating, a.k.a drying is one of those methods. It works best with woody herbs like bay leaf and rosemary however, drying may not be the most effective option with tender herbs like mint or basil. (I’m not saying you can’t dry soft-stemmed herbs, because you absolutely can. It’s just that some methods produce better results than others.)

Freezing is another option, and you know how much I love my freezer. It’s a fast and easy way that retains the taste, smell and nutrients found in fresh herbs long after the growing season has ended – the bounty will stay fresh for up to 12 months. Sadly it’s not perfect either, because there will be a change in color and texture: the formation of ice crystals destroys cell walls, turning the herbs limp after defrosting. Frozen herbs are also prone to freezer burn, this happens when the ice crystals in them go directly from solid ice form to water vapor.

All in all, frozen herbs are ideal in sauces, soups, marinades and stews, rather than thawed as a garnish. Freeze them in small portions and just take out what you need – it’s a great way to have herbs immediately for cooking.

I’ve collected 3 easy ways for you to freeze your herbs:

Chop & freeze. This is the most straightforward thing to do, but also the highest risk of freezer burn. Store chopped herbs in portions in small zipper-lock bags, flattened, with the air pressed out as much as possible.

Frozen, covered with water. Chop herbs and place portions in an ice-cube tray, cover with water. Freeze, than transfer cubes to a zipper-lock bag to store. Tip: I use this method to make what I call lemonade starters – I place lemon slices and mint leaves in my muffin tray, fill holes with water and freeze.

Frozen, covered with oil. Preserving herbs in oil yields the best results in my experience – the method reduces some of the browning and the oil-based cubes also melt faster compared to water-covered cubes. Use the ice-cube tray slots and cover chopped herbs with a neutral vegetable oil or a mild olive oil. When solid, transfer cubes to a zipper-lock bag to store.

You can store the different varieties separate, or you can prepare herb mixes for foods you make often (think pasta sauce).

Have you tried any of these methods? How did they work out for you? Which are your favorite herbs to preserve? Let me know!

Love,

Fruzsi

Title image ‘Close-up of basil plant’ via Freepik

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10 Things I Always Keep In My Freezer

watercolor snowflake

Personally, I think freezers were sent from the heavens. Since I’ve learnt the 101 of freezing, the amount of food going to waste in my kitchen dropped dramatically.

Because if there is one thing I really, really hate, it’s food going in the bin. Happens sometimes inevitably of course, but every time it’s causing me actual pain to throw food away.

I was shocked to learn that about one-third of all food produced worldwide gets wasted. This figure is just plain outrageous. Fortunately, even the smallest adjustments go a long way: planning ahead, portion control and making friends with my freezer ticked the frugal box for me.

Trust your freezer to take care of batch-cooked dishes, leftovers, bulk-buys and near their use-by date foods. Check out the list of products below I like to have in my freezer at all times!

I buy most of the following items in bigger quantities when they are available at reduced prices, others are seasonal. But all are good to have in there au cas où for when I suddenly have a brain wave to make something but have no intention leaving the house for groceries.

  1. Lemon. Cut to wedges, lined on a tray, than put away in a freezer bag to save precious space after frozen solid. Besides being a lot easier to squeeze after they thawed, these beauties double as ice-cubes if popped into your glass straight from the freezer. G&T, anyone?
  2. Puff pastry. So versatile, yet probably the most finicky and labor-intensive things you could make in your kitchen. Even Gordon says in his Ultimate Cookery Course that you should cheat and shop for it, and who are we to disagree with the master chef, right?
  3. Tortelloni. Again, I’m not sure the effort going into it is worth the trouble. I am a huge fan of everything homemade, but let’s be realistic: I have less time to sleep on an average day than these require to make. Let me just whip up a quick sauce in the 10 min. they cook, and poof! dinner is ready.
  4. Flat leaf parsley. Fresh from my parents’ garden. We finely chop when in season and put away in small food containers to have at the ready for a good sprinkle over many dishes like pasta, risotto, stews, soups, sauces or garnishes.
  5. Bacon. Is it just me, or is bacon a little overpriced for what it is (not being the most valuable part of the animal)? Well whatever, I’d even give up sweets altogether before I lose my bacon, so I buy more when it’s cheaper and pop it in the freezer.
  6. Hot dog sausages. I like my wurst to contain some actual meat (Isn’t that supposed to be the norm? Just asking…). Lucky for me, my favorite brand is not selling as quick as others due to the higher price tag, so the surplus often gets sold on clearance prices. Pigs in a blanket coming your way straight from the freezer on game night.
  7. Cheese. Harder cheese types freeze beautifully, remember this if you’ve bought more than you needed. Cut to cubes or slices, it will be a life-saver when friends drop by for wine o’clock and you want to prep a nice charcuterie plate.
  8. Bread. Want the convenience of fresh bread without it going stale or growing mold? Freeze, either whole or sliced, and you’ll never run out again. It is nice to have on hand at a moments notice.
  9. Butter. You know, for those „low blood sugar emergencies” on a Sunday afternoon while catching up with your favorite series, and you need to put together some muffins or brownies or chocolate chip cookies real quick.
  10. Lasagna. A freezer-friendly meal for those times the dishwasher, washing machine and the vacuum are on at the same time, and the Husband asks what we’re having for lunch. Assemble in a disposable foil pan for more convenience.

What do you have in your freezer besides the average ice-cream and ground beef?

Love,

Fruzsi

Title image: watercolor snowflake illustration by Rebekah Nichols.